Thursday, December 31, 2015

all you've got to go on.

I don't have resolutions to share with you, or reflections or goals or plans.

All I've got is this:

If you take nothing else from 2015.

If you leave all you learned behind.

If you ignore the lessons patiently clobbering you, year after year after year.

If you don't believe the dreams hovering inside, outside, and around your heart.

At least remember this saying: Growing old is a privilege.

If you happen to be older than you were this time last year, and if you happen to have grown older alongside your family, your friends, your passions, your failures, your goals, your fears, your suffering, and your offerings? Recognize what a privilege this is. Maybe it's the only privilege you've got to go on right now.

Take it and run, baby.

This year taught me - in the best of ways, in the worst of ways - that you never know what you're gonna get, but that you have nothing to lose by choosing to look up. So, as I said last year: Happy New Year, and here's to looking up.

{from December 2014, age one}

{from today, age two}

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

return of light, again and again and again.

Today marks the official Return of Light, the Winter Solstice. Me? I've been keeping extra busy this week, a questionably healthy (but super effective) method of avoiding thinking about my mom around Christmastime. Then again, how luxurious, to have even the potential for an idle mind. So - here's how I've been keeping busy, and, at the end, here's how I (and you and you and you) can return the light around the world.

:: I've been awake all hours of the night, thanks to pacifier weaning. I very nearly emailed my pediatrician to ask whether it was okay to renege on the whole process, especially after Rowan's four a.m. hysterical meltdown a few nights ago...but we're persevering. I think. Falling asleep at nap time seems to be fine (crossing my fingers), and falling asleep at bedtime is getting easier (after a bunch of rocky nights that involved me going up there roughly eleven trillion times for "one more" snuggle and kiss) - but she's back to waking up two or three times a night, à la infancy, and can't put herself back to sleep. Seeing that she demands my help instead of J.J.'s help almost one hundred percent of the time, I'm suuuuper tired.

:: Also tired because I keep staying up til almost midnight working on whatever random project of the day sparks my interest. The last few days, it's been watercolors. No, I don't know what's gotten into me, either, but I'm loving these. I tried a couple portraits, and those are my favorite so far! Hoping to do a whole slew of holiday-themed paintings tonight.

{Interested in a watercolor of your little cutie? Or of you?
Or a snarky phrase or quote? Well, I'm interested in painting one!
Leave a comment and let me know ~
or email me at gorgac1980 AT gmail DOT com!}

:: Want to know the difference between being in your twenties and being in your thirties? When I woke up one morning at age twenty-seven with severe shoulder pain, I tried to function with it for a couple days before booking an appointment with a specialist. What could possibly be wrong with my shoulder?! Giant tumor, probs. The doctor back then diagnosed it as bursitis, and predicted it would mostly fade (with the help of physical therapy) within a year or so. Nowadays, at the sassy age of thirty-five, chronic mild pain is just sort of part of the deal. My original bad shoulder ended up getting better during my pregnancy (ahem, five years after the pain started), but my other shoulder's heading downhill now. If I have the privilege of lying in bed for too long, I'm rewarded with a back flare-up. No wonder old people spend so much time talking about their aches and pains...they are a Big Deal. Even minor ones like mine.

:: Can we just talk about this Pacific Northwest winter we're having in southeastern Michigan? It's supposed to be sixty-two degrees tomorrow. SIXTY-TWO. Not 26. People are still harvesting Swiss chard and kale from their gardens. The grass is still green. The houses in my neighborhood are extra-decorated, probably because it's more pleasant to string lights from your gutters when your nose hairs don't freeze off the second you step outside. As much as I love a white Christmas, I'm always down for temps above sixty!

:: And hey! It may be springtime in Michigan, but Christmas, in case you weren't aware, is in two more days. I'm pretty sure I'm just about ready? I think? It's weird to not be stressed about presents and stuff, so I'm not sure if I'm actually on top of everything, or if I'm just forgetting, like, a whole side of the family or something. Don't get me wrong, I haven't wrapped a thing, I have dozens of chocolate ginger cookies to bake, and Santa still needs some stocking stuffers for J.J., but most of my tasks are checked off. Special thanks to Santa's Little Helper, AKA Amazon Prime, for making Christmas soooo much more manageable this year.

:: Someone needs to make a haircut appointment for me, please. I keep trying, but my schedule is only so flexible, and for some reason (SOME REASON) the cheap-o place I go is always booked. Okay, so I call in the morning to see if they have an appointment for that afternoon, and then they don't, and instead of planning ahead like a normal person, I just say I'll call back another day. Meanwhile, I need about seven inches of limp, lifeless hair chopped off. That's a lot of inches, all courtesy of laziness. And a severe aversion to hair stylist small talk (shhh, Stylist, haircuts are for quiet time, mmkay?).

:: In the last three days, I've eaten almost an entire pan of homemade mac and cheese with tofu-cheese sauce and cauliflower. I regret nothing.

:: It's slowly dawning on me that from now until next Monday, we have different morning and afternoon plans that require driving at least twenty minutes away. Every day. I pledge to do my best to be flexible with Rowan's schedule, but that's easier said than done when her nighttime sleep (or, more accurately, my nighttime sleep) is so messed up. May the force be with me, and also with you.

:: In case you're feeling uninspired, gloomy, lonely, and disconnected: How about connecting with a charitable organization that's making immediate, real-life impacts? Ask yourself these questions, courtesy of The Compassion Collective:

          "Should starving women be fed?
          Should homeless babies be sheltered?
          Should freezing men be warmed?
          Should drowning children be saved?"

Seriously, take four minutes and check out The Compassion Collective, an organization dedicated to sending tangible, specific support to aid refugees. The maximum donation you can make to them is $25, and those dollars literally mean the difference between life and death for your fellow humans. Those dollars buy socks, baby slings, sleeping bags, and coats. And the folks behind The Compassion Collective? Oh, only some of my personal heroes. Elizabeth Gilbert. Brené Brown. Cheryl Strayed. NBD.

This quote from their website is perfect for today, the Winter Solstice, the Return of Light:

"Compassion is humanity's North Star. It will always guide us out of the dark, back toward peace, hope and each other."

Happy Tuesday, happy Solstice, happy Return of Light.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

TBT to the 80s: So Many Santa's Laps.

My siblings and our families spent this past Sunday at my dad's house, decorating for Christmas. We scurried around like elves, unearthing box after box of twinkle lights and garlands (so. many. garlands). My older sister and little brother and I played a super-mature game of jump rope:

Me, catching mad air before getting tangled in the lights. For the record, this would
NOT have been allowed under my mom's supervision. (With good reason.)

Later, we had pizza, and I snuck away and found as many old Santa pictures as I could in our family photo albums. I might have to do a more thorough search soon, because these are PRICELESS. Enjoy!

1979: Just my two oldest sisters. I had to include this one because Carrie, my sister on the left, looks EXACTLY like her one-and-a-half-year-old son does today! It's eerie.

1982: Three years later, two more girls, and a booger in a Carrie.

1984: The first year with all five of us!

1985: Loving Carrie's glasses and Mari's balloon shirt in this one. Also, I totally remember the shirt Steve is wearing!

198???: The next two pictures are a source of debate among the five of us siblings. As I write this, we are still texting back and forth to determine which picture comes first, and what years they were each taken. I THINK the first one is 1986 and the next one is 1987. We've been using infallible logical principles such as "missing teeth," "presence of earrings," and "Steve could be anywhere from two years old to four years old" to determine the year of each picture, but we're still not sure. I'll have to check the originals next time I go back to my dad's house!

Also, a bonus pic from 1987 (or 1986, or maybe even 1988?), which I'm including because: Stacy's eyes (classic), Carrie cuddling Steve's hand (awww), and Stacy and Carrie's super-awesome filthy Keds, push-down socks, and tight-rolled jeans. Also, my outfit (coat with geometric designs, leggings, and puffy boots) looks straight outta 2015. #FashionGameOnPoint 


And now, leaping through time to the present! You'd think the quality of Santa pictures would increase in the thirty years between my childhood photos and my child's photos, buuuut...not so much.

Rowan's first visit to Santa ended up taking about an hour longer than I'd anticipated, and I was still very new to juggling a breast milk pumping schedule and a teeny-tiny infant. By the time we finally made it to the front of the Santa line, she was overdue for a nap (read: cranky), my boobs were ready to explode, and I just wanted to get out of there. So, naturally, the photographer forgot to use a flash, and we got this crappy shot:

He offered to retake it, but we - I - needed to GO. I'm pretty sure I cried in the car on the way home. Ah, hormones.

The next year, we went with Carrie and her family. Rowan wouldn't go anywhere near the man in red, though, so I ended up holding her. It cracks me up that all three GorgEffen boys have the same facial expression here:

And then there's our picture from this year. Rowan shocked me by agreeing to sit next to Santa, but her little cousin Emmett was more weary. I love that my nephew Fin is so psyched this time around!

I made J.J. sneak a picture of Rowan after the photographer had officially finished, only because that's when Rowan finally decided she would sit on Santa's lap. His secret shot turned out pretty cute! I love her tentative little smile:

Hope you enjoyed this Christmas-themed trip down memory lane. And get hyped...because I found some other treasures while I was at my parents' house this weekend...perfect for some future Throwback to Hell features! Mwah ha ha ha haaaa...

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

merry Christmas, I'm the worst.

Before we had children, J.J. and I never sent out a holiday card. I understand it's more of a thing these days for the hip millennial couples to don their skinny jeans, flannel shirts, puffball hats, and sweater-cuffed boots for a photo shoot that results in a delightfully neutral-yet-twinkly kissyface tableau, perfect for sharing in card form during the holiday season...but we did not partake in such events as youngsters. We didn't even have any cute pets to send out pictures of (no offense, Alex the Snake of Yore).

But then I popped out a baby, and she was real real cute, and Pinterest was real real tempting. Plus, my friend Tanya made us an irresistible stripey hat. (Check out her Etsy site; she can make ANYTHING.) And so we joined the masses in 2013 with our first holiday card.

In 2014, we upped the ante a little bit by adding more props (Christmas tree, ornaments, gift-wrapped box, and oh for Pete's sake, tiny pink suspenders). We actually had a lot of fun taking the pictures - Rowan most of all.

Aaaaand that brings us to this year.

I did a cute photo shoot. Props and all.

Rowan thought it was a jolly good time. We got some fun shots.


We didn't actually order cards.


Here's Rowan's (holiday!) version of  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ :

Sorry, loved ones. Really, we meant to order cards, and we'd love to still, but it's just not happening this year. We still love you (and you and you and you!) and wish you the happiest season of all. Here is the sentiment expressed in our hearts, but missing from your mailbox:

You are also welcome to enjoy our #ParentingUnfiltered holiday newsletter that I spent so much time and energy on completed in under two minutes using this hilarious template from Plum Organics:

I feel a twinge of guilt every time I open another beautiful card showcasing my gorgeous friends and their gorgeous families...but hey, at least I'll have some good fodder for a New Year's resolution ("stop being a lazy assclown").

Merry merry!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

won't you guide my sleigh tonight?

It happened yesterday morning.

When Rowan woke up, I scooped her out of her crib, snuggled her (i.e. gratuitous neck-sniffing, because she smells so delicious in the mornings) and plucked her pacifier out of her mouth. I noticed it right away: This paci, the Last Ba-Ba Standing out of five originals, had two huge rips in it. 

"Uh-oh," I muttered.

"Dat ba-ba is broken now, Mama. I chewed it," Rowan confessed. "Now you cut it?"

I had cut the tips off of her other pacifiers once they had torn; that way, she could hold them in her hands if she wanted, but there wasn't a risk of her biting the tip off and choking on it. J.J. walked into Rowan's room, and I showed him the broken ba-ba. He grimaced. I said, "Yep, I have to cut it, Rowie. We'll do it after nap today, okay?"

"Okay!" she chirped, already wiggling out of my arms. Huh. Maybe it would be no big deal, ending the reign of the pacifier?



I was actually against using pacifiers, back before Rowan was born. Then, sometime in those first few weeks, when I was having so much trouble breastfeeding AND my very oral daughter wanted to use my scabbed nipples (shudder) as constant soothing devices, J.J. unceremoniously offered her a pacifier. She took to it immediately, and I compromised (ahem gave myself the illusion of control) by saying she could only use them during sleep times, not while she was awake. Somehow, that seemed a reasonable concession to my pre-parenting "I'll never give my baby a pacifier" assertion.

Somewhere along the way, we acquired more pacifiers, and eventually she had five in her possession, all of which had to snuggle with her at night. I usually tiptoed into her nursery right before I went to bed to find her asleep, one ba-ba in her mouth, the rest scattered on the floor around her crib. I'd replace all of them and sneak back out, and we'd be golden until morning.

We never traded her newborn-sized pacifiers for bigger ones - maybe remnants of paci-denial on my part? - and, one by one, they wore out. A few months ago, I noticed that each of them had tiny tears, and I watched closely for the tears to get bigger. And they did. I threw the first one away when the tears got too big to safely use any longer, but I regretted it. Shouldn't I save these, her comfort objects from her teeny-tiny baby days? So when the next ones bit the dust, I cut off the tips and gave them back to her. She had never asked for them back once they were cut, which pretty much showcased who was more attached to the pacis of the two of us: me.


So when Rowan seemed totally blasé yesterday morning about the prospect of no ba-ba that night, I assumed she was really ready to be done with them and totally understood what was about to happen. Which also meant I didn't prepare for it at all. Minus our quick flirtation with the Ba-Ba Fairy about six weeks ago, we hadn't discussed or even thought about any incentives for giving up the pacifier. 

Minor oversight on our part.

Bathtime, books, and tooth-brushing were uneventful. But then I turned the lights off - usually our cue to sing a few songs together and then hit the sack. When the lights went off, Rowan lost it, sobbing that she wanted "a ba-ba for my mouth!" She was inconsolable for awhile, but I was able to get her snuggled into her crib after rocking and singing. Then I was back and forth between the couch downstairs and soothing her upstairs...for two hours. Poor little muffin. She told me she was "scared and sad," which broke my heart. I promised her cookies, stickers, and a special movie in the morning, none of which really seemed to matter to her. All she wanted was a ba-ba for her mouth.

I actually started crying at one point, listening to her wail through the monitor. "Maybe we jumped the gun," I said to J.J. "I have a spare paci in the diaper bag that she doesn't even know exists. I could just give it to her." Clearly, I thought, she wasn't ready for this transition, and as far as I was concerned, she could use the secret paci until she left for college.

J.J. talked me off of that ill-fated ledge, and I continued to move between listening to Rowan cry and going in to comfort her. She wasn't screeching or hysterical; she was just sad, which was somehow even more upsetting. 

Gradually, she quieted down. She woke up again at 11 and 3 needing comfort, and she woke up about an hour and a half earlier than usual (6 instead of 7:30, so still a relatively acceptable time), but she did it. She slept without her ba-ba.


We made a big deal out of it this morning. We threw a cookie party in our bed before breakfast, which delightfully broke all sorts of rules. Rowan loved it, gleefully munching on her cookie and singing her favorite songs.

I was happy that she was happy again, but I dreaded nap time today. Specifically, I was terrified that the end of the ba-ba meant the end of her naps. Not. Acceptable. At. All. 

So, I bribed her.

Sorry, not sorry. Not even a little.

I told her that if she went to sleep without crying at nap time (which bends an important rule of mine - not telling her to "stop crying"), then we could go to the toy store and buy a special toy for her to snuggle with in her crib.

And whaddya know? Bribery freakin' WORKS. Or, at least, it did today. Rowan went down without a fuss, slept as long as usual, and happily accompanied me to the store after she woke up. We went to the dollar store first, since I had other stuff to get there and since (real talk) I'm cheap. But she rifled through their paltry stuffed animal selection unenthusiastically, not able to settle on any of their meager choices. I wanted her to LOVVVVE whatever toy she chose so she'd be excited to snuggle it in her crib in place of her ba-bas, so I decided to take her to Toys 'R' Us instead.

Which is how we ended up with a ginormous replica of her current hero: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. She adores Rudolph, memorized his song after just a few listens, has a conniption whenever it comes on the radio, and spots him everywhere we go. We haven't been able to catch the movie on TV yet, but I know she'll lose her damn mind when we do. Well, the second we walked into Toys 'R' Us, there was Giant Rudolph, just waiting for us.

The rest will go down in history, much like Rudy himself.

Rudolph began his life with us by scaring the crap out of me on the drive home...


...moved on to supervising bathtime...

...received plenty of post-bath snuggles...

...and settled into bed with Rowan for the night.

My poor girl is still having a bit of a tough time tonight (it's 9:00 and she's still alternating between playing and fussing in her crib), but at least she's not as unbearably sad as last night. Here's hoping it gets better and better. With Rudolph's help.

Rudolph, if you know the secret to making
this less painful, please. Let me know.

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

trust alone.

A chill hung in the air as I clattered into my house, shed my coat, kicked my boots to the side, and collapsed onto the couch. I took one glove off to press a few buttons on the television remote, then put the glove back on, pulled my wool hat tighter over my head, and leaned into the teal and lime pillow. Forty-six minutes, the only forty-six minutes I could rightfully claim as my own on a Tuesday in December. All mine. My eyes were glassy, my brain fuzzy. Forty-six minutes.

In those days, years ago, my seven-minute commute to and from work allowed me to go home on my lunch break. And every day, I'd dash the seven minutes home, craving the temporary haven where no one needed anything from me and my mind could go silent. I'd even eat lunch at my work desk before my break, having packed it that morning to facilitate a full forty-six minutes of Nothing.

It wasn't that I hated my job. No, actually, I loved my job passionately. I chased that job through two Masters degrees, carving positions for myself where they didn't exist, trying to bridge chasms of need, and doing my best to go with the flow as my role morphed and flourished. But I was giving way, way more than I had, and the demands grated against my nature and self, shredding my passion into drudgery. I felt impotent, I felt aimless, I felt restless, and on that December Tuesday, I felt - really cold.

Forty-six minutes were almost up. Almost time to put the remote down, find the boots again, shrug the coat back on, and climb into my car. Then it'd be three miles to get back to work, through a frozen gray landscape, brown slush gurgling under my tires.

And that's when it hit me.

I don't know what to call it. A vision, maybe, is closest. But it wasn't just cerebral; it was physical, maybe even spiritual, and more a sensation than anything else. Also, though, simple. Just me, at a desk, in the purple guest bedroom upstairs at my house - the room I'd sworn I'd paint the second we moved in, now known as the only room in the entire house whose walls haven't been repainted. In the vision, I'm in the purple room, and it's summer. Mild. Green trees lining the quiet street, which I can see because the desk faces the window. I'm home on a weekday, and I'm writing.

The end.


I could have dismissed it. How many others snippets of dreams, while asleep or awake, have I dismissed before? Thousands. Millions! This one, though. Being primarily a sensation, it settled into my heart instead of my head, and there it waited. Patiently, but also impatiently, nudging me every now and then when I started to let it fade. Sometimes I let it fade via neglect; other times, I got pissed at it for teasing me, and I'd reject it. Again and again, though, the vision would brighten in me, and I learned to manage it eventually, carefully acknowledging its existence without succumbing to questioning it. 

Because it didn't make any sense. Forgetting that the desk in that room actually faced a wall in a closet instead of the window, and forgetting that writing wasn't what I did, it felt like the primary question that threatened the vision was: How could I be home on a weekday?! Especially in summertime, the time of year when my workload literally doubled? Ridiculous.


Sometimes you chase dreams, and sometimes they chase you. And these days, if I let myself forget about the specifics (and I urge myself all the time to forget about these specific specifics), I understand that the dream has found me. And that I let it in. Not at first, sometimes by accident, sometimes kicking and screaming, and sometimes tightening my grip when I felt it slipping. It's not the desk in the purple room, although that is the desk where I started writing again; and it's not currently summertime, but it sure was when it was summertime, you know? The sensation within me is now also around me.


One of my best friends feels his journey is about clarity and confidence. We discussed this over sushi the other night. On my long drive back home from dinner with him, it was so foggy, I almost pulled over. The only reason I didn't was because I was afraid someone would hit me if I were stopped on the side of the road. Well, that, and who knew how long it would be before the fog lifted? Seriously, that fog was so thick that I couldn't see bridges coming until I was under them, and I had to use my talking GPS system to navigate a route I've been driving for almost twenty years, since all the highway signs were completely obscured. I don't think I've ever been so relieved to pull into my garage. I had no clarity, no confidence, but I made it.

I had confessed during dinner that I felt stagnant, lost, and totally unsure of my next move or how to fix the mess I'm afraid I've made. My friend said, "Well, maybe you don't need to make a move right now. Maybe you need to let yourself sit with the uncertainty for a little bit."

Sit with the uncertainty. No clarity. No confidence. But I'll make it.


Tonight, it happened again - another dream. I was curled up on the couch again, this time watching Love Actually for the first time, since, like, everyone is saying how it's their favorite Christmas movie. The only lights in the room were from the Christmas tree, perched in front of our glass doors, a crooked star glowing on top. A Norah Jones song started playing in the movie, and that's when it hit me.

I don't know what to call it, since vision and sensation both feel inadequate. It was simultaneously looking back at the first dream, recognizing how it's been fulfilled, and taking in my immediate surroundings, recognizing how I've been fulfilled. And, since I'm lucky like this, it was also a glimpse forward. To what, I don't know, since once again it was more than cerebral or physical or spiritual or sensational. Again, it was all of those and more. In my heart and in my head. A moment where trust alone was all the clarity and confidence I could ever need.

I don't have to know how, or even what. I just have to know.


Good night. Sweet dreams.

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Saturday, December 5, 2015

how to choose a Christmas tree in 20 fun-filled steps.

I know a lot of my friends are spending part of this weekend hunting for the perfect Christmas tree, so I compiled this handy guide to help you out. You're welcome.


1. Dress in twelve layers of clothing, both to represent the twelve days of Christmas and the number of degrees it will be during your outing.

2. To encourage the holiday spirit, change your partner's car radio to the local station that starts playing Christmas songs the day after Halloween. Maybe this station has already been playing in your car since early November. Maybe you're already sick of two-thirds of the songs, but unwilling to admit that you should have just waited until December to listen to any of them. Whatever, you sound amazing singing along to that Mariah Carey song you hate that you love.

3. Feel a pang of guilt about cutting down a live tree for decorative purposes, but then feel vindicated when you pull into the parking lot of the tree farm, because you're supporting a local, family-owned business that plants a tree for every one that gets chopped down for Christmas. Plus, they smell fantastic.

4. Grab a handsaw, a wagon, and a map indicating which tree species are in which zones. Confidently declare that you remember Google saying that Fraser firs are the optimal variety of tree, when in reality, it's just that the Fraser fir zone is the closest and it's freaking cold.

5. Traipse through mud puddles to the Fraser firs. Question aloud how the mud has managed to defy the freezing temperatures and can still splatter up on everyone's boots and pants.

6. Scoff derisively at the first tree your partner points out and declares is "perfect." Jesus. It looks like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree after a hoard of cats has attacked it...and then yarfed it back up. You can do better.

7. Wander up and down the picked-over aisles, trying really hard not to be an asshole by pointing out that everyone who came last weekend (like you suggested) got all the best trees. Also, it was warmer last weekend. But don't say that out loud, either.

8. Argue with your partner (who's now standing fourteen tree aisles and a quarter-mile away) about the trees you each suggest. Too wide. Too scraggly. Too gray. Too dead. Too tall.

9. Argue about how tall your ceilings actually are.

10. Turn away righteously, wondering whether your partner's (in)ability to choose a quality tree has any relation to his choosing of you. Stand still for a few moments in the silent Christmas wonderland and question every life choice you've made up until and including this moment.

11. Partner catches up with you and suggests heading in a new direction, together, with fresh eyes. Grasp his mittened hand and agree with him. Start to feel a little better.

12. Repeat step #7, but accidentally say it all out loud. Feel like an official jerk...but also not wrong. Start hating yourself and trees and Christmas and traditions and cold weather and life and -

13. Shit! That tree right there! It's perfect! OMG cut it down fast before that cute family over there sees it.

14. Realize halfway through sawing the trunk that this is the same exact tree your partner pointed out when you first started searching an hour and a half ago. Pray he doesn't notice.

15. Load the tree onto the wagon, pretend not to hear your partner mumble, "This is the first fucking tree I saw," and head to the cashier.

16. It's cash only. Did either of you bring cash? Of course you didn't bring cash. Who the hell has cash these days?

17. Start to lose faith in life itself while you stand guard over your hard-won tree and your partner drives to the nearest ATM, which is fifteen minutes away. Also start to lose feeling in your lower extremities.

18. Pay ridiculous amount of cash for the tree and tie it to the top of your partner's car, which is exceedingly hard to accomplish, considering your fingers and soul and relationship are now numb.

19. Drive home and plop the tree in a tree stand. Decorate it a few days later, when you've physically recovered from getting the tree, but then forget to water it ever again, turning it into a crispy brown fire hazard whose needles are mostly all over the damn floor.

20. Erase steps 1-19 from your memory over the course of the next twelve months, and continue this die-hard annual tradition for exactly one (1) Christmas after your first child is born. For her second Christmas, go tree-shopping at a slightly different, much warmer farm, where you can also stock up on necessities like diapers and Cheez-its: Target.

Rowan circa 2014, choosing a tree the smart way.

Ho ho ho!

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

TBT to 1989: Twelve Inches of Mr. Cocky.

My mom had five children. She was always the first to admit, though, that before she had kids of her own, she hadn't even held a baby. Sure, she had earned her teaching degree - but it was for high school English. Small children were foreign creatures to her.

Clearly, though, the woman was a natural. Five children in nine years is a tall order for anyone, but Mom threw herself into parenting a hundred percent, and she was fantastic at it. Take, for example, her graceful handling of a dicey situation: my fourth-grade sock puppet project in 1989.

I spent weeks crafting my sock puppet. To my recollection, we weren't given very specific instructions; we just had to decorate socks and write the puppet's backstory, including name, age, and favorite things. (Maybe it was a language arts project? Character development?) So on one of my dad's old tube socks, I drew a face, some hair, and (inexplicably) a collar and a medal. Then I stuffed a stiff paper towel tube inside and wrote my puppet's story, giving him a sassy name to reflect the conceited attitude I'd established for him: Mr. Cocky the Sock.

Now, I KNEW what "cocky" meant, and I had composed my story to reflect Mr. Cocky's namesake nature: He was an arrogant, egotistical dude. Plus, "cocky" rhymed with "socky," so who could resist?! It was literary gold, in my eight-year-old mind.

My masterful mother. The night before the puppets were due, I showed my work to her, and she read my short story. She stared at the paper and the puppet for a minute with a nondescript expression before saying, "Honey, we need to talk."

We went into her bedroom, where I never got to go, and she sat down on the bed and patted the spot next to her. I remember climbing up and sitting down, my feet high above the carpet, and feeling my heart sink as my mom said, "I...think you need to rename your puppet."

"What? I can't rename him!" I protested. "It's due tomorrow!"

She cleared her throat. "Honey, do you know what 'cocky' means?"

"Yes," I said indignantly. "It means rude and conceited."

"Well," she said, "that's true. But..." And she paused for a long, awkward moment. "But 'cock' is also another word for a man's penis."

My mouth dropped open. "But that's not what I mean! I mean 'cocky'! That's different!"

My mom put her arm around me. "You're right. And you did a really good job writing a story about a cocky puppet. I just don't think the other kids will, um...know the difference, and they might make fun of you."

I let that sink in, realizing she was right. And so I re-did my project, feeling less embarrassed about my near-faux pas than - well, cocky about it. Those stupid, dumb-ass fourth-grade peers of mine! Always diminishing my linguistic aptitude with their immaturity. (Ha! How the tables have turned.) I renamed my puppet Mr. Docky the Socky, drew him again, and replaced every "Cocky" with "Docky" in my handwritten story.

But he's still totally a penis.

Happily, he maintained his cocky expression, despite his name change.

Just another view of the collar around his...head. And his hairy tip.

The Mr. Cocky short story is long gone, but I had scrawled a few details right on his body: He's four months old, and his first word was "Gimme!" How my mom didn't crack up right in front my face is beyond me. I know she had a good laugh about it later, though, and she saved it for posterity. I found him a few years ago, all twelve inches of him, still stiff as could be. I definitely wish I could read the original tale of Mr. Cocky strutting in the streets, ribbed collar around his neck, shouting his first word: "Gimme! Gimme!"

Hoooooo boy.

Happy Throwback Thursday from me and Mr. Cocky!

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