Random Sunday with Children

A long time ago, when my daughter was six, I became a single mother. It wasn’t my choice, and we had some very bad years, and I would not recommend being unmarried with children to anyone, especially since I’ll never be able to make it up to my daughter for her lousy childhood. But when Lani moved in with Sweetness and Light, I figured I could do better this time. So before they got here, I painted their rooms in their favorite colors and got them curtains with sequins on them (which their mother and Aunt Krissie loved more than they did) and then I started collecting art projects and puzzles and paints and general Good Stuff and put it all in a box in my closet that became the Magic Box that opens whenever it rains and Some People get bored. So at the slightest hint of moisture now, Light comes and finds me and says, “Magic Box?” (We will ignore for the moment all the snickering that occurs when Aunt Krissie and Mommy talk about Aunt Jenny’s Magic Box, “not to be confused with the Glittery HooHa.” Really, these women should not be allowed around children.) The nice thing about the Magic Box, is that whenever it opens, it’s the Best Day Ever. So what I’m thinking is, everybody should have a Magic Box. What I’m also realizing is that there is no way to talk about the Magic Box without talking dirty, so I’m leaving this topic now.

I am now way too interested in the Littlest Pet Shop toys. Last week, the box gave up panda bears with annoyed expressions wearing little straw hats with pink flowers. Plus Hello Kitty glue sticks. Best Day Ever. The kids liked them, too.

Sweetness is interested in boys in a completely charming well-this-is-interesting kind of way. We were watching Thoroughly Modern Millie on my mistaken assumption that it would be as delightful as I remembered it, and Lani and Krissie wandered off bored, but Sweetness watched everything, asking me why Millie was kissing Jimmy when she was in love with Mr. Graydon, and why Mr. Graydon liked Miss Dorothy better than Millie, and I found myself looking at the movie in a whole new way. When it was done, I gave her the DVD. I figure she’ll miss all the white slavery stuff and concentrate on Miss Dorothy blushing and Jimmy kissing Millie. Also, she’d have yanked it out of my hand if I hadn’t handed it over. When Sweetness wants to consider something in depth, do not get in her way.

Another good thing about living with kids: kids’ books and DVDs. We watched Coraline which is one of the most stunning movies I’ve ever seen. Absolutely beautiful. Plus, good story. The 3D screwed up the color so I prefer the 2D version but really just amazingly gorgeous. Then I went out and got Stardust, which I realized was too adult for them after I watched it first, but I wouldn’t have watched it at all if it hadn’t been for them, and despite its flaws, it was a lot of fun. And gorgeous. And now for the first time, I’m seriously considering writing kids books because Sweetness devours them and then I steal them. There’s something very elegant and minimalist about kids books and YA fiction.

Sweetness has this problem with thinking through her sentences too thoroughly–she wants them to be correct, damn it–so she gets half way through and starts over. Over and over. I told her she was like somebody standing on a diving board, jumping up and down but not diving, so now when she starts to get tangled, we all yell, “Jump, Sweetness, jump!” and she laughs and finishes the sentence. Light, on the other hand, has so much to say that she gets to the end and then starts another one immediately, usually preceded with, “And you know what?” As in “I got a Littlest Pet Shop gecko, and you know what? it has spots, and you know what? if you hold it in your hand and keep it warm, the spots go away, and you know what . . .” which has unfortunately led to her mother and I laughing helplessly because “and you know what?” and “guess what?” and “I’m thinking of a number between one and ten” are all Light trademarks now. The “I’m thinking of a number between one and ten” is particularly deadly because you have to keep going until you get it, and then it’s a big anticlimax, followed by, “I’m thinking of a number . . .” But even that isn’t as disastrous as the riddles. Dear god, the riddles from kids can go on forever. Light has one that she gets caught in a loop in every time:

Light: Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Light: Banana.
Adult: Banana who?
Light: Knock knock.
Adult: Who’s there?
Light: Banana.
Adult: Banana who?
Light: Knock knock.
(Repeat endlessly until the adult in the conversation starts to scream. Then . . .)
Light: Knock knock.
Adult: Who’s there?
Light: Apple.
Adult: Apple who?
Light: (Look of confusion.) Wait, wait. Knock, knock.
Adult: (Oh for the LOVE OF GOD) Who’s there?
Light: Orange.
Adult: Orange who?
Light:Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?” (Helpless giggles, falling over backward.)
Adult: Goes for a boozle.

But I was talking about riddles. So Light says, “I have a riddle. Do you want to hear it?” I say, “Yes.” You have to say yes, it’s in the kid rule book. Light says, “What’s black and white and black and white and black and white and black and white?” Lani says, “Here’s a hint, Krissie told it to her.” I say, “A panda gang bang.” Sweetness says, “What?” Lani says, “AUNT JENNY!” I say, “I give up.” Sweetness says, “A nun rolling downhill.” Insane laughter, followed by falling over backward. Lani passes over a boozle.

We went to Target for some preliminary school shopping. This is where I confess that I’ve gone school shopping every year, whether I’ve had a kid to shop for or not, because, like every writer I know, I have an office/school-supplies jones that just won’t quit and August is the Best Month Ever for pens and papers. After much consultation about backpacks and lunchbags, Sweetness carefully chose a plain one that was in excellent taste; Light darted from one to the next saying, “This one! No, this one!” picking out a Tinkerbell bag and then a Littlest Pet Shop lunch bag and then a Hello Kitty bag, stopping only when forced to choose; and Lani and I got cheapo-on-sale-seven-dollar book bags for our laptops (Lani’s was Hello, Kitty and mine was Betty Boop). Then we moved on to the sparkly pencils. I love school shopping.

The last time Krissie was here, I was culling my jewelry and she found a sterling silver purse/locket about an inch and and a half in diameter that had a flap that opened to reveal a compartment that I think was supposed to hold cotton dipped in perfume. She said, “Mine,” and I passed it over. Then we got to National last month and she was wearing it, and I said, “Oh, good, that looks wonderful on you.” She said, “Do you know what’s in it?” I said, “Pot?” and she said, “No. Think Keith Richards.” (This is probably the place to tell you that her sister Taffy died a couple of months ago which was terribly hard for her.) You know, it’s not often that I am truly speechless, but my chin hit the floor. For those of you who are not Keith Richards fans, he caused a stir awhile back when he announced that he’d snorted some of his father’s ashes. I finally said, “Taffy’s in there?” And Krissie said, “She loved parties. So I’m taking her to all of them.” Which was really nice. And then, god help me, I laughed because . . . well, because, but I did try to take it seriously. When I knocked the pendant off the table at the hotel, I said, “Sorry, Taffy,” as I put it back. So if you see pictures of me staring at Krissie’s chest at National, it’s because I’m still dealing with the concept of Taffy in silver. (I know this ramble is about kids, but if you think Krissie is an adult, you’ve never seen her at Hobby Lobby or Steak N Shake.)

We went to the mall and Light wanted her ears pierced. She’s seven. We did the whole are-you-sure? thing and she was sure, lusting after a pair of sparkly pink and gold daisies. Sweetness, at ten, was not enthusiastic and decided to wait to see how things went with Light. The people at Claire’s, no dummies, decided to do both ears at once. One-two-three-punch-SCREAMS LIKE YOU NEVER HEARD FROM THE DAMNED IN HELL. People walking by in the mall turned to look in horror, so I said, “As God is my witness, she begged for them,” but I saw some definite we-should-call-children’s-services expressions. Light sobbed for about a minute and a half, and then I held up the blue plastic dolphin on a lanyard with a pink sparkly chapstick inside it that I had purchased in anticipation of this moment and said, “Look!” She went for it, although still a little sniffly, not helped when Sweetness said, “I’m never getting my ears pierced.” Then I told Light that in six weeks when she could wear other earrings, she could borrow some of mine which also helped, although Sweetness in the background saying “I’m only getting clip earrings forever” was not encouraging. Then we decided to go to Steak N Shake where there are Butterfinger milkshakes, and everything was just fine. And now the earrings sparkle and Light is in no pain and Sweetness tells her she looks beautiful while giving me and her mother the hairy eyeball as if we’re about to drag her off and have her drilled, too. Also we had Steak N Shake milkshakes again the next day because Aunt Krissie wanted them, plus French fries, so the world is a good place. And Sweetness is never getting her ears pierced, so we can just forget about that.

Sweetness writes stories and illustrates them, and she also does cartoons. Here’s one:
sarahdrawing2
The caption is “Winners on scaring Sweetness out of her shorts,” because the dogs bark so loud and in the beginning that freaked Sweetness out. That’s Veronica up there on top getting the gold. Sweetness is going to be rich and famous some day and win the Nobel prize for literature. And Light will manage her career after she finishes managing her mother’s. As Lani said, “Light is going to be my Mollie.” Or possibly a great actress. The world is Light’s oyster, which she will open by force, pour ketchup over, and then decide not to eat.

Lani and Krissie and I are now talking about getting tattoos. Krissie already has several and I have two, but Lani has none and feels sort of dreary because of it, although we took her to get her makeup done at the dirt store, and I’m telling you, she had color. ( Jackie, the guy at the dirt store also did Sweetness and Light. Sweetness went for red lipstick which made her very unsure so half an hour later I gave her a Kleenex and she wiped it off. Light went for green lipstick and sported it all day, only losing it to her milkshake.) So we’re working on finding a simple triple symbol–very simple–since I have a couple of medium sized tattoos already and frankly, one more that size is going to start to look tacky although some people (cough Bob cough) have implied that I may have already crossed that line. I said, “You’re an army guy, don’t you have tattoos?” He said, “I was Special Forces, we weren’t allowed to have them.” Yeah, well, I don’t have to move silently through the night killing people with my little finger, so I can have tattoos. And so can Lani and Krissie. However when Light said, “Tattoos?” we all three said, “NO!” so she grumped off in her earrings. When she’s sixteen, she’ll come home with “Born To Organize Hell” on her forehead, but for now, I’m done with the heartrending screams. Also I’m out of plastic dolphins.

On Saturday nights, we have parties and everybody gets a turn planning them. Last week it was Light’s turn and we did clay animals and then we danced.
dancing
This week was Sweetness’s turn so we did a talent show and made sugar cookies. Next week it’s my turn and we’re watching a movie and making cupcakes and eating spaghetti. At six o’clock on Saturday nights, I think, “Oh, hell, the party,” and then five minutes later I’m laughing my butt off. I highly recommend the six to eight party plan. With dancing.

Everything you need to know about Sweetness and Light, you can tell from their sugar cookie habit. Sweetness takes two perfect cookies from the jar, looks sternly at a cookie half still in there, says, “Apparently, somebody broke a cookie,” and then eats hers plain. Light takes her two, slathers them with chocolate icing at least half an inch thick, puts sprinkles on top, draws a heart in glitter icing, (doing a play-by-play the entire time) and then says, “Which is better, chocolate icing or chocolate icing on a cookie?” I say, “Chocolate icing on a cookie.” She shakes her head and says, “No, just chocolate icing.” I say, “Then why aren’t you just eating just the icing?” Light gets an annoyed look on her face. “Why didn’t you tell me I could do that before I put it on the cookie?” I say, “Why didn’t you tell me you liked it better before you put it on the cookie?” Then Light eats both cookies, gets chocolate up her nose, which goes nicely with the Tang on her shirt and the ketchup and the ginger ale on her pants, and goes to play with the dogs. Sweetness is cookie haiku; Light is cookie burlesque.

Last week, Light and I were out on the patio waiting for the dogs to pee so we could go back inside and have breakfast. Light said, “My mom thinks we might stay here for a long time.” I nodded and said, cautiously since I wasn’t sure whether she was afraid they were staying or afraid they weren’t, “Well, we don’t know, but if that happens, I would like it.” “I would, too,” she said, and then she got up to chase the dogs.

I cried a little. Not much because then Light would tell me riddles to cheer me up, and there’s only so many times I can say, “Banana who?” before I start screaming, but I must say, this time I like being unmarried with children.

85 thoughts on “Random Sunday with Children

  1. This made me smile. And sniffle.

    I’m unmarried with children too. Not all the time, but I borrow my friends’ kids. BestGuy and LittleMiss are 9 and 6. I’ve known them since they were babies.

    They come to my house for weekends sometimes — and a whole week this summer! We laugh at YouTube videos, read books, all sleep in the same bed (after going to bed way too late), eat at Noodles & Co with chopsticks (even if it IS penne with marinara), bake cookies or pizza, etc. Sometimes we add the zoo or some other outing. Last Christmas, we went to a fondue restaurant and had cheese and chocolate fondue for dinner. This summer, we went to my family’s camp and swam in the pond.

    I always have to give them back and afterward the house is far too quiet. But I love them to pieces and it seems to be mutual.

    I’m eternally grateful that their parents share them. And, for their part, the parents seem to recognize and be glad that the kids have someone else who loves them unconditionally, enjoys them thoroughly, and lets them know how great they are.

    Sweetness and Light are incredibly lucky to have you. And I’m sure you know that you’re lucky to have them too.

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  2. That was wonderful to read.

    I highly recommend Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest books. They are funny, especially to those of us who read a lot of fairy tales.

    Also Tamora Pierce, for stories about girls who kick butt.

    As for videos, Kung-fu Panda and Speed Racer got great reviews from my friends’ kids — and are also enjoyable for adults.

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    1. I second the Enchanted Forest Books, at least for adults (-:. I’m sure kids would like them, too.

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    2. Oh, please let this devolve into a recommendation list for children’s books! Please. I adore them almost as much as I do a Crusie (w or w/o et al.) novel.

      I’ll second (third) the Wrede suggestion — although I did tire of the Enchanted Forest novels when Cimorene became so caught in what seems to me like a traditional gender role. But, in fact, almost everything she does is great. Her new series (13th Child, I think) is also starting well.

      And anything by E. L. Konisberg. Oh the joy of those books!

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      1. Besides Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, how about…
        LM Boston’s Green Knowe series
        The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
        Shadow Guests by Joan Aiken
        the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
        Pippi Longstocking books
        Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis and David Soman
        Dear Mrs LaRue by Mark Teague
        Diary of a…. (there’s Worm, Fly, Spider) by Doreen Cronin
        Michael Morpurgo’s books
        The Giver by Lois Lowry
        Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

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    3. I have to add a recommendation for Diana Wynne Jones. When Harry Potter came out everyone was comparing them to the Narnia books, but I said, nope, they’re more like Diana Wynne Jones.
      I also have second the recommendations for Wrede books (which are much more than the Enchanted Forests) and Pierce books. With forty closing in on me I still buy, read, and KEEP their new releases.

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    4. I’m STILL a sucker for Junie B. Jones. Barbara Park rules!

      And the original Wizard of Oz books.

      And Enchanted.

      And Ella Enchanted. But, I’ve loved Anne Hathaway since The Princess Diaries.

      And Meet the Robinsons is the Best Movie Ever because the message is “don’t be afraid to fail”.

      Kids get all the cool stuff. πŸ™‚

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      1. Crap…not Enchanted – Ever After.

        Sorry Blonde Moment.

        (And if I knew how to edit my posts, I would. Sorry!)

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        1. Oh, I love Junie B. Jones, too. And I have to admit, I’m a sucker for Captain Underpants — the guy who did them also drew the Dumb Bunnies series, which I am ashamed to admit I loved. As an adult. My kids loved them too. Also, D. Wynne Jones wrote the wonderful Howl’s Moving Castle, which is a completely different thing from the movie (although the movie was based on the book, in theory), but both are wonderful works of art, in their own ways. (-: I recently got my Howl back, so maybe it’s a sign I should be re-reading.

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  3. Very glad to see all of you so happy. You spoiled us with pics and news in this post, thank you!

    Littlest Pet Shop toys and sparkly pencils = a damn good time.

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  4. You write about happiness in a wonderful way. We know that these lives, for all that they’re adorned with glittery pencils and sugar cookies and the promise of pink petal earrings, also include heartache and life passages and mysteries big and small. It’s friendly and warm to read without being all schmaltzy

    And I’m SO gonna use the nun joke.

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  5. Oh, I lust for school supplies. I have a boy to shop with/for but he’s incredibly patient when I stand ogling the sparkly pencils/backpacks/notebooks. Sigh. Great post, Jenny, esp with the dancing.

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  6. Great post. I remember visiting my Gran’s farm every summer. She had a trunk with all kinds of bits and pieces of art supplies, buttons, sewing items (like you Jenny, she was an artist) and we kids loved getting into that stuff. Gran would provide us with vegetables from the farm (the stuff that had reached an expiration like soft potatoes, or wrinkled squash, or limp carrots) and we made vegetable people. You reminded me of that today and put a smile on my face, thank you.

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  7. You, m’dear, have made the world a better place — a magic place — not just for Sweetness and Light, but for those of us fortunate enough to have bookmarked your blog.

    My life is about boys. Sons, five. Grandson, one. There are no sparkly pencils or glittery earrings in my immediate future (I’m assuming. Perhaps I shouldn’t. But not likely.) So this was a lovely little glimpse into a world which I’ve largely forgotten, since my own little girl days are but a dim, distant memory.

    Except for the sparkly earrings. Those have carried over to adulthood quite nicely. As has chocolate icing, come to think of it.

    I’ll aslo be chuckling over the like-you-never-heard-from-the-damned-in-hell line for quite possibly the rest of my life.

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  8. One of the best posts you’ve ever written.

    You have an amazing family. In fact, you’re an amazing woman. Even if you weren’t real, you’d be one of our favorite characters.

    xo

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  9. I’m so glad to know others stand in front of the sparkly pencils and lust.

    Totally off topic, but you would love the movie (500) Days of Summer. It is not a love story, but it’s a story about love. The opening credits will do it for you. It says something like:

    AUTHORS NOTE: THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERS AND SITUATIONS ARE TOTALLY FICTIONAL AND NOT BASED ON ANY PERSONS, LIVING OR DEAD.

    then next screen:

    ESPECIALLY NOT YOU, JENNY BECKMAN

    next screen:

    BITCH

    Go. See. (Not a Sweetness and Light movie, tho it is PG13)

    -toni

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    1. Also known as Bare Whatsis. You know, the stuff made from virgin earth. As Lani says, it works so good because of the unicorn pee.

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  10. YA book recommendation: Star Girl. You will pass it on – to adults as well as those younger in years.

    PS Panda Gang Bang – my future tattoo

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  11. Can I come live with you? Because to my recently separated self, what you’ve created sounds like heaven.

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    1. Hey, where are we with our Cherry B n B place? Are we going to start one?
      I all in. i’m single, sober and willing to move to the US. (But not desperate to move to the US) πŸ˜‰

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  12. (-: I have to agree with everyone. I loved this post! I think I’ll go home, and be an auntie to my kids tonight, instead of boring ol’ mom. Tomorrow, I have to be mom again, but once in a while, I should pull out the fun stuff. OK, shopping list: glitter pens, some of that thick, luscious drawing paper, and stuff for cracker pizzas (which only take a few minutes to put together, so maybe I can draw some stuff, too. I need some fruit flash cards for work, so I can have fun AND be productive (-:).

    This post was so true . . . and so inspiring. Thanks.

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  13. Smiled the entire time I was reading because …

    1) September= Best Month At Office Max Ever! (I drool over office supply stores like other women do shoes)

    2) Taffy- my mom kept my dad in a drawer for 4 years after he was cremated. She would occasionally open the drawer and pat the box. The first time I went to visit her after he dies she ushered me into the bedroom, opened the drawer and said, “Say hello to your father.”

    3) Dance parties are the best. We used to have them in Missouri. Even the dogs got into the act.

    4) Being a single parent is not the worst thing in the world. Having children living in a stressful/demeaning/violent/humiliating or unhappy enviroment is much worse.

    5) Great random post, as usual.

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  14. I am stealing your Saturday night party idea. I have neices who will love it. πŸ™‚ I pick up so many phrases from this blog. I used SBP last week for our crazy storm and now will be passing on Krissies nun knock knock joke… to my aunt – an actual nun. Thank Krissie for me Sister Mary Gregory will LOVE it.

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  15. Sounds fun πŸ™‚ I’ve got big boys, but am holding out hope for glittery sprakly things with my girl, who’s still too small to appreciate it.

    And I don’t think I’ve said this yet, but *hugs* to Lani for however it was that she ended up there. But dang. Landed on your feet πŸ™‚

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  16. I love this post. I have my own Light. Three and a half and trooping through the early months of her parents divorce and her father moving a new woman into her home the day her mother moved out, miracle of miracles, she’s surviving. She too, would break open her oyster, pour her much beloved ketchup over it, and then decide not to eat it. *sigh*

    I’m stealing the Magic Box (the one in the closet, of course.) idea, and the Saturday night parties. Although watching Barbie’s Fairytopia three times in a row is not how I want to spend every other Saturday night. πŸ˜‰

    And school supplies. How I love the big aisles of cheaply priced pens, pencils, crayons and markers. Sparkly or not. I’m lucky enough that my little girl gasps at ANY brightly colored new package and says in wonder, “That’s bea-awful mommy, can we gets it?”

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  17. Good Lord, when Krissie asked you what was in the locket, I could have sworn she was going to say “Coke.”

    This whole post is lovely. I’m so glad for you all. Also, very down with the idea of writing YA/middle grade.

    About tattoos: what about a cave painting? The older I get, the older I want to look. Tattoo-wise, anyway. I want to look ancient, which is only another way of saying timeless.

    More dress-up sugar-cookie parties should be held from 6-8 each Saturday night.

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  18. Have you read Coraline or Stardust? I find Neil Gaiman to be truly a most excellent writer. He’s a good blogger too. Like you. πŸ™‚

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  19. I so loved this πŸ™‚

    My nephew’s version of the knock-knock joke:

    Him, “knock-knock.”
    Me, “Who’s there?”
    Him, “Banana-orange-banana.”

    I didn’t understand so my sister explained the tradition version. I thought it was hilarious and he is so smart to think of this … talk about cutting to the chase!

    (snickering about Magic Boxes & Glittery Hoohas …)

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  20. Isn’t life wonderful some times? I’d probably pick movies for my party night, too. I loved Thoroughly Modern Millie as well, but I’ve found that I have to be in the right mood when I try to watch it now.

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    1. The movie is not bad. A little goofy and stereotyped, but not bad. I read Mae West’s biography shortly after seeing the movie, and I guess the white-slaver thing was a HUGE trend in plays and other popular works in the 20s. I loved the CD version (new musical’s cast recording) a lot better. Oh, and speaking of musicals that work better as a CD than a movie: Hairspray. And of course, Spamalot (which I found here, and you can’t even get in movie form, AFAIK) is a wonderful listen. Maybe not for little ones, although permissive mom that I am, the kids were singing along to the Laker Girls cheer in no time flat.

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  21. Oooh, I love Claire’s. They have the best hair doodads which never stay in my fine, straight hair, but I have to have them anyway.

    Being single but not having kids of my own, I have borrowed my sister’s 3 frequently. To my great sadness, they have insisted on growing up and there is now only one left without a driver’s license. Fortunately he has the rebel spirit, refusing to get his hair cut and wearing mismatched clothes. Some girl will straighten him out eventually, but in the meantime I really enjoy being around him.

    My niece, now 24, was my buddy when she was little. We watched tv in bed on Friday nights and I sewed up Teddy’s torn ear and gave him a new, embroidered with pink floss nose.

    The middle child, nephew #1, is now driving and into girls and such a yuppie “nice young man” that I worry that someone will mistake him for a serial killer. But I remember getting him out of bed early one morning when they were sleeping over so that he could watch a robin build a new nest in the tree out front for an hour. And I’ve totally forgiven him for throwing up twice in two different cars I’ve owned.

    And when they each turned nine they went to Disney World with me for 5 days, just the two of us, and each experience was different because the kids are all so different, but in each case they were, for me, the Very Best Days Ever.

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  22. What a wonderful post. And, what a wonderful family you’re building. A great way to salve heartache and build sparkly memories.

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  23. Every kid needs an aunty/uncle/gran to let them be a kid. Whether they are being raised by single parents or not. And every single parent needs to be reminded they CAN spoil their kids sometimes, and not spoil them. But they also need that weekend off while the kids are off with the favorite aunty/uncle/gran. So they have the energy to spoil their babies.

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  24. On the tat: How about a simple, celtic trinity knot? For the three of you, intertwined?
    Great post! I realize as a mom, I have more aspirations for fun that fun in reality. Good reminders here.
    We’re going to shop for school supplies today — w00t!

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  25. Oooh, kids picture books. I love the “Scaredy Squirrel” series by Melanie Watt. Enough so that I buy them even though I’m 30 instead of 3. For older kids I really like Robin McKinley’s books. I think she’s best known for her two re-tellings of the Beauty and the Beast story but she’s also done a number of other legend/fairy tale retellings and other stories told in similar styles. While the language is youth appropriate the themes are plenty adult (if you know what she’s talking about) and she assumes the reader is intelligent.

    Favorite kid joke:
    Q. How many ears did Davy Crockett have?
    A. Three. His left ear, his right ear, and his (hand held facing out on forehead, wiggling fingers) wiiiiiild front-ear.

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    1. Love Robin McKinley for both adolescents and grownups. She’s probably a little old for Light, but Sweetness is the right age for the Beauty & the Beast retellings (Beauty, Rose Cottage), and in a couple years should be about the right age for Hero & the Crown, The Blue Sword, Door in the Hedge, Outlaws of Sherwood, Knot in the Grain and Dragonhaven. Deerskin is a too adult until about 15, I think, and ditto Sunshine (though Sunshine is great for adults — you Buffy-lovers would LOVE it, although it does make you awfully hungry for baked goods).

      L.M. Montgomery’s books have been my comfort reads since I was about 11. I’ve read every one, including the short story collections, at least 5 times.

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      1. I still reread my first copy of Beauty. I think it’s why I studied Latin. I love McKinley.

        Also, Wrede gets another rec from me. Maybe I’ll dress up as Cinmorene for Halloween this year. No one would get it, but it’d be fun…

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  26. You can line the Littlest Petshop animals along the top of your mac. Not that I know this for a FACT or anything. *looks sheepish*

    Well, at least I’m not the lone adult buying them for myself. I had to stop stealing them from the kids, they were getting mad.

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    1. The LPS acoutrements are gone (read vet clinic, etc.) but the pets remain. (I seekritly saved them…)

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  27. Each Valentine’s Day, I throw a dinner party for my nieces and nephews. (or as I explained it to the 4 year old the first year, “A tea party for grownups”) It makes that occasion actually special for this single aunt.

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  28. “Sweetness is cookie haiku; Light is cookie burlesque.”

    LOL! My babies are both firmly in the “cookie burlesque” category – more is definitely more.

    I wish I had the energy and patience to enjoy my kids the way you are enjoying S&L. Keep the parties going for those of us too mired down in daily survival to be able to embrace the forest for the trees.

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  29. Lately my mail box has been a magic box. It’s been filled with a Kindle and crochet hooks and a coloring book, and I expect a yarn swift and new yarn and knitting needles to appear any day. My box swings both ways- ha!- it’s also been filled with goodies for friends who’ve been struggling emotionally and physcially as much as I have. When those packages arrive it’s a Best Day Ever for me, too, knowing that I brought a smile to a friend’s face.

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  30. This was great! I am TOTALLY stealing the nun joke. As for Tansy, well, I’ve kept 2 of my cats in decorated tins for several years, though Krissie’s locket rocks that out of the park.

    Unicorn pee. Hee, hee, hee.
    I think we should all be cookie burlesque at some point

    I am a total school supplies whore. Was just in Target the other day and had to physically (OK, it was really a mental pull as I was alone at the time…except for the voices, of course) pull myself away to keep from loading up the cart. Sooo tempting. And I don’t even have kids! So no easy excuses to stock up.

    My mom had miniature instruments when we were kids – drums, finger castanets, a recorder, stuff like that – and we would dance around the living room playing our instruments to whatever she played on the cassette player. This time, in girls’ lives especially, is so precious. It’s a wonderful thing to not only participate but to facilitate and encourage these awesome moments of joy.

    Panda gang bang. You kill me.

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  31. JanLo – can I steal your label – “Sparkly memories”? I just love that and it so exactly sums up what little kids need and want.

    I’ve been a single mom to 2 daughters for the last 4+years now. It sucked at first, but after a while, we started finding our way.

    One of the things I’ve been seriously working on the last few years is helping us all build “sparkly memories”. Not everything about childhood – even in single parent families – should have to be hard work. FUN is iimportant and can be found in inexpensive ways as well as well worth it extravagant ways like trips to Disneyland! with tax refunds and King Tut exhibit weekends after a 4 hour road trip.

    Go forth and ENJOY the children in your life. Soak up some of the exuberance and dance in your living room to songs you don’t know! It’ll be OK!

    (There was a discount sale on exclamation points. I bought extra and put them in the closet.)

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    1. Marcia,
      Certainly you can use ‘sparkly memories’. Make a bunch of them. Your children and your friends will pass them forward!

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  32. Here’s a party idea for you: We’re too old and tired to go to a “real” Drive-In Theater, so we have “Teeny-tiny Drive-In” night. We bring blankets out, sit in lawn chairs, and watch movies on the laptop in the back yard. For some weird reason the teenagers like it. (I utilize pc speakers to augment the sound)Sometimes Target sells plastic “Popcorn” cups- they look like the old time popcorn boxes, while with red stripes; they have them in the dollar section when you walk in the door ( at least at ours…) I have styrafoam cups/lids from Sams Club we fill with soda (or wine works well for the adults in the group too) and we hand out candy bars or movie size boxes of Raisinettes or Sweet-Tarts you can get at Walmart.

    It’s stupid and cheesey but the kids love it. My 15 yo’s friends ask when we’re doing it again.

    Plus it gets you out of the house. Sort of.

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    1. Oh, I love this idea! I used to work at a drive-in . . . you could have “dinner” theater and serve hot dogs and popcorn (-:. Heck, I could do that!

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  33. Oh, this was such fun to read!! And you are so great, giving the girls and their mom so much to make things a little better for them… Magic Box–snort!

    And Taffy–wow. My MIL has her dad in a box in the closet. When he first passed away, we happened to be living there–my girls were 2 and 4 years old at the time. When she came home from the mortuary, I asked where Grandpa was. She told me they had a nice conversation on the way hime and that he was presently sitting in the chair at the dining room table. My youngest was eyeing the box with some curiousity and I had visions of DustBusting Gramps off the floor so I turned to my MIL and said as calmly as possible “Don’t you think it would be better to put Grandpa somewhere a little more safe, like at the TOP OF THE CLOSET, before the kids decide to take him out and play with him?!!” She blinked and said “Oh” like that hadn’t occurred to her. *sigh* That’s what happens when you don’t live with children any more… My husband’s step brother has also visited us, albeit posthumously. His sister coupldn’t babysit one weekend (there was a custody battle over his ashes, I kid you not) because it just weirded her out to have him there, so I told her to bring him on over. Frank stayed in my closet for few days. I was fine with it–perfect house guest. Hardly knew he was there! *grin*

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  34. Damn, the woman can write. Between sniffing and giggling and thinking I should call my children, I realized children and knock-knock jokes have been sadly lacking in my life lately. And now I can’t get that song that goes “turn around and they’re grown” out of my head, and it’s making me sniffle again. Sweetness and Light are lucky to be surrounded by so much love and acceptance, Taffy was lucky to have a sister like Krissie. (And I think I’m going to buy purse necklaces for my sisters — and hint.) This was a wonderful, wonderful post, and I feel a lot better about buying those Hello Kitty sparkly pens and their new cherry-twins notecards now! And, oh, don’t think the Hello Kitty/Littlest Pet Shop thing ever passes. My daughter is 26 and still drags me to the Sanrio store whenever I see her. And she got me a set of Littlest Pets with raccoons (my favorites, next to dogs)!

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  35. How come you get Magic Boxes and glitter pens and I get, “I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, and this is how it goes! I know a song that gets on …..” over and over and over at the top of their lungs? Oh right, I’ve got two loud boys who crack themselves up. Of course, they crack me up too.

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    1. I got that song on the 250 mile return trip this weekend… but it was okay, I parried with “The Song That Never Ends” and won the coup using “I’m Henry The 8th I Am.”

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      1. Nice! I’m going to steal your moves and maybe throw in a little “John Jacob Jingleheimer Scmidt” just to prove that you can never out-annoy a determined mother!

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        1. “…bottles of beer on the wall” do it to me every. single. time. Also the Brady Bunch Theme.

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          1. “Are we there yet” from the mouth of a three year old. Only instead of getting upset (ok, I got a little upset after the 10th time 5 minutes into a 2 hour car ride) I kept asking her if we were there yet. Over, and over, and over and after long bouts of silence, over. Thankfully that killed her need to ask!

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  36. I was reminded of getting my ears pierced. I was very afraid – but at age 29 and the mother of 3 I though I could handle it. I dropped the oldest off at school, the middle child at preschool and went to the mall. I sat on a stool with my baby girl on my lap, theorizing that I wouldn’t throw my arms up if I screamed.

    I handled it even with one ear at a time. My baby girl is now 35 and can’t wear pierced earrings because of allergies.

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  37. Misspiggy don’twannabe – You did better than I did. I finally got the nerve to get my ears pierced when I was 55! Tattoos are starting to intrigue me, too.

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  38. My sister and I had our ears pierced at home. Mom used the needle from a glass syringe (she’s a retired RN) and numbed our ears with ice. We wore little pieces of clear plastic from an old Fullers hair brush that she had sterilized in rubbing alcohol until the holes healed. The holes are much smaller and evenly placed when compared to the additional piercings we’ve both had since then.

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  39. I dearly hope you do experiment with writing YA fiction for girls the field is almost wide open it seems when I got to do readers advisory for my 10 year old. She writes and illustrates her own stories just like your sweetness. I second the recommendation for Dear Mrs. LaRue by Mark Teague it will tickle your funny bone. Ike is so snarky and the illustrations are very telling. Also if you never have, give the Avatar cartoon series a chance. It is probably one of the best series ever it is a favorite of our whole family. Thanks for the great post your weekend sounds heavenly.

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  40. Jenny,
    That was the most charming, heart-warming, joyess blog I have read in a long, long time. I’m so happy for you and Lani and Sunshine and Light. You have obviously made a home full of love.

    I would have liked to live in a house like that growing up, and I would have liked to have had a mother who understood me like you and Lani understand Sunshine and Light. Blessings to you all.

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  41. What a fantastic account. Love your saturday parties and magic box. I kind of have a magic box full of mcdonalds happy meal toys and other similarly sized things, but I rarely have kids over.

    I also got my ears pierced when I was 7. I remember wanting to so badly. Mom made me wait until my birthday. I don’t think I ever felt more adult than I did on the way in to get my ears pierced, exactly 30 years ago this week. It’s amazing to me what I do/don’t remember about those years, but that memory is clear. I remember the hurt but I think I was trying to be brave and didn’t scream. I remember learning to care for my ears as they healed. I remember finding out that stainless caused fewer problems than gold. Later on in life, I found out that face toner is a fantastic tool for cleaning pierced ears – it cleans without dehydrating.

    Anyhow. Congrats on all the fun. Having good people in your life adds more years than quitting smoking does, so the studies say. I had rainbow blinds (10 of each color) when 7. Now I’ve got bamboo. Maybe I should get me some glitter curtains.

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  42. OMG unicorns pee? I knew they drank tequila but PEE? I think my childhood is now over. Sorta.

    On the other hand, sequined curtains? SQUEE!! Where can I get them? I need more sequins. Never enough sequins.

    I LOVE how Krissie is using that locket – it’s perfect. After all, the best parties are the ones where you get to dance with everybody you love. Even better when they’re physically in the room with you πŸ˜‰

    My mother and I got our ears pierced together, I think when I was in second grade. She made me go first so I didn’t dare show that it hurt or she would have backed out. I totally feel for Light, poor sweetie.

    May your lives always be full of cookie haiku and cookie burlesque and much dancing and laughter.

    BTW, good gallery of Celtic designs, many simple triad sorts of things, can be found at http://www.luckyfish.com. Pat Fish did both my and The Prince’s tattoos, and has lots of pretty flash up that might give you some ideas. (Including my tattoo, which I wasn’t happy about as that’s my design, but I probably missed the fine print somewhere.)

    PS – I have been scrupulously avoiding any back-to-school sales in an attempt to reign in my office supply fetish. Also because the Sparkly is a huge distraction from writing. Last week’s 90 minute meander through Office Depot where Money Was Spent doesn’t count. So thank you so very much for the reminder that there are office supplies out there I am missing out on. I clearly need a Magic Box. *sniff*

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    1. Long ago I worked in the office at a car dealership. Part of my job was to order the office supplies. I can only compare it to a Porn fan running the projector at a XXX movie house… I got “Stationarygasms” when the order would arrive πŸ˜‰

      (beautiful flash on that site, BTW, thanks for the heads up)

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  43. Panda gang bang…LOL!
    Thanks for a marvellous post. There’s a hardly used word that I think is apt.

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  44. I have read this post several times. I, too, wish that I could come and spend time in your household. I especially like the Saturday parties. I also am a nut about office supplies. Forget bonuses–I’ll take colored binder clips, paper clips, and file folders. Nasty corporate america won’t buy the gel pens of my choice, so I have to shell out for my own at Staples. Believe me, no one ever walks away with one of my pens. Give me a Staples catalog, and I will pour over it for hours, oohing and aahing. Probably why they don’t let me near a catalog. Sigh.

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  45. I’m unmarried with children and some days it’s hard, really hard, but then my father raised me with an idea that I pull out when things start to get ugly. What is the point of having children if you don’t enjoy them? It also helps that a coloring book and crayons are the best form of therapy ever made. A mess can be cleaned up. The question: Why not? can give the “adult” in me courage that kids always seem to have a limitless amount of. Before I know it, they’ll be gone and the house will be too quiet. So, I just say welcome to the Mad House.

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  46. I’m always late to the fun! Jenny, I hope you’re journaling EVERYTHING, because that’s a book I want to read, and I’m declaring this the BEST RANDOM SUNDAY EVER!!!

    Shirley Jackson wrote a couple of books about her family that are my hands down favorites for resparking the glow in my heart when I’m really down. The first is Life Among the Savages, the second is Raising Demons. In them are most of the short stories Jackson wrote about her kids, and they are fabulous, hilarious, and occasionally eerie. Fifties family life with an edge. And sarcasm.

    Speaking of Shirley Jackson, they just announced Michael Douglas has started production on “We Have Always Lived in the Castle”. I hope they don’t screw it up. Also, the 2008 Shirley Jackson Awards were announced last month. Here’s hoping Wild Ride is one of the 2010 winners!

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  47. There are bits of sparkly gold in this post. It brought back some wonderful memories: my first book memory: Through the Looking Glass, sitting on my Dad’s lap while he read to me. Grocery shopping with my mom, she would always pick up a little pad of different colored paper for each of us. Sitting in the car with my dad waiting for mom to finish shopping, and then sneaking us across the street for an ice cream. Good memories. I was one lucky kid. I need to tell them that. At 82 & 92, they need to know. Thanks for a lovely post.

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  48. Hi
    thanks for sharing. This made me laugh. I still get the Knock, knock – banana thing. πŸ™‚ As well as jokes that make no sense to me but make the kids laugh uncontrollably. I just shrug. They don’t always get my sarcastic remarks either. My husband continually forgets that sarcasm is lost on children. I would love to do the Saturday party. The only problem is that we are lucky to eat by 8pm these days. We are harvesting like crazy and preserving as quickly as we can. We usually look up and say “oh crap we need to fix dinner.” LOL

    Have a great time with the kids.
    Take care!
    Kate

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  49. Oh, JENNY! That was one of the longest and most delightful of your posts. See what kids do for you? More, more, more, she hollered.

    Warmly,
    Gayle

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