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4 kittens

Free of Rigging

Posted on 2016.05.29 at 22:05
I am feeling unusually warm and fuzzy towards my family! We went to the pool. We ate pizza.  I felt like there was down time. We got mildly sunburnt and it was my fault. The ratio of work parenting to fun parenting shifted perceptibly towards the latter.

Later we went to a memorial service for my friend's father. The memorial service was emotional and joyous and sad, in turn. Mostly I am caught up in the fact that every person I know and love, either I will go to their funeral or they will go to mine. So many funerals to come. How upsetting. At the memorial, there was strawberry-basil ice cream which was amazing.

I don't really know anything about this Madeline Denaro person, but I like her art.

Swimming without breasts feels liberating! Childlike! Free of rigging. It's not like I've never worn comfortable swimsuits - some are comfortable, some aren't. But one-pieces all require some wriggling, or clasps, or ties, or they are unsupportive, and two-pieces require self-consciousness (or at least that's the case for me). What I wore this time was a pair of board shorts, bikini bottoms, and a rash guard. I felt like the kind of person who could be out, living my life, and impulsively jump in the water in order to cool off, and then shake the droplets off and continue with my business. Of course I would never. It just felt that way, a little bit.

(Are you really supposed to link something if you got it off Pinterest? Her name is Madeline Denaro and she seems to charge tens of thousands of dollars for her paintings.)

I figure out what's wrong with my neck for the past eight months! Another accomplishment. My posture, my computer, my ergonimical utter defeat. My shoulder blades, and how they creep up and out, as I hunch over like a lame-o. Referred pain in stupid places, like my neck and traps. The solution is to focus on pulling my shoulder blades back in and down. Also some prescribed stretches with a foam roller, a stretchy band, and a lacrosse ball from a borderline-quack yet more-or-less effective musculo-skeletal doc. A 21rst century malaise wants a 21st century stretching routine. There, now, feel better.

I didn't take a whole lot of photos this week. Or notes about life. Or those I did seem involved: the fire that Jammies started in the chandelier, E. Messily's elaborate Geebie-based card game, the video of Rascal singing.  You just wait till next week, I'll fill you in.

4 kittens

We can only shoot bullets.

Posted on 2016.05.22 at 21:59
It was recital week!

This is the costume that Ace loathed:

She said it was itchy, she hated it, she didn't want to be a princess. This was back in April, when she had to wear the costume to take class photos.  So she didn't, and was not in the class photos.

After that, E. Messily put moleskin over all the itchy parts. "Look Ace! We covered it with bandaids!" we told her. She still hated it and screamed and cried.

We made a deal: Get dressed, go to the dress rehearsal, and watch your classmates, and be well-informed. Then, once you're informed, you get to decide whether or not to be in the dance. Once this deal was on the table, she was in a great mood.

At the rehearsal, she reiterated again and again that she did not want to dance.

She enjoyed watching all the different dance numbers, though. Then the teacher asked her class to line up, and she obediently hopped in line with everyone else. And got up on stage and rehearsed. And performed the next day. I did not see that coming.

She seemed to enjoy herself:

Hawaii did great. She's in a hip-hop class. She was cute as a button.

One recital down!

Then on Sunday, Pokey and Hawaii had their piano recital:

It was short, sweet, and happily unremarkable.  Two recitals down!


Here is what the teacher told me, on Wednesday:
Pokey was working on a project. They gave him a five minute warning that they'd be switching activities soon. He got agitated. He needed tape and the TA said he couldn't have it. So he climbed up on a chair and got it himself. She disciplined or intervened or something, I'm not sure. So Pokey hauled off and punched a different kid who happened to be sitting nearby. Then he bit the TA. Then the teacher came in and restrained him in that bear hug. But she put her arms too high and he bit her too. Then he started stomping and kicking her in the shins with his heels. It was a pretty big clusterfuck. Guess the mindfulness didn't help!

So the therapy hasn't helped, the mindfulness hasn't helped, the passage of time and turning five years old hasn't helped. Here is what we are telling ourselves: that maybe he just really dislikes this particular teacher. Also that he is really quite attuned and able to describe closely what happened, what emotions he felt, and what he should have done.  So we're just going to put on our Serious Faces and admit that we don't have a clue and hope that placates anyone who wants to hand down Serious Consequences.

At least he's coming home with a lot more cool stuff:

A thermometer, with Celsius on the left and Fahrenheit on the right. We talked about negative numbers.

A piano and a bunch of musical scores. He played them for his teacher and me.

An armband with an airplane attached so that he can put it on and run around and the airplane will fly along with him.

A little Native American dude, a little campfire, and a teepee. This was wholesale copied from our friend's kid's diorama on Sacagawaea.

Also, in quotations:
"You can't shoot a gun," Pokey admonished me, "You can only shoot bullets."  I thought that was funny.


Hawaii found my knitted knockers:

(I posted that photo to my Facebook group for flat women, and a one or two commented on my older kid on their laptop, completely uninterested.)


The demon child is my funny bunny.


Rascal was wearing normal clothes when we dressed him in the morning. But that afternoon he looked like he fell off the turnip truck:

Country bumpkin.


May is one of my favorite months. Not for any sentimental associations but strictly because my job ends for the year. For a brief week or two, I feel like the summer is stretched out in front of me. June is when I start feeling like the summer is a precious resource draining away from me super quickly.  In other words, I had four days of summer vacation and now I feel like it's ending. It's September already, isn't it.


These little guys were growing near my house:

It's a thing in my BRCA facebook group to post photos which inadvertently look like breasts.  So I contributed this photo. A-ooga! A-ooga!

4 kittens

There's a brand new lice removal joint in town!

Posted on 2016.05.15 at 21:28
Parts of this week were full of trials!

Like Monday:
I planned on working from home but was an idiot, so I had to go in. Then at 3:00 I drove from work to  Hawaii's school, daycare, home, piano, forgot the sack dinner, back to daycare, back to piano, ok now really to t-ball, back to piano, and then home around 6:00. Then we found lice in Hawaii's hair. I had a big anxiety attack about the lice.

But other days were like Tuesday:
We went to the new nit-combing place in town. Pokey and I got lice-checked (both negative).  Hawaii got a thorough comb-out. It took two hours. They went strand by strand. There were snacks and ipads and we paid $320. It was worth every penny.


I cut my hair off on Thursday:

Looks pretty good for spending the day puking and having digestive failure! (today was rough.) "It doesn't look like a Mom cut!" one friend said unconvincingly, thereby planting the idea in my head.

Here are the pictures I pinned to my Pinterest board and showed the hairdresser:

The hairdresser told me that I have much more hair than those women and that it would not look like that. He spent a lot of time thinning out my hair. Anyway, I like it.  But I think he was supposed to make my neck more elegant and swanlike?


There was a tardy mother's day card from Rascal, after all:

It really sets up a fork-themed pun on the inside, doesn't it? "My mom is the forkiest!" or "Best mom of all tines!" or "you're the salad-est!", right?

But on the inside, nothing fork-themed. They were just forking with us.


On Saturday, we performed "Let's Go!" by Matt and Kim for a talent show. Like, we have a family band! It was our maiden performance! I played piano, Jammies was on drums. Hawaii and Pokey were vocals.

There are exactly four chords - it's a very simple song.  On the other hand, Hawaii hid behind me and clutched my hand and Ace clutched my feet and rocked back and forth, so I don't think I could have handled more than four chords. All in all we rocked pretty hard.

Hawaii freaked out a couple minutes before showtime with terrible stage fright. (The compromise was that she got to hide.) Next week is her piano recital. If you recall, her last piano recital was two years ago, and it was a stunning disaster.  We shall see what happens!


Hawaii named her boat The U.S.S. Food:

Hokey Pokey named his catamaran Kitty:

Ace named her tugboat Sadness:

Rascal named his boat Unhnnh? with his palms upturned, indicating confusion:

That all happened with E. Messily's direction, obviously.


Ace bit her tongue and it bled. I comforted her and she said, "Mom, are you going to fill out an incident report?"  That made me laugh.

All my children bite through their tongues, and I do too - it hurts like fuck. It bleeds and there's not much you can do about it. It turns out that other people do not do this. I'm not sure why we are unable to keep track of our tongues.


4 kittens

See if you can smell this.

Posted on 2016.05.08 at 21:42
It's Extra Birthday Day! I mean Mother's Day. Here's the swag I got:

From Hawaii:


Is that self-explanatory? Her new markers are fruit-smelling; she rushed the poem over while the ink in the square was still wet.

From Pokey:

That is a penny from his piggy bank, and the flower is attached to a pen.

 Funny story about the flower pot: Hokey Pokey threw a violent tantrum on Tuesday and overturned the tray holding all the flower pots. A bunch of them broke. Jammies took Pokey to Lowe's to buy some more. He'll have to do some yardwork as a nod to the cost. They took them back to the classroom so that everyone could make Mother's day presents. By "funny" I don't mean "haha" so much as nervous laughter about kindergarten.

From Ace:

I think the first verse sounds like she's giving me the bird:

Fuck you, Mommy!

From Rascal:

Nothing but crickets, the little rascal. I got some slobbery kisses at least.

Also I opted out of the following tasks: changing poopy diapers, unpacking the groceries, and monitoring teeth-brushing time. Those are some of my least favorite things.

For a brief moment, all four kids were playing school together:

That's a pretty good Mother's Day gift.

Here's another time they were all playing together:

Then they all cried.

It was teacher appreciation week.

Hawaii wrote this to her teacher:

I love that sentence construction.  Also I'm amused that she called her teacher "Jennifer". We do not go to some crunchy montessori un-learning factory where kids call their teachers by their first names. We go to a conventional brick elementary school, full of extra pledges of allegiance to the state of Texas, extra worksheets, and sitting still and not talking. But I assume Jennifer - being a very nice person - took it in stride.  Probably the gift certificate helped take the edge off.

What else?

My colleague told me the following story: her nephew was raised in Snotty Austin Suburb. He went to a big Texas University out in west Texas, to play football. He was the freshman kicker, ie the low man on the totem pole.  A few weeks into school, he got on an elevator. One of the senior football players was on and said, "Get off the elevator. Freshman have to wait."
The nephew said, "But I'm from Snotty Austin Suburb!"
So the football player punched him out.
The end!

Note: mostly I love that my colleague told us this story with such relish.
Another note: I don't really know if the kid was knocked unconcious. Just that he got punched for being an ass.
Another note: don't punch each other, kids.

I have one more week until it FEELS like vacation, because we've got faculty workshops this week. They're such a drag. But not stressful.  They just occupy your  time and then they're over.

What else?

I really love this photo from yesterday's derby party:

Sorry B! You are being secretly posted without your knowledge because your pose is so great.

This is a super-zoomed in photo of Jammies, mostly to display his fantastic outfit. The tie is forrest green tatting over black silk, and the shirt was gingham:

Jammies, sorry to post a photo of you stuffing your face. You looked divine.

What else?

We took Hokey Pokey on his tour of kindergarten. We stayed to watch Hawaii's Cinco De Mayo performance.

"Many people believe that Cinco De Mayo celebrates Mexican Independence from Spain," began the narrator, who is the daughter of a friend of ours. I winced, because I'd trotted out that very misconception to the kids just that morning.

"But it is not. It actually celebrates when the Mexican People drove out the French from Mexico City on this day in 1862."  In hindsight, I knew there was something off about what I'd been saying. I never would have remembered the real reason.

Hawaii's group recited a poem called Mariposa, and performed a dance to La Bamba. Hawaii was right on cue, and clearly had been placed so that the rest of the kids could take their cue from her, and I felt smug. She did great.

There were a couple older kids who performed some Ballet Folklorico, which is kind of a thing here in town. You know, big flouncy skirts with bric-a-brac trim, peasant blouses, skirts swooping, high kicks...this kind of thing, except 5th graders:

The kids were very talented.

What else?

E. Messily had a seizure this week. It was scary and we went straight to the ER this time, where they said, "Often these things are a one-time, isolated occurrence!" and sent us home (after seven hours).  So that was not at all reassurring. Also it seems that the seizure turned a regular 3 day sick stretch into a weeklong sick stretch. Also shitty.

It was Geebie-Whammie-Messily Weekend this weekend. You know the drill:

Plant the cheerios, harvest the garden.

Rent a house, interview the kids, have friends come splash and eat fajitas. It's super fun for Friday and Saturday and then Sunday is awful. We are all cranky and exhausted and still have to pack up the house and come back home.

The house was as awfully-decorated as usual - lots of Texas Tuscan, an honest-to-God Thomas Kincaide painting - but the owners did batty things like have an extensive dragon collection, and that made me warm up to them.

They are certified like so:

Twilight Cottage, from the Cottages of Light II series, looks like so:

Maybe I should have gone with the dragons.

Here's what Jammies looks like when he is a broken spirit, a shell of a man:

Actually he's trying not to laugh because he knew I was taking the picture. But under the smirk are broken wings. Clutching the baby monitor, swim diapers, and lighter as he fights for air before the next swell takes him down.


Hey Rascal, got any new artwork?

The traditional whipped-cream-on-canvas. I think that rounds out our complete set.

Hey Pokey, got any new artwork?

Pokey has become a prolific artist. He brought home this duck village from art class:

which apparently earned him this title:

He makes lots of cryptic paper sculptures which tend to have elaborate back stories.

They're all structural and complicated. Lots of time spent folding paper which ends up being in the center of the mass of tape and paper.

The two black ones in the middle are part of an extended series of city-scapes. Maybe the one on the left is a dosa?

Occasionally there is a drawing or two:

It looks like there might be a tiny cabana at the center of the hedge maze?

Lots and lots of paper airplanes, too, but I didn't photograph them.

Hey Ace, got any new artwork?

No? How about a new song, then?

Wow. That's a really nice song.


Any new artwork with you?

The speech bubbles are numbered.
1. "Preparing for liftoff," says the insect.
2. "Wait no, it's snacktime," it continues.
3. "Eat it!" says the kid to the left, "Fly guy." Offering a cookie, I think?
4. "Never!" says the fly, valiantly.

I'm very fond of the bright blue and green, and think I might frame this one.

She's being very secretive about these popsicle stick characters. But they clearly involve the following background scenes:

A disco? A nighclub?

Be aware of potions!

Hawaii has something in mind, clearly.

Odds and Ends

1. Classes ended on Wednesday but I did not get to enjoy my sea-dome diving bell moment of agora-philic isolation. Instead I went to a Land Use Conference up in Austin.  I shall not tell you any of the details due to boredom.

2. Ace recently asked me who my mother is.
"Grandma Collie is my mother!" I told her.
"Who is your daddy?" she asked.
"Papa Ken is my father," I answered.
"WE MET THEM!" she exclaimed. "Grandma Collie and Papa Ken, we know them!"
"That's right!" I confirmed. "You know my mom and dad!"

3. Pokey also has insights: "What does T-V spell?"
Me, "TV."
Him, "It's like T...V...! TV!"
Me, "yes."

4 kittens

Ranch sauce on burritos

Posted on 2016.04.24 at 23:20
We are at a wedding in Santa Cruz. As always, California is a ridiculous show-off.

Yes, yes, you're beautiful, dear.


We all love this phrasing, right?

Bottle brush trees.

Little alien flowers.

I walked around town for a few hours. Eventually I found myself at the Santa Cruz wharf:

Even their stone greek Π symbols are better than ours.

Boats displayed, that's novel. But where do they display their model oil rigs?

These guys were pretty cute:

There were a lot of them, arf-ing and moaning and groaning.

The water kept heaving up and down, revealing mountains of barnacles around all the post bases.  The swelling ocean, all of the wheezing and arf-arf-ing and lumbering - it was pretty hypnotic.

More wharf:

Ok, Santa Cruz, now you're getting too cute by half.

Did you...did you paint the trees to match your building? Is your dye job growing out? Are you literally showing your roots?

California! No ranch sauce on your breakfast burritos! That is NOT okay!

Now straighten up and fly right.

That's better.

For her birthday, Ace asked for what she wanted and loved what she got. She got a batman costume, a coloring purse, some dress up clothes, and of course an extraordinary castle:

It's surprisingly hard to photograph. But E's details are exquisite.  Pokey was so jealous and had to process some big emotions.

As for Hawaii, it's complicated. When Hawaii was four or five, she got her hands on a toy catalogue. She was fascinated and cut out all of the toys that she liked, and pasted them into a massive 15 page collage wishlist, and gave it to Jammies and me, before Christmas. She also made collage lists for Pokey and Ace.

Most of her desires were dolls and accessories, generic versions of American Girl dolls.  So we got her a big doll like that, and some accessories.  She never played with them. Frankly, most of the items on her list did not look like the kinds of things she chooses to play with.

As subsequent birthdays/Christmases came around, Hawaii requested more items from the list. Not specific items, but generally if we asked her what she wanted, she'd retort, "You have my list. I want the things from that list." We demurred, but did get her some more doll accessories.  But for each successive holiday over the past two years, she keeps being disappointed that we mostly ignored the list. (The physical list is packed away, archived somewhere. It is the memory of the list, and perpetually feeling ignored, that Hawaii is focused on.) This list, which was never that appealing to four year old Hawaii, and is now even more dated and not-right for seven year old Hawaii, yet it keeps resurrecting itself every holiday.

So finally, Jammies told Mimi to get a bunch of items off the list for Hawaii's 7th birthday this year. The big two-foot tall present that Hawaii saved for last ended up being...a suitcase, which could hold the doll and her accessories. Hawaii's reaction was outwardly calm, but complicated. She wasn't upset and she smiled. But you can tell that she is processing all this, and wondering why it doesn't feel very good to recieve these items that you've had on your list, for two years.

I feel a bit sad and protective of her, as she tries to work it out.  She is often terribly un-attuned to herself, unable to check internally and know what will make her happy.  But incredibly attuned to other people, and their expectations and motivations. Often she is driven by wanting to dominate other people's attention, even at the expense of her own contentedness.

(I definitely understand that feeling. I think I've mostly outgrown it, finally.)

I've been feeling a bit demoralized, post-mastectomy. I thought that I could wear prosthetic boobs and go about my regular life with minimal disruption.  In actuality, they make my scars ache. By the end of the day, the parts furthest to my right and left sides are swollen and aching.

The standard answer is that this is due to the heaviness of the prosthetics, and to try lighter foam prosthetics. So I signed up for some knitted knockers.

Somewhere out there, a really nice person is hand-knitting two breasts, just for me. I really hope they don't make the nipple too protruding.

But I suspect the knitted knockers won't help. That the weight isn't the problem - I'm currently wearing an A cup; they're not very heavy. And the weight is more central, and so doesn't press on my problem spots, which are further out to the sides. I think the problem is the tightness of a bra and...I'm not sure.

Anyway, this helps:

wearing an extra shirt under the fake boobs.  I wonder if it would look strange to anyone else, in person - "Wait a minute. Is that woman's breasts...photoshopped? I swear it looks like her shirt is under them."  Of course, I just wear another shirt covering it all.  Which is too many layers for summer.

It's all adding up to much more thought and maintenance than I wanted to spend on the matter, though.  I end up choosing baggy clothes and skipping the breasts when possible.

I miss this guy and I'm not going to even get to see him until Monday evening.

4 kittens

The Trouble With Things

Posted on 2016.04.17 at 22:27
This week was so much better! Let me count the ways (but briefly, because I'm zonked yet dedicated as a blogger.)

1. The dresses were REAL. They arrived and were reasonable quality. I am keeping one of them:

This dress has a weird feature: the fabric is upside down. All the birds are belly up. Look at the nest:

I'm generally relieved not to have been scammed.

2. The was a big to-do at the Planning & Zoning committee. All the old farts in town were up in arms and yelling a lot about a proposed development. They were completely in the right, in this instance. However, I did not know how my fellow commissioners felt (because of the Texas Open Meetings Act). I was super nervous that I'd have to argue and debate the other committee members during the meeting, on TV, in front of a giant crowd of people.

We listened to pissed off citizens from 6 pm until 8:30 pm. I sat very still and tried to pay attention, but good lord it went on and on. When the public hearing ended, the discussion opened, and the very first comment was, "I move to deny the development plan." Then someone seconded it. Then I went limp with relief that I seemed to be surrounded by sensible committee members. They made thoughtful points and we had a reasonable, short conversation, and then voted the plan down by a large margin.

(I made a single comment. Afterwards, the city lawyer came over and told me I'd made A Good Point. That's right! A Good Point was made, by ME.)

3. Hawaii won a Student of the Month thing, where they get knighted by a knight. She was knighted for having the virtue of Confidence.

Parents were alerted in advance. It was very sweet to see Hawaii light up when she spotted us in the audience and realized she was going to be selected.

Keith the Knight gave a weird speech to the kindergarten, first and second graders, about discipline.  "Discipline" doesn't just mean getting in trouble for breaking a window. It also means getting out of bed when your alarm goes off, every morning, on your own. That seems unlikely to resonate with 6 year olds. I think Keith was winging it.

Also, from their website:

At the middle school level, we teach Courage, Defense, Faith, Franchise, Humility, Justice, Largesse, Loyalty, Nobility and Prowess.

Defense. Franchise. Largesse. Prowess. Hoo-weee!

(4. I got a new phone, who cares, no one, except me.)

5. Hawaii lost another tooth. She put it under her pillow. We forgot to replace it with money. In the morning, she found her tooth, and we improvised, "You guys must have been too noisy last night! Tooth fairy must have come by and you guys were awake!"  (I wish she would have already figured out the truth about the tooth fairy and Easter Bunny and so on. I am done lying to her. And yet I lied my head off, in the heat of the moment, under the gun.)

The next night, Hawaii forgot to put the tooth under her pillow. We also forgot.

The third night, Hawaii remembered, but we forgot.  "The tooth fairy didn't come again!" she exclaimed.
"Huh!" we said. I started to feel really bad.
"I was really quiet last night!"  (Maybe the problem of the ongoing belief in the tooth fairy will resolve itself naturally.)

The fourth night, we finally remembered to give her two quarters. Sheesh.

6. Mosi has a funny nod when he's standing up. He bends his knees and hunches his shoulders and back. It does make his head go up and down, but his neck is not moving.  I need to get it on video before he outgrows it, because it's adorable and ridiculous.

7. It is birthday week! The celebrations kicked off yesterday with E. Messily's birthday, who cut her hair off in celebration:

Like a fuzzy duckling.

Hawaii made her a card:

with quite a lot of clever pointers and help from Mother Messily, who is visiting us, and is also exceptionally artsy and crafty.

Hawaii's 7th birthday is on Tuesday. For her birthday dinner, Hawaii wants: corn, corndogs, and baby carrots with ranch dressing. For dessert, she wants to go to a self-serve frozen yogurt joint.

I took her to Office Depot for her present. We picked out a huge stack of post-it notes, a leather-bound notebook, some markers, some pens, and some invitations.

Ace's 3rd birthday is on Friday. For her birthday dinner, Ace wants: she rambled about chicken and pizza and hot dogs, but never gave a clear answer.  (Jammies and I will miss her birthday dinner, actually. I feel pretty bad about this. We have a wedding in California on Saturday. I made us fly out late enough that we can at least have a birthday breakfast with her.)

Ace had a very small birthday party, with three friends. Here's one present she recieved:

"The Berensteins Bears Are Preachy Evangelicals and In Your Face."  It's a box set. We didn't yet have this one!

No thank you very much! This will go straight to Goodwill.

Pokey also hijacked Mother Messily, to help him make a present for Ace:

It is a little duckling village. There are little yellow play-doh ducks inside.

8. Other things have been made lately:


He's been making a bunch of these cute little birds.

E. Messily has been making papier mache boats with the kids.

E made:

A rascally tugboat.

A jolly steamer.

Together with Pokey, she made:

A wily catamaran.

Hawaii has been working on:

A watermelon boat topped with a licorice mast and pizza flag.

Really! See her design plan:

They will be painted and decorated when they dry.

This week was a doozy.

1. I was a spazz on Tuesday, overwhelmed at work.  Once a year I have to read essays, math history papers with theorems and proofs. Commenting on their rough drafts is a nightmare. Maybe I shouldn't assign these papers anymore. I fell behind on grading tests and homeworks because of these stupid essays, too.

2. I ordered six dresses online to try on, for an upcoming wedding. I did not think I'd have time to go try on dresses in a store, see item 1 above for details. (Do I need a dress? Sort of! I generally don't fit into my collection of dresses anymore and I'd like start a collection of dresses in my forever size.)

Later in the week, it dawned on me that I probably got scammed by a Chinese company. It'll be fine - I'll just have to stop payment with the credit card company and document everything. Mostly a hassle, but also I really did want one or two dresses.

3. Wednesday night and Thursday morning were the dooziest of the doozy week, because E. Messily developed some super scary symptoms which ended up warranting a trip to the ER.  Not brand new symptoms, but exhibited at a new frightening intensity. I was slow on the draw that we really did need to head to the ER, and so we didn't go until Thursday morning.

Right now I am thinking hard about what it means to write about people in your life on your blog. The answer: I'm not sure. It's one thing to talk about their merry accomplishments and creativity, quite another to talk about their vulnerabilities. On the other hand, I want to be able to look back and remember what it was like, good and bad. The existence of a chronicle is really nice, if you have distance from it. The distance can be physical or temporal. But here in the household, we have neither. I don't have the answer yet.

4. On Friday I dented a car.

Here are the resolutions of these crises:

4. I left a note on their windshield. On Saturday, it rained, and I figured that was the end of it. I felt a bit guilty.  On Sunday, I got this text message: "Hello, you left a note about hitting my car on Friday night. First off, thanks for leaving the note! I appreciate it, you could have easily done a hit and run. It looks like the damage is only on the wheel well, so it's not that bad. Do you have insurance?"

Super long, excessively appreciative, well-punctuated text message - this is a Bill & Ted moment where I'm texting myself ten years ago, right?

We exchanged texts, I sent her my insurance information. (I assume it's a girl because it's my former self.) At the end, I signed off with, "Thanks! and sorry about the whole thing."

She wrote back, "Don't be. It's never fun, but you did the right thing."

At that point, she ceased being my former self and became a pious, earnest save-the-world type. I rolled my eyes, and that was that.

3. I don't yet have a resolution here. I think my resolution is this: I need to collaborate with E. Messily on the content. One possibility is that she feels like, "Heebie's blog is a good way to keep people updated on my medical status. I'd like people to be informed if they want, but I don't want to do it myself. Heebie should describe as explicitly as she wants to." Another possibility is, "Once it's online, it's available for everyone, and I'd rather not be available for everyone." A third possibility is a collaboration where E. Messily writes her experience, I write mine, using her level of detail as a rough guideline. Or perhaps there are fourth and fifth possibilities. The possibilities are alive with possibilities.

2. I was able to sneak away and buy a new dress on Saturday. Hooray! It needs a little altering but E. Messily is handy with a sewing machine.

1. Only one more paper to comment on! The tests are graded. The P&Z documents are mostly read and organized for Tuesday.

(Ace is threatening her doll that she is NOT leaving until she makes a GOOD CHOICE.)

3 again. I conferred with E. Messily. She basically greenlighted whatever, as long as I'm nice about it, but I'm not done pondering the meta-issues yet.

Here is the bare outline: E. Messily woke us up around midnight, saying that we should go to the ER because she was having a psychotic break. I was sure that Jammies and I could comfort her. We couldn't. She spent the night scared out of her wits, trembling and crying.  It was pretty frightening for Jammies and I, too. We should have gone to the ER.  All I can figure is that for some reason, I didn't actually consider it as an option. Sure, E. Messily had said we should go, but I didn't know if that was a fleeting thought or not. Now she was telling me that I'm not real. I assumed she wouldn't easily cooperate, and it'd be terrifying for her, and wouldn't accomplish anything.

In the morning, I called a psychiatric hotline, and they basically told me to take E. to the ER. I asked E. if she still wanted to go, and she said, "You won't let me." Challenge accepted! So we went to the ER (after stopping to take apart the smoke alarm and check it for cameras.) Gradually she returned to back to her normal self, over the course of the day. We're armed with prescriptions in case it happens again.

Like I said, the dooziest of the doozies.

(Throughout it all, E. Messily was unfailingly polite to us. She later explained that while we were her captors in this elaborate paranoid delusion, that was no reason for her to be rude to us. We texted back and forth throughout the night, and had exchanges like this:
E: You are in my head already. Just make me agree to whatever you want.
Me: That's your hallucinations controlling you at the moment. Would you like to watch a movie with me? Change of scenery, some movie that you know super well?
E: No thank you. Are the kids real?

She was measured, stable, and sane in her response to a crazy fabricated world. It was Alice in Wonderland, where Alice has had years of productive therapy beforehand.)

(E. Messily asked both Jammies and I to leave her alone, please, and so we went back to bed. In the dead stillness, about 30 minutes later, there was the sound of a tennis ball suddenly landing and bouncing down the hall. That was the creepiest moment of the night for me, personally. Later E. Messily explained that she was checking whether or not someone was real by throwing a tennis ball at them.)

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Glady's E. Steen's Water Tower Dormitories

Posted on 2016.04.03 at 22:06
I really wasn't feeling the carpet at the hotel, at the conference, in Nacogdoches, this weekend:


What I was feeling instead was the architecture. Something about successive arches on a round building:

and also these two towers:

Nestled in between those two dormitory-water-towers is this entry way:

It's the future of yesterday!

I liked these door handles;

this textured wall:

and these oval windows:

Another round building with successive arches, but I tried to photograph it from my car:


I took that photo just because I was on a roll. The building is not as appealing as the water tower dorms above.

These trees are not architectural, I just liked them:

I had architecture regret from Spring Break - that's what drove this spate. There was a particular building across from Millenium Park, back in Lake Charles, and I failed to photograph it, and I regretted not doing so.

Here's what Google Earth has to say about that:

That one might even have gravel walls - the only true walls to prop up successive arches. Nothing is more authentic than gravel walls and consecutive arches.


We're the littlest Geebies and we're here to say

we stole all the change from Mom's ashtray.

I remembered what I forgot to tell you:

It's about the BRCA gene.  So, I tested positive back in 2001, when I was 23. Then for a long time, I never really heard anyone say it outloud. I read lots of things. In my mind, I just used the letters B-R-C-A, as opposed to saying "braca" the way I eventually heard people say it outloud, years later.  I scrambled the letters for a long time. RBCA? CRBA? What do I have again?

For fifteen years, I never wondered what BRCA stood for. I assumed it was some long mess like beoxy-ribonucleic-chronophosophuescent-amino-acid-etc, indicating a location on a single chromosome on a lone farandolae.

Last week I finally found out :
"BR" is for breast.
"CA" is for cancer.
BRCA is for BR east CA ncer.

I mean. That's all. It's the BBBBRRRRReast CCCCAAAAncer gene.  That's all.

Geeblets and Jammies being in lush and green in the backyard.

E. Messily's father and step-mother came to visit.

We took them to see a Unicycle Football game. Did you know that Heebieville is the home of the world's foremost Unicycle Football league?

It's a fairly violent game - they get shoved off their unicycles onto the asphalt a lot.  Some of the did not wear knee and elbow pads. The occasional announcer chided them when they got hurt, if they were not wearing pads.

In fact, the entire event - smoking, drinking beer, while scraping all your skin off - it all showed a merry lack of good judgment.  It was charming and my stomach stopped knotting up after the first few plays.

The teams were called the Gnarwhals and the Rolling Blackouts.

While I was at my conference,

the tiny kitty cat got a tiny sleeping bag, in the middle right room. The T-Rex in the upper left got a bed and a blanket. The elephant and koala just hang out.

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Stop and go, right away

Posted on 2016.03.27 at 22:04
Ace, mid-dinner:

Other places Ace has fallen asleep:
- while walking in the park with E. Messily (slower, slower, "I'm...going...to sit...now zzzzzzzz"),
- while riding on E. Messily's shoulders, ("Ace! Use your hands! Hold on! Is she falling asleep up there?" We looked. "Yes.")
- the normal assortment of watching TV or mid-playing.

The writing at the bottom of the page says "I'm going to draw the two circles of my butt". The arrows direct the reader's attention accordingly.  ACE! How did you get the teacher to write that on your paper?!

I too have fallen asleep while standing up. As an adult, no less. In Poland. On a tour of a castle. I tipped over forward, but somehow caught myself before I busted my face open on the stone floor. The tour guide was concerned and solicitous; I felt humiliated beyond reason, mostly because of the disorienting dream fog and not being able to make sense of what was happening. The tour guide was nice and sat me down on a bench, and told me they'd pick me up at the end of the tour, which they did. (I'm pretty sure I've told this story here before.)

I got snazzy sunglasses. I even took the tag off, later.

Ace, wrapping herself around my legs, idly singing to herself, "If you have to go potty, STOP! and go right away!" (which is a Daniel Tiger song). "Ace," I said, "do you have to use the potty?"
"No!" she said, "I was just singing."
It was the truest example yet of my favorite parenting metaphor. (She kept singing but I did in fact take her to the potty.)

Labeled by Jammies, yoinked from his facebook page.


On Monday, Pokey's teacher took me aside and told me about a full balls-out tantrum he'd had. He bit a teacher. He threw his shoes at kids. He shoved. He took over 30 minutes to calm down. It was a doozy. The teacher said that this was the biggest meltdown since November.

Then she said he'd been deteriorating over the past month or so, and maybe it was connected to the weather? The high pressure, or the low pressure, or the pollen? I had no idea and no answers.

T-ball season has begun.

Pokey has been asking for the past week or two, "when are we going to start up Mindfulness again?"  Over and over again. Then finally I had the thought: jesus christ, is he crumbling at school because I hadn't brought out the Great Candle of Zack Morris in a while? The timing would be about right - we completed our Level One training at the end of February.  He started throwing more fits at school about that time. Maybe, maybe not, but we have resumed counting our breathing every night.

I SAID, T-ball season has begun.

It's an obnoxious season - Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays for fourteen weeks. But at least they're cute.


At the Easter party, I tried to get a photo of Hawaii:

but she seemed to always be on the go.


There's SOMETHING I was planning on discussing here, and I can't put my finger on it. It's driving me crazy. I guess next week will be doubly interesting.

(Enneagrams? Half-made papier mache boats? Discovering that my occasional therapist has horribly prejudiced instincts when caught off-guard by a person with a disability? None of these seem like the right half-written blog prompt to my feeble brain.)

(Was it my sinuses? I got sicker and sicker until I finally stayed home Wednesday and went to the doctor.  She put me on antibiotics and I was transformed within hours. It was amazing. And I'd been so sure it would be a waste of time.)

(Was it this amazing photo of when Jammies was stripey on Easter long ago?

E. Messily: "For Halloween, you could dress up as yourself!")


What cute-tens. You're growing so big.

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Meticulous Searching

Posted on 2016.03.20 at 22:19
We are home again. Definitely more of a trip than a vacation. Hokey Pokey learned to ride a bike.

Rascal learned to sit on a bike.

We found sharks teeth in the creek. That was a favorite pastime of mine growing up. There's something about meticulous searching that I find relaxing, plus the creek is pretty.

We took the girls to the dress rehearsal of Carmina Burana. (Dress rehearsals are much better than actual performances.) Ace and Hawaii were both rapt.  When I was growing up, I also watched Carmina Burana, but I was bored out of my skull.  As an adult, I enjoyed it a lot, though. (One of the leads when I was a kid is still dancing in the corps, at age 63. That is some serious staying power. Also I'm pretty sure many of the costumes were unchanged.)

I did regret that the family split along gender lines - Pokey and Rascal stayed home with the baby-sitter, Hawaii and Ace came to the ballet. But we desperately needed to split up adjacent siblings by this point in the week. It felt like a reprieve.

We stayed with the secret cousins in Mobile again, on the way home. They are still very nice people, although I didn't learn any new family secrets this time.

I am sick. My sinuses hurt and my head hurts and my whininess hurts.  Actually Jammies and E. Messily took the kids out of the house for dinner, while I am home alone, which is the nicest thing anyone has ever done.

We listened to Hamilton in the car on the drive home. It moves me. When I listen to it, I want to be a passionate person who writes like they're running out of time. I want to be headstrong and brilliant, too.  Isn't that ridiculous? In actuality, I want to be a lazy person who gets a good night's rest and reads about land use codes. But that's how good the soundtrack is: it makes me forget that I enjoy being ordinary.

(If you listen to it enough, it starts to seem discordant that the founding fathers were actually white. That's how strongly you connect with the performers.)

I-10 was still flooded along the Texas-Louisiana border, so we detoured south along the gulf oil refineries.

E. Messily has been at work while we were gone:

Hello Princess. What are you looking at?

Oh nothing, just my big palace. Do you like my balcony?

Of course I do!

The palace has a little parking garage underneath it, for parking princess accessories. Also the entire thing disassembles.

The kittens have lots of fleas. They're itching a little. The main problem is that I become single-minded about finding fleas, to the exclusion of petting the kitties. Like I said above, there's something about meticulous searching that I find relaxing. That is the main reason that I need to eradicate the fleas.

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Gosh Darn Fucking Goat

Posted on 2016.03.13 at 22:38
Right now we are driving through rural Louisiana, because the highway has too much traffic, rain, and collisions. I mused that swamp poverty is more depressing than dry poverty. There are plenty of dilapidated mobile homes in both dry Texas and soggy Louisiana, but they seem moldier and softer and more rotten here, as opposed to just old and sagging and worn out.

In real life, the house on the right was picturesque and rotting out, with bright green mold, and through the trees you could see a super fancy yellow house, (which looks unremarkable here), and then there was the Christmas Tree in March to the left. It seemed highly poetic, but now it just seems hard to discern.

We stopped at Lake Charles for lunch. They had the most spectacular public park I’ve ever seen:

If you’re driving with kids along I-10, be sure to stop at Millennium Park in Lake Charles.

The park is right on Lake Charles:

That was the only part of Louisiana that was sunny. The rest of it looked like this:

as the Atchafalaya Swamp crept up and over the bridge in the lower spots:

Traffic was monstrous throughout Louisiana:

The whole place seemed soggy and wet.  It's funny - I've had plenty of flooding in the past year, but in a dry-ish climate. And I lived plenty of years in a soggy swamp, but it never flooded. A flooding swamp is really truly something.

Look how ferny this tree is:

There are branches that are sheer gardens themselves:

Packing for this trip was unexpectedly easy.  We got out the door at 5:30 am. It was all fairly smooth. I was struck by the notion that life is getting incrementally easier.


Rascal is done with baby bottles.

Somehow all our babies are done with baby bottles, and I barely noticed. Hawaii, Pokey, and Ace were all very attached to having a bottle of milk at bedtime, and they did so until they turned 2. But Rascal was less interested in bottles and it was not even significant when it fell by the wayside.


Last week I got this text message from Jammies:
Pokey got in trouble for saying “Goddamnit fucking god” today in school. He said his friend also said a bad word. I asked what it was. It was poop. I told Pokey he might have escalated that situation a bit too fast.

Indeed. I laughed.

Unfortunately, “goddamnit fucking god” has a good rhythm, and Ace grabbed onto it as a chant. I’ve semi-successfully morphed it into “gosh darn it flaming goat” since Ace’s teachers already had a panic attack over the word “heck”.   It’s mostly stuck, but sometimes she chants “gosh darn fucking goat”.

Pokey also drew this mouse and cat, which I love:


Hopefully we'll get to my parents' house by 3 am. My dad sent me a text about arrival plans, and said that my mom will be waking up at 3 am to go swimming. So we might cross paths with my mom then; I’ll let you know. (My mom has a complicated explanation about how the pool is too crowded for her to do her water-walking unless she wakes up at 3 am. It’s hard to see how this could be true; I think it’s more that she can’t sleep for an entire night post-esophectomy, and this is a convenient thing to get up and do.)



I had my first P&Z meeting last week.

The chairs are super comfortable - tall backed, soft leather, and swiveling. I have a nameplate. I have a computer screen. There are refreshments available. So cush.

I can see myself on the video feed, and it’s delayed by about five seconds, so I can see what I look like from a variety of angles. Everyone talked very fast and there was a lot to keep track of, so it would behoove me to stop paying attention to the video feed.


I wrote most of that on Saturday in the car. Now it's Sunday night and I'm inserting photos, and for the record: my mom postponed swimming at 3 am until Monday. And the reason she did was so that she could watch the kids when they woke up at 6 am, and let Jammies and I sleep in until 8.

The most depressing moment of the drive was when the phones updated their clocks from 1:30 am all the way to 3:30 am, because we'd crossed into the Eastern Time Zone and it was Daylight Savings Time, at the same time.

But we're here now!

4 kittens

Serious Gray Metal Buttons

Posted on 2016.03.06 at 21:59
The worst hours of the entire week are 6 am to 9 am on Saturday and Sunday morning.  It is the most intense parenting of the entire week - the kids are fighting, hungry, bonkers - and it is just when my appetite for intense parenting is at its weakest. I just can't give up the expectation that weekend mornings ought to be calm and pleasant. And so they're the worst.

It mellows out around 9 or 10 am - Rascal takes a nap, the kids get immersed in Legos or coloring, there's a birthday party or errand to run. Late afternoon can be rough. But I generally enjoy the dinner and bedtime routine.

Nevertheless, I consider Monday to be my day of rest. I go to work, and I am supposed to sit down, and I'm supposed to sit at my computer. I'm supposed to! It's so nice.

The lantana and the Texas mountain laurel both think it's spring:

but the oak trees think its fall:

Those leaves are several inches deep!

The math competition went much, much better than last year. I still find it incredibly stressful though.

A week ago Friday, Hawaii lost one of front teeth:

The remaining one stuck out like a crazy snaggle-tooth. It was noticeably protruding and it held on for a week. Then this past Friday, it fell out too, at a birthday party:

The going rate is fifty cents, at our house.

The birthday party was held at a sorority house. Apparently the birthday girl's mother is the den mother or something. Apparently sorority girls don't mind having twenty first graders ransack their house on a Friday night.  This implies (to me, at least) that the sorority girls have a house-keeper who will be doing the clean up. Or the den mother, I guess.

Look what the roomie made for Jammies:


Look at the detail:

It is quite fetching on Jammies, too.

On the buttons, we debated the merits. E. Messily's view was that a ridiculous shirt deserved ridiculous buttons, and she favored iridescent turquoise or iridescent pink or iridescent pearl.  I opined that it should be more like, "This is my serious shirt. With serious buttons. Why do you ask?"  and so I preferred gray metal buttons. E. Messily gave me the benefit of the doubt, and used the serious buttons. I think it looks great.


I had P&Z training on Tuesday. It felt like the first day of school. I picked out what I was going to wear (jeans and a cardigan). I was very excited.

For about five hours, two of us met with the staff of the Heebieville Land Use department. They went over city codes and zoning and smart codes and conditional use permits with us. I loved it. I liked poring over the maps of our town and thinking about coding details. I felt important. Ushering in the future of Heebieville, one land-use code at a time.

I have been doing nightly mindfulness with the kids since last fall. The novelty has worn off. It was getting tedious.*  But it is hard to end a routine with kids, without them having an obstinate knee-jerk reaction against quitting.   So I told them they had completed this level of mindfulness, and now there would be a break until it was time to resume training. I was very pleased with myself for this framing.  (At some point, they will seem stressed out or they'll be having trouble coping, and then we'll level up.  After all, it did seem like it helped for a while.)(They do keep asking if it's time to resume.)

* My grandmother has (or had) a joke: "Tedium. Tedium. Tedium. Tedium-tedium-tedium!"  It is hard to explain what makes it funny. It sounds like galloping - giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up - but why is that funny? It just is. I really liked it when she told it.

Have I complained how bloody single-minded and stubborn Rascal is? He's intense.


E. Messily's health woes have leveled up, too, with some next-level back pain. I am like Chewbacca - I can sort of howl in anguished empathy and I can drive her places, but not much else. We are finally getting in to see her new doctor this week, which was the first available appointment when E. booked it back in January.

4 kittens

No One Wants to Run It.

Posted on 2016.02.28 at 21:43
Notable things this week? I was tired and overwhelmed. Mostly because of our Calculus Competition which is next Saturday. I hate that thing. It involves event-planning and talking to strangers - two of my most-loathed things. Why the fuck am I in charge of such a thing? Each year I think I'll stop doing it, but it seems a shame to cancel a pretty popular event just because no one wants to run it. However, no one wants to run it.

Once the competition is over, I'll go back to regular old whelmed.
We had pretty skies this week:


I saw two of the three victims from the court trial a few weeks ago, the ones who were threatened by the machete. I don't think they recognized me. I had three reactions:
1) a rush that I should go say hi and catch up. Their names popped right in my head. That is what you usually do when you bump into someone with whom you shared an intense event - you greet them and find out how they're doing. (I did not.)
2) Intense guilt because they should be mad at me. Clearly they know full well what happened that night. I let them down.
3) During the night in question, in 2014, they were a couple, but it was impossible to tell if they were still together, in 2016, and I was curious. Now I know: they seem to still be together. Good for them!

I also bumped into another jurors, shortly after the trial. Her daughter and granddaughter live next door to my friend. We did say hi. Small town.

(I sat at this particular train crossing for a while.)

On the mosaic coffee table:

I learned things. I learned that since the substrate is particle board and not plywood, the tiles would fall right back off if I try to glue them down. Motion and moisture over decades make particle board distintegrate, I'm told. The only fix would be to chart the pattern, make a new table with a non-absorbent substrate like hardibacker, and tile it all again with a thinset or mastic adhesive and grout it.

Words I don't know: hardibacker, thinset, mastic.  I do know this:
That table is dead, and I did my due diligence. Scrap the table or give it away, and buy a new coffee table.  One with some orange and brown and cream tiles in it, I think.

One of my favorite spots in town is an intersection, from which you can see a single train crossing two different streets. Looking east, you can see the train crossing the street and disappearing into some trees. Look north, you see the train emerging from the trees to cross a river (pictured above) and then a street (also pictured about). It always gives me the impression that the trains are giant snakes coiling around the town.


We were reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School, and got to 75 + 49.

"Wait!" exclaimed Hawaii. "Don't read the answer!" She fell silent.

I asked her to say her reasoning out loud, which is a total math ed move.  It sounds intrusive and interrogative, but people generally comply without a second thought.
Hawaii obliged. "Well, there are 7 tens and 4 tens, so that's 11 tens. Then there's a 5 and a 9, so that's 14. So I've got 11 tens and 14, which makes...114?" We said, "Close!!" She paused and said, "...124?" and we were pleased. I complimented her reasoning.

I am super thrilled with this curriculum. Math teaching has really come so far.  I've been told (by my school board friend) that I should write a letter to the school board, because they are hiring a new superintendent, and (apparently) superintendents love to toss out curricula and replace it with their pet curricula. Our crappy school district is (apparently) a stepping stone for superintendents, and so our curriculum gets replaced every few years, and the teachers get livid and burned out. (Apparently.)


Jammies was napping on the couch, and I told Hawaii to get him for dinner. She went over and yelled, "The kittens are destroying the wallpaper!!" and Jammies jumped a foot in the air. It was super effective.  She thought of it all on her own!

Rascal can sign yes or no, although he exhibits proximalization, according to the linguist roomie, by hinging at the shoulder instead of the wrist. It's super cute.

The rest of us try to sign, too. E. Messily humors us, although nobody pretends we're actually assisting communication.  I am really good at signing the most obvious word, like food or three, and not helping on the ambiguous words. Work in progress.

Rascal got a haircut:

Ace stays up with her flashlight and plays in bed, long after the other three have fallen asleep. Just chatters away, into the night.

The roomie made me a purse:

I love it so much. You can pretty much get me to do your bidding for a blue floral print. Look at the lining:

She also made some iridescent squishy blocks and a cat-bunny-wobbly thing for our friend's baby shower, but I failed to photograph them.

(Why am I so bushed?  I don't feel like I've earned being tired. Also my back hurts.)

4 kittens

Panic about the grout, cars not for riding in

Posted on 2016.02.21 at 21:20
The coffee table:


I feel deeply conflicted. It ought to be repaired, according to some deep truth of the world. Antique furniture ought not be destroyed. But also, I don't feel like acquiring grout and mixing it. That is the hard part. (I think if the grout were mixed and someone showed me what to do, I wouldn't mind actually placing the tiles back in place.)

Part of me wants to throw it in the trash and buy a new one. I like shopping on ebay more than I like feeling overwhelmed about grout.


I did a possibly dumb thing? I applied to be on the local planning and zoning committee.  It felt important to do now, because of the recent flooding. Also, in November we elected a rather progressive city council, so it would be a more cooperative experience instead of an infuriating one.

I had to talk to as many members of City Council as possible. Several friends know Council members and said nice things about me to them. I was informed of the major issues shaping the town, (but those are the subject of a different, less anonymous blog.) There were 13 candidates including one incumbent, and three open spots.

(I spent an inordinate amount of time during the city council meeting analyzing the voting. There are seven council members, each with three votes. No matter how badly the votes are distributed, five votes will secure you being in the top three, or surviving to a run-off, if four candidates each got five votes. However, four votes would get you in only under certain circumstances. The two factors are how many candidates end up splitting the votes, and how lock-step the council members are.  For example, if four council members are in unanimous agreement on three candidates, they can vote in lock-step and the remaining three council members would have no way to get enough votes for any other candidate. On the other extreme, if there is no lock-step voting whatsoever, you could have five candidates all getting four votes (and one stray vote) or six candidates all getting three votes (and three stray votes) or seven candidates all getting three votes, etc. I tried to game out how much entropy I expected between councilmember picks. I was very confident I had two votes. Heebie, quit being so boring! What happened?)

It was a bit nerve-wracking to sit through the city council meeting. In the end, I got four votes, and that was enough to get on the committee.  Hooray! I was momentarily victorious and then I freaked out.

The appointment last three years. I panicked due to the time commitment - why on earth did I think I could carve out time to be on a big committee? I can't even glue tiles on a stupid coffee table.  I decided thusly: I have one month to panic. For the month of March, I can fret and gnash my teeth.  But come April, it must be adopted as the new normal. (Actually, when I woke up the next morning, I felt less terror. I'm sure the peaceful feeling will come and go.)

The next morning my name was misspelled in the paper. I even have my own (misspelled) hash tag now.


Rascal now walks from the car all the way to his classroom. It feels momentous and noteworthy - an era has ended. No one needs to be carried. (Of course, small children get carried all the time. It's not the end of carrying kids.) But it's the end of something, something that has lasted for six years. I felt sad and happy.

That car is for riding in!

This one is not:

Aww, poor stuck baby. Those photos tickle me.


Guess who just remembered she has to finish grading Cal II tests tonight! And has two thumbs! Bye now.

4 kittens

Serious but not heated.

Posted on 2016.02.14 at 22:18
I had a weird week. I was on the jury for an aggravated assault case. The defendant threatened the complainants with a machete. (Regular threats are assault, threats with a deadly weapon elevates it to aggravated assault.)

Work was stressful. I panicked on Monday during jury selection, and kept texting my chair that I thought I'd be out all week. I would have really liked him to respond, "Oh no! I'll help you figure something out!" Instead he texted, "You can't cancel class all week!" and did not offer anything helpful. "Everyone has class at the same time as you, and no one can cover your classes!" Gee, thanks. I spent each evening trying to create class activities that could be completed without a substitute present. It sucked.

(I went estate sailing on Saturday.)

The courtroom was frigid cold. I found the first day very stressful. I was juror #5 and was pretty sure I'd get picked. I was worried it would be a domestic dispute or a child getting hurt. I was freaked out about my classes. (We had to agree to the one witness rule, which is an unsettling Texas-ism.)(Also Texans pronounce voir dire "voyer dye-er", leaving me too self-conscious say the phrase outloud in any form.)

But at the end of the day on Monday, we found out what the case was - threatening with a machete. No kids involved. No abuse. Adults in a dispute. That was a relief. (Also, different machete. I nearly jumped out of my skin at first, thinking we were about to hear the case with my neighbors.)

(Tuesday morning I was supremely grouchy at the kids during the morning routine and later felt bad. I think it was residual stress from Monday. At one point Hawaii snatched her skirt out of my hands. I snatched it back from her and swung it so that the hem swiped her. She howled and Pokey said, "That was unexpected of you." Which is the language his therapist uses with him - what are other people expecting of you in a situation? What is unexpected? It is true - Hawaii did not expect me to act like a brat.)

(This is small, only 6"x8", and the paint is thick and colors vivid. It is matted on velvet.)

We were allowed to take notes. I took extensive notes.

Being in actual court was interesting. We all loved the interpreter, who was extremely professional when she dropped a bunch of f-bombs without batting an eye. (The defense attorney would not stop responding directly to the Spanish-speaking witness, and then the judge would bark at him. "I haven't heard the English! Let her speak! I don't speak Spanish!")

Basically, the defendant was over at the victims' house and they got in an argument. He left for about 30 minutes. He returned with a machete in his truck. Somehow they all ended up in the front yard, and he got the machete out and swung it around. No one disputed any of that - there were documented small branches on the ground, hacked down from an oak tree by the machete.

(Watching the dashcam on the cop cars as they tore through town was super fun. Wheee, there's the exit to my house! There's HEB! I can follow where we're going!)

What was in dispute was whether or not he was acting in self-defense. The victims threw rocks at him. The question to the jurors amounted to, "Which came out first, the machete or the rocks?" If the rocks came out first, then self-defense becomes available, as long as the defendant does not have a duty to retreat. So if the jurors felt it was plausible that the rocks were thrown first, we next had to evaluate if the state had proved that the defendant had a duty to retreat. It was a fairly complicated logical path.

I thought he was guilty as hell, and I thought the state proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt. First, it is ludicrous to get a machete out in response to someone throwing rocks - they weren't punching him at arm's length, they were across the front yard.  But throwing rocks in response to a machete makes perfect sense - you just want to keep him away from you.

But if you think that plausibly the rocks came out first, then the defendant had a duty to retreat, because he clearly was not invited any longer onto their property, and you must have a right to be there in order to stand your ground.  Furthermore, he got into his truck to get the machete, so a reasonable person (which is the standard) would have just driven away.

But some of the jurors felt that we just couldn't know what happened, end of story. They had a gut feeling, and were not willing to wander down a conditional if-then statement ("if the rocks were thrown first, then he had a duty to retreat") and so that was that.

Also, these particular jurors felt that the witnesses were not credible because they had each been inconsistent, and so they discounted the entirety of the testimony. In my opinion, the witnesses were inconsistent in exactly the way one is when telling a story - "I think it was sunset. No, maybe it was already dark. I'm not sure." At times they were surely not telling the truth, but I found major parts of their testimony credible.

(Both the mirror and the sweater-coat.)

We finally unanimously agreed to acquit on all counts. What I told myself was this: the state had to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and here are 3-4 people who seem reasonable, who have serious doubts. Therefore the state failed to prove itself beyond their reasonable doubt.  There were also several people who felt the way I did, but we were going in circles and ultimately, the people who want to acquit have the upper hand. In my opinion, those jurors were utterly freaked out by the idea of taking away someone's liberty - but they're right! That is a freaky amount of power and it should be unnerving.

(Contact paper.)

Afterwards, the judge said that if we'd found him guilty, he would have expected to see an appeal for total incompetence by the defense attorney, which made me feel better for acquitting. Everyone deserves a fair trial. Also the defendant was in his mid-forties and maybe this two-year ordeal was sufficient punishment?

The jury was composed eleven women and one guy. (The guy refused to go through any door until all eleven of us ladies had gone through. Every time we left the courtroom, he'd lurch around and cause a back-up as everyone went around him. Dude. Go through the doorway.) I was the fore-person. Despite the serious disagreeing of opinions, the jury held really thoughtful, honorable discussions. It was serious but never heated. At one point someone mentioned that the Tex-Mex Bar is a violent bar with a bad reputation, and someone else said, "We can't talk about that - that is outside information," and so it was dropped and not brought up again.  We deliberated from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning, about 5 hours total.

I watched the defendant while the judge read that the defendant was not guilty on each of the three counts. He was shaking and crossed himself, and for the first time I saw him wracked with emotion. That was humbling and profound.

So I think the jury made the wrong decision, but it was probably the right decision. Erring on the side of letting someone go free is the right thing to do. The end.

Now no more machetes for you, B.M., okay?

On my way out of the courtroom the last time, there was a young Latino guy, maybe 25, sitting on the tailgate of a beater station wagon, the kind my mom drove thirty years ago.  He was wearing a lavender button down shirt and tie, and brown trousers, and a felt brown fedora.  It was a beautiful warm day, blue sky, and the scene felt like a surreal time-warp. I would have liked to take a photo. (Except maybe I would have photoshopped out the splatters of spit from the sidewalk. He was dipping. So gross.)

I'm having a moment where I am hyper-aware that this is actually a Hispanic world here, and my white self mostly just superficially skates around on top of it all.  It's from being immersed in the trial, and estate sailing, and stopping at the flea market on the way home. I interact with tons of Latino people, but it's always them coming to meet me where I'm at. I don't really ever go with them into the Latino world. I don't even really have an access point, because it's tangled up with poverty in complicated ways. The friends I have who are Latino are not poor, and when they hang out with me, it's in the not-poor intersection of our worlds, and it's pretty mainstream. There's a whole lot of Latino ice berg under the surface that I don't generally see.

"A FEAST OR A FAMINE? Note the networks of railroads taking the raw products and live stock to Dallas and Ft Worth for manufacture and sale and on the sea for export thru Galveston and Houston.  A FEAST. Note the few miles of railroad necessary to direct this to San Antonio and Corpus Christi and avert A FAMINE."

I didn't buy this poster, but I sort of regret it. The cultural and economic isolation that emanates from the Rio Grande valley has been in my face this week.

Anyway. Happy Valentine's Cake!

One, two, three, four:

Now back to the routine.

4 kittens

Presents and cats, small party hats

Posted on 2016.02.07 at 23:04
Ace is somewhat potty-trained! She has started initiating trips to the bathroom. She runs up and says, "Mommy! Mommy! I had an accident!" and we swoop her up and rush her to the bathroom, and she has not actually had an accident yet - she must just be indistinguishing the urge from the act - and she successfully uses the potty.

When you take Ace to the potty, you get stream of consciousness. (I apologize for the actual potty stream sound at the beginning; I didn't expect that to happen.) This is what Ace is like at 2 1/2:

Training Ace was very different than training Hawaii or Pokey. With Hawaii, I wanted her to initiate potty-training, so that we would not have a battle of wills. We tried once or twice, but she was not ready, so we waited. Then we went to Norway for a week. When we got back, Mimi had Hawaii all potty-trained. It was easy!

With Pokey, we tentatively initiated and brought out the baby potty. He demanded to stop wearing a diaper altogether. That was that. There was even one big fight when he refused to wear a diaper overnight, and I tried to force him to wear it. He won the fight, and did not have an accident overnight, either. It was easy!

With Ace, she was daycare-potty trained, and clearly capable of using the potty, but preferred a diaper at home. Again I was wary of starting a battle of wills, but also exasperated waiting for her to initiate. Finally we forced her to start wearing underwear. It seems to have taken about 2-3 weekends, and it's going fine. It did not turn into a battle of wills. Semi-easy!


Ace is not allowed to say "What the heck!!" at daycare, which is one of her best (hammiest) expressions. Instead she is to say, "WHAT!!"

This irritates the living fuck out of me. She is already pandering to fragile ears by using the word 'heck'. Squeamish overprotective ninnies picked the word 'heck' in the first place! They should not be allowed to move the Overton Window on swear words any hecking further.

Who has a gross injury?

Jammies has a gross injury:

He got it playing wiffle ball. His pants got stuck to it, which was pretty gross.

E. Messily had a horrendously swollen elbow, which I didn't photograph, only the golf ball-sized version.

The original elbow was probably soft-ball sized?

Signing Time

On Sunday mornings (after pancakes) we are now having a weekly family sign language lesson. It is super fun:

1. E. Messily is an excellent teacher. (Unfortunately for her, I fully expected as much, so she doesn't get the benefit of surpassing low expectations.)
2. I generally enjoy visual-spatial operations. Lots of the grammar is done by performing a sign in a specific spatial position relative to another sign. We are only three lessons deep so far, though, so I do not actually know what I'm talking about. But I like it.
3. Hawaii gets to learn alongside her parents, and we aren't any better at it than her. This is good for her to see, I think.
4. Hokey Pokey and Ace have to self-regulate with regards to participation. They can play quietly, or they can join the lesson, but they can't disrupt the lesson. That's a good skill, too: determining what you want to do and doing it, without disrupting the group, in life.
5. I was worried that there would be no way for me to make flashcards for myself. But that fear is not coming to fruition, mostly because of (1) and (2) above.



I had a lovely birthday.

I got a poem and a jacket and a book, and a coaster and a creamer container.

What an illegible photograph of the poem! I'll help:

Happy birthday, Mom! I love you!
And everyone else does too.
Music and cake and a chocolate milk shake,
Happy birthday, Mom, I love you!
Presents and cats, small party hats
balloons and roses, from your head to your toses.
Candy and love, mixed in a glove.
Everyone loves you, Mom! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!

I think it's my new cheer! I do love it.


for looking sharp.  I'm so stylish.

Estate-sailing got postponed a week due to Mardi Gras:

For my birthday, I played a game, "Photograph everything that says February 3rd on it". Here are the results:

I got some email.

Plant sale.

Local flood victim doesn't like big blowhard Cruz.

I went to xfit.

The front of my phone showed the date.

Plus birthday milk from last week:

That's all of them; thank you for playing Photo Your Birthday.

4 kittens

It's Easy to Make a New Friend. But How?

Posted on 2016.01.31 at 21:15
Jammies is out of town. He gets back on Sunday. We miss him.

Adventures in housekeeping:

The kids now have two bunk beds. Rascal's crib slides in and out like a drawer under Hawaii's bed.

Visually the room is too cluttered, mostly because of those big blue tents. But the kids like the mix of cozy and private. It's like one of those Japanese hotels where you rent a little long drawer, like an MRI tube, to sleep in.

In accordance with my resolution to keep my clothes off the floor, I put lights up in my dresser and closet. This helps me see what I'm doing.

Boo-oooring! Sorry.

The roomie:

charted dinner preferences:

and made our refrigerator wholesome:

and built a six inch house:

complete with tiny wallpaper and artwork and beds:

and that is a wire birdcage hanging on the bottom floor.

Other roomies:

The Youngest:

...has been a total pill this week. Poor thing had massive ear infections and a fever for half the week. Recuperating made him such an angry baby. Everything would piss him off. Occasionally he'd get a taco and things would be all right:

The true intent of that video is to display his head wiggle. It means 'yes'.


Two weeks ago, Rascal burnt the crap out of all of his fingers, at daycare, by leaning into a metal door outside. Ten little blisters:

Poor baby!

Good kitty:

Look, I giffed:


I have a great video of Ace being charming but I'm running out of steam for uploading such things. Instead have a photo:

Here are cute things she says:
- "Last one who tooted!" in a big sing-song voice whenever she is the last one to have done so.
- "Tup of toto" for cup of cocoa.
- "toot toot, I'm cute!" when she is wearing this jacket and someone compliments it:

Hokey Pokey:

"Do you want to know how this car broke his axle? He was driving along and he didn't see a canyon. So he was racing and went off the edge of the canyon! Like this, "whoooooo!" So he was falling, and the driver unbuckled! And opened the door! And got out and was falling! He landed on the ground. And then he died, because the car landed on him. And the axle landed on the man. And that's what broke the axle."

An unpredictable narrative, by Pokey.


Wrote this book.

I have a lot of friends, and you should too. For example, Brynn is my best friend. Sadie is my friend. How can you make a new friend?

It's easy to make a new friend. But how? You could say 'Hi' and tell them your name.

It's remarkabe her ear for the dialect of user manuals.

A family member could be your new friend, too. My brother is my friend and we love to wrestle with each other. So get out there and make a new friend. "Yay!"

Hawaii was apologetic about this book - "They only let us use four pages at After School," she explained. She also phoned in the illustrations, clearly. But it's a nice handbook nevertheless.

The Grandmother:

My mother has been transcribing a trove of letters from 1937-1944. The letters start when he's still married to the other Beatrice, and then continue because my grandmother and M. Aaron lived in different cities the first few years of their marriage.

This week turned up:

(no envelope)
Late October 17, 1943

In an hour the lights go out. What are you doing now? I dare not ask. Darling, I still don’t know what has happened, but just feel dazed and all of me is crying though there are no tears left. I hardly can wait to be home and read your letters, for until a long time that’s all we shall have to repair something, something which I had thought was priceless. Do you think that is possible?

A little while back the conductor came thru with a telegram for Mrs. White, which I had misheard as Mrs. Wr/ght.I feel I ought to write something of the war, but nothing comes out. Good-night, now. That all I can write.

Your Bea

GOODNESS. The question is, had Grandma just found out about M. Aaron's secret identity? And secret family of origin that he secretly visited several times a year and secretly loved a lot?

And then later that week:

This one is pretty long.Collapse )

Well, goodness. Something major went down. She probably must have found out, but it'd be nice to have some solid evidence. The good news is that they worked it out and had a long, happy marriage. Good job!

This week is full of good things.

Jammies gets home Sunday night. The Iowa caucas freakshow is on Monday. I'm getting clothes in the mail.
(I'm on a stupidly-involved hunt for jeans. Ask me for my longwinded opinion about various rises.) And...

Birthday milk!

My birthday is on Wednesday. Next weekend is my annual birthday Estate Sale Celebration. All good things!

4 kittens

Failure Is All Mine

Posted on 2016.01.24 at 22:04
I failed to write a post! I have the photos and topics all laid out and ready to go. But I mismanaged my time. I'm vaguely hoping I can get it together on Monday and not just drop a week altogether. 

4 kittens

A Mantle With a Quote

Posted on 2016.01.18 at 22:23
We spent MLK weekend in little cabins with six other families.

Each cabin has a mantle with a quote:

Let me zoom for you:

"A Man Is As Big As the Things That Annoy Him."  Isn't that fantastic? The cabins were built by the CCC during the New Deal by Roosevelt's "Tree Army".

Here are the things that determine the size of Jammies:

Messily was here, too, but we didn't include her in the list of annoyances. (Also she was feeling increasingly shitty over the course of the weekend. That part was crappy.)

Each morning, we just kick the kids out of the cabin. Then they run in the woods until we call them for meals. It's so quaint. They play so hard and get so exhausted that they become brittle little violent monsters by dinner time. Then someone puts a movie on in one of the cabins. The kids all dogpile in there.  (Our kids don't last very long and we take them to our cabin to sleep.)

Except Rascal. We did not kick him out of the cabin and bark, "And stay out!"

That one would just pass out in someone's lap, late afternoon.


Jammies had a big week - his long-lost half-sister contacted him. Jammies' mom split from his biological dad when Jammies was a baby.  She married Jammies' dad when Jammies was five.  When Jammies was in college, his grandfather on the birth father's side was dying and wanted to see Jammies again. On that visit, Jammies saw a photo of his birth father with a new little family. So Jammies knew the half-sister and -brother existed.

One time, a few years ago, Jammies got a strange voicemail. It turned out to be a wrong number. But adrenaline and fear washed over him - was this the half-sister, reaching out? He has been waiting for the other shoe to drop, since he was 20. (Why fear? I don't want to put words in Jammies' mouth, but I think fear of getting ensnared and obligated to nurture a relationship that he does not care about. Or be forced to choose between endless polite niceties or hurting someone's feelings by not wanting a relationship.)

Anyway, the shoe dropped! She sent a facebook message. It was a warm, curious, perfectly nice message. The half-brother died a few years ago, in a helicopter crash, in his early 20s, which is pretty awful and sad. Jammies wrote back and forth with her.

(Did his fears come to fruition? I don't know. The charge of adrenaline was intense, I think. He has been ensnared into some conversations with her, but maybe not an overwhelming flood of them.)

She thinks Jammies resembles her dad's side of the family. I'm now facebook friends with her, too. I think Jammies has the same nose-mouth-chin as the half-brother that passed away.


I went jogging in the state park and did not wear any sort of bra, and I loved it. Free! Liberating! It turns out that my back jiggles. I hadn't realized that my sports bra had been holding in place both my front and my back.

Bastrop had terrible forest fires in 2011. It still looks mostly apocalyptic:

but in some places there is new growth:

Also, during the floods, a dam burst and washed a big bridge away. There is jagged asphalt, then a fifty yard gulch, and then jagged asphalt on the far cliff. It's dramatic.

I did not take this photo:

but it captures the scene. (That blog is super charming.)


And during the week, before camping, Pokey was Inigo Montoya some more:

So dapper.

Kittens are nimble.

Hawaii ambling:

And this is actually the size of Jammies:


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