"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Monday, September 28, 2015

Your Server's Gender is None of Your Business

I'm sure you've all seen the Facebook post written by a transgender waitress that recently went viral. In the post, the waitress applauds her customers, parents of a young girl, for asking her whether she is a boy or a girl, as their daughter wanted to know and they "couldn't tell."

I understand the message here (that the parents wanted to tell their daughter what the waitress refers to herself as and not to speak for her) and am glad that this exchange seems to have been regarded as nothing but positive on all sides. I have to wonder if, in the same situation, I would have made the same parenting decision.

The short answer: Nope.

Here’s why: The waitress’ gender has no bearing on her ability to serve this family lunch. Quite frankly, her gender is none of their business.

Now, I can certainly see the scenario playing out differently, but resulting in the same outcome. For instance, if the waitress approached the table and the young child blurted out “Are you a boy or a girl?” I’m sure most parents of young children have experienced a situation where their child asked an inappropriate question or made an impolite observation. In this case, I might cast an apologetic glance at the waitress and say to my child, “I think a more polite way to get to know someone would be to start by introducing yourself.” Then, if the waitress wanted to share her story, she could, but would be under no pressure to.

Then, privately, I would have a conversation with my child about how some people don’t like to think of themselves as “boy” or “girl” and asking them to pick one or the other might make them feel uncomfortable.

Then, we’d order our lunch and leave a nice tip like usual, because damn: Waitresses have to put up with some seriously annoying shit from their customers.

Maybe I’m a little sensitive about the issue. Maybe it’s because, as the mother of a dress-wearing son, I just want people to be nice and respectful towards each other and not worry so much about the information that exists behind the scenes, so to speak. 

"Are you a boy or a girl?" Max, who is only five, gets asked that question all the time. It doesn’t bother him now, and I hope it never does. It’s other kids who ask him and he handles the conversation with ease and confidence: “I’m a boy, but I wear skirts because I just like to!” I don’t mind it when kids ask him, just as the waitress didn’t seem to mind the young girl's question. Kids are curious. Kids have lots of questions. Grown-ups know this about kids and we can let their social indelicacies slide.

What does bother me though, is nosy grown-ups.

“How did you know he was into princesses and girly stuff?” Um, well, probably the same way you figured out your boy was into Star Wars.

“Do you think he’s gay?” I think he’s five. He can decide who he finds sexually attractive when he’s older.

“Do you think he’s 'trans'?” I don’t know. What I do know is that we will be here to love and support him no matter what. We love our child. We’ll let him figure out who that child will become.

So my bottom line is this: kudos to the parents who make everyone, at every point on the gender spectrum, to feel welcome in their child’s world. Kudos to the parents who teach their children that all people, regardless of color, shape, size, religion, ethnicity, hairstyle, clothing choice, or gender deserve respect and kindness. But everyone deserves to have their privacy respected, as well, and maybe THAT is the lesson worth teaching.

Lesson Learned:
A friend recently told us that her 7-year old asked if Max preferred to be called "Evan's brother" or "Evan's sister." I'm thankful that our friend thought to ask us rather than just assume one or the other. I let her know that Max calls himself "brother," and "boy." He uses masculine pronouns. But that conversation has stuck with me. I wonder if I answered the right way (I had wanted to say, "Max...he's just Max. Let's just all call him MAX!"). I had to wonder if I am doing right by my child. 

Aren't I violating my own children's privacy with every blog post I write? I don't want Max to become someone's teachable moment. I don't want him to become a story exploited for it's uniqueness and diversity in our small town. But I do want our community to know him...to understand him. It's why I write about him. Sometimes I think, by writing about him, I'm creating and sending little warriors of love and protection into the world for him...that people who read this will feel like they know him a little bit and they'll look out for him. (It's happened before...virtual strangers sharing with me Good News stories they've witnessed at school, kids sticking up for Max and for all little boys who love pink.)

And in the larger sense, I really just need this whole world to become more understanding and accepting in time for Max to get to middle school. Is that too much to ask? Is it overly ambitious to want this little blog, my own little corner of the internet, to change the world in the next six years?

This blog will inevitably change. I'm not sure where, when, or how I'll draw the line on sharing, but I'll follow the leads of my kids. I'm already pulling back on what and how much I share about my oldest, who is starting to exert his own ideas about his public and his private lives ("Mom, you can email that picture to Mom Mom and Pop but don't put it on Facebook!"). I ask him before I post. The same will be true with Max. So, in case this is the last time I write about Max's gender-nonconformity, here's a bottom line: Just be nice to each other. Be kind. Be respectful. Everybody's got their something that makes them feel like an outlier. Be an includer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rainbow Magic, How I Loathe Thee

I love books. The fact that my kids love books is, for me, a big shmear of icing on this not-always-sweet cake of parenting. I loved looking at board books with them when they were but wee babes in my arms; introducing them to the magical worlds that exist within the pages of every book.

I even loved reading picture books to them as toddlers, when each page took ten minutes to get through because "Yes! I see the cow, too! Good noticing! Yes! The cow says Moo! Yes! It would be fun to go to a farm. Yes, horsies also live on a farm. Can I keep reading? Okay. Yes, pigs live there, too. Yes, you're right, pigs do say Oink. Let's read the next page, okay? Yes! I DO see the tractor!"

But the best kind of Reading With Kids of all is when your child is ready for Chapter Books. The plot! The character development! The continuation of a storyline from one night to the next! I love reading chapter books with my kids.

Until we read the 40th book in The Magic Tree House series, that is. Now, don't get me wrong: There is a sweet spot in a child's life for The Magic Tree House, during which the stories are compelling, a little dangerous, even, and full of fascinating-to-a-5-year-old facts and information. By the time you've read three, however, you realize that you're reading a formula. Nightly reading time becomes an exercise in self-control as you read through each mind-numbingly predictable storyline without hurling the book across the room.

To a child in the sweet spot, though, each book in The Magic Tree House series is a new and exciting adventure. You continue through the endless series (while occasionally, sneakily, introducing a book in a new series or genre) because you’re just thrilled that your child is excited about reading.

Thankfully, the sweet spot comes to a close as quickly as it began, when suddenly, your little kid reading buddy turns into a Big Kid Independent Reader. It happens almost overnight, so you might miss it, but don’t be sad...this is a Good Change. One day, you'll find him alone in his room reading The Lightning Thief, the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and you'll wipe that my-baby’s-growing-up tear from your eye because THIS is a book you can get excited about reading!

You'll spend the next few months devouring everything that Rick Riordan has ever written with your Big Kid reader who, by the way, is now reading silently along as you read aloud (and is sneaking in one more chapter after you've kissed him goodnight). You'll have Real Conversations with him about what you’ve read. You'll discuss good vs. evil, tests of morality, complexities of friendships, and the importance of Being Yourself. You'll swing by your local bookstore every few weeks to pick up the next title in the series because the library just won’t do now: These books are For Keeps.

But before you know it, your second child is entering that early chapter book sweet spot and you know what that means. You’re at the library, in The Magic Tree House section, gritting your teeth as you reach for a book, when another series, new to you, catches your eye. Rainbow Magic? Hmmm.... You browse through the titles and flip through the pages, piecing together the series storyline: Kirsty and her best friend Rachel share a magical secret: They’re friends with the fairies! They are called upon (again and again...and again) to solve the problems that Jack Frost and his Goblins create. Friendship? Fairies? Magic? Danger? Courage? GIRL POWER?! Yes, yes, and YES! See ya, Jack and Annie, we're making plans with Kirsty and Rachel!

After the first book, your child, of course, is hooked. Together, you read the three books you picked up from the library and find yourself going back for more. After a few more books, your heart sinks as you make an unnerving discovery: Rainbow Magic books are even more formulaic than The Magic Tree House books.

But it's not just that these books follow a plot formula: there are entire sentences that can be found in nearly every book. In every book, Kirsty and Rachel (who always seem to be vacationing together) are visited by a Fairy in trouble. The girls have to find the Fairy's missing item before havoc is wreaked in both the fairy world AND the human world! They sprinkle themselves with Fairy Dust (which they keep in special lockets that were given to them by the fairies) to turn themselves into fairies in order to solve the problem (just in the nick of time, by the way). At the end, they are thanked profusely by King Oberon and Queen Titania, the (clearly incompetent) rulers of Fairyland. In each book, one of the girls says something “thoughtfully.” In each book, someone has a “determined look” on her face. In each book, some damn fairy "waves her wand in a complicated pattern" and I want to magic that damn book straight into the trash.

It gets worse. The titles seem to multiply. There's a Sneak Peek “bonus chapter” at the end of each book, introducing you to a new fairy in need of rescuing. Each fairy is part of a set of seven fairies: the Color Fairies, the Weather Fairies, the Ocean Fairies, the Baby Animal Rescue Fairies, the Superstar Fairies, the Fashion Fairies, the Party Fairies, the Fun Day Fairies, the Magical Crafts Fairies--what the hell does that even mean?! The list goes on and on...and on. Every fairy has her very own chapter book. There are also Special Edition books, double-length holiday and special occasion-themed books that, of course, your child just Has To Have. Then, your child orders the Rainbow Magic Fairy Guide from the Scholastic Book Club Flyer and you discover, to your horror, that THERE ARE OVER 200 RAINBOW MAGIC FAIRIES.

You start to sweat. You feel faint. Your child looks at you with twinkly eyes and says, "Can we go to the library, Mommy, PLEASE?"

"Of course," you reply, regaining your composure, “because there’s a really great book series there that I think you’ll love! It's about a spunky little girl named Annie and her big brother, Jack, and they discover this amazing, magical tree house….”

Lesson Learned:
Don't get me wrong, I know that this Recycled Text issue is not a problem with Rainbow Magic books exclusively. I remember realizing the same thing after reading through the entire Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High series as a kid. This is how these content-mill chapter books are generated in such vast quantities. And I also see the Bigger Picture: my kids want to read! Hooray! But ohmygod, if Max brings one more damn fairy into this house, I'm going to lose my shit.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Happiness is...

Happiness is jeans weather. Fall is my season. (And it's not for the PSLs.) It's the angle of the sunlight, softer and warmer than it has been the last few months. It's the blue of the sky, brighter and crisper than any other time of the year. It's the chilly mornings, which warm up, slowly but surely, by the afternoons. It's the promise of sweaters and scented candles and baking and cozy just around the corner.

September is my time and this is my place.

After a weekend away last week, we were driving home. It had been an amazing weekend with my family (meeting baby Leo!) and I wasn't ready for it to end. But as I turned onto the street that would take us home, I caught my breath at the sight of our lovely little town. "There's something about the sky here," I said to Sam. "Or the air. I can breathe here."

Happiness is a morning spent down at the creek...wading in our creek boots; collecting acorns, pine cones, and tree bark for our upcoming Fairy Garden project; and panning for gold.

Evan knows all about the 49ers...at dinner last night he asked what the chances are that he might find some gold someday. We said that the chances were slim, but that there are panning sites in the mountains of North Carolina. Wouldn't it be fun to try that someday?

Forget someday, what about today?! Those North Carolina mountains? They're not so different from our own mountains. And those gold-flecked creeks? Well, we've got a creek right here! So we packed up our shovels and our sifters and got to panning.

There are some pretty shiny rocks in our creek...but no gold. Not today, at least.

But I was here, in my place, now, in my season, with these...my people.

He doesn't let me photograph him very often. 
When he does, though, oh I grab hold of that unicorn.

This one, on the other hand, has never met a camera lens
he didn't strike a pose for.

Lesson Learned:
Here. Now. I did some good moment-living this weekend. How about you?


A few more favorite photos from the weekend...

Friday night, dinner al fresco:

And straight-up sass from the threenager.

And a visit to Uncle Mike's brand new juice/smoothie bar and raw food kitchen: The Juice Laundry, in Charlottesville, Virginia. If you're in town, check it out. Skip the Pumpkin Spice Latte and enjoy a raw, organic, cold-pressed juice or delicious frosty fruit smoothie. Your body will be glad you did. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Before He Starts Kindergarten

Three years ago, I thought nothing would be more difficult, more heart-wrenching, more anxiety-inducing than sending my oldest son to kindergarten.

Three years ago, I didn't know that I'd be sending my second son to kindergarten in a skirt.

But here we are...one week out from the start of school and the butterflies have taken over my stomach.

I know, I know: He'll be fine.

I know he'll be fine because he's right where he needs to be. I know he'll be fine because he will always, always, have a safe place to land in our family and in our home. I know he'll be fine because he is who he is: confident, charming, bright, and full of life and excitement. To know Max is to love Max, and I'm not just saying that because I'm the one who loves him most of all. (Well, okay, Sam and I share the title.)

I also know, though, that I'm about to send my happy, little rainbow fish off to a great, big pond and I just have to trust that we have prepared him well enough for what he may face in these uncharted waters ahead. I don't want his confidence to falter. I don't want his sparkle to fade.

But, it occurs to me that it's not fair that I should have to prepare HIM for the world ahead. He's done nothing wrong in choosing to wear skirts, magenta leopard-print shoes, and sparkly fingernail polish. He's just living his life and it's a beautiful one.

So this message is not for him. This message is for the Others: the people he will meet who do not Get It, the people he will meet who judge, the people who hurt.

Here we go:

Just don't be a jerk.

Parents, I don't care how you feel about the fact that my boy wears a skirt...but I will care if you share your judgements and discriminations with your kids. Your kids aren't judging him. Kids are not born to point and laugh and make fun of other kids. Kids, generally speaking, are open. They learn that ugly, judgy behavior from you (and from older, more jaded kids).  So just don't teach them to be jerks. And if you catch them being jerks, address their behavior. Swiftly.

Your kids may, however, be curious. And that's okay. Max has fielded a lot of questions from other kids about his wardrobe. It typically goes something like this:

Other Kid: Are you a boy or a girl?
Max: A boy.
Other Kid: ...but you're wearing a skirt.
Max: Oh, yeah. I like to wear skirts.
Other Kid: Oh. Okay.

If your kids ask why that boy in their class is wearing a skirt, just say, "Everyone gets to choose which clothes they feel most comfortable in, and he feels comfortable in skirts." If that's too much for you, then you can simply say, "I don't know, but it shouldn't matter to you what other people are wearing. Who'd you play with at recess today?"

Keep your ears open and if you hear a negative word about a child, any child, teach your children that everyone is Different: different colors, different sizes, different strengths, different struggles, different beliefs, different families, different clothes.

Different, because The Same is boring.

It really is that simple.


And then, this is a letter to the people who do get it, who don't judge, and who love him just the way he is...

Thank you. Thank you for loving him. Thank you for asking me when you have questions or when you don't know how to answer the questions of your children. Thank you for accepting him and for protecting him and for welcoming him into your families and your hearts and your homes. Thank you...but also, you're welcome.

He's pretty great, isn't he?

Lesson Learned:

One week. Here we go. We can do this. Are you with us?

Monday, August 10, 2015

the story of my ink

I got my first tattoo when I was 19.

It's a moon and stars; a quarter-sized doodle I'd been drawing in the margins of my notebooks for years. It's on my right foot, just below my pinky toe. It was my Teenage-Rebellion Tattoo...or it would have been if my parents were opposed to self-expression. They're not. They loved it.

I went with my best friend. He got his first tattoo that day, too. It was a celtic cross in honor of his late mother. I think I thought that, having gotten inked together, we'd be friends forever.

He and I parted ways shortly after graduation and I haven't spoken to him in years.

Sometimes, good things come to an end...and it's okay.


I got my second tattoo when I was 25.

It's the Tibetan Buddhist symbol for eternity, a woven knot, on the far left side of my lower back.

It was my Marriage Tattoo: I went with my husband. We'd been married for less than a year. He got a tattoo that day, too. It's a symbol from the I Ching meaning stability and duration. I knew that we'd be together forever...even before we got inked together.

He and I...and our relationship...have changed a lot in the decade that followed that trip to the tattoo parlor. Time and life and kids will do that. But I still know that we'll be together forever.

Sometimes things change...while, somehow, staying the same.


I got my third tattoo yesterday. I am 35.

I went with my mom, which was fitting because this is my Motherhood Tattoo. My mom got an infinity symbol on her left wrist. It's her motherhood tattoo, too, because if you flip an infinity on it's side, it's an eight: she has eight kids (and has earned infinity Mommy Merit Badges in the process of raising all of us).

Mine is inside my right bicep...

When my babies were babies, I spent hours rocking, swaying, dancing, nursing, and praying them to sleep. They were, and kind of still are, terrible sleepers. As I rocked, swayed, danced, nursed, prayed, (and sometimes cried), I sang. 

In the middle of the night, deprived of sleep, and with my nerves frayed to their bitter ends, it was all I could do to summon, from the recesses of my subconscious, the words to three songs, which I whispered into the ears of my three babies over and over and over...and over...again. Three songs, but oh, they're the good ones. My favorites.

My babies may no longer be babies, and they may no longer need me to rock, sway, dance, and sing them to sleep. Hearing those songs, though, will always bring me right back to those dark, quiet, endless nights when my babies needed me, and only me. 

Now, every time I look down at the arm that cradled those sweet, stubborn, wide-awake babes, those songs will play in my heart.

Let It Be
Three Little Birds 

Lesson Learned:

Sometimes, forever is a good thing. Sometimes...forever is perfect.

Oh...and, for the record...due to a scheduling snafu, I'm now That Mom that brings her kids to a tattoo parlor. 


Monday, July 27, 2015

Transcript from the Backseat...or: The Talk

I had grand visions of being an open, honest, and straight-forward purveyor of information when it came time to have The Talk with my kids. In the past, I have been, in an age-appropriate way...we call body parts by their anatomical names, they know *how* babies are born, and they know that babies develop in a mother's uterus from an egg.  I have been open, I have been honest, and I have been straight-forward in answering their questions....I just haven't ever provided information beyond the requisite answers to their wondering minds. I hadn't ever needed to.

Until last week.

We had just spent the morning gazing upon the beauty and majesty of the Wild Horses of North Carolina. We had driven "up the beach" in hopes of finding them, but with the firm expectations that Wild Horses Are Nearly Impossible To Find. Imagine our delight when we spotted a dozen horses in the dunes overlooking the beach three minutes into our drive!

We were driving back to our beach house, excited over our Horse Discovery, happy, together...when Max's question opened the door to the most ineloquent conversation I've ever had with my children.

Max: So do some people never get married?

Me: Sure. Lots of people don't get married....for lots of different reasons. Getting married is a choice.

Max: Awww! I hope I get married!

Evan: Some people don't get married?! But don't they want CHILDREN?!

Me: Well, some people don't. Even some married people don't want to have children. And you don't need to get married to have children. Some people want to start their family even though they haven't found the person they want to marry...so they have a child.

Evan: But how...?

Max: Oh! I know! Maybe they can adopt a baby, like when two boys get married! One boy or one girl can adopt a baby all by themself!

Me: Well, yeah, but a man or a woman, not a boy or a girl...you have to be an adult who can take care of a baby to adopt a baby.

Me (continuing, unnecessarily...for some reason, which I will shortly regret): But you can become a parent without adopting, too. Like my friend Jess: she was ready to become a mommy so she chose to have a baby. She had her baby in her belly like I had each of you.

Evan: Waaaaaiittt...you can choose to have a baby? I thought a baby started to grow in a mommy's tummy when she was married and ready to start her family....

Me (recalling an answer I had provided several years ago, when a younger Evan watched my belly swell with his growing baby sister): Um, yes, of course a woman can choose whether or not to have a baby....

Evan: But HOW? HOW does the lady choose?!

Sam (glancing at me from the driver's seat, with a "You started it, you get to finish it" smile on his face)

Me: Well, you know that a baby grows from an egg that is already in the mommy's body.

Evan: Yeah, and I know it's not in her TUMMY. It's not like she swallows a chicken egg or something.

Me: Right. The egg starts to grow in her uterus. But it doesn't start to grow into a baby until it's...well, it's...fertilized.

Evan: FERTILIZED? Like with a fertilizer?! I don't think so...

He is seriously starting to think I'm full of shit.

And I am seriously starting to notice how closely Max is listening to this whole conversation. I want to be open and honest, but he's only five. I really don't need Max to be the Knower Of All Things at his Kindergarten snack table in a few weeks....though I'm sure his teacher would get a kick out of hearing all of this...

So I toe the line....like a hippopotamus in a tutu, I pretend to be graceful and elegant, but I know I look ridiculous...

Me: Well, no, not with a fertilizer...but with sperm. You need sperm and an egg. That's how a baby grows. And the mom gets to choose when to introduce the sperm to the egg. And that's that.

Evan: Sperm?! What? ...and Where? ...and How?

Sam (to me, gleefully): I'm going to stop for gas, good luck with this!

Me: thespermcomesfromthedaddyevenifthereisn'tadaddymarriedtothemommy WHO WANTS TO HELP DADDY PUMP THE GAS?!

[end scene]

Lesson Learned:
These conversations are always so much easier in my mind....

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

a brief Civil War tour: Washington D.C. and Manassas Battlefield

Evan has been interested in all things War lately. He wants to know about the soldiers, the battles, the weapons, the strategy. He wants to know it all and it all makes me sick.

Every time he tries to show me pictures of guns and tanks and military uniforms my stomach turns a bit and I send a silent prayer up to the Universe that this phase, too, shall pass. Can't we go back to dinosaurs? Let's remember how cool trucks were, once upon a time, please? Can we talk Creature Powers for one quick minute? Please don't ask me who "won" the Vietnam War. Please don't ask me to tell you about Adolf Hitler. Please don't tell me you can't wait until you're grown up so you can join the Marines. My pacifist heart, no--my Mama heart, quakes at the very thought.

But he's my kid. I'm his mom and, though he may be but 8 years old, I know that the fastest way to feed the fire of a child's interest in a subject is to try to change it.

So I listen. I take him to the library where he can find all the Eyewitness Books that have all the answers to his many questions. I even planned a trip to my parents' house near Washington, D.C., from which we could explore a few places of historical, wartime significance.

We took a brief Civil War tour. And I didn't hate it. And Evan didn't run away to join the Army...just yet.

Ford's Theatre; Washington D.C.

We began, it would seem, at the end. We spent a rainy Saturday at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., where Lincoln was assassinated just days after the end of the Civil War.

We learned about President Lincoln's time in office, we learned about the events that lead up to the War. We learned about the final days of war and when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, bringing four years of bloodshed and destruction to a close. We learned about the timeline of events of Abraham Lincoln's final day.

We went across the street to Petersen House, the boarding house where Lincoln succumbed to his injuries the day after the shooting. We saw the bed in which he died. We learned about John Wilkes Booth, his cohort of conspirators, and the manhunt that followed his horrific crime.

...and, when our minds were full and spinning, we breezed through the street-level gift shop, which contained the single best display of books Anywhere, Ever.

...and they're all about Lincoln

From Ford's Theatre, we went, naturally, to the Lincoln Memorial.

In what would be my favorite part of the trip, we turned to descend the staircase and found ourselves facing an iconic scene.

And standing in the footprints of an American icon. 
A simple statement, etched into the stone, forever marking this space, 
forever remembering these words.

My dad, our tour guide for the day, reminded us that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is right across from the Lincoln Memorial and, despite the rain shower that was quickly becoming a downpour, we couldn't miss the opportunity to see The Wall.

As we started down the walkway, I reminded Evan that each of the names etched into the wall is the name of an American soldier who died during the conflict.

"The letters are so small," he noticed, surprised to see it in person for the first time. "That's because they had to fit a lot of names on it." You're right, buddy. More than 58,000 names, in fact.

One name stood out.

That of my dad's cousin, a medic who was shot while attending to wounded soldiers. 
He died on his birthday.

It had been a long day and we were all sufficiently soaked, so we headed back to my parents' house, ready to rest up for another day of history.

Manassas Battlefield: The Battle of Bull Run

Sunday was a rare, cool and breezy July day outside our Nation's capital. It was sunny with some occasional cloud cover but without the threat of rain. It was the perfect day to walk a battlefield. But first, we explored the museum. I didn't take any pictures of the impressive display of uniforms, weapons, and artifacts, but it's worth factoring a half-hour or so into your trip to really take the time to look them over. 

Our favorite part of the museum, however, was this:

A 3-D topographical map of Manassas Junction, ca. 1861, the location of the first (and second) Battle of Bull Run. This map is equipped with LED lights that light up in two colors, representing the Union and Confederate armies. As a voice-over narration tells the story of the opposing armies approaching toward what would later become known as the Beginning of the Civil War, the lights on the map "move." It was amazing to see the armies meet, divide, retreat, re-group, and ultimately engage in battle. Evan was captivated. Max and Molly were actually paying pretty close attention as well.

From there, we met up with our tour guide, who led us on a 45-minute walking tour of the battlefield, retelling the story we heard in the museum, but on the actual grounds where thousands of soldiers would ultimately perish.

It's a fascinating story.

So fascinating, in fact, that after the 45-minute walking tour, Evan wanted to stay and watch the 45-minute film reenactment of the battle. So, for the third time in two hours, Evan listened to the Story of The Battle of Bull Run. It was a pretty graphic film, though...guns, cannons, blood, etc., so Molly and I only made it through about five minutes before I decided she didn't need to actually "see" the war. Max lasted another ten or so before he and my mom joined Molly and me outside to run around a bit.

From there, we concluded our Civil War tour at the nearby Stone House. Before the Civil War, this building served as a tavern. Because of its proximity to the battlefield, it was turned into a hospital during the war. It is also believed that prisoners of war were held here temporarily.

It has been well-preserved over the years, with many of the rooms even containing the original flooring. In one of the upstairs bedrooms, these initials can still be seen on one of the floorboards; the initials of a wounded Civil War soldier. How incredible is that?

Growing up just down the road from Manassas, I knew this house well. We called it the "Cannonball in the Wall House," because you can see actual cannonballs lodged into the stone. I'd never actually been inside, though, and I was anxious to hear the story of this house.

As we approached the house, I told the boys that we were going to see real cannonballs from a real Civil War battle in the stone.

Until my dad struck up a conversation about those cannonballs with the National Park Service guide at the house:

"Those? Oh, no, they're not really from battle. These walls are 18-inches thick! Any cannonballs that hit this fortress would have bounced right off."

"So....the cannonballs?"

"Yeah, they were put in by the new owners in the early 1900s. They saw an opportunity in this house and turned it into a for-profit Civil War tourist attraction. They lodged the cannonballs in there to give it some 'authenticity.' It was quite a successful stunt!"


I prefer my version of the story.

Lesson Learned:
I don't have to love war or conflict to find history fascinating. Unfortunately, Evan seemed to enjoy this tour just as much as I did. I had kind of secretly hoped that I'd take him to a boring old battlefield, make him listen to boring old men talk about boring old history and he'd get over this little phase of his. Not this trip...

But seriously, if you're ever in the D.C. area, it's worth the drive.