It’s Sockey Night in Canada

When I pulled the hockey sticks out of storage and wrapped them, Chris told me it was a bad idea. We’d bought them on sale at Costco when Maddux was about 18 months old and James wasn’t even holding up his own head, let alone a hockey stick.

Before the kids were big enough to interact with each other, we had visions of our adorable tots playing backyard games of ball hockey. When the kids finally did interact with each other, we revised that vision. The new vision looked more like a cross between Jai-Alai and a gladiator deathmatch, so into storage the toddler-size hockey sticks went.

But a few years had passed, and the older kids were big enough to know that high-sticking gets you a lot of time in the “time-out” box. Plus, what we’d managed to scrape together on our recession-era Christmas budget was looking pretty sad when we laid it all out to wrap.

“I’ll probably regret this,” I admitted as I surveyed the assortment of weaponry I was about to bestow on our band of tiny hooligans. But Maddi had already spied the sticks in the furnace room, so I was committed to the process.

When the paper came off the ball-hockey set on Christmas morning, the boys’ eyes lit up. “Sockey ball!” James giggled. No matter how many times I tell him that we play “hockey” with a “puck,” James will always insist that Canada’s national winter sport is sockey ball.

Ever since they were tiny, the boys have enjoyed watching sockey ball. James enjoys sockey and baseball in equal measures, but Thomas has a particular love for the ice. Before he was sitting up on his own, he’d watch hockey games with his daddy, his little eyes tracking the players and the puck. He’d squeal at the action and pump his little fists until the commercial break, at which time he went back to being a normal infant.

When Thomas was about five months old, we took all three kids to see the local WHL team play. Guess who started jumping up and down and squealing when the players skated onto the ice? As his siblings sat in their near-rinkside seats, somewhat bored, our not-yet-crawling baby tracked the action, waved his arms and jabbered gibberish in an urgent voice to the players. When we left at the end of the first period because Maddux and James were getting tired, Thomas howled his disapproval.

So now that Thomas was walking, I figured it was time to break out the hockey sticks. Insane, I know. Chris and I fully expected those sticks to be in permanent time-out by noon Christmas Day. But the kids proved us wrong. To be sure, there have been a few checking and high-sticking violations (for those who aren’t hockey fans, that means the boys have used their sticks to whack bodies and heads instead of the puck a few times).

However, this is what usually goes on: Thomas picks up a stick and holds it exactly like an NHL player. James does the same. If the puck (a blue ball in their case) is available, James will move it around with his stick while Thomas roars with laughter and swings his stick wildly (it’s as big as he is, and he’s new at this whole walking thing).

In the very likely event that the puck has gotten lost behind the couch, the boys will simply run around the playroom with knees slightly bent, sticks out, and their super-intense pro-hockey “game faces” on. James’ “game face” is concentrated scowl, with a slight flare of the nostrils, his eyes a few feet ahead of his stick on the “ice.” Thomas’ “game face” is a little different — his eyes wide, alert, a little crazy, and he’s usually jabbering some baby trash talk in James’ direction.

And on Saturday nights, we can always count on one thing. After dinner (usually pizza) and before bedtime (usually a bit late), the kids jump on the bed and watch “Hockey Night in Canada” with Daddy. Maddux, who’s going through her (realllly long) princess phase, doesn’t usually watch long, but if it’s Hockey Night, the boys happily watch the game until they’re dragged off to bed wailing “I watch sockeeeeeyyyy!”

Tonight, because the Canucks are losing*, the boys are celebrating Sockey Night downstairs with their own sticks. They’re good little boys and have watched enough hockey to know how the sport is played, so my refereeing skills are needed much more rarely than we thought when I pulled those sticks out of storage.

On the rare occasions when a boy raises a stick over his head and begins chasing the “other team” with wicked glee, all it takes is the question, “How do good little hockey players hold their sticks?” Down go the sticks. On go the “game faces.” It’s Sockey Night in Canada.

Watching the home team win the midget sockey championship

* The Canucks did not, in fact, lose and the kids got to watch the recorded version of their win after dinner. There was cheering and arm-pumping and the usually-coordinated Thomas was so excited that he took a header off the end of bed for the very first time. (Don’t worry, he was fine and went right back to jumping on the bed and cheering on the Canucks!)

No Holds Barred

Thomas hugged me yesterday. Now at this point in parenting, you’d think I wouldn’t care where my hugs are coming from. A hug is a hug is a hug, right?

Um, big “No” on that one. When you have a baby who is capable of slapping high fives with peers and offering his hand for adults to shake, I don’t think it’s too much to expect him to be able to give a proper hug to his own mommy. Especially when he is more than happy to bestow affectionate squeezes on the very brother who, just moments before, high-sticked him (a generous euphemism, as the hockey puck is nowhere to be found).

Maddux was never a hugger. Still isn’t. She’s more of a wrap-your-arms-around-a-neck-and-then-dangle-limply-with-your-full-body-weight-while-emitting-a-strange-high-pitched-giggler. But she abuses hugging technique with equal abandon upon all her victims, so that’s OK by me.

James, on the other hand, was born hugging. His arms just naturally curl into a hug position anytime he’s near anything remotely huggable. A mom, a pillow, a truck. If you’re on his VIP list, James will drape himself across your chest and ask you, with that huge smile that showcases all 20 of his teeth, “Sing sunshine song!”

Of course, if you are a baby, James finds that it’s easier to subdue you by giving your head a big squeeze. You can’t see. You can’t move. It’s perfect. So the key to getting a really good hug out of my middle son is to avoid being below the age of 14 months. (Luckily for you, you’re reading this, which means either that you’re older than 14 months, or that you’re a very bright baby indeed. In which case, you’ve been warned about the hugging.)

So anyway, James and Thomas have been hugging each other for a few weeks. At first I thought it was just a new grappling technique in their Fight Club.

“Stop that fighting at once!” I barked at my two smiling boys. Then I thought to myself, “Why are both of them smiling? Shouldn’t one of them be screaming for mercy?” And I realized that instead of a mutual stranglehold, I was witness to the most amazing thing ever: Two boys hugging each other nicely instead of face-checking each other. And I had just yelled at them to stop. Oops.

Luckily, my children are incredibly disobedient, so telling them not to hug was perhaps my parenting coup d’ etat. They embrace each other in between head-butts at home, and give each other big bear-hugs at the gym. Go, me.

But was I on the receiving end of any of these full-contact hugs? No, I was not. Although Thomas was happy to slap me fives or shake my hand or descend into my knee whenever a spot happened to be available (he will plop himself on any open lap, a fact which delights his siblings to no end), his mommy-hugs consisted of a hand on each shoulder, his head laid sweetly just below my chin. Nothing to sneeze at — but then he’d go give his brother a hearty squeeze around the neck. Where’s my squeeze, kid? You wanna talk squeezes? You don’t even want to know how long I spent trying to squeeze your giant full-term head out, and you didn’t even have the courtesy to face the right direction! Don’t you think I could use a hug after all of that?

But after a few weeks of practice, Thomas decided his hugs were ready for prime time, without me ever having to unleash my “Where’s Mommy’s hug?” rant on his unsuspecting ears. (Besides, I’m saving the agony-of-labor card for something really important, like sleep.)

Yesterday, as the boys and I were dropping Maddux off in her classroom, we all hugged each other good-bye as usual. Then James gave me a hug good-bye as well, hoping that this was the day I’d let him stay in Maddi’s class and play with all the fun blocks and beads. (He keeps forgetting this is contingent on being potty trained.)

“Aww, James, what a nice hug!” I exclaimed.

Then Thomas flung his chubby arms around my neck and crushed his cheek against mine. I just about fell over. (And not just because I was squatting and the giant baby-hug threw off my equilibrium!)

I’m a pretty tough cookie. I can ice a bloody lip or nose without breaking a sweat. I can scour dried poop clumps from a windowsill with the calm of someone sweeping away a few dust bunnies. And on Sept. 11, 2001, when my radio alarm clock woke me with news of planes flying into American landmarks, I went to work on what should have been the first day of my weekend (24-year-olds don’t get real weekends off in news) and edited stories of death and horror for another week. The only things that can dissolve me into a quivering puddle of goo are that impossibly sweet “Silent Night” Pampers commercial and hugs from babies whose little limbs can barely encircle your neck.

And I finally got my big, soft, heart-melting baby hug from Thomas at the moment when I least expected it. If it hadn’t been for the swarm of 3- and 4-year-olds watching and judging, I would have wept for joy right there. There’s just something about a toddler’s glorious abandon of affection that can turn a mom to jelly in an instant. A hug is not just a hug when it’s my baby’s first, no matter how many kids I have. (Although, given my feelings about the third stage of labor, I think it’s safe to say we’re done.)

Fun and Games

For more than a century, athletes from all over have converged every couple years for the Olympic Games. Sometimes, the games are held in scary locales with creepy, oppressive cultures and corrupt officials — Hitler’s Germany, Soviet-era Russia, Salt Lake City. But this year, the Winter Olympics are but a few hours away in beautiful and friendly Vancouver, B.C.

One of the perks of living a few hours away from the Olympics’ host city is that the torch relay passes through our town. Since it’s not a terribly big city and we weren’t sure when we’d be on the relay route again, we decided to take our kids out past their bedtimes. Just this once.

Since this blog is basically birth control in written form, you are probably expecting this to end badly. As much as I would love to give you a satisfying tale of terrible kiddie chaos and frenzied coffee-swilling madness, I must regretfully announce that there was a minimum of insanity.

OK, fine, James and Maddux both licked the railing on the park bench and Thomas managed to create for himself, in a matter of 2.5 seconds, a handsome cookie beard. There was also the small issue of the single light-up Coke bottle someone handed the kids, so that instead of having some boring conversation with my husband on the ride home, I could spend my time refereeing a heated toy-custody battle. (Luckily, these bottles do not have a very good battery life.)

However, things could have been much worse. Let’s face it; they usually are much worse. Since nobody pooped an entire outfit or split their face open or had a tantrum that attracted stares from a block away, I shall consider our outing a smashing success. The kids bounced around excitedly, Maddux proclaiming early, often, and loudly, in her best Rose-Bowl-parade-announcer voice, “The Olympic TORCH!” (Bystanders stopped looking around for it after about the fifth time.) James also enjoyed playing Official Announcer, baffling those around us with his triumphant shouts of “Da whipping porch!”

While James and Thomas enjoyed the torch relay, they are newcomers to the Olympic scene. Not so Maddux. Our little preschooler has been hosting pretend Olympic games in the playroom since July, often being the only contestant, which lends credibility to her amazing gold-medal streak of some 800-bazillion and counting. She never tires of skipping across the room, giggling in pageant-perfect faux humility as she receives her prize from the invisible panel of judges, and racing back to me proclaiming “I won another GOLD MEDAL!!!!” in a voice so excited it might surprise you to learn it was her 400th GOLD MEDAL!!!! of the afternoon. (Just wait until she learns about Academy Award speeches. She’ll be unstoppable.)

Maddux’ skipping always represents the sport of figure skating, that pinnacle of winter sports for girlie girls. She used to call it “girl hockey” because in a local ice arena where we watched an exhibition hockey game, there was a mural on the wall portraying a female figure skater. After leaving the game, she told me “I want to be a hockey ghoul (this is how she pronounces girl), because I just LOVE their outfits!”

“Really?” I asked, rather skeptically.

“Yes, they are just like PRINCESSES!” my daughter exclaimed rapturously.


“That’s not hockey, that’s figure skating. Hockey girls wear the same thing as hockey boys. Figure skaters wear little skirts, and the boy figure skaters wear pants and fancy shirts. They don’t play hockey, they do the same things you do in ballet class, except on ice skates.”

Maddux’ eyes went from her regular-cartoon size to full-on anime-heroine size.

“I’m gonna be a figger satyr!” she exclaimed with a squeal.

So a figure skater she is, winning thousands of gold medals weekly. (Take that, Michael Phelps!)

But now that we’ve watched the Olympic torch come through town, James is ready, too. The whole ride home, during his turn to hold the coveted glowing Coke, he held the bottle aloft as if it were the torch itself, yelling as it changed color: “RED!!!! GREEN!!!! BLUUUUEEE!!!! YEYYOW!!!!RED!!!!!!!” (This is always a delightful thing in the car, as James has only the one volume: Super loud.)

So for the boys, we’ll have hockey — or as they call it, sockey ball. (Yes, they realize that sockey ball players use a “puck,” but that doesn’t change the fact that its name is “sockey ball.”) And for Maddux, we will record figure skating. Although we really need to work on pronouncing those ‘K’s and ‘G’s, since nimbly sliding across the tile in the mall in slippery shoes while you’re yelling loudly, “Look, I’m Satan!” tends to draw stares.

Happily, no such stares were drawn last night and we all survived the torch relay — the only casualty being a healthy dinner (unless you believe Kraft’s claims). The next Olympian feat: tomorrow night’s family hockey night with Maddux’ school, in which we will attend a Rockets game right around bedtime. Stay tuned for the exciting sporting action!

Waiting for the torch

What’s In A Name?

“They” say our identities are fully formed by the age of 3. And funnily enough, 3-year-olds — at least the ones I’ve known — are often inclined to rename themselves. One child will take on the moniker of his favorite cartoon hero. Another may borrow the name of a favorite food. Sometimes the meaning behind a preschooler’s alter ego is a complete mystery.

I, for instance, happened to have an evil twin named Heathera, upon whom all my misdeeds were blamed. This Heathera ran about besmirching my good name — playing with things she wasn’t supposed to, making terrible messes and torturing my brothers. (I’m reasonably sure she opens packets of instant oatmeal over the freshly-cleaned cooktop every morning, too, so get off my back, Chris.) Yes, the standard set for my progeny was pretty high to begin with.

Then, the inimitable Maddux was born. Our fearless daughter is not one to concoct imaginary evil twins. Oh no. She had darn well better get credit for her dramatic and inventive misdeeds! And thus, at the tender age of 2, our mild-mannered toddler became the supervillain known as “Chaos.”

That’s right. As she jumped from couch to couch, strewing a wake of broken “babyproofing” gadgets in her path, she would recoil at the very mention of this Maddux person she’d once been.

“I not Maddux!” she would snap. “I CHAOS!”

And you know what? We really couldn’t argue with that.

While we’re not really sure where our darling daughter came up with her intimidating (yet completely appropriate) nickname, I have to take partial responsibility for what my son calls himself. Our eldest boy, who plays all the livelong day with giant-wheeled vehicles and hockey sticks, has given himself a nickname that will strike fear into the hearts of … well, anyone that really hates kittens and lollipops and rainbows.

Get ready for it …

My almost-preschool-age son has chosen for himself the rather long title of “The Little Baby Jamesycakes.”

Not Spider-Man. Not Monster Truck. Not even just Jamesycakes, which I could handle. Little. Baby. Jamesycakes. And he says it in THE cutest voice. EVER.

Yeah, he is not going near a playground until we clear that one up.

I called him Jamesycakes a couple times while smothering him with kisses at tuck-in time, as I think moms are entitled to do on occasion — failing to realize that he would associate the nickname with cake, which happens to be his favorite thing ever in the whole entire world. OF COURSE he wants people to think of James and immediately think of cake. What could be better, right?

Well, if you’re James, apparently babies. Little babies. And I have to admit he certainly is a cute little baby Jamesycakes when he hunches his shoulders up to his ears, cocks his head to one side, squints his eyes into adorable little LOLcat slits and says “I the cute little baby Jamesycakes!” in his very sweetest voice. However, I have it on pretty good authority that cute little baby boys who name themselves after pastry get a lot of swirlies and atomic wedgies. So we need to find a nickname that’s slightly less “LOLcat” and more “surviving to adulthood.”

James train? Rescue Pack? “I haz cheezburger”?

At least you can’t fault the kids on originality. Which is why I’m eagerly awaiting the day Thomas decides that his name just isn’t “him.” What will our youngest boy be rechristened? Will it be something based on his behavior, like Headbutt or Crush? Or will he, too, find inspiration in a favorite food? Perhaps in a few years, our playroom will be ruled by Sushi or Cheddar Bunny. If he’s anything like his siblings, Thomas will choose an alter ego that suits his personality.

So, Headbutt it is.

Chaos, microwaver of innocent puppy dogs


I’ve always regarded with no modicum of suspicion the term “hot mama.” What exactly separates a hot mama from a regular hot person?

Ah, yes. Now I remember. You can spot the “hot mama” a mile away because she is wearing a mother’s very own type of combat fatigues. Her hair is coiffed in such a way that it is impossible for a toddler to yank. For the first many years, her earrings are never, EVER hoops. If there are multiple kids who are not yet in preschool, 90 percent of her wardrobe will be wash-and-wear fabric. And no matter the ages of the children, the smarter of us hot mamas know to dress in the same color as whatever we’re serving for lunch.

Oh, there are occasions when we might wear white pants or a silk top or a tantalizing, chunky necklace. Those are called dates. As much as “What Not to Wear” might suggest that a mom-on-the-go should opt for a light-colored linen walking short, a fun silk top and some bold jewelry, we don’t see Stacy and Clinton offering to spend hours over our laundry sink with a bottle of Spray ‘N’ Wash, or to take our toddlers to the emergency room when they decide those fun cocktail rings would make delicious appetizers.

Of course, we can’t talk about maternal fashion faux pas without discussing that staple of tastemakers’ ire, the “mom jean.” Now, I’m not saying that our waistbands should touch our ribs. But in the immortal words of Whitney Houston, “Crack is wack.” Low-rise jeans are all fine and well, and I’ve seen moms wearing them. Just not moms that ever bend over to play with their kids, or pick up a diaper bag, or put a kid’s shoes in the bottom cubby at daycare. (Well, at least not after they’ve mooned an entire roomful of other moms their first time out with the baby and immediately thereafter made a trip to the mid-rise jeans section. My apologies, Westbank Public Health Unit.)

And even for those hot mamas of us who spend a lot of time at the gym, motherhood changes us. And by “us” I of course mean our abdominal tone. The skin is only meant to stretch so far, my friends. Even with hundreds of hours of ab-sculpting classes, things never quite snap back. Your abs may return to their pre-baby form, because they’re muscles, and that you can work with. Skin? Not so much.

When you take a balloon out of the package, one side sticks to the other. It’s nice and flat and taut. Now give the balloon a good stretch this way and that way. Then blow it up to capacity. Let it sit around for a good long while. When that balloon deflates, it’s not going to be flat and taut. The sides aren’t going to stick together. It won’t be a pretty new-balloon shape. It’ll be a used-up, stretched-thin, flippity-floppity round thing that only in the vaguest of ways resembles a nice new balloon.

That is exactly what happens to your belly. No matter how much you work out, your skin is just a little bit (or perhaps a lot) thinned out, deflated and droopy. Skintight jeans and a crop top? Not gonna work unless you are a mom who also happens to be 16. Even supermommel Heidi Klum relies on airbrushed abs.

But perhaps the biggest impediments in looking good (not just “good for someone who’s had X kids”) are time and sanity. You see, shopping requires both. And shopping with kids saps both.

Believe me, you may begin your trip to the mall with the goal in mind of finding the perfect jean. (The road to mediocrity is paved with the best intentions.) But a few potty breaks and messy snacks later, and you’re simply hoping to find a really great jean. Your kids peek under enough fitting room doors, and you modify your goal yet again — you just want to find a pair of jeans that fits as well as your old ones that were destroyed by projectile Tylenol (not the clear kind that you buy, but the kind that contains the dye of a thousand red Sharpies and mysteriously appears in the back of your cabinet when you are weak and desperate).

Then the kids begin playing hide-and-seek in the clothing racks and licking mirrors. You notice it is two hours past naptime and that someone — you can’t tell who because there are too many of them and also you have neither slept nor eaten in four years — smells ever so faintly of poop. So you go to The Gap and grab something — anything — in what you think is your size. When you arrive home, you realize it is “reverse fit.” As in the reverse of what anyone should wear, ever.

But after that shopping trip, would you take it back? Would you? Or would you find a way to cover the gigantic butt parachute and the fact that the waist rests at your fourth rib, and rock that almost-mom-jean like the “hot mama” you are?

You see a hot mama. I see a shirt that will camouflage sand, poop, and most food. It’s a winner!

Lucky Three

If things had gone according to plan, James would have turned three during the first week or two of January. As it happens, James has always done things on his own timetable, and he turned three in the last week of November, five weeks ahead of schedule.

His term in utero was not the easiest — I was on partial bedrest for the first 10 weeks and on full bedrest for almost all of the final two-and-a-half. After a partial placental abruption at 32.5 weeks, I spent several harrowing hours wondering whether he had survived at all. I’m not sure I dared even to breathe until 7:15 a.m., Nov. 28, 2006, when he was ushered into the world at exactly 35 weeks’ gestation, pink and healthy and beautiful and squalling. (James garnered a near-perfect APGAR and weighed an impressive 5 lbs. 12 oz. at birth!) He had a few small holes in his heart — which were unrelated to his prematurity and were well on their way to closing up when last he was checked — but he fed well and by the age of six months, he was as roly-poly a baby as you could imagine.

The thing about preterm babies, of course, is that you can’t fixate on developmental milestones. Some infants catch up right away; some catch up after a year or two. James’ development has always been a little baffling. He sat early (before 5 months’ gestational age) but walked so late we were just about to dial the pediatrician when he finally began toddling around at 19 months. He figured out how to roll a car before he could sit, but up until recently did not engage in any kind of cooperative or pretend play. And this summer, at 2 1/2, James was still not saying much, unless you count babbling, parroting, and yelling “Digger! Digger! Digger!” We knew he would be hitting some milestones later, but when his 22-moths-younger brother was slapping high-fives before James — and rapidly catching up in vocabulary — we were pretty certain it was more than just an issue of being born 5 weeks ahead of schedule.

Because of these things (and other things, such as his many and outrageous meltdowns, his reluctance to socialize outside his family, and his habit of sorting and lining up all his vehicles rather than actually playing with them) he’s been referred for an evaluation for a high-functioning form of autism.

However, as with his gestation and his early milestones, James does things at his own pace. Not long before his third birthday, his speech went from 90 pecent gibberish to 50 percent gibberish, and he began using an amazing amount of new words. It’s as if that language explosion “they” say to expect at 18 months simply waited an additional 18 months to happen. Instead of screaming like a pig at slaughter and flinging himself on the floor of Maddux’ school — based solely on the fact that the first time we visited, he was in a stroller, and that is how it forevermore should be — he now trots cheerfully down the hall. Instead of lurking in the door and staring (and shrieking and pushing the teacher when invited in), James will now scurry into the room, sit on his favorite couch, sort some blocks, and insist on hugging that same teacher ‘goodbye’ as we leave.

Before November, James had said “I love you” to me exactly twice. Now he says it at least once a week (fishing for it still doesn’t work, alas!). Before Christmas, he played exclusively with wheeled toys, and never pretended they were doing anything other than driving across a room or around a track. Now, he plays with pretend food and hockey sticks and even — if you catch him in the right mood — his animals (although they don’t interact with each other — they’re kind of like vehicles with legs). Today, I caught him pretending to fuel his magnetic trains.

In the past few months, he’s begun potty training, learned to count to three, and mastered most of his colors and a fair amount of animals. He made a friend of sorts at Maddux’ preschool (one who attacks him with kisses, actually, but at this point I’m not going to be choosy!). And yesterday, he finally agreed to go to a daycare at a new gym — a biggie, since we’ve been driving 40 minutes round-trip to our old one to provide him with continuity after our move seven months ago.

There are a few sticking points, to be sure — such as his refusal to wear a jacket even at -15, a slight vocal tic (which diminishes a bit more each week), and his unparalleled fear of unfamiliar footwear. But we’ve made great strides since the day early last year when I brought him to swimming class and he a) insisted on bringing his favorite toy bus IN THE WATER and b) screamed himself snotty until we left the pool because, being in the water as we were, he was unable to roll said bus.

Of course, whatever his developmental timetable turns out to be, every time I hold my little son my thoughts are drawn back to that gut-wrenching 10-minute ambulance ride in 2006, during which I was sure the near-term baby I felt sloshing against the roof of my belly every time we hit a bump had surely died. At least several times a day, as his small arms wrap around me and he asks me to sing the “sunshine song” exactly three times (no more, no less), I am profoundly grateful to have this little boy at all.

Perhaps he will “outgrow” his developmental delays and grow up to be the next Einstein or Edison or Gates (three oft-cited examples of probable Asperger Syndrome). Or perhaps he’ll be living in our in-law suite at age 45 and still subsisting entirely on waffles, steak and cheddar bunnies. Either way, we are lucky to have this happy, healthy kid — and his siblings — and we’re proud of all their milestones, whether on the experts’ schedules or on Jamesy Time.

Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark

Are you afraid of the dark?

Maddux is. She sleeps with a Christmas tree in her room year ’round. The door is always cracked about six inches. And her blinds are open, which she claims is in case Peter Pan wants to visit, but which I suspect is because she appreciates the comforting glare of the streetlights.

Now, when I was a kid, I was afraid of the dark, too. Because, as any child of the ’80s knows, Darth Vader’s armor and Emperor Palpatine’s cloak are both very well camouflaged by bedroom shadows, and if you don’t have the covers up to your chin and a stuffed animal on either side of your head, you may well find yourself staring up at the emperor’s chalky visage as he glares at you with soulless, bloodshot eyes, zaps you with The Force and chortles, “Yessss, yess, I can feel your anger!” while Lord Vader stands nearby, choking you with his mind. In fact, Chris will tell you I still can’t watch anything more frightening than “48 Hours Mystery” right before bed.

But Maddux is not the lucky recipient of nightly visits from Maleficent or Ursula the sea witch. The only thing she’s afraid of is tripping over her Barbies as she frolics quietly (and, sometimes, not-so-quietly) in the wee hours. In fact, my intrepid daughter cannot sleep properly unless she has been told a story that includes pirates, skeletons, wolves, man-eating sharks, ghosts, malevolent space aliens, evil owls, or a combination thereof. Routinely, she will badger me to allow her to watch a movie she spied in the grown-up section of our media center — a movie all about her favorite subject, aliens.

“Mommy, I want to watch the movie called ‘Aliens’,” she told me recently.

“Oh, no, you can watch a movie about aliens, but you may not watch ‘Aliens’,” I replied.

“But I will be SO GOOD.”

“Well, sweet pea,” I told her, “That movie is for grown-ups only, because it’s really scary and the aliens kill lots of people and they don’t come back to life.”

“That’s OK, Mommy,” my preschooler replied sweetly. “I will be really brave.”

Maddux’ powers of persuasion are strong, but not strong enough for me to allow my little princess to watch gruesome disembowelings performed by slavering razor-toothed killers. So we watched “Chicken Little” instead, to her great disappointment.

But a few nights later, as I tucked her in, she resumed her incessant badgering.

Me: “What would you like your bedtime story to be about?”

Maddux: “I would like you to tell me the movie ‘Aliens’ because I really want to see it and you and Daddy won’t let me. But you can just tell me about it.”

Me: “How about a different alien story, with a girl superhero?”

Maddux: “How about ‘Aliens’?”

Me (tired after a long day of arguing with kids and not using my best judgment): “OK. Once upon a time, there was an astronaut princess named Ripley.”

Maddux: “You mean Maddux.”

Me: “Of course. Maddux. Anyway, the astronaut princess named Maddux was sleeping in her special refrigerator on her spaceship when she got a message from a planet asking for a superhero to come help. When they got to the planet, all the people were gone, but there were some alien eggs.” I leave off the part where an alien attaches itself to a guy’s face.

Maddux: “What about the aliens?”

Me: “Be patient! So Maddux and her astronaut go back onto the spaceship and are minding their own business, enjoying their dinner, when all of the sudden, a horrible evil alien POPS RIGHT OUT OF AN ASTRONAUT’S CHEST!”

Maddux is totally unfazed.

Me: “The alien EATS THROUGH HIS CHEST with its slobbery, razor-sharp teeth. And then the cool robot doctor sews him up as good as new.” (Because even if my daughter is a coldblooded enjoyer of gory R-rated bedtime stories, the only people who die on my watch are wolves, pirates and, of course, aliens.)

The story proceeded, but instead of cowering under her blankets, Maddux seemed nonplussed. After all, the Big Bad Wolf gets disemboweled routinely in our stories, courtesy of the kindly woodsman (you know, to remove the gobbled-up granny). So I pull out all the stops.

Me: “Now, this was not just any old alien. Instead of a humanoid head, the alien that was chasing Maddux and her friends had a long, pointy head with dozens of pointy teeth, and inside his gigantic, gleaming head was a tiny little box-shaped head that would shoot out of his mouth with amazing speed and CHOMP-CHOMP-CHOMP at people just when they thought they were out of his reach. And as they hunted for the alien, HE was hunting for THEM, waiting in the dark with slobber dripping from his rows of terrible teeth.”

Maddux (not even a little wide-eyed after this terrifying slumbertime narrative): “Like Thomas?”

Me: “Uh, sure. And as they hunted the alien, they foolishly decided to separate. And the alien gobbled up everyone on the ship, one by one. He even ate (dramatic pause) the robot doctor.”

Maddux: “Noooooooo! Not the robot doctor! I am changing your story and putting him back together.”

Me: “OK, so she puts the robot doctor back together and they program the ship to self-destruct. They get into an escape pod and fly out of the spaceship as it bursts into flame with the alien still inside it. Then the robot doctor sews everyone up and they throw a royal ball, where Maddux meets a prince astronaut, they fall in love, and are married that very day. The End.”

Maddux curled up in her bed with a happy sigh. “Thank you for telling me the ‘Alien’ story, Mommy,” she said blissfully. “It was so cyooool!”

Ten minutes later when I returned upstairs to tell James his trucks needed to honk more quietly, Maddux was snoring away softly — dreaming, no doubt, of saving the day from drooling, razor-toothed extraterrestrials. On top of the covers.

I draped her blanket over her. She may not be afraid of the Alien, but you never know when Palpatine and Vader might show up.