Angela Amman

When a house needs a doll salon

imaginative playShe paints with broad strokes and big ideas, and she makes messes I struggle to let be until she’s finished with one of her games.

Our house has been in chaos, renovations on top of renovations, and there are too many things in too many places. The kids see it as an adventure — beds in the playroom! — and maybe a chance to get away with tossing toys in random corners because I can’t tell the difference.

In a house where the kitchen had the only clear walkway from room to room, I hadn’t wanted to let the doll salon last more than five minutes. Still, I consented to a tour, where my girl pointed out a doll waiting for an appointment, where another checked in both the doll and her pet. At some salons, it seems, girls can bring their dogs for services as well.

The detail in the salon caught my breath a little. In my rush to do something else around the house, I hadn’t noticed her cutting small pieces of paper for “tickets” or the way she’d painstakingly placed a towel on the floor or procured a piece of plastic wrap for the hair cape to keep the water from dampening the dolls’ clothes.

playing with dolls

The doll salon stayed. After dinner we took it down together, carefully separating what she wanted to keep from what could be recycled, sorting hair supplies into storage bags. I marveled at the careful way she took care of her dolls, remembering the tips she’d heard and read online.

I paused, amidst the chaos, and remembered all of the work we’re doing on the house is in the interest of creating a home, a place for them to feel safe and secure and loved.

Some days a home needs a doll salon.

Things are being put together, slowly or with quick flurries that involve climbing the same stairs again and again. Furniture is back where it belongs. Walls are painted. The small things remain — organizing, figuring out what to do with stuff from closets that piled onto each other as Dylan played musical bedrooms, wooden trim. Those things, those little things, probably won’t get finished with the urgency of the bigger things, and that’s ok.

We will go to the playground to swing and finish the never-ending laundry of summer. We will walk into our home and be grateful for the people inside, for the dolls, for the mess that makes it ours.

NaBloPoMo July 2015

Chasing happiness

American Girl doll

Summer schedules seep with activities, whether they’re the structured dates of camps or informal bucket lists overflowing with trips to zoos and splash pads. Hearkening back to our childhoods, summer vacation beckons with promises of happiness, and we chase it through lengthened days and balmy evenings.

We gathered back to my grandmother, our Nan, from where the winds have scattered her family: sons, daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Family reunions take foresight and planning, and this wasn’t anything official, just too many people crammed together in her small living room and taking too long to decide on what to eat for lunch.

She stayed home while we visited the American Girl store for the first time, but she posed for a picture when we realized she and Dolly wore unintentionally matched outfits.

We visited a LEGO store in a mall sprawled out over the grounds where a music-based theme park once lived. Nostalgia choked me, as it does each time we happen upon that place, wishing the kids could visit the place I fell in love with roller coasters, live music shows, and kitschy gift shops.

When we drove back to Nan, our exit differed from the one it was for so many years after she and my grandfather retired to Music City. Lobbies and elevators welcomed us instead of her familiar porch, but her cuckoo clock hangs on the wall, and her Hummel figurines rest in her corner curio cabinet.

The facility’s calendar is posted a couple different places in her apartment, events taking place at several times each day. Bingo and sing-alongs. Ice cream socials and something called laughing yoga. Crafts and computer classes.

We teased her about “Wild Bingo,” especially when we walked past the activity room, where the seriousness of a good bingo game proved “wild” has several definitions.

Her photograph hangs in collage frames around her home, a senior living facility. She’s rarely framed alone, but flanked by friends, smiling with light glinting off her glasses. Her friends smiled at the kids and ruffled hair and — mostly — overlooked their too-loud, too-quick, too-boisterous presence.

I sat in a circle of chairs with my cousins, while our kids made up an unnamed game involving fashion runways and spies.

We still hadn’t figured out what to have for lunch, and somehow it didn’t matter so much.

Sometimes, we don’t have to chase happiness. We only need to open ourselves to it and accept it in the small doses that rejuvenate our hearts one game of shuffleboard at a time.

NaBloPoMo July 2015

Blue and not quite wordless Wednesday

fake blue glasses


We popped the lenses out of blue, plastic sunglasses to make Odd Squad glasses. (Do your kids watch that show? It’s goofy and silly, and Abbey and Dylan adore it.)

He reads One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish aloud and “in his head,” and I’m not sure where the memorization ends and emerging reading begins anymore.

The blue monster pajamas are his favorite, until the nights when he’s overtired and ornery and says they scare him when they’re on the top of the drawer.

Blue is his second favorite color, though sometimes he picks it first. Favorite things are complicated when you’re five and have lots of favorite things.

In his cup holder

funny things in cup holders He couldn’t wait for cup holders.

Dylan’s convertible car seat didn’t have cup holders, putting him at Abbey’s mercy. Some days she was happy to share one of hers with him, though it meant he had to ask for whatever he had her put in there.

Many days he had to tuck his bottle into the seat next to him, or hand it to me and ask for it a million times during each ten minute car ride. Her cup holders collect important things like sparkly rocks and beaded bracelets, too many hair ties and bows to count.

My own cup holders — two, in the center console of the small SUV I constantly feel we’re outgrowing — generally hold two beverages. A travel mug of coffee. A can of diet soda that only stays cold enough for moments once out of the refrigerator. My favorite water cup with the interchangeable straws. Lip glosses get tossed on the passenger seat and roll onto the floor, where I forget about them until I glimpse myself in the mirror and realize a little color might detract from the circles under my eyes.

My cup holders speak an adult language, one of caffeine and hydration and practicality.

Now that Dylan moved into his booster seat — still secured with a five-point harness because he can’t sit still for thirty-eight consecutive seconds — he doesn’t have to ask Abbey to hold his water anymore. Sometimes I can even convince him to fill up his own water bottle before we leave the house. He runs from room to room looking for his favorite one, a Spiderman one I love, too, because it has a simple flip top and not one of those straws that seems impossible to clean.

The water bottle inevitably rests in the right side cup holder. The other is sometimes a messy mystery of crumpled snack wrappers and baby wipes. Napkins stay in the glove box, pristine, because even though the kids seem so big some days, there’s nothing like a baby wipe to Cheez-it fingers. I scoop out the detritus of our drives and toss it into the trash can on the way to the house, wondering with a sigh when he’ll remember to do it himself without my coaxing.

Other days, though, trinkets appear.

On a day he needed help with the bottom buckle, I opened the door to spot a trifecta of treasures. Each little toy holds its own lore in his mind. I see a toothbrush and part of a building set and ever-present LEGO parts. He sees tools that make superheroes, that glow and shine and fit perfectly into hands and pockets when he’s asked to go on another errand or when he’s on his way to play with a friend holding superhero talismans of his own.

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funny things in cup holders