Friday, December 26, 2008

Breaking Dawn with the Red Cross, or the Twilight of My Blood Donor Experiences

The day before Christmas Eve I found myself, for the first time ever, strapped down to pseudo-military style cot, with a needle stuck in my arm, watching my blood flow down a little tube into a freakily-largish bag.

I've never donated blood before, for a few simple reasons:
  • Most of the time I do required blood draws at the doctor's office (or "blood drops," as Grace and Mia call them), I pass out. And that's embarrassing.
  • I'm a complete wimp.
  • I'm paranoid about catching some weird disease that won't be discovered and identified for another 20 years, and it will come out 20 years hence that said disease was spread through blood drives.
  • Blood is just icky.
But every time our stake hosts a blood drive, I feel guilty. Especially this time, since we were told that not enough people sign up at Christmas time, blah, blah, blah. In a moment of insanity I signed up. And forgot. No worries, though--there are people assigned to call and remind you, and track you down, and haul you forcefully down to the stake center, tie you to aforementioned cot and plunge the needle in.

My sole thought through the whole experience was how to avoid passing out in front of people I know and go to church with every Sunday, especially the children people, of whom there were several because apparently watching Mommy or Daddy donate blood is a sweet holiday bonding experience.

There were several close calls but I managed to stay mostly conscious. I was doing okay right up till the end.

When my huge ol blood bag was almost full, I happened to glance over at the neat rows of filled blood bags stacked on the table. For some unaccountable reason specific and graphic sections of Stephenie Meyer's "Breaking Dawn" flooded my mind. You know the ones--the first time Bella tastes blood, the gory birthing scene, the medically-sanitized blood provided for Baby Bloodsucker... all those pages soaked and saturated in blood splashing.

I bolted upright, gagging and choking. My assigned bloodletter came running over excitedly. "See! I told you--getting a good cough helps with the lightheadedness,"" he exulted. I couldn't respond--I was too busy trying to keep the vomit down and thinking that I just could NOT puke in front of my Primary kids.

And mentally cursing. Only mentally, because if puking in front of my Primary kids would be bad, swearing would be worse. But believe you me, I was thinking all kinds of bad words about Stephenie Meyer and those bloody, bleeping books.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

They Said What?

Mia: I need to go potty! I need to go potty! I really, really need to go potty!

Grace: You can do it, Mia. I know you can. Good for you, Mia.

Mia: Shut it, Gracie. I don't need any more cheers for my poop. MOM!!! Gracie's cheering for me pooping!

[Note to other parents--what exactly is the appropriate parental response to that one?]

Monday, December 22, 2008

Confidential: To My Students

It says "confidential," and I bet the rest of you are all still reading this anyway. Suit yourself--it's a completely boring, only-of-interest-to-my-students post.

1.) You were right. The scheduling office messed up for 2010 next semester. I can't teach during that scheduled time, and I didn't want to take anyone else's class, so I won't be teaching at all next semester. Don't run down and complain to the dept. office--it wasn't their mistake and they feel really badly about it. I'm supposed to tell you that the person who is teaching a late T/Th class in LA is a great instructor and you'd enjoy him a lot (as per John Goshert).

2.) Final grades for this semester are up and posted. I'll keep all papers, exams and misc. rubbish from the class through the end of next week, then they'll be recycled for scratch paper in the tutoring center. Call or email me if you want to stop by and pick things up so I can make sure I'm here.

3.) I was looking forward to seeing so many of you again next month. Sigh. But we can still be friends! And you can still come talk books with us, because that was great fun and I think you'll love the January picks :). Watch for info...

4.) Have a super Christmas. Be safe in all this snow (especially if you insist on late-night sledding trips--people die in sledding accidents! I'm serious! Protective headgear, my friends).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Revelations

Last week the kids did their own gift shopping, followed by marathon sessions of gift wrapping. (THANK YOU Adri, Erynn, and Emily!). They were strictly warned about peeking under the wrapping, opening presents early, and especially about keeping gift contents secret.

The following comments were overheard 2.8 seconds after gift wrapping was completed.

Mercie: "Grace, here is a present for you. You will love it. It's a soap, like a Hannah Montana soap."

Mia: [holding out a flat, book shaped package] "Mommy, Mommy! Look! I have a present for you! It starts with a "B", like a B for book. And that's what it is! A book!"

Grace: "Can Eric open his fire truck now?"

Ahh...Christmas: the season of surprises.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The List

Several of my friends have posted The List, which is apparently making the rounds of Bloggersville, to the merriment of B-town populace. If you haven't seen it, The List is a list of 100 things you may or may not have done in your life, where you highlight/italicize/underline the things you have done and leave the rest for your readers to suppose that you'll check those next adventurous projects off just as soon as you get back from the African safari and finalize your next appearance on Oprah.

Since I am ornery and sport a perverse non-conformist streak that will not be quieted, I've decided to post MY version of the list, all 102 of them.

Bold = things I've done multiple times, usually too many to count
Italics = things I've done once, and once was enough, thank you very much.
Plain red text = things I haven't done yet but definitely plan to after that safari and Oprah appearance.
  1. thrown up in my office garbage can
  2. thrown up in the gym garbage can
  3. thrown up and missed the garbage can by a couple of inches
  4. sewn a wedding dress. Not mine. And once was definitely enough.
  5. pieced a quilt
  6. hand-quilted an entire quilt
  7. signed an eviction notice
  8. enjoyed a full body massage
  9. enjoyed a 3-hour full body massage on a balmy, breezy balcony in Maui overlooking the ocean...Mmmm.
  10. found out how long I could go without cleaning a bathroom before it became too gross even for me. I won't say how long that was because you'll be shocked and appalled. And for any of my former roommates, no--this did not take place when I was living with you. Honestly.
  11. cleaned the bathroom religiously (and thoroughly) every single week
  12. Danced in the rain
  13. Sang in the rain
  14. Kissed in the rain (in another 39.5 years or so)
  15. risked losing a good friendship over something stupid and petty
  16. been forgiven when I really didn't deserve it
  17. sliced open every single chocolate in a 3-pound box to find the ones I like (coconut and maple cream) while leaving the rest (anything fruity, nutty, or caramel) in halves for the kids. "Mommy, why are all the chocolates broken?" "Mommy cut them up for you so you could see what kind to choose" "Wow-thank you, Mommy!"
  18. put up my Christmas tree on November 1st
  19. left my Christmas tree up year round
  20. adopted a child
  21. fostered a child
  22. loved other people's children
  23. birthed a child (yes, I know I have at least 39.5 years before this is even a possibility, but if 60 is the new 40, I'm guessing in 40 years or so 70 will be the new 40, and we all know women in their 40s who pop out kids, so I'm keeping it on the to-do list)
  24. sang a solo in front of lots of people
  25. gave a talk in front of lots of people
  26. made up my own recipe and created something unbelievably tasty
  27. made up my own recipe and created something unbelievably horrific
  28. written a sincere apology letter
  29. written a sincere condolence letter and cried all the way through it. Hard.
  30. shaved my legs
  31. suffered through electrolysis
  32. suffered even more through laser hair removal
  33. waxed (gotta try it--it can't be worse than what I've already done)
  34. played the organ for Sacrament Meeting
  35. played the organ for the funeral of someone I loved
  36. played the organ for the wedding of someone I loved
  37. played the organ for Stake Conference
  38. played the organ at the temple (okay, I've kind of done this in a pinch-hit kind of way, but I want to do it in an official kind of way)
  39. said a bad word in church
  40. said a bad word during a visiting teaching visit (yep, when RS really needs someone to bring the Spirit into a home, they just send me)
  41. said a bad word to a church leader
  42. heard my two year old use that bad word and never used it--or any word like it--again.
  43. donated to a political campaign/cause I believed in
  44. participated in a political party convention (once was enough--bleck)
  45. managed a political campaign (is it weird that I have zero desire to ever run for office myself but I get a huge kick out of making things happen behind the scenes?)
  46. kept a journal
  47. burned a journal
  48. traveled outside the U.S.
  49. traveled to Europe
  50. traveled to most of the 50 states
  51. realized home is where I like to be best of all
  52. ran a 5k (and completely bombed it)
  53. survived a 1/2 marathon. August 2009, Green River, WY
  54. been proposed to while walking in a snowstorm
  55. been proposed to on a Colorado freeway
  56. been proposed to in a sandwich restaurant
  57. been proposed to by my 5-year old nephew
  58. been proposed to in a little Mexican restaurant with a name I've forgotten (the restaurant, not the person doing the proposing, although it did take me a couple of days to remember his name)
  59. been proposed to on the couch in my living room--the one and only proposal I said yes to, not that it worked out so well a decade later. Live and learn.
  60. [40 years from now] be proposed to in a way that actually involves some thought and creativity and a small amount of effort on the part of the proposer.
  61. Be the one doing the proposing
  62. acted in a play
  63. directed a play
  64. written a play
  65. stage-managed a play
  66. dramaturged a play (I think I just made that word up)
  67. designed props for a play
  68. run lights for a play (okay, Ms. Theatre major, this is just getting redundant)
  69. designed costumes for a play
  70. Read the Book of Mormon in 40 days (takes about 1.5-2 hours of solid reading each day, and its totally worth it, if you're wondering)
  71. Read the Book of Mormon in a weekend
  72. visited someone in jail
  73. volunteered in a hospital
  74. served a welfare/humanitarian mission
  75. serve any kind of mission, again and again!
  76. written a silly, badly done poem for someone I love
  77. made up a semi-serious, halfway acceptable song for someone I love
  78. created a real, 100% sincere song for something that matters
  79. laughed so hard my sides ached
  80. laughed so hard I cried
  81. laughed so hard urinary incontinence began to seem like a distinct and real possibility
  82. thanked Heavenly Father for the funniest friends ever
  83. learned a new language
  84. taught ESL
  85. been kicked in the face by a child who had a nightmare and ended up sleeping with me
  86. cried when I realized that I only get a limited number of those thrashing, kicking nights, and that someday I'll give just about anything to have one more night with a soggy-diapered, softly-snoring, limbs-akimbo toddler curled up against me
  87. had my written work published in a periodical
  88. had my written work published in a book
  89. had a copy of my published work interred in the cornerstone of an LDS temple (Denver, CO). Really.
  90. authored and published an entire book as sole author
  91. won a beauty pageant
  92. fell off a parade float while performing official beauty queen duties
  93. won a "most embarrassing moment" contest with my most em"bare-ass"-ing story that involved full rear nudity
  94. revealed Too Much Information on a blog
  95. revealed Too Much Information on national TV (well, when I do that Oprah spot...)
  96. dated someone who turned out to be gay--and was so relieved at how everything made so much more sense...
  97. almost dated someone who went on a crime spree a month later and is currently serving a life sentence for attempted murder (Oh my gosh, I totally should have said yes--I could have saved him--the love of a good woman could have saved that troubled soul!)
  98. Made out in the front/back seat of a car
  99. Went all the way in the front/back seat of a car, and no--despite all efforts, conception did not result. Apparently that only works if you are 15, slightly drunk, unmarried, and in your parents' car. Legally married grownups never get so lucky.
  100. Had prayers answered with exactly what I wanted
  101. Had prayers answered with exactly what I DIDN'T want
  102. Had prayers answered perfectly, gloriously, far beyond my best imagining and most deserving

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,
I like Lightning McQueen. I want a fire truck. I like Daddy. And Mommy. And Mercie. And Grace and Mia. I want a stocking from Santa.

Dear Santa,
I love to get a game for Grandpa. I love to get toys and tap shoes. I love to help Mom. I want presents! I want 3 kitty cats. I'd love to get a pen.

Dear Santa,
Please give me a Feliz Navidad dress and I want roller skates and I want Cinderella tap shoes. I got a lot of stuff. Happy Christmas.

Dear Santa,
Please give me a present with a Feliz Navidad in it--a big skirt. Please give me an ice skating thing.
Grace and Santa [Mommy lost the battle explaining to Gracie that the letter was TO Santa; she insisted it had to be FROM Santa as well]
PS: and Cinderella tap shoes. That's all.

Dear Santa,
I would like a nap.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Women Who Know, Part One

This post is my (partial) response to

The site was created in response to a talk given by Sister Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President, in the October 2007 General Conference.

I hesitated to even include the link in this post; actually, I questioned whether I should even offer this rebuttal. Sometimes the best rebuttal is a refusal to dignify the opposing viewpoint with the courtesy of acknowledgement that is implied in a response. Perhaps I've heard one too many criticisms of general church leaders recently and this was the final straw, or maybe this is pure self-indulgence of my own need to articulate where I stand. Whatever the reason, step back, 'cause it here it comes, point by point.

1.) "Fathers as well as mothers, men as well as women, are called to nurture." Nowhere in Sister Beck's talk does she state or imply that nurturing is the sole province of women. Her address is to women and about women; it is not addressed to men or about men. In discussing the God-given role of women as nurturers Sister Beck reiterates truth as revealed in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, that mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture and teaching of their children. If we accept that the Proclamation is the word of God, given through His prophet, how can we be offended when His word is quoted to us? I could take this thought even further, that if we believe in and sustain our prophet as the one authorized to exercise all priesthood keys and to lead the church under the direction of Jesus Christ--a fundamental tenet of our religion--then we also believe that Sister Beck has been called of God and is speaking through the guidance of His Spirit.

Splitting hairs over gender divisions has long been a favorite tactic of those who feel the need to criticize the Church, and to be honest, it's one that I don't understand. Far too often the arguments end up based in semantics rather than ideas, and I suspect this is one of those times. Divine truth--God's truth--is timeless. Attempts to put His truth into words are as successful as the mortal lips forming them or fingers writing them. Sometimes we come pretty close to capturing pure truth in words. Sometimes we fail miserably. The efficacy of our efforts doesn't negate the Truth we're attempting to tell. "God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost..." (Doctrine & Covenants 121: 26). Truth can only be comprehended Spirit-to-spirit, so it behooves each of us not only to seek the inspiration and guidance of the Spirit in receiving truth, but to actively pursue confirmation of truth spoken or shared by other imperfect mortals like ourselves.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland warned about attempts to apply worldly wisdom to gospel truth: "In matters of religion a skeptical mind is not a higher manifestation of virtue than is a believing heart, and analytical deconstruction in the field of, say, literary fiction can be just plain old-fashioned destruction when transferred to families yearning for faith at home" (Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Prayer for the Children,” Liahona, May 2003, 85–87).

Using feminist rhetoric or gendered discourse to debate revealed truth seems to me to be something like attempting to dissect a cadaver with a steak knife: when you use the wrong tool for the job you wind up frustrated, making a big mess, and inevitably hurting yourself and others around you.

2.) "Individuals and relationships flourish when we are able to share not only our strengths but also our mutual imperfections and needs." Apparently the website creators take issue with Sister Beck's call for latter-day saint women to strive for the best--to be the best homemakers, the best mothers, the best in the world at supporting and strengthening families. In her call to step up and do what the Lord would have us do Sister Beck is once again building on restored truth. The Proclamation urges both men and women to devote their best efforts to supporting and strengthening families. Anyone who has been awake through even a few LDS ward, stake, or general meetings can't miss the emphasis on families. This is not a cultural expectation; this is revelation from the Lord.

I believe it's important to make clear that Sister Beck asked us to BE the best. Not act the best, not look the best, not project the most perfect image, which seems to be the website creators' concern, if I'm understanding them correctly. Far from being a 'narrowly prescribed list,' the realm of what constitutes 'best' in motherhood, homemaking, or womanhood in general, is as unique and perfect as each woman.

In calling us to action, Sister Beck is doing nothing other than fulfilling her divine mandate to lead the sisters of the church. Recently in the 2008 General Relief Society Conference she said, "You are doing a magnificent work. Yet we feel impressed to say that there is more to be done. We have sought inspiration from the Lord to know how to assist the priesthood in building up the kingdom of God on the earth. It is time for Relief Society to fulfill its purpose as never before" (RS General Meeting, September 27, 2008). If she has been called of God, if she is speaking under the direction of His Spirit, clearly we as sisters have work to do.

When we allow cultural or self-imposed expectations to guide our behavior or understanding of what "best" is, we set ourselves up for failure, resentment, envy, and unhappiness. When we humbly seek the Lord's guidance to follow His counsel, guilt falls away. Happiness results from doing His work, in whatever sphere He sets us to labor in the vineyard. As I ponder Sister Beck's injunction to be the best--or any other counsel given by any other leader, for that matter--I'm reminded of the scripture verse my children are learning right now: "...I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them" (3 Nephi 3:7). We can argue with counsel given or we can roll up our sleeves and, with His help, go to work.

3.) "Cleanliness depends upon access to resources and has more to do with priorities than purity of heart." I have to admit to being genuinely puzzled by this one. After reading and rereading Sister Beck's talk I can't find any references to cleanliness. She discusses the importance of having an organized, orderly home, but other than mentioning washing dishes as part of homemaking, no specific mention is made of cleanliness. Last night I taught my English class about the importance of avoiding common fallacies in constructing an argument and I'm tempted to use this as a perfect example. Muddying the waters might score an emotional point, but it ultimately undercuts the argument, and more importantly, is not truthful.

In urging women to create a climate for spiritual growth in their homes, in part through keeping an orderly home, Sister Beck is, once again, only teaching and testifying of gospel truth. Doctrine & Covenants 88:119 is oft-quoted on this topic: "Organize yourselves, prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God." If anything, Sister Beck was more general and vague about how to accomplish this than others have been in the past.

She did not establish minimum standards of organization or cleanliness, or imply in any way that some sisters were better off spiritually than others because of greater organizational or homemaking skills. We do those kinds of destructive comparisons ourselves. Given the diversity of our church sisterhood around the globe, Sister Beck's counsel seems to be a wise and careful call for improvement for all us, each in our own homes, with our own unique set of skills, challenges, and blessings.

4.) "Housework is something that grownups do and that children learn by example and instruction." The primary complaint here seems to be gender-based, so I refer back to number one. However, for reasons I can't quite fathom, the authors also seem to take issue with Sister Beck's counsel that we teach our children homemaking skills by working side-by-side with them together in our homes. If children learn only through 'example and instruction,' when will they ever DO the things they are 'learning'?

It seems to me that what Sister Beck is suggesting is a teaching/learning model similar to what the Savior uses; that is, that we learn by doing. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17). In the prophet Alma's great discourse on faith (Alma 32) he counsels for a similar investment of work in order to gain the desired knowledge and skill.

If our goal as a church and as individual men and women is first and foremost to build, strengthen, and defend families, and teaching our children to work or keep an orderly home is secondary to that primary goal, or only one part of a broader purpose, it stands to reason that achieving that broader purpose side-by-side, hand-in-hand with our children is the very essence of what the Lord is hoping for us.

5.) "We reverence the responsibility to choose how, when, and whether we become parents." Ah--I was waiting for this one! From the moment I heard Sister Beck boldly proclaim that "mothers who know bear children" I knew Satan would be pushing buttons to get women riled up.

What a silly one to be upset about! I burst out laughing when I read that part of the counter-response to Sister Beck's address was based on the validity of adoption and fostering as viable means of mothering. To put it in the most intellectual terms I can think of: DUH!

We've been reminded several times lately (the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting in February comes to mind) that the Lord's commandment to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We've been reminded that creating bodies for His spirit children is a divine mandate. It was Sister Beck who lovingly taught everyone in the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting that the desire for children is part of our divine nature as women, and our ability (or lack thereof) to bear children or opportunity (or lack thereof) in this life in no way diminishes the reality of our eternal identity.

Bringing children into the world and into a family is perhaps one of the most personal choices we ever make. Sister Beck didn't tell anyone how to make those choices. She simply reiterated what we should already know: that mothers who know bear children. They don't avoid mothering for selfish or silly reasons. Those who are unable to physically bear children aren't under condemnation. Those who prayerfully and carefully, together with their spouses, create a family as they feel led by God to do, are doing exactly what they should be doing, whether that family is a family of two or twenty.

Last night I talked on the phone for awhile with one of my daughter's birthmoms. She doesn't share my specific religious faith. She conceived my daughter out of wedlock, which, from a religious standpoint, was certainly less than ideal. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that, using Sister Beck's talk as the qualifier, she is a "mother who knows." She knew this baby deserved life, and she sacrificed considerably to provide it. She knew this baby deserved a family, and she sacrificed even more to ensure that my daughter got it. She knew that God had a plan for this little baby, and she sought and received direction and confirmation in bringing that plan about. She is no less a "mother who knows" because of her pivotal role in my daughter's life than I am less of a "mother who knows" because I am merely raising my daughter without conceiving and birthing her myself.

'Mothers who know' support the Lord's plan of happiness for His children. Families are pivotal to that plan, and mothers are pivotal to families.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The December Top-Ten (okay, let's make that 12 for the 12 days of Christmas...)

My Top Favorite Things Right Now:
  • Playing games with the kids! They are finally old enough to play real games. I've waited years for this part of motherhood :). Watching them catch on to the fun of card games, board games, and active games (hide-n-seek, anyone?) is such a blast. Last night for FHE we unwrapped a gift under the tree, from mommy to the kids. It was Twister. When we finally put it away, 45 minutes past bedtime, Grace sighed and said, "This is the most fun night EVER." Amen, baby girl, amen.
  • Warm socks!
  • Rolling out sugar cookies. Is there anything more quintessentially Christmas? Any other time of the year I absolutely loathe any recipe that requires rolling pins. This time of year, it just feels right.
  • Grown-up Princess Parties! Even better, amazing and inspiring friends who provide excuses to have them.
  • The semester is almost done!!! Happy thought.
  • Christmas music on nearly every radio station. I listen to it year round; I like this one teeny little month when the rest of the world joins me.
  • Dr. Nord and his sweet & super cute staff. Braces stink. I don't know why on earth I thought this would be a good idea. But the nicest people are helping me endure the trial.
  • Facebook!
  • My sisters. They are always some of my favorite things, but here are some specific reasons why: 1.) Becca sent me a gift card that enabled Santa to do a last-minute delight for the kids' stockings and something for me, too. 2.) Carole sent me a birthday package a whole month early, even though she knew that it is completely impossible for me to wait an entire month to open a present that is right in front of me and therefore was giving tacit permission by the act of sending it so early for me to open it early as well. It was an adorable blouse that I never in a million years would have bought for myself because I am Style-Challenged and need serious help in the fashion department AND it had matching earrings. I don't think I've ever had earrings that match an outfit--as in, intended to match a particular outfit. I rotate between two pairs of very safe, pretty boring, go-with-anything silver sets. I feel so unexpectedly glamorous. 3.) Holly wants to run a 1/2 marathon with me. She is so brave, not only to run the marathon, but to do it with ME. I've been wanting to do this for awhile, and was secretly hoping someone would join the adventure, and Holly volunteered! This is going to be so fun. Well, actually it's probably going to completely suck, but at least we'll share the experience and have stories to tell later--really crazy, awful and awesome stories, going off past experiences with Smolly. 4.) Emma drew Mercie's name for Christmas this year and she wanted detailed info about Mercie's likes and dislikes so she could get the most perfect thing for Ms. Mercie. Loving my kids puts you on my good side for eternity, but since I kind of feel more maternal than sisterly toward Emma most days, she's guaranteed to always be on my good side forever and ever.
  • Quiet evenings to sew. It's been WAAAAYYY too long since I made time for stitching therapy. Ah, the bliss! Save the bubble bath; just give me an hour or two with my sewing machine, a steam iron, and a pressing board. Heaven!
  • Christmas lights. Even better, driving around with the kids to look at Christmas lights.
  • Countless miracles and tender mercies, daily, hourly, minute by minute. I worry about money, the house, the car, keeping everyone fed, clothed, and happy, and the Lord provides. I worry about my kids and the Lord answers my prayers with strength for them and peace for me. I worry about too little time and too many things to do, and the Lord keeps His promise that if we put Him first, everything else falls into place. Daily I work on turning things over to Him, and faith slowly replaces worry because He is so good. Yay for undeserved, unconditional, unlimited love!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Grace, Glamour, and Growing Pains

Like so many other pint-size princesses, Gracie had a thing for twirly skirts, anything lacy/satin/shiny/sparkly/rhinestoned/bejeweled/ ruffly/flouncy, or glamorous.

Every morning before school Grace would rummage through closets, drawers, or laundry hampers to find the most “beautiful” outfits possible—generally hand-me-down dance costumes covered in lace and sequins, combined with Sunday dress shoes, and the random white t-shirt or fleece pullover thrown in for warmth, modesty, or some fashion plan that only made sense to Grace. And every morning, as she headed out to meet her day, Princess Grace was gorgeous.

Recently Grace hit a rough patch in her kindergarten world. Friends who used to be her friends weren’t. Skills that formerly came easily were a struggle. The class that used to be fun wasn’t. Dressing up in the morning didn’t seem to matter.

She cried before school; she cried after school. Sometimes she cried at school. As a mama I held her and worried and soothed and prayed, and sometimes when she didn’t see me, I cried, too.

We pulled through it, because rough patches have a way of smoothing out, given time and hard-earned wisdom (even the kindergarten variety), and tender mercies in answer to prayers.

It took a few days for me to realize that something had changed.

Every morning before school Grace bypasses the shiny, twirly skirts and rhinestone studded tops in favor of jeans and sweaters. The coat she’s been intentionally ‘forgetting’ all year long (because none of the princesses in the movies ever wear coats) is a sudden must-have because her friend Joselyn has the same coat and they like to match every day. Instead of the colorful mismatch of prints, solids, florals, stripes, in every shade of the rainbow that used to comprise Grace’s daily outfits, now she carefully plans out matching shirt, socks, and shoes that all work well with her basic blue jeans. She’s put away the Sunday dress shoes in favor of the tennis shoes that are like all the other girls in her class. Instead of perusing fairy tale books to show me the most amazing princess dresses, Grace brings me ads for Hannah Montana merchandise, with awe in her voice as she describes how very cool Hannah Montana is, and she wishes she could be just like Hannah Montana.

This morning I thought she was back in form: she pulled a pink plaid twirly skirt over her jeans, topped by a Hawaiian print dress and pink flip-flops (yes, it was snowing this morning). Eyeing herself in the mirror, she cracked up. "Oh my gosh, this looks disgusting," she announced. " I thought it would--I just had to check."

I brought her to the bus stop where she bounced away, grinning, looking just like all the other kids, in her skinny little jeans, shiny athletic shoes, puffy coat, and pink backpack. I love that she’s happy, that she’s confident, that she’s brave and loving and smart and sensitive and full of faith and constantly teaching me how to be good. I’m proud of how she’s growing; happy for the little glimpses I see of the stunning young woman she is becoming.

But already I miss Princess Grace. Something tells me that years and years from now, when my little Grace is a big, grown up lady who has princesses of her own, I’ll still be missing my little girl who twirled out the door in a cloud of chiffon and sequins, dancing her way to the bus stop in her best Sunday shoes with velvet straps and diamond buckles.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Drumroll Please: New Blog Announcement

In order to avoid boring people--and scaring them away from this blog--I've started a new blog re: my attempts to read Jane Austen. You can follow the adventure/nightmare at

When I snap out of my lazy funk I will post a permanent link on this blog.

Still looking for book suggestions that will spark some genyooine romantic feeling in this cold, cold heart...