If You Give a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy a Cookie

This afternoon I was sitting with my daughter as we tried to cram for the library's summer reading program enjoy some literary stimulation. I was reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie for the 3,722,185th time in my life, when the 13-year-old wandered in to ask me for something listen and reminisce about his sweet preschool years.

We finished reading and closed the book. My son asked if I could fix him something to eat. Of course he did, because it had been a shocking TWELVE minutes since lunch, and how could an adolescent boy possibly be expected to survive that long without food?

As I asked him what was wrong with his own two legs got up to graciously fix him something, I was inspired by the circumstances to flex my own literary muscle. Hence, this (with a sincere hat tip and apology to this).

If You Give a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy a Cookie

If you give a thirteen-year-old boy a cookie,
he's probably going to ask for some soda.

But as you are a mom who is feeling the pressure to make Positive Nutritional Choices,
you will urge him to drink milk instead.

He will shrug, and you will pour a giant glass of milk–whole milk–
and you will reflect that if you drank that much whole milk you would have hips
as wide as Tennessee.

He will finish the milk and and wipe his mouth with his shirt,
and you will not complain, because this is better than the milk moustache he normally wears.

He will set down the cup and ask if you've seen his cell phone,
and you will tell him you turned it off, because
why-oh-why must he and his friends text each other Chuck Norris jokes all day?

He will shrug, and then he will think of Chuck Norris,
and this will remind him of the movies, which will remind him of popcorn,
and he'll ask if you can fix him some.

And you say sure, because you're thinking that popcorn is a much cheaper snack
than the bacon he normally asks for.

He will jerk his head around because he somehow heard you think the word "bacon",
and you will tell him "no, you're having popcorn, remember?"

He will take the popcorn to the living room, and you will remind him
there is no longer any eating allowed in the living room
because you stayed up late picking brownie crumbs out of the carpet
after the last youth group party at your house.

And his eyes will shine and he will say, "Brownie?" and you will say, "NO."

So he will eat his popcorn instead (in the kitchen, like a good boy).
And all the salt will make him crave another glass of (whole) milk. 

But he's polished off the third gallon of (whole) milk this week,
and he must therefore hike all the way out to the garage to the nasty old back-up fridge. 

As he walks out to the garage, you will notice that you can see the bones in his hips,
and you will sadly remember that your pants get tight if you even think about cheesecake,
and you will know that good metabolism is wasted on those young enough to think that Big Macs are gourmet.

He will return from the garage with the milk, but with all that physical exertion,
chances are he's going to want a cookie and a brownie and some bacon to go with it.

(P.S. — I just read this post to my son, and he laughed out loud. Then he said he was hungry. Then he said I should tell you that Chuck Norris once round-house kicked a salesman. Over the phone.)

It Will Change Your Life, Or At Least Your Roots

If you are plagued with fine, straight hair that is naturally prone to flatness, you should read on. If you have bouncy, fluffy hair, you should stop reading, but only after you have gotten on your knees to thank the Lord for His bounty to you.

I fall in the first camp–my hair naturally has about as much bounce and volume as a twelve-ton rock. Eight years ago, I started having my hair cut by Sarah. She is brilliant and funny and talented and she has almost made all the flatness manageable, primarily by giving me eight years' worth of instruction of the proper root-teasing technique, which I have taken to heart with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.

(Seriously. I can tease some roots. When I finish with them each morning, you could just about land a helicopter on them. But then I walk out the door to be greeted by Oklahoma humidity, and the flatness comes back, as it does for all of us who are thus afflicted.)

At my last appointment, Sarah told me about this stuff:


It's called Powder Play, by Big Sexy Hair.

I never buy salon products a) because I am cheap and b) when I have tried them, I couldn't tell a difference. But Sarah was insistent that this stuff was worth every penny–"life-changing" was the word, I believe. I tend to roll my eyes at products with names like "Big Sexy Hair", but on second thought, I realize we cannot afford the luxury of subtlety in our quest for root volume. So I gave it a go.


This strange little substance, which is very similar in consistency with baby powder, is a miracle drug. You sprinkle it in very small amounts directly onto your roots and then work it in with your fingers. It feels very strange, but let me just tell you that your roots will stand at attention like the President has walked in the room. And–here's the kicker–it will STAY fluffy. Even if you don't wash it the next day.

(If you did not gasp at that last statement, then you clearly have never suffered from questionable root volume and do not understand the plight of those of us who do, so please just turn away.)

I will confess I am a little curious about the ingredients of a product that will cause such impressive stand-up-ishness. My mom (who uses the stuff too–our flat hair is genetic but NOT ANYMORE) and I have wondered what, precisely, we are massaging directly into our beleaguered scalps. We have decided to live in happy, volume-filled ignorance.

(And, by the way, the Big Sexy Hair people are not in any way compensating me for this post, mostly because there has never been a less qualified spokeswoman for a product called "Big Sexy", unless they have a division I don't know about called "Medium-Sized Housewife-ish".)

These Small Hours

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain.

–Rob Thomas, "These Small Hours"

The five-year-old curled up in her bed, her hair still a little damp from her shower a few minutes before, her mind racing through her options for the best way to delay bedtime.

"What if there's a fire? I don't like to jump out of windows," she told me.

"If there's a fire, I'll come for you," I said.

"But what if I get lost in the deep, deep forest?" she asked.

"You won't ever be in the deep, deep forest," I told her. She shot me a look that made it clear this answer was far too practical to satisfy her need for drama.

I amended my response. "If you get lost in the deep, deep forest, I'll come and find you," I said, and she nodded, satisfied. Her heavy eyelids started to droop. The 11-year-old wandered in, carrying his guitar.

"Could I play her a lullaby?" he asked quietly. I nodded, and he sat down and strummed "Jesus Loves Me" while his little sister held tightly to my hand.

Then the 8-year-old wandered in, playing his drum, because we all know that "Jesus Loves Me" is much more effective as a lullaby with a loud and driving drum beat.

The 12-year-old heard the ruckus and popped in, playing along on his harmonica. This would've been significantly more impressive if he actually knew how to play a harmonica. His playing messed up the 11-year-old, who stopped right at the "little ones to Him belong part" to whack his brother. The five-year-old was so excited by this exchange that she jumped to her feet and began to sing/shriek along while jumping up and down on her bed. The two big boys stopped their fighting, suddenly distracted by the fact that "Jesus" sounds a lot like "Cheez-Its".

The five-year-old continued to jump. The 8-year-old continued to pound. The older ones continued to shriek their hymn to the little orange crackers.

I laughed, and I wondered exactly where I lost my sweet moment.

I laughed harder, and I realized I didn't lose it at all.


5:07   The five-year-old climbs into my bed, wraps every one of her limbs around every one of my limbs, and kicks off all the covers.

5:08   I pull the covers back up.

5:11   She kicks them back down.

5:11   I pull them back up, and in a spirit of tenderness (or maybe it was grouchiness, I can't really remember) I suggest she stop it RIGHT NOW.

6:30   The alarm goes off–NPR, on my clock radio. Waking up to NPR basically causes me to move from nighttime sleep straight into a good nap. Probably not a good plan, now that I think of it.

6:41   I get out of bed, stepping on at least four chunks of dried plaster en route to the shower.

6:42   Shower time.

7:15   I head downstairs to find that my 12-year-old son is dressed, fed, clean, and cheerful, and he's sitting at the table reading.  I scratch my head.

7:16   I let out the dog and pour a Diet Coke (for me, not the dog).

7:25   The five-year-old sleepily wanders in. The 12-year-old immediately hops up and offers to fix breakfast for her. I walk over to him, embrace him with both arms, and I gently ask him if aliens invaded his body overnight.

7:32   In wet hair and a bathrobe, I drive my son to the bus stop, while remembering all the times I swore I'd never drive my kids to the bus stop in wet hair and a bathrobe. 

7:34   He makes me belly laugh, no small feat before 9 a.m. I love that boy.

7:40   Back home to find Hubs eating breakfast with our five-year-old daughter, the only member of this family who is chatty and energetic in the morning.  She is debating, aloud, the merits of pigtails versus ponytails.

7:45   Wake up the other boys and fix them breakfast. Think to myself that I don't know who invented Pancakes On a Stick, but I'd like to shake his hand.

7:51   Kiss Hubs goodbye.

7:56   The five-year-old shrieks in horror at a fly that is buzzing around our kitchen table, and she runs to get the water squirt bottle in self defense.

8:03   The eleven-year-old got a new haircut the night before, so I help him figure out the best way to fix it.

8:04   It evolves into a discussion about hair product and proper blow-drying technique.

8:07   It evolves further into a talk about some of the changes your body goes through during puberty.

8:08   I realize I might need some more caffeine.

8:11   The five-year-old has now coated every surface in my kitchen with water, while singing "I'm In the Lord's Army".

8:17   Attack the eight-year-old with a ferocious hug, because when his face is still sleep-puffy, he looks just like my baby, and a hug attack is the only logical response.

8:29   Out the door with the boys and a still-pajama'd girl.

8:38   Pull up to the school. "I-love-you-Be-good-Did-you-get-your-lunch-money?-Don't-forget-to-turn-in-that-yellow-permission-slip-Where's-your-coat?-I'll-see-you-after-school-May-the-Lord-bless-you-and-keep-you-may-He-make-His-face-to-shine-upon-you…."

8:39   Sit and breathe, and listen to my daughter sing a song she is making up about a fairy named Crystal Rainbow who wanted to be on American Idol but then a big fly came up and ate her.

8:40   Realize that I am profoundly blessed. Sleepy, but blessed.


It's Valentine's Day. This afternoon Hubs and I climbed the stairs, closed our bedroom door and…

…finished scraping the popcorn off our master bathroom ceiling.

Who needs roses when you can have soggy chunks of plaster in your hair?

We're generally not impulsive remodelers–when we've tackled projects in the past, we've usually thought them through very carefully, with a budget and a plan in place. Early last week we began to wonder how hard it would be to strip our old wallpaper, which led to a wondering about how much bathtub refinishing costs, which led to a wondering about whether we could remove a doorway. Ten days later, my bathroom looks like this:


So, it would appear we're remodeling the bathroom.

I am learning many things in this little adventure, chief among them that plumbers are expensive, sledgehammers are surprisingly therapeutic, and wallpaper glue is forever. And I am reminded, with much thankfulness, that I'd rather spend an afternoon inhaling sheetrock dust with him than sitting at a candlelit table with anybody else. Come to think of it, maybe we should've written that into our wedding vows.

Happy Valentine's Day, Hubs. Thanks for the drywall and the babies and the sanity and for looking so dang good in a tool belt.

Kind Of Like the Griswolds, Except With Snow

There's plenty that's unpleasant about being a grown up. Income taxes and colonoscopies come to mind.

But adulthood has its benefits, too. Chief among them being no more recess and PE. I spent the first 17 years of my life trying to figure out creative ways to avoid showing my peers that I have the coordination of a drunk hippo on stilts. If it involves climbing, I will fall. If it involves water, I will sink. If it involves a ball, I will not only miss it, but I will position myself perfectly so that it smacks me in the forehead.

It's okay. I know this about myself. I faked it when I had to as a kid–just ask my dad about the Great Basketball Experiment of 1983. I still run into doorways and trip over grocery carts more than the average bear, but as a grown up, I've managed to tuck away my former humiliation quite neatly, thanks.

Until my athletic husband decided to plan a ski trip for the holidays. He's been talking about it for years–he loved to ski in college, and he had such a nice vision of our entire family shooshing happily down the slopes, eyes bright and faces flushed with joy. My vision of a ski trip involves ambulances, but I decided to be a good sport. 

We left Christmas morning, in the aftermath of a blizzard (the universe was trying to give me a hint). We made it safely to a small resort about an hour from Denver, checked in, unpacked, and began organizing a dizzying assortment of ski gear and supplies. (Including, by the way, the stuff you smear inside your goggles to keep them from fogging–it's called, to the  great joy of my sons, Cat Crap.)

The next morning, after my breakfast of oatmeal sprinkled with Aleve, we dropped off our happy, agile children at the kids' ski school. Hubs shooshed and I lumbered out to the place where our class would begin.  

A friendly older man with silver hair shooshed up and introduced himself as our instructor. He lined up our class and asked us to introduce ourselves by explaining what kind of athletic experience we have.


When it was my turn, I mumbled a response that had something to do with stairs and laundry baskets.

(Somebody get me out of here, please.)

When the introductions of all my fellow (athletic) classmates were over, the instructor went on to explain that he's a retired high school principal, so if we don't do what he says, we're going to detention.

(No, I'm serious, somebody get me out of here right now.)

He began by explaining the basics, and he said the key not to falling is knowing how to turn.

(Really? Because I think the key to not falling is staying in the lodge, but what do I know?)

It's simple, he said, just lean here and push there and tilt this but don't tilt that and keep your chin up and put your arms out there and then lean here again. 


We got started on a hill with the incline of a pimple. Our whole class gently coasted where they were supposed to coast. Well, almost the whole class. I made my first run down the pimple, and I stayed vertical for a solid seven seconds. Aaaaand then I fell. So I tried a second time. Aaaaand then I fell. Same with efforts number three and four. And five and six.

Fighting back tears of utter humiliation, I kept at it. The instructor explained that I probably wasn't cut out for this particular turning technique, so he was just going to advance me on to the next one, because he just knew it was perfect for me.

(Oh, don't you try your high-school-principal-self-esteem-inducing mind games with me, fella.)

Not surprisingly, the new and improved trick didn't work for me. The only stopping/turning technique that did work was the one I believe they call Hurling Your Body To The Ground. After two hours of falling every time I tried, I stopped to catch my breath at the bottom of the pimple. I thought about giving up. I looked over to where the kids were in ski school, and I could see my children actually beginning to shoosh with confidence and grace. I was so proud of them, and I thought some very lofty thoughts about perseverance and humility. I climbed back up for one last try.

Aaaaand then I fell–spectacularly, this time, with a flying ski pole involved. I muttered something under my breath that may or may not have been worse than "Cat Crap".

I told the instructor that some people just weren't meant to ski, and his mouth said "No, you can do it, just keep trying," but his eyes said, "Yes ma'am, you're more sit-by-the-fireplace material."

So I headed inside and I did sit by the fireplace, all week long. I had a giant stack of books and a huge bag of crochet supplies. I was a happy pack mule for the endless pile of ski gear (Colorado families, how do you do that all winter long?). I baked cookies and made cheese dip, and we played games and watched movies by the fireplace all evening, every night. It was our best vacation ever, in fact–I don't know when we've laughed together so much. 

The moral of the story? If at first you don't succeed, be sure you've packed a good book and some comfortable shoes, and once you've worked through your adolescent insecurities it'll all work out beautifully in the end.

Especially if there's cheese dip.

The end.

Because Regular Pumpkin Pie Is Just Plain Dull

This a rerun–I originally posted this last Thanksgiving. But a recipe this life-changing deserves a rerun. Enjoy!
I come from a long line of women who do not like to cook.  I hold tightly to
this genetic predisposition to get the heck out of the kitchen as fast
as I can.  It is a fine heritage.(Incidentally, it was once a source of significant stress that I married a man who came from a long line of women who love to cook.  Their family recipes, handed down for generations, involve sifting things, and using thermometers, and grating lemon zest.  My family recipes involve instant pudding.)Truly, though, it is a lovely thing that my favorite family recipes are so simple.  The very best one is the one my grandmother made for Thanksgiving every year.  It is so unbelievably good–but be warned.  Once you eat it, you may never be able to go back to regular pumpkin pie again.

And before we begin, I should point out that the best part of the
deal is the little mini, tart-sized pie-shells.  Usually they are
located in the freezer section.  The day after Thanksgiving, I’d always
go over to my grandmother’s house, and we’d sit on her couch and eat
all the empty pie shells like potato chips.

Clearly, I also have a genetic heritage involving carbohydrates.


1 15-oz can pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 3.4-oz box instant vanilla pudding
2 cups milk

Blend all ingredients well, using a whisk.  Cover and
refrigerate until chilled.  Prepare small, tart-sized pie shells (both
the frozen pastry variety or the graham cracker variety work well).
Before serving, spoon pumpkin mixture into tart shells.  Top with
whipped topping and serve.


California, Here We Come

We're leaving soon on our vacation to Southern California.  My husband is an expert trip planner, but I think even he would admit that this one snuck up on him.  I know, it should technically be "sneaked up on him".  But "sneaked" sounds awkward, and so I say "snuck", but I have to clarify that I use it knowingly in case I die in a California earthquake and one of my last blog posts on record contained an improperly conjugated verb, because I cannot leave that kind of legacy.

(Last-minute trip planning drives me to extreme caffeine consumption, can you tell?)

But back to my point: this trip came out of nowhere.  We've had it on our calendar for months, but life has been unusually fast-paced lately.  I'm not feeling as prepared as I normally do when we forge ahead on a big trip.  Also, all our other big vacations have been in parts of the country we know.  We don't know a thing about California.  We red-staters tend to think of California as That Big Giant Place With The Earthquakes And All The Blondes And Smog And Crazy Real Estate Prices And Movies Which Chip Away At Our Nation's Moral Fabric.  It's a bit of a mystery. 

Here's what I do know:

We're driving from Oklahoma to Los Angeles.  It's a long drive (about 21 hours each way), but it's a simple one:

1.  Get on I-40.
2.  Turn right.
3.  At the Pacific Ocean, stop.

Even I can't mess up that.

We'll need to make excellent time on our way out there (the fact that I just wrote that sentence means that we are now certain to face motion sickness, bladder issues, and car trouble).  We're attending a specific sporting event that has my husband and sons enthralled to the point of packing face paint.  We'll be moving quickly on the way out there, but once we arrive, we plan to slow our pace.  We'll go watch the mega sporting event, and then we'll spend a day or two relaxing on the beach.  We won't even try to resist the gravitational pull of Disneyland, spending a couple of days there in the middle in our trip.  I suspect that the day my four-year-old daughter meets Sleeping Beauty may henceforth be known in family lore as The Shriek Heard 'Round the World. 

We plan to do the Hollywood thing, visiting Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the Walk of Fame and maybe a studio tour.   And we'll do it all while dodging all the collapsing buildings, a result of The Big One, which, it appears, shall surely occur during the week my family visits the West Coast. 

(Have I mentioned my irrational fear of earthquakes?  It's crazy, I know, especially considering that I've been known to stand on the front porch during a tornado.  But I'd rather face swirly, deathly clouds over swirly, deathly soil any day.  I'm afraid I may have seen too many bad 1970's disaster flicks.  As a result, I'd prefer not to sleep anywhere near the San Andreas Fault, nor will I board a giant ship with Shelly Winters.)

And now, ten paragraphs later, the point of this post.  While we have the general skeleton of the trip planned, we may be winging it on a few details.  I'm hoping there's a SoCal expert or two out there who might be willing to weigh in on a few questions I still have.  Namely:

1.  Is two days enough for Disneyland and California Adventure?  What are your favorite, can't-miss rides and attractions there?

2.  In an effort not to squeeze in too much, we're skipping San Diego.  Is that foolish?  Is San Diego so excellent that it's worth a little calendar-squeezing?

3.  What's your favorite LA-area beach for a family to visit?

4.  Are any of the Hollywood studio tours especially great for kids?  Most of the ones we've found don't allow kids under age 8, which rules us out.  Are you aware of any exceptions?

Any expert advice you could give would be much appreciated.  In the meantime, I'll be waiting right here, making my list for the house-sitters, finishing up the laundry, and shopping for earthquake-resistant helmets for the kids.


My nerves are on edge when we arrive, if I'm being honest.  I tend to let our pathological inability to remember to bring enough beach towels convince me of my unfitness as a mother.  But the day is sunny and we are here now, and the swimming pool is no place for issues (at least, not for those of us on either side of puberty).

We do our ritual sunscreen coating; it's an exercise in futility, if the brown shoulders I rub are any indication.

The dull splish of hundred stray splashes almost drowns out the radio over the loudspeakers.  It's Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (flashback!), and I sing along.  The ten year old notices, and it's clear he doesn't know whether to be embarrassed or impressed.

The eight year old wanders off to the snack bar, his dollar bill burning a hole in the Ziploc baggie in the beach bag.  He comes back sucking a giant blue Ring Pop.  His grin is satisfied, snaggle-toothed and, now, completely blue.  He shows me the slobbery mess and tells me that he'll buy me a real ring just like it, someday, when he's a famous soccer player.

The younger kids lure me into the water.  The heat index is well over 100, yet the water, impossibly, is 18 degrees.  I feel very old; the kids easily maneuver, completely relaxed, while my cold muscles fight off shock.

In one of those moments that can't be explained, the four year old suddenly finds her courage.  Yesterday she was in floaties, today she's doing back flips underwater.  She surfaces with a proud and watery grin.  She glows at my praise; she glows even more at her big brother's praise.

I climb back out and dry off, noticing that our (one) beach towel smells like a curious blend of fabric softener and chlorine.

The younger kids climb in and out, wearing a trail between the water, the snack bar, the bathrooms, and my lounge chair, where they visit often for my help in the arbitration of many diving-ring-related disputes. The ten year old engineers a game of Marco Polo with an impressively large crowd.  The eight year old masters the diving board, getting nervier with every jump. The youngest dashes over to the kiddie pool and smugly reminds her brothers they're too big to join her.  The oldest finds a lounge chair of his own, at a distance suitable for his twelve-ishness.  I smile at him, but only occasionally, and with low expectations.  He smiles back.  That's enough for me.

I sit and watch the four of them, wishing I had four sets of eyes–and an unlimited summer–to take it all in.