sticky sweet

I didn’t have energy to do the dishes or put the kitchen floor hazards away so I instead shoved, scooted and piled. It was late and I was making room for more making. Specifically, making something for Margot to share with her class on her birthday circle day.

Easy and fun I chanted as I sifted through our pantry. I recalled a conversation I had with my friend earlier in the day. She said, “I have to drive to Lolo to pick up my meat because I didn’t have time to butcher my own deer this year. I am giving myself permission to not be a total badass all the time.”

I found a crispy half-bag of marshmallows and decided there is no way those things ever expire. I turned to google, readying to type something like marshmallow dessert that isn’t hideous but then my eye caught the 13 pound bag of gourmet popcorn I had just received in the mail. My eyes twinkled and I squeaked, “Popcorn balls!” even though I’d never made them before.

The birthday circle at her school is a big deal. At least I anticipated it would be. Margot would lay on a giant piece of paper and the room would sing the sweetest song about growing while her teacher traced the outline of body, the one that used to inhabit mine. Then, each classmate would make eye-contact with my girl and tell her what they appreciate about her while her teacher recorded every word inside her outline. It feels big — in the achy, awesome acknowledgement that Margot’s excitement is her own: she has her relationships, her space, her celebration; and I have mine, as her mama, in the space she proudly loves and shares with me.

I thought about her first day of preschool.

It was 10pm and Margot was amazingly still awake, happily humming to her babies in our bed. Andy cruised between housey chores and commented on how he should really be in bed. I had made Very Important Notes on an envelope from recycling, informing him of some Very Important Information. My writing arched around and through Ruby’s drawings, most of it illegible to my husband so he continually asked for interpretation as I hummed about the internet in search of Popcorn Balls That Incorporate Things In My Kitchen Like Stale Marshmallows.

The birthday circle was even better than I anticipated. I could hardly contain my heart under my ribs as a room of tiny souls who adore my girl proclaimed their love for her hugs, her playground skills, her smile. Margot’s teacher chose different colored markers to document each child’s words. I dutifully memorized the event, feeling suspended in blissful parenthood: Margot’s long body leaned into mine, not a baby in the least. Ruby sank into Andy’s hard-working Carhartt lap. I smelled Margot’s hair, felt her react to her friends’ words. I resisted hugging her so tight. I swear I could have stuffed her back into my body.

prominent placement, in our home and otherwise

I found a few recipes and decided to just go for it. Butter, sugar, marshmallows, corn syrup melty goo. What could go wrong? I added ingredients with giddy abandon. Easy and fun. But once the goo hit the popcorn and it all just shimmered and sogged into a pile. Nothing sticky, nothing ballesque. Damnit. But holy hell was that failed ball tasty. A salty sweet molten pile of decadence and no children to want a bite. Andy and I finally had that elusive moment to talk about our days over the last sips of our wine as we spooned spooned sugary, wilty popcorn into our faces.


We started over, opting for peanut butter popcorn balls and following a recipe. Pushing the gooey popcorn aside for the chickens (one more bite), “the chickens will go bananas over this,” we said (one more bite).

Margot was very asleep then. Andy’s and I laughed and sculpted treats for our oldest daughter and her classmates. We kissed, said we couldn’t believe she was almost four. Piled the peanut butter popcorn balls in a bowl, walked away from the mess and fell into bed. Our home. Our growing kids. Our sticky sweet life.


ps randomly selected $50 Lava Lake winner: Lexie said…I think I changed my mind: the wool bracelet is my new favorite Lava Lake item. And I liked them on Facebook. I am crossing my fingers!

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all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from

18 Responses to sticky sweet

  1. What a wonderful way for a child to celebrate a birthday – that poster is amazing. And FOUR??!! I can hardly believe it myself.

  2. Sarah says:

    I wish every daycare everywhere did that for every child. Fabulous place you have her in.
    Happy Birthday Margot!

  3. TRB Holt says:


    What a wonderful memory for Margot and you all…I don’t know Margot’s teacher but I love her!

    Everyday, at work, I encounter little kids. I ALWAYS stop what I am doing & talk to them…ask their name, how old they are, their birth date…I love it when I get a 2 or a 4 year old, it kinda lets me picture what Margot & Ruby are “up to”! Just kinda, NOTHING like the real thing! Wish we lived closer…some day.

    I love you all so very much!

  4. Happy Birthday 4th Birthday, Margot! xo

  5. Erika says:

    Happy Birthday you little delicious nugget. Love your sweet little 4 year old self…and of course the Mama and family that made you.

  6. Kelsie says:

    I love how smudgy your wine glass looks!!

  7. ctb says:

    sounds like one lovely, loving, magical preschool you have there! just another example of how blessed a life margot leads!

    hugs :)

  8. Wow! Are all preschools that cool? What a special family and community Margot has! Happy Birthday to both of you!!

  9. Amy Sullivan says:

    Not how our preschool ever celebrated! Very fun.

  10. Ellie says:

    Happy Birthday, Margot!
    And reading your words, I’m just nodding and smiling, ‘yes, yes’ because ‘sticky sweet’ is so how I’ve been feeling lately; like I just woke up and looked at my life and thought ‘god, I’m happy…how did all this amazing stuff happen?’
    These days of mama-hood are like nothing else :)

  11. Lexie says:

    Holy hannah! I am so excited about winning this! But more importantly, HAPPY HAPPY birthday, Margot!

    Nici, do I need to send you my email address or anything to “claim” my winnings?

  12. Jaim says:

    I’m going to mention this idea to our preschool teacher…I LOVE it! Happy Birthday Margot and Happy Birth day to you and Andy. It’s crazy how fast this time goes by. Glad you’re all loving it.:)

  13. “””Our home. Our growing kids. Our sticky sweet life.””” I love that Nici!!!
    Happy Birthday Margot! Big 4 year old :) My girl is 4 next month….I can not believe it’s been 4 yrs since she entered my world….crazy how fast time flies when you’re having fun :)

  14. Happy Birthday, sweet Margot girl. What a wonderful celebration with words in a body’s outline. Such a good idea and a great keepsake.

  15. The birthday circle sounds beautiful and amazing! What a lovely, living in the moment post yet again.

    And even as I was feeling all warm and fuzzy, as I read the last few words, I had but one thought- “Wow, she’s allowed to send peanut butter to a preschool?” Ours like so many is completely nut-free! :)

  16. Annie says:

    Love the birthday circle idea. I think that could be a great new tradition for my family (adults too!).
    Very Happy Birthday to Margot & her parents!

  17. Kelly Cach says:

    Oh goodness, your last paragraph about the birthday circle…loved every word. I love even more that I know what you’re saying. I love my kids so much, sometimes it hurts…barely containable in my little ol’ heart! But I’ve never heard it described as wanting to stuff them back into my body…Mmmm, loved that!