Dear Celia, I Killed Your Hamster

Dear Celia – Mommy and Daddy have been a bit preoccupied lately and, well, we forgot about the hamster. Although we’re both fairly sure we checked on her in the last few days, when I went in to check on her today, well, she was just flat out gone. The cage door was opened and she had escaped the 3-weeks worth of little hamster poos that were strewn around like clothes hastily removed after too much beer and not enough good lighting. Someday you can tell the therapist that I said that, it will explain a lot. More than just telling him that the hamster died while you were at camp.

LUCKILY, as well written as this letter was in my head, I don’t actually need to write it. For the life of me, I can’t imagine how she got the cage door open, but I guess she did. I looked everywhere for her, and didn’t see her anywhere, so I was pretty sad, and afraid that I was going to have to write you this horrible letter saying that I had lost her. So, just to be safe, I decided to go through every nook and cranny of your room, and figured I may as well clean out and throw stuff away while I was at it. (Lil one, we have to talk about the amount of stuff you save, just in case it’s early warning signs for being one of those hoarders who saves everything including used tissues and cat poop.)

Anyway, I grabbed your orange trash can, and it made a strange sound. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard your trash can make noise before. So I pulled out the bag, and, well, you can guess what I saw. A little Oreo sitting there looking at me. CRAZY! All I can guess is that after she broke out, she jumped down to the chair, then jumped down from the chair and landed in your trash can. That must have been a rude awakening, thinking she was escaping, only to land in the plastic hammock of death that is an old grocery bag slung in a child’s trash can. She chewed her way through the bag and then couldn’t get out of the trash can because it is too tall and there’s nothing to climb on.

Which made me think it was the perfect place to leave her while I cleaned the cage. (And remembered why I make you clean her cage. I thought I was teaching you responsibility, turns out it’s just nasty, and I’m kind of lazy.) I mean, she couldn’t get out, so she’s safe there, once I made sure the cat wasn’t in the room. I threw some food in there for her and held the water bottle in for her. I have to admit, that was cute. She just upped on her hind legs and started drinking, looking up at me with her little hamster hands clasped in the prayer position. I liked that very much. God to the rodents, that’s me.

So, I cleaned her cage and put her back, in and I don’t think she’ll be doing any more adventures for a day or two. I think she’s happy just to be home.

And I’m happy that I can check this off the list of possible reasons that you’ll be going to therapy. As of today, the hamster is still alive.

But damn do I miss you. This probably all would have happened even if you had been here, but you would have been laughing so hard. I love it when you laugh. You laugh a lot.

Maybe you won’t need therapy later. I didn’t learn to laugh until last year sometime. You are so far ahead of the game.

I’m glad I didn’t kill your hamster.

I love you baby girl!


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I Want Her Back Now

Celia went to summer camp the other day. Her little almost 10-year-old self took an airplane – alone – to Boston where my cousin Shawn picked her up at the airport. Then drove her to Vermont where she is at Farm and Wilderness Camp for a month. A MONTH!


For weeks leading up to it, she was bouncing around listing all the great things she was going to do – milk cows, swim in the lake, sleep in the woods, sing songs…… We packed together, wrote her name a jillion times (have you ever tried to write inside the stretchy band of of a pair of little kid socks?). So it’s not like I wasn’t prepared.

But when she waved good bye, walking down the gangway with the Stewardess, as soon as she was out of my eyesight, I started bawling like a child. The child she is quickly evolving away from.

She’s gone away for a week at a time before, but this time she’s gone for almost 6 weeks. I spoke to her yesterday on the phone, and as soon as I hung up the phone, I cried. Again.

I have nothing intelligent to say, but I miss her. A lot. I want her back now.

I don’t know if you’ll ever see this blog, but I miss you baby girl. You have no idea how much light you add to our lives. How much music and rhythm and joy. I am so happy for you and our adventure, but I miss you. I can feel your absence.

More than that, I can still feel your presence. I am so happy to be your mommy, no matter where you are.

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Braces and Sexual Activity, OH MY!

Here’s how the conversation goes with Celia, almost daily….

Me: Honey, can you please stop growing?
Celia: Mom, we’ve been through this before, I can’t stop growing.
Me: But you’re growing too fast, I don’t think I can handle it.
Celia: First of all, mom, you can handle it fine. Second of all, we’ve been through this before, in order to stop growing, I’d have to stop eating, if I stop eating, I’ll die.
Me: That would totally suck.
Celia: Yah. Any other questions?
Me: Can you maybe just slow down?
Celia: Maaaaaaa-uuuuuuuummmmmm, no!

So I’m dealing, because she says I have to. But then things happen, that are just way to grown up for me. First, she got braces in May. I’m not down with this. There is no denying the adolescence – and therefore impending teenagehood – of a kid with braces. The whole experience was just surreal. When I was of brace-wearing-age, they did it AFTER you were done growing. Now, they try to catch a major growth spurt so it’s more like the braces are guiding your organic growth, rather than trying to undo completed growth that didn’t go quite right. It makes sense…..

But, get this, they are seriously changing the shape of her face. They expanded her upper jaw almost 1/2 inch – so she got these killer cheek bones. (Yes, I asked, it won’t work like that for me at this point.) Then they pulled her lower jaw forward almost 1/2 an inch, so that she didn’t have such a bad over bite (or is it underbite?) It’s like they sculpted her face. It’s so funny. (For the record, her teeth were a mess. I swear that some of them were coming in horizontally and diagonally, more than one tooth snuggled up like they were trying to keep warm together in her crowded little mouth.)

Anyway, getting braces nearly killed me. Toooooo grown up.

But that was nothing compared to her 10 year-old check up yesterday. Our beloved Dr. Hatfield asked her all the usual questions about food and exercise and if her parents are crazy maniacs. (To which she said “yes.”) Then he asked if she had close friends, how she felt with them and how many she had. That was different. My Goodness, I thought, they’re gearing up for the psych check-ups, this is different from just checking on immunizations.

Then it came.

Dr. H: Now, this may seem early, but I have some precocious patients, so I have to ask, have your parents talked to you about safe sex?

She looked incredulous. Eyes rolled back , sideways glances back and forth between Dr. H and I.

Celia: Um, ya, NNNOOOOO!
Me: Do you know what Dr. Hatfield is asking you when he asks you that?
Celia: No, not really.
Me: You know how babies are made, right.
Celia: That? Yah, I know all about that.

And she does, she’s a scientist this one, she even asked me how the sperm got in if the penis is al soft and smooshy. When she was 5. I’m way over my head with this one.

Me: Okay, well, there will probably come a time when you want to do that just for fun.
Celia: Um, no. I don’t think so!
Dr. H: Well, actually, you might, and our job is to make sure that when you do, you will be happy, safe and healthy.
Celia: Um, ya, NNNOOOOOO!

And that was that. But I nearly died. Not so much because there are, apparently, 10 year-olds who are having sex, (GASP!) but because my daughter is at the age that smarter people than me know they need to talk to her about it. EEEEk gads.

But there will come a day she’ll do it, just because it’s fun. I just hope she has her braces off.

Maybe I ought to go back to that not-feeding-her plan.

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Nothing Says Independence Like….

I kind of love the 4th of July. Mostly because it is a virtual guarantee that I will get to eat Doritos and drink soda, which is what I think the holiday is all about – freedom to eat crap for the day. Yummy, greasy, salty crap. And crunchy.

The day started like any other – coffee, then more coffee, then a trip to the gym. I had to stop at Walgreens for some reason and they were playing a special 4th of July endless loop of patriotic music. Not being an afficianado of patriotic music, the only one I remember is “Proud To Be an American.” Which really is bad enough all by itself. But what really sucked was the number of people who were singing along. People knew the words, and were compelled to SING THEM. And then have discussion about who was more patriotic (it was a long line…… lots of stories. All of which involved either being in the military or supporting the military or kicking them sissies asses. Not sure who the sissies were.) Then, of course, a raging dialog about the “assholes” who bought the Sonics and moved them to wherever they were moved to. According to the guys in line, we have a “right” to have a basketball team. (I’ll be checking the constitution, because I think we have a right to guns, but not basketball, education or healthcare. Then, of course, there’s a lot of discussion about what exactly “liberty” and “pursuit of happiness” means.)

So I, of course, started thinking about why I am proud to be an American – because make no mistake, I am. I’ve lived in other countries, I’ve traveled in other countries, and I’m always glad to be home. Say what you want, but no one will tell my daughter she has to quit school to fetch water for us and care for her siblings. I’m psyched about that. I can marry who I want (even a woman!) and divorce who I want. That’s a good start. I can start a company if I want. No one is telling me they’re gonna help me or make it easy, and I like that too. We have our issues – for sure – but all in all, it’s the leastest of political evils that I’ve found.

So as Dorito time drew nearer, we all gathered at the house of some friends who have a roof deck and 360 degrees of views of every single municipality between the Cascades and Puget Sound. This couple happens to be two women. (Two of my favorite women in the world, comforting, smart and hysterical all in one!) These two women who have been happily coupled forever, have two daughters that they adopted from China. Their house is cluttered with artifacts of a life lived with love and joy. I’m getting happier….

Other friends arrive. The two artists (straight couple) and their stunning daughter with her short hair and funky looks. Another Lesbian couple and adopted child. Another “straight” couple and their two kids. The 2 gay guys with their adopted son from Camodia. My dad. The single mom with her bi-racial daughter who left a miserable marriage in pursuit of both liberty and happiness. People – artists, doctors, lawyers, city workers – who are wildly divergent in their careers and life patterns, but integrate freely, just because they want to.

Summer days are long, so there was lots of time before fireworks. Kids walked to the park down the streets. Parents talked and drank and ate and….

There wasn’t, I’m pretty sure, a single one of us who would say anything positive about the Bush administration. I’m not sure how we resisted saying downright mean stuff on this of all days. Except that I am pretty sure we all found our perfect US up there on the roof deck. Look around, we were young and old (7 – 75), every color of the rainbow, every sexual orientation, every type of relationship.

Somehow, seems to me that most of the constitution was up there on that deck. This was a collection of people who chose their lives and have lived them to the fullest. Not because it was easy, not because it was mandated, not for any reason than because it was what they wanted.

I won’t belabor the point. But I was proud to be an American. Openly and freely. I love my friends.

Except that no one brought Doritos. Damn healthy intellectual types with your cheese platters and Halibut. (Delicious, by the way.) But, on the bright side, we were free to hand our small children rods of metal that were burning at nearly 1,000 degrees and say, “here ya go, have fun with that.”

I love the 4th of July.

Sparkline Celia

Sparkline Celia

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Bathing Suit Reality

Have I mentioned in the last few weeks that I HATE BATHING SUITS? I recently took a little trip to the sun with friends, and had to wear one. But I got over it. I love my body. I really do. I just don’t love having it compared to all of the younger, firmer, tighter and air-brusheder bodies in the collective consciences of our beauty obsessed culture.

Whatever, it is what it is.

The irony is that, given the chance, I’m pretty quick to get naked. I like being naked. I like being naked outside. But that feels all playful and natural. Bathing suits, on the other hand, feel like someone is saying, “here, make yourself fit into this.” And I’m a natural rebel, I don’t want to fit in to anyone else’s anything, thank you very much. Inappropriately naked, no problem. Appropriately squeezed into a sausage wrapper of a swimsuit, no thanks.

Anyway, over at BlogHer, they’re having the 2008 Brigade For Honest Swimsuit Photos. The idea is simple, if we all look at enough photos of REAL bodies, we’ll “real-ize” that we are all not only normal, but right in line with what we should look like. (Okay, well not all of us, but most of us. Bodies come in lots of shapes and sizes, they do NOT come with airbrushing and taped backs that lift our tits back where they once were.)

In the spirit of being a feminist and a “joiner,” (stop laughing, I have my moments,) I looked for photos of me in a bathing suit. I don’t have any. For countless reasons we are all glad there are no photos of my recent weekend away with friends that involved bathing suits. But I did find some photos of me scantily clad in public, which must be good enough.

All of them are at Burning Man, 2007. First, me in a bikini looking at the mushroom village.

Bikini Clad at Mushroom Village

And me in a “fur” Bee-Kini that I made for toodling around the playa on our Bee Car. (It’s really cool at night, it lights up… so, obviously, I needed a bee-kini!)
Bee-Kini on the Bee Car

And my favorite, though we can all debate the appropriateness of it. For the record, here in Seattle, we have a great Solstice Parade, at which hundreds of people bicycle through the streets completely naked except for elaborately painted bodies. I’ve never done it because the logistics of biking naked cause me to chafe just thinking about it. But here’s my homage to them, at Burning Man, a place where I feel totally comfy being who I am, and wearing next to nothing. Happy Cycling Burning Man 2007

Ironically, despite all this photographic evidence to the contrary, I am still terrified to put a bathing suit on in public. But I think that says more about expectations than anything else.

Perhaps I ought to just expect people to think that I’m as fabulous as I do. Because I am.


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Fried Lice for Mother’s Day

“Mom, ya know, what could be a better mother’s day than this? A nice head massage, a bath, someone washing your hair…..” I laughed to myself. My daughter was saying this to me, as I washed her hair, having just spent more than an hour “massaging” oil into her scalp to pick out absolutely countless head lice and nit sacks. (This, in case you were wondering, is the genesis of the phrase nit picking – finding itty bitty little things and meticulously harping on them.)

Yes, a massage and new-do would indeed be a fabulous mother’s day!

But, I wouldn’t trade an hour or so of nit-picking for anything. For more than an hour, she and I sat together, in relative stillness and talked. Her (incredibly thick and golden) hair spilled over my lap and my fingers stroked her scalp with precision and love. I can’t remember the last time she had her head in my lap for that long… (Yes I can, actually, and there were lice involved then, too.) One section at a time, we douse her hair with baby oil, killing lice in their tracks, and loosening up the nit sacks so that they come out with the comb.

I am reminded how lucky I am to have this child, this amazing girl who loves and trusts me to guide her through life until she is on her “own.” This firebrand of creativity and power who is willingly limp in my lap to be loved and cared for. I am her mother, after all.

With a head full of oil, we head to the bathroom to “dry” her hair with the hottest possible setting on the hair dryer – they can’t take the heat, die quickly. “We’re frying them, mom.” “Yup.” “In all that oil, deep fried lice. Yum!”

I am reminded how much I love her sense of humor. She’s smart and witty – and has a truly sardonic sense of humor. She loves Monty Python as much as I do.

Next step, the bathtub, to try and wash out the oil – that’ll take a few tries. Her body is still all little girl. Thank goodness. But at the same time, it is so much like mine – she has my broad shoulders, my butt exactly, my toes, my fingers…. (and the freckles I always wanted but do not have.) Her narrative continues and I tune in and out, I’m not sure exactly what she was saying the whole time she was talking (she is always talking) but I do know that her aimless chatter anchors me in a way that I can’t explain.

“Mom, ya know, what could be a better mother’s day than this? A nice head massage, a bath, someone washing your hair…..”

I take that as gratitude. She doesn’t realize the irony that I am the one “working” and not “receiving.” Nor does she realize that her unspoken gratitude is the thing we most want and need. At least I do. I don’t need cards or gifts or fancy dinners, I just need the people I love and care for to be glad that I love and care for them.

Got that in spades today.

Curled up in bed with Myles, all three of us and an alternating collection of cats, and watched Groundhog Day. (A perfect movie. Seen it a thousand times and still love it.)

“I don’t get it mom, does he just have to keep trying until he gets it right?” “I think so.” The movie rolls on, and Bill Murray is finally released from the endless loop of February 2nd. He wakes up at the end of the movie on February 3rd. “So, all he had to do was stop being so crabby, learn how to be nice and do stuff, and then he can move on? Just keep trying ’till you get it right?”

Yes, Celia, that’s it.

Keep going. Keep learning. Keep loving. That’s how we go forward. On to the next day.

Though I’m not sure I want to leave this one behind. I cannot imagine a better mother’s day.

Fried Lice and all.

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Cookies and Dough

I’m almost done delivering girl scout cookies. Thank God. I’ve decided that I hate Girl Scout Cookies. For a few reasons.

1. Samoas are clearly made by the devil – whoever that is – for the soul purpose of undermining my will, stability and perpetually “almost where I want it” body. They are irresistible little deathbombs laughably shaped like Liferings (proving that irony is a fickle bitch.)
2. They are a time suck. It takes a ridiculous amount of energy to sell these things, collect money and deliver them. And even when we kid ourselves into thinking that our daughters are doing the work, we really are.
3. They make virtually no money for the troop. 50 cents of a $4 box goes to the troop. What is that, 12%. That’s a crappy margin given the fact that we do all the work.
4. I don’t like teaching my daughter that crappy margins and negligible profit attained by executing on someone else’s vision and on their terms is a good way to approach business. Doesn’t work for me. Where’s the innovation? The disruptive technology? The creativity?
5. They never change. These are the same cookies I was selling 30 years ago. Or would have been selling if I hadn’t been kicked out of the Girl Scouts for insubordination.

I have come to the conclusion that I am just going to figure out what the troop would have made on Celia’s 112 boxes sold and write a check to the troop next year for that same amount. Then, instead of her getting a prize from the scouts for selling the cookies, I’m going to buy her something way better for NOT making me deal with the cookies.

In any event, they’re almost all delivered now. I’ve paid for all of them, so if people don’t claim them, I guess we can just eat them. Which will suck.

But, I was feeling that sigh of relief knowing that it was almost over, until Celia came home from school announcing that they are doing a fundraiser (to pay for basic stuff, because she goes to a public school and they are so underfunded that we have to make up the difference rather than have our government figure out how to fund the basic needs of its citizens. Who needs public education when we can have more highways?) Guess what the fundraiser is? We’re selling cookie dough.

Yup. What’s the only thing more irresistible than Girl Scout Cookies? Cookie Dough.

I’m just going to write a check. It’s better for my health.

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