O Christmas Tree

Oh, wouldn't it be great to head out to one of the many local Christmas tree farms and cut down our own tree this year? We could come home and decorate it together. What a great Saturday! I can hear the Christmas carols in the background and smell the apple cider on the stove. The laughter. The memories.

{Scritchy-scratchy noise as we cut to reality.}
My children are complaining about turning off the cartoons and my husband won't get off his phone. I try to cheery-disposition my way through it. The kids are excruciatingly cranky and tired from our Thanksgiving travels and will not stop bickering over EVERYTHING. My 7 year old asks if he haaaas to go. I'm mouth-breathing. I trip over the Legos that never get picked up from the dingy "white" living room carpet I keep meaning to shampoo, and I am suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I will have 16 out-of-state house-guests this Christmas - which is only a couple of weeks away. Amidst my face-in-the-carpet epiphany, my boss texts and asks if I can log-into work right away to handle an urgent request. I'm googling nervous breakdown symptoms.

An hour later and a 15-mile drive through some of the most beautiful Oregon countryside you will ever see (while I try to tune-out my children and silently curse myself for skipping morning coffee) and we're at a glorious tree farm amidst the rolling forests. 
Patches of white fog sweep through the acres of green jutting up to the misty, gray skies. For the 5th time I explain to my son that the fog is not "controlled burns." Why do I keep trying?We tromp through the sloppy mud and pick a tree from hundreds of beautiful ones that all look the same.

There's fighting over hot chocolate, over who can help carry the saws, over who gets to walk in front. Neither child wants a picture with Santa, or even to talk to him. My husband exudes impatience. 

Wait now, we still have a tree nearly sliding off the top of the car, so very much mud and pine needles on that "white" carpet, too small of a tree stand, too big of a tree for the room, broken Christmas lights, me decorating the tree solo, and of course, endless more bickering to endure before this Saturday will come to a close. {Sigh}

Instead of simply sharing the lovely green photos, one of which 2 out of 3 people even managed a smile in, I feel apt to admit that real-life is sometimes less than picturesque. 

If there's no cocoa or carols for you, if your favorite ornaments get broken or you're decorating alone this year... if there's just a lot of mud, take heart friend. May the hope of Christmas seep in to calm our stress and comfort our hearts.

Merry Christmas.


Fight Like a Girl

Happy October y'all. Slipping in here at the end of the month, here's my nod to Breast Cancer Awareness MonthI wrote it a few years ago. The children have grown and the shirt has shrunk. But the sentiments remain.

The majority of little boys like to fight.

Don't get me wrong, my toddler daughter is something of a scrapper, too. Try to take her toy, or worse, her food, and you're sure to be pounded with a high-pitched scream and perhaps an assaulting little fist to go with it. I wouldn't say this makes me proud, but I am glad she is learning to daily hold her own against her 5-year old brother.

It's her brother, though, who takes joy in fighting - or rather, the idea of fighting. Books and shows on karate, ninjas, warriors, or soldiers are pretty much a guaranteed win with him. He and is father are often practicing Krav Maga or Jiu-Jitsu moves together or spending some time with the heavy bags in the garage. Er, make that 1 heavy bag + 1 air-filled balloon in the shape of a heavy bag. My son also proudly has his own set of boxing gloves, like his daddy's, and can't wait to also start taking fight classes.

It's my son who is growing up with the aspiration to be tough. While my husband and I are struggling to raise him into a man of character, I'm pretty sure he just wants to be strong and able to fight off bad guys.

So, my Little Ninja is particularly interested in a shirt I occasionally wear that reads, "I Fight Like a Girl." I tried to explain to him what this shirt means... How I am proud to be counted among the group of women who have had to surmount a cancer diagnosis and treatment. ...How difficult it is to fight against a disease, when the fight is for your life. (Try explaining that in Kindergartner, non-scary language.)

Little Ninja has never heard, "fight like a girl" in it's original, negative context. Rather, it's quite a compliment.

I hope that he can grow up maintaining this understanding of girls/women that is free from assumptions of inferiority. Certainly, I will do my best to ensure such.

I hope that Little Ninja will grow up to have compassion for the suffering and gratitude for whatever blessings befall him, daily.

And of course, I hope that my daughter, that my nieces - that no one in the generations to come - will ever have to grow up and find themselves having to fight like a girl against cancer.

The many women who have lost their lives to the disease, the women who have been fortunate enough to treat it successfully: they have all faced a host of terrible, have endured and coped - for however long they did. That's tough.




I love them. Well, sort of.

Sometimes I see someone squatting on the side of the road picking up their dog's poop with a plastic sack and I think to myself, "Humans are so strange."

Yet I, myself, have picked up many a bag of dog poop in my day.

Those little 4-legged friends can be such sweet companions. Plus, there can be benefits to pet ownership even beyond relational joys and therapeutic effects:

Dogs are great for security... Cats are great for rodents... Chickens are great for eggs... Sheep are great for fields of grass... Fish... uh, decorating dentist waiting rooms...? Birds, bunnies, hamsters, snakes... ... ... I don't know, but people enjoy having them in their home. 

We innately like to cohabitate and share our homesteads not only with other humans but often also with critters. Or sometimes with critters instead of other humans. 

My dear pal wrote a post, "October: For Breast Cancer Not Pit Bulls" and received dozens of angry replies at her suggestion that human life should invariably take precedence over animals' lives and welfare. As I read through the comments of mostly-illogical highly-emotional arguments, one sad person's reply in particular has stayed with me. She said people had let her down but her dog never had.

I read that as an example of the harshness of life. How tragic that we are a people who hurt each other and are so disconnected from each other that animals rise in standing on par with or above other humans.

I firmly believe pets hold a valuable role in our lives. That's not in question here. (Okay, so now would NOT be a great time to go back and read the entire piece I wrote on the pointlessness of rabbit ownership.) But also - and much more so - we need human relationships. Healthy ones.

I find it curious that often, instead of nurturing and serving others, we anoint our pets with souls and diamond-studded collars. We humanize our animals.

Graph source: www.fool.com

Currently, we're between pets in my household.

Well, that is, if you don't count the hairy caterpillar living in an atrium box in the center of our dining room table.

My 7-year old has been pining for a pet for a couple of years now. I am, however, pretty sure his motivation is primarily born from a peer group of 2nd graders who view pets as status symbols. Plus, he forgets to drink water routinely and is not very good at wiping his own butt, so he surely can't be relied upon to be a responsible pet owner.

And then there's my 3-year old daughter, who has literally made friends with every dog in a 1-mile radius; it feels a tad cruel not allowing such an innate affection to cultivate. She, however, forgets to put the lid on her caterpillar (which I feed and give water), and so hunting for "Wooly" in our very large dining area is becoming about as common as finding streak marks in my sons underwear. I'm just hoping she doesn't "pet" the poor thing to death.

So, as you can tell, we (meaning I) am pretty primed for a pet. After all, we do own our home and have a good size yard, so there aren't a lot of excuses that remain. Well, other than that my sick body already struggles to keep up with the demands of the two mini-humans (and one husband-sized human) I take care of. And that pets are expensive. They are a commitment for many years. They require a lot of attention and care. Right, not much to stop us now.

But more to the point, even if I find myself back to taking walks with sacks of steamy dog poop in my hand, or even branch out to get my very own bunny to wake the neighbors, any pet of ours will remain simply and firmly-situated in their status as a pet -- an animal with limits on the time, money, and love they will receive.

Oh, I'm sure the time, money and love afforded it will be aplenty. But I hope that "plenty" will fall short of what we are willing to devote to other people in our lives. Helpless and innocent or not, people need our time, affection, and sympathy far more than any pet needs to be treated like a human.

If this makes you want to angrily argue about the value of animal lives, 
post on my friend's blog. She likes that sort of thing. 


I just noticed "die" is the first part of diet.

It has been a nightmare. It is sapping my energy and depressing me into states of melancholy and self-loathing. I can’t stop thinking about the pure misery of it.

It is a diet. A terrible, spawned-from-the-devil, diet.

I’m on day three.

Yes, I just said three. That is “all” you say? Oh, don’t you dare! I will punch something angrily! I will cry despairingly.      ...For the love of God (who I do love), let me have a cup of coffee. With lots of cream. Or a hunk of bread. With lots of butter. 

Alright look, I might be getting a little dramatic. And perhaps ever so slightly delusional. But I’m really hungry.

Did I mention I'm on a diet? Yes, so it’s day three of no: wheat/gluten/yeast, dairy products, eggs, almonds, oats, corn, beans, bananas, pineapple, coffee, chocolate… or, roughly classified as: food.

My blood recently tested as having a reaction to all of those foods and so this is a couple month to perhaps a lifetime, cold-turkey... bah, turkey: one of the few foods I can eat... elimination to help with some residual arthritis/post-cancer problems.

On day one of said diet I was very late for work because, instead of getting up to face the day – mainly the task of trying to find something to eat, I laid in bed hungrily instead. You don’t have to eat if you’re (pretending to be) asleep, right? Later in the morning I indulgently went to Whole Foods to console myself with a $7 (gross) hemp smoothie to go with my frighteningly expensive one bag of groceries – only to realize the smoothie had banana in it and so was off my list. I almost slumped down onto the eco-friendly floors and cried out from my knees, “whhhhhhy?”

I have slogged through some pretty horrendous things in life, (like many people.) If I wasn't so hungry right now, it might be amusing that a very restrictive diet is undoing me. Plus, I have been dragging an aching body around for five years now; the immobility and painful hobbles this diet is meant to help should be bolstering my resolve. I should be standing on my mountain of earned badges of fortitude, pumping my fist into the air while chanting, "I got this too. Yeah Baby!"

But really, I’m just hungry. (Sorry, did I already mention that?) And I’m tired of a body that I don’t understand and can’t keep up with me.

It used to bother me that I had become an emblem to incite gratitude in others – as in, “At least I’m not her.” I don’t mind that so much anymore. (But, Dear Husband, please drink your coffee somewhere else before I strangle you to merely get a good whiff of that deliciousness.)  Right, so to the contrary, I’m glad I can help. Because, all jokes aside, I can help you. And so, not for the sake of garnering your sympathy but for brightening your perspective, I tell you this story. (And all the others.) I can help you realize your day is not so bad, your problems not so big. Your pain is not so deep. And when it is or when they are, you too will survive.

You might not be pumping your fist through it, but you will wake up again tomorrow – and maybe then the smoothie won’t have banana in it. Or even better, someone will make some bacon.

If you have any tips, favorite recipes, or comments, please share!


Home on the Range

Well howdy there folks! Come ride along with this here g'hal for one hog-killin of a time. [Because I just used "hog" and "killin" in describing my day, this is sure to be good.]

We're gonna get on up with the sun and get a wiggle on. Time's a wasting.

Chickabiddies are up and at em, so it surely won't be long 'for they're starting trouble and asking for grub. Get yerself some six-shooter coffee cause it's gonna be a long one.

This here lady of the house has to get on the ol boss-man's 'puter and work. Course, the homestead is hurtin for some cleaning, and there's paintin and all manner of you name it to git done round the place. And there's always fixings needing done and made. Sure as a gun, moren three times a day these peckish horses are buckin for grub. [Can I feed them beans in a can if I call it "grub"?] It's up to me to keep this place in apple pie order.

I've got me a little filly who so often blusters "Mommy, look at me," and "Mommy will you play with me?" I sometimes want to cut stick and hide out in a dark well with some firewater. I've also got a lil broomie chap who I've a mind to keep watch on all his going-ons, and he'll be needin some help with his learnin. [I might have just created the greatest nickname ever for him: "lil broomie chap." Yes!]

Yep. This here folk, is some darn excitin' (mid-30's) life on the range. 

I say though, this life ain't for the weak. We best pull them boots right on and just keep on.

And bully for you and me when we do, cause by gum, days are hard. We must keep them eyes on the veins of gold hidden right fronta us. Theyr there. Them smiles and good amongst the helter-skelter.

Come sun down, when you're nearbouts all played out, plumb tired from a day chock full o work, best to douse the lights and say a prayer o thanks. Sunup tomorrow, chin up, cause it's kit and caboodle over again. Brisk up and buck up Ma. Yourn need that right attitude.

If this barrel o' kicks has got you angling, well then, you're my Huckleberry.

* Thank you to: www.legendsofamerica.com for help with my old west lingo. 


Aboard the Peer Pressure Train

What just happened?

Why did my sweet kindergartner transform - no mutate - into a socially-aware first grader floundering in a pool of peer pressure that he hasn't yet learned to swim through?

I woke up one morning and wasn't aloud to lay out his clothes for him anymore. Like, "one morning" a couple weeks ago. Look, I already have one 3-year-old Prima Donna who fights for the same sequin purple dress 365 mornings a year - rain or shine, freezing or not. I can't handle a boy version, too.

Your jeans aren't skinny enough? Your sweater is too puffy? Your jacket has to have a hood? Pants can't be brown? No. No, I am not okay with this. Please revert back to putting on whatever outfit your (still-hip) mother has purchased, cleaned, picked-out, and perhaps ironed for you.

I've started encouraging my son to pick out clothes the night before school days - in a painstaking process of barter where logic is the goal. No, you can not wear short-sleeves in 30' weather. No, you just wore that shirt yesterday....  But then, the freshly-donned fashion-virtuoso will change his mind in the morning and we start all over again. Anything that can possibly be construed as not grown-up, not-normal, not-cool enough in his irregular and irrational book of standards, is vetoed.

Am I airing my son's dirty laundry right now? (Pun completely intended.) Yes, yes I am. Because it's absurd. Or I'm having trouble letting go. Or both.

There was no easement into this social awareness. Yesterday, everyone was still fun and intrinsically equal, judged only by their ability to adhere to classroom rules and basic standards of normalcy. I mean, you could literally poop your pants in class and still be a good play-mate. Today, the rules have completely changed for the little person I am witnessing them through. Any and all diversions from standard now render one susceptible to ridicule.

My son is clearly caught in a struggle between still enjoying the Star Wars jammies and toy figures of last year and aspiring to the skinny jeans, gelled hair, and zombie video games of this year.

The other day, after four hours in a children's museum, which, I point out, he thoroughly enjoyed, we walked across the parking lot to a derailed train on exhibit. He was interested and impressed. But then MotherDear made what was apparently a huge mistake and asked to take his picture in the engineer's seat. Only with his eyes rolled back and tongue stuck out was such a picture to be allowed. And then he proceeded to scowl sulkily at me for my transgression.

Why did this a-moment-ago-happy child buck so at the picture? After all, did I not just endure multiple coffee-less hours on a repeat-visit to a crowded Boredom-of-Parents-Museum for his sake? Why such ingratitude? Why such a hard time over a picture?

After many, many minutes of discussion - because I am determined to be a parent who at least attempts to curb insubordination and bad attitudes from my little charges, this one spills that a picture on a train "would make him feel like a baby." He didn't want me to share with others his interest in the train, as in, "Thomas the Train or something."

Oh good, so he wasn't just being a little brat. At least he had a reason.

But now we're back to this budding little, too-cool attitude.

Inadvertently (because our family often plays the best-part-of-your-day/worst-part-of-your-day game over dinner), the train incident became a major topic of discussion that evening. So there my husband and I were again, having yet another long - unsuccessful - conversation on being your own person and not succumbing to teasing or peer pressure. (And, let us not forget, not being rude to Mom.)

We reason through our son's irrationality. We discipline his bad behavior; encourage and reward the good. We cheer-lead him into having confidence. We implore him to follow good examples. We listen, encourage... all that stuff you're supposed to do as parents.

And it usually doesn't work.

I mean really, how do you teach a kid to be himself? To hold fast to the morals he is taught at home? To not care what his peers snicker about?

I'm pretty sure you don't.

At least not right away. You try. And you try again. And sometimes it kind of sticks or sticks for a while. But, in the early years, it seems like you just pay attention to who their friends are, you have the seemingly fruitless conversations over and over again, try to give them confidence and humility (so, so difficult), and then you just push them out the door to begin the long path toward the maturity of figuring it out for themselves.

Repetition wins this parenting race, I'm afraid.