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"Karen said I'm ugly."

That's what Kaylee told me today, on the way home from school. Karen, of course, is not the child's real name. No one names their kids Karen anymore.

"What?" I asked, surprised to learn that these things start so young.

"Karen told me I'm ugly."

How do I react to this? I wondered.

I wanted to kick this Karen kid's ass. How dare she make my little girl sad? How dare she tell my beautiful child that she's anything less than perfection incarnate?

Maybe I should talk to Karen's mom about her child's bratty behavior, I thought.

Should I fight this battle for Kaylee? Should I pump her head full of declarations of her beauty? Should I tell her that Karen is an evil little shit who's just jealous of Kaylee's shining awesomeness? Should I make things worse?

"Did that make you feel sad?" I asked. Because you never know with four-year-olds. Sometimes they speak in code. Sometimes "ugly" means "rad," or whatever the kids say these days.

But Kaylee nodded. Yes, she was sad. Damn that Karen.

"Well, it's really not very nice to tell someone they're ugly, is it?"

Kaylee agreed.

"Next time Karen says something like that, you tell her that's a mean thing to say, and you don't play with mean kids."

"Ok," she said.

"She said I was ugly."

"I'm sorry."

"So I said she's ugly."

"Oh. ... But that's not nice, is it?"

"No. Tomorrow I'll tell her I'm sorry."



So there was this conference

As some of you already know, I went to the BlogHer conference with my friend and fellow blogger Lisa of Grandma’s Briefs a couple of weeks ago.

I first heard of BlogHer a few years ago, shortly after I started following Dooce, Fussy and Finslippy, plus a bunch of other blogs that I’ve lost track of since then. One August, this weird thing happened where they all got together and had fun and drank and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company at BlogHer, and I was all “What the fuck, y’all?  Why didn’t you invite me?” This was, of course, a stupid thought.  I don’t personally know any of those women, even though I feel like I do because I read their blogs.

I’ve wanted to go ever since, so I could be part of the club.

I’ve been blogging with limited success – for I am lazy and unwilling to seek out creative revenue streams – since 2003. Lisa has been blogging, with much more success because she is awesome, for two years.  She wanted to go to BlogHer to find ways to expand her online presence.  I wanted to go to BlogHer to see if I could meet The Bloggess.  Thus, a plan was born.

(I also wanted to meet this awesome lady but she couldn’t make it.)

So Lisa and I packed our bags and went to San Diego for a few days.

Can I just tell you guys something?  I’d never been to San Diego before.  I’ve been to Los Angeles and been stuck in traffic there for hours just because I wanted to see the damn Hollywood sign, but I’d never been to San Diego.  After four days there, I want to pack up my whole family and move to California.  I don’t care if San Diego is going to be the first place to fall into the ocean next year while John Cusack’s charging across the world to rescue his kids from certain demise, I still want to live there.  I have never, never in my life felt such a strong pull toward a place.  People, yes. Place, no.

Fortunately, my dad has a friend who’s selling a beautiful house in San Diego.  So we’ll be moving there as soon as I come up with $700,000 and also, like, a job or something.

Anyway, this was the view from our hotel window:

The conference was … big.  There were 3,600 people there, and there’s pretty much no way I would have enjoyed any of it if I hadn’t had a friend there with me.  Most of the time it was fine, but occasionally I felt overwhelmed and wanted to go back to the hotel room and crawl under the covers. (I did that once.)

We went to a couple of parties, and I achieved my goal of meeting Jenny, of The Bloggess, and she gave me a sticker.  At the notorious Sparklecorn party, I met Amy of Amalah and I’m pretty sure I made a total ass of myself, as I had consumed six free drink tickets’ worth of chardonnay by then.  Then I had some of this cake:

I know, right?  That is actually a cake.

I went to three informational sessions while at BlogHer, one of which was particularly pertinent to my blog, and I spent a bunch of time wandering around the Expo Hall collecting free samples of random stuff.  Fortunately, Lisa told me to bring an extra bag for all the swag, and most of the samples made it home unharmed.  (Except the cotton candy. That shit doesn’t travel well.)

We made a point to leave the hotel a couple of times and explore a little bit of San Diego, because what’s the point of going to California if you don’t take a minute to stick your feet in the ocean?

We ate fresh seafood at a restaurant on the water:

We rode a ferry:

We saw some fireworks:

We stuck our feet in the ocean:


Throughout the touristy stuff, I texted Rob pictures like this one:

And this one:

And he would occasionally respond with, “You ARE going to come home from there, right?”

I did come home, of course. I am not dangling my feet off the end of a pier while typing this post.  But maybe, just maybe, I’m plotting my return to San Diego.

So, now that I’ve been to BlogHer, do I feel like I’m part of the club?

Yes and no. 

I didn’t make a bunch of meaningful new friendships.  I did learn a couple of things. I did collect a crapload of business cards that I still haven’t sorted through. I didn’t always feel comfortable.  I did give my hastily designed business card to two of my favorite bloggers.  I did not hope they would visit my site and tell all their readers how wonderful my blog is.  (That one’s a lie.)  I did not shed my shyness and dance with abandon at Sparklecorn.  I did feel incredibly stupid more than once.  I did see my first flashmob.  I did decide I would like to attend BlogHer again someday.

I did love San Diego.

I do want to go back. 

I want to show my family this:

And this:

And maybe this:

I want to convince my husband that San Diego is the place to be.  (And then convince the rest of our family, too, because babysitters ain’t cheap.)  And maybe once he’s on board, we can find, like, jobs and stuff.


Dear monkey-butts, at 51 months and 19 months

Dear Kaylee and Robbie,

This time last month, I was worried about the two of you. We were preparing to start you in a new daycare, and I thought you might not handle the transition well.  I thought you would be stressed out, crying, missing your old daycares.

I should really start giving you guys more credit.

The whole experience has been nothing short of wonderful. In fact, Kaylee, once in a while you worriedly turn to me and remind me to take you to your new school in the morning, not your old one. You love your new teacher, Mr. C, even more than your old one – perhaps because he doesn’t coddle you.  While it took you weeks to slowly poke your way out of your shell at the last school, you’ve burst out of your shell, arms flailing, at the new one.  You can now write your name, you keep a little drawing journal and you sometimes beg me to get you to school in time to eat breakfast there.  You are thriving, my beautiful girl, and it makes me so happy.

The transition was a little tougher for you, Robbie. For the first week, you cried every morning when I pulled the car into the parking lot. But on Monday, you didn’t even want to come home with me because you were too fascinated by all the toys in the preschool room. You know which classrooms have Thomas the Train toys stashed in them, and your teachers claim that you eat your fruits and vegetables every day. (This is the one thing that gives me pause about your school, because your teachers MUST be damn dirty liars to say something like that.) This morning, I handed you off to your teacher and you smiled, laying your head on her shoulder – and action I usually only see you take with your beloved Papa.

Monday starts another new chapter – for me more than you – and I hope I don’t turn into Insane Mommy on you as I’m loaded down with homework and tests and etc., etc.  I think it’ll be all right.  But if I get a little crazy, I want you to know that you can always calm me down by holding my face in your little hands and giving me a kiss. Both of you do this sometimes, and it never fails to make me feel all warm and squishy.

I don’t have much else to say right now because my brain has decided to take a vacation on me.  But know this, little monkeys: I love you.  More than anything.



Today in first-world problems

We are pulling into the garage when I hear it: the tinkling, tinny melody of "The Saints Go Marching In."

Kaylee's eyes light up while mine show only terror. What she hears is a song of pure joy, holding promises of wonderful treats. What I hear is a toddler siren song, one that will inevitably leave our almost-happy evening dashed upon the rocks of disappointment.

I glance in my rearview mirror as the garage door descends behind the car, just in time to see the neighborhood ice cream truck go by.

"Fuck," I think. "This is going to suck."

Out loud I say, "Maybe if we hurry and get your ice cream money, we can catch the ice cream truck."

I quickly free the kids from their car seats, narrowly avoiding a full-fledged Robbie meltdown by promising ice cream in lieu of a half hour sitting in the driver seat turning the headlights on and off -- an activity he'd been pining for all day. I get the kids inside and urge Kaylee to hurry, hurry, hurry and find the Dora backpack where she'd stashed her $5 bill. (Gone are the days when you could simply raid the piggy bank for ice cream money. These days, the cheapest treat is as much as $2.)

"I'm hurrying!" she shouts, right before getting distracted by a plastic bag, then a broach, then a shoe.

While she hunts, I locate a different $5 and an additional $1, and shove Kaylee out the front door, giving up on the backpack. But we're too late. The ice cream lady is gone.

The first time this happened, the kids and I walked down the street and managed to catch the ice cream lady as she meandered through the neighborhood. Thus, every time we miss her now, we are required to go for a walk in search of the ice cream truck.

We don't find it this time. Kaylee takes it well -- right up until I tell her we need to go inside the house. Now she makes it clear that her world has ended, her spirit is crushed and she will never recover from the trauma of being denied a watermelon snow cone.

Later, I take Robbie with me to run an errand and pick up dinner, leaving Kaylee and Rob keeping vigil at the front window, watching for that damn truck.

When Robbie and I return and pull into the driveway, I look in the rearview mirror and AGAIN see the ice cream truck drive by -- this time the music is turned off and she's driving like she's fleeing a bank heist. As I get out of the car, Kaylee and Rob appear in the driveway, and Kaylee's tears are already flowing. We tell Kaylee the ice cream lady must be going home for the night, right before that motherfucking music starts up again a couple blocks away. In the singular stroke of luck we experience that evening, Kaylee doesn't notice.

We convince Kaylee to eat dinner only because it's a Happy Meal -- why yes, we are the best parents ever -- and she knows she'll get a toy out of it if she cooperates. Afterward, Rob takes off to do some prep work for the next day's yard sale, and I agree to take the kids for another walk. I'm convinced the ice cream truck has moved on to other territory and is finished its cruel teasing.

I am, of course, totally wrong.

We get about two blocks from home, and there she is, like a desert oasis, sitting at a stop sign. Oh sweet merciful Jesus, I'm about to get my kid some goddamn ice cream and stop the screeching that's been going on for the last two hours.

And then.

Then, the ice cream truck turns away from us. We yell, we wave our arms in the air, we jump up and down and will her to check her rearview mirror and see the ravenous preschooler trying desperately to get her attention.

But no.

She keeps going.

We walk a little more, and occasionally I hear a phantom note floating in the air, mocking us. Pointing out that the ice cream truck is once again several blocks away, out of our reach.

When we finally gave up for the night, Kaylee was forced to settle for ice cream from our own freezer, which carries none of the excitement of ice cream bought from the side window of a questionably maintained motor vehicle.

I remember a time in my life when the merry tinkle of an ice cream truck filled me with joy. I could buy a popsicle! Or a nutty buddy! The choices were endless!

And nowadays that noise just fills me with dread and kind of makes me want to hit the ice cream lady. Or at least tell her to slow the fuck down.


Dear kiddos, at whatever month you're at these days

Dear Kaylee and Robbie, 

It’s time to admit defeat here and give Robbie another reason to have a complex about being the second child. Just 18 months in to writing these letters for each of you, I’ve decided this is something you’re just going to have to share.  No more individual letters, because Mommy just isn’t getting it done.  And Kaylee, I don’t want to hear any dramatic soliloquies about how you don’t want Robbie to share your letter and how now you’ll never get a letter of your own again and how I obviously just don’t like you anymore.  And Robbie, for god’s sake, please don’t hit your sister because she’s trying to share your letter, either.

If you couldn’t tell from that introductory paragraph, the volume of the shrieking in our household has gone up significantly in the last month or so.  Robbie, you’ve finally realized that you’re almost your sister’s physical equal now – in power, if not height,– and you have learned to wield it.  You will attempt to push her off her chair at breakfast in your never-ending pursuit of Things Other People Have, and you’re willing to fight back when she tries to play the Big Sister card and take things away from you.  Kaylee, you haven’t yet figured out that your brother has learned to push your buttons. Here’s a hint, sweetie: If you yell “STOP!” every time he screams at you in the car, he’ll just keep screaming because he thinks it’s funny.  The sooner you learn these sorts of tips for dealing with an obnoxious brother, the better.

Despite all the screaming, you two do really like each other. My favorite moments as your mother usually involve watching the two of you chase each other around the living room, laughing uproariously every time one of you almost catches the other. You’ve learned to give each other hugs, which usually causes me to melt into a puddle on the floor.  You give each other goodnight kisses.  You are friends, even when you’re screeching at each other.

Kaylee, you’ve developed an amazing gift for hyperbole over the past month. (I suspect you get it partly from your cousin Hope.)  Whenever you are denied something you want – say, a Happy Meal – you’ll sob and whine and ask, “Why can I never ever have a Happy Meal?” or “Can I never have a Happy Meal again?”  Sometimes you will ask me, completely out of the blue, why I don’t love you.  If I need to accomplish a chore – or, you know, finish peeing – before joining you in yet another re-enactment of “Tangled,” you’ll ask me why I don’t want to be your friend. You know how to take the most innocuous slight and turn it into the end of the world.  It is … not cute.  It’s a little funny, what with all the histrionics involved, but I’d really rather you cut it out.  It’s not an adorable way to get what you want.

Robbie, you are now the proud owner of a t-shirt that says “stuntman” across the front, and it is a truly accurate garment.  I cannot believe the level of your fearlessness.  If I weren’t afraid of the looks I’d get in public, I’d probably dress you in bubble wrap.  A couple of weeks ago, Daddy and I made the mistake of lying in bed for half an hour and allowing you and Kaylee to wander the upstairs freely while we drifted in and out of naps. Once we decided to get up and assess the damage your freedom had wrought, we discovered that you’ve learned to climb up onto your dresser and get back down without any help.  That’s the only explanation for the fact that all of the belongings that usually live on top of the dresser had made their way to the floor during those 30 minutes. You also rifled through my desk drawers, climbed into my desk chair and banged on my computer.  Your other nifty trick is standing on the seat of the giraffe bike and balancing precariously while you reach for things on top of your bookshelf.  I hope you make it to your next birthday concussion-free.

Next week starts a new chapter in our family, one that’s causing me a significant amount of maternal guilt.  You’re both going to start daycare full-time on Monday, in an effort to get everything in place before I start school.  I think this is the best thing for us all, because in the long run we’ll be better off after I get the new degree and start the new career.  But in the short run, I’m a little panicky about how much I’m going to miss seeing my babies all the time.  Our current schedule allows me to spend Mondays with you and to hang out with you much of the morning on Wednesdays and Fridays. Much of the time we just putz around, but the point is that we putz around together.  Starting next week, I’ll only see you in the mornings, at night and on weekends. Today was your last day at your current daycares, and every time I remembered that fact throughout the day I’d feel anxiety flooding in, as if Monday is the day I start missing out on your childhoods.

I’ve fretted over this decision so much, particularly regarding you, Kaylee. As I’ve documented many, many times, you can be a pretty darn shy child. You often hide your face in my shoulder at the mere suggestion that you might need to speak to another person sometime in the next hour. But then there are the moments when your personality shines. Yesterday you and Robbie spent the day with Grandma and Uncle Tim, who set about spoiling you with a Chuck E. Cheese visit because you won’t be spending Wednesdays at Grandma’s house anymore, and when I arrived to pick you up I saw a wonderful thing. You and Grandma were sitting on a garden wall in front of the neighbor’s house, and you were watching the neighbor’s 4-year-old boy ride his tricycle up and down the sidewalk. Every time he passed you’d yell, “What’s your name?” until his older brother finally answered you. Within half an hour, you were playing with the trio of brothers, running up and down the sidewalk and venturing into their garage to see the dog.  You may be shy sometimes, but you know how to charm the masses when it suits you.  I think you’ll do just fine in your new school.

Before I ever became a parent, I would never have guessed that I’d still be so fascinated by my children four years into the adventure. Every single day – and I do mean every one – I stare at each of you with wonder and amazement. How did you get so freakin’ cute? How did I have a role in creating two such wonderful people?  How did I get so lucky?