Shame.

You know when you were a kid and your mom yelled at you for pulling your sister’s hair?

You knew better but did it anyway. There’s no way of “accidentally” pulling your sister’s hair.

You know after years into adulthood, you get the lecture by the dental hygienist for not flossing well enough?

You’re ashamed because you remembered to floss but you’re also a lazy ass and don’t want to get out of the warm bed and walk on the cold tile floor.

Shame.

Shame on you.

The index finger shake. The shame shake. The you-knew-better shake.

You know when you’re driving along the road and you think to yourself, ‘I haven’t had a pedicure in a long time. I’m going to treat myself to a pedicure while the kids are at school.’ Good. You deserve it. Sometimes you need to do something for yourself.

I have two daughters. Two daughters that love expensive pedicures. I felt no shame sneaking in a pedicure while my daughters were at school. I was saving money by only paying for myself instead of three full pedicures.

“Do You Lilac It?” by OPI was my color choice. Why, yes I do lilac it. I lilac sitting alone, scrolling my phone, people watching, and reading a book. I found great comfort soaking my feet in hot water while my girls were staring at multiplication flashcards and running a mile in middle school P.E.

School is good for them. I graduated school. I deserved a pedicure alone.

Tap. Tap. 

What the hell.

I put down my book and looked down at the nail tech. She was using her tiny scoop to dig out the sides of my toenail, where the nail meets the skin.

Hm, that’s weird. She tapped the top of my foot. That’s never happened…

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Oh God.

White piles of toe gunk fell from her scoop and rested on top of my foot. I pulled out my phone.

She’s placing the gunk on my foot. Why isn’t she using a towel like everyone else? She’s piling my toe gunk on top of my foot.

My mouth dropped. I looked around the room. No one had white toe gunk in tiny piles on top of their feet. I opened the camera app on my phone and slid the viewer to video. I pushed record and held the phone at a slight angle. I spread my fingers apart on the screen and zoomed.

Tap. Tap.

“Nasty toes. You see this? You nasty toes.”

There it was.

Shame.

Shame on me.

The index finger point.

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Nasty toes. 

I’ve been getting pedicures long enough to know she was showing me I didn’t get enough pedicures. She placed my toe gunk there for all to see.

Tap. Tap.

She tapped my foot with her hand. Code for, “put your foot back in the water.” I waited a second to see if she would wipe the gunk off my foot with her towel. She did not. I closed my eyes and slid my foot back into the water. I could feel the toe gunk release and float up. I wished I was holding up multiplication flash cards for my daughter. I wished I was running a mile with my other daughter. I wished for anywhere but here.

I opened my eyes, saved the video, and closed my phone down. I lifted my right foot.

She shoveled my toe gunk out again.

Tap. Tap.

“See that? You need to keep coming.”

I knew it. She was trying to sell me more pedicures in an odd sales pitch including white toe gunk placed on top of my foot.

Shame.

Shame on me.

I got a pedicure without my two expensive daughters.

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And don’t forget to buy my book, “But Did You Die?”

The letter K.

She came into the world with a middle finger up.

The wild child. She never did take a bottle. Her toddler nickname was “the bulldog.” She wouldn’t let me feed her baby food; she had to feed herself. She refuses to “fake” smile for pictures. The kid doesn’t take shit from anyone. Scott and I can tell which daughter is walking into our room at night based off the heavy footsteps of confidence. I’m scared shitless for her teenage years.

There’s only one.

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The letter K.

Kate.

Coming from a family of four kids, I knew what I was getting into with two kids. You need balance. Equality. Treat all kids the same or you will pay. I hope Kate never realizes we took Emma to Disney World for her 5th birthday and all Kate got a Kansas City theme park.

I wrote a blog post for the letter E – Emma.

I asked Kate if I could interview her for the letter K on my blog.

She told me to go straight to hell. I’m kidding. But she did tell me no one needs to know her business which is the 7-year-old equivalent of telling me to go straight to hell.

That’s fine. I expected this answer so I told her she could interview me. She agreed.

An Interview with Julie Burton by Kate Burton

Kate: What makes you cry?

Me: Geez, Kate. Well, when someone in my family is hurt or sick. I don’t like that.

Kate: That’s boring. Think of something else like the time Stella bit your earring off your ear.

Me: Yes, physical pain can make me cry too.

Kate: What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Me: Being your mom.

Kate: Correct. Next question. If you were two animals mixed, which two would you be?

Me: A fish and a human. I’d be a mermaid chasing a blue marlin.

Kate: Mom. Stop it. You can’t pick a human. Ok, new question – what is love?

Me: What is love? What kind of question is this? This is kinda abstract. Ok, let me try to put this in words. It’s a feeling. No. It’s, like, a strong desire to protect someone and you would do anything for. You love the soul.

Kate: You’re not answering the question right.

Me: Ugh! KATE.

Kate: If you could change anything on your body, what would it be?

Me: My honest answer? I’ve always wished I had smaller boobs.

Kate: Oh yeah. You got those big ‘ole boobies hangin’.

Me: Stop it.

Kate: If you owned a country, what would it be called?

Me: Uh, I’ve never really thought about…

Kate: NEXT! If you had a million dollars to spend, what would you buy?

Me: I’m not sure how big of a house it would buy – but I would love to own a vacation home in the Florida Keys. Right on the water. I would spend any money I had left on a boat. I’d be there all the time. Writing and fishing.

Kate: Correct. Work on that cuz I’m comin’ with ya. What is the best joke you’ve told?

Me: Oh. Ok, let me think…

Kate: Mom, you have bad jokes. You can skip this one.

Me: Wait, I tell bad jokes?

Kate: Mom. You’re not funny. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Me: I would love to fly. Travel to places like a bird.

Kate: Uh, no. You should have said snap your fingers and the house be clean.

Me: I thought you were interviewing me. You’re not supposed to change my answers!

Kate: Name some of your best friends. I’ll start for you – Christine.

Me: Ha! Yes, Christine. Cody.

Kate: Correct.

Me: KATE! This isn’t a right or wrong question!

Kate: Uh, yeah it is. It’s my interview.

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To Emma.

To Emma,

You are me. Ok, you’re not me me.

You’re the daughter I always pictured when I was a kid. I could see you in my mind. I could see you every time I looked in the mirror at 10-years-old, 15-years-old, and 20-years-old. You had dark hair and dark eyes. You had my face. You didn’t exist, of course.

Then you were born. I’ve watched you grow from a baby to a toddler to a preschooler to a 10-year-old. You’re a miniature version of myself.

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And here I am, at 34 years old, sitting with my 10-year-old self at Thanksgiving. You’re not a clone obviously, that’s genetically impossible.

You’re better than a clone.

You got the best of your dad. You are your dad. You hunt and fish. You have more deer mounts than any 10-year-old I know. A Thanksgiving turkey can be had with a drop of your bow and arrow. When you’re hurt, you rub dirt on it. You are the happiest when you’re outdoors. You are never scared.

On this Thanksgiving – I am thankful for you, Emma. In some ways, I feel like you grew up with me. You are the little girl I pictured myself with one day. I just didn’t know you would turn out to be a badass too.

And don’t say badass at the dinner table. Only your dad and I can call you a badass.

I love you, Emma Grace.

Love, Mom

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___________

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Pink camo.

So do you think you’re having a boy or girl?

Ah, yes. The ever so popular round-about way of asking, “do you want a daughter or a son?” Let me tell you – a mother cannot feel what sex they are having. I’ve never been pregnant with a boy but I’m pretty sure a mom cannot feel a baby penis poking her. This question implies what sex does the mother want.

The correct answer to this question is, “it doesn’t matter. A healthy baby.”

I’m sure there are some moms out there that could care less about the sex of their child. Not me. My raging, hormonal mess of a mouth would have told you a girl and stop asking me questions before I stab your eyes out. Now get out of my way so I can dry heave over the toilet.

I didn’t want girls just so I could dress them up in dresses and bows to play Princess Tea Party. I hate tea. And I can just as easily teach a son how to speak in an English accent. Honestly, dah-ling.

The reason I wanted girls was because I needed balance in the household. 

The testosterone levels shoot through the roof of our house. If it has no emotion – it’s at my house:

Hockey sticks, guns, whiskey, canned beer, bottled beer, home-made beer from taps, dead deer on the walls, a 4-wheeler, a Ford truck, hole-y boxer briefs on the floor, dirty plates under the bed, beard shavings left in the sink, ticks, poison ivy, dingleberry talk, toilet seats left up, deep freeze full of red meat, snoring, toenail clippings on the floor, pee splashes on toilets, loogies in the shower, bows and arrows, duck and goose decoys, muddy footprints, sweat stained shirts, big muscles and protein shakes, the voices of ESPN announcers, cupped farts.

My pregnancy brain was sending me visions of the future: Scott would take his son from my body and run off to a tree stand with baby boy tucked into the crook of his arm. I would get left behind delivering the afterbirth alone. No. We needed a girl. Scott needed to calm down.

He's taking my baby girl.
He’s taking my baby girl to the tree stand instead.

I had such fear in the father/son bond that I wanted a girl. A son would only feed the man beast of a husband. I would never have anything in common with a son. I would be the mom that begs her son to have a conversation with me.

My hope was fulfilled with one shot of the double X chromosomes. The moment Emma came busting into the world in tears, Scott cried along with her. Emma was just pissed off she had to breathe on her own. Scott was crying because he fell in love.

I was completely blind sighted by the strength of the father/daughter bond.

Emma has Scott’s “eh, whatever” personality. She leaves dirty clothes on the floor. Mud gets stomped through the house – first with Scott’s footprints followed by Emma’s. Emma picked out a spot in her room for her first taxidermy buck. She’s a sports fan. She doesn’t blink an eye at pulling off a tick from her skin. She’s a master at the kill shots in bow shooting practice.

I will never understand Scott and Emma’s desire to sit in a tree stand for hours. I could never kill an animal. Weapons scare me. Scott and Emma laugh off my sorry attempts at protesting hunting. They are counting down the days until youth deer season in a few weeks. Come opening day, I will be pacing around the house waiting for my daughter to come home so she can tell me all about her big hunt with her dad.

At least she pees with the toilet seat down.