Writers at Work Fiction Prize


I have some great news, Dear Ones! I recently found out that  my novel, The Rattlesnake Princess, received the Second Place Fiction Prize from the 2016 Writers At Work Fellowship Competition. This is absolutely thrilling, and makes me crazy excited for all of you to read the first chapter of my yet-unpublished novel, which I am including in this blog post for your literary enjoyment!

If you have the time, and are so inclined, I encourage you to take a trip to Utah in June so you can experience for yourself one of the most celebrated writing conferences in the Midwest. Writers At Work is a prestigious writing organization that has been offering master classes and workshops for thirty-two years. They have a week-long intensive conference, where writers meet up at the remote Alta Lodge in the Wasatch Mountains. Instructors at the conference offer classes in Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction. Past conferences have featured writers like Amy Tan and Sherman Alexie. This year, the featured fiction writer is Peter Ho Davies! If you have never read his book, The Welsh Girl,you must pick up a copy immediately. Also, his book, The Ugliest House in the World is one of my favorite short story collections.

Each year, WOW offers prizes in Fiction, Poetry, and NonFiction, so if you have something you would like to submit, gear up for the 2017 Fellowship! Submissions begin in November.

Great things are on the horizon for Jurassic Mom. Feel free to read, share, and enjoy the opening of this novel, which is so very close to my heart.



BY Amy Bridges

Chapter 1

Haley Monroe burned her Daddy alive one cool West Texas night. Right after Johnny Carson’s opening monologue, but before his first celebrity guest, Haley’s Momma gave Daniel Monroe a gasoline baptism while he was passed out spread-eagle in his La-Z-Boy. Then, Haley threw the match.

With the remote control in his right hand, and a warm Bud nestled snug between his thighs, he didn’t smell it, didn’t know a thing was different, until the flames enveloped his highly combustible liver and he blew up from the inside out.

He ran a drunk man’s sprint onto the front lawn, swearing four-lettered revenge, his dying breath a curse on the two women responsible for his undoing. Then, he dropped his charred remains atop a Texas tumbleweed, that blazed up like a firebomb, starting a small grass fire, his fat sizzling up like bacon, right there between the gladiolas and the morning glories.

It was the middle of October, and Mrs. Kirkley across the way, erased it as nothing more than a Halloween prank, nothing more than “a couple of hellions setting cow pies on fire.”

Haley Monroe sat shotgun in the front seat of her Momma’s green Thunderbird, and with dry-eyed determination, watched the events unfold, breathing in the smell of death, the flames reflected in her brown southern eyes.

The final memory of her father carried with it the flavor of embers and campfire, of ash and bone.

As her mother locked the car into drive, the grisly scene transforming to dust in the distance, Haley Monroe, popped the lid on a warm Coca-Cola. The sticky-sweet syrup coating the back of her throat went down like an unholy communion, shared only with the woman beside her.

Both women agreed. The hot carbonation was almost enough to cover the after-taste of the corpse. In that moment, they washed away the flavor of Daniel Monroe.


That is how Mrs. Beaumont told it to Momma and me that June afternoon over jalapeno corn bread and red beans.

“The Monroe’s are nothing more than pure Texas trash,” she said soaking up bean juice with corn bread cut in a perfect triangle, her cranberry-colored lipstick leaving traces around the corners of it. “Nothing but trash. And you mark my word. Haley Monroe will be pregnant before she’s out of high school.”

“Oh, Loubelle,” Nancy Chronister piped up, grabbing Mrs. Beaumont’s sleeve with her two inch Lee Press On’s. “You do love to tell that story. It’s such a nasty thing to tell at a Pounding. You’re gonna scare Babe.”

The Womens Missionary Union, or the WMU as they called themselves, were a group of sixteen concerned Southern Baptist women who got together once a week to discuss all the lost souls in South America, Africa; all the countries where children walked around with un-wiped runny noses and ate rice for every meal. In line with their mission to reach out to strangers, they had given Momma what they liked to call a Pounding, which was a storage closet full of canned foods and cleaning supplies to start our new life at the parsonage.

That past Sunday, the WMU put an announcement in the bulletin, inviting all the ladies in the church to welcome the pastor’s wife.

When we’d arrived at Mrs. Beaumont’s that Saturday afternoon for the Pounding, we’d walked into a living room that had more canned goods than a Piggly Wiggly. Square in the center of the room, the ladies had erected a green bean pyramid, which they’d surrounded with smaller pyramids of carrots, black-eyed peas, and stewed tomatoes. Fresh jars of chow-chow and sweet pickles lined the window ledges. The coffee table was a Betty Crocker fantasy full of cake mixes, popcorn kernels and semi-sweet chocolate chips. There were even small jars of decorator sprinkles, and yellow stars, their pink caps sealed tight with plastic wrap. Towers of Comet and toilet paper surrounded the television, with about every cleaning supply imaginable. I squealed with excitement as we walked in the door, feeling like the first prize winner on The Price Is Right.

It looked to me like we’d be eating green bean casserole until the day I graduated high school. And, we’d be drinking sweetened, condensed Hawaiian Punch right along with it.

Momma stood in her pink pumps and checkered sundress, surrounded by cream corn, and thanked the ladies, the Lord, and the Jolly Green Giant.

Then, we’d all retired to the backyard for lunch.

“Babe’s old enough to know about Haley Monroe,” Mrs. Beaumont said, looking my way, with a crooked smile. “Why, this whole thing took place five years ago. Haley was all of twelve years when it happened. How old are you honey?”

“Thirteen years and a month,” I told her.

“Thirteen and a month,” she chuckled back. “You’ll quit counting months soon enough. You’ll quit counting years, too.”

“Not everybody counts backward like you do, Loubelle,” Nancy Chronister smiled.

Loubelle Beaumont’s backyard smelled like honeysuckle and looked like something featured in Better Homes and Gardens, the southern mansion issue. We were sitting right up next to a fountain that had a swan spraying water out its beak into a pool filled with goldfish, and four live bullfrogs. During the chatter, I’d managed to get a hold of a frog’s hind legs and stuck the thing deep in the pocket of my skirt. I was attempting to feed it a pecan, when Momma, between clenched teeth, told me to “let it loose.”

Then, she crossed her two forefingers together.

Whenever Momma crossed her two forefingers together, it was a secret and silent signal for me to cross my legs because I was sitting spread out like a boy. Momma said the perfect way to sit is to cross your legs behind you in an S, just like Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy used to. There was nothing in this wide world more uncomfortable than sitting like that. It burned me a good one the way boys got to throw themselves around and spread out whichever way they chose, and I cursed Jackie O. every time I thought of it.

“I’m gonna turn you into a lady if it kills me, Leah Simmons,” Momma said at least twice a day.

Momma only called me by my full name when she was burning mad because she knew how much I hated hearing it. Leah was an ugly four-eyed girl in the Bible that somebody was tricked into marrying. When I first heard about where my name came from in Sunday school, I nearly marched myself to the courthouse and got it changed. I was adamant everybody call me Babe.

“Haley Monroe was last year’s Rattlesnake Princess,” Mrs. Beaumont said, interrupting my thought. “Not a one of us knows how she got the title, but you can be sure, not a thing like that will happen again.”

“They had those outside judges, that’s why, Loubelle. Plain and simple,” Nancy Chronister said. “Had that Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader judging. Didn’t know talent.”

“That won’t happen again,” Mrs. Beaumont said once more for emphasis. “The Rattlesnake Princess is only the greatest honor bestowed on any young girl in this town. Stillwater prides itself on its world-famous Rattlesnake Roundup. Why, it’s the largest extermination of rattlesnakes the wide world over.”

“Nearly ten-thousand a year,” Nancy Taylor piped up. “All of them dumped wild and hissing inside a pit the Junior Chamber of Commerce calls Satan’s Closet. It’s something all right, quite a sight to behold. Nothing a person will ever forget, that’s for sure.”

I felt myself growing queasy at the thought of ten thousand rattlesnakes.

“What do they do with the snakes at the end of the roundup?” I asked.

“At the end of the roundup, the snakes are all slaughtered,” Mrs. Beaumont said, as though the answer was obvious. “They chop off their heads, and use the venom in research facilities all over Texas. Without question, it’s a very important event, and certainly, nothing short of a Texas-sized embarrassment to have Haley Monroe parading her butt around like she owns the place. If you ask me, those two women ought to have turned the fire on themselves while they were at it.”

“What an awful thing to say,” Momma said almost as instinct.

At that, the ladies grew quiet as Mrs. Beaumont stared Momma straight through.

“You’re sensitive,” she said, her eyes squaring off with Momma. “You’ll see soon enough. There isn’t a place for that here.”

Silence was thick in the air, before Mrs. Beaumont continued with the same tone as before.

“Daniel Monroe was a notorious drunk. He used to stand outside the bathroom door and watch Haley Monroe urinate. Used to have his way with her on those nights. Her mother worked late at the hospital.”

I cringed, unable to imagine a person so horrible as Daniel Monroe.

“Trash. Shot up the house, even killed that yellow lab of theirs,” Mrs. Beaumont said.

“That dog Herman gave them,” Nancy Chronister chimed in.

“That’s the one. Cutest little thing. Haley’d lope around with it down by the railroad tracks. Couldn’t tell which one was the dirtier. Barked its guts out. That’s why he shot it.”

“That’s not a reason.”

“Of course it’s not a reason, Nancy. I wasn’t justifying it. Daniel Monroe got his, didn’t he? He got set on fire. “

And for a moment, the clinking of teaspoons and the soft chatter among the ladies settled.

“They weren’t gonna charge Haley, not as a juvenile, with that kind of abuse hanging over her. And when it came to Cheryl, Haley’s Momma, why, the jury didn’t think twice, didn’t deliberate more than thirty minutes, before they marched in with ‘not guilty by reason of insanity.’ After that, Haley moved in with her grandmother up on Bluebonnet Street, and Cheryl got her own room in the nut house outside of Big Springs.”

This is where Mrs. Beaumont leaned in real close to Momma and me, like she was telling us the biggest secret in the wide world over. “Thing is, not a person alive, save Haley and her Momma that coulda testified to that. Sure, they got John Stevens to say Daniel Monroe hot rodded cars back in high school. They got Stuart Reynolds to attest to the fact that Daniel Monroe drove drunk. But not a soul came forward and said the kinds of things those two women claimed. Not a soul.”

I looked over at Momma, whose back was arched in just the slightest way. I could see the rising of her chest moving up and down beneath the picnic blanket print on her sundress, moving like her mind was running the hundred yard dash, and her body was feeling the effects of it; breathing the way she does before she lays one into me for “sassing back.”

“The truth was consumed in the same fire that incinerated the heart of Daniel Monroe.” Mrs. Beaumont sat back in her chair, and ran her tongue across her lips, as though she were cleaning them off from the story.

Almost as an afterthought, Mrs. Beaumont looked over at Momma.

“The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil,” she said. “Proverbs 8:13. You have to watch where you step foot in this town, Sara. Some folks say Stillwater, Texas exists solely for the purpose of ridding the county of rattlesnakes. There are rattlesnakes lurking in every corner here. You have to watch where you step.”

Momma said nothing. She crossed her legs behind her in an S, and took a bite of her pecan pie.

The Force Awakens Me- BEWARE!!! Spoilers!!!

Jurassic Mom has been away doing many things, dear ones. For starters, I’ve been working at a travel site, writing many things involving fun and frolicking. Soon enough, I will link some of them here, and we can all celebrate my adventures around these continental United States.

But, without a doubt, 2016 will bring back more blogging, and what better way to start than with a celebration of my new favorite movie, The Force Awakens.

Almost two years ago, when I first began writing this blog, I began by relating my love for the timeless classic, Jurassic Park. I spoke of a lover I once took many years ago at a Renaissance Fair, and the comradery we found watching Jurassic Park together. Though the romance didn’t last, my love for the timeless classic has never ended, and I remember it here, along with my life as a mother, and more-and-more, my adventures on this lonely globe.

Which brings me to my latest most favorite adventure!


I was always in love with Luke Skywalker. While other girls would melt over Han Solo, who was clearly the chosen Romeo of the series… Luke always made my heart go pitter pat. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always had a thing for nice guys… Or perhaps it’s because I’ve always had a thing for orphans… But whatever the reason, I was always deeply connected to Luke Skywalker. As a young girl playing in cotton fields in West Texas, I would often find myself stomping through the dirt holding onto a tumbleweed that I would pretend was R2, and I’d imagine I was Luke Skywalker’s bride.


I would write love notes to Luke Skywalker on the pages inside my three-ring-binders.  I would scroll my name out… Amy Skywalker… or Amy Lee Skywalker… Or sometimes Mrs. Skywalker… I would pretend I’d mothered his twins who I’d given the boring names: Roger and Rachel …. I would wrap two cabbage patch kids in blankets and climb trees with them. I’d pretend we were all on the Millennium Falcon, but we weren’t fighting as much as we were just traveling around space and professing our love to one another. Sometimes I’d take a large brown bear into the tree that I’d pretend was Chewbacca.  Sometimes I would imagine Leia was there. But I never included Han Solo because I thought he was an asshole. I would occasionally jump from the tree and pretend I was running from Darth Vader, but eventually I’d end up on the Millennium Falcon again changing a diaper.

My Dad was a Baptist Minister at the time, and when I wasn’t space traveling to Tatooine, I spent hours of my life with my butt glued to a church pew, singing hymns and throwing back shots of grape-juice communion. It was during those years that I would get bored of the hymn lyrics and make lyrics of my own. I distinctly remember rewriting a popular song we all sang weekly called ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB… about the blood of the crucified savior … To these lyrics….

Are you washed in the Force? In the life-giving blood of the Force?  Is your saber polished? Does it shine like fire? Are you washed in the blood of The Force? 

If you want to really enjoy that timeless classic, and add The Force lyrics yourself, Willie Nelson does it justice here:

I would sing Are you Washed in the Force as loud as I could on Sunday morning and no one was the wiser. Or perhaps they knew I was singing it, but they didn’t care because they were all pretending to be Luke Skywalker’s wife, and singing these lyrics along with me. Even to this day, when I hear the simple Baptist ballad, I don’t think of the blood-washed image it’s meant to convey, but instead I am brought back once again to a time when I was married to Luke Skywalker, and we spent our time loving one another and caring for our twins, while evading the Death Star.



You can imagine, then, my delight as the release of The Force Awakens approached. The trailers represented the presence of Leia, her idiot boyfriend, and Chewbacca. But none of them represented a good wide-shot of Luke Skywalker.

Nerds on sites I  frequent had plenty of opinions on Master Skywalker. There was quite a pre-release consensus that he had fallen into the grips of the dark side, and would be returning to do the work of Darth Vader. On these sites, I was diligent in my support of Skywalker’s ethics, defending a man who had killed his own father in defense of the Force, and who as a direct student of the greatest Jedi ever to have lived (Obi-Wan), would NEVER go to the dark side. “Could a man who carried Yoda on his back and faced his greatest fear in the Darkside Cave where he confronted his destiny and didn’t run from it ever go to the dark side? NO!!!” I wrote to a moron named StarFace22  who thought Skywalker would be the Dark Lord over Kylo Ren in Force Awakens.


Trust me, I hope everyone who harbored any thoughts that Luke Skywalker would go into the “family business” and rebuild a Death Star, feels like an idiot now that they’ve seen The Force Awakens.  HERE THAT, STARFACE22????  I THINK YOU’RE AN IDIOT, AND NOW THERE’S PROOF!!!!

But to an adult woman like me, who felt nervous about coming face-to-face (or seat-to-screen) with the beloved husband of my youth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Could Master Skywalker live up to all that I’d remembered as a young pastor’s daughter with innocent dreams in a cotton field? I’d seen pictures of Mark Hamill the actor online, and while at first glance, I thought he looked like a plumber… I was still excited to see my love once again in the world in which we’d first met so many years ago.

My eight-year-old daughter, Harper, was of course going to go along with me and my husband to see The Force Awakens. We had shown Harper the original trilogy and gotten her up-to-speed on the prequels (we would never force those on her).


Before the movie started, I looked over at Harper and told her… “You know, when I was your age, I had the biggest crush on Luke Skywalker. I was soooo in love with him.” She got a repulsed look on her face and said… “Really? Why? I hate all boys.. But if I was going to love any of them, I’d pick Han Solo. I would never pick Luke.” And then the lights went down, the movie started, and I sat shamed in the dark.

To say I loved The Force Awakens would be an understatement. I LOVED EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT IT… I cried when Rey and Finn first entered the Millennium Falcon, and I cried when Han Solo and Chewbacca walked on board it. I had a deep and emotional connection with that space ship that I never realized and so did both men sitting next to me, as I noticed them wipe away tears when that star freighter took flight… The moment Rey takes Luke’s old light saber into her hands, I cried, and of course the unforgettable scene with Han Solo and Kylo Ren hit me like a train, and I needed time to recover from it…

But that final moment, when Luke is standing at the highest point atop his hidden cavern in the galaxy, and he turns those blue eyes toward the screen… I saw the boyish love of my youth, wearing the robes of a seasoned Jedi but carrying within him the spiritual countenance of Obi-Wan, and I totally melted… And then felt utterly justified in loving him all those years ago.

And then I saw the greatest difference of the Star Wars of my childhood, and the Star Wars of Harper’s. In her Star Wars, the Jedi is a woman who insists on taking care of herself… Who shoves past the attempts of others to save her… Who doesn’t beg for help and cry out for someone else in the galaxy during her moment of greatest need…


All of this made me wonder… If young pastor’s sons across Texas, are now hanging onto the tumbleweeds that they’ve named BB8, singing Are You Washed in The Force… And imagining themselves married to Rey…  Maybe they are planning their weddings in their grandparents old barn, using quilts and cow milking stools, and thinking of how many children they will father, and what they will name the boys. And if I happen into a small southern church, and I hear the familiar ballad I once sung as a child, I’ll know… Such is the force of cultural programming.

That final moment, when Rey meets Skywalker at the top of the cliff, and he turns around… His salt-and-pepper hair long and perfectly styled… His beard is rough and his countenance is that not of a plumber, but of a Jedi Master that could still go one good round… He looks at her, like he almost doesn’t want to accept his old light saber, like maybe the responsibility it carries is a little too much. Defending the Force is hard work, after all… Not just anyone can do it.

I couldn’t help but ask myself… If the Jedi had been a woman so many years ago, would I have pretended to marry a Jedi, or would I have pretended to be one?













I’ve been away for awhile, it is true! Jurassic Mom has been busy with numerous deadlines.

But! I am happy to report my essay AN OBEDIENT GIRL, which was originally published by THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, was the First Runner Up for the SEQUESTRUM Editor’s Reprint Award! I am thrilled. It tells the story of a very special luncheon I shared with a lobotomy survivor back when I was a cute chubby pastor’s child living in Texas!

You can look for it in the July issue of SEQUESTRUM, or you can always check it out here now: http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/abridges/2013/11/an-obedient-girl/

Blessings and love! Thanks for hanging with me. Much more will be forthcoming soon!

A Good Christmas Lie

I start off today’s post with a humble brag of sorts. You know the crazy Santa Pic of my daughter, Harper, shooting gang signs with Santa that was taken here in Los Angeles? If not, let me refresh your memory:

Well… After the big sit down, I thought somebody else must see this. How often does Santa Claus do something like this? And so… I entered it in a number of Santa pic contests ranging from Ellen to The Red Tricycle, who never responded… But guess what? The Lebanon Enterprise, a small local newspaper, that services Marion County, Kentucky picked it up! I’ve never been to Kentucky, and I’ve never heard of Marion County. But after receiving this honor, I did a Wikipedia search and found that Marion County contains 19,820 people, was founded in 1834, and was named after a revolutionary officer named Francis Marion, who went by the nickname “Swamp Fox,” and was considered to be the father of guerrilla warfare.

In reading some of the requests and letters to the editor from those folks out in Lebanon, Kentucky, it appears that they would “like more WiFi service,” and would also like to see more “bowling alleys” and “movie theaters” in their area. I hear you. I hope your local city council does. In any case, I hope this picture helps amuse you until such a time that you receive the long-awaited and much requested bowling alleys.

Congrats to Harper and congrats to those folks out in Kentucky that got to see this hilarious portrait of “Santa and Child” on Christmas Eve.


Before this hilarious, bone splitting, photo was taken, I encouraged Harper to ask Santa for her number one request… A bike. Which she did… And I did what most people do that have a small child, which was plant the seed of “the bike” in her mind and keep repeating it, so she wouldn’t go asking Santa for anything else. The last thing I need is a laundry list of crap I haven’t bought to contend with.

I was as calculating as Swamp Fox when she would start mentioning things like a Nintendo 3DS, and I would say things like, “Remember… You asked Santa for the pink bike. Don’t be wishy washy about it.” She would agree, and grew to a frenzy closer to Christmas when she would talk about the bike.

Cut to Christmas Eve. The bike is a gorgeous and pink. It’s been ordered off Amazon. The hubs (Erin) takes it out of the box and starts to assemble when the realization is made that the brakes are busted and the bike is a wash.

Great… What to do, now… I suggest we simply put the broken bike beneath the Christmas tree, then write a letter to Harper from Santa, telling her how Prancer is really clumsy and is always stepping on things, and so Prancer stepped on her bike and broke the brakes on it. “Then, we send this back, and get another one,” I tell Erin.

Erin thinks this is a bad idea, and says, “it would be better to tell Harper there is no Santa at all, then to fabricate this lie about a reindeer stepping on her stuff, which would make her feel unimportant.”

“Telling her there is no Santa on Christmas Day isn’t an option,” I tell him, and he agrees.

In the end, we found a bike at Toys R Us, that Erin was able to assemble. This took all of Christmas Eve, and gave me a bad feeling about Santa, who isn’t nearly as much fun as he seems in the picture of him that is currently being celebrated by the state of Kentucky.

Next year… I don’t know… If Santa is still a thing around here, he’s going to have to step up his game a little bit. He can’t just be the fun gang-sign-flashing Santa. He’s going to have to actually do some stuff… Like give us some better Wifi Connections. Some Movie Theaters. Some Bowling Alleys.

Waiting for Santa Claus… The Existential Crisis of a 7-year-old

This week, I took my seven-year-old daughter, Harper, to see Santa Claus. It was a Wednesday night, and because Christmas is still almost two weeks away, there was barely a line. I wasn’t standing too close, but I heard her tell him she wanted a pink bike, and then they sat down together and took this picture:


As you can see, in this picture, they are acting like a couple of old friends… But secretly, she’s been questioning him.

A few days ago, I asked her what she wanted from Santa.

“Why do YOU want to know?” she asked me pointedly. “I thought it was just between me and him.”

“Because,” I told her, “I’m your mother and I want to know all about you. I like to know your Christmas list.”

Normally, the answer would’ve satisfied her, but this time, it didn’t…

“I’m not sure about Santa anymore,” she told me.

“Why not?”

“Because a boy at school said he’s made up. He said there’s no Santa.”

“That’s terrible,” I told her. “Why would he do that?”

“It made me think,” she said skeptically… “I remembered the time you told me about the Easter Bunny, and that really got to me.”

Ugh… the Easter Bunny. How I hate that stupid rabbit. I make no apologies about it. To the dismay and angry stares of honest adoring parents that want their children to believe in the magic of the Easter Bunny, I told Harper he was fake from the beginning.

“Look,” I told her at the time. “The Easter Bunny is creepy. He’s weird. His head is too big for his body. What does he do? Does he lay eggs? Does he hide eggs? Is there a chicken involved? He’s a creature invented solely for marketing… He’s not so much a hero as he is the manufacturer for Peeps.”

I thought I was being smart keeping her away from the dumb rabbit. But instead, it caused this deep existential crisis within her regarding holiday mascots.

“If the Easter Bunny isn’t real,” she told me this week, “I don’t see how Santa is real.”

It was like having Charles Darwin in a Sunday School class.

“They are nothing alike,” I told Harper, frantically searching for the right words. “Santa takes toys to kids. He cares about all children. The Easter Bunny just sits in malls and shows up at random parties to scare adults like me with his big weird head and his eyes that don’t blink.”

Harper looked at me with the same puzzled expression that other mothers have given me when I’ve explained my dislike for the Easter Bunny.

“Do YOU believe in Santa Claus?” she asked me. “Do YOU think he’s real?”

And here is where some people might take issue with my answer… Because instead of doling out a great explanation like… “Well, Santa might not be a real guy, but the spirit of giving is real, and so as we give and receive with open and thankful hearts, we keep his spirit alive…”

Instead of saying that… I decided to go the Jim Jones route and answer her this way:

“Yes, Harper. Santa Claus is completely real. I don’t doubt it for a second. I believe it completely and I can’t wait to put out the cookies and milk and the reindeer food on Christmas Eve…”

“Okay,” Harper said quietly. “I believe you.”

But as I stepped away from our conversation, I had to ask myself… Was I telling her Santa was real for her or was it for me?

One of the best things about being a parent is that you get the opportunity to remember what it was like to be a child. There are many magical moments in childhood that you forget or you overlook… Until you have your own child… And then you remember them.

Sitting at the table with her on Christmas Eve while she drafts a letter to Santa…. We bake cookies and put out milk… Then she falls asleep while Erin and I stay up until two in the morning wrapping presents and putting toys together…

It has given us some crazy memories… Once we put together an over two-hundred piece doll house… It required Double-A Batteries and an engineering degree to assemble… The hubs and I nearly killed each other. I threatened to load the doll house into the car and drive it back to Toys R Us at three in the morning. But when Harper woke up one hour later, and the doll house was waiting for her… The look on her face made it worth it…

Sneaking around and watching Harper’s surprise on Christmas morning is fun and sweet. As excited as she is, though, I think I am more excited… And in a world that is grossly missing kindness and sweetness, it is a breath of joy.

My husband told me he felt I should’ve told her the truth when she asked. And really, I think I should’ve as well.

But… I wasn’t ready to let Santa go yet. I wasn’t ready to let “Tiny Harper” go either.

I was talking to my friend, Jolene, the other day… Jolene has three kids, and they are officially old enough now, so that they all know the truth about Santa… As I lamented this story to Jolene, she had this to say… “No one ever tells you when the last day of adventure will come. You have to make the most of those moments while they last.”

And she’s right… There is a last day for everything…. A final baby tooth to be pulled… A final day for the doll house… And of course, there is a final day for Santa Claus.

The French call the seventh year of a child’s life L’Age de Raison, or THE AGE OF REASON… This is where the questioning all begins, and Harper is right on track.

There are some tough questions around Santa and this might be his last year… So I will enjoy him greatly. Of course, our Christmas-to-comes will be filled with joy and excitement…. But, it’s hard for parents when they learn the truth about Santa.


Woman Inherits the Earth (or) What Happens When the Dinosaurs are all Women

“We tend to refer to some of the dinosaurs as male – Such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex; we call it a ‘him’ – but in fact they’re all female. And believe me, they can’t breed.”  –  Dr. Henry Wu, Chief Geneticist (Jurassic Park)

“We are becoming the men we always wanted to marry.”  – Gloria Steinem





Today, dear students, we return to the text by which this blog originated… It has been some time since I’ve written from the source that serves as our ultimate parenting model here on this site, the great parenting classic, JURASSIC PARK, which was where this blog originated.

After viewing the recently released trailer for JURASSIC WORLD, I knew a post about our holy text was due.

I encourage you to take moment and view the JURASSIC WORLD trailer in all its glory, paying particular attention to the fierce dinosaur and the gorgeous nerd-girl magnet, Chris Pratt.

I know very little about the new movie, JURASSIC WORLD, but I was excited by Chris Pratt’s line: “She’s a highly intelligent animal. She will kill anything that moves.’

This lets me know that JURASSIC WORLD will continue the tradition of the previous volumes with an all-female park, where the most vicious and beautiful creatures are ALL WOMEN.

This is the formula for Jurassic Park… The scientists involved in planning the paradise park always underestimate the power of the female dinosaurs. They think they can control them.

In the end, though, not only are these women smart enough to figure their way out of the park… But they actually find a way around the breeding, and create more and more dinosaurs… Effectively making Jurassic Park a lovely community of single mothers, defending their young, and carving a place outside of the smart and methodical men controlling them.

This is why today we will focus on the strength of the Single Mother.


I was reminded of the most memorable single-mother I ever knew when I was a kid. Her name was Jolene Dickson. She had a small house on the outskirts of Rotan, Texas, Population 1,547.

I befriended her daughter, Tammy, when I was eleven. Tammy and I would ride our bikes around town. We’d watch Friday Night Videos and deep-fry canned biscuits, dip them in sugar, dance around the house to Boy George, then practice French Kissing on pillows.

Jolene or Tammy never really talked about Tammy’s Dad, and I never met him. I remember one time Jolene was sitting with my mother in our house talking, and she said:

“People always tell me they’re sorry about my divorce. I tell them, you ought to be sorry about my wedding. That divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me. If I could re-do it, I would’ve set up a receiving table and served thin mints and Devils Food Cake the day of that divorce, but I was too damn exhausted from the marriage. So, I just ate pizza and thanked God for my freedom.”


Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen a number of my friends move in-and-out of marriages. I have several friends who are single moms. So… When I decided to do this blog post, I contacted a few them and they were happy to talk to me.

When I spoke to these awesome moms, what I found was not only a recipe for success as a single parent… But a recipe for success in life. I will share the wisdom I’ve garnered with you now, and you can pass it on to your young.

1) It is okay to ask for help.


My friend, Susan, who is a trial attorney, was in a tough spot when she became the primary custodian of her seven-year-old. Up until that time, she had been self-sufficient, but when she had to financially support her home with little to no help from her ex-husband, the cost of a full-time nanny to help her out with last-minute problems was too much.

“I had to rely on my friends and my mom,” she said. “I was always a person that was in charge… Could do everything myself. I felt helpless and embarrassed at first, like I was a burden on my friends.”

Susan said one day she had a revelation that changed the way she viewed her life. “I became a person who needed help. I had really always needed help, I just never admitted it. And I provided something for someone else… The opportunity to give… If a person tells me ‘no’ I can accept that. But many people are looking for ways to give, and I offered them an opportunity to do that. I think I got caught up in my marriage, not realizing how much I needed other people. When I became a single mom, I couldn’t help but need them.”

Reading Susan’s story I was reminded of the security breach in Jurassic Park. When Dennis Nedry, the duplicitous computer scientist, shuts down the park’s security system, and drives in a rainstorm to deliver dinosaur embryos to a competitor, he wrecks his jeep, and faces off with one Dilophosaurus.

He laughs at it, backing up slowly… In fear, the creature spits goo in his eyes…

What Nedry doesn’t realize is that Dilophosauruses understand the mentality of single motherhood. Quickly two others appear to the aid of the first, and with little effort, they gut him using their sharp hook-like talons.

nedry dead

There’s strength in numbers. Asking for help is a good thing.

2) Create your own identity


One of the most interesting women I spoke to about this was a friend of mine from college named Spider. Interestingly enough, when I knew Spider some years ago, that wasn’t her name. Her name was something more girly and I’m not going to use it, as she doesn’t use it anymore. Spider changed her name after her divorce, and I always wondered if it had to do with her new role as a single parent, and she told me it did.

“The decision to change my name is very much connected to being a single parent. When my husband left, without warning, it felt like an end; an end to my life as I knew it. I knew I wanted to – had to start a new life, a life of being strong and independent, of being the mother my children needed and the woman I wanted to become. Spider embodied all that I wanted to be; strong, but playful.”

Spider took on her new role fiercely.

“I am always, always on. I am the only person responsible for dealing with kid raising, which means a great deal more pressure to always make the right choice or have the right response…to which eventually I have had to acknowledge that I am human, and will make mistakes. I make a habit of apologizing to my kids when I do fail to handle things perfectly all the time….Having the kids all the time, on my own, means that I have to forgive myself for sometimes falling down – because I’m sick, or tired, or emotionally done – and forgive that in those times, the kids have more electronic time than I would prefer, and the chores don’t get done. In addition, there are a lot of things I did as the stay-at-home mother that have simply had to fall off my list or become less frequent– baking, hosting parties for the kids, helping out other mothers.”

Asking for help… Forgiving yourself… So far, these are life lessons I can use.

3) Be proud of who you are:


My friend Jennifer, a brilliantly witty writer who divorced after fifteen years of marriage and two kids had this to say:

“After my divorce, a part of me was excited about dating again… But suddenly, I began to panic. I wasn’t twenty-years-old anymore. My body didn’t feel the way it used to. A lot of the confidence I’d had was gone. I wasn’t tan or in great shape. I’d spent years singing Old MacDonald in the dark, and rarely shaving my legs… I faced a large and expensive battle with my ex-husband and I emerged like a shriveled white cave worm, crawling to light… I’d even developed something called a Uterine Hernia… My Uterus was literally starting to fall out of my body… I was reminded of the words of actress Olivia Wilde, who lamented her first marriage publicly, when she announced… ‘That man has killed my vagina.’

I remember saying at the time… ‘I married a Tax Attorney who murdered my vagina and then used it as a home-office tax write-off.’

But I got back on my feet. I bought a new razor, pulled up my uterus, and started to meditate and drink more green tea.

I am proud of who I am now. I may not be twenty-two anymore… But I have some things most twenty-two year-olds don’t have… And I’m NOT talking about my stretch marks or my sagging uterus. I have a sense of humor. I have a LOT of common sense and also book sense. I know I’m not as neurotic as I used to be. I know what is really important in life. I still sing Old MacDonald in the dark. But this cave worm has become a butterfly… Or at least a moth.”

4) Don’t let someone else determine your worth.

I’ve been close to my friend Johanna since childhood. Johanna became the primary parent for both her children when they were still toddlers and she faced most of her battles alone.

“Most teachers/daycare employees always treated me like I was some dumb pregnant teen that had no clue. There were undertones in conversations… Like here’s the mom who isn’t going to pay her bill on time or remember her kids’ lunch money. I hated that! With time, most of them realized they had stereotyped me. Let’s face it, you can look at any parent, single or not, and name at least a few things wrong with their parenting style.”

In fact, three of the five mothers I interviewed expressed this same obstacle when dealing with childcare workers underestimating them.

Johanna goes on to say… “But really, at the end of the day, it’s made me a stronger more confident person. It’s made me better… more appreciative of the little things.”

5) Endure the race.

CORRECTION Zombies Ahead

My friend, and fellow Jurassic Mom, Jessica, caught my eye last month when she successfully completed a half-marathon. It wasn’t any average race, though, this was a twelve-and-a-half mile zombie run… A run where zombies chased her all the way to the finish line.

Years ago, when Jessica’s marriage ended unexpectedly, she was left as the near sole-custodian of her two elementary-school-aged boys. Jessica had never finished her degree, and when she became a single parent she felt the need to finish it more than ever. The amount of endurance was intense.

“I had to keep pushing forward regardless of no money and no support. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about a myriad of problems that most people take for granted. I just kept going, regardless of whether or not I was tired. I had papers due. I was working one full-time job, and one part-time job. My son had entered his teenage years, and once I got a call at three AM and had to go hit the streets looking for him. The next morning, I got up after an hour of sleep, took a test, and went to work. I was proud of myself the day I graduated with a degree in Justice Administration.”

I asked her if she thought about any of those thing when she completed her Zombie Run.

“It was incredibly cathartic for me. I was never a runner, or a person who had time to exercise. But when I started running… I had to concentrate, to focus. I thought of so many things I’d accomplished as I ran. I thought of the endurance it took and how I had taken the challenge and succeeded. Running a long distance is 90% mind and 10% body. So is single parenting. At some points you feel like you are going to break, but you have to keep going. You have to move onto the next day… I’ve outrun a lot of zombies in my life.”

In THE LOST WORLD, the second volume in the JURASSIC PARK series, Michael Crichton writes, “For our own species, evolution occurs mostly through our behavior. We innovate new behavior to adapt.”

Outrunning zombies. Establishing a powerful super-identity. Laughing at yourself and appreciating who you are. Refusing to let another person determine your worth… Some of these innovations might be unique, but these are the ingredients for a powerful and adventurous life.

In closing, let me just say:

God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs. Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.


The Top 5 Most Embarrassing Revelations From My Sweet Sweet Child

Parents are NEVER immune from honest revelations from their children… It doesn’t matter if you are the most secure person on earth, your child will betray publicly anything and everything you try to hide privately… And they are NOT easily impressed.

Even when you are the President of the United States, if you make corny jokes, your children will betray you. Sasha and Malia Obama were FORCED to go to the turkey pardon this year, and their Dad’s corny jokes about pardoning CHEESE the turkey were no match from the sullen “teen-face” both the girls threw his way.


And if Barack Obama is not immune from the honest criticism of his kids… no one is!

This got me thinking about the most memorable moments when my child has publicly shamed me! Right now, Harper is still young… I can’t imagine what is in store for me in the teenage years!

Here goes…..

1) The first is a lovely rendering Harper completed for her Art Class… She was asked to please draw a picture that represented something special that had happened to her. While some kids drew pictures of houses and swing sets… She decided to go this route, with a horribly embarrassing occurrence I was trying to keep quiet from EVERYONE!!!


This drawing represents a “special” and HORRIBLE event when our small dog took revenge on us when we left him alone in the house for two hours!!! Guess you can’t get any more special than that! It might’ve earned Harper an A… But it earned me an E for Embarrassing!

2) When Harper was 3-years-old, we were moving to a new house, and I was rushing to take her to preschool before the movers arrived. Just as we arrived at her preschool, she said… “I am hungry.”

In the bustle to get out of the house, I FORGOT TO FEED HER BREAKFAST!!!

I absolutely HAD to get back home before 9:00 to meet the movers, and I had nothing to feed her… Until I remembered some Junior Mints that I still had in my purse from a trip to the movies a few nights before…


I quickly handed them back to her and said, “Hurry up and eat these! I’ve got to go!”

She responded with complete elation… “You’re feeding me candy for breakfast?!?!? You be the best mommy in the whole word ever!”

As I walked her into her classroom, the mommy-guilt was running high. I felt like the worst parent in the world, and I was kinda nervous she would tell her teacher, which wouldn’t make me look good at all… No it would not!

It was then that I kneeled down in front of her, and begged… “Look, Harper,” I said. “I’m sorry I fed you those Junior Mints, but I am in a hurry because of the movers. You just have to promise me this one thing… Tell NO ONE about this. Don’t tell any of your friends…. And DO NOT tell your teacher. Promise me that Harper. Promise me you won’t tell anyone I gave you Junior Mints for breakfast!”

“I promise, Mommy,” she told me…

Then, she walked into the classroom and immediately shouted, “Guess What?!?!? My mommy give me candy for breakfast!!! She the best mommy in the world!!!”

“No, I didn’t,” I lied straight to the teacher’s face, before running out of the classroom… effectively teaching my child bad nutrition habits and also how to lie.

3) While standing in line at the grocery store, when my child was 3-years-old, a woman stood behind us with a generous amount of unwaxed facial hair.

Harper pointed to the woman and in a loud voice said… “IS THAT A WOMAN?!?!?”

“Yes,it is!” I said, smiling and looking at the woman… “And she is sooooo beautiful!”

4) Once at a racetrack, a four-year-old Harper and her friend were bored. A kind man with a gentle yellow Labrador Retriever told the girls they could pet his dog. While we all turned away watching the race, the girls were playing with the dog behind us. I wasn’t paying attention until I heard Harper say, “What are these, Mommy? The doggie has funny fur spots!”

When I turned around, I was horrified to see Harper and her friend holding the dog’s testicles and petting them like two small mice.

“Girls! Get your hands off the dog’s privates!!!” I shouted, like a terrible scene from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The man turned around as well with a startled look… “Thanks! They love dogs!” I said, before whisking them away.

5) At a Tiny Tot Dance Class, Harper at age two, sat in a circle with five small girls. The teacher posed a question to the class: “Tell me something that makes you different!”

One girl said… “I have a doggie!”

Another girl said… “I love my Kitty!”

Harper said… “My Mom feeds me wine!”…

In truth, I DO NOT feed my child wine.

I have no idea how she even knew about drinking wine…


But… The bottom line is this… You can run, but you can’t hide from your child’s honest and sometimes cringe-worthy revelations… Not even when you are the President.


It’s Real To Me, Dammit!!!! A Night with the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

Professional Wrestling is fake. The debate has been settled. Yes… I know they actually get hurt… They actually jump off turnbuckles and do their flying head kicks and occasionally break things…

I’m talking the story lines.. They are all so FAKE!!!! Vince McMahon’s daughter was NEVER kidnapped by aliens…. And while Hulk Hogan in real life might be a total D-Bag… His hero in-ring persona was only ever dictated by a group of writers paid to write soap operas for men.

However, there are some among us who still believe. This clip which highlights this large man’s love of wrestling is BEAUTIFUL in every way. And sometimes… Sometimes… I go to sleep at night watching it.

If there was a trophy for passionate believers of oily men grappling each other in short-shorts… This dude would win it!

But thank goodness there are things we still CAN believe in… Like Reality Television…

Just like Monday Night Football, Sunday afternoon Golf Games, and whatever bowling-league night is called… In home-parties across America, Tuesday November 18th, was Opening Day for The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and the rosé flowed.


In solidarity with the rest of my American sisters, I sat down with a group of my best lady friends and we toasted off Lisa Vanderpump and her brood of money-loving body-obsessed celebritantes whose problems are real and are in NO WAY manufactured.

Come on, people… It’s in the title… The Real Housewives… THEY ARE REAL!!!!


Perhaps you remember my wild band of friends from a night out we had a few months ago with former child celebrity and hobbit, Sean Astin, where we rushed his table like a group of celebrity-obsessed lunatics sat down with him for wine and tapas at a quaint little restaurant in Calabasas.

My good friend, Molly…


…rolled out the red carpet for all of us, putting out all of our favorites: A fabulous cheese assortment, including a delicious apple-baked brie, lots of yummy tapas and deserts.


Molly had even added a touch detail with a Sangria/Champagne combo called the Saint Vanderpump, in honor of the Grand Dame, herself.


As we sat down amidst the delicacies… The air was ripe with excitment. Kyle Richards… The “good girl” of the Housewives was to have her annual White Party.. so named because everything at her party is the color white… And everyone at the party will be wearing white.


Though the girls and I were not wearing white for Molly’s Party… We did eat a lot of white cheese… And we did have white crackers to go with it.

Though the food may be different, and the entertainment various levels of strange… One thing that is always the same… At Kyle’s White Party, everyone might be wearing white, but none of them will be acting like saints. There will be drama and lots of it.


It is not uncommon at Kyle’s White Party, for people to get drunk, shout profanities, threaten lawsuits, and slap one another. This has been going on for ten years and every year, no one behaves.

For most hostesses, this would signal an end to The White Party. Once, some kids came to blows over a pinata at one of my Birthday parties growing up. After that, we had no more pinatas. Kyle Richards would laugh in our faces and call my mother a wimp. Kyle Richards WILL have a White Party, and if someone dies there, that’s just how it goes.

The White Party began to heat up when nemesis Adrienne Maloof showed up with a man less than half her age…


The reality of this caused quite a stir… And just as the Real Housewives were starting to amp it up… Those of us at Molly’s party refilled our drinks and started to discuss a number of things…

Such as Common Core Homework, which for some of the women at our party, has really amped up since the kids entered the fourth grade…

But those are all trifling matters compared to the real problems the Real Housewives were having… Because when Brandi Glanville found out Adrienne Maloof had shown up at The White Party without any kind of notice… Boy, was she pissed.

About this time… Nasim started comparing the different poops of her babies…


A problem that, by-the-way, has nearly brought her to tears on a number of occasions, as we can all agree that never in our wildest mommy fantasies… did we EVER envision how much poop would be involved, the sleepless nights and rashes it might cause, and the handling and dissecting of it.

Listening to Nasim’s poop nightmares made me reach for another Saint Vanderpump…


Which is a good thing… Because just as I was taking another sip… So were the Real Housewives… And it was in that moment that things really got dicey!!

Real Housewife… Brandi Glanville had about enough of Adrienne Maloof’s presence at The White Party… And she did the thing that EVERYONE does at Kyle’s White Party before a showdown… She pulled Adrienne aside to “have a word alone” with her… LOOK OUT!!!! Drinks are about to fly!!!

As Brandi and Adrienne began their on-screen confrontation…

One of the ladies at our party confessed that a woman at her work had gone home with what she called a “menstrual blow out,” which was a story so bizarre and disgusting I wouldn’t believe it, if I didn’t personally know the woman relating the story.

It was at the height of the story of the terrible blowout that Real Housewife Brandi left The White Party in a huff… And Real Housewife Adrienne left not long behind her… Once again, Poor Kyle Richards invested thousands of dollars in her cherished White Party only to see it dissolve to drama and petty gossip.

Poor Kyle. Her White Party has been sucking for years.


I am glad to say that at Molly’s party… No one threatened a lawsuit… No one showed up with a man less than half our ages (though it wouldn’t have been a big deal if that happened)… And we all finished the evening without a good slap, punch, or drink poured on our heads.


Every time the intensity heats up for those Real Housewives… One of us will always say… “Do you think this is staged? Do people really act like that?”

Well… Does it matter? Was Hulk Hogan ever really enraged enough to break a chair over Andre the Giant’s head? Is it really worth debating? Just pull up a chair and enjoy it.

And we did…

Prison Rules on the Playground


Awhile back, my daughter was having an issue with a friend.  This child pegged my daughter as a BFF.  Initially, Harper was on board with it… As time passed, though, it would be apparent that this child was a nightmare.  She would cry when she didn’t get her way, push and shove Harper, and revert to saying unkind things if she didn’t have complete control all the time…

Secretly I called her Nellie Oleson…


But… Really… She was way worse.

Her parents thought everything this child did was cute and had a “kids-will- be- kids kind of attitude” which aggravated the situation more.  And by situation… I mean ME!

Now, advice books, and parenting blogs and local “Parental Nurturing” classes at the Learning Annex will tell you “to include everyone in your child’s play” and “Children need to be given the proper tools for unwarranted disagreements in the field of life”.   Proper tools? Unwarranted disagreements?  No.  The only advice I needed was from a convicted felon named T-Bone Jackson.

When I was a fourteen-year-old teenager living in Alaska, my parents befriended T-Bone.  We hadn’t lived in Alaska for very long when T-Bone showed up at our front door, frozen and in need of cash.  My Dad was a Southern Baptist minister and my mother was a teacher.

Despite being homeless, and having several run-ins with the law, T-Bone was quite pleasant… He became a loose extension of our family for a while. My mother would drive T-Bone around… To the Social Security Office… To the Unemployment Office… To the Men’s Shelter.

He sat next to me in the minivan and we would talk about all sorts of things.  It was on one of these ride-alongs that T-Bone would often impart advice to me.  Most of the time it was the run-of-the-mill obvious advice like… “Don’t do drugs,” and “Don’t trust the government;” or “stay in school” and “don’t try to outwit the Vietnamese.”

But one day, after no particular prompting, T-Bone said.  “Don’t you ever go to prison, Amy.  You’d never survive it.”

“Whatever,” I said, blowing him off.  “I would never end up in jail T-Bone.”

And I had no reason to believe that I would.  I was enrolled in mostly advanced classes in my high school.  I’d won First Prize giving a presentation on table setting at a 4-H Fair.  I achieved the highest honor awarded in the state drama competition playing the role of Helen Keller.

“Not about doing good or bad,” he said, like he was talking to a mindless rube… ” A person can wind up in the can for any sort of thing.  All I did was flee the United States Military and protest on the steps of a federal building… They hauled me off… But…I did okay in prison.  That’s because I had it in me…  But you…. You’d fail there.  Keep your nose clean  That’s all I’m sayin.  Those prisoners would eat you alive.”

“I’d do fine in prison.” I informed him, offended by such an assessment. “People like me.”

“Yeah, That’s the problem girl. You be Miss Nicety Nice… Talk’n all the time……But in the penitentiary, whoa girl… No ones gonna give you a cookie for acting all Little Miss Muffet… You want to have a  friend in prison?  Pick up the good book and talk to Jesus… Jesus be your only true friend in prison.. He’s nice-and-quiet… Gotta keep to yourself in prison… If you gonna be chatty?… instead of gettin’ a cookie, you best be ready to be the cookie.”

“Whatever,” I told him, taken aback.

“And don’t let anyone give you no prison tattoo.  You’ll end up tied to the White supremacists.”

I promised T-Bone that day that I would never go to prison and I would never join a white supremacist gang.

But something more stuck with me… The idea of keeping to yourself.. Taking things in… Not being too quick to be everybody’s friend.  It was the calculating idea of assessing a situation before running full-force into it.  T-Bone had said it simply, but I used his advice when entering new jobs… When trying something I had never done before, and I found that it worked.

Twenty-five years later… Lost and unsure how to advise my child… I  passed his advice down to my daughter…

While it might not be the most politically correct way to look at childhood… If a person really stands back and takes a long look at the playground… They will see similarities with a prison yard.

I’ve taken T-Bones observations and added a few of my own.  Hope this helps.  I call it:

Prison Rules: 

How to survive elementary school.

1)  Keep to yourself.

This was T-Bone’s first instruction and it still stands.  Keeping to oneself gives a person a chance to assess the situation.  Don’t rush up on people.  It scares them.  WAIT… Don’t force yourself into the Barbie play-a-thon.  Think like a criminal.  Ask your child the same thing I asked my child… What would John Gotti do?  Would he force himself into a game of cartoon tag?  Would the man that the FBI would call “The Teflon Don” ask in a whiney voice… “please guys… let ME be the Red Rover this time…”  NO!!!  John Gotti would NEVER DO THAT!  Neither should your child.  Your child should stand back against the fence… stalking the situation… Teach your child, as I taught mine to walk up to a group of kids with a kind of loose swagger, holding a toothpick in her sweet mouth and say… “You got room for another?”  If the answer is yes,  Joy!  If the answer is no, your child should shrug and say something like.. “No matter to me,” then head back to the fence.


2) Don’t be too chatty.

Wow.  This is a given.  Loose lips sink ships.  Some people… Like experts in the field… will talk about communicating, the sharing of feelings…  Don’t do it!  It’s a terrible idea.  Whenever people start “sharing feelings” that leads to vulnerability, which leads to a knuckle sandwich… Swallow your feelings.  Work them out in therapy later…  But on the playground…  Be quiet.  Silence is fierce.  That’s why all the gurus, Gandhi (also an inmate), Nelson Mandela (did 30 years) value silence.  Silence is golden.  Teach your child to be quiet and watch… Your child will be happier than a child who talks constantly.  Dakota Fanning and her prosaic observations are only funny in the movies.  In real life, they would earn her a good punch.


3) Trade up.


I can’t say enough about this one.  Prisoners who can successfully trade up manage a life of significantly more ease than the ones who can’t.  You have a pack of smokes in prison?  That could get you a full set of toiletries… It’s the same on the playground.  Don’t ever trade a good ham-and-cheese sandwich for a packet of Necco Wafers.  Necco Wafers are THE MOST DISGUSTING CANDY  ever made.  A sandwich should go for no less than three Oreos.  Three Oreos should go for no less than a Snickers.  A Snickers should get your child a hall pass.  Do you understand how this works?  Have you sat down and really watched Good Fellas with your child?  If not, you need to do that.



4) Have a skill.

In prison, having a skill can mean the difference between a cushy job in the prison library and a horrible job cleaning latrines… What can your child bring to the playground that another child can’t?  Can your daughter braid hair?  Better yet… Can she braid a fancy braid like Elsa’s hair in Frozen?  She could become quite a friend magnet if she can do this.  Can your son effectively make arm farts?  Have you taught him that?   That’s a skill every young boy desires.  Will your son one day go to West Point?  It’s skills like this that will pave the way for that path… And if by some chance your son ends up in prison, this will serve him there too.  Prisoners love arm farts.


5) Get busy living or get busy dying.


Alright… T-Bone didn’t give me this one.  I got this one from The Shawshank Redemption.  But… It’s worth saying.  In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne was a man wrongly accused of a crime… But he understood deep in his heart that freedom was something that could be found anywhere.  Bartering for beers while tarring a prison roof… Blasting Opera music out into the prison yard even though it meant time in the hole… Andy Dufresne had the kind of freedom in prison that most people don’t enjoy on the outside.  So should your  child.  It’s all a mindset.

This is good advice on how to survive prison.  It’s also good advice on how to survive school.

I may not be a doctor, or a psychologist, or an expert of any sort… But I am a Blogger.  And I did once have a good friend named T-Bone Jackson.

I’m proud to say… Harper still hasn’t gotten any prison tattoos.

The Top 5 Backhanded Compliments From My Sweet Sweet Child

Recently, the TODAY show featured a mother named Johanna Stein, who recorded her four-year-old daughter asking her such sweet questions as… “Hey Mom, did you take a shower today?  I don’t think it worked,” and “Sometimes your mad face makes me laugh.”  You can view the segment here:  http://www.today.com/parents/mom-records-her-4-year-olds-unfiltered-adorable-insults-2D80195972

Joanna’s video of her daughter’s insults has gone viral, with people chiming in on both sides… Some who think her daughter needs to be taught a lesson in respect…  And others who identify with the sweet honesty of children.  I am part of the latter.  My child has posed some lovely insult-compliments to me and will no doubt share some more with me this week.



So… In honor of the honesty of children… I decided to list my TOP FIVE FAVORITE INSULTS MY CHILD HAS POSED AS COMPLIMENTS:

1) Once, when Harper was three, I stepped on a the scale hoping to see it go down.  I let out an exasperated sigh when it hadn’t…  Harper gently put her arm on me and said… “Don’t worry mom, you’re still fat.”

2)  Last week, when I took my daughter to Target, I gave her strict instructions… “Okay,” I said… “We are going in there, getting what I need, and coming straight back out.  No toy aisle.  I’m not dressed for shopping.”  Harper looked at me gently and said… “You look fine.  I’ve seen hobos in there before.”

3) On a visit to a retirement center, a rather stylish elderly woman in a pantsuit was sitting in the foyer when we walked in.  The woman, a stranger, waved to me in a friendly way and said hello.  “She’s pretty.  How do you know her?” Harper asked me as we walked away.  “Did you go to high school together?”

4)  A few weeks ago, when I dressed up for a fun night on the town, I walked out feeling pretty confident, looked at my daughter and said… “How do I look?”  She was quiet for a moment before she said… “I don’t know… Are you trying to look good?”

5) When I picked up Harper from school, after having my hair colored and styled that morning… I said… “Hey, notice anything different?”  “Yes!” She said right away.  “You have a little mustache!”

What is the lesson in this?  When you have a small child, have some thick skin, a good sense of humor, and don’t expect your self-esteem to come from the well from someone whose world is still governed by honesty and not tact.