Bug turns thirteen tomorrow and she won’t let me take her picture. She’s just as obstinate at thirteen as she was when she was three days old. Remember that story about the lactation nurse telling me I have a stubborn child? Remember how I couldn’t believe the nurse could judge the character of a baby when she was only three days old? Turns out that nurse was right and I have a feeling it’s not going to get any better from here on out.

I can take her picture tomorrow, she says, when she’s all dressed up in her birthday outfit that we don’t know what is yet. It will probably be leggings, an over-sized sweatshirt and her Hunter rain boots. That’s been her uniform as of late. She promises that we can do a photoshoot tomorrow and I can blog the whole thing. I’m excited about that but not getting my hopes up. In the meantime, I thought I’d just jot some things down about this age so that I can look back and remember it.

Bug is going through an adorable awkward stage. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see her struggle with acne and ever-changing pant sizes but I know it’s all part of life and she will be stronger for going through it. She’s kind of lead a charmed life in the looks department up until now so I think this recent difficult time will give her depth and strengthen her character, which really is all a mother wants for her child. I want her to be beautiful inside and out and sometimes being too pretty on the outside can make for really ugly and selfish on the inside.

Of course I am the one who sees the worst in Bug because she can really let it all out and be herself around me. I am thankful for that. I am glad she has me for that. But when I make fun of her moods and her extremes, I’m sure there will be someone on the fringes of her life who will look aghast and say, What? How could you say such a thing about sweet innocent Bug?! Believe me, she can be a pill and a half. But she can also be really really sweet.

We’ve been struggling with eating these days. Poor Bug is bombarded by of conflicting ideas when it comes to health and wellness. Between me attempting to be vegan (unsuccessfully), Payam trying to eat a low-carb diet for diabetics and Joon who lives on cheese pizza and pasta with ketchup, it has been mayhem trying to get Bug to eat properly. She is filled with mixed messages and suffering.  It doesn’t help that she has a science teacher that has been feeding her class information constantly about health and nutrition like she’s trying to right the American diet one seventh grader at a time. Smaller portions! No gluten! Don’t combine carbs with protein! And then there’s Toby’s girlfriend who takes her to holistic doctors and has her opinions too: Eat your blood type! No avocados! Eat red meat! Poor Bug is so overwhelmed by diet choices that sometimes she just doesn’t eat at all. And then after a day of starving and getting the shakes in math class she will drink a giant decaf venti latte, eat a full-fat, two-portion-size Starbucks brownie AND a bag of chips. Her poor body is freaking out.

I had to call her dad up and get to the bottom of this. We are going to create an eating disorder if we don’t calm this mess down. But these are the things that happen when your kid switches households every other week, watches her idols on youtube obsess over diets and disorders and is influenced by everyone. I think we are all suffering from this. I’m glad that we are getting healthier as a whole but in the meantime it’s really hard to figure out what is best. Starving yourself because you are crippled with indecision (and pickiness) is worse than just eating like a regular kid. So that’s thirteen.

I’m sure she will get through it. She loves food too much to stick to anything too drastic for too long. I just hope she sorts it out sooner than later.

You know what else is thirteen? Grossness.  Have I talked about Bug’s talon-like nails yet? It’s an on-going battle between us. I rue the day I decided to let her have gel nails. They are the gateway drug to dragon-lady disgustingness. I hate long nails, as anyone who knows me will attest. I have the shortest nails ever. I can’t stand a millimeter of fingernail pushing past my fingers because I was cursed with paper-thin nails that bend backwards which is bone-chillingly awful. So short is the only way to go for me. And because I have been so pro-short for so long, I have developed a phobia of long nails. To me, long nails are gross. They are bacteria scrapers. I cannot stand to look at the backside of a long nail. It’s that awful dirty color and looks like a claw…Shudder…

So you can see where this is going. Bug has the longest nails ever and loves to tap them on things while whispering “A.S.M.R” sensually. This gets on my nerves like well, fingernails on a chalk board. And it’s not like Bug is the cleanest person on the planet since she also subscribes to the once-a-week shower schedule that smelly teens seem to be so fond of. You get my drift. I don’t usually like to embarrass her on the internet but this has been an ongoing argument between us for months so I’m hoping there will be some family members out there reading this that might get on my side of the argument.

Thirteen dudes! It’s good times!

But thirteen is also long conversations in the car about everything under the sun. I remember talking to my dad about deep topics on the way to middle school and here I am doing the same thing with my middle-schooler and she’s even deeper than I ever was. She loves to visit my parents. She loves cats and puppies. We bond over just about every cute thing the dogs do. She sends me Pinterest pins of cute outfits and funny t-shirt sayings she knows I’ll like. She saves memes for me and includes me in stories to her friends on instagram. I know you are not supposed to be “friends” with your kid but I really feel like we are anyway. She’s everything I ever wanted in a daughter and then some. I know everyone says that. But it really is true and I hope we keep bonding over cats and puppies and coffee and cute outfits…and maybe someday short nails. Heh.

I wonder what fourteen will be like.

We are very excited about her birthday party this weekend. (If it ever stops raining!!) We’ve planned a succulent-themed party and plan to serve hamburgers with guacamole (her favorite) outside on a table decorated with succulents. We’re also bringing back the green food bar (from her Great Big Green Puppet Show Birthday). We’ll paint planters and have a succulent planting craft and then eat cupcakes for dessert that look like succulents planted in terra cotta pots. It’s no where near the crazy over-the-toppedness of all her other parties but it’s nice because she is really doing all the work herself. She made her own invitations. She shopped for decorations and has dictated pretty much everything down to the “no gifts please” policy. I’m sure I will be reporting on this later.

So happy birthday, Bug, you complicated beautiful stubborn half grown-up!

We’ll see you tomorrow for a full photoshoot. You promised!


My Parent’s First Christmas with Me


I celebrated Christmas for the first time with my parents this year. That sounds really funny coming from a very conservative Christian family but it is actually the case. I grew up not celebrating Christmas for reasons of it having pagan origins. It’s something I’ve been explaining unsuccessfully to people all my life. I do celebrate Christmas now but my parent’s have never been a part of it until this year. And if you ask them they will just say they happened to be there. They weren’t celebrating.

It was a little funny when Payam’s mom walked in and greeted my parents with a hearty “Merry Christmas” in her thick Persian accent and they just stood there smiling, not really having anything to say back. As the kids say, “Awkward.” Later when I showed my dad the little village advent calendar I made, and he didn’t know what an advent calendar was, Payam looked at me incredulously. How can an almost seventy-year old man not know what an advent calendar is?!  I didn’t really know what to say. I guess they don’t get out much? The Persians don’t celebrate the religious aspects of Christmas either but they at least know what an advent calendar is. So it was funny. But also really really sweet. I love that my parents can take everything in with open hearts and minds. They won’t start celebrating Christmas anytime soon but they don’t judge.

After barely making it through a family-less Thanksgiving in Las Vegas I was super happy to be surrounded by family. We don’t have a big family but we do have each other and when my parents get along so well with Payam’s mom it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

We had a nice dinner with a few wins and a few misses. The instant pot tri-tip roast was a bust. I used Pioneer Woman’s recipe and I think the red wine is just not for me. It tasted like boiled meat. Blaghk.  Next year I might skip meat all together. Crazy, I know!

I haven’t talked about it much here but I am embracing plant-based living more and more and have been threatening to go vegan in five years. Five years is a long time from now so there’s not too much pressure. Everyone rolls their eyes at me and I know I’ve been getting more and more hippie dippy with my obsessive dog-walking podcast listening but it just seems to me like there is more and more evidence that meat is killing us. Of course I’m having a hard time giving up spicy sausage and lovely cheeses so we’ll see how all that goes.

I made butternut squash soup as a side and it was soooooo delicious! Oven-baked Brussel sprouts and cauliflower were a hit too. You can’t really go wrong with olive oil, salt and pepper and forty minutes in the oven. Better than chips, I say.

After dinner we opened presents. It seemed like we opened presents for days. I am vowing to cut back on gift-giving next year. The kids are so blasé when they open gift after gift. I think I went wrong when I started buying little things in November. I thought I was saving money by starting early and spreading it out but I just got so caught up in the fun of giving, I never stopped.  Next year I’m just going to buy plane tickets or useful electronics. We don’t need any more cutesy mugs.  We could start a mug museum we have so many mugs. It’s really sad that things have gotten this bad.  Next year will be different.

But all in all it was a very nice Christmas. Really at the end of the day it’s just about being together. Every year I learn a little more about how to make it better.


That’s the fun of growing up, right?