gratitudejournal, The Tiniest Capen

I read some online listicle about being happy and it recommended reflecting on three good things that happened to you today. I make no promises to myself about doing this every day or even every week, but at least for today, here are three good things that happened this week:

  1. Crumb Library is getting new carpet and paint, and this week they began laying the carpet next to the paint and it looks as good as I hoped it would. I am looking forward to seeing the new life this brings to our spaces.
  2. The Applied Learning team is blowing my mind with their eagerness to participate in our planning process, their energy, and their initiative.
  3. My daughter is an adorable mess of curls, smiles, determination, screams, giggles, smears, tears, sand, chalk, applesauce, cat hair, shouts, and snuggles. She is amazing, and this morning she greeted me by pointing at Miles and saying “Kitty!” and then leaning in and kissing my cheek.
#mightyifitkillsme, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

Due to a collection of reasons, including baby-stolen car keys (still missing), a migraine (not mine), and miscommunication over text messages (all parties involved), I took Gwyn to the Urgent Care this afternoon instead of finishing a project due by close of business today.

First professional deadline blown due to parental responsibility: Check.

And then, while at Urgent Care, Gwyn immediately ceased showing any signs of illness. Because of course. (Right now, an hour later, despite the diagnosis of a second double ear infection, she is giggling lying in bed with her father. Of course.) She did, however, throw her toys and cheddar bunnies all over the exam room, so as I walked around, crouching down to pick them up, still wearing trousers and a nice sweater (having come straight from work), I split the seam on my pants.

Hypothesis: splitting the seam on your pants two days after deciding that yes, you have gained too much weight and thereby committing to remedying that is the universe’s sick way of reminding you how unhappy you are.

Because you totally needed a material reminder. Because a little indignity, a good right hook to the self-image, and a diaper bag draped artfully over your ass will totally make this day better.

After that, the sick baby and blown deadline are just icing on the cake, really.

Guess who will be working tonight after Gwyn goes to bed? This gal. Guess who really wants Chinese takeout and isn’t going to order it? This gal. Guess who will, however, be adjusting her portion sizes at dinner so she can have a goddamned drink before getting back to work? THIS GAL.

#mightyifitkillsme, craftastic, food, insert emoticon here, The animals, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

This morning I drank a smoothie while making scrambled eggs with cheese, raisin toast, and bacon for the rest of the humans in the house. Then I ate a piece of raisin toast and called it a win.

In the course of living today, I:

  • jammed copper wire from the pan scrubber under my thumbnail
  • had a stack of four garbage cans roll over my big toe because I wore flipflops to Lowes
  • broke a nail while doing dishes
  • took a baby skull to the cheekbone
  • spent 20 minutes trying to convince G to nap but really just getting kicked in the boobs a lot
  • crawled across the floor and managed to put my knee, the one with the big-ass scab on it from falling two weeks ago, right onto an alphabet block
  • wrenched my shoulder, the problematic one, while picking up G at a bad angle
  • walked into a bag of Sakrete on a shelf at Lowes, jamming my upper arm into the corner of it
  • I don’t even know why my left hand hurts but it does

Did you know that if you sprinkle cheerios onto beef-and-bean enchiladas, like a garnish or a seasoning, the toddler whose dinosaur divided plate holds said enchiladas and cheerios will be compelled to eat the cheerios, because toddler, and then will also eat the enchiladas beneath the cheerios despite rejecting said enchiladas not 10 minutes earlier? Because cheerios are the ultimate in food and make everything better.

Note: This does not work on sauteed spinach. Sauteed spinach is for losers, and the toddler will just pull the spinach off the cheerios before eating them.


The kid who lives in my house can now wash her own face (badly), brush her own hair (badly), open the refrigerator (too easily), close any and all doors (so far, with her on the correct side), and independently travels around our home.

It’s brilliant.


I think I’m not going to have a full two-day weekend where I am home and not working until late May. I’m trying not to dwell on this. I chose this life, I love my work, it’s exciting times, and I’m doing good things. But man, would I like to disconnect for a few days in a row…

We took the crib side off of her bed, and made it a toddler bed. Because, hell, she doesn’t sleep in it, so we might as well make it into a little book-reading couch.

Jack has moved in. He sleeps there, now. Screw you guys, this is my new house.

I washed all the dishes ever to dish today. Justin emptied, vacuumed, sorted, dusted, and windexed both cars. We ate homemade breakfast, ran errands and went to four stores, and were home by 10:30 am.

I have no idea who we are anymore. Strangely competent (and yet fully incompetent) adult-type people, I guess.

I have not yet exercised or meditated, but I played with my kid without distractions, I did at least 30 minutes of housework, I made a food plan and stuck to it, and I cooked food for my family. All of those are daily goals, and I did them. I’ll see about the meditation and exercise after I do a few hours of work.

And the whole “get 10 hours of sleep” thing can just go crawl back under its rock, because BWAHAHAHAHA.

I’d like to crochet a blanket for Gwyn, inspired by Wee Liam’s blankies that come with him on Fridays. Then I think about my life and I just set aside that desire for some other time.

Maybe while we’re at Pennsic. I can crochet in garb.



There is a flying pig on Gwyneth’s new carpet. It’s awesome. When pigs fly, dude. When pigs fly.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

I have hit another breaking point. This is undoubtedly one of the posts that will get some member of my extended community to tell me I’m oversensitive, unkind to the well-meaning, and too quick to anger.

Today, I just don’t care. Read at your own risk.

If you’ve been a parent recently, and you’re of a certain socio-economic status, you’ve probably heard a whole lot of this:

“You’re having a hospital birth? With a doctor? Aren’t there any midwives in your area?”
“Stress isn’t good for a gestating fetus. You need to relax and rest.”
“Stress isn’t good for your baby. You need to relax, and rest.”
“Stress isn’t good for your child. You need to relax, and rest.”
“You’re putting that onesie on wrong.”
“Why isn’t she wearing shoes?”
“That bookcase looks overloaded. Did you know falling TVs can kill children?”
“Oh, the chest clip on that carseat should be higher. That’s not safe.”
“Are you sure you installed that carseat right?”
“You need more than one of her favorite lovey, or you’ll regret it.”
“Breast is best, you know.”
“Well, at least you’re using organic formula.”
“She’s in daycare? Oh.”
“Is the daycare feeding her organic food?”
“Are you sure you want to vaccinate on the regular schedule? You do know how aggressive and stressful that is, right?”
“Avoid antibiotics at all costs to avoid damaging her gut flora.”
“That poor baby is getting eaten by mosquitoes!”
“Don’t use bug spray on that baby, it’ll cause cancer.”
“Wash your hands! Wash her hands! Use antibacterial wipes!”
“Don’t overuse antibacterial wipes, they cause superbugs.”
“You let her drink well water? Is it filtered?”
“No bottles at bedtime!”
“You let her sleep with you?”
“Don’t forget to brush her teeth.”
“Is there flouride in that toothpaste?”
“Did you put sunscreen on that baby? Where’s her hat?”
“You haven’t taught her to wave bye-bye yet?”

And let’s not forget the part where I’m also supposed to work hard to provide for my family, but not work too hard so I can spent lots of quality time at home, enjoying every moment of my child’s life, as I keep my house clean and tidy and make home-cooked meals with organic ingredients (that aren’t available in the small town I live in) while I make time to exercise, meditate, and sleep 10 hours a night after I read to my child and play learning games with her and walk the dog while I also spend quality time maintaining relationships with my husband, family, and friends as I eat smart and pack my lunch and plan for weight loss while I appreciate the small things and live in the moment.

Let me put it simply:

THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. These expectations are impossible. They conflict, and they expect that parents have more hours in every day than there are in a week.

Maybe I need to share less of my family with the internet, so there are fewer venues for people to tell me the ways that I am insufficient to the task of living the perfect life you want me to have. Maybe I need thicker skin, which would require being a different human than the one I am, so that’s probably also not happening. Maybe I need to sleep so I can rebuild some emotional resilience but OH WAIT I CAN’T because I am spinning up into an anxiety attack because my daughter, who ate a nitrite-laden hot dog for dinner, is sleeping in my bed (not hers) after having a bottle of milk (which she needs no less than 20 oz of per day, but she shouldn’t have too much dairy because cow milk is toxic to humans, and that milk is organic, right?) to help her sleep, after brushing her teeth (instead of before, so now she’ll have tooth decay) with flouride toothpaste (which is going to kill her), and so I am clearly a failure of a parent and how am I supposed to sleep when all those things are true?

I just can’t. I can’t sleep, and I can’t do this.

My child is sleeping. She is comfortable and happy and loved. She was soothed to sleep by her loving parents, who did the things they felt best to care for her today. And as I think about it, it becomes clear to me that this is not anxiety I am feeling. I am not anxious about my parenting. I am confident about my parenting. I am comfortable with my parenting. I am, however, angry. I am frustrated. I am bewildered and unhappy.

Life is not Pinterest, nor is it the National Enquirer. It will not be picture-perfect, and neither will it be filled with sensational horrors. It is just life, good, bad, and indifferent. It is my life. It’s a good life, and a happy one. I know you love me, us, and I know you mean well, but for pete’s sake: back off.

Gwyneth’s bookcases are safe. Her carseat is correctly installed. We feed her well, and she is lovingly cared for in a safe and comfortable home to the best of our knowledge and ability.

That’s all any of us can ask for, and I’m going to bed.

insert emoticon here, misc, The animals, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

Some bullet points for those who wonder.

  • Currently, the specialist ortho says no surgery for Justin — OT and PT instead, with his “best hand therapist”. That starts later this month. We’re hopeful. Fewer knives are better.
  • However, all Agincourt crafting is off for a while, because Justin can’t hold any small tools until this is healed. Which sucks, for him and for the people who would like things made.
  • Last night Gwyn very clearly said “hot” in response to Justin telling her she needed to let her french toast cool a bit before she tried it. I’m also 80% sure she said something very close to “bottle” when I asked if she wanted one.
  • Pets are pets: Miles is super fat but in love with Gwyn in oddly sweet ways, trying to sleep with her whenever possible. Jack wants nothing to do with her, and also hates the new litter, and is peeing on all the things that are not the new litter. Malcolm is our beloved doofus, and we are trying to figure out how to handle his anxiety at being separated from Justin.
  • I am working a lot a lot a lot, probably too much, but I have two major deadlines on May 1, and I need to handle those no matter how much I wish I had more home and down time in my life.
  • My current schedule is doing no favors for my physical issues, but I’m not falling apart, and I’m coping. Today I’m coping with an ergonomic office chair, a large iced coffee, and some excedrin.

Life is good, if a wee crazy.

food, storytime with G, The Tiniest Capen

Gwyneth Feeds Her Friends

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Gwyneth, and she and her friend Blue Dog decided they were going to become Master Chefs. They put on their aprons and their poofy hats, and they marched into the kitchen. They were standing in the middle of the kitchen, whisks and bowls in hand, trying to decide what to cook to demonstrate that they were, in fact, Master Chefs, when Max C. Bear walked in.

“Hi, Max, we’re being Master Chefs. What would you like to eat today?” Gwyn asked.

“Honey! I like honey!” Max answered.

Gwyn said, “Well, we have honey right here!” and gave the jar to Max, who started dipping his paw in, and licking the honey off with glee. Gwyn and Blue went back to thinking, and then Bedtime Bear walked in.

“Bedtime Bear, what would YOU like to eat? We’re becoming Master Chefs, so we’ll make you anything you want,” Gwyn promised.

“Well, my favorite thing to eat is maple syrup,” he suggested, in his quiet way.

No problem, thought Gwyn, we always have that… and so she gave him a jug of syrup, which he began to sip with a straw.

“Now, Blue, what shall we feed our friends?” Gwyn asked.

“How about cheddar bunnies?” asked a new voice. Gwyn turned to Phil, who had just walked into the kitchen, and said, “OK, we can have some cheddar bunnies!” and gave a bag to Phil, who sat down between the bears and started munching.

Just as Gwyn turned around, Millie the Giraffe walked in. “Ooh, snacktime! Can I have some broccoli?” Gwyn knew there was broccoli leftover from last night’s dinner, so gave her that, and Millie sat down on Max’s other side.

As Gwyn reached for her bowl and whisk, BunBun hopped in. “BunBun, what would YOU like to eat? We’re trying to be Master Chefs, and you’re next!” Gwyn was really hoping BunBun would want something that would prove she was a Master… but BunBun’s answer wasn’t what she was hoping for.

“Celery, please! Good crunchy leafy stuff.” Gwyn sighed as she gave the celery from the refrigerator to BunBun, and stood, looking a little downtrodden, surrounded by a circle of her friends, all munching on the snacks she’d given them. Not one of them had asked for anything that would prove she was a Master!

Just then Mama came into the kitchen, and saw Gwyn and Blue looking sad. She looked at the bears with their sweet treats, and Phil with his crunchy crackers, and Millie chomping on broccoli, and BunBun nibbling celery, and said, “What’s wrong, Sweetest? You look sad.”

Gwyn explained her problem. “…and I wanted to prove I was a Master and all they wanted was easy stuff!”

“Oh, baby, don’t you see? You gave your friends exactly what they wanted, and they’re all happy. That sounds like exactly the thing a Master Chef would try to do, doesn’t it? I think you already proved it.” Then she smiled and stroked a hand down Gwyn’s hair. “But if it would make you happy, you can help me make some of your favorite carrot muffins. That’s definitely Master level work.”

Gwyn realized her mama was right. Her friends were happy, and she’d helped. And now she and Mama were going to make muffins, and she’d be happy… a lesson she learned from another Master Chef.

storytime with G, The Tiniest Capen

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Gwyneth. She lived in a big stone keep, built on a hill overlooking a river valley surrounded by forested mountains. Gwyneth loved to explore, and she spent hours of every day wandering the woods and the valley with her DirePuppy Malcolm.

On this day Gwyneth was wandering in a direction she hadn’t gone before, and on top of a new hill she found a very old stone wall. As she walked around it, and Malcolm sniffed it, she realized that it wasn’t just old, it used to be a part of a building. As she explored the ruins she could see where the great hall had been, and the stables, and all the things that made a keep a home. And then she found a set of stairs, set into a rounded wall. This must have been the tower! Malcolm tested the stairs for her (for he was heavier than she was), and found that they were strong and safe. And so they climbed.

They climbed and climbed, and they came to the top of the old wall. Gwyneth looked out over the edge of the ruined tower wall, and could see for miles and miles. She could see the tower of her home, off to her left, and the smoke rising from the chimneys as her people kept the stones warm during the cool damp days of spring. Off to the right, she followed the path of the river, and she could see Winterborn Keep’s tower and walls, as well. That was where her friend William lived, and maybe next time she came here she’d bring him with her, him and his DireKitty Chipmunk. She looked and looked, locating all of her favorite places — the little waterfall in the river, the cave where Malcolm said a bear lived, the clearing in the woods where she found all the butterflies last summer, the climbing tree on the curve of the river where Mama liked to swim.

And then she looked at the stairs. She’d been careful not to get too close to the edge, so she wouldn’t fall, but she wanted to see how far down it was, from up here. When she looked, she saw that the stairs continued on up… but they weren’t made of stone. They were made of some sort of shimmery light. She sat carefully on the stone part, and tapped the light stairs with her hand. They felt solid. She pushed. Still solid. Malcolm put on paw on them… solid. So Malcolm grabbed the back of Gwyn’s tunic in his teeth so he could catch her if she fell, and she put her weight on one foot on the light step. Solid.

And so the two of them climbed, because explorers should never pass up the chance to see something new.

They climbed and they climbed, and as they did, the ground grew smaller and farther away, and the clouds began to gather around them, misty and cool and bright. And then with a few last steps, they reached a platform at the top of the stairs, and they were above the clouds! And above the clouds they found what looked like a landscape — rivers and valleys and mountains — but all made of fluffy white clouds. Gwyneth stood and just looked, amazed at what she saw.

And then she saw something else. Perched on a ridge of cloud was a giant bird. A hawk! A real DireHawk, not the smaller kind of DireBeast like Malcolm, who lived on the ground, but the biggest and best of them all. The Hawk turned its head, and looked at Gwyn with its sharp, black eyes. And then it nodded its head just once, and spread its beautiful wings, so big and so fast and suddenly so close that Gwyn and Malcolm both instinctively closed their eyes and covered their heads with their arms (and paws).

When they opened their eyes, the Hawk was gone. Gwyn and Malcolm looked at each other, and decided it was definitely time to go home. They started climbing down and down and down and down until they reached the stone steps. Gwyn could see that the sun was still high in the sky, but not quite so high as before — if they went home now, they’d get back just in time for a bit of a snack before supper. Maybe today they’d have honeyed bread, if they asked nicely.

And maybe tomorrow they’d bring William and Chipmunk back to see the Hawk.

storytime with G, The Tiniest Capen

Gwyneth and the Sand Tunnel

Once upon a time Gwyneth went to the beach with her friends Blue Dog and Malcolm. After they’d played in the water and splashed in the waves, they decided to build a sand castle. They thought the castle should have a moat, so they started digging. They dug the circle around the castle, but it was uneven — Malcolm, it turns out, is a really good digger, and his section was deeper than Gwyn’s, and deeper than Blue Dog’s. And in his deepest section, the sand wasn’t yellow, it was black! That was really interesting, so they kept digging in that spot, and started making a tunnel. The sun was really very hot as they dug in the sand, but as they started into the tunnel, it got nice and cool. So they kept going.

As they dug, the tunnel spiraled around down under the moat, and just when they thought they should probably turn back, the sand turned orange! Yellow sand, black sand, and now orange sand?! As they poked at the orange sand, the front edge of the tunnel caved in a little, and they found a small cave. Inside the orange cave was Mr. Crab! Mr. Crab said hello.

“What are you three doing here, knocking down my wall?” he asked.
“We’re digging a tunnel!” explained Gwyn excitedly.
“Well that’s a good idea,” Mr. Crab agreed, “but this is where I spend my days. It’s too hot up there in the sun, so I burrow down here. And if you keep going the way you’re going, you’ll ruin my hideout. Can you turn a little to the left?”

So Gwyn and Blue Dog and Malcolm agreed to turn left, and said goodbye to Mr. Crab. They turned left, and Malcolm kept digging, until the sand wasn’t orange any more — it was purple!

They dug through the purple sand, and then suddenly they  hit another cave! This one was half full of water, though, and inside was Dr. Octopus. Dr. Octopus blinked, and undulated over to the new hole in the wall of her cave.

“Why, hello. Who are you?” she asked.
“I’m Gwyneth, and this is Malcolm, and that’s Blue Dog,” Gwyn explained, “and we’re digging a tunnel!”
“Well, your tunnel has bumped into my cave. This network of canals is where I do my experiments on underwater light sources, and if you keep going you’re going to drain my water out. That’s no good… so can you go a little to the left?”
“Of course!” Gwyn agreed, and they dug onward, a little to the left.

After the purple sand, Malcolm’s paws hit a big stripe of white sand. And in the white sand, his claws started clicking on something hard. Blue Dog took over digging, carefully exploring with his delicate paws to see what Malcolm had found. It turned out to be a clam family!

The clam family was very surprised. They lived down in the nice damp white sand, and no one ever came to visit them. They offered Gwyn and Malcolm and Blue Dog some tea, but it turns out that clam tea is pretty salty, so after one taste they politely declined a second serving. And then the clams asked “don’t you have to go home at night?” Gwyneth was very surprised by the question, and a little confused.

“At night? Yes. But it’s afternoon! We came down here because the sun was so bright and hot.”

Mama Clam chuckled as only clams can chuckle, a burbley slurpey sound. “You three better turn around — it’s almost sunset! You’ve probably been digging for a while!”

So Gwyn and Blue Dog and Malcolm thanked the clams for their help (and the strange tea) and turned around. They climbed out of the white sand back into the purple sand, and saw that Dr. Octopus had repaired her canal wall with scallop shells and seaweed. They climbed out of the purple sand, and saw the orange cave where Mr. Crab had been, empty now that night was falling. They climbed out of the orange sand and the black sand was cool under Gwyn’s bare feet. And then they were back in the yellow sand, and coming out of the tunnel next to their castle, just as the sun started to drop to the ocean’s edge and turn the sky a bright pink.

And off they went, back to their house to shower off the sand and salt, and tell their family about their adventures in the sand tunnel.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother


its 8:13 pm.

Gwyneth is asleep in her crib.

Justin is out for the night.

It’s just me and the dog.

I should do some housework. Pick up toys. Wipe down the high chair. Fold tiny laundry. Make the bed. Wash dishes. Prep G’s daycare bag.

Or I could do some more email work, or read one of a dozen reports in my bag.

Or I could go get on the treadmill. Pull out my yoga mat.  Do some bodyweight work. Get the kettlebells out.



I could go to bed and read a book.

Guess what I’m gonna do. Just guess.


storytime with G, The Tiniest Capen

[bedtime stories, recorded for posterity.]

Once upon a time Commander Gwyneth and her trusty crew aboard the Winter Star were deciding on their next mission. Astrogator Phil, the quadropus, hoped that they could go check out the nebula just over there, because he hoped that he might learn more about his people. See, when Phil was just a wee quadropus, he went exploring, but he didn’t do a very good job of remember where he’d explored to, so by the time he was ready to go home, he couldn’t remember how to get there. So he’s always looking for his path home.

But just as Commander G agreed that they should go check out the nebula, the Queen sent new orders. Executive Officer Malcolm reported that the Queen wanted space dragons to come to Earth and fly around the planet and make sky fireworks for her birthday. So Commander G was instructed to go find some space dragons.

Commander G thought about it, and decided the Queen could wait a few days while they checked out the nebula first, because she didn’t want to make Phil sad. So off they went. When they got to the nebula, there was no sign of more quadropusses, but they did hear a distress call! Captain BunBun’s ship The Hopper was out of fuel, and she needed help. So Commander G sent her Exec and Jack The Mechanic over to refuel The Hopper while Phil plotted their next course to the space dragons. Malcolm and his away team came back to the ship, and told Commander G that Captain BunBun wanted to talk to her. “Open a channel!” she ordered.

Captain BunBun said that Exec Malcolm had mentioned space dragons, and that he was concerned they wouldn’t be able to entice them to come to Earth for the Queen’s birthday. BunBun knew how to help. “Space dragons, you see, loooooove barbecue sauce. If you offer them barbecue sauce, they’ll probably do whatever you need.”

Commander G thanked Captain BunBun, and waved as The Hopper sped off out of the nebula.

“Quartermaster Miles! I have a job for you!” Commander G explained to her rotund master of supplies that all ketchup would need to be transformed into barbecue sauce, and told him that he had three days to do it. Miles protested, saying that making barbecue sauce out of all the ketchup would ruin his plan for a grand hot dog and sausage feast in honor of the Queen’s birthday, but Commander G was unmoved by his concerns. “Barbecue sauce, Miles! That’s an order!”

Her next stop was Mechanic Jack’s office, next to the engine room. He snurfed at her, scrubbing at the grease on his face. “Ma’am. What. I’m busy.”
“Well, you’re about to get busier! We need a delivery mechanism that will allow us to send barbecue sauce to the space dragons. You have three days.”

Mechanic Jack grumbled, but Commander G could tell he was intrigued. She smiled and headed back to her command seat on the bridge, where she found Counselor Blue Dog waiting for her.

“Now, G. You’re going to have to negotiate with the dragons. You can’t just give them barbecue sauce and expect them to do what you say,” Blue Dog advised gently.

“Of course I can! They love barbecue sauce, and the Queen says they need to come. She wants space fireworks. They make space fireworks. It’s simple!”

The ship’s Tactical Officer, the Redbeard81 Artificial Intelligence Unit, piped up to support Blue Dog’s approach. “Commander, you can’t just offer everything up front. That’s not how negotiating works. You have to make a smaller offer, and if they refuse, work up to offering all you’re willing to give. You cannot just offer everything at once. It is not how it is done. We will practice for the next three days until you are a skilled negotiator.”

Commander G did not want to practice, and so she avoided Redbeard81 and Blue Dog for the next few days, instead spending her time with Mechanic Jack and Quartermaster Miles. Miles perfected the barbecue sauce, and wheedled and cajoled Commander G in hopes that she’d agree to let him keep some of it. “It will be excellent on the hot dogs!”

Instead, Commander G gave samples to Mechanic Jack, who had retrofitted the Winter Star‘s rocket cannons — they were now sauce cannons! Phil and G and Jack had a great time practicing with Miles’s samples of barbecue sauce, shooting at asteroids and comets as they passed, until the rocket sauce cannons worked perfectly. Mechanic Jack was a little sticky by the time it was over, but it was worth it!

And then it was time. They arrived at the home planet of the space dragons, and set up an orbit around the gas giant. The dragons came to see who was in the tiny ship, and flew in circles around it. Commander G knew her moment had arrived, and she turned on her communicator and said, “I’m here on the orders of the Queen, to offer you barbecue sauce in exchange for you coming to Earth to make space fireworks for her birthday!” And at her signal, Mechanic Jack and Phil let loose with all the sauce cannons, hitting their targets perfectly. Redbeard 81 and Blue Dog groaned, realizing that Commander G had ignored all their advice! The mission was ruined!

But the space dragons didn’t think the mission was ruined. They thought that the barbecue sauce was amazing, and they quickly agreed to go to Earth for the celebrations. They sent their compliments to the sauce cook, and asked for his barbecue sauce recipe… but Quartermaster Miles remembered Blue Dog and Redbeard81’s lessons, and asked for a favor in return, to be redeemed someday in the future. The space dragons agreed, and Miles began thinking of all the things he could someday ask the dragons for.

And so Commander G had Exec Malcolm send a message to the Queen, telling her of their success, and letting her know when to expect the space dragons.

Then she turned to Astrogator Phil. “Where to, Phil?”

“Well, ma’am, I got this reading from the next star system over…”

And off they went.