Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Buddhist Christmas

Your First Ornament, Courtesy of Mamaw & Nama

Dear Charlotte,

Today is Christmas Eve!!! Mommy is at work right now, but only for a little bit, and then she'll be home. We're going to do so much today, little one. We've got songs to sing along with, presents to wrap, dinner to make, Christmas movies to watch, and then it will be off to bed before Christmas with the Hurst family tomorrow! And then Christmas with Mamaw and Nama, and Christmas with Grandpa and Grams! It's a good thing you travel well, even with your first cold and your first teeth happening at the same time. You're a busy kid.

What's important to remember about Christmas, Charlotte, is that even though we don't celebrate a Christian Christmas, we celebrate the spirit of the season. That's important. We call it a Buddhist Christmas.

We do interfaith hybrid holidays in our house.

Daddy and Tug are technically Christian, though not affiliated, you and I are Buddhist, and the cat is Jewish (and sort of a bombing-the-dog's-water-bowl-with-a-glass-jar terrorist. Which puts her in league with the Demon Tree. Though we're still not really sure what they're protesting.) And all of that is perfectly okay and normal in our house. We celebrate all manner of holidays and important dates. And we forgive the protests and glass jar-bombings.

You are the luckiest child, Chuck. You are loved beyond measure, and you are surrounded by family and friends who would do anything for you, simply because they care unconditionally for you. There are people in the world who don't have that, and it's important to understand that, and never take it for granted. We have the ability to see the people we love, and to remember the people we can't see. We have a warm, safe place to sleep, and we know without a doubt that we will have something to eat when we wake up. There are people in the world, Charlotte, who don't have that. Many people. I tell your Daddy every day that we are not alone in the world, and that it's not just about us, and it's true. That's why, at Christmas, and every day, we try to do things for the people around us. We try to spread the love and fortune that we are lucky enough to have.

I am so excited to share this holiday, and this life, with you, my daughter. I feel blessed to have every single thing in my life. I am lucky enough to have past memories to look back on, and future memories to look forward to. You have a great-grandfather who can't be with us anymore, and who Mommy remembers with great joy this time of year. He would have been over the moon about you, Charlotte Ophelia. He was a great man, and he lived his life as honestly and proudly as he could. Oh, he wasn't a perfect man by any stretch, but he tried to do right by his family, and he is well-loved and remembered. You have a good bit of his spirit, and nothing is going to make me happier than to introduce you to his memory when you're old enough to understand what I'm saying.

Happy Christmas, sweet child.



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Aftermath

Tug, the Conquered

Dear Charlotte,

After a dinner party, even the doggie is exhausted.

I couldn't resist.



Monday, December 22, 2008

La Cage aux Follies

A Table Well Spent

Dear Charlotte,

Tonight was our dinner party with your awesomely rowdy uncles Jim and Jesse, and their much calmer, civilized counterparts: Aunt Amy and Aunt Kate.

First off, it should be noted that while I say "awesomely rowdy" and "calmer, civilized" to describe these people, they are the people who, along with Aunt Kindra and Uncle Jason, Daddy and Mommy hold as their dearest friends and loved ones.

That being said, tonight was probably the best night of Mommy's life, not taking away from the day you were born and the day Daddy and I met. You have had a highly eventful and busy week, and every time Mommy expects a meltdown befitting any normal 6 month old, you surprise me and have the time of your life and behave like you're light-years older than your age. (I told you all of this while you were snuggled in my arms upstairs, but it's worth telling you again and again and again).

Someday when you're older, you might understand the reason tonight was the best night of my life. When I moved out on my own, I was a loner. I didn't have much of an interest in roommates, or feel the need to party with large groups of people. You and I are very much alike in the sense that we prefer to absorb and take in what's going on around us, almost to the extent that we forget to participate.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

As I've made my way through the world, my biggest desire and dream has been to throw the kind of dinner party I've only ever seen on television. As usual, my dreams and expectations far outweighed the possibilities of reality. I always pictured the same thing in my perfect vision; a musical composition full of lights, sparkle, and cheer; people bustling in the door and shaking off the cold; plates piled with food, glasses of wine passed and conversations floating, and all of it decorated with a fine mist of holiday cheer.

Tonight, my wish came true.

Tonight, I saw from my viewpoint at the end of the table the vision in my dreams. My dearest friends sat around my beautifully decorated oak dining room table, sipping wine, drinking beer, and (hopefully!) enjoying some homemade chicken alfredo with all the little accoutrements. The demon Christmas tree sat in the background, precariously standing, but standing and cheerfully glowing nonetheless, and my amazing little family sat among them. I sat in my chair, soaking in the atmosphere, and I realized the simplest truth of them all:

I am the luckiest woman on the planet. Tonight, I had friends to cook for, a family to adore, and a simple wood table to hold them all.

There is a scene in the movie "The Birdcage" where they are all dancing and singing before dinner, and one of the lines is, "I could have danced all night."

Charlotte, I hope you will get to experience the feeling that happens when your simplest wish comes true in spectacular fashion. Cuz baby girl, I'm still dancing.

I love you.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Daddy's Revenge

Dear Charlotte,

Daddy would like me to point out that your beloved Demon Tree not only threw itself to the ground in protest, but later that night, when Daddy was walking past it, the Tree decided to take its revenge and mug your father by falling on him.




And now the Tree has been reprimanded twice, and is very sorry. We tried to cheer it up by placing pretty unwrapped presents beneath it. For now, it seems placated.



Friday, December 19, 2008

Demon Tree

Dear Charlotte,

Mommy is sorry she hasn't written in several days. We've been held hostage by the tree above; to be fair, when I took that picture, it looked like a normal, cheery, naked Christmas tree, waiting for the decorating that would make it magical and cheery.

Little did I know it would turn out to be a pine-scented, scrooge-emulating, DEMON TREE!

Here's the long version:

Mommy and Daddy put the tree in its stand on Saturday, and on Monday night, after plenty of settling in and resting and temperature acclimating and such, we broke out the lights, ornaments, and glittery garland with which to be-deck our fabulous tree. You stayed up just long enough to witness the be-sparkling:

You LOVE the Tree: the texture, the sparkly bits, the great height, and the wonderment of the mystery. I think if you could sleep in the tree, or eat it, you definitely would do both. And the Tree seems to love you back, just like every. other. single. thing. you come in contact with.

So we settled in happily with our magical tree. And then Mommy took you to Walmart yesterday for some Christmas shopping, and the Tree was apparently so unhappy it couldn't go with you that it threw itself to the ground in protest. And it broke Daddy's new ornament in the process.

So now we're cleaning up Tree casualty, and we're admonishing the Tree to never do that again.

And Mommy's contemplating switching to a tree made out of gingerbread next year. Though finding a pan large enough may be a challenge.

Charlotte, when the herbacious species start to control the house, you know it's time to re-evaluate your leadership abilities.



Monday, December 15, 2008

Crafty Mommy

Dear Charlotte,





Friday, December 12, 2008

...and the Snowy Mountain Disaster

"Disaster on Snowy Mountain: Gumdrop and the Gang's Desperate Attempt to Survive a Night of Terror"

Dear Charlotte,

So I decided while I was at the store that it would be fun to make a gingerbread house. I found a handy kit that had everything inside, and I brought it home.

Such was the beginning of my demise.

Apparently, my karma faery wasn't the only one drinking on the job today. My artistic faery seems to have taken leave of her senses as well.

So much for "Weekend at Snowy Mountain".

Here endeth the lesson, along with my attempt at making a cute gingerbread house.



Falling Behind the Tree

A Typical Face
Dear Charlotte,
This has been an incredibly busy week at our house. Mommy has been superhero slammed trying to get ready for Christmas. Which usually entails stacks and stacks of lists of the things to do, buy, and organize before we start making the rounds to visit all of our families. Which reminds me. They should invent a gift-wrapping machine.
This year is a little different for us, because you'll be part of the family road trip equation. If you thought Thanksgiving involved lots of family and driving, Christmas is going to blow your mind. We're talking the Hurst family re-enactment of 8 Crazy Nights. Cuz that's what it is. 7 Christmas celebrations in 8 nights. (Note to future you: if ever, EVER, the word divorce crosses your mind, just think about how many different families you grew up having to visit on holidays, and don't inflict that on your children.)
I read another blog this morning while I was sipping my raspberry tea at my desk at work, and it mentioned Christmas trees, and how they bought the huge tree, but also more, tiny Charlie Brown trees for each of the kids to decorate however they chose. That inspired me to do the same for you when you are old enough to decorate your own tree. Or age one, whichever comes first. You are already proving that once you get an idea stuck in your head, you don't let it go until you've mastered it. And once you've mastered it, watch out.
I could easily be the happiest person in the universe spending my every waking moment playing on the floor with you and Daddy and the dog, buying Christmas presents, and taking baths with Lush's amazing bath bombs. But since I haven't figured out how to convince the world that money is overrated, I cannot stop earning it (which would free up all of my time to perform said activities above), and thus I will continue my days trying to find the happy in everything I do. And I will continue to try and see everything through your eyes, with their magical ability to find joy in every little speck of life.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Popcorn is Best in Moderation (Or Not)

Dear Charlotte,

Last night we went to your Aunt Kindra's annual popcorn ball party. You had such a blast! You were there last year, of course, but you don't know it, as you were barely a multi-celled organism in Mommy's tummy at that point.

You got to see all of your cousins and aunts and uncles. When we were getting ready to leave, Aunt Kindra's mommy Barbie told us to plan on the same time next year for the party; that got Mommy to realize that next year, we will have three toddlers and a school-age child at the party with us (if not more children!). This year, we had two toddlers and two babies. Last year, it was a toddler and a baby.

This makes Mommy feel old.

Today, we are supposed to be working on Christmas decorations, but everyone is tired from the big hubbub last night, so Mommy is going to work on cleaning the poor neglected house, and then she is going to work on Christmas presents for everyone!

Hooray, Christmas!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Finer Points

Dear Charlotte,

Daddy would like me to clarify a few things about the Christmas story I told you regarding Mommy the Magical Elf. Mommy believes that these technicalities would muddle the overall intent of the story, but Daddy seems intent on making fun of the story otherwise. So, much to my displeasure, here are some rather obvious disclaimers:

Technically, Daddy doesn't glow.
Neither does Mommy.
Though she would like to.
Technically, you have FOUR Grandma Elves.
None of whom are actually called "Grandma".
None of them glow either.
Technically, we shouldn't call Mr. Casper "Casper", because, well, it's not a very nice way to reference the oddly pale color of his skin.
Crankshaft, however, doesn't mind being called Crankshaft because, well, he is.
Technically, you, as Duds the Littlest Elf, aren't able to actually speak so much as focus your laserbeam gaze on me and project your thoughts into my head.
(That last one might have been a tad overreaching)
So there you have it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Because It's Freaking Christmas, Casper Scrooge!

Dear Charlotte,
Once Upon A Time there lived an elf named Mommy. Mommy lived in her little hut with Daddy the elf, and Duds the Littlest Elf. Every day, Mommy went to her job with her boss, Crankshaft, and her co-worker, Mr. Casper. Everything was normal until one day, a magical sound rose through the air. When the sound reached Mommy's ears, a funny thing happened.
Her toes twitched
and her nose itched
and a warm glow started to spread
from the tips of her toes to the top of her head.
And when Daddy saw it start, he smiled. He'd seen this before; it happened every year, at just the same time. "It's almost time," he winked to Duds the Littlest Elf. "Soon you'll see."
And when Grandma Elf saw it, she smiled. "It's coming," she whispered to Duds.
"What is it?" Duds asked.
"Christmas!" Grandma said. "Soon you'll understand."
And as time went on, the glow started to spread. Duds watched as Daddy started to glow; then, Grandma started to glow! Duds wondered when she would glow too. The sound was everywhere now; all around Duds, other elves were glowing, though none as brightly as Mommy.
Then one day, Mommy took Duds to work with her. Duds was so excited! She wanted to see Crankshaft and Mr. Casper glow just like Mommy. Would their noses itch, and their toes twitch? But when she and Mommy arrived at work, something strange was going on. The sound wasn't here. And when Duds saw Mr. Casper, she gasped. He was gone! In his place was a terrible, shrunken gray man with a scowl on his face.
"Where is Mr. Casper?" Duds asked, horrified. She clung to Mommy's shirt.
"That's Casper Scrooge," Mommy whispered. Her glow was completely gone now.
Duds thought Mommy's work was strange. There was no glow, no happy sound. Crankshaft seemed to be oblivious to everything around him, while Casper Scrooge scowled and complained all day long. And Duds missed the sound; when she snuggled up to Mommy real close and pressed her ear to her heart, she could hear the sound, very very faintly. Several times, Duds watched as Mommy's toes started to twitch. The first few times, the toes stopped on their own. But as the day wore on, the toes refused to stop. Then Mommy started to hum under her breath. Duds looked carefully, and the glow was back! It was in Mommy's eyes, creeping out along her cheeks.
But just then, Casper Scrooge looked up and glared at Mommy. "None of that!" he screeched in a gravelly, whining voice. "You cannot ignore our deal! Until the month is past, those toes cannot twitch, that nose cannot itch. There will be no glow here!"
Duds watched, heartbroken, as the glow retreated back into Mommy's eyes, and the toes stopped twitching. A small sigh escaped Mommy's lips, and she went back to work. Duds watched all the rest of the day, but the glow never returned.
It was like that for a long time. Days and days. Mommy would leave every morning, the wonderful glow surrounding her, but when she returned from work, the glow was gone. Daddy would take Mommy in his arms, and the glow would slowly return, but never as brightly as the first time Duds saw it.

Then one day, Mommy came home from work, and she was glowing more brightly than Duds had ever seen! She swept Duds up in her arms and danced her around the room.
"Oh, Duds, can you feel it? Do you sense that something is in the air? It's Christmas! It's coming so soon! Just 23 days." Then she set Duds down, and continued to spin. Then she showed Duds a photo. It was the prettiest tree Duds had ever seen. It sparkled and shone bits of red and spots of gold. And atop it all, there was a miniature snowman. "That's the tree at my work that I decorated today," Mommy sang. "And it sits atop the filing cabinet, and shines and shines."
"But Mommy," Duds said, both dazzled and confused by this new transformation. "What about Casper Scrooge?"
"We don't have to worry about him anymore," Mommy answered. "You see, Casper Scrooge hates Christmas. He feels no joy for it, and thus thinks that no one should feel any joy. Many months ago, he forced me to make a deal with him. I promised that not a word of Christmas, not a twitch nor an itch, would appear in our office, until it was time for Christmas. Casper Scrooge thought he had me beat, but he forgot one thing. The time for Christmas is now! It's December, the month of Christmas! So this very morning, I strode purposefully to the storage closet, and I took out my little Charlie Brown Christmas tree, and I decorated it beautifully so that it sparkled and shined! And when Casper Scrooge saw the tree, he shouted, 'No! You must honor the deal! There can be no Christmas here!' but I said, 'Oh yes, Casper Scrooge, there is Christmas here! The deal is done! The month of Christmas is here!' And then, Duds, then I could feel it!"
My toes twitched
and my nose itched
and I started to glow
from the top of my head to the tips of my toes!
And Duds saw the glow. And she heard the sound. And she knew that Christmas was finally, at last, here.
Listen to me now, Charlotte. There will always be the Scrooges of the world trying to take away your glow. But you hold tight! There is magic, and love, and I can't wait to put up our Christmas lights at home so that you can see it all firsthand.
I love you.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chuck's First Week of Life (and Other Stories)

Dear Charlotte,
Mommy was so incredibly happy to see you today! It seems like you've been gone for longer than 3 days, and your neurons are definitely firing on all cylinders now! You've learned so many new skills just since I saw you last, it's hard to imagine what you'll be doing in a month at Christmas.

The photo above is your very first photo taken with Santa. Gammie took you to have your picture taken this weekend, and we were all so impressed when you weren't afraid of Santa one little bit! You have always been my social butterfly, from the day you were born.
In fact, when you were 8 days (mere days!!!) old, you attended your cousin Lilly's first birthday party. Aside from the birthday girl herself, I think you were the most popular person there! Not that you knew it, of course. You slept the entire time, waking up only long enough to have something to eat. Then it was right back to your favorite activity of the time.

I LOVE these pictures of you. It's hard to believe you've grown so much, so fast.

I love you.



Saturday, November 29, 2008

Social Injustices of the World

Dear Chuck,

*giggle* Daddy hates when I call you that. I'm not 100% sure why, but he claims it just hasn't grown on him. I'll admit, you don't exactly resemble a Chuck to me, but then again, our original name for you was either Isabella or Ava. I like to think we hit the nail on the head with Charlotte.

In absence of your presence, Daddy and I braved the mall today to purchase presents for your cousins Lilly and Jaden and your Uncle Jason. While we were there, Mommy got her hair cut, and spent a good while talking to the nice man who was cutting said hair.

The nice man, it turns out, is gay; a few days ago, his car got broken into, and some nasty words were left for him. Words that you should never have to know. And this made the nice man sad, because he has never been a mean person, and he has never done anything to justify people hating him for being who he is.

And that made Mommy think, as things like that usually do, about the kind of world you're going to grow up in. Charlotte, people are going to say mean, terrible things to you sometimes. It happens to everyone. The world is full of people who disagree on everything from religion, to sexual preference, to how you wear your hair and whether or not you should have your ears pierced. It really is a crazy place out there. And you, my darling child, are likely to be on the receiving end of that kind of criticism far more than others your age, simply because of your family. And there are days that kind of criticism is going to hurt, and you aren't going to understand why people are so hateful.

What you need to know, my dear, sweet Charlotte, is that none of that matters. The hurtful things that people say do not matter one little bit. It doesn't matter that Mommy and Daddy's parents are divorced; it doesn't matter that Nama isn't a man, and that Mamaw loves her anyway. It doesn't matter if Mommy has a hundred tattoos, or that Daddy has none, and it doesn't matter what religion you choose to follow, or who you fall in love with. What matters, sweet girl, is that you are loved. You have been loved since the day you were born, and that love will follow you until you take your last breath, and it doesn't matter what choices you make in life. I will love you every single moment of every single day, and absolutely nothing you or anyone else can do will make me change my mind.

Still missing you. I can't wait to see your smiley face tomorrow.



Friday, November 28, 2008

Penny and Bolt

Dear Charlotte,

Daddy and I went to dinner and a movie tonight. Mommy cried, because the dog and little girl in the movie reminded her of you and your Tuggie. Minus the cool gadgets and the super bark.

I miss you. See you Sunday.



Thursday, November 27, 2008

Why Bibs Were Invented

Dear Charlotte,
Today you experienced your first Thanksgiving, and all of the exhausting effort involved in eating way too much and seeing practically everyone you know.
Mommy also woke you up late and accidentally packed your clean bibs for the trip today, so you ate your cereal in your white onesie. Soon after, you attended an emergency meeting of the bathtime club, and Mommy learned never to take bibs for granted again.
Mommy also cried today; you are staying at Gammie's house for three whole days and nights, and when we left you were crying in your pack n' play because it was noisy and you were exhausted, and all I wanted to do was snatch you up into my arms and take you away and hug you so close and breathe in your baby scent and tell you that everything was alright and that I would make it all better. But instead I swallowed my tears and kissed your downy head and whispered that I loved you more than anything in this world, and that everything would be alright.
Because I do, and because it will be. And 'cause even though I miss you already, and won't know what to do with my empty house and your mournful doggie for three days, I have that sweet baby scent locked in my memory. And until you're back snuggled in my arms, your Tuggie and I will be regrettably sleeping in late and missing our sweet little baby.
Goodnight, my angel.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What is Thanksgiving?

Dear Charlotte,

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! I know in the snug little world of your blankie, you don't have any idea what that means, and that's okay; when you're older, you will appreciate the time you have with your family the way I do now.

Thanksgiving means a lot of different things to people. For you, me, and Daddy, it means traveling. A lot of traveling. It means two meals spent with different sides of the family on Thanksgiving, and two more meals in the weeks before,which is a lot of food, if you think about it.

Thanksgiving means naptime.

Thanksgiving means that Daddy works a ton of long days during the week leading up to Turkey Thursday, and then gets up at 2am the very next morning after all that food and traveling so that he can go to work and get overrun by the crazy Black Friday shoppers. Black Friday is another holiday, one that means absolutely nothing to you right now, and shouldn't until you're much older and acquire your first set of riot gear.

The biggest thing about Thanksgiving is family. You are so lucky; you get to see everyone in your family at Thanksgiving. Oh, we have to spread it out a little so that everybody gets some time (and who can really eat four turkey dinners in one day, really?), but it's still really awesome that you get to see everyone who loves you. Because they do. They (and we) love you an incredible amount; so much so that it's hard to describe with words that already exist. We love you a gigantiferous amount, and I hope you spend the rest of your life secure in that knowledge.
Your daddy and I believe that it is our duty as your parents to make sure you know you are loved, and loved immensely. We believe that we owe you the chance to know your family while they are still alive. Because someday, they won't be, and memories and photos will be all you have left. We owe you those memories. I have a secret for you, my darling baba. Parents aren't perfect; we make incredible mistakes over and over again and pray to the gods at night that our children will forgive us for them. Grandparents, however, are a different story. Grandparents are angels on earth, perfect in the eyes of their grandchildren. You will learn this someday. And your da and I owe our parents the chance to be those perfect grandparents to you.
You don't know it, but you've already had two Thanksgiving dinners. Two! Poppaw was mighty impressed when you ate your entire container of carrots without hesitation or complaint. Mommy won't even eat cooked carrots without complaint, so that's a big check in the plus column for you.

When you're older, if you decide you will no longer eat cooked carrots, I won't be upset. In fact, I might be a little relieved. And you know what? You will still be my amazing, precious daughter, eater of cooked carrots or not.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Dear Charlotte,

I know Thanksgiving is two days away, but I don't care. Here are the things I'm grateful for right now:

I am grateful for the little herding dog with the mile high ears. I am grateful for the sweet, innocent laughter that you filled my ears with while we played on your Winnie the Pooh story quilt. I am grateful for your daddy, just like I am every single day. And I am grateful for a co-worker who understands what it's like to have kids, and who doesn't mind when you come hang out in our cramped office and take a nap on my desk chair because Daddy had to go for a job interview in Lancaster.

Mostly, I am grateful for you, little one.



Chuck and the Amazing Superdog

Dear Chuck,

I never thought when we named you that I'd write a letter to you starting with "Dear Chuck". But, that's what we've sorta started calling you. Your Mamaw and I got into a mini-discussion yesterday and today about your nicknames, and which ones we think are winners. Daddy has called you Duds from about day one, when you nearly ended his diaper changing career right there in the hospital. Who knew that such a sweet, innocent baby could make such a stink? Daddy sure didn't. I have called you Face more than anything, because those were my very first words to you as you were being born. Gammie likes to call you Charlotte O, after another famous lady who had O for a middle inital too; Mamaw is more partial to Little Girl or Miss C.

Nama hates all of those and secretly calls you Charlie.

Your newest nickname is a bit unusual, though it's no more strange than the others you've acquired. My friend Nick at work has a butt-load of trouble spelling your name correctly when we instant message each other at work. Who knew that Charlotte could be spelled so many different ways? Finally, he gave up, and he now calls you Chuck, because he can remember how to spell that. Because he calls you Chuck, I've started to call you Chuck, and now that's spread to your daddy. A tiny part of me desperately fears that when you're fifteen, you'll hate Daddy and me for this. But right now you're content to respond to just about anything we call you with a toothless, drool-filled grin, and we continue in our secure, new-parent knowledge that we're the moon and stars to you.

Well, next to the dog, that is.

Tug is probably your best friend in the entire world, and you are most certainly his. His whole mission in life is to make you the cleanest, safest, most giggly baby you can possibly be. When you spend the weekend at Gammie's, he is lost. When I am rocking you to sleep at night, he is at my feet, chewing happily on his bone that he dragged all the way up the stairs especially so he can have something of his in your room. When you wake each morning, he is beside your crib, ready to share your blanket, your ticklish toes, and your mashed sweet potatoes (which you kindly smear across your face and hands so he can clean them off for you). At night, when you cry in your sleep, he is nudging your door, whining frantically at me to save whatever is causing you hurt, as if I do not already want to do that enough.

I love you, sweet girl. And your little dog, too.