The End

Last week I finished revisions on my twelfth and final story for the Woodland Creatures collection. Twelve stories for summer, twelve for winter, with a cast of characters who have become as dear to me as my friends. When I reread the stories, the twists and turns, the spots of humor, the brand new slurry words I put together myself—it delights me as if I’m reading a story someone else wrote. I don’t even cringe. Imagine, Me! Not cringing at my own work! (I’ve already cringed a dozen times rereading drafts of this blog.)

I attached the twelfth story to an e-mail and sent it to my writing coach, then sat there feeling…everything. Happy and sad. Empty and full. Rich as a dragon sitting on her jewels. Lost as a knight without a quest. Joyful as a kite taken up by the wind. Empty as an echo. Full as a sunset. Quiet as a corner.

I’m trying not to look at what comes next—that word that starts with the letter “q” and closely rhymes with “worrying.” I have such PTSD from previous attempts at doing that q thing that I can’t even write the word without reaching for a paper bag. But I have to go forward because I want these stories to make it into big hands and little ones, into circle times and rocking chairs, into libraries and pillow forts and backpacks. I want kids to grow up with these stories filling their minds and shaping their hearts.

So I clicked “send” on the twelfth story. Then I wrote all my thoughts and emotions in my journal and finished by adding, And now, I will rest awhile.

I sat there a moment more, thinking how nice a rest is going to be.

Then I started thinking about the second story I ever wrote. The one about the boy in the pink, glitter, light-up boots. The one I loved so much.

So I opened it up.

And then I got to work.

Perfectly Boring

For Martin Luther King Day we just did regular things instead of three-day-weekend things. The boys got haircuts, I got in some workouts and a pedicure, Kevin roasted a chicken, I  binge-watched Alone, we went to my nephew’s basketball game, Rocco made a new friend, Leo memorized his monologue, and V cram-wrote an essay. The weekend was as boring as it was lovely.

All this is to say I’ve got nothing to blog about, so I will do what I do to make myself more fun as a substitute teacher: put up some cat pix and videos.




The cat pictures, too, are boring but lovely.

They’re getting older and bigger, just like my human kids. It’s louder now when their heads thump on the ground during wrestling bouts. Just like my human kids.

We started taking them for walks. When we get the leash, Boba purrs and runs toward us.


Matcha is not sold on the idea yet.


She spends most of her time sniffing around the door trying to find a way back in while Boba paws at the other side of the door, trying to find a way back out. He cries throughout the day now, which he never used to do. I’m not sure if outside time is a net gain or loss for his happiness.

Don’t be sad for Matcha though; her happy place safely inside, flying.

So now you know that’s how I get my classes to behave: by promising them cat videos if they can get their SS packets out in 60 seconds.

Of course, when I sub I always bring Mei Mei, our family’s stuffed duck. Mei Mei loves participating in class discussions and pointing out trash on the ground. He got jealous of all the cat pictures I show the kids at school, so I had to take some of him as well.

Here he is drinking from a faucet:


Looking for his sock monkey Mo Mo under the fridge:


Sleeping in a cute position (what a faker!):


Going for a walk. He spent the whole time complaining the leash was too tight.


Playing with his favorite toy:

The things we do for our pets.

New Year’s 2023

While we’re not big fans of New Year’s, we are fans of our New Year’s Eve party, and specifically of the mystery Lego game we  play. Ahead of time, each person builds something out of Lego bricks and snaps a picture, then takes it apart and put it in a bag. At the party, guests take a bag and build what’s in it without seeing the original. The replicas look like derpy versions of the originals. My favorite was the llama, which started out looking like this…


and ended up looking like this.


I just want to hug it!

Another attempt somehow spawned an extra llama plus a feeding trough, all from the same Lego pieces!


What started out as a parrot ended up as that same parrot’s shady older cousin.


Fortunately, in the next round he pulled things together as Mall Cop Parrot.


There was a clock tower that somehow got shorter with each build:



A polar bear eating a penguin.

(As McStreamy pointed out, polar bears exist at the north pole and penguins at the south, so the only way this is possible is a tragic zoo mauling.)

And  a WWII-era Orca. Yes, that’s a rotating machine gun attached to its face.


As is tradition, the adults left the party at a reasonable hour and Kevin went to bed so I stayed up with the kids. Without my tech support, none of the countdown shows would cast to the TV or do full- screen mode, so the stroke of midnight found us all crammed around my phone, watching a 1 x 2” video of a toothpick-sized Space Needle erupting in fireworks. At least, we think that’s what it was. It might have just been a commercial for a Sonicare or something.

And like that, the holidays were over.

Usually the post-holiday blues wait a while to come, letting me think I escaped them before sneaking in the backdoor. This year, though, they came before holiday break was even over. On Sunday I took the family to see Puss In Boots to forget about being sad. It worked, but only for a little while and now Kevin keeps asking if I want to rub his belly.


I think I’ll go with the llama instead.

White Elephant Christmas Spectacular

I love Christmas music. All through December it brings me back to the old-fashioned kind of Christmases of my grandparents’ youth. I insert myself into each of the songs, singing yuletide carols by the tree while Jack Frost nips at my nose and the night wind whispers to the little lamb.

As lovely as those songs are, and as they’re about me and my Christmases, they are also not at all like my Christmases. For example, where is the carol about playing poop shoot in front of the tree? Or the one about unwrapping phallic pieces of art? Where is the song titled But What Happened to the Plastic Fetus?

Alas, there is no Christmas carol for us, but at least there this blog post which may lack some of the rhyme and brass, but if you imagine the whole thing being sung by Michael Buble, we’ll call it close enough.

Come, let us harken back to a Christmas past, a Christmas of the year last, when we won the white elephant gift exchange by walking home with Smokey Sue (she smokes for two!). You probably remember her from most of your nightmares of last year.


Well your nightmares are over (or at least will be more interesting) because we gave her a little makeover. She is no longer Smokey Sue, she is now…


Take a minute. Let your hearts be aglow with her merry show.


There was much cackling and rubbing of hands in our dungeon—I mean basement—over the past couple months.

Smokey Sue had originally come from my brother’s family, so when they looked at the big pile of white elephant gifts on Christmas Day, they steered clear of this one.


They went for something safer.


Which made this moment even better.

Mwahahaha. (Sounds a little like falalalala, right?)


What was in the decoy, you ask?


Ah yes, the tiny babies of the cucumber photos! Here they are, in their own Christmas special. Warning: eat in good lighting.

Another favorite gift (there were so many, many good ones) was a Magic Jinn that guesses what animal you’re thinking of, but not just any Magic Jinn—one whose nose button had broken off, so it came with a pencil that you had to stick in its nose to make it work.


There was also a game of Poop Shoot that my oldest sister had an uncanny knack for winning.


And this blanket of baby Vincenzo. He will be going to college with my nephew this January, and he didn’t even have to write an essay with a personal story or show documentation of his volunteer hours and AP classes to get in.


This next gift gave Disco Sue a run for her money.


My sister gifted it to me years ago when she was into glassblowing. She said it was Dr. Seuss-inspired. You may feel it was something-else inspired. Or you may not, depending on how long it’s been since you were a seventh grade boy. As dear as the piece was to me I had regifted it to a sibling for their birthday and they gifted it to someone else for their wedding who gifted it to someone for a baby shower and so on until it disappeared. Poof! Gone! I thought we had lost it for good, but turns out it had just been crashing at my sister’s place in Vegas for a decade. It made for an awkward moment when it went through the X-ray machine at bag check.

As it came down to the last gift, we thought our stomachs couldn’t handle another bout of laughter. But then my younger sister, the vegetarian, opened the final gift.


So none of this would make it onto a postcard by Courier & Ives. All of this might land us on Santa’s naughty list for next year. But it’s not so bad when the wandrin’ path down leaves you laughing all the way.

A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight…
Laughing all the way

Cat Tree

And how are the cats doing with the tree, you ask?

Actually really well!

It was a little too pointy on top, but Matcha fixed it.



And a little too ornamenty.


Then Matcha realized we didn’t have an angel, so she volunteered herself.


She has to come down every once in a while to eat the carpet, so it’s a good thing she’s learned to get to the top so quickly!

Taking care of our Christmas tree is a tough job, but some cat’s got to do it.


(It’s a good thing they’re so cute.)




O Plastic Tree

For various reasons and through many, many four-against-one conversations, we decided to get an artificial tree this year. Which means no more this.



Kevin pointed out it doesn’t have to be forever. Maybe it will just be for one year, then we’ll go back to the Christmas tree farm. I said, but what if we like it? And we had to start the conversation all over again.

We went to Nordstrom to pick one out. Normally it is raining freezing rain sideways when we pick out a tree. Here, there was no weather.. I missed the complaining. My socks were way too dry. I walked around each tree with a rotten egg look on my face. Nearby, a lady browsed athletic T’s with her son. Ignoring how unnatural this was, I explained that we were getting an artificial tree this year and how it feels like we’re giving up on life, you know, like we are now those people who say Christmas is too much hassle and pretend they’re not home when neighbors deliver cookies. She smiled. “I’ve always had an artificial tree.”

See?!! That kind of thing never happened when we picked out a real tree.

I have always preferred a scraggly, gappy tree to a full one. This one delivers.


Maybe a little too much.

Also, it smells like plastic. At least, it did until I painted some branches with pine oil that smells like a forest in the bottle but like toilet bowl cleaner on our tree, which is why all of our windows are open despite the freezing temperatures and the sideways hail that is coming inside.

Well, at least one of us is still complaining.

Oaxacan tacos
Black beans
Christmas cookies

Not a Christmas Letter

Ah! Blogging! I forgot about you! I spend all my extra time giving skritches to the kitties. The cats are good, except for all the jumping on counters. They always have an excuse, like “But there was a bug on the ceiling,” or, “Boba did it first,” or, “We can’t read.”

But then they do something like this and we forgive them.


Here’s the rundown on the boys: V still working at Bobae, avoiding our questions about homework by hiding in his room on his phone, and pinning his brothers to the couch while he still can, as Rocco is making a run for him for on both height and weight. Rocco is also making a run on V for time spent in his room on his phone and finishing up school soccer. Leo is usually found rolling around the carpet asking what there is to dooooooo because he doesn’t have a hobby and he also doesn’t have a phone.

Maybe I’m not being fair. Let’s hear it from the boys themselves. What are you all up to?

V: Uh…homework? *shrug* And I ranked up in Valorant?
Me: Is it spelled V-A-L-O-R-A-N-T?
V: Yeah. Like the word.

R: Absolutely nothing!
Me: Come on, you have to give me more than that.
R: IDK. Give me a moment to think.
School timer: beep beep! beep beep! beep beep!
R: I have to go now.

L: School, week with all of the activities at school, Christmas break coming up, and that’s really it.
Me: What are your thoughts on the cats?
L: They are cute and cuddly but the slightest bit annoying. At least they stopped climbing the Christmas tree though…

As for me, life has been contentedly boring. I have been happily writing for a couple months instead of angst-ily writing. It’s the combination of having a set of woodland creatures to write about (6 winter stories and I’m starting my 6th summer story today!!) and working with my writing coach. She is a smart, encouraging grandmother of a person who asks questions like, “Just how would a squirrel and a mouse turn a river into a swimming hole?” then pokes around YouTube to find a way it can be done. Having her on my team is like having a warm batch of cinnamon rolls on my team.

And finally, Kevin. He recently upgraded his free scooter from Google for something bigger. He no longer looks like a circus clown riding around on a tiny bike and instead looks like a big Italian guy on a Vespa.


That’s as close to a Christmas letter as it gets around here. I hope you’re all enjoying the pre-Christmas fun!

Cashew chicken
Broiled asparagus

Much Ado About Much Ado

This fall Rocco was in his school’s Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing. He was Borachio, which everyone mispronounced as bo-rah-chee-oh but no one, not even the producer, could get everyone to pronounce as bo-rah-kee-oh.

I should know. I was the producer.

Yes, after six years of ducking into the bathroom whenever the outgoing producer even looked my way, after six years of hiding out on the concessions committee, after six years of shuddering at the thought, I found myself in charge of the whole darn thing. (At least, all the behind-the-scenes things, not the actual directing of actual actors.)

It was as messy as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, only a lot less funny. No one thought it was funny, for example, when I sent out a letter saying to turn in the time-stamped applications on October 3 and that THE OFFICE WILL NOT ACCEPT THEM BEFORE OCTOBER 10.  Or when I realized we were projected to come up $1,000 short. Or when a principal actor came down with the flu on opening night. No one laughed. They must have missed their cue.

Fortunately, the parents were very forgiving, we didn’t end up all that short, and the principal actor rallied to put on an amazing performance.


(Rocco is the shifty looking character in a black hat and dark sunglasses.)

All this is to say that I did not have time to make Rocco one of the thematic bouquets I usually make when my kids are in a play. Plus, it’s hard to make a thematic bouquet for a play you can’t understand a word of, even though you are the producer.

Fortunately, the cats were up to the task.



Not too bad for their first bouquet, eh?

Chicken noodle soup
Italian bread
Pumpkin pie

Kitty Cats!

You know when you try so hard not to do something, so very very hard not to do something, like to not eat one more cookie or to not say “chicken butt” when someone says “Guess what?” For a while you do all right. You do not eat the cookies. You do not mention chicken butts.

But then you think, what’s one more cookie when you know you are ultimately going to eat the whole box? Or you are greeting fifth graders as they come into the classroom and one of them says, “Guess what?” And you just.can’

I have been trying so hard, so very very hard not post a zillion cat pictures and videos on this blog.

But you know what?

That’s right. Chicken butt!

And…the dam has burst.




Sharing a little catnip:

Matcha catching mice in her sleep:

Matcha, growling and hissing to tell Boba not to play with her favorite tiny gray mouse:


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Chinese hotpot

Every Day is Thigh Day

If you want to get the full experience out of this blog post, click this link and play the song as you read along. It will be well worth the five-second ad you need to wait through.

Ready? Okay good.

So last August, Kevin and I were in the car when one of my all-time favorite songs came on: Everyday by Buddy Holly. You know the one. Everyday, it’s a-getting closer, going faster than a rollercoaster…

One of the things I love about the song is the light slapping sound that keeps a steady beat throughout the whole thing. I’ve always thought it sounds like a kid running down a street in flip flops in the summer. slap slap slap slap slap slap… But what exactly was making that sound, we wondered.

My immediate guess was that someone was slapping another kids’ cheeks while they stood solemnly beside Buddy Holly. Maybe there was even an automatic slapper with rubber flaps on it spinning around, and the kid was just standing there taking it. The thought made us giggle.

Kevin drove on.

The slapping sounds continued.

Then I pulled out my phone and looked it up and you know what? My guess wasn’t all that far off. The answer to the question What makes the slapping noise in the song Everyday by Buddy Holly is…Jerry  Allison’s thighs.

Yes, Jerry Allison, the percussionist for Buddy Holly, stood on stage slapping his thighs for the two minutes and six seconds of the song, night after night after night.

Suddenly we were flooded with questions. Do Jerry Allison’s thighs qualify as a musical instrument? Could someone else learn to play Jerry Allison’s thighs?  How do you tune Jerry Allison’s thighs? If Jerry Allison can’t make it to the show, can someone else play their own thighs?

We Googled Jerry Allison to get some answers, and the crazy thing is that he died the very day before we were having this conversation. I was left with no other choice than to believe that the ghost of Jerry Allison’s thighs was speaking to me in the car, urging me to look them up and eventually commemorate them in this blog post.

I was honored (but not surprised) that his thighs chose me. I hope this post have given them the proper respect and recognition they deserve. I pray that Jerry Allison’s thighs have the closure they need to join the rest of Jerry Allison in the afterlife.

If you aren’t listening to Everyday yet, do yourself a favor and put the song on. It’s a real thigh-slapper.

Mashed potatoes
Green beans
Vanilla cupcakes