Dear Little: Poisonous Jickyens

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Dear Little,

There was a petting zoo party over the summer. A friend invited you to her house while her little sister celebrated her 3rd birthday. We live in what can only be called a very urban landscape, so when the parents mentioned a petting zoo rolling up to their apartment, I assumed, as most might, lots of guinea pigs and maybe a snake.

When the Ford Explorer rolled up the driveway (parked between two houses that were approximately 8′ apart) and put out two x-pens, I figured, as most might, there might be some chickens and bunnies, maybe not a snake (could slither through the bars) and perhaps the guinea pigs.

What this woman pulled out of this giant land yacht was fascinating. It was the farm version of a clown car. First came the carrier with kittens. Then the carrier of bunnies. So far, so good. Then came the baby chickens. They all went in the first x-pen.

Returning to the SUV to retrieve more animals, she grabbed a couple bales of hay, three big ducks (not ducklings…DUCKS…ducks who were none-too-impressed by the concrete small area, concrete landscape, and urban outdoor activity).

Oh, and then there were the two pigs, Kevin Bacon, and… the other one. Seriously, I forgot because its name wasn’t related to edible pork products in any way, shape, or form. Let’s just call her Karen.

Then came the goat.  Tom Brady. The Goat.

Get it?

G.O.A.T.

He was a big hit with the adults. To be fair, we’re in Boston, so that might not have played well anywhere else in the country.

Assuming this was it, we all (adults, too!) started ooh-ing and aaahing over these little creatures (even the pissed off ducks). Then Tom Brady leaped out of the x-pen, because he’s a GOAT, and started walking up the retaining wall of the neighboring apartment building. He didn’t get far. The farmer got him pretty quickly, then got his friend.

His friend would keep him in the x-pen.

His friend was a 150-pound sheep.

It was the 12 days of Farm-mas in the back of this Explorer. Seriously, this would make one great advertisement.

The farmer showed the kids how to pick up the animals, and talked about which animals couldn’t be picked up. and during this talk, you blocked off the chicken’s crate, and dubbed yourself the “Chicken Person,” or rather, “Jickyen person” because you can’t quite say chicken normally yet. You were not afraid of picking up the chicks, and in fact, the other children (and adults) had to go through you to get a baby chick. You could give a flying leap about the bunnies (baby bunnies), kittens, Kevin, Karen or Tom Brady. You just wanted the chickens.

After the farmer put all the hay, poop, pee, food, crates, pigs, G.O.A.T., ducks, bunnies, kittens, jickyens and the partridge in a pear tree back in the Ford Explorer, all you could talk about for days was how you held these chicks.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving weekend when you met up with my friend Matt, who happens to have a chicken.  You and his son, little Max, went outside to play in the backyard. This was the first time in parenthood where I could let you play outside in the wilds of Maine and not have my eye on you for fear a car would come careening onto the sidewalk. It was awesome. For two hours, you and Max played, and part of that play was talking up your Chicken Whisperer status to young, impressionable Max, who opened the gate. The chicken got out.

It took you guys awhile to tell us that the chicken got out and was running freely through the property.

It’s ok, here’s a secret. There are windows, and we saw you guys open the door to the coop, let out the chicken, and wanted to know how long it would take you guys to tell us about the great chicken escape of 2017.

45 minutes.

Matt collected the chicken as we left, and took a picture of you holding the chicken, which is really all you wanted to do since we bribed you with a chicken sighting you arrived to play with Max.

It’s been a few days. The only thing you have brought up (aside from making a note for Santa) is this weird convergence of things in your brain where you have taken an episode of Wild Kratts about poisonous dart frogs (the orange ones are bad) with your knowledge about chickens. Every night for the last four days, you have reminded me that Matt and Max’s chicken is black, and that’s ok. Black chickens are safe.

The orange jickyens are poisonous.

 

 

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Not the orange, poisonous kind of chicken.

 

Brains. They are so cool. Also hilarious.

Love,

Mom

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Dear Little: Time Travel

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Dear Little –

You made a box. This was no ordinary box. You used superhero duct tape, markers, and a pen to make a time machine. It’s a time machine that goes back in time as well as in front of time.

Not “forwards in time.”
In FRONT of time.

Dude, you’re 5 and totally changed the way I thought of time travel. What if we have been imagining time travel wrong all these years? Instead of trying to just go forward in time, we need to be in FRONT of it?

mind blown bill nye
Mind blown.

Love,

-Mom (and Dad who brought this to my attention!)

Only child

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Dear Little,

Today you did the first thing in what is likely going to be a series spanning the next 50 years, something I can only file under “only child stuff.”

“It’s ok. I’ll go play Hungry, Hungry Hippos by myself.”

And by play “Hungry, Hungry Hippos all by myself”, you took out the Hippos and sang Happy Birthday to each one individually and fed them cake in the form of marbles.

Love,

Mom

Not A Drill

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Dear Little,

I’ve been a dog trainer since 2004 (ish, give or take).

This is the first time I’ve ever had to post on social about a missing puppy of our own.

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puppy missing

Oh, Kiddo. We’re so sorry. We’re trying. Your dad just tore the entire apartment apart trying to find her after we went to a parking garage on our search. We also walked around the playground looking for her, just in case. We should have thought that through a little more carefully as class was in session and we were ducking behind bushes in front of classrooms. To be honest, we probably should have thought that through a little more carefully as class was in session and we were ducking behind bushes in front of classrooms. It appeared to the untrained eye that we were perhaps casing the joint for nefarious reasons.

puppy full
At least we didn’t get arrested, but we also didn’t find Puppy.

Yet.kindergarted

Love,

Mom (and Dad)

PS: Four day later, we found her wrapped in a blanket and hiding behind your dollhouse. Because I listen to True Crime podcasts and was actually listening to one while I was on the Puppy search party, my initial thought was, “I found the body!”

Slowly, I peeled the blanket back, revealing an ear and a foot. This will be practice for when I really do find a body. I’ve seen CSI. I know the dog walker always finds the body.

Then, I sobbed. I cried, alone in my house with no one home as you and Daddy were visiting Mimi and Pop-Pop. I cried alone in my house over a stuffed animal that we have kept a hypervigilant eye on for the past four years. I’m a grown ass woman, kiddo, and I cried when I found your toy.

I’m going to be a mess when you don’t need her anymore. As it was, I was a wreck when we pulled out your car seat last week and upgraded you to a booster seat.

 

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You were so happy you were dancing after being reunited. ❤ 

 

 

Dear Little: Boyfriend(s)

Dear Little,

I thought I’d share a highlight of a typical conversation with you, my kindergartner, after school.

You: “Mom? I have a boyfriend.”

Me “…”

You: “His name is Calvin.”

Me: play it cool, McGrath…”So, what is a boyfriend?”

You: “A boy that is a special friend.”

Me: What am I supposed to do now?

You: “Oh and I also have two girlfriends who are girls that are special friends.”

Me: oh, ok. I can work with this. See? No big deal. They are just friends. “Who are they? Your girlfriends?”

You: “Kimberly and…um… some other girl. I can’t remember her name.”

Me: Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh. *Snicker* maybe she didn’t notice. So that boyfriend thing. Totally cute! Don’t make a thing out of it… Oh, wait. I have a question. “So, kiddo? Which Calvin is your boyfriend? Is this Calvin with Brody or a schoolmate?”

You: “Both. I mean, they don’t know about each other.”

Me:. *chokes on Lime Ricky*

You: “They each think they are my only boyfriend. But Calvin with Brody doesn’t know we’re boyfriend/girlfriend, but we are. I’ll let him know later.”

Me: Ok, well. That’s respectable.

You: “And the other Calvin doesn’t know about Calvin. But he’s my school boyfriend. They don’t know about each other. That’s good.”

Me: Do kids watch soap operas because this is straight out of General Hospital.

Kiddo.

I can’t even.

Can’t we go back to uncomfortably discussing religion or apologizing to some stranger for loudly using inappropriate language in a library or something?

Love,

Mom

Dear Little: Rebel Girls

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Dear Little –

Last night, we were reading Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, a bedtime story book with 100 impactful, strong, game-changing women that is written in the familiar, “Once upon a time” format that all good bedtime stories follow.

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We were reading about Lella Lombardi and Malala Yousafzai last night when you asked, “Momma? Is there a part of the world where girls have to tell boys they can do everything? Are there places where boys are shot for going to school? Can girls drive race cars and tell boys they can’t do it? Is there any place like that? Just one? Do girls go to the moon somewhere in the world and there is only one boy from that place that went?”

While there are 6 modern societies where women are in charge, there are no documented places in the world where young men are shot in the head for going to school because their place is in the home.

There is no place where a white man will make 75% of the income a woman will make (or less).

While I love this book, I don’t think every girl should have Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls on their bookshelves because girls know they are capable of moving mountains, going to the moon, changing cultural norms, work a job while raising a family, or making the decision to do none of these things. This book does empower, provide context, highlights history, and most importantly, you absolutely adore this book (we have read it every night this week and you keep asking for more). It’s a bonus book for young girls.
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But, I really, really, honestly, truly, and every other -ly word I can use to put emphasis on this next point, every young boy should have this book on his bookshelf. Every young boy should have a parent recite these tales over and over and over again until it’s clear as day girls are mighty. Every young boy should read this book until it’s not even a big deal at all and it’s as much part of the human fabric as breathing. Every young boy should hear these stories and see how truly unequal things still are for the girls they befriend.

You don’t have to tell a girl she’s mighty when she’s young – every girl knows it in her bones. It’s later when they are told they can’t accomplish something and start to believe it, start to doubt themselves (in my case, a science teacher in middle school embarrassed me in front of the class with a science project on osmosis). We need young men to stand up for these young women and girls, and it starts with books like these. This book should be read in elementary schools to all students. The sympathetic, half-hearted, ‘Sure, girls can do anything. Just sit over there while I do man stuff,” isn’t the same as truly being supportive and being absolutely inclusive. It’s that attitude that allows stories like this to continue existing in 2017. And while it’s true there are more women in science, in math, in physics, in astronomy, in sports, in politics, in video game development, the idea that there is a small group of hard-working pioneering women in these industries that have to work so much harder to be taken seriously as professionals while also battling blatant sexism in these formerly male-only professions makes it tempting to say, “See? There is equality! There are girls here. We’re fine. And while we’re at it, I’ll tell you how to do your job better because I’m a dude.”

Girls can do all of these things and bring a different perspective to the table. They have every opportunity to shine, if only they weren’t also fighting sexism, the ol’ boys club, and mansplaining on the daily. We’re getting there, but it’s something that’s still quite prevalent, and something you will likely need to deal with.

It starts with a spark, and girls have that spark. It takes a supportive community, including men and boys, to keep that spark growing into something much brighter. This is why young boys should have this book on their bedside table. Girls know they can. Boys need to know it, too.

Goodnight, my Rebel Girl.

Love,

-Mom

 

Dear Little: Mariners Revenge

Dear Little –

meant to grab your toddler tunes CD in the car today.

actually grabbed the Decemberists CD. I’m surprised the discs looked that similar. The Decemberists, while a great alternative rock band rooted in exploring the darkness of men and the spirit of the sea, was not exactly what I had in mind for our trip back from the pet store.

You have been humming a little ditty called The Mariners Revenge Song, with these gems.

We are two mariners
Our ship’s sole survivors
In this belly of a whale
It’s ribs are ceiling beams
It’s guts are carpeting
I guess we have some time to kill

and the chorus:

Find him, find him
Tie him to a pole and break
His fingers to splinters
Drag him to a hole until he
Wakes up naked
Clawing at the ceiling
Of his grave

 

Moby Dick by Gianluca Garofalo

Gianluca Garofalo, “Moby Dick”

As a result, we’ve spent the last 30 minutes looking up sea shanties, which was fine until you asked for the Mariners Revenge song. We watched a live version (the band pulled out a simple hinged puppet that “eats” the audience, acting out the whale eating the crew of the ship), and you just thought this was the best song ever.

 

Apologies in advance to your Kindergarten music teacher.
“What should we sing today, kids?”
Other Kids: “Itsy Bitsy Spi…”
You: “Drunken Sailor!”
“…”

So while Mariners’ Revenge and Barrett’s Privateers play on repeat as you sleep under the desk between tantrums when I try to deviate from the playlist, I’m sitting here thinking how I’m going to explain this to the principal in two weeks.

RIP Mary Had a Little Lamb, and Row Row Row Your Boat.

Love,

Mom

 

 

For Me

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Dear Little,

I’m putting this here because being a girl is hard, even when you’re young. I’m dreading this discussion, but P!nk is incredible and handled this with as much grace, sass, and truth as I hope to for you someday.

So this is for me, to you, at some point. Hopefully, not for a very long time.

We don’t change. We take the gravel and the shell, and we help other people see other kinds of beauty. And you, my darling girl, are beautiful and I love you.

P!nk

Love,

-Mom. (And P!nk.)

Dear Little: But…

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Dear Little,

You turned 5 yesterday. I wanted to write about all the changes you’ve made, the places you might go, and how I can’t believe you are a full-blown kid.

But…

More importantly than that, it’s time to talk to you about standing up to bullies.

You recognize that sometimes the “bad guys” say “mean things” in cartoons and that Batgirl, Bubbles or Pinkie Pie will come around the corner, do the right thing, and everything is fine. That’s an important lesson to learn right now. Because you are five.

When you read this in 10, 15, 20 years, it’s critical to recognize that the bad guys are still easy to spot but standing up might seem much harder. Here’s a clue. If a group of people are holding torches and are supported by the KKK; if that group is waving Nazi flags and beating up people; if that group is shouting in a threatening manner – perceived threat is a real threat- I hope you stand solidly on the side everything that is NOT that.

There is no “but.” There is no “they have a good point.” There is no “on both sides.”

There is something to be said about finding a middle ground in many cases. Compromise can be good and is necessary. For instance, we might be wishy-washy on what kind of house to get (still looking for our third summer). Your dad and I are compromising on an expensive purchase.  It’s fair that since we’ll both be living in the house, we both get most of what we want for a reasonable price. That’s compromise.

Choices: it often takes me 20 minutes to pick the right kind of peanut butter because *choices*, or choosing how to prepare potatoes for dinner can be *hard*. However, let me be perfectly clear: there is no choice when it comes to bullies.

If the circumstances involve a group of people marching with torches intending to harm or threaten another group of people, supported by the KKK, then there is absolutely no middle ground. You should stand solidly on the side that is not supported by the KKK.

There is no middle ground for people who march in protest of hating an entire other group (or groups).  If the circumstances involve a group of people marching with torches intending to harm or threaten another group of people and that group is supported by the KKK, then there is absolutely no middle ground.

I can’t say it any other way. I’m beating this into your skull as many times as I can.

Whatever happens in your life, you should stand solidly on the side that is not supported by the KKK.

It’s not that hard.

There is a fallacy of false equivalence which is what, I think, complicates things if you are reading this as an adult. Let me be clear, Little (because no matter how much taller than me you will inevitably get, you will always be my Little.) If you are against the KKK or any other hate group, then you aren’t the opposite.

You are a decent human being.

Be careful – do not fail to stand up for what’s right because you are afraid to be seen as equally bad. You’re not. People might call you terrible things for standing on the side of right. Just follow these simple rules:

Don’t burn things to the ground.

Don’t instigate violence.

Don’t tip cars.

Don’t jump into the mob unless you know exactly what’s going on.

Glass shattering? Please don’t. You could get a nasty cut and an infection. Plus, destruction of property is illegal.

Ask people who are being bullied, harassed or otherized how you can help effectively. I’ve screwed up in that way, even just a few days ago at the park. I asked a friend how can we get more people of color to attend rallies, and he very honestly, candidly, openly told me I was asking the wrong question. And he’s right. He is presenting tonight and we are going to support him, his family, our city, and our fellow citizens. But we have to do more. It’s not up to me to figure out how to do more to make others feel comfortable – it’s up to me to have a conversation with someone to see what I can do to be supportive in a meaningful way. That’s harder to do, but it’s so very important.

But yes. If someone or a group is hurting someone you love, there is no equivalent.
You help. You help. You help.

If someone or a group is standing on the wrong side of history, waving symbols that are so clearly selected to threaten another group of people, even if you have no connection to that wronged group, you stand up.

You stand alongside those who can not defend themselves or those who are hoarse for yelling for so long they need support. You stand in front of those who can not defend themselves or are too tired to fight any longer.

You help. You help. You help. 

You are 5 as of yesterday. It’s the year 2017 and I can’t believe I have to send a message to future you about the KK fucking K.

I love you. Please, be good. Be good. Be good.

And…happy birthday.

Also, don’t say the F word. It’s not ladylike.

Love,
-Mom