ayearinthecaymans

our family adventure


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Last week was the first week back-to-school and Nora Ruth started first grade! Although she was a little disappointed not to have all of the same friends in her class this year, she quickly recouped and has all of the enthusiasm for school this year that she has had in past years. She loves her new teacher, Ms. Sherry, and she is feeling a little more grown-up in first grade. We decided not to send Alliene to school this year because her nursery program expanded to ‘PreK-3′ and the time commitment was a little heavier and I’m not willing to give up that much time with her. Her first reaction to the news that she wouldn’t be going to school was, “Yay!”, but I worried that all of the first-week-of-school excitement would be catching and she would be disappointed. So far, so good and she is happy to be at home with me.

Clif started school this Monday and even though he was studying and fulfilling some ‘shadowing’ requirements last week, we managed to have some fun for those last few hours of freedom. On Wednesday night we drove halfway across the island to eat supper at Vivine’s Kitchen. Meals cooked in someone’s personal kitchen, served on their back porch, and cooked just the way your Momma or your Grandma would sounds a bit like some excellent places you’d find to eat in the South, right? We ordered: Red Bean Soup, Fried Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken, and Oxtail…and a piece of Cassava cake and Rum Cake. It sounds like a lot of food, but the Scott’s are always up for that kind of challenge.

On Saturday morning, we took the kids to the beach and went looking for some parasailing! While we were waiting for the boat to arrive, NR and I swam out to Governor’s Reef. NR is a more than capable swimmer and she’s an expert at using her mask, snorkel, and fins. Watching her dive 15 feet down in that beautiful blue water to swim after the Sargent Majors and Blue Tangs and Angelfish is a vision I will always cherish. The neatest fish we saw that day were a French Angelfish and a Cowfish..and we found a really nice sea urchin shell to add to our collection. We swam back to shore just in time to run away from a storm so no parasailing but we will be doing it soon!

We also had time last week for several bike rides on the new bypass road that is still closed to car traffic. After the third trip, Alliene was officially a bike-rider! She also had her first official case of road rash, but after the tears were over she seemed quite proud of her wounds.

The big news with Thomas is that he is talking. And talking. And talking. I can’t believe I have another conversationalist on my hands. Did I take a vow of silence in a former life that I am now making up for in “how’s?” and “why’s?” and “how many’s?”? I took most of this video (Thomas Talks) back in July before we took our trip to Mississippi….back when all of the talking was new (and cute) (and exciting). I did take two new videos this week to add to the mix because 1. He said “Mississippi” (“sippi”) and 2. he melts my heart when he says his own name. He actually introduced himself to a little girl on the soccer field yesterday. Granted she was eating a snack and that’s probably all he wanted but he stood in front of her and said, “I. Thomas.” He’s also really big into “me” and “mine” but at least he is still saying them in the interrogative only!

 


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Fast Forward

Busy is a useless word in my world these days. I need to upgrade to the word “eventful”. And last week was eventful. So eventful that I’m going to give you all a quick fast forward of the rest of our summer and skip right on into the present. Here ya go…

1. We finally recovered from the Summer plague.

2. The kids and I flew to Mississippi at the end of July to spend two weeks with friends and family. Thomas was a little terrorist the whole way home and I vowed I would send him back to Cayman cargo-class in a cage.

3. The girls had an amazing time in Mississippi. The biggest events were horseback riding (for Allie) and tennis (for NR) organized by Poppy. We also had several chances to play (and swim, mostly) with our friends and cousins.

4. We flew back to Cayman August 10th and Clif’s parents, Nana and Geeds, came home with us for a week! We spent the week doing all of the best tourist stuff: Starfish Point, Rum Point, Stingray City, snorkeling, the pirate caves, and just ‘beaching-it’ in general.

5. For Nora Ruth’s final week of Summer vacay, Clif was also on a break so we really enjoyed some family time and some one-on-one time with the kids. Clif played tennis with Nora Ruth, I took Allie for some bike-riding practice and lunch, we took both of the girls snorkeling, and there was lots of wrestling-practice for Thomas (Daddy is much better at this than I am).

Whew. I will do my best to get our first-week-of school update posted soon.


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If summer vacation were a play it would be a play in three acts. Act I would be ‘Epidemic: in Which we spend a fortune at the doctor’s office”, Act II would be ‘Next time we will put a photo ID around Thomas’ neck and put him on a separate flight to Mississippi’, and Act III is ‘We’ve got our Daddy back- at least for a little while!’

We have exactly one week before Nora Ruth starts 1st grade and two weeks before Clif starts his next semester at Saint Matthews. I am feeling a little pressed for time. My biggest worry is that the black hole that is school and schedules and life is about to suck my eldest baby up for good but everyday continues to be an adventure and I have so little time to get my act together and update you on all of the fun we’ve had this summer before I’m a season behind.

So the kickoff to our summer was unpleasant with coughs, colds, and drugs for weeks on end. It really did take a while for all of that to dissipate and in the meantime I grew pretty tired of waiting around for everyone to be 100%. At the end of the school year I bought a small, spiral-bound guide book to Camana Way, the walking path at the entrance to Camana Bay. The path is planted with many native species of plants and the guide book helps you locate the plants and describes how each plant was used in the past as well as its environmental value to the island.

I had very big plans for this book and we started our first trek through Camana Way in earnest but it wasn’t too long before I discovered that I could not decipher the book, answer a billion questions from the girls, swat the mosquitos, keep Thomas somewhere on the path between the lizard poo and the busy road, and wipe the sweat on my forehead fast enough to keep from dripping on and ruining my handy new book. It was so freakin’ hot out there!

Of course my eldest is most excited about plants with berries or larger, fruit-like objects than can be pulled off for inspection and, she hopes, tasted. I have to make a quick detour here and tell you that her hunter-gatherer instinctive fire was quelled several weeks ago when she swallowed a guinep seed. The guinep fruit is jelly-like, surrounds a rather large pit, and is really a yummy sweet-sour combo. It grows on a large tree that resembles a hackberry tree across the fence from our backyard. Our friend, Carmelita, who hails from Guiana, grew up eating guineps and introduced us to the fruit. Carmelita is very wary about giving the little kids guineps as they are easy to swallow and/or choke on. Nora Ruth was obviously worried about the seed, and in fact she told me several times that her tummy hurt. Clif and I decided that we should ‘check’ to make sure that the guinep seed found its way out again and Nora Ruth began running to the bathroom every 10 minutes; she was very anxious to see it gone.

A sweltering hot, summer day on Camana Way, with the guinep seed-swallowing incident looming in her near future, Nora Ruth was hoping for a taste of any and every berry on that path. She finally pointed to a lantern-like, orange berry growing on a small tree and I wiped sweat, turned pages, and made the occasional dash after Thomas until finally I located the tree in my book. It was called Eugenia Uniflora or Surinam Cherry and the description said, “Tasty fruit, high in vitamin C”. The kids were delighted but I insisted that we ‘google’ first then eat.  Google confirmed that Surinam cherries are edible and full of vitamin C. We sampled different shades- from orange to deep red and found that the deep-red berries were sweetest. Although the cherries are sweet, they are also quite tart and have a complex flavor. We also discovered that the pits were much more difficult to extract than those of a regular cherry.

We visited Camana Way several more times, always most excited to check for ripe cherries, and finally one day in mid-July we found the trees were loaded with dark red cherries and we filled our bucket. The girls wanted to make a cherry cobbler, but the pits were so difficult to remove that our cherries were quite squished and didn’t seem suited for cobbler. Plan B was hatched. Nora Ruth and I made a compote one afternoon and I baked it into the bottom of a chocolate cheesecake later that night. Chocolate cheesecake is about as good as it gets, so its hard to say how essential the cherry compote was, but I’m pretty sure these three loved it.


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He was loved.

We sold my brother’s house this week. Almost five years since his death, a year or more on the market, and three years of holding on to a place that was both full and empty of him. So many things that I didn’t want and didn’t want out of place. Something about losing Taylor so quickly and so surprisingly and so violently made me feel like maybe it just. didn’t. happen.  And I imagined that, for awhile anyway, his things and his house being in their proper place were evidence of a sweet but impossible truth.

The farther time marches, my baby brother’s memory is more and more distant. I last knew him as an enthusiastic, indecisive, openhearted, impetuous 25 year-old and the 30-year old that he would be today is a mystery to me.  He made me so angry sometimes but I counted on him- his smile, his company, his help, his uncomfortably-tight hugs, and the fact that he loved me no matter what and would always take care of me. When I was 21 and he was 18 we had a massive argument which concluded in my yelling, “Just make it better, Taylor, and say you’re sorry!.” It ended, not because he followed my older-sibling order to apologize but because he was laughing too hard (and maybe a bit bitterly) at the older sister he knew so completely and couldn’t help loving.

Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s acquittal have brought back memories from a despairing, frustrating, dead-end time. At the very middle of this maze of memories and feelings is the moment when the world turned upside down as I learned of Taylor’s death one cold Monday morning, early. Then followed a very murky several hours of disbelieving, grieving, praying, and waiting for some answer from law enforcement as to what happened, a revelation.

But the tragic events the detective summarized for us that morning were beyond my wildest imaginings. What did he mean Taylor forced his way into a man’s home? We knew that his truck had struck a tree in front of the home, but why had he broken in? And how was it possible that Taylor had killed a man? With the man’s own gun? And how could a second man have appeared with another gun to kill my baby brother with not one, but two gunshots? And then, with all of the facts as clear as mud we were dismissed. Not questioned or interviewed or promised further clarity but dismissed.

The Castle Doctrine is the Stand Your Ground Law for your home and it is the reason that Taylor’s death was a justifiable homicide. Taylor did not bring a gun or any other weapon into this home but investigators determined that his actions presented a serious threat of bodily harm or death to the two men present and the two guns pulled on my brother were a justified course of action, as was his death.

Although I typically don’t use it, I wish to keep my right to bear arms. Despite the circumstances of Taylor’s death, I’ve maintained that the freedoms protected by the Castle Doctrine are imperative and having to accept that one man was allowed to be Taylor’s jury, judge, and executioner is the lesser of two evils. Until now. Trayvon’s death, the question of where the aggression between he and Zimmerman began,  and the fact that only one man is left to tell the story has haunted me. Especially over the last two weeks as the entire world became privy to every investigative detail.

I’ve been pouring through those details, almost obsessively, with a twinge of jealousy and bitterness. Jealous that a self-serving, fickle media and racial politics could inspire this amount of investigation, attention and, most importantly, answers; the investigation and answers that I was waiting for on a cold October morning. But as I watched hours of testimony on Youtube  I realized that Trayvon’s family, like ours, still doesn’t have the answers. Even if Trayvon attacked & beat George Zimmerman, and I do believe that he did, he had a reason, a motive. Was he just being a mean-spirited, unruly “punk”, did he feel threatened, and how many other possibilities are there? The only answers that would satisfy our collective conscience and legitimize our cleaving to our right to self-defense would have to come from Trayvon himself.

And what if Trayvon had survived? What if he had wrestled the gun from and shot Zimmerman? Would he be defending his right to stand his ground against a neighbor whose initial intent was just to ‘check him out’ but who happened to be armed? What if, what if, what if. If I say this every time I think about my brother’s violent death, surely George Zimmerman says it every time he takes a deep breath and remembers that he is still alive.

I’ve listened to Root, Di Maio, Good, Singleton, Serino, Jeantel, and Noffke. I’ve watched the police video of Zimmerman re-enacting the events at the scene the day after he shot Trayvon. I’ve read his police statement, the autopsy report, and I’ve listened to his 9-1-1 call, both in its entirety and also in the media-spliced adaptation. I’ve read articles debating the legitimacy of the FL State attorney’s affidavit of probable cause and accusing her of filling the affidavit for political gain. I’m exhausted but I think I know now that Trayvon, and Taylor, did not have to die. Their killer-victims made a choice; and I don’t need Stand-Your-Ground or the Castle Law if, God forbid, one day I find myself in a position to make that same choice.

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Summertime and the living is…

easy? Not yet. My house has been infested with sick kids for the last two weeks. Nora Ruth came down with a cough on the Monday of the last week of school and on Tuesday she actually requested to stay home from school. Well, I knew that wasn’t a good sign. She also complained a couple of  times about an earache but since she had no fever I didn’t think much of it. By the time Wednesday arrived she was desperate to get back to school, despite the fact that her cough had not subsided, because she realized that the summer-time clock was ticking. I dropped her off with a word of warning to her teacher and, sure enough, around 11 I got the call that she was in the office complaining of an earache.

“She says she’s had it for a few days,” was the haughty yet indirect reprimand I received over the phone. If you’ve ever had a supercilious school secretary peer down her nose at you and reluctantly hand you the school phone as you are bleeding out your nose and ears then you know the voice. And I have to say, its almost as traumatizing as an adult as it was when I was a kid!

Outer ear infection was the diagnosis and she was back at school (she wouldn’t have it any other way) on Wednesday and also to celebrate the last half-day of school on Thursday. Alliene also had a last half-day of school, complete with party, on Thursday. I just can’t believe how much they’ve both grown and changed in the last 9 months.

There was more cause for excitement as my mom arrived on Thursday; in fact, we left school and headed straight for the airport to meet her plane. Things were looking up for a few days until Friday night/Saturday morning when Thomas woke us with a horrible, croupy, cough. While he recovered from the croup within a day, the cough has been here to stay since then and Allie eventually came down with it, too. I’m tired of whining about sick so suffice it to say that as of today all three of my kids are on meds for ear infections (Nora Ruth’s on a second round!) and  we are avoiding public places as we’re not the family you want to sit next to at a restaurant with our hacking and nose-blowing.

So what’s the best thing you can do with three sick, but possibly recovering, kids? Throw them on a plane and head for Miami, of course! Mom and I have been planning this little summer get-away for awhile and the kids were pumped to get off the island and go to the Miami Zoo. The kids had a great time: loved staying in a hotel, loved camping out in a room all together, loved riding the camel and the carousel at the zoo, loved our hotel’s rooftop pool, loved eating out, loved the airport train & moving sidewalks, loved the rental Impala, loved the flavored water in the hotel lobby, loved fighting over elevator buttons, loved watching PBS kids from their hotel bed, loved meeting and chatting up strangers, loved chewing gum on the plane, loved being buckled in by hotel valet, loved window shopping in Coconut Grove, loved riding the family bike around the Miami Zoo, and just loved the general excitement of having an adventure.

Now that the big adventure is over and the antibiotics, tylenol, and cough medicine are flowing freely at my house, I am pining for a nice, quiet morning at the beach or, better yet, a full night’s sleep. On Friday afternoon we took our snotty noses, our tylenol-controlled fevers, and our rattly coughs to Barker’s Beach for a treasure hunt and picnic. Sick or not, we have to make hay while the sun shines… only 62 days of Summer left!


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Birthday #6

Where did you go, May? Maybe it seemed so evanescent because the rainy season arrived- steam and all. We live in the land of eternal Summer and the word summer here isn’t so much a season as it is a holiday and an end to the school term.  I have been “winding down” for a solid four weeks. The wind-down started immediately after Nora Ruth’s sixth birthday party which took place on May 18th, ten days after her birthday. It was a fantastic event, shared with two friends, that couldn’t have been more perfect or memorable for her. But more about that later.

First I want to whine about how quickly May and the previous 72 months have come and gone. Seriously. Five was different because I could still claim that she was a mature 5-year old but six is the real deal. We are now having discussions about bikinis, pierced ears, sleep-overs, and growing her hair out long. She’s reading (no more sending her to pick up my phone when it beeps with a text), telling time (thank goodness we have a little ways to go before she masters this one), and oh-Lord-no…learning how to count money.

There are some advantages to having this crazy-big kid. She can fold and put away all of her own laundry. She reads bedtime stories to her baby brother. She gets me when I say nice is more important than fair.

On May 8, 2013 we celebrated Nora Ruth’s 6th birthday first thing in the morning with breakfast donuts. The night before she helped me make Quinoa Chocolate Chip muffins and at the very last minute I decided to ice them before bringing them to school. Thank God I did because I heard more than one classmate muttering, “I only liked the icing…”. Geez you little sugar-fiends, its only 10 am! After school we walked across the street to the West Bay pier for our newest favorite sport…pier-jumping. After a quick rinse, we went out for a family dinner at the Sunshine Grille-cheeseburgers and presents.

Ten days later, we invited all of Nora Ruth’s classmates, and a few extra friends, over to the neighborhood for a Bike Rally. I wish I could claim responsibility for this theme but I have to give all of the credit to my friend, Jody. We stocked supplies for bike decorating and together with the three girls, Nora Ruth, Jody’s daughter Aleena, and another friend, Sofia, we built an obstacle course out of cardboard boxes. The guests decorated their bikes with spoke beads, handlebar tassels, and streamers, then went for a bike parade down our street before arriving back at our driveway to find a colorful obstacle course set up. They rode the course into the ground- literally! Dinner, Cake, and before-bedtime swimming with our best friends and last guests completed the night. It was quite the production, one that Nora Ruth will never forget, and the perfect point in my “school year” to begin winding down.

The girls collected donations for the Cayman Islands Humane Society and had so much fun dropping off the items that their guests donated. If there is one thing that I’m sure we’ve done right these six years it has been this practical and ethical lesson in giving and I encourage all parents to try it. Practically speaking, do you or your kids really want or need that surge of stuff every year? And ethically speaking, we spend hours teaching our kids to share in small ways but this is a way to demonstrate how sharing can be a big, truly meaningful event.

For Nora Ruth’s first birthday, we raised over $7,000.00 for the Deaf Blind Children’s Fund. We had small, family parties for both her second and third birthdays, but when she wanted a birthday party for her fourth birthday it was time to explain our giving philosophy.  At first she was more focused on the fact that she would be receiving gifts from family members but after a visit to our local Humane Society to meet all of the cats and dogs who needed her help she was sold. One of the reasons we chose the Humane Society that year was because it was somewhere she could visit to see the need. The fact that our friends could donate “items” was also important because Nora Ruth and all of her friends could relate to that type of giving better than monetary giving. We recently went through this process again with Alliene in November just before her third birthday and although she is a very different child, her heart and her reaction were just the same. Next year, I’d like to try something different with Nora Ruth and let her choose a charity herself. I know she’ll pick something or someone special and give with all of her heart.

Finally, I’ll leave you with Nora Ruth’s answers to a birthday survey and some pictures of all the fun we had in May. We’re already well on our way to seven. Wish me luck.

  1. What is your favorite color? Pink
  2. What is your favorite toy? Kyra the Fidget (Alliene’s gift to NR this year!)
  3. What is your favorite fruit? Watermelon and cantaloup
  4. What is your favorite movie or show? Barbie Princess Charm School
  5. What’s your favorite game? Duck, Duck, Goose
  6. What’s your favorite snack? Cheese and Apples
  7. What’s your favorite animal? Pugs and kittens
  8. What’s your favorite song? I Enjoy Being a Girl
  9. What’s your favorite book? Skippy Jon Jones

10. What’s your favorite holiday? Christmas

11. What’s your favorite toy to sleep with? Blankie, Hippo, Dolly

12. What do you want to eat for your birthday dinner? Hotdogs

13. What do you want to be when you grow up? A Hairdresser

14. If I were invisible I would…travel to Grand Cayman & Mississippi without a ticket.

15. I’m proud because…I’m spectacular.

16. If I were president I would…tell everyone what to do.

17. I am afraid to…touch a jellyfish.

18. I am good at…reading.

19. To be a good friend means to…help people when they fall, to be helpful, to be nice, to be caring.

20. My favorite time of day is…when I go to sleep at bedtime.

21. Describe your best day ever. When it was my birthday and we had a bike rally party.

22. Climbing trees is…fun.

23. I wish there was a law that said….I could eat as much candy as I want.

24. What makes you feel sad? When somebody isn’t caring to me and takes a book right out of my hand.

25. What makes you feel happy? When somebody hands me a book.

26. Pretend that you can fly whenever you wanted. Where would you go? To Mississippi to see my family.

27. If I could choose a different name, I would choose…Layla.

28. Where do you want to go on vacation?  Disney World

29. What is your favorite thing to do with Mom or Dad? Skate


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The Most Beautiful Word…

I have neglected talking about “private parts” with my girls. Actually, we’ve talked about all of the important stuff except….the anatomically correct names for their private parts.  We’ve discussed that no one else should touch their private parts and that they should not bare their private parts in public (we’ve regressed in this department since moving to Cayman). Talking about “boobies” is no problem, but the word “vagina”, let’s face it, does not exactly roll off the tongue. I know that’s not just me, right?

Observation and classification became a little more precise once Thomas came along and got everyone’s attention with his constant golden shower show. Diapering time was a spectacle and the girls were intrigued, mortified, and of course amused at my complete terror and lack of control and it took just a quick look (before ducking) to know that the source was this odd piece of anatomy that neither of them had seen before. Well, to be honest, Nora Ruth’s first and last close encounter with male equipment was when she caught Clif coming out of the shower and declared, “Daddy! You have a tail!”. First and Last. She was two.

Have I ducked and dodged the question these last several years?  Honestly, I haven’t because neither of the girls has nailed me down with any direct questions and my rule is: if its not said in a clearly interrogative tone, for God’s sake keep your mouth shut and don’t make eye contact. For example, “Thomas sure does have a [long, funny, wiggly, silly] bottom,” or “Mom, Thomas’ bottom is not like mine or Alliene’s.” Technically, there is no question to answer so I just count to ten and hope the moment rolls on by.

Prime example: While we were home in April, Alliene was standing beside me while I was diapering Thomas and she said, “Hey Eoin and Devon [friends, ages 3 and 1] both have one of those,”. My response was affirmative, “You’re right, Alliene, they do.” She comes back with, “Yeah! They all have tails!” One…Two…Three…Four…Not even to five before she skips out of the room.  But the next day, Thomas wanders into the living room without a diaper and just as I am catching up to him, Alliene, who is sitting in Poppy’s lap on the sofa begins a taunting chant, “Thomas has a taaaa-iiill, just like Izzie and Vivvie [mom and dad’s dogs] do!”. I lock eyes with Dad and we silently agree to 1. refrain from laughing and 2. skip the lecture. See, I knew I wasn’t the only parent who avoids this conversation.

So the  word around these parts for penis is “willy”, which is not too bad as words go but I hear it A LOT. Which means my girls probably hear it even more than I care to think about. Last night in the tub, Alliene was well on her way to silly and she asks in her this-side-of-crazy voice through a very mischievous grin, “Is that thing on Thomas’ bottom called a willy?” I knew she had me but what the heck. One…Two…Three…Nora Ruth interrupted with, “Mom, did you hear what Allie said?”

I’ve managed to evade questions like this one for nearly 3 years but you didn’t think I’ve been preparing a brilliant answer in the meantime, did you? “Well, Alliene, some people call it a willy and the real name for it is penis.” Alliene, ever the trail-blazer says, “So I can call it a willy?” while Nora Ruth is mumbling “penis, penis penis” over and over. I am in a tailspin and what I want to say is, “Actually, Alliene, I’d prefer that you not call it anything at all and in fact, please don’t even THINK about it again for another 20 years,” but my mental power outage is brief and when the lights come back on I am in auto-pilot saying, “Remember, girls, we don’t need to talk about private parts with anyone except each other.” My red-headed middle child is determined to turn me prematurely grey with questions like this one, “But can I talk about my willy?” and for a second I thought about ending this 30-minutes-until-bedtime-insanity with, “Sure, knock yourself out talking about your willy, kid,” but duty prevailed. “Thomas’ private part is called a penis, but yours and Nora Ruth’s is called a vagina.”

Well, the child who caused all of this trouble couldn’t have cared less, but the eldest was enthralled with the new word. These kids have a sixth sense for detecting the limits of my comfort zone that cannot be deflected for long. Nora Ruth was downright delighted with herself when she reasoned aloud, “So all girls have a vurgina and all boys have penises.” I didn’t chance saying the word again to correct her, besides I was fretting about how excited she was with this new information and what it meant for the rest of the week’s carpooling arrangement with our neighbors. Guess I’ll be driving my own kids to and from school for the rest of the school year.

One…Two…Three…Four… ”Mommy, vurgina is a bee-you-tiful word. I just love it.” And if you know Nora Ruth, this was said with the exact tone and emotion that Cinderella uses when she finds herself suddenly spinning off to the ball in a beautiful new gown, breathy and melodramatic. So not only have I withheld the most beautiful word for the better part of her life, but I couldn’t bring myself to correct her. Not at 6:45, still in the bathtub, unbrushed teeth, and unread bedtime stories. Not while Alliene, through her teeth-gritting grin, was giggling, “Thomas, is that your willy? I see your willy, Thomas,” while I, also through gritted-teeth, was correcting her, “Alliene, we don’t joke about anyone’s willy.” Besides, vurgina is a beautiful word and vagina is decidedly not.

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