Tag Archiv: girl one

Fairy tales

The Captive Robin, by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1864. Public Domain

The Captive Robin, by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1864. Public Domain

I started a piece called, “Fairy tales I tell myself.” It was about failed work projects and the fact that the idea of the children pitching in is a fairy tale I tell myself in order to make it feel like a team effort. I wanted to discuss the mounting level of fantasy required to plan a list of jobs (as if there were other creatures intent on their completion).

So a wee bit of cynicism, and “fairy tales” was not supposed to be a compliment. At which point, God laughed and hijacked my train.


Girl one lost another tooth. (A relief for the scales of justice as her sister’s teeth have been raining down like manna from heaven.) I thought a tooth fairy conversation was not far off, but I didn’t see it going the way it did.

I don’t know whether to believe in the tooth fairy, she said. I pretty much know there isn’t one. That’s what my friends all say. . . but I’m . . .I’m not completely sure.

The man in the red suit (who we don’t campaign against, but who’s never really caught on as a tradition for our family) came to my rescue.

Kids want to believe in Santa Claus, I said, because they want to believe that there’s magic in the world. That love does things so amazing we can’t explain it. A kid might find out that Santa isn’t real and worry that miracles aren’t true either. But they are. Someone might have made up the idea of Santa Claus but love really does do things so amazing we can’t explain it. So amazing that it’s magical like flying reindeer.

She didn’t say anything, so I kept brushing her hair.

What would be better? I said. To believe the tooth fairy isn’t real and you don’t feel dumb with your friends or to believe she is real and you don’t have to feel sad that part of what you imagined is pretend?

Girl one took these things and pondered them in her heart. I brushed hair that no longer needed brushing.

Your sister puts her tooth under her pillow for the tooth fairy. Your brother doesn’t want to so he brings me all his lost teeth and I hand him some money. It’s okay both ways and the money’s the same either way. Which way do you want it?

I want to believe, she said.

I didn’t know how much I’d wanted her to say that until she said it. She danced downstairs the next morning waving the money that I’d put under her pillow myself. I saw her eyes and found it impossible not to imagine a tooth fairy with wings. Look what I got! she said. Girl two and I gasped with her.

Girl one wasn’t asking about the existence of the tooth fairy. She was asking if it was okay to believe in fairy tales. If it was okay to find in make-believe, things so true it made your heart hurt.

C.S. Lewis’s Narnia is that for me. I don’t expect to walk through a wardrobe in my daily life and find a different world (although I wouldn’t rule it out entirely). Rather, I expect that we may awake one day to the realization that where we are is Narnia. In the wordless places we see in part but are afraid to say, so we make poetry, and art, and music for each other to admit to what we know. That the trees have always talked, we simply haven’t heard them. That Aslan is real and on the move and without understanding why, that is precisely what we have been hoping and whispering so earnestly to each other.

We tell fairy tales to give back to our children what they give to us. That thing we so desperately need. Permission to believe.

Friday small post

another self portrait. not sure how morguefile.com gets these pictures of me.

Not sure how morguefile.com gets these pictures of me.

I do not have a piece written today because:

  1. I was gravely misunderstood twice in one day. I could have recovered from once.
  2. A friend from out of town was coming and I could not remember the name of anything I know how to cook.
  3. My three youngest children went outside, stole water without asking, dug up dirt without asking, and made a lot of mud. They poured it all over the slide and went down it repeatedly. Two of them covered themselves from head to toe, skin, shorts, t-shirts. The third, in school clothes, kept telling me that she didn’t even get to do the “funnest” things the other kids did because she was trying so hard to take care of her school clothes. That was supposed to make me feel sorry for her instead of being mad at her. I had no answer for that with language appropriate for a nine year old so I couldn’t say much.
  4. The people misunderstanding me are fragile so I can’t even wade in and offer up my most excellent defenses. Which is too bad because I am really ready with some excellent points, and not being able to say them is making it hard to think.


A small offering from the week’s conversations . . .  

Girl one felt compelled to read the ten commandments to Girl two.

What’s adultery? said Girl two.

It’s like when you’re married to one person and then you get married to another person.

Both Girl two and I found this interesting.

Or, continued Girl one, probably if you’re engaged to someone and you marry someone else.

Girl two’s eyes got wide. She began to whisper furiously.

That means I’m going to have to commit adultery, she said.

What do you mean? said Girl one.

I’m already engaged to John.

No you’re not, said Girl one.

Yes, I am. I don’t want to be, but I am. At winter fun day he asked me to marry him.

Did you say yes?

I said no. He said pretty please. I said no. He said he’d do anything for me. I said no. But I’m going to commit adultery because I’m not marrying him. I’m marrying someone else.

Brilliance in the becoming


saw this happening out the window and got the camera

saw this happening out the window and got the camera


Turns out this was the goal. :)

This was the goal.


Boy two has a bruise on his head. During our work day he began taking the split logs in his hand as they came off the splitter and tossing them behind him onto the wagon without looking. He stopped after one log flew straight up and came straight back down on his head.


Girl one is reading a novel to Girl two as we drive back and forth to school. It’s a mystery with illustrations of art in parks. I tuned in to catch this.

Girl one: It’s crazy, but sometimes in really old art there are sculptures of naked people.

Girl two groans loudly in protest.

Girl one:  I know. It sounds weird, but it’s the way they were learning about the human body. They didn’t know very much so they made sculptures of it so they could learn about it.

Girl two resigned herself to the senselessness of our ancestors with an exhausted, okay.


Boy one recently completed a submission for an essay contest. The potential prize money is big. Aided by the whole optimism disorder, he decided to give it a try. I was quiet about the possibilities of winning. For a few months my secret service, reverse psychology skills have been frequently required. Due to stealth constraints about my actual interest in him completing the project, the number of times I could say, “how do you not see your current state of not finished as an emergency!” was limited. The essay was due at 11:59 on a Friday night. Around 11:50, his father asked him where he was supposed to submit the project. He wasn’t sure. Turns out there was a form to fill out. The fact that the project was submitted at precisely 11:59 is something he’s immensely proud of. He sees it as a kind of good luck charm.


Boy two announced that he is kicking Boy one out of the solemn brotherhood. He says he can no longer tolerate someone so obsessed with hygiene. Boy two does not have this problem. Following a thoroughness inquiry from this interested mother after a recent shower, he explained that he had indeed washed everything from the top of his head down to about six inches below his knee.

But why would you stop there? I asked. That means you didn’t even wash your feet.

Who would ever wash their feet, he wanted to know. All the soap from your whole body goes there.


There was a knock on my bedroom door recently. Most knockers wait for my invitation then nudge a few inches through the open door to ask their question. This time the knocker closed the door behind them, strode across the room to the other side, and turned to look at me.

I’m almost in tears about everything. Do you know what’s wrong with me?

Inconvenience, Dates, and Love


Taking a page from my mother’s book, I take the kids on dates. Not that often, but sometimes, just me with one of them. Girl two and I had a date last week. We dropped the other kids off at school, went home, moved a table in front of the wood stove, and played games. We had popcorn and tea. Then we got in the car and drove to a skating rink. We arrived towards the end of the adult skate time. Girl two was too pulsing with excitement to wait. We did our best to stay out of the way. She is very enthusiastic about skating. Girl two skates much like I would imagine a person with limited limb control and a deep desire to sprint would skate after say a six pack of beer. Very happy. Very fast. Not so steady on her feet. Somehow oblivious to pain and the possible connection between frequent crashes and speed.

The rink we went to is used for Junior A hockey. Compared to our pond, it’s massive. To our utter amazement, for about fifteen minutes after the adult skaters left, we had the whole place to ourselves. We skated clockwise, counter clockwise, across the centre sideways and every other way we could imagine. We talked about having a dance competition but luckily that fell through. Eventually a few others came. Not being used to an actual rink, I thought Girl two might tire but she insisted on skating for the full hour.

“That was perfect,” she said as we skated off the ice. “That was exactly what I wanted. Just to skate with nobody telling me what to do. Not like at the pond where everybody is always bossing me around.”

We went for lunch and played magic fairy. (The magic fairy makes anything possible.)

“If the magic fairy let you try three things to be when you grow up, what would they be?” I asked.

“Missionary . . .  doctor . . . or . . . or own a restaurant,” she said. “Because I want to do something that people actually need and everybody needs to eat. Probably not doctor though. Just the other two. And if I had a restaurant, poor people could always eat there for only one dollar. No matter what.”

It is very frustrating to find times to fit in the dates. I promise them ahead because I worry otherwise I wouldn’t do them. Even so I drag my feet and think of giving rain cheques. Afterwards I can’t imagine how I ever thought of missing it.

Girl one is anxious for our upcoming date. “I like to be with you because I can say anything and I know you won’t make fun of me,” she said. “I like talking to you because I trust you with my words.”

How is it that we find love so inconvenient, and yet it always seeks and waits for us?

Failed Attempts with Petunia


Over the holidays, the girls and I found ourselves with the richness of empty time together in someone else’s house. Games? I wondered. Barbies! they cheered. The Barbies looked as boring as the ones at our house but perhaps I was misinformed.

I declined the invitation to join. (I don’t know how, I said. I’ll read a magazine.) Then I felt guilty and recanted. My cynical side was not amused. My creative side felt certain I could muster enough imagination to overcome my God given repulsion to so many long haired plastic women with deformed feet and monstrous bosoms.

Upon sitting down with assigned Barbie in hand, I spied a plate of plastic cupcakes. Both girls were grooming their Barbies. I looked at mine but she looked fine so I walked her over to get a cupcake. She wanted the green one, which turned out to be a problem because the  Barbie sitting at the table said she wanted the green one also. This was ridiculous. Table girl had been sitting there all night. If she’d actually wanted the green one she could have consumed it hours ago, but no, she waited until my Barbie politely asked for it to cause a scene. Things got heated. My Barbie had just stormed off when the girls interrupted to tell me I wasn’t doing it right.

I ignored them and walked my Barbie back over to the table. She and the other girl agreed to split the cupcake. I got them to hug, high five, and squeal, “sisters!” Nobody tells me I can’t do that Barbie thing.

So how are you supposed to play Barbies, I said.

You like do their hair and put on clothes and stuff, they said.

As far as I can tell the perfect Barbie would have clothes that disintegrate after 30 seconds exposure to air, thereby assuring that Barbie would be in need of almost constant dressing and accessorizing. In other words, a picture of hell. My Barbie was already dressed. They weren’t our Barbies so I didn’t feel right cutting her hair, irritating though it was. I sighed and my eyes landed on one of the ugliest pair of shoes I have ever seen.

Petunia (my Barbie) was thrilled. O my gosh, she said, I am soooo happy. These are like the best shoes, ever. Just look at all the little bumps. I have no idea how many toads they used to make them, but 100% toad skin shoes are like totally awesome, she added.

Mom, said Girl one, those are shoes for a completely different doll. They don’t even go with that Barbie. But you can use them if you want.

I took the shoes off and put them back on three times, thereby proving that they did go with my Barbie.

It’s ok, Mom, said Girl one.

Yeah, said Girl two, they weren’t made for her, but you can use them.

But don’t say stuff about toad skin, said Girl one.

Yeah, said Girl two, that’s just silly.


Birthday Party

fall 2014 133

Girl one is different kind of bird than I am. Consequently, I admire her but am frequently at a loss as to exactly what to do with her. Maybe because her dreamy artistic self is sometimes lost to me in translation, I worry that others will pass her by. Her love of beauty and her need to create come standard equipped with a lot of distraction and a fair bit of stubborn. Following the crowd has never occurred to her. On the other hand, not quite knowing how to be a part of it, bothers her quite a bit.

She made recess fun for herself for a few years by creating her own school, appointing herself principal, and recruiting younger students to attend. This year her institution dissolved. Half the time she is cheery about friends. The other half, she thinks nobody likes her. I coach from the sidelines with limited success. Holding on to an idea not her own for more than ten seconds is not a strong suit.

I look for ways to get involved, but modern life complicates things. There are no other children who bike to our house, or vice versa. Kids get together by adult arrangement only, and therefore not very often.

Somehow in my mind, the answer to all of my worries became the birthday party this past Saturday.

Modest party goals were: fun, inexpensive, and child feels loved, not just by me but by all her friends. Conversely, the friends should feel loved, have fun, and leave wanting to come back. While providing good wholesome fun in the spirit of yester yore, avoid needless excess, needless waste or nutritional suicide.

So yes, I was a little anxious going into my daughter’s party. The bad weather plan was for the each girl to pick a kind of cake and make it. They played. It rained. I made the birthday cake. They played dress up and put on silly fashion shows. I called Girl one after an hour and asked if she wanted to skip the cakes and just keep playing. I heard, “keep playing,” and the sound of feet running back to join the others. I made some cupcakes for the girls to take home. They giggled and ran around and played. They made hats and purses out of old newspaper. After three hours they had satisfied every single one of my criteria for a party. I did nothing but listen from the kitchen, admire fashion displays and wonder why I worry so much. Or how in the world I ever thought it was up to me anyway.


Humble considerations from the numbered ones



Boy one:  Kale’s mom is just different.

Me: Different how?

Boy one: Well, she’s like really kind and would do anything for one of her kids

Me: Hmm . . .

Boy one: I mean it’s great now but what is Kale going to do when he grows up and no one does stuff for him?

Me unspoken: Not sure . . .kind of stuck back where Kale’s mom is kind, likes her kids and is NOT LIKE ANYONE YOU KNOW.



Girl one on donning her first pair of glasses:

Wow. The world is just so . . . perky. Everything is really perky now . . . oh my gosh, I just realized, I am really going to love my reflection wearing these. I mean I always liked my reflection, but now it is going to be so clear it is going to look even better!


And lastly, Boy one again. After days and days of illness he propped himself up on his elbow to earnestly share this reflection. One might imagine it had been said with a kind of mortified tone . . . like he was confessing something he wasn’t proud of, but no, he was all in, kind of delighted with himself for figuring out how to sum up his clearly logical approach to living.

You know mom, he said. Really, my life philosophy is –  I’m right until you prove me wrong . . .  that’s it. You have to prove me wrong, or I’m right.


You don’t say.

From the wilderness


I try very hard not to burn bras and hold protest signs (although both have tremendous appeal). Amidst waves of nonsense in the sea of our world, the urge to settle down for a good sit-in, march around a building seven times, or grab a bull horn at an intersection gets to be almost an ache in my bones.

The chickens, the sheep, even the rats trying to tunnel into the chicken coop again this year, all make a modicum of sense. It’s the people world I can’t always wrap my head around. I have tried to avoid this moment, but it is upon me. The roar in my head fills up my ears to the exclusion of other thoughts. I can’t help myself: this is a time that demands a list.

Why are we letting go of real things and replacing them with pictures of real things glued around nothing?

Why won’t we stop ourselves from checking endless mostly meaningless messages long enough to think actual meaningful thoughts?

Why do we do things that aren’t important and go places that don’t matter until we’re too dizzy and tired to notice what we’re opting out of?

Why do we turn up the noise so we can’t hear the silence?

All the troubles in the world, all the troubles in us . . . it’s awfully hard to notice them and see them for what they are, much less fix them, if we never stop, in quietness, and wait.

Such is my heaviness. I swear if John the Baptist was here eating locusts today, all the top of the line anti-depressants on the market couldn’t stop him from lamenting the deafening noise of nothingness (clothed as something) filling our brains and hearts with emptiness.

I have to remind myself to take the time to think, yes, but not to hold the weight of it. This is where real things save me. I went outside last week. It was a warm late afternoon with the wind was swirling around in leaves. There was Girl one, barefoot, cross legged, sitting on the old red tractor in the driveway, playing her violin.

Yesterday, my young Queen of distraction took ten or so reminders to open her violin case. I heard a few measures and went about my business. By the time I realized she was gone, it had been a while. I found her outside again.

“Guess what?” she said beaming. “I invented something. It’s called, ‘extreme violining.’ So far I’ve played my violin on the tractor, in a tree, on top of the car, and on the roof.”

Her grin these days is full of crooked teeth and spaces. We’re supposed to be saving up for an Orthodontist, but I’m thinking it might be cheaper to move to a third world country where they don’t have Orthodontists.

I still worry about common sense and quiet reflection, lost in a wilderness of activity. But hope is real on a roof at my house. Long may the band play on.


On the way to school


Girl #1 is rambling about the King of England. Something or other she learned at school from Mrs. V. who, it is repeated with reverence, absolutely loves history.

Girl #2:  I’m getting the idea that Mrs. V. really knows a lot. Like even more than mom

Girl #1 concerned: I don’t know. I think might both know a lot but they know a lot about different things

Girl #2: Yeah, like about God and stuff

Girl #1: No, everybody knows about God. It’s like they both know a lot about some things. Like Mrs. V. knows a lot about history and social studies, and . . .

Girl #2: So maybe they know the same as each other but more than Miss Sipple.

Girl #1 (a little taken aback): Oh no, she says with emphasis, Miss Sipple knows a  lot. She knows all kinds of things. But she teaches very small children. Sooooo, she has to take everything she knows and take down to really tiny little details so the little kids can get it. See what I mean.

Girl #2 Yeah, so she’s really smart but she has to make it so they can understand it

Girl #1 Exactly


I tune out while the conversation turns back to the King in England, and all that has been learned thus far from the beloved and admired Mrs. V. Somewhere I tune in again . . .

Girl #1  So anyway, the King and England wanted to fight New York.

Girl #2 Is that like called World War I or something?

Girl #1 Actually, it might have just been New York fighting New York

Boy #2 from the far back:  It’s called the War of 1812

Girl #1  Actually, I’m pretty sure it was New York trying to keep New York, maybe from England.

Boy #3 Then that’s the United States becoming a country. It’s called the Civil War.

Girl #1 Anyway, the point is that there were people in New York who wanted to be loyal to the King and that made other people really mad. They wanted to like lock them up in jail and be mean to them and stuff, but they weren’t bad people. They were good people and they loved the King.


Well, Dorothy, I say to myself. You aren’t in Kansas anymore. The traitors of your childhood are the heroes of your children’s. Your book loving son who spews facts about the quiet needed for beer brewing and all manner of odd things learned from his books doesn’t differentiate accurately between American wars, revolutionary, civil, or otherwise.

But that’s ok. My nine year old says that even though Mrs. V. knows some things I don’t, there are some things I know that she doesn’t. This bodes well for both of us.

Needles (Or The Story of a Sewing Kit)

Luckily, hers isn't this big.

Luckily, hers isn’t this big.

Act 1:

Girl one leaves a note with doodles on it lying around. It is summer. Still more than four months until her birthday. It says:

Dear Birthday Fairy,

I would really, REALLY like a sewing kit for my birthday.

Thank you.


Her Nana finds the note. Charmed, she buys a small sewing kit. Thread, scissors, measuring tape, tracing paper, thimble, a pin cushion, needles. The early unexpected gift is a hit. I gently discuss needles, their dangers, merits, and again, their dangers. I push the information through into the floating dreaminess of Girl one’s aura and hope for the best.

Act 2:

I find a needle on the floor, review danger speech, and offer warning.

I sit on a couch at night and find needle with my hand. I review speeches on danger and offer a stern warning. In the next 24 hours, I find more needles but it is sworn with impassioned oaths that these are a result of previous sins . . . which although not remembered or intentional were clearly committed prior to the stern warning.

Three days later, I have found more than ten needles. Entire kit is removed to my room for a time out.

Act 3:

Kit is returned. Speeches reinforced. Shortly thereafter more needles are found. Later, lying in her bed sobbing softly, she is the poster child for broken hearts.

I know others are partly to blame. And truthfully, the needle dispenser is a lousy design intended for vigilant adults with long bony fingers, not enthusiastic kids passing it around for a home grown sewing circle. I make adjustments on the dispenser and impose new rules about sharing.

Act 4:

The sewing kit lives in Girl one’s room, but the needle dispenser lives in mine. I think things are going better. Then I find a needle. An hour later, Girl one finds another one, then another.  This time the tears are a torrent.

I’m not responsible enough to have a sewing kit, she whispers. Take it. I love it so much, but I am not a responsible person. I’m not old enough to have it. (Extreme weeping) I am just not a responsible person.

Although I had been thinking all of those things, I didn’t want to say them anymore. In a moment of insanity, I said I wasn’t taking her sewing kit away.

In the world, I said, there are people who love beautiful things and people who are very practical. Mostly they are not the same people. Without the practical people, we would be hungry. We wouldn’t remember where the food was or when to buy it. But without the people who show us the beauty in the world, we would be a different kind of hungry.  Without the beautiful people, why even bother getting up for breakfast?

Girl one gave me a very grateful hug and told me that she was tired and needed to go to sleep now.

I hope the family does not soon resemble Swiss cheese. But if that’s the cost of art these days, I guess I’m in. As a nod to the practical people, the dispenser doesn’t get dispensed anymore. Just one needle to one child. At kitchen table only.