Sunday, July 31, 2016

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Laughed at My Son's Buns

You were waiting just like me, perched on the edge of a wall that wasn't really a bench.

It was early in the day still, but you looked like you knew what kind of special hot hell the day had the potential of delivering, and you, like me, were getting the most of the shade before the noon hour stole it away.

We sat, you and I, flanking my husband, sprawling amusement park not-yet-quite-so-crowded that we couldn't give you a little buffer. You watched me back my overloaded jogging stroller up so that it wouldn't trip up the crowd but my little passenger could still have a view.

You were alone, probably relishing the fact that yours were old enough to be out there on that ride. Maybe yours were too little to ride alone and your husband was on the ride with them. Maybe your ovaries started twitching for another. Maybe you were so happy to be past pushing a stroller around that you made a mental note to schedule a hysterectomy next week. Maybe your husband will get a surprise vasectomy text like mine did, instead.

You looked nice enough to sit close to, but we gave you a little room anyway. We didn't want to impose too closely on what might be a rare four minutes of quiet for you. But we were close enough.

You smiled when you saw my kid. People usually do. His hair has its own fan club.

You watched as I asked if he was hungry, knowing he would grow restless by just sitting, knowing we were too far from lunch and he'd want a snack soon, knowing this was my best window to get him to eat one before he got distracted by the next ride.

You watched me unzip my ultra tiny backpack that we use as a diaper bag these days. You waited for me to pull out a granola bar. Or goldfish crackers. Or an applesauce packet. And then you burst out laughing when I pulled out a full package of hot dog buns.

Thank you. Thank you for laughing at my kid's buns. Thank you for seeing the ridiculousness that is parenting. When your kid is going through a phase where you for sure know that he will eat a hot dog bun (and sometimes the hot dog, but never together) so you throw a whole package of them in just for him. When you sail past that point in your mom career where you care about people judging you for it, but you realize that someone not only not judging or scolding or other-mothering, but actually laughing at it with you makes your's the highlight of your day.

And that day had some pretty high highlights.

Our family was the first through the gates. I'm fairly certain that's a first for us, and maybe won't happen again ever in this lifetime. My sister in law cracked a Lampoon's Vacation Wally World joke about it being closed and half the internet believed her.

That same sister in law donkey kicked me in the vagina as a prize for waiting in line for seventeen hours to ride a tube down a tunnel (not my vagina) for 36 seconds where she demanded the entire time that my husband should immediately "turn this tube around" because she believes he has the strength of a hundred elephants (he only has the strength of about seven elephants because he skipped arm day at the gym last week).

That same sister in law and I were the lowly lollygaggers of our group and as a prize had delivered to our feet one bikini clad lady-person who nobody in the crowd seemed to be bothered by, because apparently if you're having too much fun in the water the lifeguards get all whistle-happy, but if you suddenly go from being vertical to completely horizontal and el-no-respondo on the concrete with bloody knees and two old ladies waving their arms about, it's like "Oh, you silly sillies and your little sorority girl flippy flop over there. Carry on."

It was eventful. We owe a huge thanks to my brother in law and his company for arranging such a special day and including us. We owe a huge thanks to my MIL and FIL for dragging their camper to give everyone a home base.

And to you. For such a small gesture. You have no idea how much it means to me that you laughed at his buns.

Thank you. Really. There were a LOT of parents there, from a LOT of different backgrounds, all doing things differently with one goal: to have fun and get home in one piece. We did that at almost Midnight. And my curly-haired cargo woke me up early again today, like usual. And as my coffee brewed, I thought of you and I wonder how you're holding up today.

Solidarity, sister-mother. Solidarity.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Marriage: Commitment, Cake, and Criminals *Gag Order Edition*

I secretly hate when other people want me to write about things. Mostly because I'm not very good at that. This is why I'm not a "professional writer".

Also, same reason why I'm not a "professional baker".

I take direction very poorly.

There will be a follow up to Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. I promise. The condensed version is this:

  • Vows (tears)
  • Lightsabers (tears)
  • Dinner
  • Dancing (tears)
  • Ahmayzing performances (tears)
  • Cake
  • Someone went to jail (tears)
  • Resume party

And while some folks were all like, "sure it's okay to talk about, go ahead!" I'm gonna hold off mainly so nobody accuses me of witness tampering or for getting my info via back alley channels.

Read: Sleeping with a cop does NOT get you any insider info access. 

This week I was also asked to start a weekly publication over in my real life professional job. Which is super fact-checky and technical with a side of nothing that ever surprises me. It is exactly what I was birthed into this universe to do. It requires me to get the story straight before I publish things out all half-cocked and whatnot.

So in the spirit of that, and out of respect for the work that our men and women in law enforcement do (and did when they showed up at our party), I'm just going to hold off. All I think I know at this point is that there is an arraignment on Tuesday. I don't want to make their job harder. I don't want to make the complainant's job harder. I don't want to make the witnesses' jobs harder.

But boy, is it a good story.

I can tell you that Hubs took forty-eleven super annoying selfies. Including one of my boobs. Because he is twelve. And this one, to prove that my burning laser-glare and force-dressing them worked:

No scrubs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

This is a weird week. I should be doing all the things that need to be done, but I'm not. I'm doing this instead. Because all the things that need to be done are driving me nuts.

There's a wedding this week.


Dakoda. Sweet Dakoda is tying the knot. The oldest grandkid is setting sail while the other dozen stand from shore and watch with full hearts and wave their banners at him, their tallest ship. The one they've always looked up to.

Casual Friday on the Starship Enterprise.

I'm left quite literally stunned at how quickly the years have slipped by. It feels like just yesterday that I showed up and this quiet kid with the worrisome eyebrows grew year by year collecting a spiraling trail of friends, of casting his light further out until he met


I'm so happy for him to have found his little spoon. All the kids in our extended family have enjoyed the support of parents and grandparents who accepted their differences and interests and individualities, and Dakoda was certainly no exception. As the older kids have gotten older, that task becomes tricky - finding a mate who isn't trying to change you. One who stumbles across your path and says, "Hey! I've been looking for you! Help carry this shit to my car and let's go be weird together." 

Jessica found him and this week she'll be his Mrs. and we are delighted.


There are details. We have to wear clothes, mostly because the ceremony is in a respectable House-o'-The-Lord. And rehearsal dinner is at the slightly less-respectable House-o'-The-Lees. Hubs is smoking a petting zoo and I was asked to make the groom's cake.

And you know me. And you know the hubs. So you know how all this is going.

To distract me from the eighty six things going on this week, he booked a trip for next year, began obsessing about it, and then told me a minor thing about work, which he almost never ever talks about, which spiraled into me watching a coincidental TLC Gypsy Wedding marathon and questioning his lineage.

He had some contact with some folks who identified themselves to him as Gypsies.

I am fascinated by the traveler community. I have no desire to be part of it. I just want to know all about it. Also, my PollyPocket mother-in-law is never so content as when you put her in a confined space, as long as it's portable.

We had also recently enjoyed a relaxing visit with friends, where Hubs watched as I got an assist taking in a dress that I'd shrunk a few sizes out of, feeling only relief that it was our friend whose fingers were bleeding from all the pins and not his.

Girlsquad helping with my hoopskirt

He watched with passive boredom, but he without-a-doubt SAW the dress I intended to wear to this weekend's ceremony. So when I asked what he was wearing, I assumed he knew I meant like, you know, BLUE TIE or GRAY TIE or whatnot, and he's all like,

"Khaki shorts and one of my plaid shirts that the sleeves roll up."

Which basically means we will go to this wedding just like any other run-of-the-mill event where we look like a couple that has just been mismatched on a blind date or an Oscar nominee on the red carpet and her teenage kid who stops by to ask for twenty bucks on the way to the movies with his friends because hurry-hurry-I just-heard-the-ice-cream-truck just as the camera picks up her reaction to missing the win again by THIS MUCH.

(Lead Actress in a Drama is a tough category, you guys. Stiff competition.)

And I will not even get into the level seven argument I got into with Clayton over why he has to wear GRAY khakis instead of CAMEL khakis and why he cried actual salty tears when I asked him to please wear short ankle socks with his black skater shoes instead of basketball socks and neon orange sneakers.

Also, there have been exactly three showers taken between the three children since school got out, so there's that.

And I don't want to sound like an uppity bitch, but someone's probably going to want a family picture or something, and we might not be models, but we could at LEAST look like we belong together and I ALREADY HAD A NICE DRESS AND IT'S NOT LIKE I BOUGHT A NEW DRESS FOR THIS AND I AM THE ONLY GIRL IN THIS FAMILY AND I SHOULD GET TO HAVE A SAY IN THIS, GODDAMMIT.

Nobody's happy but damn, they look good. Also, spoiler - everyone dies in the end.

The reality is that I will probably pick my battles and not have my family hate me forever instead, and they will look like a disaster. Or rather, probably okay-ish. And I will look as amazing as I can possibly muster. Because I muster all the amazing I can at once and then it melts off as the day goes on. So like, probably okay-ish.

And when I tuned into the actual Big Fat Gypsy Wedding that happened to be marathoning and he made me suddenly crave like someone saying, "hey - remember French bread?" I was like HOLY SHIT we DO go together like every other couple out there because look at these assholes:

To be fair, he's wearing a tie. And britches.

Big Fat PS about THE CAKE:

I don't know what to say about the cake. Maybe it's a surprise, I don't even know. Maybe there will be a picture of it at some point. I am not an authority to be giving advice. I will say this. I realized how much I did NOT know about grooms' cakes when THIS groom's cake was in the oven and I actually started Googling. Apparently red velvet is NOT "traditional". I made part of the base tonight and asked Clayton whether it gave him an "abstract idea of the theme I was going for" and he said "OMIGOSH YES THAT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE IT!!" so I'm off to a great start. It can only go downhill from here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

ToddlerBandit's Scared of Cops and it's All My Fault

This week I taught my three year old to fear the cops.

My three year old. Who is white like:

  • Snow
  • Rice
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Cocaine

My three year old whose father is:

A police officer.


I did it because I am a failing, asshole parent. I did it because I spoke without thinking. I did it because I have enjoyed a privileged life free of any fear of authority and I knew that I had fallen on my own face as soon as I saw those two soft eyebrows, the ones that just learned to oh-so-sweetly voluntarily rise and fall instead furrow up with terror when the words fell out of my mouth:

"The cops are going to get you."

We had just pulled the boat out of the goose-poop rich river water in the darkness after a long day of sketchy weather. We had double our normal passenger count (another cop and his family, as if this can't get worse), and my trailering skills and patience had been tested at not-our-usual-dock that was packed with patrons of varying degrees of sun and liquor saturation.

We buzzed hurriedly through the abbreviated version of our post-nautical routine, the one we deploy when our daily voyage doesn't include the 40 minute drive to the lake. The one where we skip the cover and the zippers, but the safety straps, quick wipe down, and wakeboard removals are still necessary.

The one where we still get the kids in the truck first to get them out of the busy parking lot.

As we pulled ahead, a horn. Hubs had left his trusty chamois on the back platform. He hopped out and retrieved it. Once we were all collected and headed home, I turned to count the children.

One, two, three.

Except that number three was in his car seat, blinking adorably at me with no buckles on.


This is the part of parenting that bites us in the ass all the time. The "but I thought you did it" stuff that chips away at our foundation, our children watching wide-eyed as we fail, slowly transitioning from the A-Team to Dumb and Dumber.

Straps on the boat? Check. Straps on the kid? No.

Earlier in the day, we had encountered Hubs' coworkers several times, seeing two shifts' worth of boat officers out patrolling the waters keeping everyone's festivities safe. I showed my respect to them, and vice versa, as per usual:

"Haha. Nice HAT, Heather."

"Shut up. I'm a classy lady. I need SHADE. Is that a giant sack of PARADE CANDY you're shoving down your throat?"

Hats are a handy way for other boaters to spot you in the water.
They see you and say, WHAT THE HELL???

These guys (and gals) are my friends. They are the brothers that my husband finally got as a grownup, the prize he won for surviving all sisters as a kid. Now they are my brothers. They come to my house. They are obnoxious. One fell asleep on the lawn once. Several make enthusiastic arguments for why theirs is the best smoked meat. Sometimes they retire and you're sad but you're still happy for them so you build them a cake.

Cake by me. Pic by Stephanie. Years of service and dedication by Jer-Bear.

And you bust your friends' balls. Sometimes in front of your kids, even. Which is why maybe my kids haven't heard a whole lot of "yes sir, no sir" interactions with police officers from me.

But that's not to say that we haven't let them know that when authoritative figures question them, they'd better comply.

Teacher, principal, policeman. No matter. They know. They know.

We don't ignore things like gender inequality and race, either. Each election cycle, no matter how minor (another school vote, anyone?) I remind the boys how recently women gained the right to vote. Each time, they are stunned. Once I've used women to soften the blow, I tell them the rest: about how white people used to own black people. How black people couldn't vote. About how interracial marriages used to be illegal.

And they're all like, "THAT'S A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT!"

Except they don't cuss, because I'd spank their fannies.

And every Martin Luther King Jr. Day, they would traipse home and remind me, and we have continued these cyclical ceremonies because they help us to shut out all the other voices that say there's not a problem, it's not our problem, or we're too white to have a say in anything. Or their little asshole friends on the bus whose parents fill their heads with age-inappropriate political propaganda.

But this previously stellar job I'd patted myself on the back about was out the window with those seven words.

"The cops are going to get you."

He wouldn't let his brother put his buckles on and he was being a general shit and I didn't want to climb in the back seat and there wasn't room enough to pull over on the side of the road, and so to manipulate and control him I blurted that out. Like a complete and total wanker.

And I knew immediately as his panicked tone set in that it was a mistake. He had seen the cops. They were on the boat. They turned on their lights. They turned on their woop-woop horn.  They had a sticker on their boat that was just like Daddy's cop car that he drives when he gets the bad guys.

I was being a dick. I was making my kid scared of cops, which is the exact thing we do NOT want parents to do, ever. Not. Ever. And it happened instantly with seven little words.

Two years ago I was in Dallas for work and got talked into a group dinner that required taking one of three private buses to another area of town away from the hotel after dark. After my meat salad (perpetual diet!!) my dinner mates wanted to stop in a specialty bakery. I quickly became claustrophobic surrounded by so much sugar on my newly restrictive eating plan, more or less petrified about how my body would react if I strayed from my no sweets policy, especially in public.

Would I get sick? Would I go into a coma? Would I barf and shit my pants? Who wants to find out in a strange place with an audience?

I shoved through the crowd and sucked in the night air, heavy with the baked goods scent that followed me out the door. I saw a familiar sight. Three gold stripes on a hefty blue uniform leaned on the railing.

I missed my husband.

I felt safer in that five minutes or so than I did the rest of the time I was there. And that counts the time I was in my room - after I realized someone had come in to "deliver promotional items", and it also factors in that my boss is a retired cop and HIS boss is retired from a federal agency.

I talked to that Sergeant while my group got their sugar high on. He told me how the area had changed in the 17 years he'd been on the job. He told me about the developer, about how things were so much better than they'd been in the past. He told me about how the types of calls they were responding to had changed. He told me that this was HIS neighborhood. And I could tell this guy had pride in this city. This wasn't just a job. He loved this place and these people and he loved protecting it.

He also told me that he'd had to put the kibosh to his guys frequenting that bakery when it first went in, "because, you know, the whole 'cops and donuts' thing, I'm sure you know, with your husband and all...we were getting dirty looks all the time."

And that's why twice this week I've had that stomach sinking feeling. I am heartbroken for these families.

When did this happen? When did we learn to be racist? When did we learn to fear all the police?

When other people told us to. Our parents, specifically. If not our parents, those in our circles helping form our views.

Generations of Americans hate other races or don't trust police because of what their families have told them to believe. Interactions with police. Second hand stories and unfounded legends.

I came from some incredibly racist ancestors. Hell, there's some of my friends and family who are STILL around who post some despicable stuff on social media. Off color jokes. Stuff about Obama. Stuff about the Gubmint. It's all a joke, right? Isn't it? Fun fact: This is one of the biggest reasons my kids aren't allowed on the internets. Bet you thought it was kiddie-sex-troll-predators, huh? Nah.

So there's the good news. Inherently racist traits can be shed by subsequent generations, but I'm not sure if a deep seated and irrational fear of authority can. Especially not when those fears are seasoned by an occasional documented instance of legitimate wrong doing that shores up and solidifies that belief.

Unspeakable atrocities? Absolutely. Bad calls? Yes. People who tarnish the badge? Yes. It's up to departments to properly recruit and train, the ranks to hold one another accountable, and the public to support those who protect us by teaching our youth that they're there to help, not harass.

I'm sorry that I failed this time.

My heart will continue to be with those in Dallas. And in Missouri. And everywhere else. And here at home. Because I know that those behind badges are hurting for those lost, while still maintaining level heads to keep things running smoothly for the rest of us. And despite the focus on the instances warranting investigation, the overwhelming majority will silently go on performing their day-to-day in a positive, professional, and courteous manner.

It's what they do. Every day. Without fail.