Last week Miss Red came home in new clothes. “I pooped my pants, mama,” she told me matter-of-factly. The next day I asked her lead preschool teacher if there was any concern. “No, but ask the other teacher for a funny story.” The assistant teacher smiles. When Miss Red was changing her clothes, a boy walked in, saw her clothes and said, “Ew!” Miss Red looked up and said, “what’s the big deal? It’s only poop.”

Yesterday I pick up Miss Red from school. Her teacher told me that she is so impressed with Miss Red lately. There’s a new girl in the class and she had a lot of pee accidents that day. Miss Red went over to her and said, “It’s OK. I had an accident last week. The teacher will help you.”

I was so touched by her compassion for that other girl and her ability to see things as they are – accidents, a moment, nothing more.

At dinner, during our favorite parts of the day portion, I shared that mine was learning how nice she was to the new girl in her class. “I love that you were so compassionate.”

“What does ‘cashun’ mean, mama?”

“It means you see someone else and understand that they might have a hard time and help them out.”

“Oh, yeah!”

– MD


“Mama, the edges of books are called spines,” said Miss Red on Monday night.

We were reading a few books from the library. There are two series that she’s currently wild about, and we are, too. Polly Dunbar has written a number of books, but the ones that keep getting renewed are from the Tilly and Friends series, including Doodle Bites, Goodnight Tiptoe, Where’s Tumpty?, Happy Hector and Hello Tilly. My aunt also gave Miss Red Dunbar’s Here’s a Little Poem for the holidays, and I look forward to her growing into the words. I mean, of course you name a pig Hector and include a chicken who wears lipstick.

Hello Tilly by Polly Dunbar

The second series is the Piggy and Gerald set of books by Mo Willems. Most people are familiar with Willems from his Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus series, but I personally think, and Miss Red agrees, that the Piggie and Gerald series is better. A pig and elephant are best friends? Check. Said animals have witty banter and facial expressions? Double check.

I Will Surprise My Friend! by Mo Willems

What about you? Any great book recommendations?

– MD


It’s December. The tree is up. The ornaments are hung and the lights are lit. There’s a wreath on our door with, at my daughter’s request, a big red bow. The gifts are purchased and the calendar is filled with plans for holiday cheer.

Growing up, Christmas was a magical time for me. My Grandma would announce the holidays with a jubilant, “It would be Christmastime!” We’d plan a family trip to pick out out our tree from a grocery store lot sponsored by our town’s Jaycees. My mom would play Christmas records as she decorated our house, and my sister and I would beg her to play French Jingle Bells just one more time. We still laugh about the made-up lyrics we used to sing along.

My birthday falls six days before Christmas, and as a kid, I’d pretend the world was lit up in red and green and gold just for me. I reveled in the cheer, in the kindness, in the giving and, of course, the receiving. I’d pick out cheap gifts for my whole family at my school’s holiday fair, and could barely stand the wait for Christmas day to hand them out.

I loved singing in my school’s Christmas program. I loved wrapping, sharing secrets of gifts and surprises, and getting together with family. I loved the tradition of making a family pilgrimage to remember the dear ones we’ve lost. I loved the snow, the joy, the music in the air.

When I got wise to the myth of Santa, I didn’t tell my parents for more than two years. One year, they finally took me out for a slice of pie and hot chocolate and asked me point blank if I still believed. I was the youngest in my family and I was so sad to close the door on what had been a lovely and magical and beautiful part of my childhood.

In this day and age, I know it’s perhaps a bit uncool to declare my love of the holidays. Christmas fatigue is strong, as stores start the season earlier than ever before. Black Friday is often a display of consumerism at its worst. The whole holiday can be marked by conspicuous consumption, which feels distasteful in these hard economic times. Big business competes to get bigger, folks sink further into debt, and forced togetherness can be stressful. Santa has fallen on hard times as many families wonder what, exactly, children can learn from a big fat man who breaks into our homes and brings our children material things.

Yes, Christmas can bring out the worst in us.

But to me, it’s so much more than that.

I want my daughters to have wonderful memories of the holidays like I do. I want them to sing carols and watch the night sky for Santa. I want them to feel kindness in their hearts as they pick out a gift for someone they love or give a toy to a child in need. I want them to daydream about a village in the North Pole where magic happens. I want them to know that magic can jump out of the storybooks and touch their lives. I want them to have memories of cocoa on cold nights, of hanging ornaments and making paper snowflakes. I want them to wake up in December to a festive house and twinkling lights. I want them to know the songs and the stories – the lessons of Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, the beautiful cadence of the Night Before Christmas read aloud, the sweet melancholy of Charlie Brown.

I want them to have one day each year where all their hopes and dreams come true in spectacular fashion.

I want them to know the importance of family, the importance of time spent together. I want them to feel the raucous, chaotic joy of a room of 60 people who, despite living different lives in different places, truly love one another.

I want to teach them that we can and should put aside our differences at this time of year. That perhaps those differences aren’t so big after all. And maybe – just maybe – if we can do it at Christmastime, we can do it throughout the year.

So, this Christmas season, you’ll find me shopping and sending cards and baking cookies.

My house? It’s the one with the big red bow. I’ll be singing “Jingle Bells” with my toddler for the 27th time today. I’ll be driving to see family, to have a drink with a friend or through the lights display in the park. We’ll be at the much-maligned mall, sitting on Santa’s lap.

Charles Dickens said it best. Although Christmas “has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, ‘God bless it.'”


Cussing, Cursing, Swearing and Bad Words

I come from a fine line of people who use bad language. As a garnish, really, but hailing from East Coast Jews means that in addition to some situations being blown out of proportion – both good and bad – say, the freshness of shrimp in shrimp salad (I know, treif), or baseball – I heard a lot of cursing when I was little. I looked forward to the day when I would be allowed to use some of the same language.

I don’t have issue with Miss Red one day using curse words, as long as it’s at our house, and ideally, not directed at me.

So I ask you:
1. What terminology do you use – cussing, cursing, bad language, swearing?
2. Do you, or will you have any rules for your children in regards to the above?

– MD

Hurt Feelings

Around Chez D-H, we’re pretty comfortable with our feelings. My husband and I talk a lot, talk openly, and have a nice balance of silly conversations with “ohmygodthishurtsmyheadandheart” conversations. I’d like to think that we’re that way with Miss Red, too.

But how do you talk to your kids about hurt feelings? With Miss Red now in preschool, she is sometimes coming home talking about people who were not nice to her. How do we help her work through the minor offenses and the genuine assholes in the world?

What do you suggest?

– MD

The Good Traveler

We are blessed with a good traveler. A good airplane traveler, that is. Car trips are another issue, but since we now use a portable DVD player during longer drives, Miss Red tolerates them.

At 8 months, first plane trip.

As some of you may recall, we went to Okinawa, Japan in April, with our then 2.5 year-old, and she was amazing. I mean, really truly great. She went with the flow and had a lot of fun exploring.

How we survived 15 hours of plane travel with a child who didn’t sleep.

We’re back from Galveston, and I keep thinking about how well she did on the plane. Strangers would stop me and tell me what a good traveler she was. A man offered to carry a bag for me up the jet bridge so I could untangle her gate-checked stroller. She was given plastic wings on one leg of the flight and said after I pinned them to her fleece, “This means I’m a good traveler.”

She really, truly is. She talks about taking trips. She wants to go to China next, she says. She wants to go to Orangeland and Greenland. She wants to see the ocean again.


I love this. I love that she can think of places real or imagined and decide it’s worthy of getting on a plane for. I only hope we can take her there.

Where do you hope to take your kids one day?

– MD

The Cousins

My intentions for posting daily for NaBloPoMo were true, really they were. I even posted from the road while traveling for work, but last Thursday we three hopped on a plane for Galveston, Texas, and I barely checked my email or opened the laptop, so alas, I lapsed.

We went to Galveston for a lovely wedding. It was my first time there, with my previous Texas experiences limited to San Antonio, where my mother is from, and Austin.

Our little family really enjoys spending time with my mother-in-law’s family. This might sound like a given for some people, but I come from a complicated and fractured family myself – some people aren’t talking to one another on one side, I’m not talking to others on another side – and in some cases, people can’t even remember why they aren’t talking anymore. I grew up with a cousin only three months younger and for much of our lives we were attached at the hip, and to this day retain a close bond. I have been close to other family members over the years, but time or distance have pulled us apart, so to have family that actually likes spending time together is a joy.

This gaggle of relatives stem from my mother-in-law and her three siblings. Their offspring and the people who have  married in and their children are all called The Cousins. I get to be a Cousin, and we range in age from 22 to 38. We live in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, New York, Texas, Wisconsin and Japan, and when we get together, it’s a veritable United Nations meeting – with representatives from Scotland and Russia, too.

My favorite moments were the ones where Miss Red and her Arizona cousins played – coloring, twirling, dancing, laughing, and running.

At our final lunch together we started looking at calendars for our next family reunion. A time when The Cousins can frolic again.

What are you favorite family memories?

– MD

First Responders

I’m not doing too bad for being up at 2 a.m. changing poopy sheets. CH and I were awoken last night by Miss Red crying, “I need to go potty,” and I asked him to help her. I heard commotion and headed downstairs to find Miss Red crying and CH frustrated. “Can you change her sheets?”

Sleeping Beauty

With two Pull-Ups still unused, Miss Red decided last week that she didn’t want to wear them at nighttime. Since she stays dry through the night 99% of the time, we didn’t push the issue. I knew we were taking a risk, but I was glad to cross off Pull-Ups from the shopping list.

I changed her sheets while CH dealt with changing her and wiping her down. She was so upset – I’m guessing a mix of embarrassment and being tired, and it was a struggle to get her do anything. Her room smelled. The bathroom smelled. When we put her back into bed she still refused to take off her pajama top, which was soaked, and I convinced her to change shirts by letting he wear her Solidarity t-shirt, which she calls her “Be Nice to Teachers” shirt. Heh heh.

I tucked her in, checking her forehead, and she fell asleep immediately. CH put the sheets and blankets in the washing machine and needed to shower himself. As the first responder, he was dirty for sure.

Back in my own bed, adrenaline had made me Awake, and after a few minutes of tossing and turning I made my way onto our couch. The experience reminded me of when I was home on maternity leave with Miss Red, and she simultaneously pooped onto me and puked down my shirt. I had a New Mom Moment of Panic – unaware of what to do. It was gross, but in the end, and even now, I laughed a little bit. It’s par for the course – as newborns move from a bundle of nerves who poop and puke to toddlers who are afraid to poop and puke, our role is to be there and catch it all.

– MD

Do You Love Me?

It’s no secret that our daughter prefers my husband. No doubt at all. And why not? He’s a fantastic dad – I mean, really, truly great. In the beginning of this realization I was sad, pouting internally and externally about her crying for him, or just not wanting to be with me. Don’t get me wrong, she still does show affection toward me – we cuddle and read stories and I was the first person she said “I love you” to.

A blurry parade.

But I’m also the person she said to, deadpan, “Mama, I don’t like your face when I’m crying.”

Many people think I’m joking when I say this, but on Monday night/Tuesday morning she was up for about three hours. Fortunately, she was in a good mood, but was just awake. I took a bulk of this time, since CH had attended to her around midnight. I crawled into her bed, and she said, “No, mama, I want dada.” “Why?” I asked. “Because I love him so much.” Foolishly, it being about 2 a.m., asked, “don’t you love me?” Without missing a beat, she replied, “Only a little bit.”

Well, you get what you ask for.

This morning at drop-off, she gave me a little hug. “Where’s my big squeeze?” I asked. “I’m only giving you a little squeeze because I only love you a little bit” she answered.

These statements drive my husband batty. “Be nice to mama” is a common phrase in our house. I honestly don’t know what to do, and generally keep fairly neutral, except for when she’s saying something mean as a form of acting out. I mean, the girl can express her feelings, right? And how many of you love your parents equally? You might love them for different reasons, but don’t you have a favorite? “It will change,” say friends. “She’ll switch back and forth,” they say. I don’t know that. She might, sure, but she might not. For now, I take it as a lesson of something – how one person, created from love, who literally alters your body forever – can also change your heart.

– MD

Boo! And, Challenge Accepted

Ready to see a cute picture of my kid in her Halloween costume? It’s obligatory, right?

Red-headed unicorn

This is honestly the best picture we got, despite Miss Red wearing her costume to two Halloween parties on Saturday and going Trick or Treating last night. What is she? A unicorn. She didn’t like wearing the hood, which was the unicorn part, so we got a lot of, “oh, are you an angel?”

This year was so much more fun to go Trick or Treating. She got it. She would get excited when someone answered the door, and said the whole line, and then, “thank you, Happy Halloween.” After an older neighbor gave her a quarter, she said, “Mama, this holiday is about money and candy.”



November also marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which encourages people to write each day. Since I’m not working on a novel, I’ve decided to participate in its online sister, or National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), which encourages bloggers to post each day. So here goes it! Let’s see if you still want to read my words after a month of daily postings.

– MD

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