The Puppy Dog Purse


When I was a child, I was obsessed with the song, “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?” And so when I was four, my parents happily rescued the cutest dog ever, Scruffy. Scruffy was with us for about a year before he ran away and never returned. Living in the country, this was the first of many reoccurring animal heartbreaks.

At Christmastime, my Great Aunt (although she was not truly my aunt. But that is a long story), would gift the children of my family a Christmas present until they reached the age of ten. Once they were ten, they were deemed too old for gifts. Being the oldest of the nieces and nephews by many years meant I reached that dreaded platform first and would watch with envy the other younger children receive their gifts. Whether this is true or not, in my mind, the gift was always the same. A brand new purse in the shape of a puppy dog’s head.

In kindergarten, I would take my purse to school with me. And whilst Scruffy was white and looked like a, well, scruffy sheepdog, my purse was soft and brown.

The thing was, I don’t even remember liking the purse that much.

It did not look like Scruffy.

But I knew it was special.

And so that is why, one day after school in kindergarten, I almost died for it.

My friend, Lizzie, and I were bus kids. And what that would mean, is that we would have to stay later than everyone else in kindergarten to ride the bus an hour and a half home. An hour and a half? We were mountain kids, too, this entailed that we wait to drop everyone in town off first before the bus could make its trek up the hill to our homes.

On the fateful day, I was loaded up with my backpack and my puppy dog purse, waiting in a clamoring line with Lizzie to get on the school bus. It was hot and everyone was pushing. Somehow, probably because I have always been graceful, I was pushed under the bus.

I remember laying under the bus, blood trickling, starting to well out of my knees, and sticking to my nylons. My hands were encrusted and embedded with gravel. I was sprawled there and when I looked up my puppy dog purse was laying beneath one of the bus’s wheels. I could almost reach it. So, because I was five, and because it was not in my head that this could be dangerous, I dragged myself so that I lay between the front tire and the back tire of the bus. And just as I grabbed my puppy dog purse, the bus started.

Yes, the kids had pushed me under the bus and then had gotten on the bus without a backwards glance.

The whole “thrown under the bus” saying has always had a special meaning in my heart. Meaning I never use that term.

I remember a brief moment of panic, but I was still too young to understand the danger I was in.

I was more afraid the bus was going to leave me. I was also overtaken with my first memories of pain as my hands and knees had begun to sting from the injuries that had occurred.

I could hear Lizzie screaming, “Jenni is under the bus! Jenni is under the bus!”

The bus continued to idle but I heard the bus doors open.

And then a white-faced bus driver was peering down at me. I cannot imagine what that woman must have been thinking. I do remember her berating me as she pulled me out from under the cavernous vehicle, but I was crying too hard to hear the words that her brusque mouth was making.

I clutched my puppy dog purse all of the way home.

That was not the worst of it.

Do you know what happens when you bleed into tights and the wound sits there for an hour and a half?

It scabs.

Over the tights.

So, when I got home, I faced a whole new ordeal.

They had to peel the crusted tights off of my bloody knees.

I remember my grandfather very sternly telling me that he had to do this, there was no other way and I just had to be brave.

I probably wasn’t.

I hated tights after that.

I hated the bus.

And I loathed that puppy dog purse.

Rather than blaming the children who had pushed me, or recognizing that the incident was an accident, I put all of the blame for the mishap on that purse. That adorable. Sweet. Fluffy. Deadly. Purse. It was innocent, but so was I. There was no one to blame. No guilty party. But the purse took the fall, literally.

And it, and its subsequent Christmas descendants, were never used again.

Top Ramen


It seems as though Top Ramen has always been a part of my life. Or at least since I was twelve years old. When I was that age I was friends with the most popular girl in school. This did not make me the second most popular girl. Or the third. Or even the fourth. Let’s just cut to the chase. It did not mean that I was also a popular girl. It simply made me a lucky girl. Because everyone loved Nikki. She always had a smile. For everyone. And she had a mom who let her have an infinite amount of friends over to spend the night. So many of us from different social levels all gathered together to have this common ground.


I truly believe Nikki was the reason our school had no social structure. Everybody accepted everybody. In a class of over seven hundred, this was no small feat. But there was not a social class system in our school like I have viewed in movies and through the experience of my own children. With Nikki, you could be a fellow cheerleader or a nerd and you would have the same smile granted to you and the same feeling of specialness in the inevitable following hug.


One night when we were sleeping over, her mother made all of us girls dinner. It was chicken flavored top ramen. I had been spending the night at Nikki’s house since I was eight years old, but this was the first time I had been served this meal. It was. The. Best. Thing. I. Ever. Had. I remember having seconds. And thirds. Never had I tasted such flavors. I told my mother about this intriguing new dish the next day and she just smiled. Top Ramen was never something we carried in our home.

But at Nikki’ house, we could have it whenever we wanted.

And we did. It was special. I did not view it then nor do I view it now as the cheap dish it is portrayed to be.

To this day I still love Top Ramen.

I still love Nikki.

We stayed friends throughout high school.

On May 6th. Of our junior year. Two days before her seventeenth birthday. Her boyfriend shot and killed her.

She was head cheerleader. Class Treasurer. The girl who had a smile for everyone.

It was devastating.

Is devastating.

I think of Nikki often. There will be a time when I will write more of her. But today is not that day. Her memory deserves more than a Top Ramen post. Writing about her breaks my heart. However, I could not help but share her today as I sit and eat such a simple meal. A treat associated with cheapness. With sacrifice. And simplicity.

I feel sorry for people who think of Top Ramen that way.

For every time.

Every single time I eat it, I am transported back to a kitchen. Of a surprise meal. A sweet smile. An angelic friend. Black hair. Brown eyes. Laughter. Tears.

Top Ramen might be simple to most.

But to me, it will always be rich in memories.

Dear Children: First Day Of School 2014


I was informed over the summer that I do not know what junior high school boy’s fashion looks like. This might surprise you, but I am going to take that as a compliment. For many reasons.

I also learned this summer that I love sleep. Okay. This is not new. But gosh, I am going to miss late summer mornings. On the first day of school, I sobbed all of the way home after dropping you off and then crawled into bed and took a nap with your daddy. Just so you know this has continued for the last two days. It is my new favorite thing. A nap after waking. Although is that a nap? Or was my brief awake time merely a walking snooze?

Let us recount the first day of school for those of us not in our household:

I had thought the morning was going well. One child was out the door. I only had one to go. I thought it was the easy one. My daughter had needed me to flat iron her hair, help with her make-up and scrutinize her clothing skin exposure earlier in the morning. Okay, the last one was unwanted. But I cannot help it. I am a mom.

So, I thought I could cruise through the remainder of the morning with my son. All he had to do was put on a t-shirt and pants. Easy.


Well, the kid has been living in his pajamas and swim trunks for the last week. He went to put on his new first day of school shorts.

They would not button.

Not only would they not button. The button-hole and the button were so far apart it was The Grand Canyon Of Skin between them. What to do?

He unexpectedly had had a huge growth spurt and all of his pants suddenly did not fit. It was ten minutes before we had to leave.

Well, no big deal, I thought. I always purchase the next size up in pants on huge discounts when I see them. I pulled out a larger size replica of the shorts he had outgrown. They had been $6 at The Gap last year and still had the tags attached to them. They also surprisingly sported a large crusty yellow stain across the lower thigh when I went to take the tags off. This probably explains the low price and definitely explains the scream you heard from my house on Wednesday morning. There was no time to wash them. I hastily, and with great stress, found another pair in a drawer.

Note to self: next year have all of the first day of school outfits inspected and tried on before you have ten minutes to get to the school.

So, let us skip the remainder of the day (Nap. Eat. Nap. Worry) and get to the part where my children recounted their day to me over dinner:

Me to my son: “What was the best part of your day today?”

My son: “I really like my computer teacher.”

Me: “What do you like best about him?”

My son: “I love the chairs in his classroom.”

Me: “What?”

My son: “The chairs in his classroom. They swivel.”

Me: “The thing you like best about your teacher is his swivel chairs?”

My son: “Well, yea, and he has a cool classroom.”

And by cool classroom, he means a room filled with computers and swivel chairs. He lucked into his perfect elective. And hopefully not a swivel-chair-concussion.

I turned to my daughter and asked her the same question I had just asked my son, “What was the best part of your day today?”

My daughter: “Definitely the professional hugger at the pep rally.”

Me: “What the heck is a professional hugger?”

My daughter: “I don’t know but he made me cry.”

Me: “Because he hugged you?”

My daughter: “No, ugh, Mom! Because he gave the best speech.”

Me: “Did he hug anybody?”

My daughter: “No. Mom! There were hundreds of people there.”

Me: “Well, I would expect nothing less from a professional hugger. Hmmmm. I want to be hugged by a professional hugger. Maybe I am a professional hugger, only I don’t even know it because I can’t hug myself. Hug me. Let me know how I measure up.”

My daughter: “Mom! He didn’t hug me!”

Me: “Yes, I know. But as a professional hugger he must have looked very huggable so I bet you could imagine how he hugs. So just compare that to this.”

My daughter running away: “Mom!…”

That about sums it up. Swivel chairs and professional huggers. The first day of school is always full of surprises. I had started to cry that morning and my son had stopped me and said, “Mom. Don’t be that mom.”

He doesn’t know that I am always that mom.

This is a tough transitional year for me. I no longer have children in elementary school. And I never will again. No hallways decorated with sunshine faces. No noodle plates. Or Mother’s Day Teas. I have had to splinter my heart with a leftover noodle when a hole burst open from the dried-out Elmer’s glue that had been holding it together.

To my children:

Last year was an amazing school year.

You daughter, found your footing in high school and I trust in your growing maturity to continue to thrive. I am amazed at your generous spirit. Your ability to speak to anyone without fear. You surpassed me with your efficient order many years ago. Of papers. Plans. Life. You never judge and are always fair. I strive for your morals. I worry that you take on too much. An imperfectionist raising a perfectionist is my greatest challenge on my journey as your mother. You are inspiring.

You son, ended your early-childhood schooling with amazing grades and a vocabulary that I envy. You started a brand new school this year. With deodorant. Growth spurts. And a wise acceptance of change. I worry about your organizational skills that you unfortunately earned from your parents. But I have faith that you will do what you always do and breeze through your education as you gather every leaf on the tree of knowledge without ever seeming to need the wind to help you soar.

Good luck, my children. I am proud of you. Work hard. And may the Air of Wisdom be always a presence at your back and an easy whisper in your ear.


Mommy (sorry. Forgot. It is probably just Mom now)

That Mom

Dear Children: Halfway


Today you have to go back to school after your long winter break. I just want to wring my hands and cry. I am not ready for you to go back. I have enjoyed every single moment of you being at home with me. Please don’t tell anyone this. I am afraid they will kick me out of Lazy-Mothers-R-Us. Although I was always too lazy to go to those meetings anyway (Do they even have meetings? Does the imaginary club I invented in my head carry on secret meetings? Must find this out…someday).


How is this school year halfway over?

The other night we spoke of homeschooling. Not seriously. I am not equipped to take on such a task. First, my knowledge is not up to par with today’s standards. Second, because I fear that we would have one hour of studying and seven hours of recess. Because that is what I am good at. This is perhaps why both of you were so gung-ho with the idea.

I asked you both what subject I would be capable of teaching and you both replied, “cooking.”

Awwww… Yes. Who needs math or english or science?

Let’s just all major in mashed potatoes.

Do they give scholarships for that?

Is it paid in potatoes or butter?


We are halfway through. But it means so much more than that. It means that in six months I will officially have no children in elementary school. Both of your schools will have the word “high” in them. I cannot see why, as it makes me feel so low.

And old.


It means that in six months, you, my daughter, will only have three years left at home with us. Three years! How am I ever going to manage this? It makes me want to hide in bed and never leave. And on some days I do just that. The idea of you leaving me is as foreign as the languages I will never homeschool you in.

Last night we gathered together backpacks and binders. Old lunches were found buried in the bottom of bags. A pleasant reminder as to why I joined Lazy-Mothers-R-Us in the first place. Inventory was taken and it seems that of the 2,587,463 pencils I purchased you at the beginning of the year, we have two left. Two! It also seems that both of your folders have been gnawed on and chewed then spit back out and mauled again. How else to explain the full lunches in both of your bags and the decrepit state of your folders? Maybe I’m not qualified to teach you cooking after all.


That is the status of my heart right now. Frozen between breaking in your absence and rejoicing in your return. It is in a stasis period. It seems to be the only thing not moving. For Time certainly has not stopped.

June. I try not to curse on this blog, but there never was such a bad four letter word as that one. The end of the school year. I always think of it as the end of yet another year that you will be with us. But maybe I am viewing this all wrong. It is, basically, the very beginning of a whole summer spent at home with me.

Maybe June isn’t such a bad word. In fact, maybe halfway isn’t either. Maybe this school year is halfway full instead of halfway empty. Oh, never mind, that analogy is useless with anything other than a glass.


Well, we are here whichever it may be. And, I, for one, am not even halfway ready for it.

Is it too late to stay home and make mashed potatoes?

I heard they taste better than binders.

And tears.