Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tell Me A Story

I love children's stories. The Velveteen Rabbit and The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Alexander who had a crappy day and even the Pat the Bunny, even though I was kind of disappointed when McGee had to point out to me that his name isn't actually Pat. I just thought it was a happy coincidence that you patted Pat the Bunny.

But it speaks to a larger problem that I have, and that is that I'm for crap at telling stories. I think I've read Goodnight Moon about twenty-eleven thousand times. Probably as many times as I've said the Pledge of Allegiance or sang Poker Face in the car. And yet, somehow, I have retained nothing but the first three lines.

In the light of the moon, a little --wait. Holy crap. This isn't even the right story.

Ahem.

In the great green room, there was a telephone, and a red balloon, and a picture of a cow jumping over the moon. And there were three little kittens and a bowl of mittens and...and...mush.

And then my kids are the ones telling me to hush, because I'm ruining their damn story.

And then there are the picture books, which you would think have the advantage of no words to remember, so you can just make up a story as you go along. "Here's Jack, and he seems to really like this yellow outfit he's wearing. Oh, and apparently he has a little monkey -- let's call him Grover Cleveland. So, anyway, Jack is a scientist, and Grover Cleveland probably helps him with his research..."

But nooooooo. The next time we get out this particular book, which is probably a year later, I'm supposed to remember that Jack was in the middle of the cure for cancer and that Grover Cleveland was -- training for the Olympics? Really? I said that? And then the children, particularly Happy, get these looks on their faces like "what is wrong with this woman?"

In my telling, Finklehopper Frog makes it out for his jog, but forgets to stop by Mrs. Chimpanzee's store first...so now he's committing a Class C Misdemeanor by streaking through town. Next book: Finklehopper Frog Goes to Juvie. And poor Santa never made it back up the chimney with the twinkle of his eye and finger up his nose or whatever, so now we've basically kidnapped a jolly man in red velvet and the roof is starting to smell.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk working and Happy came inquiring.

Happy: Mommy, you have a job?
Me: Yep. I sure do.
Happy: What do you do?
Me: I tell stories.
Happy: [looks both confused and alarmed] But...you...no. [shakes head and walks away]

[Editor's note: Kate is very modest but I'm not. I'm super proud of her and you should know that hotshot in high heels is a TV news producer. So technically, she produces stories while she tells them. xo, Lydia]

Soon after, Happy stumbled across his baby album and brought it to me, asking who this baby was that Daddy was holding. I said it was the Boy with the Red Hair and Freckles. And then he sat in my lap for three albums as I weaved a story of the boy who "surprised and delighted his mom and dad by being a boy..." and "took his first bath in the kitchen sink and was so angry that he howled like wolf at the moon..."

Two days later the book was on his bedside table, and he asked -- almost hesitatingly -- if I would tell him the story again. And we slowly flipped through the pages while I recited the tale of the Boy with the Red Hair and Freckles. At the end, Happy patted me on my cheek and said, "You said it just right!"

McGee and Lefty wanted in on this too, and brought their own albums -- The Girl with the Eyes Like the Ocean and The Boy with the Big Round Head. And we snuggled on Happy's bed and I told stories of the shock and surprise when McGee turned out to be a girl and not a boy like we expected, and who loved to wear colanders on her head and shoes that didn't match. And how the world stopped and waited and prayed when the Boy with the Big Round Head was born because he would not breathe...would not breathe...please baby, breathe...and his mommy's eyes filled with tears as she waited...and there was nothing but quiet, quiet, quiet...and the room filled with sadness and no one would talk because no one wanted to say that sad thing out loud. And right as the hope was slipping out the windows and under the doors, the tiniest of tiny cries, a cry that would never have been heard if there had been one other sound in the world, peeped out of the Round-Headed Baby's mouth.

And, sitting in rapt attention were those three little faces.

Happy: Was the mommy very scared?
Me: Oh yes.
Lefty: Because she had made that baby from scratch?
Me: Yes. And all she wanted to hear in the whole world was that tiniest of tiny peeps.
McGee: How long did she wait?
Me: Too long...

The next night, I was reading a book on the sofa and they appeared, their books in tow. McGee got to go first this time, and they heard about the shoes of two-kinds and the bowl on her head that her hair would peek through, and that she'd run outside fighting dragonflies. And when the sun would shine, her eyes would be as deep and as blue as the place where the sky meets the water.

And then we read the story of the boy who could howl like a wolf at the moon, and who had magical freckles that appeared like pops of popcorn across his face, and if you follow them from one side to the other, you can almost write his name. See? Not every boy has his name written across his face, and his mommy knew as the freckles appeared that she had given him the perfect name.

And then they brought out the book of the boy with the Big Round Head, and huddled closer, knowing that very happy things sometimes come right after very sad things, and that if you're so very quiet and listen carefully, you can hear the most beautiful sounds in the world.

At the end, Happy looked up and said, "you tell these stories really good, Mommy. You didn't forget anything!"

You're right, little man. These stories, the stories of you. These are stories I know. By heart.


Oh, and the one about Pat. Good little bunny.


(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

105 comments:

  1. Seriously, the SWEETEST post ever. Thank you for the sweet reminder of why I've wanted so badly to be a mom. Cuz their stories are the best.

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  2. That was amazing. You ARE a great story teller. I have to go cry and hug my babies. The one who is a shy princess and the smartest kid i know, and the one who was born with an afro and her daddy almost missed it because she wanted out so fast :)

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  3. Oh geez, you got me all teary-eyed and crying over here! Thank God hubby is at Judo right now so he can't see me and make fun of me.

    I remember when my mom would tell us "made up" bedtime stories. I thought she was the best at it. Later on I found out that the stories were real, scenes from her childhood.

    I can't invent a story for the life of me, so I'm anticipating the day when my daughter will ask me to tell her a story, and I will talk to her about when I was a little girl...

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  4. Shame on you for making me ugly cry.

    Now, go replace Pat the Bunny with Pat the Zombie. You can't ever forget it. Except at the moment I can't remember anything other than the Zombie-gut-scratch-and-sniff.

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  5. This post is amazing. It has hilarity and totally honest human impulse. Will read again :-)

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  6. Love Love. I needed a good story tonight, thank you!

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  7. This made me cry!

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  8. Way to make me cry! ;) This is a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  9. Totally made me cry Kate!!!! **hugs**
    Lol at frog juvie!!!

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  10. I just wanted to say I love this post.

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  11. I love this, just love it to bits. Thank you so much for sharing this intimate moment with us.

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  12. Now you're making pregnant women cry!

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  13. I so needed this today, you hooker. Off to blow my nose and hide my ugly crying from the kids...
    xoxo
    GL
    p.s. By the way, I TOTALLY stole your "made you from scratch line". My kids loooove it.

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  14. One day, when we're old and irrelevant, they will come to understand....

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  15. That is one of the most beautiful things I've read in a long, long time. Thank you for writing it.

    xoxo

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  16. Oh, my. Crying at my desk.

    Thank you for sharing!

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  17. BRAVA!!!!!!!!!! Love love love this.

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  18. And non-pregnant women cry too! Just like a baby. Love love love this. Thank you :) I can't wait to tell my boys their stories.....

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  19. Oh Yes! Mommy is the most awesomest story teller. EVER! I love those stories.

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  20. Crying smiling happy tears of mush! Thank you so much for posting this!!!

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  21. Great post. I'm working on my letter to my daughter for her first birthday...this definitely helped get me in the mood...and until recently...I too, thought the damn bunny's name was Pat....

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  22. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing. Someone how in the bowl of mush that is our Mommy brains, we remember the things that are really important.

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  23. .....and I need a tissue.

    Thank you for posting. <3

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  24. Beautiful!.....and you made me tear up too! Stories of our children's lives are the ones that will never leave our memory, treasure them always!

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  25. I love this post. I needed a good cry and this did the trick. Thanks.

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  26. Thanks for this post - I was reading it with tears streaming down my face and I can't wait to hug my son when he gets back from school!

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  27. Totally ugly crying right now. Loved it, way to go Hooker :)

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  28. Sitting at my desk, all teary. Such a great post :)

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  29. Yep, Aunt Flo is on the way, I'm sitting here crying like a baby. Thanks for that, you hooker!

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  30. Oh Frick. I don't cry...seriously. A speck of dust or something is in my eye.

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  31. I was actively trying not to cry. I failed. Beautiful post. =)

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  32. Why you gotta do that when I'm all overwhelmed with the non-important holiday baloney?

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  33. Crying like a baby :( Wonderful story,Mom!

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  34. Yeah I saw the warnings, but I read it anyway. Darn it, I too cried. My kids love to hear the stories from when they were small too. They love looking at old photos, which means I have to get better at printing them or something. Or you know updating the baby book that I quit working on when they were 2.

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  35. I just spent last night buying books for my niece due in January, but this post makes me even more anxious for the day when I get to tell her a story better than any story book!

    This was a beautiful post!

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  36. OH MY GOD, YOU DID IT AGAIN.
    Is there no end to your awesome?

    I was describing your blog to someone the other day and called it a "mommy humor blog," but that seems descriptor is so trite when I read posts like these. You are the best blog on the internet. That's what I'm going to tell people when they ask me from now on.

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  37. We had that same experience with our "big round-headed boy". Thanks for putting such a sweet twist on the scariest moments of my life.

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  38. you made me cry, hooker.

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  39. Beautiful! And 100% accurate in this house too. Except for the time I set "Santa Mouse" to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." Then I could sing that story year round. Awesome.

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  40. Ugly cry over here too. Childhood stories are the best and most precious stories of all. Thanks for making me get up to go get tissues when I was all comfy though, Kate. And I still think the Bunny's name is Pat. I don't care what anyone says.

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  41. This is my favorite post you have EVER written! Funny but poignant as well. You are right, some things we will never forget. This is definitely my sign that I need to update my kids' photo albums!

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  42. OMG Hooker, you are making me teary-eyed here. Just for that you are going to get a BIG HUG!! {{{{{hugs}}}}}

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  43. I'm not going to read the 44 comments before mine, so sorry if this is redundant. Dear Maude you're *great* at telling stories!! I got teary about the Boy with the Big Round Head even though I knew he was gonna be ok.

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  44. Thank you! Officially bawling my eyes out! I am one of those procrastinating moms who's children's baby books consist of a rubbermaid full of pictures, a few boxes of mementos and loads of good intentions. I'm hauling those out right now and getting to work!! Thanks again for the inspiration!

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  45. Love! Love! Love! (Something about repeating a word three times makes it seem more true. I don't know why that is. At any rate - LOVED this post.)
    - RosieLB

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  46. That story was beautiful and heart wrenching all at once for me. My kids' baby books were lost in a fire, something I struggle with 3 years later, but you just reminded me that what was in the books, their stories, I know those by heart. I don't need those books to recite those stories, we don't need illustrations to go with them. Thank you.

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  47. What a great story! I never finished my daughter's baby book (it got lost in the shuffle of boxes when we moved and I've never taken the time to dig it out). I'm bawling like a baby here really wishing my little princess with the crazy straight hair was here instead of at school so I could snuggle her.
    Loved it, Hooker!

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  48. lmao, Aunt Flo is here and I'm bawling!!! you beautiful hooker you!
    love amy

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  49. For a hooker you can sure make tell a great story :) Beautiful!

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  50. This was a great one. When my boy was born he was breathing OK but I didn't know at first (thought I should hear him cry right away.) Fortunately, they were just cleaning his mouth out :-) but those two seconds of panic were terrible...I can't imagine waiting longer for my baby to breathe/cry. I LOVED this one, sitting here crying on the couch...ugh...

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  51. I am crying right now. What a beautiful testimony of a mother's love. I hope you print this out and put a copy in each of your children's baby books.

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  52. Dangit.... Made a new mommy cry. Hooker. Seriously, thank you for the awesome post.

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  53. I love the post...but I am a LITTLE disillusioned... what is that bunny's name if it's NOT pat??? Seriously???? I thought his name was pat and he liked to BE patted (bother my PARENTS' names are pat (yes, I was that kid in school) Patrick and Patricia) soooo I guess I assumed that it made sense that Pat got patted.....grumble grumble

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  54. Perfect way to start my day- the day my boy becomes a big brother and we welcome our first daughter!!

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  55. You should go on vistaprint.com or another site and make a baby book with pictures of your kids that has each story printed on it. How awesome would that be for future grandchildren (yeah, I know, but kids grow FAST) and plus, your kids will love to see their stories in print! :-)

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  56. Tears streaming down my face at my desk as I hope nobody walks in my office to see this mommy bawling her eyes out. So beautiful. Thanks.

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  57. Aww, what a great post to read on my son's birthday. My kids love to hear stories about when the were born, before they were born, when they were little. Mine aren't that good though!

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  58. Sobbing right now... great reminder of how awesome it is to me a Mama.

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  59. I know I'm repeating, but OMG HOOKER! I'm sitting with tears in my eyes, aunt flow in my town too. Needing to up my celexa not helping....damnit.

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  60. Way to make a pregnant woman cry ;) I loved this post, it was absolutely beautiful!!

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  61. I was hoping for a giggle and now I'm sobbing into my coffee cup. Thank you for sharing your stories.

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  62. Oh my heart. Love all of this.

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  63. Well, I have to say I'm relieved that, after reading the previous comments, I'm not the only one bawling my flippin eyes out.

    Excellent post. Helps sometimes to remind yourself what the best stories really are.

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  64. Hey Hooker will you please write a children's book? I'm serious here. I've read this post three times now (cried each time) and it is proof positive that you NEED to write something that we can read to our kids. Your descriptions are so moving and powerful. I know the kids would love it and we would too. I get that the point of this is that you were telling the kids about themselves and that's why it came so easily but *clearly* you have a knack for this. Please?

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  65. once upon a time, there was mommy who loved her little snug a bug blue eyed most beautiful girl ever with all of her heart...and I love to tell her the story of her also...thanks for sharing your story

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  66. You're so eloquent. For a hooker.

    So very well said.

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  67. Kate, you witch! I am obviously hormonal...can't you tell?...and you made me cry. I'm explaining this disaster to my two kids as we "speak."

    In a minute, they'll be grabbing their own books so we can learn a new story.

    Oh, and we also call him Pat. It's simply Pat Bunny around here. So nonsensical articles-as-middle-names around here.

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  68. That post was mind-blowing and beautiful, and it completely moved me to tears (which never happens because I am a soulless robot). Thank you!

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  69. I cried. And smiled. And then hugged my baby that didn't breathe when she was born either. I can't wait for the day she asks me to tell her story.

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  70. Son of a biscuit, that was great!

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  71. This is a beautiful story. You two and your wonderful blog are getting me through my husband's 3rd deployment in 4 years (2-1 year and a 5 month). Kate, thanks for reminding me of my own 3 kids' stories when all I wanted to do was pull my hair out after a crazy day. You're the best. :) ~Erin K.

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  72. Beautiful! What a wonderful gift for your children - their own story, and in such words!

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  73. I laughed, I might have possibly teared up and was in awe at your ability to paint a picture and tell a story. First time reading your blog and I'm hooked.

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  74. Beautiful. You are an amazing storyteller!

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  75. Maybe my favorite post of all time! Thank you for sharing!

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  76. I have tears.

    Also, his name isn't Pat? Then what is it?

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  77. His name isn't Pat? I feel so deceived...

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  78. Tears. Lots and lots of tears.

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  79. You stank heffer. You made me cry. Thanks for that.

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  80. Oh!! Oh dammit, I'm sitting her bawling at my computer and I have twenty people coming over in an hour. You guys! <3 Blessings to you and your lovies and to all the Mommyland families. I think I need to do this with my own kiddies.

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  81. "Because she made that baby from scratch?" - At that point I started balling. Too many hormones while still breastfeeding! Beautiful, beautiful story.

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  82. Crying all over my kid is not a good way to wake him up. Thank you ladies for sharing your lives with us. Once again my heart is touched.

    The title of my little mans story:
    The boy with the magical eyelashes. (the first thing everyone notices on him)

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  83. Oh my goodness! I'm sitting here in a coffeeshop (a rather busy one) and I'm crying! My husband keeps looking at me out of the corner of his eye wondering if he should try to comfort me or something. Of course, my own little ones are trying to distract me with a purple haired Barbie & a flamingo (true story). This is absolutely precious. Thank you so much for sharing! I suck at stories, too, but I think I could do just amazing at stories of my own (not so) little ones!

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  84. I'm sitting here bawling! Thanks for that, hooker. I've also been feeling guilty for not writing my baby's life book. You've inspired me and I hope to finally get off my bottom this weekend and get started. I have to be sure to include the story where she asked me "Mama, why are your eyes melting?" cause she hadn't learned the word for "tears" or "tearing up" yet. Gina

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  85. Hooker you made me cry! And right before time for bedtime stories. I think this mommy will need a glass of wine before trying to recite "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" aww hell I'm in a sentimental mood I guess "Guess How Much I Love You" it is.....

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  86. So crying after reading this post. How awesome!

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  87. Damn you, crazy hookers, I did NOT want to be crying right before I went to bed.

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  88. I don't normally cry at these things, and I'm normally kind of bewildered by (non-pregnant) people who say that they do. But you totally got me with this one.

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  89. Awesome! I tell my kiddos their stories first thing in the morning on their birthdays and have since their first one...sometimes at other times in the year I get asked to tell them too...love that...

    My dad started a trend of made up stories when I would ask him to make up a story to tell me...they went something like this:

    Once upon a time there was a little princess. It snowed. the end :)

    what can I say- he's a funny guy...don't ask about the songs he sang me...

    Anyways- my kids are used to the sarcastic short stories and actually..fans...but I do like to make up stories to tell them and a few weeks ago they asked me to write them a 'real' story. So I did...it's about them and while there was a moral to the story- which they got- they also loved that I actually wrote them a story. I'm totally going to do that again...I'd also share if anyone wanted to hear....I made my kids monkeys (Macetang and Bellarilla) and included zombies....not going to lie...it's pretty awesome.

    So I say- good on ya Kate for giving your kids such a piece of yourself to remember when they are parents...they will probably share that with your grandkids someday.

    Cheers-
    Amanda

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  90. I just scrolled to the bottom of my hubby's iPod as I sobbed all over it to tell u that I love I bOth and that Kate Is a hooker for making me cry! <3

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  91. You made me ugly cry. At work. I don't care. This was BEAUTIFUL!

    My 4 yr old nephew loves to have me tell him stories. I don't always tell them the same way each time, but he's a forgiving soul. He just loves the one on one attention he's getting. My own kids aren't little anymore (17 and 21...poor me), so I cherish the opportunity to make magic from words again.

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  92. ♥ this and totally didn't care that it made me cry. at work. which i couldn't explain to my boss because, uh, i'm reading a blog. at work.

    thanks so much for making my work suck less. i look forward to every post!

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