Monday, February 29, 2016

The effort.

This:

"If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you're not going to be a writer, nothing I can say will help you. What you really need at the beginning is somebody to let you know the effort is real."

-James Baldwin

My hesitant little goose.

What's funny about adopting a child as a baby is you actually get a front row seat to the nurture vs. nature debate. What makes us who we are? How much of it is what is running through our veins and how much of it is what we see and learn from the world?

Isabella came to us when she was a few days shy of 8 months old. She remembers no other life. We are her parents. She knows she grew in another woman's belly, but she knows this like she knows her eyes are blue. There is no opinion attached to this fact. It's just part of her story. (Up until about a week ago, I think she thought everyone gets adopted at some point. She asked Gina, "Mommy, what was your name before you got adopted?")

Despite the fact that she has none of my blood running through her veins, I look at her and how she sees the world and I'm reminded of myself as a kid. She is curious and insightful. She is happy to entertain herself quietly, writing out letters or coloring or looking at books. Where Maddie is strong and athletic, Isabella is observant and intellectual, and would prefer someone else do the athletics, thank you very much.

But more than all of this, she is so CAREFUL. And this - this is where she and I seem like we must be biological mother and daughter. I'm not saying she never gets hurt - she is the clumsiest kid I've ever seen - but wherever there is clear danger, she is not interested. When we let them play in the street (with close supervision - don't worry, I'm not THAT terrible of a mother), Isabella will run to the side of the road when she sees a car two blocks away. "CAARRR!!!!!" she'll scream. Our street isn't heavily traveled, so about 70% of the time, that car is going to make a turn and not even come down our street. But she isn't taking any chances. A few weeks ago, Maddie rode her bike down a set of steps. This wasn't intentional, but Isabella just would never have let this happen to herself. She has a near blanket-refusal to ride her bike down hills. "TOO FAST!!" she will scream, terrified. There is a kid roller coaster at Disneyland that we rode, and seriously, it is the littlest roller coaster ever. She SCREAMED the whole time, clearly convinced her life was about to end.

Part of me revels in this about her. This is how I was when I was a kid. And guess what? I never broke a bone. I didn't drink until college. I never skipped school. I never lied to my mom. I was always aware of danger, and I never put myself within reach of it. I was every mom's dream, and I'm not just saying that.

On the flip side, I feel like I missed out on a part of development by never having a rebellious phase. I was never daring. I'm still not. And I don't love this about me. And I don't want Isabella to be afraid. (I am very much not worried about this with Maddie. In fact, I wish Maddie were afraid of anything at all. She's not.) I want her to be careful, yes, but I don't want her to be so timid she misses out on all of the cool stuff life has to offer her.

We went tubing this weekend with another family. We all wanted to go down the hill together, which means four tubes (each parent with a kid on his or her lap) attached speeding down the hill. Isabella was not interested at all. She knew this multiplied the chances of someone getting hurt, and she was having none of it. She didn't try to stop anyone from doing it, but she was not going be a party to these shenanigans. Everybody kept trying to convince her to do it, that it would be fine, and the people behind us in line were not happy that we were taking so long. I finally said, "No. She doesn't want to do it. It's okay. I'll go down with her." Why were all of the adults trying to peer pressure my kid into doing something she didn't want to do?!

Finally, after a few more times of going with just one adult, she said she wanted to try it all together. So we did. Almost immediately, two of the tubes got separated from the other two, and they hit the bottom of the hill first. She was in one of those tubes. When the second set of tubes landed, we hit the first set, and she got hit in the face by someone's shoulder. She wailed. I felt so bad for her - she insisted she didn't want to do it and she finally agreed and she gets hurt. Classic Isabella.

But here's where the story changes. She asked to do it again. She asked if we could all go down the hill together again. And that time, she didn't get hurt, and she had fun. I was unashamedly beaming with pride.

"You were scared and you did it anyway!" I told her at the bottom of the hill. "That's fantastic!" Her chapped cheeks spread into a huge smile.

I just hope this doesn't give her any jumping-out-of-airplanes ideas.

video

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Child-led play

One of our therapy directives is child-led play, where Maddie picks the activity and one of us or both of us play along and give her all of our attention.

I'm sure there are plenty of parents for whom this comes naturally. Maybe we are monsters for not finding time consistently to do this. But between two full time jobs and two full time kids and two separate school schedules and sets of activities and an 8pm bedtime and constant exhaustion and not enough sleep and anxiety dreams and tantrums and trauma, "child-led play" falls through the cracks.

I was home solo with the girls after work for a bit. While I made their dinner, I let them play with their (cheap, crappy Android) tablets, which is usually a no-no on school nights. But Maddie was weepy because Gina wasn't there and there were no Twizzlers, and I just needed her to remain occupied while I improvised some dinner.

I draw the line at tablets during dinner, so they both put them away while they ate. Both girls were behaving and once dinner was over, I decided to make my move.

"Maddie, I'd like to play with you. Whatever you want to do."

She screwed up her face. "Why?"

Isabella was already sitting on the couch with her tablet.

"Because we never get to play and I'd like to play with you."

"Play what?"

"Whatever you want."

"Do you want to play mancala?"

"Sure, or we can play babies or we can do a puzzle, or whatever."

"I think I want to play babies!"

She asked Isabella to join us ("You can be the big sister!"), but Isabella declined, and kept her nose buried in the tablet.

We headed into her bedroom and Maddie motioned to her babies and told me I could pick any baby I wanted. I chose Joy from Inside Out. We sat there cuddling our babies, and I said, "Our babies look happy!"

She smiled. I could tell she was tired. She cuddled her baby more.

"Maybe our babies want to play together," I said, holding up Joy to her baby. "What does your baby like to do?"

She was quiet for a minute and then said, "My baby likes to watch the tablet." Her face broke into a wide grin.

I said, "Babies don't like tablets!"

"No, seriously! She does!"

The last thing I want to do is force her to play with me. She wasn't weepy anymore, despite no Gina and no Twizzlers, so I wanted her to do whatever would keep her in that mood.

I let her play with her tablet and I busied myself with my adult coloring book. We'll try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hero

We're gonna frame this one. (Please no one tell her in the future how often she ate ramen as a kid.)




Emergency

EMERGENCY
A play in one act
By Katie Papa

THE SCENE: A small house in a very cute neighborhood with good schools, but not too far from the city, and not too far from cool stuff to do... a very SCENIC place that is quiet and has nice sunsets... Okay. It's the suburbs. A small house in the suburbs.

THE CHARACTERS:

GINA: Energetic, playful, optimist. Mom.

KATIE: Annoyed, impatient, pessimist. Mom. 

MADDIE: 5, prone to fits of rage.

ISABELLA: 4, prone to weeping and clumsiness.

NOODLE: A dog.


LIGHTS UP on the PLAYROOM, a room scattered with toys, an old Ikea couch, and a flatscreen TV. Kid art covers the walls. It is 7:10pm. Bedtime is at 8, which means getting-ready-for-bed starts at 7:30. 

GINA: Hey girls! Who wants to play "In Case of Emergency"?

MADDIE & ISABELLA (in unision): Me!!

GINA: Okay, so what we do if there is an emergency?

Isabella, dutiful, runs to Gina and reaches her arms up to be picked up. Gina slings Isabella around to her back.

GINA: Okay, Izzy, hold on to my neck. Maddie, come on over!

MADDIE: (arms crossed, eyebrows furrowed) No. *I* want to be in back.

GINA: You can't be in back. You are heavier, you have to be in the front.

MADDIE: (screams her patented Bloody Rage Scream) I WANT TO BE IN BACK. (melts into hysterics)

GINA: Come on, Maddie, we practice this. Just come here and let me pick you up.

MADDIE: (Bloody Rage Scream)

GINA: You know what? Fine. Let's not do this. (she sets Isabella down.) 

ISABELLA: (starts jumping up and down) Mommy! I want to do the Emergency! I want to do it! Please!

GINA: No! I tried to do it and Maddie freaked out.

ISABELLA: (freaks out, cries, screams) Mommy, please! I want to do it! Please! (Gina walks away.) MOMMMYYYY! PLEASE!!!!! (carries on thusly for several minutes.)

Finally, Gina goes back into the playroom.

GINA: Okay, do we want to try this again? (the girls voice their approval.) Okay, Isabella, get on my back. Maddie, come here.

MADDIE: I. WANT. TO. BE. IN. BAAAAAACKKKKKK.

GINA: Oh my God. Forget it.

ISABELLA: MOMMY! I WANT TO DO IT!! PLEASE!! (wail, sob)

MADDIE: MOMMY! I WANT TO BE IN BACK! I HATE YOU, IZZY!

GINA: THAT IS ENOUGH. We're not doing it.

BOTH: PLEASE MOMMY! WE WILL LISTEN!

Minutes pass.

GINA: Okay, can we try this?

MADDIE & ISABELLA: Yes!

GINA: Okay, Isabella, get on my back. Maddie, come here. 

MADDIE: Wait! What about our stuff?

GINA: What do you mean?

MADDIE: OUR TOYS!


GINA: We leave the toys here in case of an emergency.


MADDIE: (wails) I WANT OUR STUFF! ALL OF OUR STUFF!

GINA: We can get more stuff. We can't get more US. So let's just go and practice this!


MADDIE: I WANT MY TOYSSSSSS!!!!!

GINA: Oh. My. GOD. FORGET IT.

ISABELLA: No no no no, Mommy, PLEASE! I WANT TO DO EMERGENCY!!

Both girls continue to cry. Minutes pass.

GINA: Okay, can we try this for real?

MADDIE and ISABELLA: Yes!

GINA: Okay, Isabella, get on my back. Maddie, come here. 
Okay, Mommy Katie, pretend there is an emergency!

KATIE: Quick, there is an emergency! I'll get Noodle!

Gina, with Isabella on her back and Maddie in her arms, runs to the front door, followed by Katie, with Noodle in her arms. Gina opens the door and rushes out. Halfway out the door, Maddie's hair gets caught in part of the door. Not realizing it, Gina is still moving quickly ahead, while Maddie's hair is stubbornly caught in the door frame. Maddie's head jerks. 

KATIE: Oh God. That was bad. Oh, honey, are you okay?

MADDIE, who has JUST MOMENTS AGO STOPPED CRYING ABOUT BEING IN FRONT AND NOT IN BACK: (Crying. Hysterically. Rubbing her head.)

Cuddles and ice pack on the couch. Apologies. Minutes pass.

GINA: Are ready to try it again? Okay, Isabella, get on my back. Maddie, come here. Okay, Mommy Katie, pretend there is an emergency!

KATIE: Quick, there is an emergency! I'll get Noodle!

The family rushes out the door. It's now 7:45. 

LIGHTS.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Miss H

Who has two thumbs, a lot of snot in her nose right now, AND a new therapist? THIS GIRL.



This is her third therapist, and each has worked on different aspects of her life. The other two were good - we got along with both of them, they helped her (and us). But this new one... she is amazing. She specializes in adoption and issues that arise out of situations like ours. She has so much energy, GOOD energy, and it is obvious she loves her job. But she's also sarcastic and funny and knows how hard this parenting thing is.

We're only on our third session, but Miss H and Maddie connected immediately. Maddie loves her, and Miss H delights in Maddie. Miss H is big on "reflection," which is essentially paying attention to your kid and reflecting back what you see. ("I love the colors you chose for that lego tower!" or "I see you are really excited!") We've learned this technique before as a bundle with other techniques, but Miss H seems to think this is the most important one, and she does it throughout the entire session with Maddie. This is what she wants us to work on. 

When our first therapist taught us this technique, she said it very matter-of-factly, as though she were giving us instructions on how to deal with a child we were babysitting. But Miss H said, "I promise you, this is the best thing you can do for her. You will be exhausted. It is exhausting. But it works." 

I said, "Do you have kids?" And the reason I asked was because I was thinking how she SHOULD have kids. 

She said, "Yep. Five. All adopted." 

My mouth hit the floor. She said, "The best stuff I've learned is not stuff I learned in school, but stuff I learned from parenting. And reflection will change your life."

She also said what no other therapist has said. "When you feel like you can't take it and you're ready to lose your mind and strangle her, call me. You reflect with Maddie, and you call ME and scream at ME. You tell me what's working and what's not working. You call me and we can talk about anything you want, any time you want." I almost cried. I didn't, but I felt like I might. 

We've been lucky to have had good experiences with all of Maddie's therapy, but this is the first time I feel like we are working with someone who has been in the trenches, someone who GETS what it is that's happening. She is so. good. And I want her to move in with us. I suggested this. She thought I was joking. I'm not.

Here is a video from the tail end of therapy last night:

video



Monday, February 22, 2016

On empathy.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
-Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird 

Harper Lee died last week. I was trying to think of what my next post would be, and when she came to mind, I thought, "Well, you can't write about her just because she died." And then I was reminded of this quote, and I thought I'd write a post about racism, because who better to school you on racism than a white girl who was raised in a middle class family?

Bear with me here.

The thing about empathy is that it requires you to see a whole world outside of yourself. It requires you to examine the "why" behind things. It almost demands that you leave some things unanswered, because there are some things you will just never understand, and you have to trust that one person's experience is just different than yours. Once you're able to do this, injustice and unfairness become so much clearer.

We're fed a version of history in US schools that isn't entirely true. Here is the truth: this country was built on a notion that white men are the best people. That is just a fact. Racism is in our foundation. A lot of people have fought against that, and we have come a long way, but the idea lingers and the smell of it is hard to eradicate. White privilege (and really, white MALE privilege) is real and pervasive. Some people think white privilege is the idea that life is easy for all white people, and all white people are privileged in the sense that they all have a ton of money and yachts and belong to country clubs. White privilege is something that is hard to understand for many white people because they've never lived without it, so they can't see it.

The Atticus quote made me immediately think of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Which also made me think of people posting on social media using the hashtags #AllLivesMatter and #PoliceLivesMatter, as if all of these things are mutually exclusive. They aren't. What bugs me about this is a lot of these people are people I know and love, and I know they just are not seeing the whole picture, and I don't know how to show them that without coming off as judgmental or preachy. And they rarely asking my opinion. 

I was in Ohio when the news came that there would be no charges filed in Michael Brown's death. One of my cousins, who I assume is pretty conservative, asked me what I thought about it. I was in reality furious and dismayed. But I wanted him to understand how I was thinking about it, as opposed to how I was FEELING about it, because I felt like he'd be able to relate to that better. So I said something like, "I do think charges should've been filed, but the more important thing is that whether or not the cops did anything wrong, the fact that the black community FEELS the way it feels is a real issue, and the fact that some cops treat minorities the way they do is something that needs to be addressed. I don't know how that gets fixed. But I feel bad that in America, where we are all supposed to be equal, there is a whole community that feels less-than, and they are not making it up." And he looked like he hadn't thought of it that way before. I don't know if I changed his mind about anything in that minute, but I know I made him think of it in a way he hadn't before, and that to me is a win.

Empathy is way better than anger when it comes to changing minds. I mean, I could even go into how you have to be empathetic toward terrorists before you can defeat them, but I'm not going to do that in this moment. I just wish everyone would ask why, and I wish everyone would be open to hearing the answers.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Not the thing.

Last night, I finished "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" by Elizabeth Gilbert. I have a bunch of takeaways from this, but here's what I want to put into words today:

Fierce trust demands that you put forth the work anyhow, because fierce trust knows that the outcome does not matter.
The outcome cannot matter.
Fierce trust asks you to stand strong within this truth: "You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don't understand the outcome."

This space isn't about writing great things. It's just about writing. And sometimes, things are unexpectedly well-received, and I see 300 hits on one post, and then sometimes, things I think are going to be great receive lukewarm responses, or fantastic responses but from only a few people. It doesn't matter. I mean, it does. The encouragement helps. The praise helps. The "hey, I feel this way too!" helps. But I can't let it matter, because what matters is that I'm showing up and conditioning my brain to work like a writer again. That's all that matters.

This reminded me of a bit from Amy Poehler's book "Yes, Please":

You have to care about your work but not the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.

And...
You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.

On cue, I got a text from someone this afternoon gauging my interest in a project that would stretch my creative abilities and give me an opportunity to maybe do something I haven't done before but have wanted to do forever.  I don't know if this will pan out, but I said yes, I'm interested, despite my inner critic saying, "Pssshh.... no way." Because, I thought, why say no when you can say yes?

As I was hunting for the above quotes from "Yes, Please," I found this one that I had forgotten:
Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready. 

So: less worrying. More doing. On it.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A new voice

I posted this story last weekend. I have roughly a 13" scar from that surgery, a scar I didn't fight for, a scar whose story sucks, a scar who lives to remind me of this dumb thing that happened. I figured the best way to commemorate the 5 year anniversary of acquiring that scar was to 1. blog about it, and 2. permanently scar my body in a way of MY choosing. 

Me and Pete.
This is my 3rd tattoo, but the biggest and most visible by far. I have known for about a year that I wanted this tattoo, but I had trouble finding an image that I loved. The tattoo is inspired by A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, a book I read two years ago but have not been able to shake. For months after I finished that book, I thought about it every single day. And even now, I don't go more than a few days without it crossing my mind. For me, there is no better reason to get a tattoo.

In the year since I thought of this tattoo, I looked at about a billion images of dress forms. I could never find the right one. It was one of those things where I knew I'd know it when I saw it. I found it a couple of weeks ago. And even with all of this forethought, and knowing with utmost certainty that I had found the right image, I still had to wrap my head around the idea that I was going take up so much space on my arm with something permanent. What will it look like when I'm 50? 60? Meh, screw that, it's going to look awesome now. 

And it DOES look awesome. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. 

"The only thing wrong with me is what's missing."
A weird thing happened after I allowed this much of my body to be taken up by ink. Other parts of my body, once under some sort of embargo from accepting tattoo ink, became fair game. Layers of insecurity built up over a lifetime melted away. Where there was this voice:

I don't like my upper arms, so obviously I can't put a tattoo there.

and

If I were skinnier, I'd get a tattoo on my side.

...there is now this voice:

Dear Katie,

You HAVE upper arms, so you can put a tattoo there if you want. Also, you have a side! So you can put one there too. You can put a tattoo WHEREVER THE HELL YOU WANT. No one can stop you but you. Who is making these rules? And more importantly, why are you following them? These are all just insignificant choices that YOU get to make. And you may not love your body, but it's yours and it actually does.not.matter. what other people say to you or have said to you or might say to you - you get to do what you want with it. And don't you forget that your little girls are watching you and how you treat your body, and whether or not you're proud of it, and how you deal with its weaknesses, and will learn from you how they are supposed to feel about their own bodies. So go forth and get tattooed if you want. Get color! Quit being so damn afraid.

Love,
Katie

And this voice? This voice is the best-sounding voice there is.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

More on the Grammys and Spotify

I think one of the biggest things that keeps us divided as humans is our unwillingness to be wrong, and the inability of people to see different sides of an argument. It's a sign of emotional intelligence to be able to hear other opinions and to leave room for your own opinion to evolve.

I posted this rant yesterday. A friend came at me with proverbial fists raised, telling me this attitude was a horribly entitled one, and that I'm an artist, and essentially I should know better. I respect her opinion wholly, so I was open to what she was saying. We chatted for a bit about it and it turns out, I was wrong about what was said at the Grammys, and my response was to what I thought was said. When I read that the president of the Recording Academy said "Isn't music worth more than a penny?", I took it to be an admonition for all Spotify users, even paid ones. But as my friend pointed out, that's not what they were saying. In fact, they encourage paid subscriptions to music. It's the free streaming (which Spotify offers if you're willing to listen to ads) that they don't like.

I know music is available to me for free if I want it for free, but I don't want it for free, so I pay for Spotify and will gladly buy any music that is not available there. I do not feel entitled to free music. At all. Apparently, even the paid Spotify subscription isn't all that fair to artists. And what my friend suggested was that Common and Neil Portnow were preparing us, the consumers, for an inevitable price hike in services like Spotify, because the current model isn't sustainable. And it's not that it's unsustainable for people like Common. It's unsustainable for lesser-known musicians, who need the money to make a living, not to buy a 4000 square foot house in Beverly Hills. And yes, to me, making music is as important a job as any, and it should be a way for talented musicians to make a living.

It's hard for me to see a room full of millionaires applauding the idea that musicians don't make enough money. But I also understand that there is no better place to say it, because the reach is wide. I forget that people still steal media (what is this, the early aughts?!), but TONS of people do it. And again, I am against this. Music, films, television - these are all products, and you have to pay for products.

For the record (MUSIC PUN), I'd happily pay more money for Spotify. And I will always buy music I want that is unavailable on Spotify, and I will even buy stuff on vinyl if I like it enough. I watch stuff on YouTube that I can't find anywhere else - mostly live performances.

Not that I have a huge readership to deal with here, but I apologize if my post was perceived differently than I intended. Are we cool now?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Grammys and Spotify

Preface: when you commit to writing 30 posts in 30 days, no topic is off limits. So now, I present you a blog post on a topic I would've most likely never written about: the Grammys, and more specifically, streaming music services. 

I didn't watch the Grammys, because the last time I watched them, I felt like I was 100 years old. It was like lights out in the owlery. "Who is that? Now who is THAT? Oh come on, who is that person?!" Yeah, yeah, Hamilton. I'll just watch it on YouTube. I pay to stream the CD and I'll buy a ticket for it when it's in Los Angeles. That's all you get from me. 

Apparently, someone I don't know (I just looked it up - it was Neil Portnow, the president of the Recording Academy) made some remark on the Grammys about how music so great and aren't our singles worth more than a penny? Subtweeting at Spotify, it seems. I am pretty anti-piracy. I pay for movies, I pay for music. I want artists to make money off of their stuff. I always see these things online about how you can get cable for free through a so-and-so device, but I don't want free cable, because someone made that cable, and it's worth more than nothing. Well, some of it is, anyway.

I understand wanting to make money off of your music. I get that. But I'm sorry if I don't feel bad that you don't think it's enough money. Make better music. How about that? Also, HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU NEED TO MAKE? You all seem to be doing fine, arriving at your awards ceremony in limos wearing beautiful clothes, sitting court side at basketball games, vacationing wherever and whenever you want, talking on the red carpet about what you're wearing when so many of us DGAF. Maybe your music isn't as highly valued as it once was. Times change. Maybe we don't want to pay $15 for a CD that has 3 good songs on it. Get on the bus and stop your bitching, or quit making music. It's not up to us to make sure you still live the life you want to live. If you don't like Spotify, stay off of it. Isn't it important to get as many ears on your music as possible? It's not like we're talking poverty wages here, folks. These artists are doing just fine.  How much money did the person who made your iPhone make? Or your sneakers? I'm about to pay $500 for two Beyonce concert tickets, so I think you'll all manage just fine.

I'm not someone who bitches that celebrities make too much money and teachers don't make enough. I mean, that is OBVIOUSLY true. But celebrities are part of a for-profit machine, and if they're making a lot of money, it's because they are worth that much money to the people putting out their art. If Julia Roberts is making $20 million a movie, then it's because her movies tend to make a lot of money in the theatre. No one is getting rich while leaving the makers of this art poor. 

Yes, you work hard. Yes, you are reaching a wide audience. Yes, you deserve your financial success. But when you start complaining that you're not making ENOUGH, that your art has somehow devalued, and you're implying that it's on me to help keep your "dying" art form alive, I check out. Nope. I'll be over here, in a dual-income two-bedroom RENTAL HOUSE, with my kids in full-time daycare, and my travel budget maxed out on trips to Ohio. 

It's hard out here for a pimp. The future is different than imagined - it's the American dream. 

**Edited to add this article, which explains artists' issues with Spotify, and why the model of streaming music is broken.

***Also, edited to add the link to my follow-up post on this subject.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Filed under The Worst: Filling out Valentine's Day cards.

Dear people-without-kids: Have you heard this idea that a lot of parents aren't the parents they thought they'd be? That life as a parent is way different than they imagined it would be?

THIS IS VERY REAL.

You'd think there would be a general sense of solidarity among parents as to how fucking insane this journey is... and there IS, to a certain extent, but it's very difficult to forgive yourself for how much you're failing at this thing when it LOOKS LIKE everyone else is doing so well.

This is the valentine from one of Maddie's buddies. Those are rock crayons! This mom is winning the game of Mom.

I wanted to be a mom, more than anything I've ever wanted in my entire life. I looked forward to the struggle of motherhood. I was thrilled at the idea of school projects and holiday-themed photos and crafts and baking and cooking healthy meals. 

I am here to tell you this is all terrible.

Yeah, yeah, the kids are cute. They make you want to be a better person. You love them like you've loved no one else. My gratitude for their existence is unmatched.

Still. TERRIBLE.

Maddie's kindergarten teacher gives out a calendar every month with suggested daily activities. Check out what the activity was for the first Tuesday in February, which would be February 2nd.



I did purchase the valentines the weekend prior. But we found ourselves filling them out on Wednesday, February 10th, after school, before dinner, with two little girls who can't read. 

I've been home from work for maybe four minutes in this photo. Valentine-filling-out started immediately.

Through the stacks and stacks of paperwork that comes home between both schools, I was pretty sure both girls were having their parties on Thursday the 11th. (Maddie's ended up being on the 12th. So we were technically early filling out the cards.)



I bought the kids the same valentines so there would be no fighting. 
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. OF COURSE THERE WAS FIGHTING. Maddie was furious that Isabella had the same valentines she did. THE HORROR. 


Also, Maddie insisted the girls get the pink envelopes and the boys get the yellow envelopes, despite us telling them repeatedly that there is no such thing as a "boy color" or a "girl color." 


Both of our girls know how to write their own names and the alphabet, but this didn't stop Maddie asking me how to write a "d." Repeatedly. (MADDIE: THERE ARE TWO Ds IN YOUR NAME.) Also, we had to talk Maddie off the ledge when we told her she wasn't allowed to give her teacher the two $5 bills she got in the mail from one of the grandparents.

You can see the paper next to her has all of her classmates listed on it. That didn't help her.
It is also very hard to be patient when they are both eager for your help, and there is only one of you (Gina was making dinner), and they have no idea how to take turns. So it was constantly, "MOMMY. MOMMY. MOMMY. MOMMY." And if you're telling one of them how to spell one name, the other one thinks you're talking to her and she'll start writing the letters on HER card, even though there is only one Paolo among the two classes. They are impatient and self-centered and exactly how they are supposed to be, and it makes projects like this insufferable. THANK GOD the teachers took care of the "Valentine box" making. I've seen some fantastic card boxes on Facebook from some friends around the country, but that would've put me over the edge. 


The DGAF Valentines bag for Izzy. Preschool is the best.

Here is the good news: we do get repaid for this trouble with some amazing presents that actually make me overjoyed to be taking this ride with these two little girls. (I mostly feel this way when they are in bed, and I come in the kitchen to get some wine and see the presents displayed in the kitchen. Still - I'll take it.) So yes, the journey is hard, and at times feels impossible. But it's my journey, and I know I'm lucky to be on it.



Ceramic candy dish!

We love you too, kid. More than we can possibly ever tell you.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Misogyny and St. Valentine

I waited too long to make a reservation for dinner last night, so we wound up having our Valentine's Day dinner at Taylor's Steakhouse in La Canada Flintridge. I've driven past it many times and was excited to try it, but yelp wasn't selling me on it. We kept our expectations low.

The restaurant was fine, the food was actually delicious - service a little slow, decor quite outdated. But overall, a good choice. We were expecting to be the youngest in the restaurant (we weren't), but what we weren't expecting was a side of misogyny with our dinner.

We were seated at a booth near a couple in their late 40's. He was a boring-looking ruddy-faced middle class sort of guy. I couldn't see her, but I can tell you this much: she was not sober. We had been sitting down for less than five minutes when this conversation happened:

Man: Did you see Hillary on the debate the other night?

Woman: No.

Man: She was wearing this awful shirt...

Woman: Ugh! She needs to wear a dress!

Man: Are you kidding? She's a lesbian!

Because lesbians don't wear dresses. Duh.

Listen, I'm fine if you don't like Hillary. But I don't have to explain to you that this stuff ENRAGES me in every direction imaginable, right? You guys get that, right? Let me know if you don't, I'm happy to enlighten you on why this makes me so angry. When was the last time someone complained about the way a male candidate was dressed? I. Can't. EVEN.

The conversation continued. The man presented the woman with what seemed to be a doomsday scenario.

Man: What happens if it's Trump and Clinton? Who are you going to vote for?

Woman: Oh, god. I don't know. I guess Hillary. I guess I'd have to vote for Hillary. Oh my god. 

Keep in mind, it's not that they would prefer Sanders over Hillary. It's that the idea of a democrat in office for four more years is only MARGINALLY better than a Trump presidency. Marginally.

There was a bunch of other political chat, but the wine was flowing at our table and I can't remember much more of it. I do remember my jaw hitting the table several times, listening to what they were saying.

The best part of the conversation came when the man was recounting to the woman a news report he had seen where several women were interviewed about an event.

Man: And they purposely picked women to interview because they are so EMOTIONAL. There were no men interviewed.

Woman: Are you saying they're emotional because they're WOMEN? Is that what you're really saying to me right now?

Man: Well... are you saying women are not more emotional than men?

This did not go well for him. The silver lining was that she was indeed sticking up for herself.

When it came time for dessert, we found out Mr. Charming still had some tricks up his sleeve.

Man: If I get the creme brulee, I am NOT sharing it with you. You have to promise me you're not going to ask for even a bite. 

Woman: I don't want it. 

Man: So you're going to watch me eat it? And really not ask for any? Because if you take even ONE BITE, YOU have to pick up the check. One. Bite.

Love really was in the air. What a blessing.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Five years later

I don't even know how to start this one.

It seems a lot of creatively-inclined people will submerge themselves in their art when things in life go awry. I suppose they find a solace in transferring their anger and grief onto whatever medium they are using. I find my experience to be the opposite. When life sucks, I don't want to write, because writing is emotional and makes me think about too much, and makes me ask questions and explore my own feelings. Nope. Pass.

If you look on the right-hand side of this blog, you'll notice there are no posts in 2011. That's because 2011 was the worst year of my life. It came on the heels of a challenging but ultimately fantastic 2010, which was the year Maddie was born (and the year I got to go see Ohio State in the Rose Bowl). Christmas of 2010 was the best Christmas ever - there was a new baby in the family, my sister Jackie was sober and present and part of the holiday, and on December 17th, 2010, my doctor's office called me to let me know our first round of IVF had worked, and I was pregnant, after trying unsuccessfully for a year via IUIs. I felt like my life could not get any better. I was swimming in happiness - a cautious but very tangible happiness. Every subsequent doctor's appointment seemed to confirm what I had imagined was an almost impossible dream - we were going to have A BABY.

Of course you can imagine what happened. We were quiet about the baby, telling only a few people. And then, when I was 11 weeks and 6 days (which is one day shy of the safe-to-tell-people 12-week mark), I found myself going in for emergency surgery. The last thing I said to the doctors was, "Please take care of my baby." 

The doctors didn't even know why they were opening me up, they just knew they had to. I went to the emergency room that Saturday morning, around 1:30am, with severe abdominal pain. I won't bore you with the details of how I couldn't sleep, I couldn't pee, and how they didn't give me a pillow for my head but expected me to rest comfortably in the hospital bed, and how I whimpered throughout the entire night, and how Gina sat in the chair next to me, exhausted and emotional and uncomfortable and afraid. I'll leave that stuff out. I will tell you that they almost sent me home at 7am with a diagnosis of a UTI, but when a nurse noticed my pulse wasn't slowing, she decided against discharging me. NURSES ARE HEROES, YOU GUYS. I might've died had I gone home with only a prescription for fucking Cipro.

Sometime that morning, after they decided they weren't discharging me just yet, my fertility doctor, whose practice is located at the hospital I was at, came to see me. I could see the concern in his eyes when he saw me. "You don't look well, Katie." Maybe it sounds like he was being flippant, but he wasn't - he was validating me. No other doctor could figure out what was wrong with me, and one doctor even said, "I don't want to examine you because you are pregnant via IVF." Doctors, everybody! My fertility doctor was saying, yes, something is wrong, and you aren't going anywhere. He was the one who admitted me to the hospital. 

I had a CT and an x-ray, neither recommended in pregnant women, but my doctor felt like my life was more important than the health of the baby. I'm thankful every day that he was there through all of it, because I trusted him without question and I knew he had my best interest in mind with every decision he was making. Finally, Sunday morning, he told me, "We have to open you up and figure out what is going on. None of the tests are showing anything, but obviously something is wrong." We talked about the danger to the baby, but I'm pretty smart and I knew there was no other choice. So open me up they did, on February 13, 2011. 

I don't remember how long the surgery was - maybe 4 hours - but when I woke up, I wasn't in pain for the first time in two days - all I could feel was relief. I asked him if the baby was okay and he said yes, the baby was fine. He told me I'd suffered ovarian torsion, and that one ovary was necrotic and filling my body with sepsis, so they'd taken it out. They'd tried to do the surgery laparoscopically, but were unable to see anything, so they cut me open vertically from right above my belly button all the way down to my crotch. I imagine the next step was they were putting me on antibiotics to combat the sepsis, but I don't remember. I just remember the feeling of being out of pain and the relief that the baby had survived the surgery.

About two hours later, I started bleeding. Initially, when the nurse called my doctor to let him know, he said some bleeding is to be expected. But then I started bleeding more, and the nurse looked at me and said, "I think you're losing your baby." I don't remember what that nurse looked like - what color her hair was or what color her eyes were - but somehow I remember the feeling of the look on her face, and I remember how her voice sounded. She sounded like she was afraid I was going to freak out. But all I said was, "Okay." Thanks, morphine! I looked at Gina, who was there holding my hand, and I could see the tears in her eyes. A few minutes later, they showed us our 12-week-old fetus in a bedpan. I didn't cry. I was so drugged up and so grateful to be out of pain. All I could say was, "I'm sorry."

I ended up spending 11 days total in the hospital. I had a blood transfusion, which remains one of my trippiest experiences to date (I could FEEL myself recharging as the blood made its way into me - blood is the best!). It wasn't until I was on about day 5 that I started actually experiencing the emotions of what had happened. When I was finally well enough to go home, the infectious disease doctor told me I was finally "out of the woods," but that I had very much been in the woods during the past week and a half, probably being chased by crazy rabid wolves with machetes. Okay, I made that wolves part up. 

Recovery sucked, but I did learn that two Vicodin is better than one. I also learned just how much you use your core for, and when an incision has been made through half of it, it's hard to do EVERYTHING. I also learned that Gina is The Best at everything.

Grief is a weird thing, and I don't know if this grief is in a category all its own. I'm inclined to think had the baby been still born, it would've been harder. Or if I'd lost the baby earlier in the pregnancy, it would've been easier. I don't know. I just know that there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about that baby. I used to think everything happens for a reason, but I don't believe that anymore. Things just happen, and sometimes things are great and sometimes they suck. The only thing good to come out of losing that baby is Isabella, who would certainly not be our kid had that baby been born. But that doesn't make the loss any easier for me. Those two outcomes exist on separate planes - I love Isabella and love that she's ours and wouldn't trade her for anything (even when she's being a little punk), but I still ache for the baby I lost and wish with every part of my being that hadn't happened. 

Another thing about this kind of grief is that no one wants to hear about it. I mean, they say they do, they say "you can always talk to me!", but seriously, people don't know what to say or how to react. And it's easier to not talk about it, because it's such a bummer, and it's more fun to be funny and goofy. 

I haven't been able to get pregnant again, and it's taken me this long to finally be okay with that. I've finally accepted that there's a good chance this just might not happen for me. It helps having two rambunctious children who don't listen and who treat me like a short-order cook/housekeeper. But they are also delightful in so many ways, and I love them so much, and that love is finally enough to dull the pain of the loss. I still feel a twinge of jealousy whenever I hear anyone is pregnant - even characters on TV! - but it doesn't derail me anymore. I can go to baby showers, although I do try to avoid them in general. I'm angrier and more cynical than I otherwise would've been, but I've learned to just live with it. 

Every year on February 13th, I think "This is the year I'll post this story." But I haven't had it in me until now. Putting it all on paper (so to speak) feels like part of the process. So here it is. 

Right after our first insemination, in 2009. Look how relaxed and optimistic we are!

12/18/10 - the day after we found out I was pregnant. Pure joy. AND LOOK AT BABY MADDIE! COME ON!

Friday, February 12, 2016

I (did not) woke up like this.

I wore makeup yesterday.

This isn't a first, but it is rather rare. I have maybe too many feelings about makeup. I pushed against it as a young adult (oh my god, am I not considered a young adult anymore? DESPAIR!), because I felt like it was unnecessary, that we should be celebrating how beautiful people are, period, without women feeling like they needed to put on makeup to look a certain way.

Truthfully, this was probably planted when I was in middle school and high school and never learned how to do my own makeup, and was actually never remotely interested in learning. I wish I could say this was some feminist statement that little Katie was making, but it wasn't - honestly, I felt like I wasn't pretty enough to put makeup on, that people would look at me with makeup and think I was trying to hide something that wasn't able to be hidden, and ridicule would follow. I would've preferred invisibility to eyeliner.

Ah, adolescence.

I didn't realize how lucky I was in my 20's to actually not need makeup. I have never had everything going for me, but my skin has always been relatively clear, save for my freckles - which I wear proudly and feel no need to cover up - and while I am fair skinned, I somehow managed to have a bit of a "rosy glow" so that I never looked dead.

I'd say once I hit 35, I started to think I should maybe learn how to do my own makeup. The dark circles under my eyes were getting more prominent, and the blue in my eyes just kept looking more grey. I always enlist the help of my younger sister Jessie to do my makeup for parties and concerts, and the older I get, the more positive comments I get when I wear makeup. There were some people at my company party this year that didn't even recognize me, which is hilarious - I just had on eye makeup, lipstick, and big earrings. "WHO ARE YOU?!" and the subtext was definitely, "YOU LOOK SO GOOD!"

Of course, I have two little girls at home who I need to consider. There is part of me that doesn't want them to see put on makeup, because I absolutely do not want them to think they ever NEED it. However, I do want them to express their femininity and personality in whatever way they want, and if makeup is part of that, that's okay. My instinct is to not let them play with makeup, lest they assume this is a required part of being a girl, and that makeup is necessary to make you look pretty. But I also want them to have fun and dress up if they want, and not be intimidated by makeup like I was.

What's curious is that they have two moms who almost NEVER wear makeup. Gina really doesn't ever wear it - she wore some to the aforementioned holiday party, and that was the first time I've EVER seen makeup on her. I wear it so infrequently. And still, the girls are both deeply interested in it, and they are always wanting to play with it. Some of this blame is on Aunt Jessie, but I think some if it is just who they are. They are girls who like makeup.

They didn't see me with makeup when I left the house yesterday morning, and when I came home with it on, they both noticed immediately.

Izzy: "Are you wearing makeup?"

Maddie: "I like your makeup!"

Izzy: "You look beautiful!"

So...yeah. I do look better with makeup on. I just do. I don't want that to be true, but whatever. It's not earth-shattering. It's not a big deal. It's just another choice, like having pierced ears or red hair or new sneakers. And that's what I need to remember when my girls are teenagers and asking me if they can wear makeup to school. Sigh.

College Katie. No makeup + Tasmanian Devil t-shirt. The '90s, everybody.
Me and my buddy Jamie on a hike. No makeup.

Me and little sister Jessie. She dolled me up for the Beyonce concert. We're pretty hot, right? 
The time both of us wore makeup, to the '70s themed company holiday party.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Stranger danger

We probably haven't spoken with our kids enough about stranger danger. And that's most likely because we don't think it's smart to make our kids afraid of people, since most people are completely safe and have no interest in harming our children. It's hard to find the balance in teaching them what's okay when it comes to people we don't know.

Isabella has been getting reprimanded at school for saying hello to people outside the gate of the school. The first incident was Monday, and the teacher recalled the story with a thick incredulity that took me by surprise.

"She was just talking to people outside the gate! And I was like, is that your mom? No? Then you don't talk to that person!"

I just did that awkward parent-smile thing that says, "Hashtag kids, amirite?"

I didn't really think anything of it, until the director of the school stopped me in the parking lost last night.

"We had to speak to Isabella again about talking to strangers outside the gate."

Again, I was dumbfounded at the apparent severity of this infraction. "What did she say?"

"Oh, just 'Hi, I'm Isabella, what are you doing?'"

The horror. "Okay, I'll talk to her," was all I could manage.

When I went into the school, I overheard the teacher from Monday reprimanding Isabella. "And I told you to not talk to strangers, and you did it again! You're not listening to me!"

Listen - I know there are some monsters out there. I get it. We get it. But our kids are already shy, ESPECIALLY Isabella. She is so distrusting of everything. The front playground of the school is surrounded by a gate that she can't get through and no one can get to her. I think it's worth talking to her about it, but reprimanding her - especially in front of other children - seems harsh and unnecessary.

It's not that I want to keep them naive about the dangers of people they don't know. I just want them to stay curious. Learning to talk to people you don't know is an incredibly valuable skill, one that I have not developed well. I'd like them to be better at it than I am.

Side note: she bit her best buddy on the finger this week (she has never bitten ANYBODY), and I feel like they are taking the stranger thing way more seriously that the bite. Maybe the stranger thing is Isabella's attempt at distracting them from the bite. She is a smart kid.

PJ photo by Gina.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

There's a little bit of magic, everybody has it.

I was in a funk at the beginning of last summer. The kind where I could barely get out of bed in the morning or off the couch on the weekends. The kind where I ended every night with 2-3 drinks just to turn my brain off. The kind where I cried, a lot.

I was fun.

And then one day, I was on a walk, and one of my buddies (Katie or Erin, I can't remember which one) texted me:


So they sent me "A Better Son/Daughter." 

Sometimes when you're on, you're really fucking on
And your friends, they sing along and they love you
But the lows are so extreme, that the good seems fucking cheap
And it teases you for weeks in its absence

Luckily, it took approximately one listen for me to fall in love with it, and we were able to remain friends. But the bigger thing that happened was that Jenny Lewis pulled me out of my funk (the Lexapro also helped), and suddenly there was no other music worth listening to. I subscribed to Spotify and listened to every Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley song available, all the time, and I fell in love. When I first heard her song "The Next Messiah," I had this thought: "Why does anyone need to do drugs when songs like this exist?" The music from that song pulsed through my veins - I felt like I'd injected it into me. 

This happened with so many of her songs. I felt like she'd surely written "Head Underwater" for me. Obviously she'd read a bunch of my short stories from college and wrote "Late Bloomer." I fell hard for Jenny right as her new album Voyager was released, and not long after I first heard her, I saw the hilariously irreverent video for "She's Not Me." And then also the video for "Just One of the Guys," with Brie Larson, because OF COURSE SHE'S FRIENDS WITH BRIE LARSON. I kept looking for a song I hated and I wasn't finding any. Everything was so good. It all felt written for me.

Because Los Angeles is awesome, I was able to see her in concert for the first time about 6 weeks after I heard her for the first time. 


I like to pretend she's singing right to me here.
Best. Concert. Ever.

I think it's best if writers write for themselves, write what makes them happy, and what they believe in. You want to know your audience, but you don't want to cater to them too much or you risk losing your voice. But dammit, how great would it be to know that what you are sharing with people is changing them? That what you have to say matters so much, and is connecting on a very real level? THAT is rad. THAT is the dream. I feel lucky to have this girl and this music.

One of those "likes" is from her. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

30 in 30

I made up this challenge for myself a few days ago - 30 blog posts in 30 days. This is post #6 in as many days, and because of the nature of this challenge, I want to explain myself here.

I'm doing this as a way to get me to resume thinking as a writer. More on what that means in a later post. But I've been ignoring the writing thing for way too long, and I need to stop. So, this is one way I'm attempting to change my habits. 

This is my own space and I get to do whatever I please here, so not all of these posts will be fantastic or life-changing or funny or sad or whatever other adjective you're expecting. Sometimes they are just going to be fangirl love letters to writers or singers or actors. Sometimes they'll just be lists of stupid shit my kids do. Other times, they will be complaints about how everything is the worst. Maybe occasionally they will just be pictures with captions - captions count as writing! The posts might make you love me or hate me or think I'm wasting my time and yours. I'm okay with all of this. The goal is just to get them published, to have a deadline for myself, and to meet that deadline. I have no idea what I'm going to write about every day, but I will always find something, because that's what I need to do. 

Ideally, writing this much will slowly make me a better writer, and eventually, the quality of my posts will be higher, and you'll be interested to come here and see what I'm thinking and to tell me what you're thinking, and to also tell your friends to do the same. My goal with this blog has always been, since 2004!, to have a place to write and to connect, a place to dump thoughts I'm willing to share with others. 

And maybe in this process, I'll learn how to end blog posts well.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Beyonce & social change

I have to do it. I have to write about Beyonce.

I majored in theatre* in college because I thought I wanted to be an actor. I soon realized I wasn't good at acting, but I stayed in theatre because... well, because it was what I had started in, and what the hell else was I going to do? But definitely the second biggest reason I wanted to graduate with my bachelor's in theatre was because of the idea of "theatre as social change," a concept my small-minded self didn't think of until my History of Theatre class. As soon as my professor started talking about it, something clicked, and a huge "why" in my life was answered.

What a better thing to do with your art than to try to change the world? And that can be through something blatantly political, or through something more subtle, like introducing the concept of drag queens to a possibly tentative audience. We tell our stories so that we can feel understood, so that other people can relate to us, and so that we can, in a sense, weave our being into the fabric of humanity. We're saying, Hey look, we're here too, and here's what we're about, and I'm sure if you look hard enough, you can relate to something here, because we're actually not that different from you.

And sometimes, we tell our stories because we are pissed off. Who else but Beyonce could turn the Super Bowl into an advertisement not only for Beyonce, but for a brand new song/video, a new world tour, the Black Lives Matter movement, the atrocity that is the Flint, Michigan water crisis, and the desperate need to address systemic racism in America? Say what you will about her artistry - she is a force, and she is using that force for a purpose.

She woke up like this.

And guess who is angry? The "not-racist"s of the world. The folks who scream "all lives matter." The clueless ones. The ones who don't feel this anger, who don't feel this injustice, so they can't relate. (If you still think Black Lives Matter means your life doesn't matter, or police lives don't matter, or black lives matter MORE than any of these, you are so far off base, you're not even in the game anymore. But let me know if you'd like to play, and I'm happy to have a conversation about it with you.)

There were a million articles today about Beyonce's Super Bowl performance and how politically charged it was. It fills me with despair that so many people are so angry about it. Why do you think black people feel so disenfranchised? They're trying to tell us what they are feeling, and we're annoyed and angry and want them to just shut up. We're making it about us, the white folk, and how it makes us uncomfortable, and how we feel like we're being blamed. Guess what? It's not about us. Maybe this isn't my fight because of the color of my skin, but I stand on the side of human beings knowing they matter, knowing they are important, knowing they are equal. 

Now, excuse me while I whip about my AmEx to hopefully score pre-sale tickets to the Formation World Tour. Bow down, bitches. 


*I go back and forth with my preference on how to spell this word. Today is an "re" day.

A list: 40 things my children will fight over.

1. Who gets to turn the page in the book.

2. Who gets to take a bath first.

3. Who gets to take a bath second.

4. Who gets their back scratched longer at night.

5. Who gets buckled first.

6. Who gets more time with Mee Mee and Aunt Jessie.

7. Who gets to pick the TV show.

8. Who picked the last TV show.

9. Who gets the flower cup.

10. Who gets the Elsa-and-Anna-without-a-lid cup.

11. Who gets the Supergirl jammies.

12. Who gets the only Frozen jammies that we have one of (we have two of every other Frozen pair).

13. Who gets to sit on the counter.

14. Who gets to help make the macaroni and cheese.

15. Who gets the Christmas coloring book in the car.

16. Who gets Lambie.

17. Who gets to sleep with the book we read.

18. Who ate more dinner.

19. Who is a better listener.

20. Who gets to hold Noodle on a walk.

21. Who gets to cuddle with which mommy.

22. Who gets to hold the "silver remote."

23. Who is Shimmer and who is Shine.

24. Who is Zach-from-Mako-Mermaid's girlfriend.

25. Who plays the mommy and who plays the baby.

26. Who plays the dog and who plays the dog-walker.

27. Who gets the baby high chair.

28. Who gets the baby crib.

29. Who gets to hang up the phone when we do FaceTime.

30. Who gets the marker.

31. Who gets to sit at which side of the table.

32. Who gets to wear which dress.

33. Who has the better clothing/shoe choices.

34. Who gets their hair brushed first.

35. Who gets their hair brushed second.

36. Who gets the mail.

37. Who gets to climb across the back seat to their seat in the car - Maddie across Izzy's side, or Izzy across Maddie's side? Both is never okay.

38. Who gets the bird feather in the front yard.

39. Who gets to cuddle with Gina's binky - which is a crocheted blanket from when she was a little girl.

40. Who gets to pick the movie in the car. (YES. THE MOVIE IN THE CAR. THESE G.D. SPOILED CHILDREN.)