That Big Fiesta

big doll 4

Maggie Dugan

Maggie Dugan is the author of Maternal Dementia.  “It starts the instant you get pregnant,” says Maggie. “Your body needs blood to feed the baby in your belly, and so you get less blood where your body deems you need it least. Very quickly, you lose your mind.”  You can read more about parenting, family, life, and the adventures of an ex-pat in Spain at



“Wait!” Buddy-roo screamed from the upstairs window of the country house as I walked to the car. “I want to give her another hug goodbye!”


I heard her pound down the stairs before she rushed out the door and took a hold of That Big Doll.


“You’re sure?” I was afraid of the answer. For years I’ve been trying to remove this freaky, nearly life-size doll from our lives. I managed to exile her to the country house, where she was tucked away in a back room, in a corner nearly out of sight beside a wardrobe. But when De-facto cleared out the room to lay a new floor, she ended up in plain sight again, standing by the fireplace in the main room.


When the Fiesta Nazi first encountered That Big Doll, she got that nasty twinkle in her eye that I find especially endearing and suggested in a conspiratorial tone that it might be a humorous series of moments if we were to drag her along on an afternoon at the fiesta in Pamplona. One could imagine instantly the clever (at least to us) stunts we might pull off, with our primary objective, of course, the free drinks we might secure with her in tow. But every time I brought this up, Buddy-roo would hear none of it. She stomped her feet and pounded the table, no, no, no. If I pursued the idea further, there were tears.


This year, as every year, I asked – a throwaway comment with expectation of the usual resistance – and I was surprised by her response.


“Sure,” she said, all cool I-don’t-care-like, “it’s time to let her go.”


I hadn’t asked if she was sure about it, afraid she might change her mind. Which is why, when I blurted it out as she gave That Big Doll an extra goodbye hug, I wished I hadn’t said it. What if she changed her mind now, so close to the getaway?


No need to be concerned. After the embrace, she handed me the doll so I could put it in the trunk. The knees don’t bend so it’s hard to put her in a seat, her legs only spread out in a suggestive V-shape – and we drove off to the promise of her next adventure.




When you carry a nearly life-sized plastic doll around under your arm, you have to be nonchalant about it. I channeled my father, remembering how he once took a three-foot long Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum box with him to meet my brother at the airport. In the ’70s, an advertising campaign featured Wrigley’s “flavor people” walking around with huge boxes of Wrigley’s gum under their arms, signifying its big, long-lasting flavor. My sister’s boyfriend worked as a stock boy at the local five-and-dime store and when the Wrigley’s display was dismantled, gave the box to my sister after extracting her promise to carry it through the school cafeteria during lunch period, which she did without the embarrassment he’d intended. After that, she kept the box on display on top of a chest of drawers in her bedroom.


In those days you could pass through airport security without a ticket to meet an arriving passenger as they got off the plane. My father trooped through the terminal toward the gate with this huge cardboard box under his arm. People turned their heads and stared. A woman – an enthusiastic stranger – came up to him.


“Where did you get that big Wrigley’s Gum box?”


“Shut up lady,” my father said, out of the side of his mouth, “You’re ruining the commercial.”


I carried That Big Doll through three train stations. I acted as if this were the most natural thing in the world but I couldn’t help but notice people’s reactions. They either laughed at me or, in an amusing stance of denial, pretended not to notice. I know my father would have approved: when I boarded my last train, toting a fairly large suitcase in one hand and That Big Doll in the other, a man seated nearby offered to help. He reached for my valise, intending to lift it to the overhead rack. I thrust the giant doll into his arms for him to hold while I heaved the suitcase up myself.


~ ~ ~


Of course we dressed her in the fiesta whites. The red faja had to be wrapped three times around her tiny, not-at-all-proportional waist in order to hang properly. A red panuelo tied at the neck put her in full fiesta uniform and it must be said she didn’t look quite as wanton once she was wearing the traditional white and red.


She spent most of the week standing at the window of our apartment, waving out the window. I had to wait to be in the right mood to take her out. Part of the joy of the fiesta is being unencumbered with responsibilities; there’s an agreement among my cuadrilla that there are no obligations, or that if you take on any kind of obligation, the others are not required to participate.  It’s one week a year, for me, that I have nothing I absolutely have to do. I can follow the rituals of the fiesta or wander away to something else, on a whim, if I choose. Having a plastic doll to watch out for, even one I intended to leave behind, felt counter-intuitive.


But the day before I left (it was now or never) the spirit moved me and we slipped on her manoletinas and took her out to the street. The fact that she has a strange adult body but is only as tall as a little girl shocked and then amused the people she met. She made friends. She was held, carried, danced around and dipped. She was put into strange poses at café tables and bar stools. She did planks and push-ups in the street. She posed with anyone who asked, and some who didn’t. She applauded a band of mariachis and found herself wearing a sombrero. She was thrown under a bus (while it was stopped at a light) and if only I could have gotten my camera out in time to capture the bus driver in hysterical fits of laughter. She was good fun, in the daytime.


At night something changed. The mood on the street was different. Instead of being the quirky doll-dressed-in-white, her plastic shapeliness took on a different connotation. The pranks and stunts ceased to be clever, and started to feel not-so-funny. She wasn’t received with amusement, but instead with lascivious grins or looks of disdain. Given that there was also a campaign to raise awareness about violence against women at this year’s fiesta, That Big Doll – who on her own is just wrong – felt even more wrong. We took her back to the apartment, and left her at her window perch.


It was my intention to leave her in the back of some bar, or in a random doorway, to be rid of her for good. But I couldn’t do it. Even Fiesta Nazi agreed, it was hard to leave her. That Big Doll had grown on us, being such a good sport at the fiesta. Instead of leaving her to be spoiled in the street, we left her in a closet to surprise our landlord. And she’ll be there next year, if the spirit moves us, to take her out again.


That Big Doll absolutely had the big adventure I’d hoped for. And Buddy-roo was tickled by the pictures of her antics; check out her Tumblr if you want to see for yourself how she survived that big fiesta.

photo credit: Maggie Dugan 2014

The Tattle Battle

two young girls laughing behind another girls back

Parenting PhD. Staff


“Um-m-m! I’m telling!”

The familiar litany has you gritting your teeth for the tenth time and it’s not even noon.  Annoying as tattling may be, it’s also an opportunity to help kids learn to solve problems on their own and teaches them to stand up for others. Tattling is a typical preschool behavior. Children are learning social skills and don’t always know how to approach a situation on their own. They often need help sorting out what is important to tell an adult versus what they should handle themselves. 

Educator Ron Shuali has a simple litmus test to help kids separate tattling from telling.  Simply put, is the child trying to get someone in trouble or is the youngster trying to get someone out of trouble?

“When I present bullying assembly programs, I need to get the students to help out when they see a bullying situation happening,” says Ron. “If they are trying to get someone in trouble, that is tattling. If they are trying to get someone out of trouble, that is being a helper. For example, in a bank robbery situation, I ask if it’s more important to get the bank robbers in trouble or to get the people in the bank out of trouble.” 

“Developmentally, tattling at a young age might be related to children’s emerging moral sense,” says pediatrician, Lisa Liner. “When children see someone violate a rule that they just learned, they want that rule enforced.”

In this instance, parents and teachers can initiate a conversation with tattlers and offenders alike that will satisfy children without endorsing tattling.  This is an opportunity to discuss why rules exist and possible consequences of ignoring them.

For some children, tattling becomes a habit. If it gets them attention and if there are no negatives, why would they ever stop?

“I give out a consequence when a child tattles,” says Ron Shuali. “I ask the person that they are tattling on how they feel. The consequence and the comments from their upset friend slowly shifts them away from tattling.”

“One of my favorite things to do when they tattle goes like this,” says Early Childhood Director, Julie Bedard. Say Roger is tattling on Amaya. I say ‘You need to think about what Roger is doing.’ This catches them off guard because they suddenly realize that the focus is on them and not on the offender. It usually distracts them enough to make them stop and think about their behavior.”


Read-Aloud Books and Songs About Tattling

 Music teacher, Mar Harman, wrote this song to help children distinguish between the kinds of things it’s important to tell adults and mere tattling.

Tattlin’ Madeline (Learn with Me Series)

byCarol Cummings

A book designed to teach young children the difference between tattling and reporting. Written in rhyme to read aloud or for guided reading. One of a series of eight social skill books written by Dr. Carol Cummings.

Don’t Squeal Unless It’s a Big Deal: A Tale of Tattletales

byJeanie Franz RansomDon’t Squeal Unless It’s a Big Deal: A Tale of Tattletales

With humor and exuberance, a compassionate problem-solving teacher shows classmate piglets who squeal incessantly on each other how to know when to tell and when to solve conflicts themselves. Includes Note to Parents and Teachers.

Armadillo Tattletale

byHelen Ketteman

Especially if the tattler happens to be an armadillo with ears as tall a jack rabbit’s and as wide as a steer’s horns — an armadillo who can hear anything and everything with his humongous ears.Armadillo Tattletale loves nothing better than eavesdropping on other animals and telling tales about what he hears. That is, until … Armadillo’s friends give him the how-come an…moreArmadillo Tattletale loves nothing better than eavesdropping on other animals and telling tales about what he hears. Tattlers and those they tell on will delight in Helen Ketteman and Keith Graves’ hilarious spin on the story of how Armadillo’s ears came to be so small.

Summer Fun As A Family


Stacy Hladek, Families First

The taste of ice cold lemonade, the feeling of the cool grass between your toes, the sounds of children laughing, the smell of sunscreen and chlorine, and seeing your neighbors in their yards… ahh, summer time is finally here! It doesn’t matter your age or what your work schedule looks like, this time of year seems to bring out the fun in most of us. For our kids it is the break they have been looking forward to since New Year. For adults, it reminds us of our own youth and how carefree we felt in the summer. Summer is a great time to reconnect as a family and to strengthen our relationships with each other. Beware, summer is fleeting! Start planning some fun things to do as a family now.

Try some of these suggestions to make some summer family fun of your own:
Sleep under the stars in your own backyard
Have a water fight
Go for a picnic
Play tag
Blow bubbles
Tend a garden
Build a butterfly or fairy garden
Go on a summer nature hunt
Have a hula hoop, jump rope, or basketball throwing contest
Climb a tree
Go play on the slide, swings, merry-go-round at your local park

A tried and true family fun time is available at your local library. Most libraries have at least a summer reading program and many have something several times a week to keep kids of all ages engaged during the summer. Call your local library or visit their website to see what is planned. Many events are for the whole family. In addition, you can always come up with fun things to do as a family around the resources at the library. You can do a reading challenge as a family, borrow movies or music to use as a family, find a cookbook and cook a recipe together, research something at the library and then go do it in real life as a family. Library cards are free. The possibilities with a library card are endless.

Check out your local nature center. They have several activities each season that are free or minimal charge. Kids are amazed at how each visit to the local nature center is a whole new adventure. They will see or discover something new each time they go. Here is a list of the nature centersin Colorado.

Speaking of nature, if you live in the Pueblo area there is a great day camp for middle school students through the CSU Extension call Pueblo Youth Naturally. They are always looking for adult volunteers. What a great way to bond with your kids this summer by participate in a camp with them. The cost is $25 for the full week and includes entrance into all outings, transportation to all outings, snacks, and lunch. For more information go to If you live in other parts of the state check with your community colleges, universities and cooperative extensions to see what they are offering this year.

Here in Colorado you can find a list of free events by going to You will find list for free days at local museums, the zoo and other attractions, movies in the park, free concert series, etc. The majority of these are in the Denver Metro area, but there are some things listed for other parts of the state if you do not feel like a trip to Denver.
Another great site for the Denver/Boulder areas is

If you are living in the Colorado Springs area check out
Colorado Parents magazine puts out a list every month of free and low cost family-friendly events around the state. You can find their magazine in various locations across the state, including medical office and restaurants. They also have an online publication at, including an annual publication dedicated to “Everything Family”.

These are just a few of the free things you can do to make some family memories this summer. Get out there and remember what you loved about being young and carefree. Kids love to see their parents having fun alongside them.

For more suggestions on ways to have fun and build memories as a family, additional ways to support your family and for other great parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail with questions or concerns.