There is Something Special About 9

I worry sometimes that I see too much of myself in her. No, that’s not right. I worry that I TRY to see myself in her.

She is so much stronger than I was. She is so much smarter than I was. She is stunning and hilarious and every inch of her tiny self is a fearless female.

My daughter is now 9-years old and so much more than a 3rd grader or a ‘kid.’ She is a confident young girl who already seems to know exactly what she wants for her life, and seems to be entirely unphased by any obstacles in her way.

The child hasn’t even hit double-digits and I already admire her.

I want to be her when I grow up.

I have no doubt she will make every single one of her dreams come true. None. Zero. The doubt just does not exist. In fact, she is so incredibly sure about everything she has made me a believer of every one of her goals and dreams-despite many of them involving unicorns and dragons.

There is an ongoing discussion in our home about how sometimes it can a bit hard to say ‘no’ to me. Often with others feeling it better to just let me have my way because it’s not worth the battle and it certainly isn’t worth what will no doubt be a full frontal assault on my part to wear you down with a merciless war that seems entirely unnecessary for, say, Thai instead of Italian food for dinner.

While that part of me has softened over the years and certainly with my illness, even at its height it seems to pale in comparison to my daughter’s capability in this field. However she does it with so much more class and composuer than I ever did or could. Make no mistake, I’m still the Queen and Mother around here and she has a ways to go before I will give up my thrown…but I’ve been watching this young artist at work lately. I wouldn’t dare call her a protege’, as I have done NOTHING to teach or guide her in this type of social interaction.

I’d like to think it’s genetic, but even then I think I’m fooling myself. 

She’s going to conquer the world, rule with compassion and an iron fist, and do it all with sparkly cowgirl boots, rainbow embellished fingerless gloves, and the brightest and most obnoxiously patterned scarf tossed around her neck for flourish. None of it will match, but it will all look fabulous on her and only her. As only SHE can.

She has no desire to get married. She has absolutely no desire to have children. (Babies annoy her at best) She wants a ranch in the country with many animals as possible, and that goes double for all the ones her father and I will not allow her to currently have…and a runway for her brother to land his planes so he can visit often.

She’d like a lake or pond, where it seems she will allow her father and I to build a home on the other side and wave like good parents do over morning tea and the rippling waters on our end of her shore.

While I had many ideas for her birthday party this year, I’m sad to say I am not even up to snuff when it comes to party decorations. Her ‘kitten’ themed 9th birthday was only a success due to her superior planning, as I had failed her miserably by refusing to hang balls of yarn from our 300million foot ceilings so she and four cohort kittens cold ‘bat’ at them for hours on end.

Luckily her grandmother had chipped in and her Nana had chipped in – all much craftier than I. And with her usual flourish her friends had a great time.

The best part though, may have been just listening to her interact with the girls. She was leading the charge, mediating disputes, even comforting those a tad bit homesick. And even BETTER? As the night wore on and crankiness creeped into conversations inside of their sleeping bags, I could hear her tell them about how girls in other parts of the world live.  She re-told what she had learned of Malala. She told them some girls are sold into trafficking to be slaves (she left out ‘sex’ – we previously discussed long ago some of her friends may not have been told by their parents yet exactly what ‘sex’ entails). She told them even in the ‘country we live in, girls don’t make as much money as boys, some American religions force them to dress to cover their entire bodies,’ and ‘do you know what is the worst? Some of the people here still think we should only be having babies and be wives. And I don’t want to have babies or anything! I want to have my own life anyway I want it!’

She was fired up. She had their undivided attention.

She was becoming an activist and educator at the age of NINE.

I wanted to stand at the top of the stairs forever and listen to her rail against the injustices perpetrated against women across the world…all in-between giggles as they played ‘truth or dare.’

Instead I wiped the tears of pride from my eyes and made my way back down the hall and to my bed. There is no need for me to check on her. She’s doing just wonderfully without my help.

Happy Birthday Hala.

Foam Fingers vs. Peanut Butter and Jelly

My daughter tries to show me she’s a “big girl” all the time. She makes her own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Gets herself dressed, even when her choices may not match. She even tests just how much she can do on her own by trying things that she may not, exactly, be ready for…

#allhailhala successfully bedazzled her face #gravityfalls #subway

Last night Miley Cyrus tried to show the world she’s a “big girl” too. But instead of sweetly accomplishing the culinary pb&j, she masturbated with a foam finger on stage with teddy bears and Robin Thicke.

We get it Miley, you’re not a little girl anymore. Unfortunately Ms. Cyrus you also showed us you aren’t a woman yet. At least not a responsible one.

I’m all for music and art shocking and pushing limits. But I don’t think that’s what Miley was trying to accomplish at the MTV Video Music Awards. She was no Madonna rolling around in a wedding dress, shedding her virginity. She was no Lady Gaga showing off her avant-garde art schooling.

She simply looked like a little girl trying very hard to show us she was a big girl. Just like my daughter tries to show me every single day. The difference?

My daughter is eight.

The good news here is we all can relate. Remember when you were younger and you so desperately wanted to be seen and taken seriously and NOT treated like you were, well, 20? Miley really wants us to know she’s to be taken seriously as a “big girl” and not a little kid…certainly not one who could possibly be associated with Disney or anything young and pure.

Unfortunately she failed miserably to show us she can be a responsible “big girl.”

We get it, we get it…you’re not a little kid anymore. But Miley hun, you could have just as easily of shown us that by rocking out in a sexy outfit, complete with teddy bears, and by throwing in just a touch of class.

Instead you used that foam finger to stroke your vagina and give the middle finger to all the kids who looked to you as a role model. You made it very clear you do not want that title any longer. And as a parent, no worries there, you’re not getting it.

Luckily in my house we don’t idolize celebrities anyway. However we do enjoy being entertained by good actors and singers. Notice I said good actors and singers. After last night’s performance I’m not sure you fit in that category either. But hey, you are young. And as we all tried to show the world we were “big girls” we’ve screwed up a bit. So I’m willing to give you another chance. After all, the world gave me more chances when I was trying very hard to be taken seriously in my early 20′s.

Just take it from those of us who have been there- if you want to be taken seriously a foam finger and long tongue aren’t your ticket to adulthood. Unless that adulthood consists of a trailer park, a stripper pole, maybe an abusive partner and a few addictions. Is that what you want? Is that what you want the world to see you as? The former Disney star turned white-trash entertainer, doing shows at the local watering hole while dirty old men stick dollars in your teddy bear thong? Is that “big girl” Miley’s dream?

Next time, stick with pb&j sandwiches and mismatched clothes.

Glimpses

I caught a glimpse tonight, watching a children’s movie of all things.

I just glanced over at my daughter, who was casually sprawled on the top part of the couch drinking out of a cup.

I could see her. She was a teen. A full-fledged, young woman. Her features were so pronounced. High cheek bones, long dark hair. Those big, dark eyes.

She was sitting on the couch chatting with her with her friend who is here for a sleep over, only I was looking at grown women for that fleeting moment. I was in awe and terrified at the same time.

She was stunning and witty and she still did that thing with her hair that she does now at 8 years old  where she pulls a strand over, pulls it against her cheek leaving a line, and then releases it over and over.

She’s becoming a woman before my eyes and there isn’t a single thing I can do about it.

There are so many things I want her to know. So many things I’m trying to teach her as she grows older.

She still gives me that look of shock when I tell her women are not treated the same as men. Not paid as much. Not listened to in a board room, not given the raises, promotions, or even the venture capital to become successful entrepreneurs. It’s as if I’m telling her fairy tales and she’s awaiting the heroine to swoop in and whisk away all the bad guys and insert a world where all women code, are encouraged to do math,  and are treated equally. She truly doesn’t believe me. Or doesn’t want to believe me.

It’s as if she was blocking it out. She didn’t want to know just yet. She wanted to stay innocent just a little while longer.

#allhailhala

But something tells me that glimpse of a woman I saw on the couch knew. And with any luck, was working with the rest of us to help change the ratio.

Who am I kidding, Hala already has.

A Little Rebellion is a Good Thing

Sometimes I totally forget we’re a bit different around here.

Honestly.

And it doesn’t even occur to me until we’re in a situation where we’re surrounded by those who aren’t like us. (i.e. recent trip to North Carolina)

Let me give you a few examples so as to better paint a picture:

I currently have pink hair.

Mama's hair

My husband just spent his Sunday getting two tattoos.

Inked!!!!

I have eight tattoos (only one is visible to the public).

My husband does not wear a suit and tie to work, or carry a briefcase. He doesn’t even wear a button down shirt. We’re talking jeans, t-shirt, flip-flops or Chucks.

We are atheists and/or agnostic (at least I am) at very best.

We discuss the human body, sexuality, private parts,  politics, current events, issues that require deep thought and even global crisis in age-appropriate ways with the children.

We have no trouble pointing out the evils of the world and the injustice and encourage our children to stand up for what they believe in LOUDLY and with real action behind their words. (Our kids have raised substantial amounts of money for causes they believe in- like $1500 for Sea Turtle Relief during the gulf oil spill)

So as my son and I lounged around on a hot summer’s day, he asked me why teenagers are always mean and weird on tv shows. He wanted to know why they fought with their parents or were always ‘grounded.’ I then launched into a rather bad explanation of rebellion. And how we all feel the need at some point in life to show our independence and rebel against our parents.

He cocked his head and looked at me really funny.

Well, how do you think you will rebel when you’re a teen?

What do you mean?

I mean, what do you think you will do to rebel against your Dad and I?

Why would I do that?

Well I’m not sure, let just pretend…

I don’t know…I don’t want to rebel.

Well you don’t HAVE to, I’m just wondering how you might…

This went on and on and on. Until we realized our children would have to be rather over the top to rebel against us. And it’s true. I mean, look at us. We’re 40 or pushing 40 and tattooed, weird haired freaks. Right? Or so some would say.

So I took the same question to my daughter.

How do you think you will rebel?

I just think I’ll be mad at you because I’ll want to go be with my friends and you’ll want me to go somewhere with you. 

But will you DO anything, like shave your head or dye your hair purple (her hair is currently purple and pink) or get at a tattoo because you are mad?

Definitely not. Why would I do that? I can do that NOW and just for fun.

…touche’ my dear.

Which leaves me taking a long hard look at myself and my body. My hair. My tattoos. And you know what? I love it. I love them. I love that my husband and I could care less what the world thinks and we show our children that daily. We are living life on our terms.

He has found an industry that pays him well and supports his family and allows him to stroll into work daily in a t-shirt and jeans. He didn’t have to conform to the suit and tie rat race to ‘make it’ in this world. THAT makes me happy as hell for HIM.

I’ve always marked important milestones in my life with body art (I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday, right after I registered to vote). I’ve still managed to be a guest at the White House four times and interview everyone from celebrities to politicians, simply because I can easily change outfits and you’d never know what was underneath. I have made a career based on hard work and damn good work. When I was a professional journalist I investigated, I worked my sources, I climbed my way to the top. As a blogger and non-traditional journalist I’d like to think I became influential and did the same. Even disabled and sick I’ve managed to keep my influence and use my voice to work hard for the things I believe in.

I hope our children take away that they can be who they are and not compromise. They can follow their dreams and not worry about sacrificing their sense of self. They don’t have to fit in a box- anyone’s box- in order to be successful.

And if they really want to rebel, they can just give us heart attacks by voting Republican.

 

 

Kinfolk Vacation

Vacation with family in the South day #1:

My son learned to whittle with a pocket knife (and loved every second of it, making all three of his cousins Harry Potter wands and making his grandfather very happy).

My son is in the country for sure. He just widdled whiddled widdled ? A wand

My daughter baked and played Barbies.

And #allhailhala is baking

She also avoided, like the plague, the baby that came to visit. She really does not like babies.
We’re ok with this. We hope this helps come her teen years.

My body is tired but holding up. North Carolina is wet and has large mosquitoes and Moral Monday, which I really wish I was here to attend. But again, family first.

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble… oh Yes TROUBLE

We hit a bit of a milestone today.

I had a car filled with 8-year old girls singing their hearts out to Taylor Swift, with my daughter leading the pack.

I couldn’t exactly catch the ear piercing chorus, but this will give you an idea:

…and she couldn’t have been happier.

Giggles, singing about boys being Trouble, begging me to stay in the car just a few more minutes after we had parked because the new Selena Gomez song had come on and ‘Mom, we just have to sing this one too…’

…and I pretended to look at my phone all while grinning and crying on the inside at my baby girl growing up right before my eyes. Unafraid to share her fun in front of her Mom and even thanking me later for being so ‘cool.’

Is this really happening? Is she really old enough to be signing with her friends at the top of her lungs about boys?

…and to top it off as we picked up her older brother at his classroom door he clearly had an admirer there walking him out.

This cool mom isn’t ready for any of this.

Trouble indeed.

Superhero: Hala and Malala

Today my eight-year old daughter astounded me, and many others, by presenting the story of Malala Yousafzai to her class.

#allhailhala as Malala

She spoke of Malala’s fight to make sure all girls receive an education while noting she was lucky to be in school, talking about Malala.

She spoke of the men who tried to kill Malala for wanting girls to be educated and when parents and students reacted, she told them “can you believe she is still alive and STILL fighting to make sure girls can go to school?”

She has a crowd! I'm surprised by the # of parents  hearing Malala's story for the 1st time

And she told parents, who had never heard the story, that Malala was her superhero and she hopes she can be that brave someday.

2nd graders and their parents asked me, as I stood nearby listening, “how did she know who this was?” and without missing a beat my daughter interrupted the adults,

“I heard it on the news and my Mom told me some, but mostly I saw it on tv.”

Making sure the adults in the room knew I wasn’t the one who pushed her into choosing Malala. In fact, I had offered up many names from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to President Obama. As soon as we discussed Malala, my little one knew exactly who she was doing her research on for her superhero project.

It made me realize, as a blogger, that this big, big world isn’t so big after all. Malala began her claim to fame as a blogger for the BBC and from there my very own daughter learned about her struggles and battle back from the brink of death without fear. It didn’t scare her that this amazing young woman was nearly killed for standing up for what she believes, it pushed her to think about what SHE believes in enough to be shot for.

There have been no nightmares, no questions about bad guys in the Taliban. Simply the fight between good, evil and where girls and women stand in the world.

Like many around the world I want to thank Malala for her bravery and for inspiring an entire generation of young girls who are unafraid to follow in her footsteps to do what is right, no matter the cost.

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.