Of Pie and Bravery

Thankful For Pie

I remember my first crush in Kindergarten. I also remember the first and last names of each boy I had crush on in subsequent grades up until middle school when I had THE BIG crush on one boy for like four years. He was the Winnie Cooper of my Wonder Years. I’ve had countless crushes in my life, most of whom never even knew. I suppose that is the gift of the combination of a big imagination and intermittent shots of anxiety to keep you practical.

I know some parents balk at the idea of little grade schoolers having crushes, raising eyebrows and saying how they are way too young for that, etc. But to these parents I ask, do you show your kids Disney movies? Do they relate to the main characters? Because if so, you probably introduced them to the concept of romance a long time ago and it’s really not cool to make them feel ashamed about it now.

I digress…

One of my littles has had a big crush on a boy in her class for a year and a half. Being pragmatic, she’s discussed at length with me and her sister the pros and cons of letting him know. I listen and nod and it always ends in the mutual conclusion that when considering matters of the heart it’s best to ask, “what’s the worst that could happen?” We’ve been through many scenarios: he doesn’t like you, he laughs at you, he makes fun of you, he tells everyone, etc. And each time we talk about these outcomes it becomes clear that any of those responses would prove him to be unworthy of the crush, rendering said crush null and void.

So the other day after school, she joyfully confessed to me and her sister that she TOLD HIM. I said, “Tell me everything! What did he say? What did you say?” Apparently he said thank you and then confided in her who he has a crush on. Spoiler alert: it’s not her. As she was telling me this, I watched her watching me closely for a reaction; anything to nudge her towards a way to feel about it.

I said it’s pretty great that he respected and trusted her enough to tell her a secret of his own. I saw her consider it. I added I’d rather have a friend I can trust than a crush because crushes come and go. She decided to agree.

Later she regaled our extended family about the whole thing, adding proudly, “I actually told him. So I’m braver than one thousand boys.” She knew she couldn’t control the outcome, but she could control the action. Proud momming moment.

Cut to the other night at bedtime cuddles, she gave a little sigh and said, “I don’t think any boys in my class have a crush on me.”

Mind you, I was exhausted, drifting off to sleep myself and vaguely heard myself mumble, “Babe, boys having crushes on you is like unexpected pie. It’s nice when one just shows up, but it doesn’t make sense to miss it when it’s not there. If you’re always thinking about unexpected pie you’ll always be disappointed.” This is about when I stopped myself from going on along the lines of “pie comes and goes but friendship is forever, there’s plenty of pie in the sea, a pie in the face is worth two in the…” nevermind, you get it. Thankfully we both fell asleep.

The point is, my little girl reminded me that bravery leads to truth, and sometimes the truth isn’t what you hoped. Sometimes you think how lucky you are to get an unexpected pie, but it turns out to be rhubarb and you re-evaluate the whole pie thing in general.

You can’t control the outcome of your life, only your actions.

I will leave you with one of my favorite Jack Handey quotes from when I was a kid, which has turned out to be oddly poignant at this point in my life:

Jack Handey On Pie

When Will There Be Cupcakes Again?

When I was in grade school I read Number The Stars by Lois Lowry about little girls living in Denmark during the Holocaust. Since the Nazi occupation, resources are scarce but the little sister, Kirsti, longs for a “big yellow cupcake, with pink frosting.” For some reason, I have never forgotten this detail.

My daughters both have summer birthdays so they miss out on the fanfare of having a school day birthday. Instead, we celebrate their half-birthdays. Today we celebrated my sweet Savannah sunshine’s four and a half birthday. I sat in a tiny purple chair and read a few of her favorite books to a bunch of wide-eyed, pink frosting-covered, grinning little faces.

Milestones always make me sentimental, even arbitrary ones, like a fifteen-minute preschool half-birthday party, but I genuinely believe in celebrating as much as we can, while we can.

When I was in first grade, I remember the exact moment I heard my teacher say the word “war” as it related to the Gulf War. As a Senior in high school, I remember silently watching Mrs. Goldberg scrawl the name “Osama Bin Laden” across the chalk board on September 11th. My own first grade daughter overhears words in the media like “protest” and “gender inequality” and “racism.” Though I grew up hearing about military conflicts, my own children are growing up amidst wars between all kinds of people, and it’s nearly impossible to tell if anyone is winning.

But my little four and a half year old is still blissfully unaware of such topics. She thinks the President’s name is Donald Trumpet and once asked me to help her fill out a postcard to send to the White House because she overheard concerns of people losing their rights, but she heard “writes” and surmised he was stealing crayons and various other items. For real, we actually sent a postcard we tore out of a Highlights magazine to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue asking the President to please stop taking things from people and also give Savannah her fictitious stuff back. She doesn’t worry that someday someone could come into her school with intention to hurt people for no reason. She thinks skin tones come in colors called “brown” and “blonde.” She doesn’t live in fear of friends or family being deported. She doesn’t worry that she’ll be denied an education because she’s female.

And she loves cupcakes.

So as silly as it may sound, I made these symbolic cupcakes to mark an arbitrary milestone with a bunch of preschoolers today. Because I can.

And that’s something to celebrate.

Cupcake

“Mama, is there anything to eat?”  Annemarie asked, hoping to take her mother’s mind away from the soldiers.
“Take some bread.  And give a piece to your sister.”
“With butter?” Kirsti asked hopefully.
“No butter,” her mother replied.  “You know that.”
Kirsti sighed as Annemarie went to the breadbox in the kitchen.  “I wish I could have a cupcake,” she said.  “A big yellow cupcake, with pink frosting.”
Her mother laughed.  “For a little girl, you have a long memory,” she told Kirsti.  “There hasn’t been any butter, or sugar for cupcakes, for a long time.  A year, at least.”
“When will there be cupcakes again?”
“When the war ends,” Mrs. Johansen said. 
She glanced through the window, down to the street corner where the soldiers stood, their faces impassive beneath the metal helmets.  “When the soldiers leave.”

-Lois Lowry, Number The Stars

 

Let’s Hear It 4 The Boys: Joining the #MeToo Conversation

Alternate Title: Decency Saves Lives.

Red Solo Cup

via

This is about four men I haven’t talked to in well over fifteen years. They were never particularly close friends of mine, but each played a pivotal role in my life.

The first three are Dan, Steve, and “Toga” Greg. It was the summer after I graduated high school and some girlfriends and I drove 45 minutes to attend one of Toga Greg’s house parties, as we’d done many times before. I helped myself to a solo cup of Captain Morgan and 7 Up. I left my drink with a girl when I went to use the bathroom, as you’re told to do for safety. The problem is, she didn’t watch it. It was pretty obvious to my best friend Tori that something had happened when all of a sudden I couldn’t move or speak coherently. She called our high school friend Steve who picked up our other friend Dan and drove quite a ways to come to our rescue. Most of the memories of that night are lost to me forever, except for the relief I felt looking up and realizing I was safe in Dan’s arms as he carried me out of that house party to Steve’s car. I have a few mental screen grabs of Tori, Dan, and Steve’s scared faces as I intermittently vomited and passed out on the floor of someone’s parents’ basement. I woke up the next day and went home as if nothing happened. I never said anything to Dan or Steve about it, and they never said anything about it to me or anyone else, to my knowledge.

Months  later, I was a 17 year old Freshman at Millikin University heading to class in Shilling Hall when my cell phone rang. It was Toga Greg. Class was starting and the hall was emptying, but I was compelled to answer.  I could barely get out an incredulous ‘Hello?’ before he said, “I have to tell you something, I’m so sorry. A couple months ago when you got sick at that party, it was because someone drugged you. It was actually a guy I know. I just found out. He didn’t know you were my friend, and…I’m just so sorry. For what it’s worth, you were safe the whole night and I’m never talking to him again.” I was stunned and relieved at the same time. Part of me had forced myself to remember that night like you would remember a nightmare: vague and shadowy, but hearing his words all of a sudden it was over for good. When I think of the integrity it took that 20 year old boy to call me up months later to apologize and give me the gift of peace of mind, I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude. We never saw each other or spoke again; but if he hadn’t had the courage to call me that day, I’d have wondered about that night forever.

The next story is about my sophomore year of college and a boy named Matt. He’s actually the second boy I ever kissed; I was a Junior in high school and it ended up being a somewhat awkward experience so we decided to be friends. Cut to a few years later when we attended the same college…I’d had too much to drink at a wild costume party at his fraternity house. In the middle of kissing in his room, I suddenly realized I was about to pass out so I crawled onto his bed, curled up and immediately fell into a deep sleep. What he could have done in this moment: anything. What he did: put his hoodie on me over my somewhat scandalous theme-party costume, locked me safely in the room so no one could find me compromised and went to find my best friend to take me home. About a year ago I watched the documentary The Hunting Ground about the prevalence of rape on college campuses. As the credits of the documentary rolled, with tears in my eyes I looked up Matt on Facebook and sent him a very random and overdue thank you message. He replied modestly, reassuring me not to worry about it.

My point in sharing these unflattering stories of myself is that all four of these men had the capacity to destroy my life; I unwittingly gave them that option. But they chose to protect me. They were just acquaintances who put themselves between me and the types of guys who could have done me indelible harm, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. It bears repeating; anyone that has a #MeToo story is entitled to exactly as much blame as I’m entitled to my good fortune in these situations: which is none. Sometimes all it takes to be a hero is to do what is decent. Decency can save lives.

So here’s to the heroes in my life and the heroes in yours. If you’re reading this and part of the #MeToo movement, I hope that for every horrible man that happened to you, there’s a good and decent man who was there for you a different time. If you’re a young girl reading this, do as I say and not as I did; Blackout is a fantastic Britney album, but never a good look for a lady.

If you’re Dan, Steve, Greg or Matt: thank you so much for your decency, it may very well have saved my life.

10 Things I Want To Tell My Teenage Goddaughter

Yesterday my friend came over so I could glam her up for an event, as is tradition. She comes over before one of her fancy galas and we pop a bottle of bubbly and gab while I toddler-in-tiara her like the tyrannical stage mother I repress deep down inside me. Her teenage daughter was in tow yesterday and I was thrilled to find out I’ve been appointed her new Godmother. I even baptized her with a little Prosecco to make it official. Last night I sat down and wrote this to her and I’m sharing it here with permission.

Ten Things To Tell My Teenage GodDaughter

 

Dear Brooklyn,

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Those Aren’t Your People

I know I said I’d post my TV segment details yesterday, but I have something else on my mind so that’s going to wait.

I recently spent a few days with our friends’ preteen daughters and they had lots of questions, everything from what I was like when I was their age to what I’d change about my appearance. They were so pure and yet so cautious of being judged. It got me thinking back. I once read something to the effect of, if you don’t have a weird friend, you are the weird friend. Continue reading

Sh*t My Kids Say: Fallon/Hilton 2020

Sometimes in the pool we play trivia and the girls (Avery 6 and Savvy 4) take turns “impressing” me with their knowledge while we float around…

Me: Who’s the President?

Savvy: JIMMY FALLON!

Avery: Donald Trump.

Me: And who was president before him?

Avery: Obama.

Savvy: OBAMA!

Me: And who was the other candidate besides Donald Trump? Remember? The woman candidate?

Avery: I don’t know…

Oh wait, yes I do! Celery! Celery Hilton!

Me: What state do we live in?

Savvy: AMERICA!

Avery: Kansas. Duh, Savvy America is where the President lives in the White House.

Me: I think you mean Washington DC.

Avery: Yeah. It’s super far away in Canada.

Me: Um, okay switching categories…What does Bonjour mean?

Savvy: YELLOW!

Avery: It means Hello.

Savvy: THAT’S WHAT I SAID!

Me: How do you say Hello in Spanish?

Avery (high-pitched): Yoo-hoo!

On the way out, Avery took a drink from the fountain and then helpfully notified the children and mother nearby that “This water fountain tastes like martini water.”

So I guess the take-away is that what Savvy lacks in knowledge, she makes up for in supreme confidence, enthusiasm, and volume. And I don’t know what to do about Avery, but I do know that my new alter-ego is a socialite named Celery Hilton who drinks martini water at the pool and calls out “Yoo-hoo!” to greet people Spanish.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from Summer Seventeen so far:

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Actual Things: Good God, Doreen.

The other day my bestie sent our group this text and I have been randomly laughing about it ever since:

Doreen Convo

Cut to today, as I’m on my way home from preschool drop-off I come to a car at a stoplight and see this little gray-haired couple sitting together in the back seat. I was imagining them holding hands and bickering over the best route as their daughter drove them to a doctors appointment…

Doreen 1

Then I realized it’s a freaking POODLE!

Doreen 2.jpg

And through my hysterical laughter all I can think is, “Good God, Doreen, your perm looks awful!”

Woof!

Actual Things: Sprouts

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Today I was offered a shoulder rub by a vagrant loitering outside of Sprouts.

I seriously considered it. I even thought what if it’s a trick and he does something sneaky like grabs my boob real quick; then I decided it would still be totally worth the risk for a good shoulder rub. Then I looked at his long scraggly beard and thought how a microscopic bug could easily jump out of it and onto my head and I’d get a free massage but also lice. As I assessed the risk I noticed it was time to pick up Avery from school, so my dilemma solved itself.

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March Madness, Sprots, and Badass Babes

Sprots: The proper term for athletic events, for people who hate athletic events.
I may be the only person in history who has never filled out a March Madness bracket and this year is no exception. But if you eh-like-ah-da sports, you should definitely check out the blog and podcasts over at SprotsTakes.com. Last month I was honored to be featured as one of their “Badass Babes” for Galentine’s Day. I love the laid back spirit of this group of female writers. Might even make me want to follow the sports…
Here is my Badass Babe Interview by Staff Writer Emily Kristen of Sprotstakes.com:
Emily Kuhlman may be the funniest woman I’ve ever met. Our paths crossed at a blogging conference a few years ago, and she’s been on my “Must Follow” list ever since.
 

She’s the brains behind Mrs. Kansas Mommy, a blog where she candidly and poignantly describes raising two little Badass Babes of her own. It’s an honest look at parenting and it often makes me literally laugh out loud.

Check her out on Instagram and Twitter 

 

Kristen: What’s your favorite way to spend a day off?

Kuhlman: Watching This Is Us and eating candy that I steal from my kids’ Halloween buckets while they’re at school.

Kristen: What qualifies someone as a “badass” and do you think of yourself as one?

Kuhlman: Yesterday my five year old daughter drew a picture depicting me as a pregnant unicorn. I’d say that means I’m pretty badass in her eyes, especially considering I’m not even pregnant. Or a unicorn. Additional Badassery:

  • Doing things that scare you because they might make your life bigger, like entering a pageant as a grown woman, or going after a job you’re not quite qualified for and working your ass off to be great at it, or birthing a child. In that order. I know because I’ve done all of those things, some twice.
  • Admitting when you f*cked up and moving forward to correct it. I don’t understand people who have a hard time apologizing. I view it as a way to reclaim your dignity and show that you’re the kind of person who deserves respect too.
  • Wearing orange because it’s your favorite color, even after your best friend tells you it looks bad on you.Jessica.

Emily Kuhlman 5

 

Kristen: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Kuhlman: A pregnant unicorn. Also a singer, actress, travel agent, and marine biologist (I was very into the movie Free Willy).

In a way, I became all of these things if you count the Sea-Monkey kit my kids got for Christmas as marine biology. Which I do.

Emily Kuhlman 6

Kristen: Who has inspired you most?

Kuhlman: My celebrity heroes are mostly First Ladies and Comedians: Jackie, Michelle, Louie, Tina, Amy. It may seem like an odd pairing of jobs but if you think about it, these have to be some of the most emotionally-brave people on the planet to do what they do.

In terms of inspiring my life choices and actions, my women friends are the people who bring out the most energy, humor and compassion in me.

Emily Kuhlman 4

Kristen: What are your goals for this year?

Kuhlman: Sadly I don’t have an answer for that, so I will create some now:

  1. Stop swiping my card when there’s a chip reader. It’s a waste of my time and yours.
  2. Beat level three on Mario Run.
  3. Make it to at least one athletic event of each of my nieces and nephews who play the sportsballs.
  4. Get published.
  5. Be a better person than I was last year. My husband and I will vote in December and then no matter the consensus, my parents will decide.
You can check out more Badass Babes here.