Snakes in Maine

Did you know that Maine has no venomous snakes? We were informed of this tidbit while house-hunting two summers ago, as if that bit of knowledge would suddenly cause us to say, “Oh, well in that case…we’ll take this house right now!”  Being a natural skeptic, I simply nodded my head at the realtor and smiled real pretty-like, reserving my sarcasm for the privacy of our car.

I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could absolutely know whether or not poisonous snakes exist in a state filled with vast amounts of wilderness. Not only that but, how exactly, does one keep a snake from entering the state? Is there some kind of sentinel standing watch at the border of Maine and New Hampshire? “Can I see your papers please?” The visiting venomous snake pulls out some forged papers claiming that he is a common milk snake and hands it to the snake sentinel. “I’m sorry, sir…your photo looks nothing like you, you’ll have to turn around. We don’t like your kind in Maine.”

I subjected David to a relentless monologue about Maine and snakes after the realtor provided that weird (suspicious) piece of trivia. I have a hard time letting things go and, just as the ride settled into a comfortable silence, I’d ask, “So…do snakes just stop at the state line? Is there some invisible poisonous snake-repelling force field?” or, “Maybe the poisonous ones choose to avoid Maine. So….what? Maine’s not good enough?” I huffed, “Those elitist jerks.” We tend to engage in these types of conversations on road trips. Mostly because we’re slightly twisted and also because we make each other laugh with ridiculous scenarios.

Have you ever visited Maine? The first thing that you see as you cross the state line is a giant sign proclaiming that this is a state that lives life the way it should be lived. Evidently, whoever decided that living “The Way Life Should Be” also decided that life shouldn’t involve venomous snakes.

This morning I walked out of the house to find all three children huddled at the side of the driveway. Upon hearing the screen door shut, they all looked up and began talking simultaneously in a mixture of unintelligible squeals and excited sentences punctuated by high-pitched voice cracking. “Wait…what did you say?” Joe stood and ran toward me holding his hand out, “We found a snake, Mom!” I realized that the hand he was holding out was wrapped in a brown snake and my heart momentarily skipped a beat. Thankfully, I remembered that suspicious claim about Maine having only non-venomous snakes. I’m obsessive enough to have checked the facts and, short of contacting the State Wildlife Agency to confirm, I’m going to proceed living life the way I should…without fear venomous snakes. (The last known sighting of a Timber Rattlesnake in Maine was in 1901.)

Here’s our new (and likely temporary) friend, Mr. Baby Snake a/k/a Bing Bong. I can’t make this shit up.

Of course, after warning that snakes should never be picked up unless you know they aren’t poisonous and even harmless snakes bite, I let Joe hold Mr. Baby Snake who showed no signs of aggression. Plus, his tiny little head wasn’t threatening at all. I suspect that his mouth was too small to get a serious hold on kid fingers. Besides, how could I resist this textbook -boy” moment of exploration? Look at him… I love that smile and his new, too-big-for-his-face front teeth. I’ll think about the orthodontist bills later. For now I’m going to relish his final days as a six-year-old, big crooked teeth and all.

After he’d begrudgingly boarded the school bus and the grumpy bus driver shot me the hairy-eyeball, I realized that I was standing in the driveway in my nightie and a sweater. Whatever… we were having a moment. Besides, she’s pulled up and caught us doing The Robot and playing dead at the end of the driveway, I think it’s safe to assume her opinion of our family has been formed, nightie or no-nightie. (Do people even use the word ‘nightie’ anymore?)

Anywho… Joe was gone and the snake, now renamed Bing Bong, was subject to two inquisitive little girls who proceeded to poke him and decorate him with ornamental leaves. Bing Bong needed to look pretty for his journey home.


*Other than a bit of psychological trauma, Bing Bong escaped unharmed.

Do you hate snakes? Perfect…then click the brown Vote For Me button below and I won’t send you pictures of hissing reptiles oozing venom. Not really, you’ll actually be casting a vote for No. 7. – I’m not compensated at all, but your votes help increase my blog’s audience. Happy Friday!!

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Wait, don’t go! Did you hear the latest in raunchy gossip? Well, it seems that Mollie over at OK in UK gave me blog herpes. It’s true. Go check her out and find out who else she passed her herpes on to. Thank you, Mollie!

Green Eyed Monsters?

Aaah…jealousy. We all have it. We all feel it.

And now we’d like you to write about it. We’ll leave it open: you can write about something or someone you envy, or a time when your jealousy got you in trouble, or maybe how it makes you feel to be envious. Whatever you want.

In the past, I was made to understand that I was the family outsider – the one who never quite fit. My angles were all wrong. My thoughts and aspirations were too different. I walk in the land of dreams and they move with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Leaving them was a difficult but trying to squeeze myself into a place among them had become too exhausting. When I met David, we seamlessly merged together and, for first time, it was acceptable to simply be me.

Being away for ten years has provided some insights. The death of our older generation has brought revelations while watching the younger set enter adulthood has been interesting. I’ve come to realize that there is a side of my family that I barely know. We are virtual strangers but for passing news from my mother or sister or grandmother. For my entire life I’ve moved on their perimeter, never really feeling like anything more than a passing acquaintance.

Once, just last year, I was speaking with my grandmother on the telephone when she began talking about my younger cousin and me. She began a sentence with, “I know there’s some jealousy and competition between the two of you but…” I didn’t hear the rest of what she said. I was trying work out the jealousy and competition part. Did she have me confused with another granddaughter? The wheels were spinning.

 I barely know the girl…the last time we spent any real time together was when I was 12 and that was a lifetime ago.

She called me last year to inform me that my grandmother wasn’t doing well and that I should visit her before it’s too late. I bit my tongue during that somewhat admonishing telephone call from my younger cousin. Her tone suggested that I had no idea what was happening in my grandmother’s life. Was she attempting to assert her position of authority on the matter? Her call seemed to infer some familial failure and selfishness on my part. I wanted to tell her that I don’t have the luxury of dumping my three children off with someone while I jet off to Nashville for a visit. And I don’t have the luxury of buying plane tickets for a family of five to go say what might be a final goodbye. I wish I did.

I don’t know you.

You’ve never made an effort to know me.

Why would you call me out of the blue and suggest that I’d better visit before it’s too late?

As if I don’t already know…or care.

I wanted to tell her that I have no need to fly somewhere to prove my love and gain good standing. I don’t need to be anyone’s favorite. I don’t need to compete for love. I don’t need to be the family golden child. I began to wonder if what my grandmother had said about jealousy and competition was true. Had this existed for all of this time and I had no idea? Does it exist at all? Frankly there isn’t much else I could do to remove myself from their lives, short of dying. I never see them.

When I was 12, I ran away from my mother’s home. I told her I hated her when what I actually hated was that my parents had divorced just months earlier. I went to live with my father for the rest of that year and, when summer came, I visited my mother’s family with her. My uncles cornered me and the childless one informed me that they were all mad at me for what I did to my mother. He looked at me with disdain and told me that running away was selfish and mean…that I had no right to do something so horrible to my mother. It was my fault that she was so unhappy. He delivered his message and walked off to join the family.

I sat alone by the swimming pool after being told how horrible they all thought I was. I sat there and watched the younger children who still had their house and their family and their innocence and the love of everyone. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t part of that family. That day, I was pushed to the perimeter.

Yesterday, my sister and I talked about our immediate family and how my sister, my brother and I have always gotten the raw end of the deal. We’re the bastard children who missed out on relationships because of divorces and years-long family arguments. We didn’t inherit family heirlooms because, it seemed, all the others are somehow more entitled to those treasures because of who they are. We didn’t have parents that bought us cars and took us on yearly family vacations. Most of us don’t have family who lives down the road who want to pick our children up and watch them while we jet off to another state to visit someone for a few days.

I reminded my sister that although we didn’t inherit our grandmother’s clocks or china, we didn’t get to go to our Granbob’s funeral and we can’t fly down to Nashville to see our Granny, what we’ve inherited is far more substantial than material objects. I have no need to provide everyone with material proof of how much they loved us. We have our memories of time spent with them. Memories of summer days in Tennessee and Pennsylvania, New Orleans and Florida. Memories of waking at 4:00 a.m. to watch Diana marry her prince. Memories of riding a fake deer in my grandmother’s rock garden while she belly laughed and taught us about love and flowers. Memories of walking through the forest with her while she told us stories of her childhood.

I’ll just stay out here on the perimeter where I’ve always belonged. On the inside, the angles are much too sharp.

Family Treasures

Joe is working on a unit at school that involves family treasures from home, especially those having to do with families and nationalities. I wracked my brain trying to think of something that he could bring in to school to talk about his Irish, English or German heritage. Do I send him in with a fisherman sweater on and make him talk about Ireland? Snore…he’d be itchy and bored with the subject matter. Clearly sending him in with a few pints of Guinness is illegal. Do I send him in with some of my English china? Not so much. A German cuckoo clock and a keg of Dinkel Acker? Sauerkraut and some bratwurst? Nothing seemed quite right.

I stood gazing at my little toothless Joe while I made dinner last night. I was boiling the last of the homemade pasta that we’d made on Easter Sunday and tossing it with lemon and asparagus when it dawned on me. (DUH!) One of our biggest family treasures was handed down to me by my Uncle Joe. I’ve written about him often here at Narragansett No. 7. He was a one in a million kind of guy whose parents came to America from Italy. He was the first child of theirs to be born in the United States and he became a beautiful mixture of America and Italy. He played baseball, almost professionally, until he was drafted to serve in WW2. He told me stories of hiding in a basement in Holland as German bombs dropped on the city above their heads. He told me about a time when, through a grapevine of messages, he learned that his brother’s company was near enough for them to find bicycles and ride across the European countryside to just to see one another again in the middle of that war. His eyes took on a glazed far-off quality as he recalled to me the day that he saw concentration camp victims being liberated by the army.

Uncle Joe – kneeling, holding the baseball bat

 My Aunt Lorraine passed his pasta board on to me this winter. It’s simply a large butcher block board that he made years ago specifically for making his homemade pasta. I cried when she handed it to me. As stupid as it seems, that pasta board holds his essence. The wood holds his weight, love and our combined memories. I spent hours with him at that pasta board, coated in dusty flour and sticky dough. Over the years, I watched his hands slowly age as they mixed that pile of flour and eggs into an enormous pile of dough for Christmas Eve or a random Sunday dinner. The size of the meal was always gauged by the number of eggs that he had added to the mountain of flour. In the end, the kitchen would be a jungle of pasta noodles handing to dry.

He taught me how to make homemade pasta and now I make it with my own children. They love the whole messy process, but something tells me they’d love it more if it was Uncle Joe who was rolling the noodles out with them.

Homemade Pasta

3 and 1/2 cups of flour
3 eggs
dash of salt
1/3 cup semolina

Mix the flour, salt and semolina into a mound then create a hole in the middle…as Joe says, “so it looks like a volcano mom!” Crack the eggs into the middle and then using a fork, beat the eggs as if you are scrambling them. Bits of the flour mixture will fall into the middle, mixing with the eggs but you will also stop scrambling to pull flour into the eggs. Keep going until a sticky dough forms and at some point, you’ll being kneading the dough. Don’t make it too dry and flaky! It should stay slightly tacky. Knead the dough until smooth and wrap in plastic wrap until you’re ready to create your noodles.

Here’s where I’m lucky. I have the original pasta machine that my aunt and uncle gave to my mother years ago. I use the pasta machine for the final bit of kneading. You can use a rolling pin to make your noodles but get ready for a workout!

I cut my dough into sections and wrap the sections that I’m not using to let them rest and keep them moist. The section that I’m using goes through my pasta machine’s rollers on the highest setting (8) and we keep rolling until we can get to the setting that we prefer, a “2” which gives a fairly thin noodle. Then the long noodle is finally ready to run through the machine to be cut and hung to dry.

Here is a delicious topping for pasta like papparedelle (wide noodles) that celebrates springtime and the fresh asparagus that is in season.

Pasta with asparagus and lemon
1 1/2 pounds asparagus
1 pound pasta (pappardelle is nice, but penne or casarecce is good too!)
1/4 fresh lemon juice
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 freshly grated Parmesan
*bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
*Rinse the asparagus, snap off the tough lower stems and discard. Cut of 11/2 inches of the asparagus tips and reserve. Chop the rest of the stems. Cook the asparagus tips in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tips and set aside. In the same pot of boiling water, blanch the asparagus stems for 6-7 minutes, until tender. Remove with the slotted spoon and rinse in cold water.
*Cook the pasta in the same pot of boiling water until al dente. While the pasta cooks, puree the asparagus stems, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender or food processor until smooth. If necessary, add a bit of hot pasta water to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.
*Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the asparagus puree, the asparagus tips and grated Parmesan.

CHECK IT OUT! I got a new award today. Seriously, it’s like brand-spanking new and created by Bernie at One Mixed Bag and Michele from Living on Less. Such a great idea for an award. Here are the “rules”:

This is a very simple award, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. You can give it to 1 blog, 300 blogs or no blogs. That is up to you. Some ideas of what you could do with the award if you wanted to:

Give it to your favorite blog that has thousands of followers. You know they won’t have this award. I know when I started blogging and I would get awards I want to give them out. Most of the blogs I read already had at least one of them. This award is new today, so you know they won’t have it.

Is there a new blogger you discovered with only a handful of readers? Pass it on to them. They will be thrilled to receive their first award.

Just slap it up on your blog and so say nothing.

Don’t slap it on your blog and do nothing.

Thank You Blogger Friends (What I write on NyQuil & Wine)

For shits and giggles I Googled my blog yesterday and came upon a random review by some random jackass. Apparently, I suck because I use Blogger which sucks because it is connected to Google which sucks because…well, to be honest I zoned out a bit on her rant because it sucked. Note to self: eDee2.0 abhors anything associated with Google but who really gives a shit?

This won’t win me any fans, but don’t even get me started on the cut-throats over at Top Mommy Blogs. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT get in the way of the ladies hell bent on delivering a daily recipes along with a review of the latest and greatest in baby leashes on their quest to reach the coveted No. 1! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some awesome and funny fellow bloggers there. Kitten at Mumsyhood and who doesn’t love Jill at Yeah. Good Times.

I’ve never been entirely sure why I joined Top Mommy Blogs in the first place. Sure, I blog about my family but I’m more about the writing part as opposed to mommy blogging. I’m thinking it’s time to say goodbye to Top Mommy Blogs and worry fine tuning my writing instead of trying to win a popularity contest. I already competed in high school. No offense to my fellow blogging friends who participate, I just don’t think that some of my posts really fit that audience. I’m trolling for the right networking site for Narragansett No. 7.

So where does one go to network your blog when you are a mommy who happens to write? For starters, I’d recommend For The Love of Blogs. There are a whole bunch of different blogging niches there and one is dedicated to writers!

I like that For the Love of Blogs frowns on the “follow me and I’ll follow you” bullshit. I want people to follow me because they enjoy reading my words, not because they’re trying to collect a large number of followers. Mostly, I’ve found a really supportive community of people at FTLOB.

If you have a chance, go check out some of my favorites and friends. Take a minute to introduce yourself. This is a fantastic group of women, every one of them is both talented and supportive. They’ve taken the time to read my blog and comment with thought. So thank you, friends! I don’t always have the time to comment when I stop by and I hate writing something that sounds as if I haven’t taken the time to read your words or admire your beautiful photography, but I do.

Of Woods and Words – If I lived in Ada’s neck of the woods, I’d stalk her and make her be my friend. She is an incredible writer. A real writer. Maybe she doesn’t know, but some days she inspires me.

Mommy used to be so pretty…. Her blog’s name made me giggle one day. Then the banner on her blog made both me and my husband chuckle. Another talented writer who keeps me coming back with her humor and touching posts. Check out her recent post titled “and a naughty girl too…”


Rub Some Dirt On It I think she might just be my northern New England soul sister. It seems that her talent never ends…she’s obsessed with french fries and a blue barn door. She lives in the middle of nowhere, with lots of snow and dirt roads. I “get” her.


Midnight Oil Momma. I really like how she writes, her twins share my birthday and she makes a killer meatloaf! I can’t wait to read more.

Another Cookie, Please! What can I say about Patty… I’ve known her for nearly 20 years but didn’t really get to “know” her until we started blogging this year. She’s been one of my biggest supporters, she’s boosted my self-esteem and encouraged me to chase a dream. She’s made me laugh for a long time and now she inspires me. Patty took time out of her busy life to write me a recommendation for graduate school without hesitation. Thank you, friend.  On a side note, she has also had the pleasure of waxing my nether-regions ..isn’t she lucky?

Tales of a Hockey Wife makes me laugh. Without fail, she provides me with at least one chuckle per post. Her hockey mask photos are genius. She is training to be a Zumba instructor and pole-fitness classes. She shares my love of singling out annoying people and writing funny blogs about them, only she’s smart and does it anonymously.

Tales of a Hockey Wife

Chicken Noodle Gravy I am completely addicted to the comfort of Chicken Noodle Gravy. Katie whips up some delicious posts. Her writing style is really engaging and keeps me going back for more. I’ll be honest, I just discovered Chicken Noodle Gravy about two weeks ago, but Katie is an instant favorite. She shares the dream to be published. I think she’s on her way.

My 3 Little Birds Yet another recent discovery and instant favorite! She is an aspiring writer too. Do you notice a theme here? I can’t get enough of My 3 Little Birds. We kind of stumbled upon one another over a shared blog title. “Crack is Whack!” What can I say, she had me at crack.

The Fancy Flea. Amazing photography of her beautiful country/life/random moments. She loves books. I love her.

The (Not Always) Happy Homemaker Diary. Missy has been a constant reader for a while. She never fails to comment and always manages to take the time to say hello via Twitter. I’m so bad at Twitter. I think Missy might be the only person who really talks to me there. We share many similarities and have both spent time lamenting over them. Sometimes it’s nice to know that you aren’t alone in the world.

Rancher Mom’s Realm makes me laugh a lot. It doesn’t matter if she’s commenting at my blog or if I’m reading hers. I giggle. She’s real. Her posts are genuine and I like when other women drop F-bombs as much as I do.

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OK in UK has the best sense of humor ever. I love Mollie. There, I said it. I think I’m weird until I go to her blog and then I realize that I’m not alone in the world. It’s the rest of the people who are weird and not funny. If you’re normal, Mollie will make you laugh. She will also entertain you with her talent for writing. to to her blog!

I didn’t forget anyone. I’m tired and I have a raging sinus infection so if I didn’t give you a shout out please don’t be angry with me. Take pity on me and my bum sinuses. I still love you. I do, really…I do. I’m simply jacked up on pinot grigio and NyQuil Sinus PM and should probably stop before this takes a turn toward freaky.


I remember the cool, cool air blowing from the air conditioner as the car wound through Westchester and Connecticut toward the Long Island Sound. I didn’t need to worry about certain death should the passenger side airbag deploy because it was 1979 and we didn’t worry about seatbelts and airbags then. I was eight-years-old and enjoying the view from the front bench seat of Aunt Rain’s AMC Eagle.

Going to the ocean with Aunt Rain was the highlight of my vacation. Each summer I spent two weeks with my favorite two people in the entire world. My days were filled with the swimming, fairs and fishing, but those beach days were reserved for just Aunt Rain and me. We would float for hours in the salty water of the Long Island Sound at Sherwood Island.

She laid her body back in the water and I thought she would go under, as I would have if I attempted to float. Like magic, her body floated on the gentle waves as she turned her face up to absorb the heat of the sun. The tide was out and crabs scurried beneath our feet. I jumped, buoyed by the water and landed on Rain.  My little body was held up by hers and we laughed about my startled scream and the crab hurrying past my toes. I asked her how she floated so well and watched beads of water roll from her skin.

Our skin glistened with Hawaiian Tropic and my nose was filled with its heady coconut scent. I gingerly laid myself on the blanket, trying my best to keep my greasy skin perfectly clean and free of sand. We pulled sandwiches from the cooler and the Fritos from her canvas LL Bean tote were warm and greasy from the heat of the sun. I alternated licking the salt off the Fritos with sips of shockingly sweet Hawaiian Punch. Aunt Rain read her book and I basked in the sun. Our shared silence was always comfortable.

The ride home was bumpy, sunburned, sleepy and sandy. The lush green landscape of Connecticut flew by my window and lulled me into a sleepy, post-sun state. I looked up at my Aunt Rain, marveled at her beauty and the love she gave before closing my eyes for a cat nap.

Aunt Rain and Kate, January 2011

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For My Love

Happy Valentines Day! I’m re-posting the true story of how my husband and I met. It is simply magical…

I walked down the hallway watching him as he moved ahead of me. He was handsome in his navy suit. Far more well dressed than any of the men in my life…and then he turned to do a goofy dance that completely belied his appearance. Waves of lightness and love washed over me. At that moment I felt myself shift from the nothingness of a completely mundane existence to the realization that I was experiencing unequivocal love. It was palpable and intense and I tried with all of my might to focus on his face. I needed to see it clearly…to memorize it because somehow, I realized that this meeting was brief.

I struggled to stay there with him, but I woke to a snowy morning in February. It was 1997 and I was just four months away from a rather large wedding, but I forgot all of that as I desperately clung to the filmy remnants of my beautiful dream. Tears streamed down my face because I knew I didn’t fully see his face. I didn’t know his name and I’d likely never see him again. I couldn’t imagine living without the intense happiness that I briefly felt in my dream. I had never experienced such joy and letting go of that feeling of lightness to return to my dark place was unbearable. The dream was so unbelievably vivid. Out loud, and to no one in particular I asked, “Where are you?” Knowing that I couldn’t go back into that dream, that our meeting wasn’t real was devastating. I know …this sounds dramatic, but I just don’t have the words to express how intense that dream was, how happy I felt.

Even after telling myself that it was just another dream, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was out there. As I talked myself out of believing in his existence, I came to the realization that those feelings of love and acceptance were so intense that I couldn’t deny them. I’d never had such strong feelings before, and here I was having them for a blurry, handsome man in a dream. At the very least I knew that if I was getting married to Steve, I was marrying the wrong person simply because that intense love wasn’t there. We shared no real connection except that we were really good friends who were attracted to each other.

Three days after the dream I still couldn’t stop thinking of him. I wondered where he was. I walked into the house that Steve and I had just bought and handed the engagement ring back to him. I knew that if nothing else, my “gut” was telling me that marrying Steve was the biggest mistake I could make. I stood in that house looking at him, scared to say goodbye, but not feeling any affinity to this place that was supposed to be ours. I willed myself to love him the way that I loved the man in my dream, but realized now that my love for Steve would never be as intense. But I did love him and I loved him enough to know that leaving would be painful for both of us. So instead of trusting my instincts and believing in the message of my dream, I chose to take the ring back. I listened to people tell me I had cold feet and I kept my dream to myself wondering if perhaps I had finally gone completely crazy.

For 2 years and 9 months I kept my dream to myself but never forgot it. I was married but very newly separated. I vaguely knew David. At work one afternoon, I was out of the office researching documents in his conference room. I was distracted by my recent separation, for the past few nights I had been staying at a hotel and was just beginning to realize that the road ahead of me was about to get very bumpy. David seemed to sense that I was in a bad place.

We left his office and began walking down a deserted hallway. He said something that made me laugh. For the first time in days, I felt completely at ease. I had momentarily forgotten what was happening in my life because there was something about David that made me feel safe. As he moved ahead of me, I noticed for the first time how handsome he was in his navy suit. We were laughing about something, I don’t recall what now…and he began to turn toward me. As I stood laughing and watching him break into a goofy dance, I felt like someone had knocked the breath out of me. I stopped laughing and stood staring at him with eyes wide open. He stopped his dance and with a look of concern, asked me if I was alright. I blinked in shock but gathered my composure enough to tell him that I was fine and continued walking.

How in the world do you tell someone you barely know that you dreamt of him almost three years ago? That you saw that very moment play out exactly as it happened before you even knew he existed? The hallway, the suit, the dance…nothing differed. It was him. I knew it was him.

I don’t need to tell you the rest of the story because you know that we fell in love. Just days after that goofy hallway dance we were inseparable. I told him of my dream months later, after he knew me well enough that he wouldn’t think I was a crazy, clingy stalker. To this day I am amazed. I wonder how that dream happened. What or who placed it in my subconscious just before I was about to marry the wrong person?

Whether or not you believe my story is of little consequence to me. It happened and to this day I feel that destiny brought David and I together and there will always be a little bit of magic attached to us. He finally found me.

Will you be my Valentine? No? Okay, how about a vote?
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Cue the Crying

Dim the lights! Cue the princess music! Illuminate the castle and send Jasmine out! Is that woman in section T, row 15, seat 14 trying not to cry?

What? At least I’m man enough to admit it. The Disney species of princess make me cry. I don’t know why. Is it the music? The gowns? The castle? The last time I was exposed to the princesses en masse was March of 2006. Gwen was just a bun in the proverbial oven as I stood in front of Cinderella’s castle during some kind of Disney Princess extravaganza, sobbing. I was a weird 30-something pregnant woman blubbering at the vision of fake royalty waltzing with their princes on the grand staircase of the castle.

I remember pushing my little boy’s stroller toward the castle and hearing the grand announcement of Ariel and Prince Eric, followed by Snow White and Prince Whosey Whatsey and the guy who got hitched to Belle. Did we ever find out that guy’s name, or does she still refer to him as ‘Beast’? Maybe she really is a peculiar girl… Anyway, there I stood with my eyes glued to the girls and their princes waltzing around when I felt the overwhelming sting of tears working their way up the pipeline. I bit my lip, I took a deep breath, I looked away and shifted on my feet, but there was no stopping the flow. I let my freak flag fly under the guise of emotions run by pregnancy hormones, but the truth of the matter is that to this day, I have no friggin’ idea why the hell I was bawling.

Today I took Gwen to Princesses on Ice. The overture announcing the arrival of a princess boomed throughout the Civic Center, the lights twinkled and danced, then Jasmine skated into view. The ol’ pipeline started to trickle and threatened to spring a leak. Thankfully I was able to call myself a jackass and turn off the spigot. I was fine until the end of the show when those stinking princesses went and lined up on the stairs with their princes. Maybe it was the gowns, or the music. Mostly, I think it was the delight in my little girl’s sparkling eyes as she clapped and danced with excitement. I realized how quickly time has passed since my Disney World princess/pregnancy-induced outburst. Back then, my baby was just a bump. Four years has assigned the bump a sex, name and terrific personality. I’ve spent the past four years falling in love with a beautiful princess.

The waterworks flowed as those princesses stood on the steps waving and waltzing, but mostly my tears were tears of joy and wonder as I watched my girl’s face.

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I lifted my gaze from the face of my daughter who lay swaddled in my arms, still under the spell of sleepy newborn slumber. In the distance, I watched the pinpoint of a shadowy figure emerge from the light at the end of the darkened corridor. The darkness didn’t bother me. I was content with the weight of the new life in my arms. My eyes struggled to focus on the approaching form. As the space between us began to close, it was my grandmother whose form finally obscured the bright light. Her shuffling approach slowed and I recognized the familiar glint of mischievousness in her eyes. Her mouth turned up slightly in one of her trademark sarcastic smiles as our eyes met. Her expression dared me to ask how she had gotten here.
She stopped before me and tore her gaze from mine. I saw the anticipation in the slight bend of her head as she stooped over Gwen and pulled the swaddle aside. A minute inhale could be heard when her eyes met my new baby. A moment of quiet reflection followed. She looked up at me, her white hair casting shimmering glints reflected from the light behind her. Our eyes met. “Well, ain’t she cunnin’, doll…” Her smile told me she was proud. Without speaking, she told me she loved me. I wanted to reach out and touch her face, but my arms were filled with my baby. Slowly she turned and shuffled back down the corridor while I stood watching. Without turning back, she became a slight pinpoint of shadow. Then she was gone. The light closed upon itself with a discernable pop.

My eyelids fluttered open. My vision was filled with my sleeping daughter, still held under the spell of sleepy newborn slumber. I rolled over to the warmth of David’s arm and kissed him awake. “I just had a dream. Mema was there. She came to meet Gwen.”

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Gwennie’s preschool welcome letter was in the mailbox this afternoon. This was the moment that I have been dreading all summer. *sniffle* I know, I know… I need to let her move forward. It’s preschool. A right of passage… a major milestone in the life of my little cookie. My Cookie. *sob* She tries to make me feel better by saying things like, “Mommy, I have to get all growed up!” or, “It’s okay Mommy, you’ll be right back to pick me up”. She says these things with a shrug of her tiny shoulders while wearing an appropriately empathic, but too-bad-for-you facial expression. I recognize it as my own.
Oh, how long I waited for my little girl! For all of my blustering about never wanting children (back when I didn’t know I wanted them), I secretly dreamed of one just like her. Here’s a little secret…Gwen was not planned. I had no idea I was pregnant for weeks. No idea at all that another baby was on the way! Thankfully, we sorted it all out before we ended up on the I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant show.

My sweet little Cookie. I have no idea how or why the nickname “Cookie” began, but it belongs to her. Like every other mom, I will never forget the day we first met. As I recovered (lay helpless in bed) from surgery Dave took photos and, in his ecstatic state of new Daddy bliss he posted a most unflattering photo of our new baby girl.

I was beyond mortified! “WHAT?! You posted that picture?! Look at her…she looks like a hairy linebacker in that shot! Why that picture?!” You can imagine that my hormones were in full swing at this point. Poor David.

Here’s the one I would have sent:

I’ve enjoyed each and every minute of her existence, right up to this very moment. She makes us laugh both giggles and belly laughs without even trying. She can as easily make me cry as I watch her attempt a brave face before confronting the man-eating hippos in her closet. Who can blame her for being frightened if those are the kind of things lurking in the shadows of her bedroom?

Over the past week, I have gone through what seems like thousands of photographs and can’t help but marvel at how tiny the children were. How easily we forget and how quickly they grow. Chubby little baby cheeks and beautiful toothless grins are fading away. Like every other parent in the world, we only have our memories and photographs to help stir them.

I explored picture files full of Joe and Gwen’s first years, when we lived in Boston. I had forgotten how tiny our apartment in Oak Square was. I thought of when our two babies shared a sweet little bedroom, and how suddenly one afternoon I heard them babbling to one another. That was the afternoon that she became a little bit more “baby” and little less infant.
When people say that children are born with their own personalities, they aren’t wrong. It didn’t take long to see that Gwen was an “Alpha” baby. She began busting Joe’s chops (his words) as soon as she could sit up. Here’s the proof:

Gwen came into the world making us laugh. She has that special something that lets her get away with just a littlebit more than the others. She has comic timing. Gwen has presence. She’s quick to defend and stands up for the rights of those being wronged…including herself. She has a quick wit and a sharp tongue. At 18 months, she exited the sandbox with purpose to toddle to the swings where she proceeded to smack the neighborhood’s three year old Neanderthal who was pushing Joe around. I wouldn’t have believed it unless I watched with my own eyes. She emitted some sort of crazy babble/yelling, smacked the bully a few more times for good measure and chased him off. Gwen is one tough Cookie.
She claims that her brother is her bestest friend in the world, but will rat him out in the blink of an eye. She welcomed her new baby sister into the family with grace and watches over her to ensure her safety and happiness. In fact, she’s Kate’s official spokesperson. So much so, that Kate can speak her own Kate language, leaving Gwen to interpret. Oddly enough, she has developed an uncanny knack for knowing precisely what Miss Kate is demanding.
Gwen can walk into a room full of strangers at 12:00 and come out with 5 new friends a half hour later. It doesn’t matter if it’s a girl or a boy. So now, as summer ends Gwen is eager to join her fellow tribesmen, the little people of Patten’s Nursery School. She’s a tiny social maven on the verge of independence! She’s teetering on the edge of freedom. She’s chomping at the bit to escape my (control) love.
I will be shocked if there are tears when I leave her on the first day of preschool. In fact, I have absolutely no fear that she will cling to my leg, screaming to go home. Nope. No need to pry her off and run before my own tears start to flow. Instead, I’ll drive her there, walk her inside and she’ll run away from me to meet her new friends. I’ll hang around a bit (too long), making sure that she finds her cubby…that she’s okay, and right around the time I realize that I’m not okay, I’ll feign cheer, choke out a “Goodbye, Cookie! Be a good girl!” as I hastily exit. My little Cookie is growing up too fast.
My dirty fingered, bandaid obsessed, dress wearing angel. I had no idea that she was coming, but I’m sure glad she’s here.