All the Pretty Little Horses, I mean Elephants.

Princess Amália of the Moon and Stars and her favorite friend, Charlie Crow.

Princess Amália of the Moon and Stars and her favorite friend, Charlie Crow.


Me: (walking into Hank and Molly’s shared bedroom toting a towel draped Molly, clearing my throat loudly) Ah, hum… Presenting for his highness Hank, Prince of Giggles and Warts…

Hank: And warts?

Me: Her Royal Highness Amália, Princess of the Moon and Stars! (muted trumpet heralding sounds)

Hank: (already in his pajamas, already in bed, clapping)

Molly: (wrapped in a towel, waving) Hello!

Hank: Hello, Princess Amália.

Molly: (pointing to herself) Amália, Princess (nodding).

Me: And tonight we are here by royal decree to bedeck Princess Amália in pajamas, as Prince Hank has already done and ferry her forth to dream land where she shall settle a diplomatic matter between Pulsars and Aurora Borealis to see who has jurisdiction over the northern most quadrant of the Milky Way. It will be quite a tense negotiation as the Borealis believe because they are also known as The Northern Lights they should rule. All rather tricky and important, you see.

Molly: (dramatic) Sky awake. (arm draped over her forehead) I awake. We have to play. (nodding)

Hank: Did she just recreate Frozen?

Me: Every single day. We talk a lot about The Northern Lights, the Princess and I.  I am her royal counsel during these negotiations. The Princess first became aware of the Borealis while learning the story of her cousins Princess Anna and Queen Elsa of Arendelle.

Molly: (while being stuffed into pajamas) Mama? Sing no cry song? Elephants?

Hank: Elephants?

Me: You want me to sing the song about not crying to elephants?

Molly: Sim (yes).

Me: Do I know this song?

Molly: (nodding) Sim (yes).

Me: And I have sung this song to you before?

Molly: (nodding)

Hank: I don’t remember an elephant song.

Molly: Hush. Elephants. No crying.

Me: Ooooh. Do you mean (singing), Hush-a-bye don’t you cry, go to sleep my little baby?

Molly: (delighted) SIM (YES)!

Me: (continuing) When you wake you will find, all the pretty little horses.

Molly: Elephants.

Me: The song has always been horses.

Molly: (adamant) Elephants.

Me: For you, Princess, anything, but only if you are polite and respectful and say…

Molly: Elephants, peas. Thank you. (nodding)

Me: (carrying the sleepy Princess of the Moon and Stars to the rocking chair)
Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry,
Go to sleep my little baby.
When you wake you shall have
All the pretty little elephants.
Black and bays, dapples, grays,
All the pretty little elephants.
Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry,
Go to sleep my little baby.
When you wake you shall have
All the pretty little elephants.



The Toilet Fairy

Telling Molly Stories Behind the Curtains

Telling Molly Stories Behind the Curtains


(midway through a dinner conversation)

Pai: Regardless of when we leave this apartment…

Hank: Never!

Pai: (ignoring him) When we leave and the last box is loaded we will position that discarded toilet right in front of the door to the garage like the Bloomington Toilet Fairy.

Me: With a ribbon! We will go to the car dealership and ask to buy one of those bows they put on cars and just doll that sucker up.

Pai: Yes.

Me: And we’ll all pose for a photo of us holding toilet brushes and making victorious faces.

Pai: (laughing hysterically)

Hank: Who is the Bloomington Toilet Fairy?

Me: Long before you were born when I still had my cool card, which I lost in 2007.

Pai: She lost the card when you were born.

Me: When you were born they snatched my cool card away and said now you are a member of the mommy club, bah-bye.

Hank: Really?

Me: Figuratively. Anyway, for a time in back in good old Bloomington, Indiana there was a Toilet Fairy that under the cover of darkness in the deepest, sleepiest veil of night would creep up to your house and leave a toilet on your front lawn with a lovely little note saying that you had been visited by the Toilet Fairy and they had blessed your life with this commode and if you wanted to have the toilet removed all you had to do was make some creative art installation with it, write a poem about it, write a song on it, etc. And when you had gotten all artsy-fartsy, see what I did there?

Pai: Puntastic.

Me: The Toilet Fairy would be pleased and return to fetch it.

Hank: Why would anyone ever do that?

Me: Mischief and also probably they were stuck with a toilet for the same reasons we are stuck with a toilet in our garage. When you have to replace a toilet like we did a few years ago you have to pay to have that toilet taken away to a landfill. There is no way of recycling ceramic. And when the plumbers asked me what I wanted done with the old toilet once they had installed the new one I didn’t know because this isn’t my house, I am a renter, so I hesitated and they bolted out the door saving their company the fee for the disposal and that annoyed our landlord and we had a bit of a disagreement so forever that toilet shall live in our garage as a reminder that NO ONE WANTS TO PAY €5 TO HAVE A TOILET REMOVED FROM OUR LIVES INCLUDING US ON PRINCIPAL.

Pai: So when we leave this apartment we should channel out inner Toilet Fairy and make it a piece of art so that when our landlords open our garage door they are met with the toilet no one wanted all artsy-fartsy with in a bow.

Me: (chewing, nodding, proud he reused my pun)

Hank: Did the toilet fairy ever bring you the toilet, mama?

Me: Nope. I was spared. Also my front yard was on a huge hill with stairs and no one wants to lug a heavy toilet up stairs in the middle of the night also it turned out the Toilet Fairy was a good friend of mine.

Hank: Really?

Me: Oh yes. I think I was the last to figure this out because I was kissing your papa at the time so therefore extremely distracted from what the other card carrying members of the cool club were up to, but it turned out the Toilet Fairy was none other than my childhood friend, Margaret. Margaret worked at the cool club’s signature coffee shop so she always knew who was working on their submissions for the Toilet Fairy because the victim would walk into the coffee shop everyday complaining or bragging about all the work they were putting into their submission for removal and there Margaret would be, pouring coffee, making smoothies and juicing apples and ginger before it was cool and no one was the wiser for a long time and then suddenly everyone knew and the jig was up.

Pai: Good times.

Hank: Were you a member of the cool club, papa?

Pai: Nope. Just your mother. And Lyuba. I was a nerd.

Hank: And what I want to know is what kind of card was it? Was it like a drivers license with your picture or a library card? Who made the cards? Did you have a machine like at my swimming school?

Pai: Remember the definition of literal vs figurative?

Hank: Yes.

Pai: Mom’s cool card was figurative.

Hank: (disappointed) Oh.

Me: But now I am thinking we should have capitalized on that cool card concept and bought a laminator and collected dues and held monthly mischief meetings with the planning comity. Boat missed.

Hank: I really wanted there to be an actual, literal card. I was imagining that someone knocked on your door when I was a little baby and asked for your card back and you had to get your purse and everything and the member of the cool club would offer to hold me while you got your card out.

Pai: That would have never happened in America. They would have stood in the doorway while your mother juggled you and her purse awkwardly.  America isn’t like Portugal. They are weird about babies.

Me: That would have been a much better and slightly more traumatic ending to the story of my cool card. Alas, loosing it was more of a slow fade to black and then a triumphant move to Europe where we lived happily ever after. The End.

Hank: With an unwanted toilet in our garage.

Me: With an unwanted toilet in our garage.



Pai was away for five days to a conference in Vienna and brought Hank a Sachertorte as a present.

Pai was away for five days to a conference in Vienna and brought Hank a Sachertorte as a present.


Hank: Mama?

Me: (laying down to quiet my poor nerves) Hum?

Hank: I am sorry to disturb you.

Me: You are never a disturbance, Hank.

Hank: Okay, but it’s time for my present from Vienna, Austria and I thought you’d want to see it.

Me: Oh yes, I do! (getting up gingerly)

Hank: Do you need help?

Me: Nope, but I need my camera. Conference presents are like Christmas presents.

Hank: (waiting to walk with me to the table) When I grow up I want a job where I get to go to conferences like papa.

Me: Conferences mean an endless stream of tote bags and monogramed pens as well as professional development and the interchange of ideas in your field.

Hank: Do writers and artists have conferences?

Me: Certainly.

Pai: It’s time!

Me: Shall I make some tea?

Pai: Let’s open this first. (presenting Hank with a wrapped package) I bought this for Hank in a beautiful chocolate shop in downtown Vienna, Anzinger Confiserie.

Hank: It is big so I think I am going to share it. I don’t know yet, but I think I am. I don’t feel selfish yet.

Me: (giggling) Save the paper. Oh Hank, look at this beautiful paper. When life used to be all goods were wrapped in paper. Everything was a present.

Hank: Yes, I will save it and put it in my special Sarabeth Noodle-Made Book***. The one with pockets where I write my secrets.

Pai: You have so many beautiful journals but that one is my favorite.

Me: Mine, too.

Hank: Mama, help me open this so I don’t rip the paper.

Me: With pleasure. Look how fine the illustrations are.

Hank: Was this shop by your hotel, papa?

Pai: Sort of. There was a wonderful granny working at the shop and she had been to Algarve and Lisbon and she helped me pick out your treat. This is very special and very traditional to Vienna. She was very helpful. I was just going to get you some chocolates but she helped me change my mind.

Hank: OH! Look at the box! I am going to keep this box forever.

Me: Classy.

Hank: (popping the lid) Oh papa!

Me: How lovely.

Hank: I can’t wait. Thank you, papa!

Molly: CAKE! Quero (I want) CAKE!!! CAKE!

Hank: Papa, you cut it I don’t want to mess it up it is so pretty.

Pai: Alright.

Hank: This I have to share with everyone.

Me: Very generous of you, buddy.

Molly: CAKE!

Pai: (slicing) I don’t think you sister would give you another choice.

Molly: CAAAAKKKKEEE! (pointing)

Pai: (doling out slices to everyone leaving himself for last)

Hank: (not waiting and diving in)

Me: (following his lead)

Molly: (shoving practically a whole slice in her mouth)

Pai: (just sitting down to his piece)

Hank: (mouth full) Um…

Me: (mouth full, laughing)

Molly: (spatting out half of the cake from her mouth)

Pai: What?

Me: (genuine belly laughing, unable to answer)

Hank: Um… Well.

Pai: Don’t tell me… (tasting the cake)

Me: (laughing tears into my eyes)

Pai: (throwing down his fork) It’s not fresh.

Hank: It was probably great when it was fresh, but it is dry now.

Me: (reading the box lid) Is Sachertorte German for mediocre? (return to belly laughing)

Pai: I am sorry, Hank. Argh. This is like Fatima all over again.

Hank: What is like Fatima?

Me: When your Grammy Kate and Grandpa Snitch visited Portugal the first time from America we took them to the holy city of Fatima and after visiting we stopped into a shop selling traditional Portuguese cakes. It wasn’t a proper pastelaria (pastry shop), but like a pop-up shop on our way to the car and they had boxes and boxes of seemingly yummy offerings so we over bought because your Pai wanted to give is sogros (In-Laws) a taste of the finer things of Portugal and when we got on the road we dipped into the sweets and everything was stale. They committed the biggest sin in Portugal in the holiest of places: selling stale pastry that should have been thrown away.

Pai: I have never recovered. I was so upset that I had been fooled. Just like now.

Hank: It’s fine, papa. How did you know? You couldn’t know. That granny lied to you and maybe she didn’t know, too.

Me: You got hustled, my love. She was a cake hustler.

Pai: (utterly defeated) Damn it. She was so nice.

Me: Did she up sell you?

Pai: YES!

Me: Yup, you got cake hustled. She needed to move that product. I bet she made her numbers that day.

Hank: The day this cake was made it was great and that is what I am imagining.

Me: Tea? Milk? I think I have cake stuck in my esophagus. (pounding my chest)

Hank: Tea will make this cake great. I love my present, papa, thank you.

Pai: (shaking his head, defeated) She was so nice.

Me: (from the kitchen) She was a cake hustler. You got played.

Molly: No quero cake. (I don’t want cake) Que Nojo (super gross).

Pai: (retrieving her plate before she pitches the cake to the floor) Hey, it’s not that bad, Amália.

Molly: B-yuck.

Me: (returning with the tea box) Kettle is on and who wants milk? (both Molly and Hank’s arms shoot into the air)

Pai: I am so disappointed.

Hank: I’m not. We made a memory and someday when we all visit Vienna we can go to this shop and stand outside and not buy a thing and remember this day.

Me: That is a great idea, Hank.

Pai: I would have preferred if we loved the cake and then had another reason to visit the shop again. Man.

Hank: It’s fine!

Me: (singing on my way back into the kitchen for the kettle and the milk) You can’t always get what you want, but you can try sometimes and you just might find, you get what you neeheed!


*** We are blessed with a very lovely family friend Sarabeth Noggle (which Hank has always called Noodle) who is a print maker and a book maker and an artist of all sorts and who made Hank a very special hand bound journal that he treasures and keeps all his secrets in.