I wrote a thing! It got published!

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Since quietly moving my blog over to Egypt Titchenal, I have been trying my hand at writing pieces for publication by online magazines, and I’m proud to announce that yesterday I was published over on Mutha Magazine! Maybe head on over there and show me some love? I’m hoping to write more pieces like this in the future!

And while you’re at it, go ahead and follow my new blog!

Monkey Mind-Reader

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His dense toddler body was snuggled up close to mine, with his chubby little hand on my neck. The room was dark, and I was in that almost-asleep state where the mind wanders to the most random of subjects, right before drifting off to sleep. He was so quiet, his breathing so normal, that I assumed he had already fallen asleep. And my mind wandered to a conversation I’d had with my friend and co-worker earlier in the day, about society and life, and…bonobo chimps.

I was so tired that I was actually imagining the chimps. I could see them vividly in my mind, sitting on the grass, grooming each other, making soft hooting noises at one another. The image of the chimps was accompanied by facts I learned in my Psychology 101 class, mixed with thoughts about ‘where is the state of the world going to be in 20 years?’ musings. With the image of a chimp in my mind, almost asleep, I hear:

“Monkeys mama? Ooh ooh, ah ah?”

He wasn’t asleep.

He was asking me a question.

And based on how I had just been vividly thinking about ‘monkeys’ (yes, I know they’re apes, but to him they’re all just monkeys), it felt vaguely eery (and slightly cool) to think…was he reading my mind? And if he was, how do I feel about it?

I’ve read stories and watched shows about psychic kids. And am wondering if Potamus fits under that, or were we simply both tired, and our consciousness merged in the dream space, or the remembrance space from where we used to be in one body.

Thoughts? Anyone have similar experiences?

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This post originally posted over on Egypt Titchenal, my new blog. 

Modeling Manners

I don’t like talking to people that I don’t know. Maybe that’s where Potamus gets it. Once someone is in my inner circle of trust, it’s different, they’re “my people” (as my son would say) and I feel free to move about the cabin like normal. Strangers? No thank you, and not in a stranger danger way, but just like a wary who are you and can I trust you?

So it really shouldn’t surprise me, that Potamus is fine at the park with “his people,” Mari’s sons, but as soon as some other random kid comes along, he asks “who’s that? who’s that people?” And even when I say, “I don’t know who that kid is, but it’s okay, just play with your people if you want,” he gets afraid, timid, worried about someone else in his space. And so, today I decided to do something different. I can’t just have my 3.5 year old sitting on my lap at every play date with a strange kid within 50 yards.

I took him by hand and walked him over to strange kid, kneeled down, and said, “excuse me, my son would like to know what your name is. His name is Potamus.” And the kid said, “I’m Pedro,” and then went to play. And after that Potamus was fine playing in the same neighborhood as Pedro.

But two minutes later a man walks up to me and asks, “did something happen? Did he do something wrong?” Figuring this was Pedro’s dad, I said,

Oh no! My son is shy and wanted to know who your son was. So I showed up how to introduce himself. He goes to school, but is sometimes nervous about kids he doesn’t know on the playground.

The dad looked SO relieved that his kid wasn’t being punished or berated, and said, “that’s a good idea, teaches them manners.” I smiled and he left.

But about 10 minutes later I see him crouched down with his kid saying, “so you can go up to someone and ask them what their name is. It’s called introducing yourself. That way you know who they are.”

So, pass it on folks, modeling manners works!

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The next kid we tried it on was not interested at all in talking to me or didn’t speak English. Potamus was not impressed with my introduction skills that time.

Rainboot Mindfulness

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In the span of a few months, the only full priced pair of shoes I’ve ever bought Potamus, has failed. True he’s worn them threadbare, with all his tromping and climbing and sliding. But I wasn’t prepared for the rain boot replacement, and then I showed up to school today and the gash in the side of the boot (that I had, perhaps, frugally thought I would repair with a big swatch of duct tape), and a ripped strap, and just general disrepair. And I realized, “dang, it’s time to replace these boots.” As it so happens, we live in Seattle, and it’s January, and it’s…RAINING.

Thank goodness I let my students out early today, so Potamus and I headed down to Fred Meyer by our house to pick out new rain boots. He was thrilled. The whole ride there he sang a little song that went something like “rain boots, rain boots, new rain boots,” and then included things like “mommy, me, scrummy, me, house, rain boots, new rain boots.” The melody is hard to translate, but it was adorable. When we arrived at the brightly lit shelves of the toddler rain boot section, I realized…good thing I only have one kid, because a) DANG THESE ARE EXPENSIVE and b) DANG THIS TAKES FOREVER.

I squatted down, frantically looking for a replacement size 9, which we  bought a size too big four months ago. And only finding one pattern (which he quickly rejected) we opted to try on some size 8’s that actually fit really well, but make me nervous that he’ll grow out of them in 3.4 seconds. He tried on butterfly boots “like aubrey,” and princess ones “like bella’s,” and didn’t want the sharks because they were “like madden’s,” and finally, after digging through all that rubber, he decided on the one pair of dinosaur boots that fit. Phew.

But wait!

The hemming and hawwing began again.

“They’re too big mama,” he said, which I protested because there’s no way they were too big. Too small, maybe, but definitely not too big. So we tried on the shark pair again. And then looked at the butterfly pair. He rejected the ladybug that was sorta ‘like aubrey’s’ but not exactly the same. We looked at plain red, plain yellow, you get the idea.

Oh the toddler indecision.

But after about five minutes into the haggling with my tiny, I was actually enjoying myself. I remember going to get shoes as a kid and feeling so stifled by the choices because a) I was gigantic and had gigantic feet and b) my mom was cheap on a budget, and c) there were 3 of us and we were always in a rush from one thing to another. I know that the luxury of spending 30 minutes hemming and hawwing over the perfect pair of rainboots will not be something I can do forever. But in the world of hurry up, where I’m always hustling him out the door in the darkness to school, or coming home and slamming things down to start dinner/snacks/tv show/cleanup, it felt nice to simply notice all the designs available for him to choose from.

And when he strutted out of the store, and on his own said, “thanks for buying my new rainboots,” I smiled and drank in the sweet moment that passes all too soon.

Happy St. Lucia Day!

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From the time I was a small girl, I have always wanted to celebrate St. Lucia Day. December 13th, a day marked in Sweden, Norway, and other northern countries, is marked by St. Lucia Day. A day honoring a Christian martyr, celebrated by the oldest girls in a family dressing as Lucia girls, and bringing coffee and buns to their parents. To celebrate my Swedish/Norwegian heritage, this year I dressed up as St. Lucia.

Did I also mention that it was my birthday on December 13th?

St. Lucia Day. My birthday. In my wedding dress, with my red sash, and homemade wreath of candles, I set out with two of my college friends to Seattle’s Pike Place Market to pass out candy canes as a strong female holiday character. To my great joy, there were many kids who said “Santa Lucia!” when they saw me. Seattle has a strong Swedish and Norwegian heritage, so it was fun to meet little blonde kids who had just come from dancing at the Nordic heritage museum and then getting candy canes from me at the market. A fun experience for me, too, and a great way to get another use out of my wedding dress!!

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Advice for December Birthdays

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Today two of my dearest friends from college are coming in to town. One from across the mountains, riding the train and taking a bus to see me. The other driving up from Portland, Oregon, all to celebrate my birthday. A December birthday. And I. Can’t. Wait.

So, it was surprising to me, to be in the grocery line at Fred Meyer, and have the cashier tell me that Potamus will get too many presents in December, and that he should celebrate his birthday in June. Um, what? I’m celebrating his BIRTHday lady, not a random June weekday. But this sentiment is something I get a lot “oh, poor thing, having a December birthday,” and the following are either: A) He will get TOO MANY PRESENTS and be overwhelmed and then a whole year of waiting will suck for him, so spread it out, or B) He won’t get ANY presents, because people will combine them together and he’ll get shafted.

As a December birthday girl, I gotta say: people are fucking dumb.

I loved having a month of presents and magic. My friend Ruth’s birthday is on December 31 and she said it’s like the whole world parties for her birthday. I know several December birthdays, and with the exception of those born on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, nobody seems to have much of an issue with it. Because let’s be honest, when else do you get a WHOLE MONTH OF PRESENTS AND MAGIC? Getting a few toys in June just doens’t compare to the exponential magic of holiday parties and birthday parties and Christmas Eve and going to grandparent’s houses, and celebrating “Winter Holiday” in school and it feels like you were born at this magical time with Jolly Old St. Nick and Jesus and there are reindeer, and snowmen and sure it’s not just for your birthday, but it’s sorta like getting invited to Prom by the most popular kid in school.

But sure, there’s some practical advice for celebrating a December Birthday:

  1. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t tell the kid it sucks to be born in December and that they’re getting shafted. Mostly because it’s not true. And if it was, would they know any better? Are you the kind of Scrooge who tells kids Santa isn’t real, either? Don’t ruin Christmas. Don’t ruin birthdays. Got it?
  2. Make your own traditions for celebrating birthdays vs. Christmas (or your Winter Holiday). My birthday is on the 13th, and so in my family we always waited to put the Christmas tree up until December 14th so that it didn’t feel like “my day” was being overshadowed. Since Potamus’ birthday is the 20th, I’m not sure if we’ll follow that same tradition, but we will definitely ask him how he feels when he gets older (we did the Christmas tree tradition because one year they did it earlier and I felt like my birthday was forgotten). Don’t go to birthday dinner and then do Santa pictures on the way home. Keep them separate.
  3. Wrap gifts in birthday paper. There are Christmas presents and Birthday presents. And wrapping paper matters.
  4. Be pro-active with school parties. Celebrate right before school lets out for break, cause it’s WAY harder to rustle kids and families up for birthday parties when they aren’t all in school together. Send invites well in advance. When I was in later elementary school my mom would host a sleepover or after school birthday party on the Friday school let out. Gave parents an excuse to go Christmas shopping before picking my friend’s up. And we all just rode the school bus together to my house, played, and had a blast. I never thought it was weird that it wasn’t a party on a Saturday or Sunday.
  5. Let the birthday kid open gifts when he gets them. Package comes in the mail a week early? Celebrate! By far my favorite part of having a winter birthday was for once I didn’t have to wait forever. I had to wait to open Christmas gifts, because that was a family day, but birthday gifts? I got to open those on the 8th, or the 11th, or the 16th, whenever they came in. It added to the magic.

Embrace the magic, because December babies are full of magic. So I nodded politely at the grocery store cashier, and moved on my merry way.

Any other advice you might have for holiday time babies?