That’s my girl.

IMG_0097My 5-year-old girl: “Mommy, did you know that some boys wear dresses?”
Me: “Yes, that’s true. I did know that.”
My girl: “Oh, I didn’t. People used to tell me that, and I would say it wasn’t true. But now I know it is true. Some boys do wear dresses. ”
Me: (Smile)
My girl: (Smile)

Nice personal growth, sweetie. Keep up the good work. #winningatgrowingup

At One Time Or Another

Um, this post is FABULOUS! Poetic, if you will. Laurel Leigh rocks.

Dear Writers

Dear Writers,

When poet maestro Luther Allen asked me to bring a children’s poem to the upcoming SpeakEasy 16 event at Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham WA, my first thought was:

“If only I were a poet.”

But everyone is a poet at one time or another.

It’s in the way they smile . . .

Selah and Hollie

 Or the way they move . . .

Pizza Toss

Or care for the neighborhood . . .

Work team - crop

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Say What?

Dogpatch Writers Collective

Dogpatch dog pug faceHello from the Dogpatch. A while back, Amy Blackwood told us about her book club’s very unique take on book clubbing. Ever since, we’ve been after her to tell us more—and she did! Today’s post is courtesy of Amy, and we’d love to know what you think, because according to Amy:

It’s not about the book.

Is your book club feeling stale? Do you find you rarely ever talk about (or even read) the chosen book at your book club? Do you wish there was a way to liven up the evening’s discussion while still talking about great reads at your club’s gatherings?

Been there, my friend. Done that.

Don’t worry, there is hope for your book club yet! And I speak from experience.

WorkshelfYou see, I have a confession to make. I’ve never been very good at book clubs.

There! I said it. You all know my…

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Parenting. It’s chess, not checkers.


[Now, let me start by stating for the record: I am not referring to extreme life situations in this post. Bullying, hazing, physical and mental abuse – let’s take all of those types of issues out of the equation for my purposes here and now. Those are, in my mind, separate issues that deserve a much different approach and level of sensitivity. I’m referring to the day-to-day. The norm. The molehills, not the mountains. ]

Kids will be kids.

I’ve never loved this saying. It sounded a bit flippant and defeatist to me; like kids should be allowed to get away with bad behavior simply because they are young and don’t know much better.

But somewhere along the way I realized: Kids are young. They don’t know much better. They should be allowed to exhibit bad behaviors and make mistakes because that is how they learn. (And, I might add, that is how we learned. This is how we are learning.)

So, yes, kids will be kids. And, contrary to what it may seem, parents are not simply letting them get away with it.

I’ve read so many blog posts and Facebook comments lately that imply if parents just try hard enough, are consistent enough, choose the right approach, they can somehow make their children be “kind,” “polite,” “respectful,” “caring,” “responsible,” and the like. If we just make enough EFFORT, they will stop acting like such … children. (I’ll just assume you see the flaw in this ideology.)

I don’t know about you, but even if it were possible, I don’t think this would be a particularly good idea.

I understand the primal urges of parenthood – the mama bear that involuntarily rears up when her child is attacked with cruel words or actions. I’m guilty of that, and of passing judgment on other parents (especially when shocking examples of kids behaving badly are plastered all over the Internet). When terrible things happen, it’s hard not to wonder how (or if) these children were parented through their young lives.

It’s harder to think that, sometimes, bad things just happen. And even harder to accept that sometimes, “bad” things are maybe supposed to happen. (Especially when those bad things are happening to me.)

On a personal level, even the normal little ups and downs often feel like an intense, enormous roller coaster. It can be heartbreaking and difficult, but my kids are probably going to be made fun of, picked on, ridiculed and excluded. And my kids are probably also going to take part in the same types of activities against another kid. So there’s not much we as parents can do to stop it.

Yes, we can model good behavior. Yes, we can discuss good choices and brainstorm strategies. We can give consequences and take away privileges. We can be consistent and calm, warm yet firm. We can discipline and parent to the best of our ability. We can do everything right. We can even make progress.

But stop it completely? Nope.

This is how they learn. This is how they grow. This is how they get better. Practice makes perfect, after all.

Kids will be kids. They can’t really be anything else.

See, these kids we are talking about? The ones who are saying mean, hurtful things to friends and lashing out in anger and throwing tantrums in public and talking back to teachers and pushing and hitting and biting and kicking? Well, here’s the thing: They. Are. Children.

As easy as it may feel to place blame, I truly believe all those children who make mistakes and exhibit angry, hurtful behavior – they all have parents who are doing their very best to guide them down a positive path.

I especially believe this because, not only are some of my best friends these parents, I am one, too.

There are very few parents who are blatantly neglectful and uncaring. Yes, there are a-holes out there who are raising their children to be a-holes. But they are the extreme and the unusual, in my opinion. (Unfortunately I’ve found there’s very little we can do about the a-holes in life.)

But 99.9% of the parents I know are working ridiculously hard to raise healthy, responsible, caring people. They are doing it in vastly different ways, and all of them have tremendous successes and bitter defeats (usually daily), but their hearts are all in the same place. And I think they are doing a wonderful job. I fully expect their children to be the kind, compassionate people they were raised to be.

But not for quite some time.

Ever hear that phrase “act like a child”? Well, it has long, unyielding roots. Children are irrational, stubborn, temperamental, explosive and unreasonable. They pout and whine and scream and stomp. (Children are also brilliant, full of wonder, passionate and charming. They love and snuggle and hug and kiss and laugh easily. But that’s a whole other blog post.) This is what they DO and this is how they LEARN. No amount of stellar parenting is going to change that now; but it will be beautifully apparent in years.

All that effort and consistency and role-modeling we put in today is SO important and essential and necessary. We should all definitely keep up the good work! But maybe let’s not get discouraged or pass judgment if we don’t seem to be reaping the benefits any time soon. It’s a long-term strategy, really.

Think chess, not checkers.

Kids will be kids.

A lil’ stroll down memory lane

I’m bAAaaack! OK, I’ve actually been here the whole time but I haven’t taken the time to blog. You may have suspected that. Why? The usual. Life. Work. Writing (in other forms). I won’t make excuses because I know you all understand. But I do miss F&F, so hopefully you’ll see more from me in the future …

That said, I came across this saved draft from the summer. Yes, summer. And I’m not sure why I didn’t post it right then, as it seemed to be a simple, sweet message without needing much altercation. I probably just got distracted and then forgot, as I often do. Or my perfectionist nature was sure it needed tinkering. Whatever the reason, I remember this day fondly and wanted to share, so here it is, as is:

I often find myself downward spiraling on sick days. The kids are bickering, the weather sucks, nothing goes right. But today, I woke up feeling like CARP (as my Mom would say). Sore throat, hurts to swallow, swollen glands, earache. Just yuk. And I began to dread the day, knowing I’d have a total of 4 kiddos here (mine and 2 friends I babysit) and nervously anticipating that it could go very, very wrong.

But ya know what? It didn’t. At all. This was one of those rare days where the universe aligned and the kids have been PERFECTION. The boys spent the gorgeous and sunny morning outside drawing a bike track all over the patio with chalk.

The girls have played camping and birthday party and Mommy/Baby and hospital and vet. All. On. Their. Own.

They’ve all played chase and tag – HAPPILY – in the sunshine. They’ve invented their own games and worked out their own problems.

I’ve been needed very little, and it’s been wonderful. And so flippin’ appreciated today. At one point I actually wrapped myself up in a blanket and lay on the couch, listening to the girlies chatting in the playroom, while the boys tromped around the backyard. It was heaven.

After that I started to perk up a little, so I let the troupe watch a Magic School Bus episode while I spread cream cheese on bagels and cut up some fruit and veggies. Everyone ate a great lunch, and we started a new chapter book from the library (Dinosaur Cove: Attack of the Tyrannosaurus).

Sometimes I feel very glass-half-empty, focusing too much on the little things that *always* seem to go wrong. Today I couldn’t help but see amazing good rightness at every turn.

Bullying vs Teasing

In recent months, I have heard the words “bully” and “bullying” thrown about quite casually regarding what I consider typical behavior for children.

I think there is a very definite distinction between the normal – and positive – action of teasing and the harmful, deliberate act of bullying. As a parent, I try very hard to pay attention to these differences.

Bullying is meant to hurt. A person who bullies is consciously trying to make another person feel bad, isolated, left out, etc. It’s not about someone having a bad day and acting like a jerk, it’s about repetitive, calculated actions that are intended to harm another individual or group. Bullying is a very serious thing. It is also a pretty rare thing, believe it or not. Most children/people do not bully.

Fortunately for most of us, what we are dealing with in our children’s and their peers’ behavior is teasing.

Teasing is another thing altogether. Learning how to playfully rib our friends is a wonderful ability to have, and learning how to laugh at ourselves is even better. Teasing among children is very, very common, and it can help kids to bond with each other and to develop social skills.

Now how do we help our kids figure out how to tease without having it interpreted as bullying? Perception plays such a large role – if a person feels hurt by something you say or do, does it matter if the intent wasn’t there? Not really. So we need to teach our children limits and understanding.

I think we need to tell them it can be a very tricky balance, and the key lies within (da da-da DA) awareness and communication.

My son and one of his best friends LOVE to wrestle with each other. They are like puppies, always rolling around on the ground together. But a few months ago I noticed more tears and yelling during their play, with one or both boys complaining of getting hurt in the commotion.

So we sat down and had a little talk. I was amazed (and super proud!) at how many wonderful conclusions the boys came up with (I paraphrase a bit): 1. Wrestling is fun and awesome. 2. Wrestling is only fun and awesome if both players are having fun. 3. It’s important to pay attention to our friends’ body language and words to determine if they are having a good time. 4. Use your words and tell your friend if you’re not having fun wrestling anymore. 5. Respect your friend if they want to stop, and try something new.

I asked the boys for specific things to look for while playing. They said the person would be crying or yelling “No” or “Stop.” They showed me their happy faces that said “I’m having a GREAT time!” and sad faces that said “I am SO not enjoying this” and even angry “I’m MAD!!!” faces.

Since our talk the boys have had a much easier time wrestling. They are learning boundaries and respect, how to read physical and verbal cues from friends. If things get a little iffy, they tell each other, and usually move on to a new activity without much strife.

I think the exact same techniques could be used when dealing with talking to our kids about bullying, don’t you?

All that said, another ESSENTIAL factor in all of this is forgiveness. People are going to hurt you in this life – if they feel remorse and apologize, then forgive as best you can. It will do you as much good as it does them. And if you hurt someone else – intentionally or not – own up and apologize sincerely, make it right. Holding on to hurt and anger or being overly stubborn and inflexible, well, that just hurts everyone involved.

I found these articles, here and here, really helpful in defining bullying and teasing in my mind.



If you are looking for an excellent how-to guide on how to make the perfect Easter eggs, you’ve stumbled in a very wrong direction, my friend.

I somehow managed to do a lot of things wrong when preparing to color our eggs this year. How difficult can it be to complete a craft from a $2.99 PAAS kit? Apparently, quite difficult indeed.

In fact, I’ve been doing at least one thing wrong for many years now according to Slate. This article recommends you never, ever actually boil your hard-boiled eggs. Which kind of makes me wonder why “boiled” is in their flippin’ name, but I digress.

So I got started off on the wrong foot, boiling the crap out of my dozen right off the bat. In fact, I even took a pic of my beautiful rolling boil (which I thought was the point) before seeing this piece. Ahh, well. Strike One.


After the well-meant stove session, I immediately soaked my eggs in ice water then put them in the fridge for our dyeing delight later in the day.

It wasn’t until I pulled them out of the icy air late in the afternoon that I read on the box: Do not use cold eggs! Well, fudge. Strike Two.

Next step was just filling the little plastic cups with water and dropping in the color tablets. Connor managed that part just fine on his own, and I added a drop of vinegar to all the cups … before reading the next sentence: Do not use vinegar in red or purple dye! Double fudge. Strike Three!


(You’d think as someone who reads and writes for a living, I might actually take a gander at the instructions before starting a project. But, alas, no.)

Here’s the most beautiful part of this whole experience, though: It all worked out, and really well, despite all the errors.

The kids and I laughed through the hiccups, deciding just to press on and see what happened. It could be an experiment, I said, and maybe later next week we’d do it again the “right” way to see if it turned out differently. I was almost a tiny bit disappointed the eggs turned out so well, as there is not much to test against in another trial.


But I was mostly pleasantly surprised and relieved the eggs turned out so gorgeous. I think it has a lot to do with having a good foundation: We started with brown eggs, and if I can give you any serious advice on coloring eggs, it is this. Use brown eggs. The natural hue makes the end result rich and warm and lovely. I’m a big fan.


Again I’m reminded of my New Year mantra: Don’t let the perfect ruin the good. I’m a perfectionist by nature and, though this can be an asset, it can also be a bit like being having a huge albatross permanently attached to your back. Especially if said albatross is constantly whispering, “You could do better.”

However I’m (very slowly) learning that perfection is unattainable, so striving towards it is futile.

It’s a simple yet liberating idea. Things don’t have to go perfectly to turn out wonderfully. I don’t think there would have been half as many giggles today without the little Uh-Ohs. And I doubt it would have been half as interesting to share the story if it had gone smoothly. Those little things that appear to be obstacles are sometimes just the spice of life. And we all need a little extra flavor now and then.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to grow and be better every day, because we should. But forget about “perfect,” it doesn’t exist. Mistakes are not only OK, they can be fun!

To put it another way, even if you f*ck up, life can still be beautiful, so no need to freak out about the f*ck-ups, ya’ll. My completely non-solicited advice of the day.

Hoppy Eggster, everybody!




Hello, Sunshine!!

Where have I been the past week or so? One word: Outside.

The month of March always seems to bring me a slightly nostalgic feeling of simple joy. It’s like I’m suddenly waking from the coma called winter, and I remember how to enjoy the littlest of things. Feels like childhood, if you will.

A drive down the street turns into the Fourth of July, as we endlessly “Oooh” and “Ahhh” over the pink and white blooming trees and bursts of purple and yellow flowers.

I feel a sense of freedom as we all slip out the door without jackets.

Sunshine. Laying in the grass looking for pictures in the clouds. Kicking around a soccer ball in the grass. Frisbee. Tennis ball fetch with the dogs. Playing with a hula hoop on the back patio for an hour. Converse without socks and even – dare I type it – flip flops (yes, I wore them comfortably today!).

S U N S H I N E.

I am overcome with a desire to be outside all day long. Whether we load up the little red wagon and head for the park, hop on our bikes, or just crack a beverage and lounge around in the yard, I’m happy to completely forget we even have a house, much less it’s never-ending list of chores. (Didn’t I just clean that bathroom two weeks ago, anyway? It can wait. Besides I hear germs are actually good for your immune system.)

And once the sun is shining on my face, working outdoors is a welcome responsibility (except, of course, picking up the dog poop). I love gardening, and weeding – in small spurts – is my idea of a good time lately. The kids love it, too – C is actually a decent digger, while Ona likes to look for wiggly worms. We have great plans for a sweet container garden on the deck, planting in the next week or so. (I’m thinking cherry tomatoes and snap peas, any other locals have suggestions?)

This year we are very excited to be trying our first hummingbird feeders, thanks to our dear Nana and Papa for sending us the goods. Hope to soon have some cool pics to share of our small and speedy feathered friends!

Oh, and because of the sunshine, we are able to enjoy our cool solar lights again! They’ve been dormant and dark with the rest of the world the past few months, but now are full of sparkling light ‘til the wee hours. I tried to take a picture for you, but it didn’t do them justice. Take my word for it – they are neat-o.

Did I mention the SUN?? Because I really do enjoy me some sunshine. In case you hadn’t picked up on that. And our hot little rock-star fireball is back in all its yellow glory, from wake-up to bedtime (at least the kids). Except when it’s cloudy or rainy, which it still is at times, but it’s so much better. I can’t even tell you.

Here’s to warm, bright days ahead for all …