My boy asked for a dress. And guess what? I bought him one.


Tell me the above image isn't glorious.  I dare you.

What does it bring to mind?'

Do you think I'm a goddamned hippie mother trying to prove a point?  Do you think his father is a sissy?  Do you think he shouldn't be allowed to wear "girls" clothes?  Do you think I'm putting him in harm's way by subjecting him to public scrutiny?

Or do you think it's beautiful?  Innocent and miraculous.  A young boy experiencing the sensation of a full blown twirl?

I bet you can guess in which category I fall.

However, what you might not guess is that I struggled with this.  Much like the Crocs debacle, this dress thing pressed my buttons -- and big time. 

I've been open on this blog about my own sexuality and how I fall somewhere left of center (call me bisexual, if that makes you feel better), but apparently that doesn't predispose me to making this kind of thing easy.  Not even a little bit.

I have a very left-leaning attitude towards sexuality, gender, and how it's all expressed.  I've continuously avoided saying things like, "Do you like any girls?" instead asking simply, "Do you like any boys and/or girls?"  I do assume his gender matches his genitals, but we'll tackle that issue if ever arises later.  I think it's fair enough to be sex-neutral when talking about attraction without further complicating things with gender.

In any case, my point is: I'M A REALLY FREAKING OPEN-MINDED, HETERO-SENSITIVE, HOMO/WHATEVER-FRIENDLY MOTHER.  And still, buying my son a dress was hard.  Really freaking hard.

We were in Target with the purpose of getting him a garment.  He was in the cart, cute as all hell in his little boy ensemble and his short hair and there I was holding up dresses.  First a dark gray one.

"How do you like this, baby?"

"I like the pink one."

"Are you sure?  This grey one's really nice."

"NO.  I want the pink one."  And this "pink" was like fire-engine fuchsia.  I squirmed.  And then I squirmed at my squirming.  I said, "Ok," and tossed it into the cart.

"Are you sure you don't just want a tutu?"  Somehow I felt that less fabric would be easier on me.

"NO.  I want the pink dress."

I sighed and rounded the rack of clothes.  That's when we spotted the same dress in lavender.  I was strangely mollified when he said he'd rather have the purple.  I swapped out the dresses, tossed in a matching purple tutu for good measure and wheeled to the register.

I was fascinated at my own reaction to this transaction.  I was self-conscious as I discussed my son's dress color preference around the other shoppers.  They kept looking at me, I was certain, like I was crazy/stupid/weird.  But I pressed on.  If only not to shame my son's desire to try wearing a piece of clothing he sees his best friends at school wearing (who happen to be girls).

Seriously.  What's the big effing deal??  But wait - I don't want to get ahead of myself here.

We checked out with no incident.  Not like the time I bought him sparkly red ballet flats.  (And again, trust me, I tried my  hardest to get him to pick the silver or black versions, but he wasn't to be dissuaded.  UGH.  WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM IN ME??)

That afternoon the checker was a 50-something woman with raisin-like skin and a hairdo that looked more tired than she was.  She saw the shoes and saw the boy.  Then looked at both twice again each for good measure.  She looked at me questioningly, "Yeah, he's a boy." I answered her unspoken question.  "And why can't a boy want sparkly shoes?  It's not his fault they only cover girl shoes in glitter," I bit out before she could say another word.

She stammered and, I thought, recovered well enough to say, "Well, I guess you're right."  I continued to glare at her for good measure.

Ok, so now we're back to Christmas Day, the day Hawk gets to open his skirted treasures.  And guess what?  He LOVED THEM.

At first he was shy and only wanted me and Rooster to see him in his dress.  Then, the twirling began and he was begging PapaMimi to watch him.  He wore that stupid dress over his footed pajamas for 8 yours.  We practically had to peel it off of his little body.

Rooster and I talked about our feelings.  Turns out he was surprised at his own confusion over it.  He said he wished he wasn't so torn up about it, but refused to elaborate more on the subject.  My mom, on the other hand, was more vocal about her worries.

"Are you gonna let him wear that to school??"

"Yes.  Why wouldn't I?  There's a little boy there who wore a Spiderman costume every day for almost the entire year.  Why can't Hawk wear a dress?" (Clearly I think there's some sort of ranking for strange clothing for children.)

"Well," she pursed her lips, and let the sentence die on the vine.  I bet I could fill in the rest, "... what will the kids say to him??"

So I went ahead and just answered, "I'll help him navigate that when it comes.  I'd never send him to a situation without first telling him what he might expect from others.  And if it's awful for him, we'd talk about it and go from there.  But, really, [his school] is not going to be a place of judgement or ridicule."

And so there you have it: I defended his right to wear a dress all the while battling my own sense of discomfort with the whole thing; my confusion.  What the fuck??  What's the big effing deal that my boy wants to wear a dress??  It means nothing.  And it yet means everything, something.  It's a visual representation of my love and support of him as well as a slap in the face of what we think should be.  It's beautiful and weird and awesome and honest. 

And I swear to God I will always support this kid's desires no matter how they challenge my antiquated notions.  I swear.

Taking Mimi to bed.


Fancy(ass) Holiday Dinner Menu- Love on a plate


I'm a cook.  And a passionate one.  I spend hours and hours mulling over flavor profiles and I've probably spent weeks of my life watching cooking shows.  I am passionate about the art of food, its philosophies, magic, and truths.  To cook is to live.  To share this cooking is to pass on life, love, luxury.

This year I'm broke as hell and so traditional Christmas gifts didn't fit into my budget, therefore I decided I'd lay down a little cash for some Maine lobster tails from Lobster Gram and make my family a meal.  A real meal. 

Rooster and I used to order tails for our anniversary dinners every year (we got married on New Year's Eve of '05 and lobster always felt like the perfect New Year's Eve bite) and we were never disappointed by the quality and care we received from this little ME shop.

The tails from the Down East coast are unmatched.  They'll arrive flash frozen on Christmas Eve and will be ripe for cooking the next day.  I'm going to butter poach them and it will be like love on our tongues.

Here's the menu/email I just sent my mom and Terry and Rooster:

Frisée-thyme salad with warm toasted hazelnut goat-cheese medallions and pickled cherries
Parsnip and apple soup
Butter-poached lobster with tarragon and butternut squash risotto
Oven-roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and lemon
Maple horseradish and sage glazed beets
Nutmeg ice cream and Turkish coffee

If anyone wants to volunteer drink pairings for the Salad, Soup, Dinner, and Dessert courses, be my guest!
I'm trying to weave the richer flavors with ribbons of acid all on a base of earthy notes.

The frisée salad starts the meal off with a high note of bitter greens and pickled cherries offset by a touch of rich hazelnut and creamy goat-cheese.  The parsnip and apple soup is to transition us into a deeper flavor base with both sweet and tart.  For the main dish itself, the risotto filled with aromatic tarragon and warm butternut squash is meant to highlight the burst of bright, buttery lobster in our mouths; tangy roasted Brussels sprouts will hopefully be balanced out by crisp and hearty bacon offset with lemon; and rounding out the main course is maple, horseradish and sage-glazed beets.  The dessert is about the easiest thing I can think to do since it's my most feared course.  And it's stupid easy. 

This meal is love on a plate, but I'm open to suggestions and critiques.  Do you have any better ideas/pairings/flavors to add??


Divorce and a 3 (& 4) year old: Tips, notes, and reflections

Hawk about a month before the split.

I originally started this post in August, a couple of months before Hawk turned 4.  2011 really kicked my ass, our asses (ohmyfuckinggodican'twaitforittobeover).  I don't know how present I was through all of it.  In hindsight, I wasn't capable of shielding Hawk from my own life 100%.  I did well enough, I suppose, but I wish I'd done more. 

I try not to ruminate on my own feelings about our days together (I don't know how he'll feel about this past year or how it will effect him in the long run - only time will tell).  It's like a counseling session: I might feel like I was off my game and floundering, but the client might walk away feeling empowered, listened to, and like it was a meaningful hour.  I can't translate the experience for anyone else but me.  And so I look back on my impending divorce and my first year of single-mothering with as much objectivity as possible.

Here are my thoughts on handling separation and divorce with your 3 (& 4) year old:

Be developmentally appropriate
When Rooster and I split up - physically separated - Hawk was roughly 2 years and 9 months old.  Just a wee little thing.  Which meant he wasn't fully potty-trained, yet, he was only barely grasping the concept of yesterday, today, and tomorrow and was struggling with communicating his feelings through language, but he could feel.  So that's what I addressed.

If I felt the loss, the strangeness, the sadness, the longing for my baby, wouldn't it follow that he would also feel something along those lines as well?  He's a littler human, after all.  I know his father was feeling it, too.

I spent a lot of time talking about my feelings and those of Hawk's.  I gave voice to them and hoped I was close to the mark since I knew he couldn't conceptualize them on his own.

When he cried after a transition or after seeing his father I would say, "I know you love your daddy very much and it hurts to be apart from him."  He'd nod agreement and cry some more.  I tried to incorporate the visceral feeling of loss, too.  "My heart hurts when I miss Daddy.  I bet your heart hurts, too."  I always ended chats like these with, "Don't worry, baby, it won't feel like this forever."

Be honest about the situation and realize you're not the only one who's living this new life
By acknowledging the suckiness of the situation and Hawk's initiation into a new palette of emotions I hoped to validate his experience of going back and forth and being separated from me (he was already used to separation from Rooster), and living with two parents who were struggling.

It fucking sucked.  Why wouldn't I tell him I knew that and that we were (as a disjointed family) all going through it together?

I believe one of the most powerful things a parent can do is to show her humanity.  When I feel sad or cranky I share my mood with Hawk, "Mommy is feeling really cranky right now and I'm sorry I've been short-tempered today."  Which segues nicely whenever he's cranky and being a bear, "Wow, you seem to be having a rough day today.  Is that true?"  He's able to identify and relate in (hopefully) a meaningful way.

I wanted to show Hawk that I knew he was there, too.  That he wasn't forgotten.  That he was a real participant in our lives, too.

Forgive yourself and be strong
Ok, so your life isn't turning out as you wanted, but that doesn't mean shit.  Not really.  It's something I had to embrace when I realized I wasn't going to have more than one child.  Accepting this new fragmented life seemed an easy extension of that.  And my hope is that I'm modeling flexibility and strength.

Co-parent, co-parent, co-parent
I know not all relationships end like mine.  Rooster and I have remained partners in all of this and for that I'm eternally grateful.  So, if you can manage to have any kind of connection with your ex, do it.  Keep anchoring routines as similar as possible, the language the same, the consequences.  Every little thing that you two can do to keep the tumultuousness of the new life at bay, do it.

And if you can manage it, see your kids on off weeks for hugs and kisses.

Don't stop being the parent
So, here I am telling you to be open, honest, and human with your little one, but there's a balance.  He's not your co-hort, though he's sharing this path with you.  He's still your charge and not to be leaned upon.  Don't cry to him, though a cry in front of him can be natural if not too alarming.  I've cried in front of Hawk a handful of times and he was given the opportunity to come and pat me, inquire after my feelings -- a good exercise in compassion.  I would tell him my heart hurt because I was a little sad, but that I would be ok and I was thankful for his hugs.  You don't want to overwhelm your little ones with the force of your feelings. 

Of course I'm no expert.  These are just things that helped make me navigate this emotional time, rules I implemented so I didn't feel so goddamned lost.  I also have no effing clue what my kid is gonna be like when he grows up; how he's going to view these first few years of his new life.  He will never have a memory of his father and I living together.  Never.  And he still shares his wish that we all lived together, though I think it's more about convenience than a memory he might have.

Like I tell my kid, we're tough, he's tough, we're all tough, and we'll get through this.  My fingers are crossed we're past the worst and I mostly believe that's true.

What do you guys think?  Do you have any specific questions?  Any other helpful suggestions?


Christmas tree logic according to a 4 year old

4 year old's silhouette.  He'll come at you like a ninja, apparently. 

Rooster (in defense of not having a tree at his house):  People celebrate Christmas different ways. Some people don't have trees.

Hawk:  Well, when you have a kid, you have to go get a tree. I might have to call 911 and tell the police to tell you to go get a tree.