Proof the Chicken Is Smarter Than Me

At dinner, Chicken was making those “ew gross” noises at the idea of people kissing: namely, the idea of her parents kissing.

“Hey!” I told her, opening my mouth without thinking (per usual), “if your parents didn’t kiss, you wouldn’t even be here right now.”

But instead of opening a Pandora’s Box of exciting! new! awkward! questions, she chose to become defensive. “Mom! That’s not what I meant! It’s just gross if you kiss in public.”

“That’s right,” Flathead said supportively. “Chicken doesn’t like PDA.”

“PDA?” asked Chicken. “What’s PDA?”

Flathead, much quicker than I, offered up: “Pizza…delivery…um…”

“System!” I declared proudly.

“Um, Mom? System doesn’t even begin with an ‘A.'”

Okay, so she’s six years old and smarter than her mom. But let’s just say I didn’t set the bar all that high.

It’s probably the glasses that are making her smarter than me. Oh wait. I wear glasses, too. And my vision is much, much worse than hers. Doh!


The Merry Christmas Dilemma

Every year, I find myself in the same Christmas quandary. No, not the secular versus religious quandary: it’s bigger and less significant than that. It’s the Merry Christmas response quandary.

It goes a little something like this. I interact with a person at the grocery store, the office, or even at my house when someone delivers a package, and they greet me with a bit of Christmas cheer.

“Merry Christmas!” they say, merrily.

“You, too!” I say back, which is the easy part.

The hard part is if the conversation continues. “Are you all ready for Christmas?” “Are your kids looking forward to Christmas?” and after Christmas, for at least a couple of weeks, “So, did you have a nice Christmas?”

I usually go with a vague response such as, “Pretty much,” or “Sure” or “It was pretty quiet,” which are not lies, and usually carries the conversation to a finishing point pretty fast with most acquaintances, because then I can say, “And you?”

However, there’s the 5%. The 5% who keep the conversation going until we get to the point of no return, where I have run out of vague responses and am forced to out myself as a non-Christmas celebrator.

Which leads to the person acting humbled or embarrassed or dumbstruck and me feeling ridiculous.

I am white. I live in the rural(ish) Midwest. And I don’t celebrate Christmas. It blows people’s mind, I know that. But I don’t know how to break it to them gently.

Christmassers, this is my plea to you: at what point do you want me to tell you that I don’t celebrate Christmas? What response would make us all feel super happy wonderful?

A. “Merry Christmas!” “Thanks, but I’m Jewish.”

B. “Merry Christmas!” “You too!” “So are your kids excited about Christmas?” “No, they hate Christmas, because we don’t celebrate it and they think the world has duped them with their set of circumstances.”

C. “Merry Christmas!” “You too!” “Do you have big plans for Christmas?” “Nope.” “It’s a wonderful time of year, isn’t it?” “Sure is.” “Have you finished your shopping yet?” “I don’t really do any shopping.” “Wow, that is so refreshing to hear. You know the real meaning of the season.” “…”

D. “Merry Christmas!” …

Give me a response D. Give me your best Merry Christmas response. And in return, I will wish you a merry Christmas, a happy yule, a delightful solstice, and a safe New Year.

Adventures of the Night Owl and the Hibernating Bear

3:30 a.m.

“Mom, can I sweep in your bed?”

“Fine, go to sleep.”

3:45 a.m.

“Mom, can I ask you a question?”

“Shhh. Go to sleep.”

“How do stickers get so sticky?”

3:55 a.m.

“Mom? Mom? Mama? Mom!?”

“Shhh. What?”

“How come you are always making that snoring sound?”

4:05 a.m.


“Shh. Go to sleep.”

“These pants are going up my legs.”

“Go to sleep.”

“I hate these pants!!! They are going up my legs!” *starts kicking and flailing and crying*


4:20 a.m.


“Shh. Go to sleep.”

“But Mama!”


“Mama, my back is itchy.”

*scratch scratch* “Now go to sleep.”

4:45 a.m.

“Mom? Mama?”

“Shh. Go to sleep.”

“Just one more thing.”


“I really don’t like it when you say SHH to me.”

“Go to sleep!”

Chicken and Dumples’ Very Important Full House Viewing Rules

1. There is no talking while watching Full House. If you talk while watching Full House, we will watch it again. Until you don’t talk. Which means we will watch it again. And again. And again.


2. When the sappy lesson-learning music comes on, nobody say “aw.”


3. No laughing. It’s not funny and I don’t get the joke.


4. You sit on your side of the couch, I sit on my side of the couch, and never the twain shall meet.


5. Remember that one time when Michelle did that cute thing?


6. Be quiet. It’s starting. Quick. Get up and dance on your side of the sofa! Shout the names! DJ! Stephanie! Uncle Jesse! Joey! Danny! Aw Michelle!


7. See #1.


Happy Record Retention Day!

As an XTREME SECRETARY, I am more than just a pile of sticky notes and five knuckles pounding electricity out of file cabinets. I am also — prepare yourself — the unit record retention coordinator for my area. This might sound like a highfalutin’ title, and rest assured: it is.

I attended a meeting with the other unit record retention coordinators. We watched a PowerPoint presentation that covered the basics, so we could go back to our areas and, well, retain records.

What is a record? That is an interesting question, and one that takes about an hour to answer, give or take a few cookies or so. (I had snickerdoodle and caramel chew.)

What is a record? Anyone? … Anyone? … Bueller?

Now, the end all of Record Retention is knowing what is a record and when a record can be delightfully shredded. Then, you simply record the volume of destroyed records in inches and voila, fill out the retention form in triplicate so it can be examined and…wait for it…filed away.

Imagine the number of “records” or files a university has. Imagine looking at all the files to decide whether or not the file should be kept or tossed, based on its value, its date, its confidential information. Then imagine measuring — with a ruler — the volume of to-be-destroyed records. Ain’t nobody got no time for that.

This is why we have created Record Retention Day, which occurs annually on the first Thursday of November.

Record Retention Day is like any other day at work, except on this day, you don’t do any regular work. You can only look at files and decide what to keep, toss, and measure.

The next day also will be a holiday, for rejuvenation of mind and spirit. It will be called Post-Record Retention Day. It will be a federal holiday, so everyone and the banks will be closed for the day, except for furniture stores and car lots, at which you will get some great holiday-inspired deals, like a GMC Sonoma extended cab with central port injection and an under-body shield package at 0% financing.

You get your sales slip from your holiday sale, you bring it to work on Post-Post-Record Retention Day. File it for three years as proof of mental rejuvenation under newly labeled file #568ACYEARXX RECORD RETENTION SALES SLIPS.

Happy Record Retention Day!

Jenna The BIG Purse

I recently traded in my Baggallini for a BIG purse. I don’t even think I can still call it a purse. A pocketbook? A handbag? No, this thing is just plain LUGGAGE.

Although Dumples has named it Jenna.

Jenna has a fantastic depth. I had to add 10 minutes to my daily commute to make time for the morning key hunt. There’s a few dollars for tolls in there, but forget about finding them; I had to reroute my trip instead. Pay by check? I know that checkbook is in here somewhere… And if rain blotches my glasses, I am doomed, because there is no way I could find my glasses cleaning cloth within Jenna’s ample bosom.

Here are some random things I pulled out of Jenna.

Pencil Sharpener

A pencil sharpener. This is to sharpen my pencil for sketching nesting dolls, which also often ride along in Jenna. The pencil sharpener, however, is only of use if I can find the pencil, which is doubtful.


It’s a flashlight and a flare. Does it work? I have no idea. Could I find it in a time of panic? Doubtful.


An extra pair of gloves. Because I spend a lot of time in North Dakota.


A tomato given to me by a coworker. Because Fargoans are sharers as well as great home gardeners. Hopefully the tomato and the pencil did not meet up.


Three Notebooks

Not one, not two, but THREE notebooks, of varying sizes. The nuclear one is for nesting doll ideas. The black one is for work notes that I will likely never read again. The tiny one is Chicken’s grocery list. It’s not a list of things to buy at the grocery store; it’s a list of items she SAW at the grocery store and wants to recreate at home.

I fit an 18-count box of Cafe Bustelo k-cups in there the other day.

In fifteen years, Jenna will accompany to my back surgery appointment. Because she’s not easy on the spine. Until then, she and I will fill up on secret peanut butter cups, paperback novels, and fast food napkins. And I’ll never find anything again.

Easy as Spy

Setting: A chilly, overcast fall day, driving through Fargo-Moorhead, me and Dumples. Dumples wants to play I Spy, but I tell her that I can’t play because I am driving.

“That’s okay. I can play by myself.

I SPY WITH MY WITTLE EYE…something…white.

Is it the car?


Uh, that was too easy.

I’m bored with this game.”

Things You Can Do with Playdough

Dumples is four today!

Every Wednesday and Friday she goes to preschool. Every Wednesday and Friday, she cries at drop off. At the end of the two hours, she has had a great time. Every Wednesday and Friday at dinner, I ask her what she did at preschool.

“I played wif Playdough,” she tells me.

“You sure play with Playdough a lot,” I told her. Better at preschool than at home. That stuff is crazy hard to get out of nooks and crannies, and once it gets under your fingernails, fuggedaboudit.

“Yeah,” agrees Dumples. “He’s my best fwiend.”

Wait, what?

“You mean the clay stuff that you mush into shapes and hide in the couch cushions?”

“No. Playdough isn’t a clay stuff. Playdough is a puhson.”

Today, for Dumple’s birthday, I took the day off from work to do fun stuff with her. (Yay birthdays!) First, I accompanied her to preschool so she could show me all the cool stuff they have to play with.

“Okay,” I said, kneeling down next to her as we glanced around the room buzzing with eager children, “which one is Playdough?”

“Uh, Mom,” she hissed at me, “There’s no kid named Playdough. That was just pwetend.”

Dumples + Playdough = Best Friends

At the end of preschool, I picked her up to take her to lunch (Chuck E. Cheese!). “How was preschool?” She told me she wasn’t shy today, on her birthday; she talked! She told the class about her show-and-tell item, her Flying Doggie. “And I played with Playdough,” she said. And she laughed.


My boss is leaving. He’s not REALLY leaving. He’s just going to work in a different role in the same place, but it feels like he’s packing it all in. Maybe that is because he is literally packing it all in. His office already looks like an estate sale, and he’s been kindly bestowing upon me many mementos in the form of classic works of literature.

Today he bequeathed to me the 1971 Compact Oxford English dictionary, with the presumption that it might enhance my children’s vocabularies. The double tomes weighed approximately 500 pounds. (Compact! Ha! If you heave this thing open and turn the page to “irony” you’ll see a picture of this dictionary set.) As I hefted them toward my car this afternoon, I wondered how dictionaries could be getting smaller (pocket-sized even!), even as we keep adding more and more words to it. These two volumes would not include the words “selfie,” “hashtag,” or even “internet.” (Remember when Internet had to be capitalized because it was like a proper noun, a location? Glad that’s over and done.)

The dictionary set comes with a tiny sliding drawer that contains a rectangular magnifying glass.

dictionary3Dumples and I worked together to pull one of the large books from its encasement. Now we know why this is the compact version.

I guess if the power ever goes out and we have no internet access and are playing Scrabble, I would pick this dictionary as my second-choice Scrabble dictionary (after Because aside from “wackadoo” and “ohmigosh,” this dictionary must have everything else. If you can read it.


The Light Up Backpack

Dumples started preschool last week. It’s only two hours, two days a week. Basically, there’s time for a song, an art project, and a snack. She needs her own backpack now, and she picked out the only one in the whole store that lights up when you shake it.  She uses it to bring her art projects home and, I presume, to engage new friends.

After the first day of preschool, I asked Dumples if she had made any new friends. “Yep!” she said, beaming.

“Tell me their names,” I coaxed her.

She thought for a moment, then eureka’d, “Silas!” She added, “Silas is my best fwiend.”

“Oh yeah? Did you play with Silas today?”


“Did you talk to Silas today?”


“But he’s your best friend?”


I’m pretty sure this best friendship is all about the light up backup. I can’t see how it could be based on anything else. If Silas even knows who Dumples is.