The Graceful Chicken's Reading List, 2013

So, I only read a couple of other bloggers online. I am choosy, to be sure, as time does not seem to be cutting me any slack. At any rate, at the beginning of each year most of those bloggers clearly state what books they intend on reading throughout the year. Some even go as far as telling you which months they will be reading what books and invite you to read them and discuss them at the end of the month. It's an extremely hyper-organized world out there. I apparently fall terribly short.

But, I do read a lot. And while I have never said much about books here, I thought this year I would at least give you a glimpse of what is on my reading list for the year. I can do that this year because 1) I bought myself a bunch of books for Christmas (You're welcome, Self!) and 2) Kurt made me clean out our entire wall of books in the homework room on Christmas day (yay for the three hours of panic as I stacked and sorted, whined and re-shelved some of the hundreds of books we have been holding onto all these years....really, who needs an outdated Biology book or a second copy of Candide? Come on, Karen!) Needless to say, I have a lot of books that I intend on getting to this year. If you happen to see one you might like, let me know and we can chat about it in about 16 years or so.

The Graceful Chicken's Reading List, 2013
(In no particular order because that would require a level of organization that I simply don't posses!)

*Listening for the Heartbeat of God, A Celtic Spirituality - J. Philip Newell
(Already started this one and am really loving it! It is a refreshing look at an alternative understanding of Christian spirituality, one that was long ago voted out but merits being re-embraced.)

*Buddy (How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man) - Brian McGrory
(The title called to me for some peculiar reason....)

*The Dark Night of the Soul - St. John of the Cross

*An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith - Barbara Brown Taylor

*The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times - Pema Chodron

*Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith - Anne Lamott

*The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
(Only because someone told me once that I needed more easy reading. Thanks for the reminder, Dawn!)

*The Clash of Kings - George R. R. Martin

*Simplicity: Finding Peace by Uncluttering Your Life - Kim Thomas

*Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life - Emily P. Freeman
(I know this is a January book as I will be working through it with my mom's group.)

*Here and Now: Living in the Soul - Henri J. M. Nouwen

*it sucked and then i cried: how i had a baby, a breakdown, and a much needed margarita - heather b. armstrong (creator of dooce.com, one of the few blogs I read because she is usually super funny.)

*Hansons Marathon Method: A Renegade Path to Your Fastest Marathon - Luke Humphrey
(Although I am still uncertain about training for Boston, I am gathering some better info to prep for the next race I run, whatever it may be.)

*Chi Running - Danny Dreyer
(I am hoping I can decrease the chances of further injury by changing my form a bit.....this is much more difficult than I had once thought.)

Well dear readers, that should get me through January. I will update you next month. Only kidding! While there will surely be more, and some I am reading through with Kurt, I think this is a good start for now as I still have kids to raise, a house to manage, workouts and physical therapy to do, training to begin, students to teach, music to practice, etc., etc.....

Happy Reading!


Christmas Superlatives 2012

Best Overall Gift: Solomon's vacuum! The kid has been vacuuming non-stop for four days.....I awake to hear the vacuum going every morning. Such a beautiful sound: someone else cleaning! And bonus: Cleanest floors we've ever had (well, until he figured out he should throw crumbled stuff on the floor to have something to vacuum up).

Best Forgotten Gift: The car battery charger I bought myself for $70 at Costco. I forgot about it and left it still boxed in the back of my truck. The day after Christmas, I needed to run into the grocery store to pick up meat for pizza sauce. Kurt stayed in the car with the kids. Ten minutes (and five bags full of food) later, I came running back out to a dead battery. Kurt didn't realize that even though I replace the car battery every two years (something about kids leaving doors open, lights on, tough winters, etc.) you can't listen to the radio in my truck without the engine running. Anyway, as I was grumbling under my breath, I remembered my "gift" in the back. As luck would have it, it was fully charged! Two minutes later, we were on the road again. BEST. PRESENT. EVER. (Almost.)

Most Sung Songs: Have a Solly Jolly Christmas and Deck the Halls (with Boughs of Solly)

Best (and by best I mean worst) Gift Idea: The Family Band: Bass guitar for Aidan, keyboard for Madeline, electric guitar for Lilly, a Toca drum for Liam, a tambourine for Solly and a couple cheap mics to round it all out. "And then, oh the noise! Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!" (I think the Grinch was on to something!) As if they needed anything to make them LOUDER! I may invest in Tylenol stock. And maybe Advil. And Bayer. And perhaps get some noise canceling earplugs.....or a new house to live in until the kids move out of this one.....good job, self.

Most Predictable Edible Gifts: The huge pack of Mac-N-Cheese Lilly has been requesting every year for three years now and the big box of Sees chocolates Kurt gives me every year (that last me through March, at which point I hang my head low and go into withdrawal from my one-a-day habit and wonder why I shouldn't just replace them midway through the year).

Most Appreciated Healthy Gift: My brother and his wife sent a big box of Florida oranges. Now, we had just bought a huge box of CA navels from a kid down the street as part of a fundraiser. They were disappointingly TERRIBLE! Enter the box of Florida Oranges that included Navel, Red Naval, Tangelos, and Tangerines. The taste testing was a fantastic hit and we have decided to follow the wise advice of: "Get your citrus from FL and leave the wine for CA." So true!

Most Well-Used Practical Gift: A few months back Kurt's folks gave us an early Christmas gift: a gigantic upright freezer. Who knew that something like that could make such a huge difference to a family of 7 (Yay for frozen desserts ALL THE TIME! Just kidding...) Now, I just have to figure out this "Freezer-Cooking" thing!

Coolest Gadget Gift: I found a company, RC Helicopter Select, that makes vehicles you can control with your iPod/iPad/iPhone. Madeline received the iSpy Tank. It has a built in camera so she can see everything the tank sees (up to 20 meters away) and can take videos and pictures. Great for spying on siblings in other rooms. (Because THAT is a necessity.) Liam received the little race car that he can control with his iPod. It can even go up the walls. Not very useful mind you, but quite novel and very cool, at least until it falls off the wall (or Solly rams it with his vacuum) and it dies.

Scariest Gift: Santa re-gifted a rather large boxing ring bounce house that we dutifully blew up mid-morning to show Solly what Santa had brought him. He immediately hid behind a couch and wouldn't come out until the thing was deflated. Some gifts are just like that I suppose. (Thanks for the terrifying gift Deb!)

Worst Christmas Moment: I was putting a load of the laundry into the dryer (no I don't know why I was doing laundry on Christmas, it just happened!) when out fell Aidan's iPod. Cleanest, non-working iPod you'll ever see. So shiny and dead. But wait....Lo and behold, after sitting in a bag of dry rice for 48 hours, the thing actually still works. Merry Christmas, Aidan! (So much for the long lecture of being more careful and responsible for ones possessions!)

Most Heartwarming Moment: As I was putting the kids down on Christmas night, Aidan called me back in and said, "Mom, we forgot to say a special prayer for Jesus today. Can you say one right now?" And so we did. And I once again learned from my child: even kids seek meaning for their lives beyond the surface of their material world.

May the rest of your year be merry and bright, making way for a New Year that bursts forth with  wondrous love, quiet moments and all the meaning your heart could possibly desire.


The Night Before The Night Before Christmas

"'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse....."

We all know how the poem goes. We all know the calm and peaceful scene that is set before us. Everything wrapped and ready. Everything in its place. Everyone fast asleep. No kids tossing and turning and whining and waking in the middle of the night. No trips to the bathroom. "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse!" A great hush amidst the anticipation.

Obviously written by a man. Or at least by someone who purposefully skipped over the night before the night before Christmas. You see, I know my family is not alone in the mad scurry that happens this time of year. Usually it is nonstop for weeks around here. There is dashing and dancing, but not from any reindeer. And it all falls down to one night: the night before Christmas, when parents all over the country are up to the wee hours of the morning, working like crazy to make sure everything is wrapped and ready and in its place. And if Christmas Eve is calm and relaxed like in that beloved poem, then that mad dash had to happen previously, right?

Well, this year I took a different approach to Christmas. Why all that hustle and bustle? Usually by now, my cards have been sent, cookies have been baked and frosted, I've hosted a party or two, been to a few others, twisted time in order to be at three kids' winter parties at once (while still magically caring for the other two), hosted a recital, practiced violin for Christmas Eve, all while doing some sort of advent study, reading and writing and who knows what else.

This year was different. And thankfully so as I spent the last week managing a house with several different icky viruses going through it. Kurt had the flu, Madeline had a stomach bug, Liam had a combination of both, Lilly and Aidan are sporting lovely coughs and Solly is now chasing his nose all over as it constantly runs down his face. Good, good times.

Today, as I pondered what still needed to be done, I realized that I still need to somehow scrunch everything but the shopping into the next 24 hours. And yet I sit here in the great hush, awaiting the excitement of tomorrow, the day before Christmas. And I am calm. Because I have a constant reminder in my heart of the meaning behind it all. (Hint: the craziness is not it.) And I don't intend to do it all. And maybe because everyone else is asleep! (Woo hoo! It's ME time!) And because I managed to clean out our pantry today. And now I have a place to crawl into and hide for the next two, long, kids-out-of-school weeks. Unless of course I make it to the grocery store tomorrow and then I am stuck having to suck it up and do what good moms all over the country do at winter break: take a deep breath and remind myself that these are the best of times, they don't last forever, hold on tight and enjoy the ride. Oh, and lock the kids outside. They really need some fresh winter air.

Here's to a calm and peaceful Christmas. May your joy be full. May love abound.

Merry Christmas.


Moment of Pause

This morning, all across America parents hugged their children a little longer, a little more tightly. We held back tears of sorrow and fear as we put children on busses, or drove them to school and watched them go. Our hearts wept for those who lost their sons and daughters, their wives and friends. And as we mourn the lives lost, we also mourn once more for the loss of our illusion that this world is safe, that our schools are safe havens, that our children are somehow protected from the evils that we know exist.

"Mom, why are you standing outside with us at the bus stop in your pajamas," my kids wanted to know as I hopped out of my usual seated position in the warm car to hold them close to me just a moment more.

How can I tell them of the heartache spread deep across our country today? How could I ever explain? What kind of answers can I give to their questions, the same questions I have wrestled with for night after sleepless night? Questions with no answers.

In the wake of the CT tragedy, we easily get lost in darker places. People have turned atheist for far less. Nothing anyone can say or do, write or preach can make it right. And even those of great faith take pause: Where was God? Where was God on Friday morning as those parents thought they were sending their children off to just another ordinary day? And why didn't this most powerful and all-loving Creator step up to the plate and prevent such a horrific scene from unfolding? We shout it in our hearts, the swell of anger at God, questioning why He failed to show up for work that day. And those who normally bear loud witness to the glory of God, go silent. Why? Why not express doubt in troubling times? Why not disclose our anger, our disappointment? Why not share with the world the inner turmoil that takes place even in the hearts of the faithful?

Our questions about God's inaction remain unanswered. We are a creation given free will, each containing within us the potential for both ultimate good and ultimate evil. Yet in the inner most depths of our hearts, we often wish for more: more miracles, more immediate actions that point to an ever present and vigilantly armed God, a God at the ready, a God who will not let a single act of evil prevail.  In our despair, we may even think we want more smiting. But God, God is sometimes still. God is sometimes silent. Or maybe our angst and sorrow are too loud to let Him through. If we are most honest, we can admit that it is a grueling and unsettling act of faith to believe in a God who at times seems blatantly apathetic. As an impatient child of God, I want to know the answers right now, this very minute. Yet, as a parent I realize that sometimes there are no good answers, sometimes the child is simply not ready. I recognize God's silence. It's all too familiar.

But if there is anything we learn from those who have born witness before us, it is that God is present, even in the midst of such tragedies. That God was there, God is here now. God is always. God loves the victims, the survivors; those who mourn and grieve, and yes, that same God that loves you and me has a love big enough to surround even those who commit such heinous acts. While we struggle to understand and to forgive, God's love remains and with great love, He weeps. Because at the end of the day, we are all children of the same Creator and as a good parent does, God mourns the loss that took place in the heart of that lost soul long before these events occurred and He mourns for the lives of the victims, and their families and for all of us.

While we may be left wondering why we believe and how we can go on trusting in One who does not seem to care enough to act out loud, we come to see God: In the teachers who told their students that they loved them, in case that would be the last thing they heard. In the staff who shielded students from bullets. In those who rushed at a gun-weilding man in the off chance they could prevent what was to come. In the faces of children whose only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In all those, in the coming weeks and months, who will bear the burden of loss with those who mourn. God will tend to the basic needs, to the survivors, the families and the community through the hands of those serving one another.

We may be unsettled, shaken, and tiptoeing around the shattered pieces of our own faith, yet we know that there is truth in the sermon being preached all over the country: evil will not prevail. If we are struggling to see how, we, of many faiths, must do as those have done for generations before us: find strength in the believers of old.  When our faith teeters on the edge of unbelief, and we are tempted to jump ship, we must rely on the faith of our fore-fathers and mothers, of Moses and Abraham, Sarah and Hannah, Job, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph.... And when we wonder why we bother praying when our prayers seem to go unanswered, we pause and recall Jesus who went to a lonely place and prayed and wept. And so we, too, pray. And in that prayer we find stillness where it did not exist just moments before. And in the stillness, God.

May we hold on to the morsels of our faith so that God can begin the rebuilding, just as He has done before and will do again, in us and in our world. Let there be peace on earth, friends. And let it begin with us.


The Art of Gift Giving (or Lack Thereof) (Part 3)

As you may have noticed, gift giving is not my strong suit. And I knew that this year would be no different when I realized that half of the presents coming from Santa this year were hand-me-downs from a fantastic friend who has saved Christmas at least twice now. (Thanks Deb!)

And then, I realized just how bad I had become when I was thinking about Solomon, not quite two, and what he might want for Christmas. I had originally thought I would get him a toy vacuum because he is totally obsessed with ours. And then I saw a cool, cordless Electrolux at Costco for only $70 and I thought, "Wait a second, why not cash in on his obsessiveness and get him to do a little cleaning while he plays?" But I ended up passing because that seems like an awful lot to spend on a kid who may very well be scared to death of vacuums next month.

Then, when we were at Target yesterday, Kurt and I, awesome parents that we are, managed to lose Solomon. Where did we find him, you ask? In the vacuum section of course. And that is when I saw this super cheap Dirt Devil Stick Vac on sale for only $20 and get this, it comes with a super long cord, which is his favorite part of course! SCORE! (Target saves me again! Thanks, BFF!)

And that is when it hit me, I just bought a real vacuum, with a super long cord, for my 23 month old child, I TOTALLY need to write my own parenting book because you never see THAT idea in any of them. And what a brilliant one it is, you know, if you don't get too caught up on safety and other such nonsense. I mean seriously, they make play ovens for kids, how much worse can a stick vac really be? (Maybe for a stocking stuffer we'll get him some rubber boots, you know, to appease the grandparents.)

And so dear readers, the moral of this thread is, don't trust me with your gift ideas. Unless you have a two year old; then I've totally got you covered!


The Art of Gift Giving (or Lack Thereof) (Part 2)

Gift giving to children is an entirely different cup of tea. You see, with kids, there is very little anxiety because when you give a gift to a child, you can usually tell exactly how they feel about it. They are super excited to open it and for the most part happy to get a gift, whatever it may be. And even if they really like it, they are likely to fling it aside and go off to play in the snow anyway so no pressure to find the "perfect gift."

And the best part, if they get all snooty and complain that it "isn't what they wanted" you get to give them a lecture about how they should be grateful because there are kids in Africa who don't even have food to eat, much less a crayon to play with. And when they still act so entitled, you can tell them about your grandparents and how they had to walk up that ice covered hill just to get to their stockings and then you could ask:

"You know what their stockings were stuffed with? Grapefruit and Oranges, that's what. 

And do you think they complained? No, they didn't.

Do you know why? No, not because they loved citrus. They didn't complain because they were super hungry and they knew if they complained about the citrus acid being too much for their empty tummies and how they were really hoping for toys instead that the fairy in charge of ungrateful children would come into their rooms that night and steal all their belongings so that they'd have to go to school the next day in only their underwear and coat and when the teacher asked why they wouldn't take their coat off they would have to admit to their selfish ways and everyone would shake their heads and not want to play with them ever again. Because they knew that they only had one pair of underwear and it was probably dirty!

So, how do you like the broken red crayon I gave you now? Yeah, it does totally rock. You're welcome." 

And then next year, you can give them the blue one to create a matched set. And if they complain then, I highly recommend you take back the crayons and tell them you will get them something else. Then take five minutes to hand-make a card, complete with your handprint on it, draw on some eyes and a nose because obviously they think THAT is the best gift ever, five years straight....
Gift-giving to children is a piece of cake. As long as you are willing to go that extra mile. 


The Art of Gift Giving (or Lack Thereof) (Part 1)

Around this time every year I start to recognize that some people are simply natural gift givers. You know the ones; they always seem to get it right. They don't even have to know you very well but they pick up on your intricacies and even the smallest gift is about as perfect as you could have imagined. It's as if they put in hours and hours of contemplation (which they don't because they are naturals!) on what that one perfect thing would be and then they make it happen with ease and grace. And it never breaks their bank because they always know where the best deals are. And sometimes they already have the perfect item on hand. Because they are psychic. Which is why I think we should go on a witch hunt and get rid of them all. Or at least ban them from the holidays because honestly people, YOU MAKE THE REST OF US LOOK BAD!

No, I am only kidding. But unfortunately, I happen to dance around in another category of gift givers. And not the in-between, so-so gift giver category. No, try as I might, I am a terrible gift giver. A creature of habit, there are some people who have received the same thing from me every year for almost a decade (like the calendars I make for the grandfolk...is that even a word? While it is tedious and time consuming, I don't have to think about it. I just know what I am going to do and eventually I find an hour in the middle of the night, around December 27th, to get it done....every few years I even manage to surprise them and get it to them before the New Year begins! And so I feel accomplished.....See? I am a terrible gift giver!)

At any rate, I finally figured out why this is. You see, while the old saying goes, "It's the thought that counts," for some of us, it is the very act of thinking about gifts  (or anything really) that is the core of the problem. We don't have a lot of time for thinking beyond the moment, the day to day stuff that is so darn demanding of us. And when we do finally find that moment (likely in the middle of the night, perhaps cleaning kid puke off a bathroom floor before accidentally sticking our heads through a wall) it is quite likely ridden with anxiety.

What does that person like/need/want? What can I get them that they don't already have? What can I afford? After all, I could quickly find myself in the Best Gift Giver EVER category if I had unlimited resources or even only one person to buy for! And finally, there is the fear that they will have to fein excitement or appreciation over the worst present ever! I am just crossing my fingers that my poor gift giving skills never come face to face with someone with terrible receiving skills. Then, feeling really bad, I will offer to buy them a pony or a Ferrari, whichever they want more. It kind of eases things over, ya know? (At least until I ask if I can borrow their credit card!)

So that is why Target and I have become best friends because who can't use a Target Gift Card? It's like the best do-it-yourself gift ever, or at least tied with Coffee Shop, iTunes, Amazon and Wine Store Gift Cards.  And if that person lives out in the boonies, hours away from the closet gas station much less a Target, well all they have to do is hop online and BAM! Still the best gift ever. And if they don't have access to the internet well, then they can give it back and take the pony. (That jerk.....I can call them that because without internet, they will never read this.....)

See what I mean?


Chicken Gifts

In case you need a gift idea for your pet chicken, might you consider this Hobbit Hole Chicken Coop? It's a little pricey (like $2800 pricey) but never fear, it ships for free! (Phew, I was so worried I would have to pay extra for shipping! See Kurt? I'm a crazy good shopper!)

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of seeing all my random chicken paraphernalia, I just posted a page About My Chickens. Check it out if you have a free minute or feel like wasting one or if you are desperate for gift ideas for that chicken lover in your house!


Mad Housewife

No, silly readers, this post's title is not talking about me. Baggage is not coming out of the closet; dirty laundry will remain out of sight and nothing is coming home to roost (although, Kurt did just get back from a trip so perhaps I am mistaken about the roosting part). Trust me, if I were spilling my less than savory details of homemaking, it would most likely be in person over a nice glass bottle of wine. And I know the perfect one.

Enter Mad Housewife

For those of you who like a good, cheap bottle of wine, this Cabernet Sauvignon could very well fit your bill. (If you are scratching your head wondering how 'cheap' and 'good' can describe the same bottle, and were looking for a review that gives you more than name, color, price and a thumb up or down, feel free to go away by clicking here because this is most likely not the right blog for you!)

At any rate, a friend was coming over to tell me about how her boyfriend of three years dumped her and so I bought a bunch of wines for her to choose from. She chose this one because of the name, which is, of course, why I bought it in the first place. (Clever wine maker!) At around $8 a bottle, it was what I'll call a just right red. Nothing fancy. Nothing too notable. And we easily finished the entire thing over dinner, dessert and discussion (with a handful of kid interruptions in between).

For more info on this and other Mad Housewife Wines, click here

Got a good, cheap wine to share with us? Feel free to add a comment below! Otherwise, just have a great week!


Happy Hanukkah

This morning I glanced at my calendar to see Hanukkah Begins. I immediately started dancing the hora in my head and skipped over to dig out our dreidel. The kids picked up on my giddiness and excitedly inquired about what was going on.

"It's Hanukkah," I explained. "Time to celebrate!"

"But Mom," they said, looking confused. "We aren't Jewish." (Shoot, maybe I need to pay more attention at church! Seriously though, I had to smile because, yay, my kids knew it was a Jewish holiday!)

"Well, that is true. But it doesn't mean we can't join in the festivities. After all, it wasn't our birthday last week when we celebrated with your cousin and we celebrate Christmas which isn't our birthday either. If we are all children of God, then why not rejoice with our brothers and sisters and share in their celebrations of God and his triumphs?" (Plus, Solomon gets to wear his yarmulkas and who doesn't love that? Except for possibly Solomon....)

I bounced around singing the song I learned in elementary school 30 years ago, when schools didn't get sued for including the word God in stuff:

'Tis the week of Hanukkah good tidings we're bringing,
This holiday we celebrate with dancing and singing,
Gather round together the hora we'll do,
Then we'll sing the song that our forefathers knew.
Hush now, and come now, the candles we'll light one by one,
Then we'll tell stories of God and his glory and how precious freedom was won.

(Or something like that.) The kids watched with something like glee on their faces.

My thoughts drifted upward as we went about preparing for church. How would our world look if we all regularly rejoiced with one another? If we were to recognize our sameness and unity in creation rather than focusing so much on our differences and uniqueness?

When we lived in CA, I excitedly participated in Diwali, the Festival of Lights, with my Indian friends. I learned about Eid from my Pakistani students; I marched in the head of the dragon for a Chinese New Year parade in my classroom. We lifted up and exalted God through the very act of celebrating with one another, of celebrating each other.

As we continue in this time of Advent, preparing for Christmas to come into our hearts once more, why not rejoice in the whole big shebang? Joy is worth sharing with all God's children, whatever our beliefs may be. And really, who doesn't like a good reason to party? (My Red Solo Cups are always at the ready....how 'bout you?)

P.S. Please don't mention to my kids that the Hanukah tradition also include eight nights of gift giving....eight nights, five kids....it might just break the bank!

P.P.S. Here's a fun Hanukkah song to lighten your day. Or if you prefer the original SNL version, click here.


The Article (Part Two)

Shortly after being interviewed for the article in Southwest Metro Magazine, I was contacted about doing a photo shoot. They wanted to take pictures of me cooking with my kids. Just about nothing could be farther from my comfort zone than being photographed for a magazine, except maybe being photographed for a magazine with five kids while we pretend to be doing something we aren't actually doing while getting everyone to not only behave but smile like they mean it. (It's amazing how kids can be so completely excited about their mom's worst nightmare.)

Imagine how that photo shoot went. It was EXACTLY. LIKE. THAT! For a full hour. Good, good times.

Actually, after the initial phone call with the photographer, low grade panic set in as I questioned: How can this be an authentic picture when they want me to cook with my kids for an article on stress management? Seriously! Managing stress means NEVER COOKING WITH CHILDREN! At least in my house and with my kids. How can you be authentic when the very nature of the picture is not realistic? And to complicate matters, what does a person who only wears jeans and/or workout clothes wear for a magazine picture? I started having images of me in yoga clothes doing funky yoga poses while the kids tried knocking me over. Now THAT would have been authentic!

And I had very little help from Kurt. The conversations went something like this:

"Kurt, what am I supposed to do for clothes and hair?"

"Whatever you want. Just don't do that alien hair," he said.

I was about to argue that if I am to be me then the pig-tail knots in the back of my head is the most fitting for my personality and not really alien-like at all and then I recalled dropping off my kids in the gym childcare on Halloween. A little boy looked up at me and then, pointing my way, said to another kid, "Hey look! An alien!" Ok, maybe Kurt has a point.
Usually I don't wear the antennae...

"So, what do I do? I don't ever wear it down." (I'm still wondering why I need it at all actually.)

"Just pull it back," he suggested. "No alien knots though."

Again I wanted to argue the cute-ness of the alien hair when I remembered a conversation I had with a friend. She had tried to get her second grader to put her hair up like mine. "Look how cute it is on Karen," she said. Her daughter replied, "I am NOT wearing my hair like THAT!"

"Ok," I said in defeat.

After deciding that we would make pizza, the only meal other than pancakes that my kids actually help with, and deciding that for the sake of being me I had to go with jeans and a t-shirt, any t-shirt would do, and that the kids would wear whatever their little hearts desired, we were ready to go.

And it was fantastic despite Solly running around looking for stuff to eat and Liam announcing half way through that he was done and walking out of the kitchen only to come back when bribed with extra screen time. The very young photographer told me several times how good the kids were and how she wished all her subjects were so well behaved. I assured her I had threatened the happiness of their entire childhood if they behaved otherwise. She laughed. (I was not kidding.)

And for those of you who have made it this far and would like to see the final outcome, click here keeping in mind that the online version is only a snippet of the entire print article. Gimme a shout if you would like to see it in print. I have plenty to go around.

The Alien Hair
(Seriously, how is this not totally cute?)