The Praying Atheist Child

My son prayed once. It was five years ago and he feels terrible about it. So terrible he had to break down and confess to me last night about this horrible transgression:

4 hours of walking the lake for #relayforlife then a 2 hour bounce wharehouse bday party

I was five Mom. And I wanted Bolt to be real so bad. And I didn’t know what to do. So I got down on my knees and I did that thing they do with their hands so it’s like a triangle, but not really a triangle, but you know what I mean…and I said ‘Please God let Bolt be real and come to my house.’

And I feel so stupid. And I thought I had to tell you because it’s been bothering me all this time that I did it.

I had to hold in the giggle and take him very seriously.

Honey, sometimes I say prayers in my head that I learned when I was a kid just because I think I might as well do anything that could help. I doesn’t hurt. Even if we don’t believe in God.

And he turned and looked at me, ever wide-eyed, like I had told him my innermost secret.

But Mom, that’s so dumb. I’m sorry I said ‘dumb’ but it is. We know there is probably no God. And if there is a God it’s certainly not going to make a cartoon come alive or give you what you asked for- so praying is stupid.

I took a deep breath and tried to explain.

No, prayers may not change the outcome of something. But they might make you feel better. It’s like meditating. Or breathing deeply to calm yourself. Sometimes saying things over and over can calm you and then you feel better about the situation you are praying about.

A light bulb went off.

Oh, so really they are just making themselves feel better when they pray, even though they know there isn’t a God who will answer them. I get it. I just don’t understand talking to something that doesn’t exist. Don’t they put people on medicines and in the hospital for that?

I stifled the giggles again.

Yes, they do. But for some reason our society thinks it’s normal and acceptable to believe in God. So they don’t think believing in God requires medicine or a stay in the hospital.

Well that’s dumb. Oh, I said ‘dumb’ again, I’m sorry Mom.

It’s ok honey. And it’s ok if you want to pray.

No! I only did it that ONE TIME because I was little and I wanted Bolt to come live with us. And I know there isn’t a God who is listening and even if aliens or something else is listening, they don’t care if we want Bolt to come alive and they should care about those people in Oklahoma but they didn’t care about them either. So that just means there is REALLY no one listening that can help us.

What do you think about that? Us being alone in the universe?

I think we have to help each other if we really want to get stuff done. Not pray. I mean I guess it’s ok if it makes you feel better, but you should do something for real too, not just talk to yourself and think something magical might happen. Because it won’t. You need to give them shoes and new houses. And you need to not be on your knees, because that is dumb. Oh, I did it again. I’m sorry Mom.

For Better or Worse

This is the week my husband and I celebrate bringing unconditional love into our lives forever. Love that no one can describe to you, that no one can begin to try to get you to grasp no matter how hard they try. Our children celebrate their birthdays. Two years and six days apart. One a decade old. The other, eight.

Beautiful signs of spring on the way to school

The rest of the country will be watching the United States’ Supreme Court hear arguments on another type of love. A love that can be legalized with the institution of marriage. Something else many find hard to put into words. Many find beyond difficult to explain the overwhelming joy it makes them feel.

My husband and I were married and had our two children. In my mind, we became a family when we declared our love for one another in front of our friends and family and even before that when we became domestic partners in the eyes of the law in order to make sure we could take care of each other in sickness and in health and in any legal matters. This happened BEFORE we were legally married.

Some would say, “…isn’t that enough?”

NO. It’s NOT enough.

Just because we were domestic partners does not mean that we were protected had we left California’s borders and it certainly did not protect us in the rest of the US and it’s territories. To this day, there is no one else I want making decisions for me should I become unable, than my husband. It does not matter why…it’s who I CHOOSE. I CHOOSE him. We are adults and adults should be able to make sure the person they want is allowed in the hospital room with them when they want, makes important legal and medical decisions, and inherits any and all and everything I find necessary-from property to personal items. And if I do not happen to write it down in time, it should be common sense this is the person who is in charge of all these things and GETS all these things. Oh, and by the way, this person also gets full custody of OUR children. The ones born of love.

The ones born into a family made of love.

In a “marriage” that did not include God or a preacher.

It also was not guaranteed to create chidden.

I now have no uterus or ovaries. If you were to ask my husband before hand, there would be no promise this “marriage” would produce children. Apparently my body agreed.

As you can see, I’m knocking down all the reasons many say you must “save traditional marriage” left and right with our family.

We did not have a traditional wedding. We did not have a traditional wedding ceremony. We do not have a traditional marriage, unless you consider “traditional” one that means we love each other and wish to spend the rest of our lives together.

As the country, once again, consumes itself with what “marriage” means in this day and age I only ask that you consider one question: What does family mean?

Our family started in a way many would consider illegal and immoral. Yet here we are, with two beautiful children celebrating birthdays and we’ve stood by each other through every vow repeated to one another long ago.

That’s more than I can say for millions of Americans claiming to be truly “married” while shunning my husband and I, while saying things like “why can’t they just have a civil union and not be married like us” and while trying to convince the country separate can be equal. In fact, I think I’ve heard that before…didn’t turn out too well then either.

Miss Teen PWN

I am, by nature, a worrier.

So imagine what I did when this came in the mail:

Miss teen Hala?

Do I show her?

I know when I got the really horrible, everyone got one, scams in the mail about modeling or pay-to-see-your-name in some book of smart kids, it was the sort of thing that boosted my tween or teen self-confidence.

Of course there was no way in hell we’d ever let her do it. So there was no harm in showing her, right?

But then again, we always said we’d support her in whatever she wanted to do so…

…no. No. NO. NO.



Pageants are for girls who are either desperate for money and can only get it because they are pretty or … or… I have no idea. I mean these things are judged on looks, right?

At least that’s what Sandra Bullock taught me. Well, her and Donald Trump.  Walk walk … show them how pretty you are…walk more… show them how pretty you are in different clothes. Walk more. Then answer some crazy question about current events and smile pretty for the boys.

So of course, I showed her and told her what it was all about doing my best to leave my snark behind to genuinely be able to gauge what SHE thought of all this and what SHE thought of a ‘pageant’ … did any of the girls at school do this sort of thing? I mean, we live in a ‘burb of LA, there are many child actors around and at the school and many have headshots and can turn on the cute in order to get a gig. Surely with the popularity of Honey Boo-Boo and Toddlers and Tiaras, there could be a few in her grade, right?

So I showed her and explained and waited for a reaction…

My 7-year old was disturbed by the letter. Grinning and flattered, but disturbed.

Why would they want me for a teen thing? I’m not a teen? And why would I want to do that on a Sunday- that’s when I go horseback riding at the ranch.

Case closed. Whew.

Or so I thought…

What I hadn’t counted on was her brother chiming in. I don’t know why I hadn’t counted on it…he’s always right there with us and NO ONE and I mean NO ONE cares more about his sister than big brother.

Hala, listen to me…I really don’t want you to be famous like that…ok? I’m serious.

Ok Jack, I won’t.

No, really. I mean it. That’s not how you should be famous. You are too smart.

I know I am Jack!

I know you are too.

Suddenly I was the fly on the wall witnessing one of the most touching and amazing exchanging in sibling history.

I wouldn’t do that anyway, ok?

I didn’t say you would. I’m just making sure.

Can you move over now? Because you’re in the way of the game and I can’t see my guy and he’s about to PWN you.

MOM! She just totally blew up my whole new rover I built!

Pauses a beat.

That was kind of cool.

…and all was right with the world.

This morning before school as they begged to skip breakfast in favor of more iPad time

The Power of One

I’ve been careful about leaving the news on while the kids are home. With the school shooting and other tragedies, it’s just been too much for them to see.

So imagine my surprise last night when a piece I thought was rather benign on the pollution issues in Beijing caused tears and hysterics in my living room.

My 9-year old son could not believe what he was seeing. He wanted to know how the earth could be so dirty and polluted and how we, as humans, could let this happen.

Is it the cars?
The factories?
All the things they make, like my Nerf guns?
Why don’t they care?
Why can’t they stop it?
What if that happens here in Los Angeles?
What about our country?
Why do businesses care more about money than fixing this?

And the tears were streaming. And I did my best to calm him down and tell him many people were trying to do things, but every country was different. And every country had different rules. And even in our country people are fighting those rules.

He yelled "I love being a geek!" after opening most of his toys

He thinks those of you fighting the rules are horrible people. He thinks anyone against EPA regulations aimed at helping the earth are good and true and just and he does not care if that means some people don’t have a job because they at least will be able to breathe and drink clean water. He tells me OTHER jobs can be created with new inventions that keep the planet CLEAN. He does not care if that means he does not get a certain toy, he no longer needs it or cares.

The images haunted him all day and night and he would periodically stop his video game to ask me how many people might get sick from that smog. How many people might die. How plants or trees might help.

Then at bedtime, as I tucked him in…he began to softly cry again. He didn’t think there was anything a 9-year old boy could do.

I told him he was wrong.

And now, dear friends, I want to show him he’s wrong.

Help me find things a 9-year old boy can do to help – from planting trees to raising money to joining Greenpeace to… whatever.

Show my son he can make a difference. Show him the power of one and how it then multiplies and creates a movement.

I KNOW there are others like him…others that are devastated to see pollution take over what he calls ‘those mountains that are so so beautiful I can’t even see them’ and ‘all those trees that they keep cutting down instead of letting grow big and tall…it makes me so mad Mom I just want to hit my pillow.’

Show him. Show him instead of hitting his pillow he can DO SOMETHING and it WILL MATTER.

Help me show him – leave a comment with your ideas. Please.

I know he can do something amazing with his passion and his talent.

Mom, I Can See The Curvature of the Earth

My son has spent over three hours looking out the window of our plane.

He doesn’t want to play on his iPad.

He has no interest in the little books and games and gifts I brought to keep him and his sister busy on this over four hour flight.

I am the luckiest Mom ever- these are my kids post pick up. #theymissedeachother

He’s just been staring out the window. No really, a nine-year old boy who never stops moving has been doing absolutely nothing but looking out a window for HOURS.

Mom do you think the clouds can feel us splitting them apart when we fly through them? Ok I know they can’t really feel but do you think clouds would rather be all together and not broken up by anything, like a plane or a bird or anything?

Mom do you think the  pilot really thinks all that turbulence is bad or do you think he just wants us in our seats?  That’s why school should be on planes: because it’s so beautiful everyone would pay attention and when they didn’t the teacher could put on the seat belt sign. 

Mom, do you think the air that goes through and around the planes gets mixed up in the clouds and the clouds are somehow changed by it? Like could those clouds end up being clouds they shouldn’t have been?

Mom, see where that cloud reaches that mountain over there? See that area right in the middle where is just doesn’t touch and there is that teeny tiny bit of space? That space is the most beautiful space ever. 

Mom, do you think when we fly at Christmas time there will also be clouds or do you think the sky will just have nothing? 

Mom, I need a tissue. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to cry. It’s just all so wonderful and beautiful. 

We’re now on hour four. And yes, THAT is my son.

One Small Step for Boy, One Giant Leap for Tourette Syndrome

I made cake all by myself and homemade icing...#proud

My son has gone back and forth about wanting to talk about his ‘ticks.’

That’s what we call his Tourette’s and OCD in our house. They are simply known as ‘my ticks, Mom’ or ‘…because of my anxiety.’

So when a writing assignment came along in school this week- very innocently, just the usual daily few sentences with a writing prompt to get them going- he froze.

He tells me some kids were writing about beating bosses on video games. Something he has done over and over again and is very proud of.

He tells me some kids were writing about no longer being afraid of spiders, or in the case of one kid, getting ‘bumped’ by a shark.

You gotta love 4th graders.

And there sat my son, debating with himself back and forth and back and forth if he should tell his teacher or his class or anyone that every single day he battles and overcomes all the zigs and zags of his brain. His brilliant, sensitive, amazing brain that causes him to (currently) do everything in ‘3s’ and mutter the last word of a sentience under his breath three times or hand wash and hand wash and hand wash or hand wash.

His ticks come and go with his anxiety level and he can control them very well with all the tools from our therapist. His ticks also change constantly. Sometimes they rotate and a new tick I’ve never noticed before is suddenly very prominent while another has faded. Some fade and never return. Others seem to be on a regular rotation. Regardless, he handles them with more grace and ease than any child should have to and he has zero shame or embarrassment.

At least, he didn’t. Until he began to mature and realize not everyone does what he does. Not everyone flaps their hands and jumps up and down while playing a video game, simply because it’s exciting. Not everyone covers their ears during a school play, because the cheers are too loud. Not everyone cries while looking out the window of an airplane, simply because the earth below is so beautiful.

Not everyone would take an in-class writing prompt home, so he could talk to his Mom about whether he should tell everyone he has Tourette’s.

I think they should know, but I’m not ready to really talk about it. I don’t want to give them a speech or anything. But maybe they won’t bug me so much then.

My stomach did a flip.

What do you mean ‘bug you’… has anyone said anything?

Well no, not really. But you know my friends they don’t care but some of the other kids might look at me and think I’m weird. You know Mom, I know I’m a wimp.

You are not a wimp. Why would you say that?

Well, I don’t mean that like a bad thing. I like video games and I’m not into like sports and stuff. And I’m a geeky wimp kind of kid, not like a kid that pushes other kids outside and plays those games where you punch arms and stuff.

There are LOTS of kids at your school like you buddy. LOTS. It’s great to have all kinds of friends and maybe it’s time to find some more of those kids that are like you.

But if I tell them about my ticks, they might think I’m even more weird.

Or maybe, they will better understand you and like you even more for who you are. But you can still write about anything you want honey. Anything.

…and he gets up and does this thing he does…his running from our front door to our back door. Something he just does that I’m sure is a tick, but we’re so used to it that it doesn’t register. He’s thinking. This is how he thinks. Sprints in my living room. Always having to touch the door a certain number of times. Always needing to ‘balance’ it out with exact same number of touches on the opposite wall.

Mom, I’m going to write it, but I’m not going to write a lot. My teacher might be the only one who sees it anyway, but maybe not. And maybe someone will ask me what I wrote. But I don’t want them to know too much. I will just write one thing about what I overcame and that’s it.


..and with that one thing, he took one very big step.

The Mom Nagging Machine

There was a time when ‘back to school’ meant nothing more than a new backpack and some crayons.

Today my daughter and I looked, and bought, some ‘undershirts’ as opposed to ‘training bras’ because she has reached that age where she needs to wear something under her sundresses and under her white t-shirts.

Her brother, blushing, rolled his eyes and turned around to try to ‘unsee’ the girl things we needed to accomplish while at the store. Being the pain I am, I explained to him this was a great learning experience about women and he needed to understand that his sister was growing up and she couldn’t be flashing the top half of her body to strangers.

Which always turns into silly time

After doing his best to squirm and avert his eyes from the display of training bras and bras for tweens, he actually agreed…

Well, boys look at those things. Yes Mom, I know, girls look too…you’re right, she needs to make sure she’s covered.

Hmmm…wait, Did he just call breasts ‘those things?’ And was this the message I wanted to send? That the women of the family had to cover themselves in order to be proper?

I stopped myself as we looked at undershirts and talked to them both as they again rolled their eyes and leaned against the cart.

It’s not that we want her to cover herself. We know being naked isn’t a big deal. And she’s beautiful. It’s just that in our society there are some people who will try to look at her inappropriately, just like we talk about private areas and who can see them and touch them…

Oh man, now I’m getting way off track. This is hard.

…and we’re just making sure her privates are covered as she wears certain things, that’s all.

This parenting stuff is ridiculous. I’m flunking this. Please God let this moment go away forever because right now it seems like nothing I say is right, or coming out right…or what I’m trying to convey. I’m just trying to buy her a few more undershirts, THAT IS ALL.

Then I glance up at the display in front of us. I hadn’t really studied it until now. Bras, training bras, what look like sports bras, undershirts. And then…what I swear to God are PADDED BRAS FOR LITTLE GIRLS.

My daughter is handing this like a champ.

Mom I already have that white one at home, so how about these pink and purple fun ones that are like half undershirts… and let’s go.


My son can’t get out of there quick enough and leads us to semi-safety where we have to then pick out underwear. This seems like nothing compared to bra-hell.

But I can’t keep my mind from going back to what I am pretty sure I just saw. Padded bras.

The Judy Blume years of my life come rushing back.

I was never in need of KLeenex. I developed well before any of the other girls and I had plenty to go around. A blessing and a curse for a young girl. The boys ogled and feared me. The girls hated me. All because I had big boobs.

My daughter isn’t built anything like I was at that age. But with any hope she’ll be able to talk to me about body image issues she may come across and we can giggle over the difference of being one of the girls who could give herself a black eye in gym class or one of the girls who was flat as a pancake.

I want, so badly, to ask the kids if they saw the bras hanging there. What they thought about them. But I know the agony this will cause my son, who is working through his prepubescent feelings. And I know it will only cause my daughter to think about it MORE, and her body MORE…which I don’t really want her to do just yet.

Not because she shouldn’t explore what’s going on with her body, or question why she needs to cover her nipples or any of those things…but because there is so so so much time in a woman’s life to worry about what we look like. To think about our breasts, our noses, our asses. If I bring up the padded bras, that just gets her thinking about it all. And I really don’t want her going down that road. Especially when I seem so ill prepared to discuss and help her young mind through all the bullshit.

Sigh. I just wanted to buy some crayons. A pack or two of pencils.

Instead I feel like I had this perfect opportunity in front of me to teach both of my kids about respect, beauty, and body image…and I stumbled and stammered and wished one of my son’s inventions had become a reality.

He has this idea for a hook up between our brains, so I can automatically give him all my knowledge and he doesn’t have to listen to me explain or make guesses when I can’t seem to phrase things in a way he can grasp.

I think the idea actually came out of Mom Nagging, but whatever. I’d take it right now.

I’d even wear a padded bra on my head ala Weird Science. Although, there is no way my very embarrassed son would.

We might have to give that invention a few more years.

Water Worries

My god

My nine-year old son’s swim trunks are the ones on the left. His father’s hang on the right. As I wandered into the bathroom this morning and looked up at them both I nearly fainted when realizing they seemed the same size.

How can that be?

I was just in the community pool, him in swim diapers, sitting on the stairs holding him tight because he was afraid to go into the big pool. He had a denim hat and adorable little swim trunks and I would slather him until he was he color of paste with sunscreen.

Now he jumps in and can grab the ring at the bottom of the deep end…on the first try.

His nine-year old mind has been hard on him lately. Much like swimming, it can bog him down and pull him under as he wrestles with all his ideas and thoughts and confusion. His sensitivity and intelligence are like weights around him. But he’s learning to use them as easily as he uses the pool noodles and kickboards instead of letting them tug him down.

And boy do they tug. 

As I watch and listen to him struggle with pre-tween, pre-puberty and pre-those years…I am reminded so much of all those feelings and issues and thoughts from when we were all children and our chests felt heavy and there were a million butterflies in our stomachs. And I want so badly to pull all the weight off his chest and free every butterfly from his belly. I guess that’s what any parent wants.

But I can’t.

Instead I found myself feeling the silky fabric of his swim trunks this morning, knowing he’ll buoy himself up and down a lot for the next…oh….decade. And wishing him all my knowledge and his fathers and hoping it will help keep him above water for the majority.