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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Gold Cup

Gomez's friend is playing football. As a result, he initiated and then would not let me out of a conversation about wearing cups.

Gomez: Boys who play football have to wear them. Did you know?
Me: I did.
Gomez: What are they made out of?
Me: I have no earthly idea.

Gomez thinks they're made out of cardboard because Mason has already ruined one.
Gomez: Will I have to wear one?
(Me): (Only if you have a vascectomy later? is what I wanted to say.)
Me: I don't know (is what I did say.)

Gomez continued with further details and I tried to listen as minimally as possible, imagining I now finally understood in a visceral way, the discomfort men feel when women discuss tampons and their periods. Because, I. Do. Not. Want. To. Think. About. Balls.

Just about the time I was desperately searching for a way out of the conversation, about the time when I considered bringing up tampons as a way to get out of talking about cups, Gomez goes, "I think they should be made of gold if you win a game."

Then he mentioned the women's world cup and...
And then I died of laughter.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

BONUS Tooth Fairy

Mars forgot his tooth at school and so left it under his pillow for Tobias a few nights late. THEN, Tobias didn't take it that first night. Naturally, Mars was terrified this meant Tobias had fallen asleep with the curse of Mordvor.

This was the letter Mars left, followed by the letter from Tobias.





Dear Tobias,

How are you? It feels like it’s been a month since you came last. (Even though it was only like a week ago.) Tell the other fairies I said hi. Also, I am trying to recruit believers. It is hard to find any. Does Elsa have a fairy? Or has she not believed enough. I am so excited to have such a BIG purpose. However having this BIG purpose is a heavy burden for both of us. Yet we shall prevail in the end. I will do whatever is agreed to overthrow Mordvor. I hope we can recruit enough people to overthrow Mordvor quicker.


With love and luck,

Mars

P.S. I know it’s hard but we CAN do this.



Dearest Mars the Magic,

I am so sorry for not coming for your tooth in my usual timely fashion. You see I was jailed for treason and was awaiting an audience with the Grand Realm Keeper. Charges stemmed from sharing information about Aelfric and Waterlilly.

You’ll recall fairy relationships to their individual humans and fairy identities are private matters and especially in these dark times, the Grand Realm Keeper should have taken no chances with the causes of Mordvor. I was just released and am writing so as not to worry you. I’ve not fallen under the curse. However, the Grand Realm Keeper has conferred with the High Fairy and agreed that I must encourage you to put your riddance of your most dark and gnarled habits in each tooth.

While Mordvor remains ongoing, my resistance is fiercer than ever now that I have approval from the High Fairy the Grand Realm Keeper to share selective information with you to help in your fight. She believes me about the cause of the curse but she is also concerned that bad habits contribute. She commands that I not return again unless you focus some energy on bad habits. But be not afraid of your purpose, oh bright boy. Your tactics are working here in Gnufflefoxen and there is nothing such a strong will as yours cannot accomplish.

Still, Mordvor had spread farther than I’d previously realized. Fairies throughout all realms have been failing to wake. Children must keep imagining! It shall work and the glitter of geodes shall shine again. My latest round of dart frogs are jumping higher than ever. I have plans to make very special instruments from wood of the birthplace of these springy and carefully fostered gigglefeet. Jumping and song will surely wake fairies far and wide with merriment. And with Holidays for children to play away days and days, with caroling and song on the horizon, all shall be well in due time.


All my love,

Tobias Hawthorne Gigglefoot VonRassmusson, III

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tooth Fairy Part VI


Dear Mars the Magic,

Congratulations on the loss of your most recent tooth. It will be a joy to collect it and the gnarled habit you may place within its center. It may be more important now than ever.

While I was able to hatch the eggs of many of the dart frogs and kept the wood where their eggs had lain well-protected in order to season it, it was only one part of a long battle ahead. This quest to combat Mordvor is far from over.

On the seventh of September, with the help of your mother’s fairy, we were able to carve a meager few lutes from the seasoned wood where dart frogs had hatched, and these we used to wake several fairies from my tribe. I was so glad to see them alert and playing.

Of course, once they awoke, they wished to join in the task of fighting Mordvor as well. The only question was how? It was some time before we discovered the source of the curse, and in that, the means to fight!

We began noticing that no new geodes were hatching. While the dart frog eggs remained protected by me, hatching as they do, the mud skippers had not been held off by the fairy, Aelfric Emeraldhorn. You see, Aelfric’s job had been warding off mudskippers and this was more important than I’d known.

Without Aelfric, mudskippers danced in dozens over the rocks and scree fields and I admit, at first, I thought nothing of it. But over time I realized, where mudskippers sleuthed by the dozens, there was no more glitter or sheen of crystals. The blackened rocks remained, but none sprouted new life.

In short, the mudskippers sully the imaginations of the children by leaving their slime and impurities on the rocks. That slime seeps through and destroys the crystallization where the geodes would otherwise form into the wombs of fairies.

This was our first hint at the source of Mordvor’s nature. For you see, wonder and joy are kindred spirits of whimsy and the ability to follow an idea is vital to their continuation. Children dream and imagine and their light ideas, followed long and far, become the shimmer of geode crystals and then the birthplace of fairies. Bright, pure childhood imagination is how fairies form within geodes and then are born. But distraction and greed stifle the light of imagination and it is within the muck of mudskippers’ slime that Mordvor grows.

Instead of new fairies, Mordvor festers amid the squelch of ill-advised impulse and the more mudskippers that gather, the more light of future fairies is snuffed out. Children don’t imagine deeply, brightly. Instead, they sneak together in the dark. Children who would play long hours away with light swords and otherworldly magic, instead influence on one another in darker ways. Children’s minds and ideas and friendships darken in the muck and Mordvor thrives.

Those on the side of Good fight valiantly with integrity and we shall prevail in the end.

Still it is not a simple thing to battle such a curse. We need all the help we can get from children with big, bright imaginations like yours. I hope you will continue drawing dragons and writing songs. I know I shall continue fighting Mordvor on my end. And before long, we shall see a fairy born again here.


Until next tooth, Mars.


With Love,

Tobias Hawthorne Gigglefoot VonRassmusson, III

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Do Nothing Support Group

Are your kids in one activity or less at a time and you're overwhelmed by the mere thought of the people you know who juggle multiple activities with multiple children?

Do you find yourself wishing you had friends you saw on a regular basis but the idea of cleaning and cooking to have someone over completely destroys you mentally?

Do you yearn for time laying on the carpet staring at cracks in the ceiling?

Do you miss showing up to your friends' houses with nothing and then cajoling them into going to the grocery store at 11 PM to buy poptarts and peanut butter so you can eat poptart sandwiches?

When someone asks if you've signed your kids up for soccer/piano/scouts/baseball/skiing/dance/theater/travelsports/4H, does it make you want to scream, "My sanity cannot survive doing any more things AND I can't afford it anyway!!"?

When someone invites you to go to a free concert/book club/painting night/selling some shit night/outdoor yoga class/dance club does it make you wish to never take flannel pants off, instead curling into a ball and never leaving your house?

If so, you should start a support group for people like us. I'm too tired to do it but I would really benefit from such a group. But you can't invite me. That'd be another thing.

Instead, maybe you could just show up to my house and tell me I'm in it.

What does Do More Nothing look like?

We lay on the floor and Do More Nothing. We don't put the kids to bed on time. Or bathe them nightly. Or draw or sew or fix shit or fill out field trip forms. They may have three day old marker on their necks. So be it.

We dig our fingers into dirty carpet and are fine with it. We do nothing.

I text you when someone asks me if I've signed my kids up for after school chess and snowshoe club with free hot chocolate and you say "DO MORE NOTHING."

You ask me to a "dinner party" and I show up in yoga pants with nothing. You have prepared no dinner. Instead we forage from the back of your cabinets and deep in your fridge drawers to eat popcorn and bagged lettuce for dinner on your couch. Yes, right on top of the laundry you haven't folded. Because I also tell YOU to DO MORE NOTHING!

When I ask you what you're doing for a long weekend, you say, "let's make a weekend of it," then show up and we watch TV for four hours and eat cereal for lunch with hard seltzer for desert at 11 am.

Do. More. Nothing.

Ahhhh, the mere fantasy is a reverie.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Tooth Fairy Part V

Mars lost another tooth and received another letter from his tooth fairy!

Dearest Mars the Magic,

I am so pleased to collect your second front tooth. You seem strong and tan and well with summer and friendship in your smiles. This brings me joy and I have been in need of such joy.
I mentioned in my last letter that the other fairies had failed to waken. Well, it’s true. You see, fairies wake and must play the rhythm of the day. Normally fairies all wake and set the rhythm of our day together by our instruments. Without our instruments, fairy’s hearts cannot beat. I woke one morning to find mine was the only one. There can be only one reason for this: Mordvor—the curse.
I never played as long alone as I have during mordvor. It’s been a nightmare to be so lonely without my fellow fairies. I look on them and they lay still, neither sleeping nor dead but simply still. Without others, it’s difficult to find my purpose each day. And yet, the obvious purpose has been to find a counterncurse to stop Mordvor. 
I think I’ve got a plan that will work. I intend to craft new instruments for each fairy and use them to awaken them. It won’t stop the curse but it should buy us time.
I’ve helped the latest batch of dart frog eggs to hatch and mature into tadpoles and now must merely wait for the wood where they were eggs to finish seasoning. For only the wood where dart frogs have lain their eggs possesses the magic necessary to make the instruments to wake a fairy’s heart. I am waiting now for a month or so more to see if the instruments I construct will work to wake the fairies. 
I have you to thank, really. When you reminded me of your mother’s fairy, it shook loose this plan. She had once explained to me the means for crafting fairy instruments. Now I must hope and trust that it shall work. 
Until the next tooth, Mars, be well.


With Love,
Tobias Hawthorne Gigglefoot VonRassmusson, III

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What I Did When my 6-year-old Boy Wanted Pink Sparkly Shoes

Gomez never gets new stuff. He gets the stuff that survives Mars. Clothes, coats, skis, and shoes. Except, I suddenly realized the shoes he was wearing were beyond unreasonable. They were torn. They were too small. They looked like a homeless person took pity and took of theirs and offered them. And because I'm cheap and awful, I briefly considered whether he might get through the summer with sandals so we could avoid buying him shoes until school started.

But Gomez heard me say he needed new shoes and wanted them before camp started this week.

"Please, mommy?"

The only thing I'm more of than cheap and awful, is a sucker for that boy's sweet cheeks and even sweeter please.

So we went to the shoe store.

I'd told him that he could look for light-up sneakers and he wanted them to be velcro so he wouldn't have to tie his shoes. It had not occurred to me that he might pick out "girl" shoes.

*I've always said that my kids can do what they like and I've always thought if we had a transgender kid that we'd be the perfect people to do that because we don't care about anything but our kids being healthy and happy and exactly who they are. I had this wonderful vision of myself as so progressive and willing to accept my child determining that he was she or that he likes boys. I've painted their nails and dyed his hair.

But somehow this felt different. He picked out a pair of sparkling, glittering, pink, purple, and teal light-up Sketchers.

What if kids picked on him? He was set to go to a different school the next day to start a camp with kids around the community, a camp run by teenagers. What if the camp counselor, a teen, said something stupid like "those are girls shoes?" What if the kids picked on him? What if this was his "thing" now instead of being smart and capable, what if all they saw were his shoes?

"Let's look at other shoes too."

"But I want to try these on."

"Yes, and you can try them on but let's make sure we try on more than one pair so you can see which fit best and which you really like."

We walked the "boy" aisle. The prices went up and I felt my chest tighten. There had to be a simple pair of blue, light-up, velcro boy shoes for around the same price.

Then we saw the Superman and Spiderman shoes. They lit up. A solution. I figured he'd be sold in no time but I was torn. I am supposed to be progressive, damnit! And also, an occasional snob. Ever since my childcare provider said that she wouldn't buy Walmart trash shoes for her kids with characters on them I wanted nothing to do with character shoes. Which would win? Gender norms or snobbery? What race to the bottom was going on in my head? Yuck.

He tried the Spiderman shoes. I checked the price. We were in range. I began breathing a sigh of relief. Of course he'd pick the characters. They were trashy maybe, but not any worse that the ridiculous mohawk he'd convinced me to give him combined with the horribly torn apart homeless guy cast-off shoes he'd worn into the store. A little of my heart let down and I felt both relief and a bit of shame at my own reaction. I told myself I'd be okay with him getting the pink shoes. I just needed a few minutes to adjust. But the need was about to be averted.

"They're too big," he said and I felt, in his whine, the desire for the other shoes. I suspected my reluctance had made them even more attractive to him.

Teal sequins and a blue and silver sparkle tongue. What would people think? Would Rob think I should have just said "no"?

I helped him pull out the cardboard and paper packing in the shoe and try them on. A grin spread.

Huge. A huge grin.

"You have to put both shoes on to make sure they fit." I could feel myself shifting as I began rehearsing ways to justify the purchase. He really wanted them! and then laughter that you had to laugh along with. That's Gomez! It wasn't really any different than the blue hair dye. I could do this.

"They fit!"

I softened, his delight contagious. "Walk all the way down the aisle and back just to make sure."

He ran as fast as his little legs would carry him.

blurred pink, teal, and purple sparkly kids shoes
I pulled my phone out and texted him a hastily-snapped, blurry photo. No amount of blur could undo all that shine and flash. "Gomez wants these shoes. Thoughts?"

No response.

"They fit! Can I get 'em?"

"What are gonna do if kids tease you and say they're 'girl' shoes?"

I flashed to his male kindergarten teacher telling the kids pink wasn't a girl color and how he'd worn pink to prove it. Maestro Martinez wouldn't be at camp though.

"They're not! I'll tell them there's no such thing as girl colors."

"Ok, but what if lots of kids pick on you?"

"I don't care." he twisted confidently sideways as if to ward off the comments and protect the beautiful shoes from the fictional children picking on him. "I'll tell them to stop. And if they don't, I'll tell on them!"

I wished the camp counselor was going to be his Kindergarten teacher, knowing he'd already gone back to Spain.

"Ok."

As we approached the counter to pay, I felt excited for him, at the same time as a little of me hoped he'd change his mind. And then I regretted my hope. I'm supposed to not care about these things. There are no girl and boy colors. Something I'd repeated to my children many times.  Do you operate it with genetalia? Yes, Then it's not for children. No, then it's not for girls or boys; it's for both. Yet, here I was, fighting myself, not wanting him to wear the "girl" shoes, wanting him to not get picked on or seen as "a gay kid." Which is extra stupid since I really think I'd be unsurprised and perfectly pleased to find out someday that he's an actual gay kid.

"Gomez, if we buy these shoes, these are the shoes. If kids tease you and you come home and don't want them anymore, there's no going back. Once you wear them, these are the shoes."

"I know!"

I thought of a relative who had recently denied her three-year-old son the sparkly shoes he wanted to wear so that he wouldn't wear them at school. And those were gold, not even pink. Not to mention how far superior I think of her judgment as compared to my own.

"So, you want them? You're sure."

"YES," he handed the woman the box and grinned from ear to ear as I handed her my credit card. His excitement was so palpable no one could resist his smile.

I watched him run, RUN all the way to the car with the joy of his purchase.

That evening, I watched him speed off on his red bike wearing his red shorts and his red long sleeved fleece shirt, with his pink and purple and teal sparkle light-up shoes--his favorite outfit was complete. I thought of my own parents not allowing me to leave the house mixing red and purple or red and pink together.

I let him stay at the park by our house and walked the few houses down to ours. I saw our 18-year-old neighbor (male) wearing pink shorts and told him about Gomez's new shoes.

"I'm so glad to see you wearing those right now," I told him.

Four days later, he's still going strong on his love of the shoes. He gets up each morning and puts his clothes on so he can put his shoes on before he's even peed yet. He's still that excited about these shoes. And the unexpected part for me is, I feel this tremendous pride at his individuality. It swells in me every time I see the shoes. He's braver than me. I'd never have known I might face teasing and gone toward it.

Maybe, Gomez just is who he is and I'm awfully proud of the fact that he is willing to follow his own tastes no matter what anyone else thinks. And that's what I really think about when I look at his new shoes.

Friday, May 31, 2019

The pad of my thumb covering his pointer

Last night I could barely stand to leave Gomez's bed. A 6 year old boy was killed. Hit by a car. He'd been riding his bike that evening. Just like my six year old had been riding his bike that evening.

So I lay there, and held him close and smelled him and kissed him and ran the pad of my thumb over every crease of each digit of each finger that lay so small and limp asleep in my palm. I considered him as long as I could.

The sharp juts of unexpected six-year old elbow contrasting to the softness of the formerly infant flesh. That squishy delicious shoulder against the crook of my arm is a remnant of his baby body, it's the ghost of what I know in my bones of his lifetime. That it is deepdown good. The way his cheek has always had this plump kissability, buoyant as shamrock-green love against my lips.
That his giggle has lit up my heart in every movie night.
That his mischief has bounced me from sleep as many times as I've coaxed him back to it
and will many more. I considered every detail, every memory I could muster until...

I took a deep breath and I left. 

I know you have to let them go into the world. They have to struggle through their own strife and they have to fall and get up again and again. They fall. But they shouldn't die.

We, their mothers, we need them too much. And in the simplest of terms. We just need them to exist. Exist hungry and angry, struggling, bruised, snuggled in asleep and fresh from a bath, or greasy and smelling of the earthen sweat of children. We don't care. We need them to exist as simply as we breathe. We need them to exist in impossible circumstances. 

I'm sick for this family and especially his mother.

The kid who was driving the car? He was just 19. 19. The 19 year old's mother needs him to exist too. And how can he exist now? He has to be hollowed out, not at all the greasy living sweating being he was the day before all this.

All us mothers can do is imagine these boys, how impossibly broken they are. And how immeasurably grateful we are for our own, laying in whatever state they are tonight.

The many more creases of knuckles to come
and how the pad of my thumb has traced every one