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When it rains during school vacation week, my sled looks FORLORN, which is my new favorite word. It sounds so forlorn…which means sad and lonely. I also like JUBILANT and last night we were! Dad called Mom and we thought it was an emergency because he hardly ever does, and it was just the northern lights. Mom and Tofu and I ran out into the field behind our house. The sky had cleared, and it was like the sky was singing…white beams of light and green shimmering. It made us feel small and also jubilant.

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We got the afternoon off school on Chinese New Year. It wasn’t because Wolfgang Elementary was actually celebrating the Year of the Dragon, though. It was because of a bomb scare! Someone reported that there was a threat scrawled on the girls’ bathroom door. I saw it myself. But I don’t really think it was a bomb threat. “Ther is a bom.” If you can’t spell “there” than you probably can’t spell “BUM!” Anyway, most people were glad but I had mixed feelings. I like school and also people should learn to spell. Still, it was fine to go home and start making dumplings with Mom early. The Dragon is supposed to be extra lucky. Maybe it will be?

Maine abbreviated is ME. I love that!

Mrs. Ordinance likes to welcome the new year wearing pearls, so she did, even though it was just me, and Mom, and Colby in our plain old house. And Tofu of course. Still, she looked very nice, and we all wore those funny birthday hats. In a way, it is a birthday: the NEW year is born. Colby and Mom made a new year’s painting together, while Mrs. O and I baked cookies in the kitchen. The house smelled great: oil paint and chocolate. I called Dad and Richard and they let me talk to Bird. She said, “dumpling” for some reason. I don’t know if she was talking about herself or the new year.

Names can mean stuff. My last name, McAllister, is Gaelic and means son of Alasdair. My mom uses her maiden name, now that she’s divorced. It’s Grey, spelled the British way. It’s funny because she’s a painter and very colorful. She’s not grey at all! Colby’s last name is St. Laurent. The “St.” part means “saint” and he’s not one! There are a LOT of St. Laurents in this little town. Richard’s last name is German,  like Richard. It’s Blaufuss, which means Blue Foot. He does not have blue feet, but they are big! Mrs. Ordinance’s name means “rule” which is also funny, since she doesn’t have any. As for Amanda Roden? Well, you know what I think about her last name!

Kung Hei Fat Choy! It’s the Year of the Rabbit! Mom and I were going to celebrate Chinese New Year in Portland, but we got snowed in. The year of the rabbit is so far very white. A white rabbit in a snowstorm might seem invisible, but I bet the rabbit likes it. We made dumplings and they weren’t bad for a change. Mom gave me a red packet full of laisee. That’s lucky money. I got 22 dollars so now I will buy more books!

My Chinese sign is the snake. I kind of wish I were a dragon but at least snakes are supposed to be very smart.

"...and a cockatiel in a not-pear tree!"Since Mom and Dad are divorced, I kind of get two Christmases. This can be good and bad. The good thing is, Dad and Richard celebrate everything on Christmas Eve, since Richard is German and that’s what they do. This year, I gave them a stack of promises on little cards. They say things like “Good for one dishwashing” and stuff like that. I hope I don’t regret it! Dad and Richard both loved them.

They gave me books and camping stuff and that’s fine with me. I especially like the camping stuff, since only Dad and I go. They bring me home on Christmas morning, early, and I’m really tired. That’s the bad thing. But then Mom and I celebrate Christmas for a lot more days. “They don’t call it the Twelve Days of Christmas for nothing,” says Mom.

The best thing is, Dad and Richard are in Germany for the rest of my vacation and so we have Bird. I’m singing a song called A Cockatiel in a Pear Tree …  except it’s our Christmas Tree! It’s full of totally random stuff, unlike Dad and Richard’s which is beautiful in a totally different way. Beatrice Strawberry Bird looks hilarious up there and she also doesn’t want to come down.

Thanks come in all different flavors, like Thanksgiving pies. I’m thankful for my silly Mommy and how she sings when she’s happy (but don’t tell her that or she might get louder). I’m thankful for Tofu, my crazy pup, and Beatrice Strawberry – cockatiel extraordinaire – even though I hardly ever see them at the same time. I’m thankful for my dad, who really gets me, and even for Richard (sort of). I’m thankful for all the books I’ve read and for all the ones I haven’t. Just knowing they are out there makes me feel calm inside, like how you can’t count all the stars in the sky. I’m thankful for Colby, my friend forever, and for Mrs. O and her cookies (and pies! today she’s bringing pecan!). I’m thankful for my birth mom even though she’s a mystery, because otherwise, who would I be?  And the house smells so good today, even though the apple pie filling leaked and smoked up the kitchen.

Mom and I are going to the Chinese School in Portland this Saturday. There’s going to be a book fair … and dumplings. I love dumplings. Potstickers! Mom and I tried to make some but the edges didn’t stick and they turned into Disaster Dumplings. But that’s okay, Tofu loved them. Besides, we’re going to Portland for real dumplings and books! Two of my favorite things! I almost can’t sleep!

My mother is a thief, a candy thief! It happens every Halloween. She mostly takes chocolate and then pretends she didn’t, until she confesses. It’s funny, because my mom is all about the healthy food, like broccoli. But I know all about her secret or not so secret weakness…chocolate. Good thing I’m a gummy jelly girl!

Families are so different. When we were talking about them in school, Colby said, “It’s easier to say who I’m NOT related to in Wolfgang” because his family is big and they’ve lived here forever. Mrs. O., on the other hand, has only one cousin left, and he’s in Australia! Tofu and I are like her family now. No wonder she bakes us so many cookies. My own family is a bit messy. Dad and Richard live in Ottenbury with my darling Beatrice and sometimes me. Mom and I live here in Wolfgang with Tofu. My birth mom lives in China with maybe another family. Not everything has to be neat and tidy all the time. Messy can be good.

My name is India McAllister and these are my true, random, sort of secret thoughts.

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