A Vow of Cake

We had our middle daughter’s 8th birthday party yesterday at noon. And so when 10:17am rolled around and my husband and I were in bed and instead of getting up he pulled the covers over his head I was so, so proud of him. And I then enthusiastically joined him under the covers. It’s like a fort of delayed obligations… I recommend it. (Yes we still have a baby around. We got up at 6:30am with her and then crawled back in bed at 9:30am when she went down for a nap.)

Now, the house had been cleaned, food bought, and the cake baked the night before- we’re not total monsters over here. But what were the first 2 things I did upon finally getting up and getting ready at 10:30am? Winged eyeliner (HEY I’VE NEVER TRIED THIS BEFORE SURE SEEMS LIKE A GOOD TIME FOR IT) and painting my toenails. THIS is what happens when I don’t make a list, for god’s sake.

We got everything done by 11:54am though, so it all worked out.

And I think we can all agree that cake is the worst. Not mine, I make decent cake- I just mean in general.  Icing is gross. And even the best cake is just nuthin’ special. I don’t tie up a lot of pride in my baking- but I made a promise, many many years ago that I would make every one of my children’s birthday cakes. And they get to pick whatever kind of cake they want. Shark cake? plastic sharks on top. Giraffe cake? Plastic giraffes on top. Dolphin cake? You see where I’m going with this, I think. And I have made each and every one and did it with the hand mixer I bought at a Big Lots at 18 before I left for college and that has somehow made it through about a MILLION moves and that I actually don’t think I used, ever, until I started making my kid’s birthday cakes.


Image by C. Glass… half full? Half empty? if I was that photographer I’d go by my full first name, honestly.

It’s a weird promise to have made, and I made it only to myself- but it absolutely stands in as a symbol of the mom I want to be. It stands in as a succinct version of all of this- rolled up in my head.

  • I promise to be the mom that can make you dinner.
  • and make you laugh and to also make sure your sense of humor is top tier.
  •  to mend your clothes and sew on buttons and who can make curtains if I have to and gives you a clean house to live in.
  • I promise to call you outside to see possums and hawks and birds and snakes. And point out the biggest earthworm I’ve ever seen in my life holy hell that thing is HUGE!
  • I promise to impart upon you a concept of self that is more than to be decorative.
  • But also to let you see that being a feminist badass doesn’t mean having to deny one iota of the nurturing that goes into home cooked dinners or mending or you know. Cake baking.
  • I promise to give you a chore each and every time you say “I’m bored” and that you’ll get to a point where you’ll open your eyes wide in horror after you say it and say “NEVERMIND, NEVERMIND!” and run off to your room to do something creative.
  • I promise to make you play on at least one team in your life.
  • But I also promise to not overbook you because free time is important to kids, and also your father and I like sleeping in on Saturdays.
  • I promise you’ll love reading.
  • And hell no you can’t get a phone!
  • And I promise to sing you a song at night as often as I can and you know what? You’re 10 and 8. I really should just do it EVERY night still, because how much longer will you even let me? But the baby still gets the Silent Night treatment every night.
  • I promise to have National Geographic in the bathroom and that it’s totally cool if you drop them in the bath, I’m just glad you’re reading them. (hasn’t happened yet, but they’re in there for y’all. Ready for whenever you pick one up.)
  • And while I’ll bake your birthday cake, I promise to never get tied up in the Pinterest-y competition between moms and do all the stupid other crap that isn’t for the kid who’s birthday it is, but to show off for the other moms. I’m looking at you, mom who prints labels saying “Caitlin’s Birthday!” for the goddamn water bottles.
  • Also? No goodie bags, ever. Though we did give out whoopee cushions that one memorable time. That was awesome.

And so, I will continue to make birthday cake, every year, three times a year and neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night will stay this faithful courier from the swift completion of her appointed rounds.

And the only other promise I’ve made myself that I have never ever once wavered on? No more tequila. Super committed to both. Make kids’ birthday cakes and no more tequila.

Words to live by.

Of Lice and Zen


So yesterday our oldest put her pet mice (named Almond and Honey) on her shoulder and I cracked a joke about “Oh no! You have head-mice!” She laughed. I didn’t- because holy hell. When was the last time I checked your head for actual lice?!

She didn’t have any. Her sister did though. F*****CK!

So it’s laborious nit picking around here. It’s dousing a small little head in burning lice shampoo made out of flowers. Think I’m making that up? The main ingredient in Rid is pyrethrum, made from chrysanthemum blossoms.


Flowers of louse-y death. 

“A Chrysanthemum by any other name would also totally reek.” These aren’t roses, but it’s not the very worst smell out there.

And so there will be much laundry and bagging up of stuffed animals, and weeks of staying on top of it… hours a night on nit checks. But, it’s an opportunity to sit and talk for uninterrupted time with my child. And besides, all I want is for her to feel better and to take care of this for her- it’s never had me angry or frazzled or super stressed out about whenever we’ve had to deal with lice. There is nothing to be done except slow waaaaaay down and invest the time to fix it. And that isn’t a bad thing, actually- the brakes getting thrown on life sometimes. So, I know it makes for a zippy title, but it is true, I do get quite zen about it.

And so I’ll go through the next few weeks with hands that smell faintly of flowers of death, which makes me feel like a minor Hindu deity in the Indian pantheon. And that isn’t a bad thing either, actually.

I will try to grab those silver linings as they race by, whenever I can…

Guest Post Today… on the Desert Flower Foundation blog

I have had the very good fortune of being able to share my story as a sponsor on the Desert Flower Foundation blog today and would like to share. Please stop by their site if you would like to read my story as to how I came to give to this charity to end Female Genital Mutilation and what it means to me- and to see a picture of Benita, the first little Desert Flower I sponsored.

Letter from a Sponsor


My thanks and Happy Friday to all!

There is a kids’ story or two in here somewhere…

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away… I remember helping my cousin Jennifer collect bugs  once for a school project. And now that I think of it- she was homeschooled so how the hell did that work? Anyway. I caught a huge red wasp in a tupperware container- and it beat against the lid like a drum. And there were a few beetles, maybe a June bug? All I remember is the wasp really (for obvious, scare the hell out of you reasons) and that I was SO good at catching bugs she put me in charge of the jar. (Gee… thanks? Is white-washing the fence fun too?) But anytime she would point out a butterfly I’d only pretend to try to catch it and shoo it away instead. At the end of the day we had enough bugs for her collection and not a single one was a butterfly. I was 10.

And today not only do I grow plants in my garden to attract and feed the adult butterflies I love so well, I grow host plants for their caterpillars to eat too. And while some of the caterpillars are cool, some really display the depth of my devotion because they… well they’re not cute. I have a key lime tree which is the host to my favorite butterfly, the Giant Swallowtail. Who’s caterpillar is basically bird poop. Think I’m kidding?


Boom. Evolution is wonderfully specific at times.

And then that thing turns into this…


My Precious!

And I really don’t know why the story was about an ugly duckling turning into a swan… because bird poop turning into a butterfly wins that competition ALL day long.

The Occasional Indulgently Introspective Post

I never wanted to be a princess.


Back in the day I never wanted a fairytale dress… but these days I’d wear the HELL outta that one though. Because I know you can be both badass AND a butterfly. (Image by Michael Michaeletti)

I’ve always wanted to be tough, as far back as I can remember.When I was 11 I used to check out books from the library about martial arts, and train in my room- push myself and my endurance. (NERD.) When I finally joined a karate class I quit the first one because it wasn’t real enough for my taste. Sparring just for points? Bah! What good is that?! I joined a full contact class. I wanted to learn how to throw a punch and take one. I was 12. I was obsessed with it- and I don’t say that lightly. When I was grounded I was not allowed to go to karate- so I ran  quite a straight and narrow path through my teenage years. (Stupid parents finding perfect motivation for good behavior. Grumble, grumble.) Weird to think karate kept me from drugs and sex and bad influences and smoking. But it did. I never wanted to be a ninja. I wanted to be a warrior. I’d like to think I got there. (I almost got kicked out for excessive force at every tournament I ever entered. I’d be an asshole if I was proud of that. I’m an asshole.)

Pride in that tough aspect of myself was the road back to a healthy self esteem (13-16 sucks when you’re a teenage girl, turns out). It’s still tied up in my body image and self esteem today. I’ve never wanted bigger boobs or smaller feet. I have wanted to get stronger when I’m feeling soft though. Being strong is more important than being thin. Though I dig that too, don’t let me fool ya. I just want to be strong and thin is all. None of that willowy crap for me.

I’ve been wondering why lately. Why did I want to be a warrior, a fighter, so badly?  It seems like such an odd thing now. Did I want power and that’s what my young mind associated it with? Did I feel powerless at some point?


Power IS handy. (Image by John Trusler)

I did almost get in a fight once- some girls jumped me and 2 of my friends because one of my friends was going out with one of their ex-boyfriends. (Oh 6th grade- you so crazy! Also, why the hell are y’all mad at me in this scenario?!) I talked my way out of that one by cracking a joke- turns out that’s more than an adequate defense mechanism.(I filed that info away for future use, too) I never got in another fight because I had nothing I was out to prove at that point. I don’t think it was a response to powerlessness in that circle of pissed off cholas that did it though… I’d wanted to be in martial arts long before that. Wanted to be tough before that. I DO think that was the thing that finally made me sign up for a class though.

I’ve always been a bit contrary, so maybe that’s where it comes from. My 6 year old tells me she doesn’t want to be different. And my response is “That’s so weird! Why would you ever want to be like everybody else?” I never wanted to be like anybody else, so that’s an odd one to try to handle and empathize with for me as a parent. But I try.

I told very, VERY few people I was in karate when I was in middle school and high school. And after. Mostly because “I know karate!” is just about the most pathetic things you could ever possibly say. I bring it up just because I now think… huh. That’s actually kinda weird. Why did my younger self cleave to that? I wonder mostly because my oldest daughter is just about the same age as I was back then. I remember being that age and being so strongly drawn to something… so, will she? What will it be for her? For her sisters?

I never did want to be a princess. I wanted to be a fighter. And I did actually get there. Now, I wanted to be an astronaut and live in Japan too. But well… 1 out of 3 childhood dreams ain’t bad. And at least I accomplished the most useful one, you know?

The Occasional Graveyard Post

So, my family has dug graves for three generations now*. I’m sure if you skip back through the centuries there is a lot more grave digging going on down the family tree, probably with a peak around 1347 or so. Anyway, turns out this recent family business is a tad outside of the norm in the modern age- but it took me a long time to actually see it as that.

Cemetery photo 2

Growing up all of us kids used to ride along with our dad and/or uncles on Saturdays for the grave digging jobs. I spent many a sunny summer day playing hide and seek among gravestones, and getting pushed into fresh dug graves by my brother. That part right there is a rite of passage in the family- getting stuck in a grave for an hour or so- ah childhood! We were taught to be respectful and to stay silent while the funeral itself was going on- and to be quiet and efficient in lowering caskets with the hand cranks after the grieving family had left. And we also learned that covering the grave dirt was important. I don’t know why actually- but there was always a big square of green astroturf to cover the grave dirt. Was it upsetting to the families to see? Never understood it, but never really thought about it either- it just was.

I enjoyed old graveyards then and still enjoy wandering around them today. But they have to be old to be interesting; today’s headstones are the 70’s ranch house neighborhoods of graveyards- all the stones the same shape and size, just slightly different colors. Ugh. Give me the scary, head bowed angels, the statues of baskets of fruit draped in mourning cloth, the spires and obelisks, the huge crosses. The statues of tree trunks for monuments for the Woodsmen of the World… the taller the tree stump the higher up in rank the members were. The graves under huge oak trees. The ones with seashells covering the top. The tiny fences. The photographs behind glass in the 1980s headstones have all faded in the sun or been water damaged- but the images from the 1890s somehow printed on white ceramic ovals are still pristine- photos of people dead over a century are clearer than those of people I could remember- if I had but known them.


Those old ceramic photos (at least around this part of central Texas) are generally dour German immigrants. Little ovals of the wife on one side of the headstone and the husband on the other- glowering disapprovingly at all the generations that have followed them. Every once in a while there were exceptions though. There is one grave in the old section of the Boerne cemetery where the image is of a husband and wife together… smiling and hugging. In the 1890s. How scandalous! And how they must have not cared- it was their death- they did what they wanted with it! It made me smile when I saw it. Proof of a happy marriage through the ages.

In my travels as a salesman in South Texas I’ve taken a few lunches wandering old graveyards with a sandwich in my hand. Sometimes you need 30 minutes of just being outside,wandering under trees and not answering phone calls, you know? Weird, weird, weird- I know that too. But I’ve never minded graveyards or found them creepy. I try to put the words to the feeling I get from those really old ones. Death minus grief equals peace… that is the closest I can get to it- though it isn’t exactly right. And I guess the familiarity from my own past plays in there too.

And I just found out this past week that my grandfathers slogan in the early days of his grave digging business was “We’ll be the last to let you down!” Which I find brilliant and would tell him so- if we as a family hadn’t dug his grave and already been the last to let him down. Oh well- he knew he was hilarious- he didn’t need me to tell him.

*Pretty sure this makes me an Untouchable if we go by the caste system in India.