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4 kittens

Gaze Upon This Fossil

Posted on 2015.11.22 at 22:17
It's birthday week! Rascal got sent home on Tuesday with small red bumps under his diaper that might have been Hand, Foot, & Mouth disease (but nope, just diaper rash).  So on Wednesday, his birthday, I got to stay home with him and E. Messily, which was lots of fun.

E. Messily made him a square:

and a circle:

and my mom bought him some books, and that's about it.

(Daycare claims that he is standing and taking steps unassisted but I have not personally witnessed such a thing.)

On Friday,

Ace got sent home, also with small red bumps under her diaper that might be Hand, Foot, & Mouth.  We didn't bother to get it checked out since it so clearly was not.

On Saturday,

Soccer was miserably windy. We pulled into the parking lot and opened the minivan doors and they all slammed shut again. We opened them a second time, and some kid artwork flew away. The kids burst into tears.
"I'll go get it," sighed Jammies, "what was it?"
"A little kite I made!" said Pokey.
It did a really good job flying away.

That photo was intended to demonstrate the perpetual bent angle of the corner flag - so windy! - but the squinched up kids at the bottom maybe do a better job.

Pokey was scared of the wind and so pissed off to be playing soccer that he kept kicking the ball out of bounds, deliberately. What with the wind, this was truly a pain in the ass. The wind was awful.  At the end of the games, the kids got hotdogs and medals to celebrate the end of the season.

That same day was Pokey's birthday party. We celerated at knock-off Chucky Cheese, where you get 350 extra tickets for being the birthday boy.

He got lots of Star Wars shwag and some fossils from my parents.

This one is 60 million years old. For the last 30 of those years, it has been on display in my parents' house.


Hawaii was stalling for time. She said her ankle hurt.
"It's my right. NO! It's my left!" she started, being kid-like, "Well, ok. It's my right, but it's really close to my left," she finished.

I bit my cheek and did not laugh out loud.

"I'M SO ONE!!"

Right now Jammies is in Amarillo with all four kids, driving them to Denver. That crazy fuck. I'll fly out on Tuesday and meet them there.

4 kittens

Why are we being combative?

Posted on 2015.11.15 at 21:24
Look, four regular kids just sitting around a table, just eating like regular kids do:

Rascal was theatrically proud of himself for sitting around with the big kids at the table.

Here's what an adult draws when they are pretending to be a kid drawing a picture:

Or what Hawaii draws, when she's just being herself, an ornery professional 30-something career woman trapped inside a six year old's body.

Further evidence, a card she made for me:

I love you in my life
It's better with you in it.
Be proud I'm yours,
'Cause I'm proud you're mine.

Sure, isn't that how all six year olds talk to their mothers?

Ace paints a bat:

Pokey is down with the texture:

"Blue With Pumpkin Seeds on Yellow"

"Scented picture," covered with cinnamon and nutmeg and things that smelled cozy.

Rascal didn't draw anything, but he was super proud of himself for this:

The exersaucer had been collapsed and we were packing it up. Rascal climbed in by himself and was just so pleased with himself for being able to do so.

Jerks I have known this week:

1. My surgeon.  I had my pre-op appointment on Wednesday.  He thinks I'll regret not having reconstruction. He had a gentle manner, but lots of sighs and raised eyebrows and said things like, "If you save the skin" - by which he means a skin-sparing procedure where they hollow out the breast tissue and leave room for implants later on - "you'll only have a 2" incision. But if you want it completely flat, you'll have a 4" incision, which will take longer to heal."  Of course he is being ridiculous.  A 4" incision is not worse than another entire surgery to get implants put in under your pectoral muscles.

Unfortunately, at the time, I was feeling fragile and wanting to be coddled and wanting approval from the authority figure, and wondering, "why are we being combative?" and trying to agree with everything, so I nodded along with him that yes, my eccentric vain self was demanding this unnecessarily messy procedure, and I left there almost in tears, partly just from confusion and befuddlement and contorting myself into his version of reality.

Over the course of the drive home, 45 minutes or so, I regained my footing and found myself angry at him, which felt much better. Fuck him. I gave the middle finger to the world, below the dashboard so that other drivers wouldn't see it and think I intended it for them. It was a relief.

2. The hair stylist. He gave me a big lecture about the giant knots in Hawaii's hair, saying we were using too much shampoo and that's why the knots were so bad. (Which may be true! But he was super rude about it.) (I would have combed the knots out ahead of time, but it was a last-minute decision to get her hair cut.)

The worst was when he showed me some broken strands and said, "She'll need to wear a wig in high school, there's so much breakage." Hawaii's face was clenched and stoic. I wanted to punch him.  (I debriefed with her afterwards - no, that's not true, and also he's an asshole for lying like that to you.)

Later I had idiotic arguments with him about Pokey's hair. "I want it all 2" shorter," I told him. "It should all be the same length." I showed him the length, out to my knuckle on my index finger. I showed him on hair on top of Pokey's head, on the side, at the back - all out to the knuckle.
"All the same length? Like a girl's haircut?" the stylist asked.
"No," I said, "Not like a straight line. Like each hair - here, here, here - each the length of my finger."
"So you want to keep the length?"
"I don't know what that means. I want it all the same length."

Why is it so hard to describe haircuts? Can't we introduce some common vocabulary here? I need a poster on the wall with standardized terms.

Throughout the haircut, we kept arguing, because he kept not cutting the sides and the back. "You said you wanted to keep the length!"  (He was seriously giving Pokey a mullet.)
"I said I don't know what that means. I don't want it super short. I don't want it long, either. I want it...all the same length?"
He was a jerk. But the kids turned out very cute.

I didn't get a photo yet of their new haircuts, but  I can leave you with this:

Pokey with fabulous feathered blowout hair, sitting in the airplane chair before any haircutting occurred.

I am sleepy so I think I'll just put a bow on this entry.

4 kittens


Posted on 2015.11.08 at 17:34
Let's back up two weeks, pre-deluvian.  Within a seven day period, both Hawaii and Pokey's teachers had told us that each kid needs counseling. I did not feel like a great parent.

For Pokey, it's his explosive temper. The teacher is concerned that we're nearing the three month mark at school, and he hasn't made any progress. She has been tracking his outbursts. There are 8-10 per week. A lot of times, an adult has to physically restrain him. We were gobsmacked. "How come these haven't been showing up on his daily reports?" we asked. We certainly know he has a temper. "I didn't want to overwhelm you," she said, apologetically. We got in touch with a therapist.

At home, we introduced Pokey to the idea of Dragon Brain. "Dragon Brain is when you are so angry that it feels like your brain is on fire."  He yelped, "YES!" and spontaneously listed several times he'd had Dragon Brain. "Like when I bit Becca!"

We discussed how you extinguish the flames:
you breathe in through your nose, so that the air will get up into your brain and cool off the fire, and out through your mouth, to quelch the flames. You keep breathing until it's all gone. He was less enthusiastic about the cure than about the Dragon Brain.

For Hawaii, there were some mean girl dynamics that concerned the teacher. It's a combination of being socially dominant and highly attuned to other people, but also super insecure. So this past week, Hawaii met with the school counselor.

Afterwards, the counselor called me on the phone and recounted her conversation with Hawaii. It sounds like Hawaii may have managed to converse exclusively in lies. The most egregious was "I used to live with just my mom and my siblings. We met my dad when I was older, and he moved in with us." The counselor was very smitten with Hawaii and I could not figure out how to respond, so I just made squawking noises. It was a weird conversation. "Hawaii says that she has anger problems. One of her strategies she uses is breathing exercises, like pretending to blow up a ballon, and telling herself that there is a party, and she can only go to the party if she blows up the balloon," the counselor told me. Hawaii does not have anger problems - that's Pokey - but she is superb at sensing the right answer to give her counselor. I squawked supportively.

At home, we instituted a nightly mindfulness ritual, on the vague premise that maybe we need more Eastern mysticism in our lives. The kids are really into it, but Pokey keeps calling it Jedi training. I take a candle in their room at bedtime, and drone on in a soft-brush voice about paying attention to your breathing, and then we all stare at the candle in silence for 30 seconds or so.

This is the candle we use:

Praying to the Great Zack Morris to save us from the Great Bell.


This one is a climber:

We haven't had a climber before.

Rascal's teacher was gushing about him. (It was a nice change of pace.) "He is so DETERMINED!" she said. She described how he was hellbent on going on a slide. He worked on the steps for a very long time. "We didn't help him!" she said, "If he wants to go down the slide, he's got to be able to get up there."

Eventually he was able to climb up and slide down. He was very pleased with himself.


Funny things that Ace says:
1. "These are my abba-dabba-dominals!" pointing to her stomach.

2. "Here's my eyelashes," pointing at her eyelashes, "Do you remember these?" Yes, Ace, I remember your eyelashes.

Decorated with feathers and paper. Less rotting than the carved kind.

3. Jammies asked Ace if she'd seen his beer. She went hunting all over for it. Eventually she came back and said she couldn't find it. Jammies picked her up. She stroked his chin. "Where'd it go? Where'd your beard go?"
"Ace! Were you looking for my beard?" Jammies asked.
"Yes! Where'd it go?" she asked, stroking his face.
"I shaved it off! You were supposed to be finding my beer. For me to drink," he said.
Isn't that funny that she hunted all over the house for his beard?

4. Halfway through dinner, canonically, Ace asks, "What are we having for dinner?"
We like to look blankly at her and say, "It's on your plate. Right there. It's those noodles."
E. Messily said, "I think she wants seconds, but can't remember what it's called. So she's asking what we're having, not asking what we will be having."  Which is surely the explanation. But it's still funny to misinterpret it.


1. One thing I adore about Pokey is his doggedness about reality. He is certain that there is no Santa Claus, no magic, nothing but good old reality. I don't think I was that certain at his age.

2. Also, I like how he describes his friend: "Brandon had surgery for his broken heart," says Pokey. Brandon did have open-heart surgery, and did indeed have a hole in his heart. Broken-hearted.

3. My dad was in town this weekend. Pokey asked him how to spell something. "I have to whisper it to you, so that it will be a surprise." My dad obligingly bent over to Pokey's height.

Pokey stage-whispered something garbled, but clearly he ended the sentence saying "Yoga, not Yoda. Yoga." So my dad spelled Y-O-G-A for him.  Pokey wrote it, then showed it to me.

"Yoga!" I read. Pokey got very upset. He pulled my dad aside, and we went through the routine again. He whispered something garbled, but the end was clearly "Yoga, not Yoda. Yoga." Again my dad spelled Y-O-G-A, and Pokey got more upset. "Yoda?" my dad guessed, "Y-O-D-A?"

Pokey deteriorated into Dragon Brain - markers were thrown, etc. "We don't know what you want to spell!" we all said. "We're trying to help!" we said unhelpfully. Eventually he cooled off.

Finally I coaxed him to tell me what was going on. It turned out that he wanted to write, "I don't know how to do yoga. Not Yoda, yoga."  The entire sentence.





It's hilarious that he had his mind set on a sentence which sounded like he was clarifying what he was saying, but wasn't. For the millionth time, I'm reminded that parenting is basically this Rob Schneider busking skit.


More data sets from Hawaii:

I do like the data sets.


For the first few days last week, I felt crummy about life and depressed about the flood and the flood victims. Everything was overwhelming. Eventually I watched this silly Postmodern Jukebox video, a shagadelic 1960s cover of Give It Away. I laughed disproportionately long and hard and the shell of sadness shattered, mostly.

Also these guys showed up on our porch:

Each day, the a Red Cross truck drives up and down our street, loudspeaker blaring an offering of clean up kits and supplies. We got phone calls and flyers from the city, informing us of evening meetings for flood victims, complete with transportation provided back and forth. Right now, the city is helping take care of our neighbors on this sad street. There are resources; they haven't been abandoned.

4 kittens

What the neighborhood looks like.

Posted on 2015.11.01 at 15:33
Last weekend we carved Halloween pumpkins. After a few days, they looked like this:

Pokey's pumpkin, carved by himself:

Designed by Ace, carved by Jammies:

and Hawaii's:

On Friday morning, there was a tornado sighting as I was driving home from xfit at 7 am. When I got home, Jammies had already taken the kids to school. I felt agitated. The backyard raged with water:

The elementary school sent out a text message that the kids were hunkered down in the hallway. "If you have not yet left your house, stay home," they said.  Hawaii was already there. Jammies was dropping the other three off at daycare, and he ended up staying there, while they waited out the tornado.

The tornado warning expired. Jammies came home. The water drained out of the backyard.  Grass resumed. It rained steadily.

Daycare announced that they were closing for the day, and could we come pick up our kids? I cancelled class, too, and stayed home.  It rained. The backyard was draining.

"The backyard isn't draining so well anymore," we observed. It stayed like that for hours. I sorted my clothes, the baby napped.

The backyard started to fill up. "We're probably going to have to evacuate," said Jammies, looking at the announcement from the city. We saw a nutria swimming in our backyard.

The baby still napped. "I'm halfway through baking bread," said E. Messily. "It's rising right now."  (The bread, not the water, although the water was too.)

We're on a hill. That's about how high it got during the Memorial Day floods, in May. Across our fence to our neighbor's yard:

The water kept coming. The bread went in the oven. The baby woke up. The power went out. It was time to leave. "What will happen with the oven when the power comes back on?" we wondered, nervously. It has electronic controls but is a gas range. "There must be some sort of safety mechanism," we reasoned.

The water was ankle-deep in the driveway as we loaded Rascal, Ace, and Pokey up into the minivan. (Remember, on a hill.) Jammies drove off to get Hawaii.  Messily and I took the kids to our friends' house.  It was around 1:00 in the afternoon.

This was our driveway as we drove off:

And then we just sat around and waited, at their house.

A little while later, our neighbor sent us this photo:

That's about three feet of water. I felt very agitated.

I started researching what you do when your house floods. (Contact your insurance. Photograph everything. Get air circulating. Get things outside to dry, if it's stopped raining.)

The Blanco crested at 42.56 feet at about 1:30 in the afternoon. The San Marcos river crested downstream at  36.27 feet, (but later that night, as it is measured at a town downstream. There aren't official water levels taken in town.)  The evacuation center near our house was itself evacuated. One of the elementary schools was also evacuated. There were photos online of kids being loaded into big military style vehicles. Still it rained.

Around 4 pm, Jammies and I tried to drive home and scout out our house, but the roads were still impassible, blocking our way home, and the interstate was a parking lot. We turned around and returned to our friends' house. E. Messily and the kids had stayed there.

Hawaii wrote two poems while we were out:

Circles are round.
Squares have sides.
Triangles have three.
Rectangles have four,
and circles have none.

Red, green, brown, and blue
That's the jungle crew.
Pink, purple and all the others,
That's a lot of colors.
White and black
Just go in the back, though.

I'm very fond of both of these poems.

We tried heading home again at 6 pm, before it got dark.  I was incredibly anxiety-stricken. We pulled up. The ground was thick and gross with dark brown mud. Everything looked gross.

The high water mark was a few inches below the floor level. Our house was dry. We walked around the house, dazed. Dry! All the lights were on. (But not the oven.)

This is the side of our porch:

You can see the water line, where the dirt stops, about two inches above the white trellis. The porch itself stayed dry. The insulation under the house got wet, but that's all.

We decided to spend the night with our friends - the AC had been underwater for hours, we couldn't thoroughly check out the pipes and wiring, and it was supposed to rain heavily overnight, some more. We packed up some overnight things and took the olive bread out of the oven, and left.

The pumpkins now looked like this:

I tried to hang on to that feeling of relief - things are great! Our house stayed dry! - but it was fleeting. In the middle of the night, I spent about three insomniac hours debating if we should raise the house or move. Raising the house would maybe cost $50K, I guessed, and we'd have to move out while it was being raised. If we moved, maybe I'd have a bigger closet. But the new place would have boring white walls and granite counters and I'd miss all my wallpaper choices. I listened to the hellacious rainstorm outside. If we moved, traffic would definitely be worse. We'd no longer be able to walk to all the parks on the river and to the town square. On the other hand, maybe the new house would have a mud room.

I just don't know how to process the idea that two 1000-year floods happened within six months. I don't know how to make sense of that.

The next morning we went home. The rain overnight washed away the standing mud and the street was more colorful and less ugly.

Saturday was awful, even though I should have felt happy and relieved. I should have been out there, helping our neighbors unload their property onto the curb, but it honestly didn't occur to me, because I had tunnel-vision about our own cooped-up situation.  We all stayed inside and tempers boiled over. Someone came by and gave out free dinners up and down the street.  Ace and Rascal both screamed continuously from roughly 2 pm until 5 pm.

The pumpkins now looked like this:

Gross and deflated, like my mood.

I have town-tragedy fatigue. One family we know was air-lifted from their house. A lot of the same houses and apartments flooded again.

We put on our Halloween costumes. (Wearily.)

E. Messily had spent all week transforming Hawaii into a blueberry. It was an amazing costume. We went trick-or-treating with some friends.

I perked up a bit, once I was out of the house and had a beer. Hawaii had made a checklist, so that she could keep track of how many houses they trick-or-treated at:

Jammies and I were a Combination Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, complete with song.

But now it's Sunday, and our neighborhood looks like this:

I don't know what will happen to the neighborhood. Will people move out? Will houses sit vacant? Be sold and torn down, rebuilt higher?  My spirit is kind of sagging.  I don't feel like carving pumpkins next year.

A number of cute minor things happened, during the week, pre-deluvian, but I'll save them for next week. Have some Rascal:

4 kittens

Sowy, that's dust how I tolk.

Posted on 2015.10.25 at 12:26
E. Messily's mom sent us a care package, including this scalloped edge cardboard on a ring. (Who I never thanked properly. Thank you, Messimom!)

This is a flap book, by Hawaiian Punch.  Let's begin.

A flower!

This part is a heart, inside the flower.

The orange thing is the little kiss, sent by the heart.

See, there it is, on her cheek.

The end! "I'm the kiss," says the little orange square.  Obviously this is terrific.

Hokey Pokey also made a flap book:

Here we go!

You can find dinosaurs mostly in the desert. You can also find dinosaurs in mostly dry places.

Sometimes you can find dinosaurs in cold places. You can also find dinosaurs in places that are a little bit hot.  The end! Pokey's specialty is nonfiction reference books.


In Monster High, the zombies are inner city girls with sophisticated New York metro accents.  If you're six years old and have never been to New York, you think maybe that's just how zombies talk.

Hence this amazing bit:

"Hi. I am a zombie gole. Sowy, that's dust how I tolk."



Again with the dogged determination to portray our kids as siblings who play kindly together:

A hotel. The rooms on the ground are the administrative offices, kitchen, and restaurant area. The tower part is the guest rooms.


I wrote a story, too. This is a story of two shorts, one little and one big.

When they slept on top of each other, it was easy to see that the little pair wasn't just shorter - the waist was smaller and it was more fitted through the hips.

Oddly, the little pair of shorts was for 2T toddlers, while the big pair was sized for 18-24 month toddlers.

This is because the little pair of shorts was for girls, and the big pair of shorts was for boys.

That is why my two year old wears 3T in girls clothes, but 18-24 month or 2T in boy clothes. Draw your own conclusions. The end!


Remember my New Year's Resolution? It was to document the fight against fluoride being waged in Heebieville.

It's heating up. It's on the ballot this November.

Yet another story in this blog entry.

Probably not worth transcribing legibly.

I appreciate the general suspicion and skepticism, but why is it so goddamn misplaced?

Prop 2 is a reactionary proposition, limiting citizens' ability to get frivolous items like eliminating fluoride on the ballot.  I don't agree with that EITHER! Fluoride is good for our teeth, and citizens should have the ability to get their pet paranoia on the ballot, and other citizens should sensibly vote against paranoid delusions. I'll let you know how well it works out for us.

No really, this world is crazy:

Fundraiser time! First prize is a gun.

Here are some idyllic pictures of autumnal frolicking to prove we're still okay:

And an idyllic picture of the time E. Messily was five inches tall, and Hawaii held her in her hand, along with a four year old friend of ours:


We were supposed to go to the beach this weekend. But then there were two storms from the north and east, colliding with Hurricane Patricia from the west, and it has rained all weekend. So we cancelled. Eleven people in a condo during relentless rain sounds miserable!

The other company that also works on the racecar (palindrome) with Jammies is located in Denver. That's why Denver has been the principle destination all year, for Jammies to go and test the car.  The Denver company had weak 3rd-quarter profits, and cancelled the whole racecar project altogether. Killed dead.

For Jammies, this is frustrating because they are trying to wrap this project up by the end of the year, and now they can't access the actual racecar (palindrome) to get any data. They've had to rig up Jammies' truck, and they're doing the best they can.

For me, this is mostly fabulous. Jammies is most likely done travelling for the rest of the year. I'm so happy.

I am really not looking forward to this mastectomy. The silver linings are ringing increasingly hollow.

Here, have one more idyll:

Hawaii loves: Monster High, Spice Girls. I share her love of mainstream culture. Our friend's kid listens to Sleater-Kinney and even has a turntable, but not us Geebies. Pop culture and Top 40 hits till we die.

"How many letters are in 'library'?" Hawaii asks, before asking, "How do you spell it?" Always those two questions, in that order, while working on a story or piece of art. That is some careful planning, kid. She does not like to run out of space mid-word.

Pokey has had great fashion choices lately:

"Where'd you get those pants?" asked Jammies, about those navy shorts he's wearing in the photo above. "Have we always had them?" They looked great - fitted, knee length, athletic.

"Those are Rascal's pants!" I exclaimed. "Those are his full-length baby pants."  Rascal, Ace, and Pokey are all roughly the same diameter, with different lengthed limbs.

Also Pokey has been wearing his hair in a bun:

"Like Hans Solo!" he keeps saying. "You mean Obi-wan," we keep correcting. "Right! Like Obi-wan!" Pokey wants to be Yoda for Halloween. We have watched Episodes 4, 5, 1, and 2, so far (in that order. It's a thing to over-analyze the order in which your kids watch Star Wars.) We bake frozen pizza and eat dinner by the TV, per it being a special thing.

Pokey and Jammies are having parallel Star Wars experiences - both around 4-5ish, both infatuated.   Ace and I are having parallel Star Wars experiences -  "why do we keep watching these long, boring movies with incomprehensible plots?"  (Since we're watching them with the captions on, I'm better following the plot. It turns out that I tune out during plot-heavy artificial dialogue - "Commander! The Tattoooines have abandoned their starships and are about to crash into the Senate!"  My brain goes, "blah blah someone seems urgent". But when I read all that on the closed captions, my brain goes, "oh hey, they were trying to embed a whole lot of plot points in that wooden dialogue, weren't they" and I sort of absorb the content.)

More Pokey:
Pokey brought home some mending from school for E. Messily. Two sensory pillows - a dolphin stuffed with beans and a heavy blanket - both with small rips in the seams. "Our Messily is really great at sewing," Pokey told his teacher authoritatively. "She'll sew it." The teacher happily sent the two items home with us.

Messily did in fact deftly mend them in short order. Everyone at daycare was amused that Pokey had arranged to take some mending home for his Messily, but it was actually an expedient solution, highly preferable to the half-assed tape job that had been leaking beans.

"I wuv heavy dolphin," mourned Ace when it was time to return Heavy Dolphin to Pokey's classroom.


I had my last mammogram ever! On Wednesday. (I toyed with the idea of making a "Last mammogram ever!!" facebook status, but no. Too much explaining, too many disparate groups of people colliding.) Everything came back normal.

 I was given pink shwag bag - vibrant pink and white chevron stripes (of course) - with coupons and trinkets, to celebrate Pinktober. I intentionally left it behind in the changing room. It seemed excessively depressing to have breast cancer awareness trinkets at an actual radiology clinic.


hey there are kids playing in our backyard! Quick, document it! Weird!

Rascal has a word! The word is "uh-oh". It means "look over the edge of my high chair!"  Sometimes we say, "What did you drop?" and other times, "Dude, nothing's down there."

E. Messily shared the following story: it was in the summer, up in Montana, and Ace was about 15 months old. "She definitely wasn't yet talking," said Messily. Apparently she held a tissue up to her nose, and then to her ear, and paused with great deliberation. Then back to her nose, and then up on her head. "She definitely was waiting for me to laugh. It was a joke," said Messily. "A pre-verbal joke! I was impressed."

Me too!


We went to a knock-off Chuck E. Cheese.

Ace was uncertain about the tiny merry-go-round.  Hawaii was extra-certain.

We danced on the whack-a-mole:

or at least Rascal did.

Afterwards, the kids picked out their infant choking hazards:

As we left, there were about a billion grackles roosting on the trees and telephone wires, at sunset.

4 kittens

The Worst Parts

Posted on 2015.10.11 at 21:49
"A fall display! A fall display! PLEASE, please, take our photo!" they pled. Really!
"We're late to go camping," I said, "Do we really have to?"
"PLEASE," they cried, and posed like so:

They're pretty cute little weirdos. Way to Olan-Mills yourselves, kiddos.

Here are the worst parts about each kid:

1. Hawaii is a ferociously cranky when you pick her up after school. The kind of crabby jerk that you forget exists if you're mostly around adults, because adults are usually not relentlessly obnoxious on that scale.  But once you have a kid, you remember, "oh my god, I was so unpleasant to my own parents," and feel sort of bad about it.

It's partly that she's just pretty hungry by then, and partly that she's been keeping it together all day at school, and is worn out, and partly just kids-are-jerks.

2. Hokey Pokey is fragile and gets very angry. Nearly all of our parent-teacher conference with his teacher was talking about anger management. "He's at an age where there starts to be natural consequences. Other kids start giving him a wide berth," said the teacher. (The other topic was the pincer grip. All three daycare teachers brought up the pincer grip - Rascal and Pokey both suck at it for finger foods and pencils, respectively. Ace is developmentally appropriate.)

He's pretty good about articulating why he's angry and naming his emotions, but his rages are still intense. He hits and throws things.

3. Ace just sits down when she doesn't want to cooperate. What a two year old.

A month ago, we were walking up the river and she started walking slower and slower.  Then she sat down and fell asleep. That was cute.

Also cute:
- When trying to sign "yes" in sign language, Ace hinges at the shoulder instead of at the wrist, and does a chicken-wing flap. E. Messily says this means "Scotland", approximately.
- When prompted, she holds her arms up and say "BICEPS!" and then pulls them behind her and says "TRICEPS!" back and forth. "BICEPS! TRICEPS!" This is from some Body Fitness thing going on at daycare. "CRANIUM!" she sometimes adds, tapping on her head.
- Dinking around in the bathtub by herself, singing "Poor Old Michael Finnegan" over and over again.

None of those are bad things. All cute.

4. Rascal gets awfully tired.

His TA said,  "The new TA was so amazed at how much Rascal could eat. I told her she should see the rest of the Geebies."
"They are all good eaters," I agreed.

None of the adults in the house have any worst parts. We are all delightfully flawless.

We went camping this weekend at Palmetto State Park, which looks a little like Florida.  Our friend's kid was swimming with a little girl he'd just met, when she was bit by a water mocassin. They are super poisonous. She started shaking and her foot swelled up.

They called 911 and put a tourniquet on her, and it all sounded terrifying. The EMS came and she did survive. Everyone was a bit shaken.

Aside from that (Mrs. Lincoln), camping was lovely.  The kids biked up and down the campground. Biking is one of those things (along with swimming and tying your shoes) that we have utterly failed to teach our kids.  (Mark my words: Hawaii will swear she knows how to tie her shoes and fake it until she is old enough to go on YouTube and teach herself how, and never let on otherwise.) Anyway: while riding their bikes, Hawaii was the slowest, with her training wheels.

"I'm just feeling so sad and frustrated that they wouldn't wait for me," she told me after dinner on Saturday, "It's not my fault my bike is so slow." I hugged her and agreed that was frustrating and I'd feel sad too. "Well, it's getting dark," I continued, "so I think everyone's done riding bikes anyway."
"I wasn't talking about riding bikes," Hawaii grumped. "We were running. It was a footrace."
"Oh," I said (agreeably!), "Well, still since it's getting dark, footraces are probably over."
"I wasn't talking about a footrace," she said, more aggravated. "It was a board game. They were faster at the board game."
"Knock it off," I said, fed up. There was no board game.  Then we squabbled.

(But really camping was lovely! Except it was hot. Today it is supposed to be 95 degrees out, which is why Texas is bullshit.)


E. Messily has a thing with tails lately:

I voted for the Mexican Blanket striped fabric tail, but Pokey opted for the orange. E. Messily cooperatively sewed a  replacement tail for Tigger, for Pokey. (That seems to be a regular plot point with the Hundred Acres crew, isn't it. Maybe they should reinforce their tails.)

I didn't photograph Small Kitty's tail while it was bloody and gross. Now it's just slightly shaved at the base:

Small got outside, got into a quick fight, and her tail got infected. It was super gross. At the vet, E. Messily was holding her and smelly pus got on her hand. But now it's mostly healed.


Our pantry has moths like so:

We have an electric tennis racket for killing these moths. I take it really seriously. My one ally in the fight is this guy:

my pal the pantry spider, who lives way in the back corner here:

He gets me.

(My one companion on the moth fight is Pantry Spider, who appears in the form of a hologram only I can see and hear.)

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the sheer production and energy and cost.

Posted on 2015.10.04 at 21:40
Today we are going to ACL again. Last night, the babysitter told us, "You don't seem like Drake fans!"  after we told her he was headlining. And we're not, much, but we don't dislike him either. (She's awfully fond of innaccurate assertions about us, like how we're raising our kids to be free spirits, and how we're really "upbeat".)

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Every Thursday there is a faculty lunch - for $5, you get braised pork or fried chicken or some other hot meal. My math colleagues  have a running thing about the toppings on the salad. The theory goes that whoever arrives first scoops disproportionately off the top of the giant salad bowl, and if you arrive later you'll miss the croutons and feta cheese and cherry tomatoes. So they always leave really early to be first in line. (This is totally ridiculous. The salad gets replenished continuously. But sort of funny.)

By the time that I get out of class at noon on Thursdays, my math colleagues are already long gone. So it was unusual when the chair of my department, R, stopped by my office and asked, "Are you heading for lunch?" I was. We started walking over.

"I hope L remembered to set out the code, so we can get a free lunch," R said to me.  I had forgotten about that. L was guiding some official visitors on campus, and so the administration will pay for their lunch, and also anyone who was eating with them. Great! Free lunch!

A few minutes later, R said, "I really don't like the visitors. I hope we don't have to sit with them."
I said, "Didn't you just say you wanted to get on the code and sit with them?"
R said, "I'm hoping their table's full. We'll get on the code and then when we get inside, we won't be able to sit with them. Because there won't be any seats left at their table."
I said, "Wait. Is that why you were so late to lunch?"
R said, "Of course. I'm waiting for their table to fill up."

We got on the code and got inside, and saw their table, and there were two open seats still.
"Oh well!" I said merrily, "I guess we're stuck!"
R fumed. "I even counted! I counted how many math people had left already! The table should be full!"

Two math people had sat elsewhere.  R was actually pissed, and I was actually laughing out loud at him.

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One other thing that's here with us is E Messily's health and illness. It's not really mine to talk about, but it also feels really phony to omit it. I think I'm getting pretty good at detecting which expressions mean that E is in a lot of pain. At first I thought, "Is she mad? Annoyed with us? Are we taking her for granted? Oh right, her pain is hugely unmanageable. It's probably that."

I'm often observing that I'm powerless to do anything substantial, and I struggle with that. It's nice to supply niceties and ice packs, but it'd be nicer if she weren't sick in the first place. There's a whole melancholy rabbit hole you'll go down, if you start thinking too hard that way, though.

When she's healthy, she's healthy, and when she's not, she's really not. It's episodic. E Messily's health is like the little girl with the little curl in the middle of her forehead.

(Hey heebie, it's a little weird to write about someone who will read about herself here, isn't it? Yes it is. So I got permission first.)

(Relatedly, I feel a little uneasy about writing about Hawaii's career goals last week. She told me it in confidence, and she's not a little kid anymore, so I should probably consider having some boundaries. But I also want to document these things.)(One thought is that if I lock things up every month or two, then there's not a whole lot of archives available for her friends to find in five years. It seems like less of a violation.)

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I have a whole list of topics yet, and also photos, but I'm beat. Maybe that's what the babysitter meant when she called us upbeat: just plain beat. Or beat up.

Jammies got back in town on Friday, and goes back out of town on Monday. Two weeks of trips done, one more week to go. This week's trip is short.

I'm on the fence about whether or not we should undertake ACL in the future. My favorite part is watching all the Austin fashion. People work it up. This year, everything was extremely drapy and silky. Long delicate jewelry. If not drapy and silky, then very 90s - structured boustiers, clomping Doc Martens, dark flowered prints. High-waisted shorts, arrows and triangles and geometric gold jewelry.  (I'm aware these aren't brand new trends - please, I occasionally flip through the Urban Outfitters catalog - but they were dominant.)

My least favorite part of ACL is the sheer production and energy and cost. I'm beat up.

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All dolled up, stopped safely.

Posted on 2015.09.27 at 22:11
I need to admit that my commute takes 45 minutes. Ten years ago, it took 30 minutes, maybe 35.  But they've added a whole slew of traffic lights and some traffic.  (Traffic used to be nonexistent.)

There. Now that I've said it outloud, maybe I'll quit being so surprised every time.

E. Messily taught us a song, to a jaunty little tune:

Stop, stop, stop - I do not like that!
Please don't  do it anymore.
When you do that, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
I already asked you twice before.

How does a deaf person teach you a tune? Pretty well, just singing. How do you know she did pretty well, and it wasn't just a game of telephone? She taped herself playing it on the piano and all was confirmed.

This song is great for two reasons:
1. It gives more power to the kid who is being dominated. It literally occupies airtime. The center of balance shifts away from the tormentor.
2. Hopefully, the kids internalize those useful phrases, so that if they need to tell someone to stop when they get older, they don't draw a complete blank. They can speak the song. Or sing it.

It doesn't actually get our kids to stop doing anything. That is not one of its many uses.

I got umpteen pairs of earrings from my grandmother. They're mostly fabulous but I've been hesitant to wear them, lest I lose one. Lest I lose a bit of my grandmother (who is still alive, but I'm neurotic.)

There are a whole bunch more, but they are more old lady, more southwestern, less my favorites.

I finally set aside a special box to put singleton earrings, should I lose their mates, as a little lost grandma earring shrine.

All dolled up for work. You can see, inverted in my sunglasses, that I'm actually stopped safely at a stoplight.

Rascal gets into the cat food.  He cries when I fish it out of his mouth. I think there's a critical mass (literally!) of cat food that he can safely gum on, but I don't trust him to know his limits.

Jammies was out of town this past week.
And he is going out of town this coming week.
And the week after that.

It is not the same cry for sympathy and woe as it used to be, because E. Messily is co-parenting. But it is still chaotic and requires extra life management skills. (LMS, as the class was called in high school.)

Hawaii told me that she wants to be a slave when she grows up.

I know I phrased it for shock value, but I'm actually not sharing this to laugh at her - she was being so sweet and sincere. We were cuddling and she was opening up and telling me about her interior life. But I do want to remember it, and to explain it.  "A what?" I asked.

"A slave. So I can help people."
I hugged her and told her that she had a big heart and that I loved her, and that she had the wrong word.
"But I don't want to get paid," she said, "I just want to help."
I said that slaves got hurt a lot by the people they were helping. "I think the right word for what you want is volunteer. That's someone who helps others and doesn't get paid. It sounds like you want to be a volunteer."

It was all very intimate and touching, despite the ludicrous premise.

In the middle, "ting" is the sound effect accompanying the lightbulb drawn next to it.

As in, "Bright idea! Ting! I know!"

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So I see.

Posted on 2015.09.20 at 20:55
Items that we have given away: co-sleeping bed, infant car seat, two infant car seat bases and one stroller base, a vibrating chair, a play mat with dangling animals, all my breast-pumping gear, all our four ounce bottles.  (Or it is imminent.)

Rascal eats table food exclusively now, having shunned the baby glop once he realized it was glop.

Also he cruises and bathes.

Hokey Pokey had his first outdoor soccer game. (Hawaii's team had a bye.) I've never been to the Heebieville soccer fields before. It's in the new part of town, where we keep our aspiring-rich people. There are other rich parts of town, but these are the new planned community economic segregationalist kind of rich-hopeful people.

 Jammies pointed out that we have 18 years worth of Saturdays ahead of us, parked at these fields, and I felt some creeping dread. It was blisteringly hot out.

Hokey Pokey scored four goals in the first quarter and then I stopped counting. It was super fun to watch him play.

At his first piano lesson, Pokey was super squirmy and unable to sit still, but he paid attention as he climbed on and off the bench. (Contrast with Hawaii, terrified to a standstill by her hulking Italian former teacher.)

Piano lessons are on Mondays, soccer practice on Thursdays, games on Saturdays.  I will drown when all four kids are doing this. The trappings of Upper Middle Classdom are overwhelming, but I want their little brains to struggle with reading music and coordinating their fingers.


I got sad, thinking about 30 years from now, when my tattoos are wrinkly and my mom is dead, wondering if I'll regret not having asked her to design my tattoos. But only if she wants to design them. If she would find it a burden, then I'd rather use the darling Clare Turlay Newberry cats.

So I asked her. She gave me a straight answer: she does not want to design them. The way she phrased it is, "I don't spend hours doodling cats. It's not something I do."  What she wants is to help me modify the Claire Turlay Newberry cats to fit the contours and layour of my torso.  I'm super relieved that she gave me a straight answer, and plus, I love the solution.  (I'm weirded out that in December, I'll lay down on a guerney and they'll put an IV in me and I'll go to sleep, and when I wake up I won't have breasts for the rest of my life. I've had way too much run-up to dwell on the surgery. Fifteen years is a long time to anticipate something, and yet not make a big deal out of it.)


One afternoon, the kids were playing quietly all together. So I barged in on them and discovered this: they'd swiped the salt-shaker from the dining room table. They were shaking it into their palms and licking their palms. They were also shaking it directly in their mouths.

So gross! There was salt all over the floor. Horses!


This is our choke bucket:

If I see something small, I dump it in the choke bucket. Rascal has full roam of the house. The rule is that kids can check something out of the choke bucket, but then they have to put it back when they're done.

"Is my tongue blue?"

"Not really. Sorry."

Do I want to start meditating? My reasons for mediation would not be wholesome and pure. What I'd like is to have a quiet hour here and there, but since that is not going to happen, maybe meditation can stand in as evaporated condensed alone time. When I lived alone, I had this thought: "Now I can crabwalk wherever I go," because I'd be embarrassed to crabwalk in front of roommates. Sometimes a woman just wants to crabwalk. Or take naps in the kitchen. I don't like to disrupt people's expectations, but I actually want to just lay down in the kitchen if a wave of sleepy hits me.

Meditation as condensed alone time seems like it's missing the point - I should want to cherish the still mind or something. I like my mind just fine. Maybe I should buy (more) clothes and shoes instead.

(I should say, do I want to start meditating more systematically? Right now, I use it as a power nap at work when I'm groggy or overwhelmed.  I'm pretty sure that using meditation as a power nap is a form of intercultural abuse.)


"What does sorry mean?" Ace is fond of asking.
"It means you wish you hadn't done something," I say.
"NO. It means you hit someone," Ace replies.
Yes, more or less.

"Can I eat this?" Ace asked, holding a small yellow circle.
"No," I said, "It looks like a piece of paper."
Ace put it in her mouth. "Look! I can eat it!" she exclaimed.
"So I see," I said.
"It's not very good," she said.
"I think it's paper," I said.


One thing that is massively different with kids is my sense of the day having many stages. Pre-kids, any hour was as good as any other hour. If sleepy, I took a nap, and if I was hungry, I ate, and so on.

Now a day is comprised of distinct stages: everyone is in a good mood in the morning. Everyone gets hungry (all the fucking time). Kids get grouchy in the afternoon and it is unpleasant. Some kids take naps. Everyone eats dinner. There is a bedtime routine. I like the mornings and evenings. In the afternoons, I often also get grouchy.


At the dinner table, E. Messily described the aquarium in Washington DC, where you walk up a spiral staircase surrounded by a cylinder of fish.  Hokey Pokey wanted to build a model. We debated whether it would be an interesting thing to build or not.

He ran off, and returned with a cardboard cylinder from a roll of toilet paper.  We agreed that the cylinder represented the correct shape.  Later I discovered a mountain of toilet paper on the bathroom floor.
"Why didn't you just get a cardboard roll from the art cabinet?" I exclaimed, "We have tons of them in there!"
Pokey was sitting on the toilet. "I can't reach the toilet paper! Help!" which was what had brought me to the bathroom in the first place.
"I see that," I said. "That's why I like to keep it on the roll."

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Telling About Harmful Behavior

Posted on 2015.09.13 at 22:20
I have a game I play each weekend, where I lose the 6" cord that connects my phone to my computer, and thus I can't get any photos off my phone. It's the worst game. Every weekend I distinctly remember where I put it: in my designated electronics spot. Each following weekend I can't find it. This weekend I got increasingly anxious until Jammies took sympathy and re-checked the spot where I swore I put it. It was in there after all. Yay-grimace.

Ace has lost her toddler belly. Her limbs are stretching out and her face is lengthening. I suppose mine is too.

Here's what her face looked like six months ago:

Tinge of sadness, loss of prior selves.

Rascal needs a haircut. It drives me crazy that it's in his eyes. I'm not opposed to pinning it back with a barrette, but that doesn't seem like a longterm solution unless we're actually growing his hair out.

On the other hand, I can't imagine handing a wriggly baby over to a barber.  So we just home-trimmed.

Before, after. Now he looks a bit tidier.

Blue monkey parent, blue monkey baby, new replacement Toothless the Dragon, little red panda:

There are two red pandas but one went missing at the time of the photo.  But really, those monkeys:

The mama monkey has functional arms and legs. (Need I say that these are all the work of Messily?)

We went to the Heebieville Pride Festival:

I had a chili mango sno-cone, which was delicious.

I mostly like the rooster's expression in conjunction with the theme of this coloring page:

It's an unusually quiet weekend. No one has just moved into our house, no one is out of town at the race car, we are not at the beach. The weather is unseasonably pleasant. Not yet feeling like fall, but pleasant.

This is the opposite of early spring ennui. It's like Early Bedtime calmness. Maybe it's just because all the kids are in the back of the house and I like to eavesdrop from afar. (My favorite thing is, when camping, to go to bed early and then just eavesdrop on everyone who is still around the campfire, acting up.)(My real favorite thing would be to bring my sleeping bag over to the campfire and sleep there, but I am a slavish devotee of social norms.)

Will I miss this intensely regimented life once the kids are a bit older? Right now everything is precisely organized around physical tasks - buckle up! bathe the kids! set out the dinner plates! put on this sock! Later on it will be differently-regimented. Does this offer emotional respite because it's relatively easy to have a firm sense of right and wrong? (ie, the right thing to do is go grocery shopping. The wrong thing to do is not buckle the kids in their car seats. It's all straightforward.)

It's also possible I am a simplistic person who declares things right or wrong without much fussing and ruminating. (That is almost certainly true.  Then someone smarter proposes a more sophisticated view of the issue. Like a flake, I just abandon my convictions and adopt their smarter convictions.) In this case, life will feel easier when the physical tasks are reduced. But I'll probably feel sad about it all the same. Look at their cute lengthening faces.

Pokey begins piano lessons tomorrow. I'm apprehensive about this. For the most part, practicing with Hawaii is about 50% fine and 50% a pill. I'm a bit indulgent because of the intense profound understanding that I did the exact same bullshit with my own mother thirty years ago. With Pokey, I fear that he won't get as upset as Hawaii, but that he'll be more incalcitrant. That it will be much more work to get him to engage.

I have a mushpile of thoughts lately about:
1. how our emotions and thoughts become fine-tuned and less intense as we age.
2. how kids need attention and also need to be left alone.

4 kittens

Take a day or so to "cool" items down

Posted on 2015.09.07 at 21:12
We're at the beach with a bunch of (wonderful) families.. It's been four years since I was last at a beach, and I sort of forgot how much sand there is. Also we forgot the kids' toothbrushes. But on the whole it's very nice:

The refrigerator in our condo wrote a poem:

It's iambic fridgometer.

The interior decorating of this condo tends towards tactile:

On the right, those are birds and shells glued on the painting. I enjoy textured walls.


Last weekend, Jammies was in Sonoma for a Nascar race. He watched the race with Ludacris. Neither of them let on if they knew who the other one was. Jammies did not snap a stealthy photo. They did not do it in the Georgia Dome, on the fifty yard line, while the dirty bird kicks for three.


Can I go in the sand dunes?

Oh. How'd they get on a humid gulf coast island anyway? This doesn't seem like rattler territory but who's going to press their luck.

Thorn sent this photo to me and said, "Are these your kittens? Is Target stomping all over your tattoos?"

AARGH. How annoying would it be if my tattoos were on trend? Those kittens are not by Clare Turlay Newberry, but they're close. Target had better not get any wise guy ideas.


Things that E. Messily makes:


Hawaii drew the outfit, and E. Messily constructed it. It fits one of those Monster High dolls - those are not Messily's choice of sensible proportions.

2. Messily drew this:

Hawaii looked at it and said, "Is that Hokey Pokey?"   And it was!  Isn't that great?

It turned out to be this:

a game featuring the Geebily household.

3. Messily also made this for Hawaii:

4. And also a black felt dragon for Pokey, who was completely smitten and took it everywhere he went. "Except the beach and the pool," we told him, but it got lost on the beach anyway.  I hadn't even photographed it yet.

(I had a knot in my stomach when we realized it was lost. He'd given it to an adult, and it had fallen out of her pocket. We hunted around on the beach at night, and then again in the morning, but haystacks, needles, etc.  No more Toothless the Dragon.)

5. A thing that happens commonly: Hawaii or Pokey needs my attention - "Mama!" - while I'm talking to another adult, and so I ask them to wait for a moment. (Right, all kids do this.) They wait for ten seconds and try again, and I defer again. And then we do it a third time, ten seconds later again, and finally they lose their shit and get mad.  Of course, it's been thirty seconds total, so I never did finish the sentence I was in the middle of saying.  I usually break at that point and tend to them. (yes yes reinforcing the temper tantrum and not patience blah blah.)

When it happened this week, E. Messily said to the HP at hand, "You don't run out of nice.  Even if you're annoyed, you still have to be nice. You don't get to try three times and then all your nice is used up."

What a sensible thing to say. Of course they still have nice left, why haven't I been pointing that out? Manners. No jerk-being.  So that's the last thing that Messily made: sense.

Things that Hawaii made:

Hot air balloon, dream catcher.

Things that Pokey has made:

Do you get the feeling that Hokey Pokey has been phoning it in on the art projects?


He worked hard on his sand castle, though.

Things that Ace makes:

Things that Rascal makes:

Rascal makes: another baby mad enough to bite him. Look at that mark!

Things that I make:

the observation that this pan has a pretty bottom:

What a pretty pan bottom you are! The edge rim is a true flame red, the scorch marks iridescent.

A macaroni-taco for Ace:


Things Jammies made:

Not even smalltalk with Ludacris. Or at least nothing that I photographed. The world go 'round.

Happy labor day weekend.

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The gaping maw of our fridgehole.

Posted on 2015.08.30 at 22:08
1. Hawaii really wanted to see Rascal's new baby classroom. So she and I stopped by. The babies were out for an afternoon stroller ride, and the room was quiet and empty.
Hawaii said, "Can I use a private word? Since there's no one here?"
I said, "Sure."
She threw her arms out and squealed, "This room is so fucking adorable!"  She went over to the baby bookstand and the teeny baby slide, "Look at these little books! They're so fucking cute! This slide!", clutching herself. Really, her mastery of private words is precocious.

Later, I stopped at a gas station. Hawaii unbuckled herself from the third row, stealthily clambored up to my seat, and picked up my diet coke. When I turned around, she grinned and deeply said, "Hey, baby!" (What's the opposite of falsetto? It was that.)  I laughed for a long time. She has been knocking it out of the park this week, I'm so proud. (Also, when she tells the story, she says beer instead of diet coke, which makes the story funny-weird.)

She also has latched on to the words awkward and hilarious, the latter complete with air quotes and an oddly adult lilt: "hi-lair-ious!"  (You've heard it - it's a sing-song pronunciation where you go up an octave for the "lair" and back down a third for "ious". It's much more 30something than 6something.)

2. "The moon is really bright," said Pokey, climbing out of the minivan. I looked around. "Where?" I asked.
Pokey pointed at the sun.
"That's the sun," I told him.

Also he sometimes uses Hawaii's toothbrush, which is a big problem because she throws a fit, and technically she has the moral upper hand, although in the moment I wish she would just use a damp toothbrush fresh from her brother's mouth.  Pokey, in general, is constantly eating other people's food and drinking from their cups and using their toothbrushes, and it makes other people furious. (I secretly understand Pokey very well on this. I mean, their food/drink is right there, being all tempting.)

3. Jammies is out of town AGAIN, although this is the last trip for a while.  But it's much better with E. Messily here. (The joke at the pool party last night was for her to introduce herself as Jammies, and maybe I say "he shaved," as explanation.)

4. I gave Ace some spoiled milk. ("I drank turtle milk!" she says, meaning curdled.) Our refrigerator is not working particularly well. In fact, we already bought a new one. The new one was supposed to be delivered on Tuesday, and so we moved the broken one out onto the porch.

The gaping maw of our fridgehole.

Then the new refrigerator failed to be delivered. So we moved the old, breaking one back inside:

Maybe this coming week will deliver.

5. Oh sure, there is a lot more to say. But I'm terribly exhausted. Having E. Messily as a co-parent meant that instead of an emotionally wringing slog, I genuinely enjoyed 95% of the weekend. That's fabulous. But I'm still super beat.

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all incrementally older.

Posted on 2015.08.23 at 16:26
E. Messily arrived on Tuesday night. We now have a cat! I call her my rebound cat. I get to see a cat rolling around on the carpet, flitting around corners, without the till-death-do-we-part commitment.

We are all enjoying have a Messily and getting the hang of looking at her when we talk so that she can read our lips. Weirdly, the novelty right now is switching back and forth - when I talk to a hearing person, it seems sort of magical that they can hear around corners. E. somehow understands Ace when Ace talks, which is its own superpower.

E. has been very companionable with the Geeblets:

"The lizards are the doctors, and the moose and elk are the patients," says Pokey. Those are wee leather hinges.

Seeing things through E. Messily's eyes, I'm struck that it takes us a full goddamn hour to get out of the house whenever we get a wild hare to do so.

Pokey art

On the way to Back To School night

Hawaii was futzing with Jammies' phone and getting frustrated.
"Why does it keep going to the black screen?!" she yelled.
"I have it set to go to sleep so that it doesn't drain the battery," Jammies explained.
It was very hard to keep a straight face. Oh yes, that figure of speech "why does the screen go black". That old saying.

Pokey again

We are done with Rascal's old crappy daycare! It was fine. I never feared for his safety. It was just depressing - all these big toys, thick with gray dust, dangling from the dropped ceiling of the warehouse. (I intended to take a photo.) Hard tile floor with occasional rubber mats in the baby room.  Lots of babies crying at any given moment, seemingly more than at the other daycares we've attended. Not explicitly religious, but all the individuals very conservative and religious. Also it was on the other side of town.

Sometimes at the end of the day, the baby and toddler rooms would be combined, and I'd witness the teacher interacting with these tottering 15 month old little space cadets. When they misbehaved, she dove into lengthy explanations: "No, I told you to roll the ball and not throw it. Do you think that I'm the type of person who says something and doesn't mean it? When I tell you there will be consequences, I mean that you have to start listening or else there will be consequences..."  Just take the goddamn ball away. The tyke would be transfixed by the ball, in the teacher's hands as she gestures around. Waiting until he can throw it again. The scene drove me bonkers.

Hawaii starts first grade! Rascal will be a Daffodil, Ace starts being a Buttercup, and Pokey is a Marigold.  We're all incrementally older!

Ace art

Me, at work:

1) I'm free from directing my Awful Administrative Program!  This is mentally clean and simplifying. I found it taxing to have to compartmentalize my workbrain. While the kids are little, I need work to be straightforward. I felt so light and free that I cleaned my desk and labelled an entire bookshelf of notebooks from past semesters.

2) I'm no longer pumping milk! I can open my blinds and let the sun stream in, too. When I had 30 minutes to strip, hook myself up to the milker, drain my udder, package the milk up for the freezer, labelled, and rinse everything out, I ended up just leaving the blinds shut all the time. It was dismal and cave-like. Now I can admire dappled sunlight on a scrappy patch of dirt which is vastly prettier than venetian blinds.

3) Our favorite sign:

Red scrolls! what.  To sum it up:

1. 2. 3.

Ace sometimes asks, "Are we in the twuck? Or the minivan?" I do not understand how she gets confused. They are very different interiors. It's funny, right?

"I kept wiping my hair out of my face while my hands were covered in beans."

The time the shoe went in the toilet

I forgot to document this: when we were at a reststop in New Mexico, Hawaii threw her flip flops up and over a stall door, and one of them landed in the toilet. I fished it out, washed it, and made her put it back on. Thus concludes the dryest re-telling possible of the highlight of Hawaii's summer. I mostly am recording it because Hawaii was so doubled over with laughter and hilarity that I want us to remember that - how she was beside herself with laughter. How she told everyone, upon returning, the highlight of the trip. That part was adorable.

You know how it's so hard to bite a granola bar?

Thank god someone was working on fixing that.

4 kittens

Plot holes resolved in a semi-tidy way.

Posted on 2015.08.16 at 10:39
In Montana, we went to visit Jammies' first-cousin-once-removed's bobcat farm. Bobcat farms are dwindling - fur is not so politically cherished any more - and the cousins are shutting their farm down in the next year or so.

The bobcats flung themselves in agitation around their cages as we passed by.  They have almost 400 bobcats. Bobcats are the largest spotted cat in the US which is not endangered. They used to raise mink, back when Jammies visited the farm as a child. Then they raised lynx for a short while, but they will bite your finger off in a snap. Then they switched to bobcat.

Yes, it was super depressing to see beautiful caged creatures. But it was surprisingly easy to suspend my disapproval and enjoy the farm qua field trip.  Plus the farm is about to shut down - it's easy to drop the anguish when the situation is already resolving itself.

They also raise coyotes:

not for the pelts, but for the urine. Coyote urine sells for $24/gallon, and during urine season they can collect 10-12 gallons a day. There were run-off sheets under each cage, to collect the pee.  Urine Season lasts about 4 months, which I assume is actually hunting season, and they make about $40K. Again, the coyotes lived caged awful lives, but it's winding down.

The cousin led the corridor of coyotes in a startling round of howling. It sounded like unison sirens that went on and on and on.

We saw the machine that grinds the meat into feed, and the enormous freezer-shed of meat, and the golf-cart turned feeder - you shovel the brown meat glop into a built-in trough, and a hose squirts out the brown paste, so that you can drive down the corridors of animals and feed them more efficiently.

The cousin and Pokey bonded. She showed him pelts of mountain lion, ring tailed cat, bobcat, and mink, and Pokey asked tons of questions.  At the bunny cage, Pokey saw a funny tufted rabbit and asked what it was called. "Oh, I'm not sure, honey," said the cousin. "The kids name the bunnies, but I can't keep track." I clarified and said, "I think he wants to know what kind of rabbit species this is." She clutched her heart, "I was the same way when I was a kid! That's a Lionhead Rabbit, honey." Pokey and Hawaii were both bright-eyed and curious, instead of being yawning and jaded. I was relieved about that - we could have easily been the rude asshole cousins from the suburbs.

Hawaii did not like the electric fence surrounding the garden. "Wouldn't it hurt the animals?" she asked. "Couldn't they put the garden in a greenhouse instead?"

A bobcat farm is a lot of work. "Over here, I throw 20-30 lb chunks of meat into the grinder for about two hours, every couple days, to make the feed" and "I've never taken a vacation, because there's no one else who can feed the animals" and "If I go camping or to the lake, I leave at 6 am to get back to the farm. I'm never gone longer than that."  She seemed cautiously optimistic on the opportunities afforded by the closing of the farm, but presumably she feels quite conflicted about the whole thing.


"Do something cute," I prompted each kid:

The kids played with Jammies' old Star Wars toys:

All the figurines are stored in this (large) carrying case:

I loved on the stand-up paddle boards a little more, and then it was time to leave Montana and drive the descent into hell/Texas.  Through the outer rings of Montana, where we saw Riff Raff's tour bus:

who is this guy:

He seems kind of grody, very proud of his grill, and likes to grope Katy Perry. According to my cursory google image search.

Then down through Wyoming:

We bought a lot of gas station cappuccino on the way. They sure do honor the dignified Italian tradition.

This one likes beef jerky:

I call this photo below, "Green Muck With Tiny Background Train":

taken at Clear Creek, in Cheyenne, Wyoming:

where we stopped to play on the playground and stretch our legs.

The kids watched the same three shows virtually unbroken for four days: Hawaii picked The Wiggles, Ace picked Frozen, and Pokey picked Paw Patrol. (The Wiggles is about four years too young for Hawaii; if she were picking it to annoy Pokey, would she have done so quite so relentlessly?)("Paw Patrol" is misheard by everyone who hears it spoken outloud. Commonly adults hear "Pop a troll" or "Papa Troll", inevitably something about a troll. It's actually problem-solving puppies.)

In New Mexico:

I call that two-photo series "Travel Maps In New Mexico".

And this one is "Wind Farm Pieces On a Train Outside Amarillo":

In Amarillo, we stayed at my beloved Fifth Season Hotel. The left out season, the discarded season.

One time I recieved a J. Crew catalog with the helplessly pretentious cover claiming "There is an extra season between winter and spring..." which was the theme of the catalog: great clothes for cold, wet, gray late-February Irish- or Welch-seeming days. Think tall riding boots and plaid ponchos. An extra season and we're going to outfit you for it.  Totally innappropriate for our extraneous-seasoned hotel.

Aside from the beautiful plant decor and general haunting datedness, The Fifth Season has an indoor pool, which is perfect for August:

and charming carpet:

(Full disclosure: the 102 degrees was back home in Heebieville, not actually in Amarillo.)

The last CD of The Summons, by John Grisham, did exceed my low expectations. I feel ethically compelled to acknowledge this. The plot holes were actually resolved in a semi-tidy way. I probably would have edited out the middle six CDs.

"We represent the Lollipop Guild":

The Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild.


Yet another summer is over and the kids can't swim. I'd planned to take Hawaii and Pokey out myself, and at least get them swimming safely underwater. But the rain never let up for the first month or so, and then when it did, Pokey broke his arm.  Geeblets still can't swim.

Me and My Medical Issues

Before Montana I had a mole removed. The labwork called it "mild to moderately abnormal," so I went back so that they could scoop out the margins. I hate the procedure. It gives me the willies to think about little divots scooped out of my skin.  It's right on the bone ridge in my forearm and the original scoop was already taking forever to heal.

Pokey and His

Pokey got his cast off. His arm was dinky and smelly underneath, and he tentatively worked his elbow open. He is now in a brace for two weeks. He calls it his "slice". I explained that that would be very confusing to other adults. He explained that he likes to give things nicknames.

Rascal and his ringworm:


E. Messily is coming to stay with us for a semester! She will be our foreign exchange student, except she's not foreign, there is no exchange, and she's not a student. More like a lovely roommate. She left Missoula yesterday for the long boring drive down.

We've never had a roommate before! I keep seeing our life through new eyes and wondering if I should be embarrassed about the pantry full of Diet Coke and the fact that I often microwave vegetables for dinner.  All the ways in which I misrepresent my life online will be revealed! The kids actually fight constantly, and yes it's tiresome.

Bye bye summer:

Back to school workshops start this week.

4 kittens

Ring pop

Posted on 2015.08.06 at 12:58
We're in Montana! I really feel like I earned this.

We left on Wednesday evening. This truck is me snapping a photo about five seconds too late:

The owner had a raccoon on a leash. He took it into the convenience store and it trotted along, sort of.  He pulled the raccoon up into the truck by lifting it by the leash, dangling by its neck.

We stayed with my cousins and their new baby in Dallas. They have a Keurig machine, except instead of coffee, it takes baby formula and delivers a perfectly warmed bottle.

They adopted this baby. At one point, Hawaii tensed up and said, tentatively, "So...did the baby come from the orphanage?" My cousin's wife explained about the open adoption. I think it's interesting that Hawaii wasn't sure whether or not her question was appropriate. I'm glad that her radar is up and she's tentative about staking out such territory.

Thursday morning we struck out through west Texas:

Rather blah. Full of mesquite trees and and barreness.

Ace decided to start potty-training that morning, which is not the timing that I would have chosen. But she did pretty well, speaking up when she wanted to use the potty at the rest stops.  We kept her in a diaper, though.

This is a photo of a train carrying coal, passing in front of a wind farm:

It was meant to be symbolic or meaningful or something. We're all doomed. Here are the kids, not giving a shit:

Here's a convenience store with a funny name, in Amarillo:

More like the toot-n-scrotum, right?! That little brown square to the left says "Beans&Burlap." So much gas being passed. (Around the corner, fudge is made.)

We stopped at a playground in Amarillo, and Pokey was very concerned by Hawaii's antics - going down the slide headfirst, trying out the monkey bars. Now, Hawaii is not a daredevil whatsoever, so Pokey's fretting was totally groundless. Later he was freaked out by the campfire, and still later by the boat. We seem to have timid children.

New Mexico by evening is pretty:

We drove all the way to Denver that day. It was long and tiring. On Friday we went camping:

I read the bear safety list to Hawaii and Pokey. No food in the tent. Keep all food and toiletries in the car. Etc.
"Are toiletries real?" Pokey asked later.
"Toiletries are things like toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo and conditioner," I said.
A few minutes later, Pokey repeated, "But are they real? Are toiletries real?"
"What? Yes," I said. "They're real. Toothbrushes are real."
A few minutes later, he asked yet again, "But are toiletries really real? Are they real?"
Finally I said, "What exactly are you confused about?"
Pokey said, "A tree that's a toilet? Is that REAL?"
Oh. heh. No.

I think I hate National Parks, with their inevitable vertiginous cliffs. Am I the first person with this affliction? There is always some terrifying drop-off. We drove through Rocky Mountain National Park. I have these phantom impulses that we will swerve off the road, whether or not I'm driving. I consoled myself like so: "Tthere must be hundreds of cars on the road today. There are hundreds of days in a year. If someone drove off the cliff even once a year, they'd close the road.  Magically, everyone manages not to drive off the cliff with basically 100% confidence."

Me failing to capture terror-incarnate with my iphone camera:

The cliff in the first photo fails to appear scary.  I think it's because you don't see how boundless the drop is. In the second photo, you get some sense of scale, but it's not scary because it's a photo in a blog entry.

I do hate the National Parks, I think. I don't want to watch the kids climb on rocks overhanging a precipice. I don't understand why we, as a species, should ever court death like that.

We saw a moose, sort of:

A spooked lady-moose, an antler-free moose hemmed in on three sides by gawking tourists. She started nervously at some motorcycles, and generally seemed terrified but unclear on her best course.

Hokey Pokey ran over to me and held out his ring-pop on his finger, and said excitedly, "Hey, I figured out why they're called ring pops!"   Did you now! My boy genius.  I love that. (I loathe ring pops - the kids slurp and get colored spit on everything and then leave the sticky-half-pop somewhere sacred for later. "Don't throw it out! I'm saving it forever!" But I love Pokey's revelation. It's a ring and a pop.)

On Sunday we packed up - giant tent, two portable cribs, and this marvelous contraption:

(which folds up rather small.) There were two days of dirt crusted on the children. I didn't fully anticipate how gross it would be to pack up from camping and drive for two more days. Jammies and I stopped and showered at a laundromat with pay-showers, but the kids stayed caked in dirt and marshmellow goo.

On the way to Wyoming, Hawaii made up this joke:
Hawaii: Do you know when French fries were invented?
Straight man: No, when?
Hawaii: Friday! Do you know which one?
Straight man: No, which one?
Hawaii: None of them, it was a Saturday!

Wyoming has these charming pink highways:

and a tiny fake-bison on a cliff marking the state line:

We listened to The Summons, by John Grisham. It is the WORST! The most surprising thing about this book is that there are absolutely no plot twists. The main character finds a mysterious pile of money. The main character spends five CDs rehashing failed theories long after he's established that they are failed theories. Eventually he meets a very wealthy man who tells him a long complicated backstory, of which there were no clues. That's not how a mystery works, John Grisham. That's ridiculous. (Maybe there is a twist yet, in the last CD. I'll keep you posted.)

Wyoming is vast and unpopulated:

but we don't care:

We pulled into a gas station, with some car part draggin on the ground. That carried its own sense of vertigo. But it turned out to be a sagging grill-part, which we zip-tied in place. (In fact, I'm blogging from the Honda repair place in Montana.)

We spent the night with Jammies' cousins in Billings, and arrived at the in-laws lake house on Monday afternoon.  It feels so deeply nice to be here, where the adults outnumber the kids and I get stupidly pampered. My in-laws have eccentric details like:

the pine cone and bark chandelier, which I've come to love, and:

my father-in-law's philosophy on civic duty, which I'm happy to ignore.

I tried out a stand up paddle board on the lake. I loved it so much. It was peaceful and solitary. It took concentration, and it was pretty out.

Next weekend we'll be driving back home, again. This is the solitary mid-vacation post, and regular weekend posting will resume after that.

4 kittens

American Cheese

Posted on 2015.07.26 at 10:42
Hokey Pokey was telling me about the cuttlefish. "They can blow up, and change color, and cut in half to make two copies of themselves."
"I know all about the cuddlefish," I said.
"You do?" he asked.
"Of course!" I said, "Come here, my widdle cuddlefish!" I bear-hugged him and rocked back and forth while he squirmed away. My monologuey cuddlefish.

"The American armadillo uses its feet to get away, like this." He showed me on the rocks. "He's really fast. His only predator is the desert black bobcat." It all sounds plausible. He runs off, plays a little, runs back to tell me a little more, "The desert black bobcat is mostly nocturnal, but in the daytime he camoflauges in the shadows," runs off, etc.


Hawaii was trying to coach Ace to put a pom-pom in this dog's mouth:

which is a dorky incentive system we use to say "that was kind and considerate of you".

Instead Ace wanted to put the pom-pom in here:

"That doesn't make any sense," Hawaii said, patiently, "Put the pom-pom in his mouth, Ace!"
Ace stuck the pom-pom in the back, anyway, and proclaimed, "IT MADE SENSE!"
So it did!

I make sense!


Some household goings on:

1. Our new Yakima Skycoffin:

This rooftop storage coffin is so that we can take the kitchen sink when we drive to Montana, leaving this Wednesday. It even fits our new 100-person tent.

2. Our new light fixtures:

I just eat 'em up. They're perfect.

3. I organized my jewelry on a peg board:

I wish I'd taken a before photo.


At story time, Hawaii rolled around on the couch and shrieked in pain when her ear nudged a story book. She screamed and screamed and would not tell us what was going on.

It turned out her ear was super infected, from her earring. There was pus everywhere, her ear was bleeding, etc. She'd been wearing these cheap pink earrings  from the museum gift shop in Florida. I totally forgot that cheap earrings make your ears hurt. She'd had them in for a few days.  I felt absolutely awful.

The swelling had gone down by morning, and was all better in a few days, but Hawaii is taking a break from earrings. She found the pain awful and frightening, I think. We'll try again in a year or two. I really feel like this was all my fault.


Rascal is sleep-trained. It took about three days. Now we are all growed up. At bedtime, four little kittens each lie down in their one big room, we kiss them goodnight and tuck them in, turn out the light and walk away.

I should really thank Hawaii and Pokey for being such great sleepers. They set an expectation in us, and then we demanded that level from Ace and Rascal, who rose to the occasion. Good job, kids.


This baby is so fierce:

He will fucking cut you.


There were two leftover biscuits and three kids who wanted to share them. MATH.

Hawaii and I discussed out plan. First we'd cut them in half like a hamburger bun, to make four circles of biscuit-halves. Each kid would get one half.  Then, with the last half, we'd cut it in thirds, like a peace sign. Each kid would get one third of the last half.

Hawaii has illustrated this:

The other side has the instructions:

In the red circle:
breakfast treat
biscuits and jelly
on the back"

In the blue star: "remember"


They say that white Americans won't acknowledge that there is such a thing as an American accent.

I won't cut you. Probably.

Anyway: next weekend we're camping in Colorado, along our drive to Montana, so I may not post during the weekend.

4 kittens

Wait, what does 'rare' mean.

Posted on 2015.07.19 at 20:49
I found this letter from my grandmother. She wrote it in 2008, at age 86. The letter is addressed to Anthony S, executive director under the new ownership of the retirement home.

Long but so very my grandma.Collapse )

Grandma had mailed me a copy just to keep me informed of important matters. I found the letter this week, cleaning out the mezzanine. The mezzanine is to be a reading nook escape for the kids.

There are three boxes of childhood fragile schwag that I've not known what to do with.

I've already sorted childhood detritus into piles: toys to toss into our kid's toys, stuff I want to display or feel sentimental about, and Pile 3. Stuff that maybe the kids will want? Stuff I don't care about unless they like it and feel sentimental about it? in which case I want them to have it? But what the hell do you do with it in the meantime? Things like little china tea sets and very tiny clay teddy bears, too fragile to throw into the general melee.

I bought this from IKEA:

My plan is to fill those tiny drawers with all these fragile little knick-knacks and leave it, temptingly, in the corner of the reading nook, in the mezzanine. Let the kids have their own private Secret Garden moments and I'll find out in twenty years what happened.


Hokey Pokey had a particularly in-depth incident report. This does not happen with Ms. Jennifer, his Pokey-whisperer, but unfortunately there are other adults in the world. Kicking, biting, screaming, etc.  The adults wanted him to sit down and be quiet, he wanted to tell his side of the story, shit erupted.

That night we had a big conversation about being submissive. How it feels completely unfair, but it's what (some) adults are demanding when they're mad. Complete, obedient submissiveness, at the exact moment when it feels most unfair. Later, when the adult is not angry anymore, then you can ask to tell your side of the story. We called it "being a puppy dog". Certain adults, when they're mad, require that the kids be a puppy dog. At the exact moment when it feels most unfair.

Pokey was not thrilled about this idea, but he at least grasped the concept clearly.

"And furthermore," I said, "This kind of thing will happen even more in elementary school. Right, Hawaii?"
Hawaii said, "At my school, it's super rare."
"Really?" I exclaimed, "That's great!"
Hawaii said, "Wait, what does 'rare' mean?"
"Almost never," I said.
"Oh," she said, "I meant the opposite. It happens constantly."

That makes way more sense. I laughed.

In Florida, the older girls made up a song and dance routine, riffing on "I'm Sexy and I Know It."  The next morning, Hawaii quietly pulled me aside and asked what "sexy" meant. I said, "You know how people can be good-looking and attractive, or sometimes not very good-looking? You can be good-looking in a kid way or in an adult way. Being sexy is being good-looking in an adult way."  Who knows, I think that was okay.

So burdened by blossoms. Too heavy. Must lay head down.


Hawaii discovered Jessie, the Disney tween show, about a nanny from Texas who is the nanny of a bunch of diverse kids adopted by movie stars. By 'diverse' I mean 'a wide range of stereotypes'.

I actually don't hate it. It's terrible in the exact same way that family sitcoms have always been terrible. There's even a laugh-track. I thought we were done with those, but I suspect kids like being cued.

Ace loves Jessie and is choosing it lately on her night to choose. When the two year old chooses the awful, stereotyped tween show, it seems a little tragic and deprived. But the theme song is really catchy.

When you change Ace's diaper, she has a little naked dance. It goes, "I have a booty-booty, I shake it all about," complete with shaking it all about.

"Let's go, Mommy!" she said, tugging me towards the living room, "Let's play in the Large Motor Room." That cracked me up. (That being a daycare phrase, of course.)

The kids are usually in bed by 8:00. Hawaii and Pokey generally fall promptly asleep. Sometimes we hear Ace, babbling to herself until 9:30 or 10 pm.

Last night we started sleep-training Rascal. It was awful. Pokey and Hawaii trained easily. Ace was a little harder. I think Jammies and I are becoming softies. Rascal took one full hour to settle down. Tonight he took twenty minutes. Then, later, the big kids woke him up, and he took another twenty minutes. Steadfast, Heebie. Don't bail now.

I eat coral snakes like you for breakfast.


I actually had a passing interest in going to this concert:

Some latent teenage desire stirred. I had an honest-to-god carpe diem moment. Nobody was free to go with me, and I never called around for a babysitter (since Jammies had hockey) and so the concert and I passed each other like two ships, each docked about 30 miles apart for a few hours on a Friday night. I rationalized, "They'd be gray, wrinkly shells of their former glory and the whole night would be a wobbly-voiced disaster."  Diem not carpe'd.


My laptop died on Thursday. The specialists told me that 2009 macs are considered vintage. Jerks.

4 kittens

Minor, minor hostile edge

Posted on 2015.07.12 at 22:15
I'm really starting to get the hang of this Hawaii character. All week long we were on the same wavelength, laughing at the same things, talking frankly. It's nice!

The red button (counter-intuitively) opens the page, the green button shuts it again. Inside:

A fragile farm model, and a quite nice one at that.

I had an epiphany following one of her (daily) 'dont-yell-at-me' grumps and crying jags. I'm generally baffled-to-irritated, because she says it when I truly have not been yelling. A little edge in my voice, perhaps, but quiet volume. It finally dawned on me that she feels like I'm yelling at her. She feels yelled at. Okay. (My sin is really a minor, minor hostile edge - like a flat delivery or mild eye roll.) I can't necessarily rein it in but I can sigh and apologize and we can get on with things faster now.

At dinner one night, Hawaii and I were trying to teach Pokey and Ace how to roll their eyes. With maximum disgust-face. Pokey mostly rolled his whole head dramatically, which was kind of hilarious.

Bookshelves that my identity-swapping grandfather made.

Ace says, "I bwoke my arm! It bwoke off!" holding her arm the way Pokey had held his broken arm. "We need to go to the hospital!" And then also, "This is serious, guys. It's not funny."

Apparently while I was in the ER with Pokey, that was Ace's tagline: "This is serious, guys. It's not funny." Which is very funny.


I saw the surgeon-jerk for my six week follow-up. "How are your menopausal symptoms?" he asked.
"I...don't have any?" I answered, confused.
"None?" he pressed.
"Am I supposed to?" I asked.
"Yes, at least a little. Are you on hormones?" he asked.
"Yes," I said, "You put me on premarin."
He consulted his chart and then admonished the nurse for not having written it down. "What dose are you on?"
I shrugged, "0.75?" I guessed.
"What! 0.75 mg?" he said.
"You said you were putting me on the medium dose, not the lowest dose," I said.
"Oh, probably 0.65 mg," he said.
"I don't know!" I said.

That is the conversation, transcribed to the best of my ability.  Then there was a silly bit where he asked me about my UTI, and I said I hadn't had one, and he asked what I'd had, and I said "An internal infection."
"Same thing," he said.
NO IT ISN'T. I've had urinary tract infections, and now I've had a post-op infection, and they're really different. Maybe you're using some hyper-doc-ese, Doc, but to us lay people those are very different things.

Anyway, he's my forever-gynecologist, it turns out. One can still get ovarian-style cancers in their peritoneal cavity, and so I need him to root around up there once a year, plus to update me on any BRCA news.

Also: premarin. My friend told me that they are horsey-torture pills. To make the estrogen, they keep horses perpetually pregnant and sap the estrogen out of them like a legit wicked witch to keep me youthful.

It is not something I'm yet ready to go read all about. I'm sure the generic version just tortures generic horses instead of official ones. Bleagh.

Lalala, documenting the good parts, misrepresenting their life. It would appear that they play really well together. Lalalalalala. (We do not own that purple car.)

I'm in danger of inadvertently weaning Rascal. Sometimes I realize that he hasn't nursed in a full day or more.  He doesn't seem to get much out when he does nurse.  This would be slightly earlier than the rest: Hawaii and Ace weaned at the beginning of January, when they were almost 9 months old. Pokey weaned in October, when he was 11 months old.

My mom serves chocolate chip poundcake cupcakes for dessert every night, with either vanilla or chocolate icing. (Do I naturally say 'frosting' or 'icing'? No idea. They both seem right.) Pokey asked for chocolate. He spat out his first bite and exclaimed, "It tastes like COFFEE!" I was impressed, because technically, yes, my mom makes mocha icing, but it's such a subtle bit that most people do not taste it at all.

Other bits from Pokey:
"Some long-necked dinosaurs can hoot."
"The iguana-na can walk in two languages - on his hind legs and on all fours."

Pokey is a mastermind at blending animal nonsense with absolutely true facts. "Did you know a sperm whale can eat a giant squid?" he asked me.  I told him it wasn't true - whales eat krill or something - but we googled, and I'll be damned:

There is video footage too. Sperm whales can eat giant squids. The eyes of giant squids are the size of basketballs, in case you didn't know.

Jammies came home Friday night. It was a long and tiring week, even though the kids were great. The house slowly deteriorated. At best, I try to stall and delay the deterioration of the house, when Jammies is out of town. That part is the absolute worst.

Dear internet, I missed you so. The vacation was exhausting. It was fine. Let's take it in parts.

The Part Before: where Jammies was at a conference and I was single-parenting and single-packing, and I do not have the proper faculties to single-pack for a trip like this.  It turned out fine but I felt anxious.

The Drive to Orlando: We left Wednesday afternoon and spent the night in Baton Rouge.

On Thursday, twenty minutes away from the hotel, both Ace and Rascal's diapers exploded everywhere. We were on the Florida Turnpike, where they nickel-and-dime you every mile for another handful of change. Honestly, Florida, it's super annoying. We stopped at a rest stop and cleaned up the best we could. That was super gross.

The Family Weekend: Far exceeded my (very low) expectations.  The hotel had big pools with slides and sprays. The cousins adored each other. The older cousins were very sweet and affectionate towards the little cousins.

There was a small incident which brought out the worst in everyone. Don't be coy, Heebie, what happened? I feel like I can't share, lest the siblings and wives ever find this journal.  (Future me will be pissed at Present me, because future me will be dying of curiosity and unable to recall. Is there a coded way to signal the keywords to Future me that would fly beneath the radar of siblings and wives? No, but PLAYGROUND, PHOTO, WINK WINK.)

I don't think our kids ever suspected we were near Disney World, which is kind of funny. We didn't explicitly set out to keep it a secret, but it never came up.

Single-Parenting at my Parents' House: Jammies flew back to Texas to work from Monday-Wednesday, so that we could extend our vacation. I had the kids at my parents' house. It was kind of awful and tiring.

On the drive from Orlando to Gainesville, all four kids fell asleep in the car. I felt like a winner. Then Rascal woke up and started screaming, and I panicked, lest he wake the rest up. I could not reach his pacifier.

There was a weigh station for semis, and I impulsively turned down it, and then immediately regretted it.  Clearly this is not a rest stop for frazzled ordinary mothers in their stupid minivans.  I did stop, leap out and put Rascal's pacifier in, because that needed to be done, and he fell back asleep. Then voices came over the intercom, wearily telling me to drive through and not to stop. They sounded exasperated. I felt like a colossal idiot.

At my parents' house, there is a dog gate separating the playroom and kitchen from the main entrance and stairs upstairs.  It is a major thoroughfare. If the dog gate slams shut - and it naturally does, you have to actively restrain it from slamming - then the rattle of the slam knocks over the fragile miniatures in a curiosity cabinet mounted nearby on the wall. Then my mom rushes over, frazzled, and rights the tiny glass chairs and tea set and little trees in tiny Ming vases and exclaims, with an edge in her voice, that the gate must be shut gently.  That is symbolic of the worst parts of this stretch.

Parts were great - my parents made a big effort to stay around. We saw some friends with kids and it was briefly relaxing. But mostly it was a lot of relentless diapers, naptimes, fixing sandwiches, ignoring squabbling, and no time to myself.  (What do I like about parenting? I like talking with the kids, having discussions and interactions. That part is fun. Also I like the cuddling.)

Ace saw her first movie in a theater, Inside Out. She talked at length about the red guy, and how Riley felt mad, and generally seemed to grasp the premise of the movie.

(She has seen plenty of movies out of the theater. After watching Frozen with cousins, she said "Don't shut me out, Daddy! Don't shut me out!" as we took her to bed. "You know, like Elsa shuts Anna out," explained Hawaii.

"We would never shut you out!" Jammies consoled her.

Then we put them to bed and shut the door. "You shut me out! You did shut me out!" Ace bellowed from the bedroom. We realized what she meant. "Oh well, that can't be helped," we shrugged.)

Hawaii pushing Pokey and Ace and other assorted kids on the merry-go-round.

We took the kids to the Natural History museum and its gift shop.  Hawaii got little pink earrings. We changed her earrings for the first time. She has several small cardboard jewelry boxes and elaborate organizational plans. Ace got a molded plastic pig, and Pokey got a molded plastic Tanystropheus:

They were semi-aquatic giant lizards, not actually dinosaurs. They used that head to catch fish.

On Wednesday morning, I put Rascal down for a nap just as my mom's friends showed up with their baby and toddler. I made pleasant smalltalk.  The father held out the baby for me to take. Clearly I would want to cuddle their baby, clearly I have an insatiable appetite for small children.

So I sat there, holding their nine month old baby, seething because they were monopolizing my break with my arms unoccupied. "Why the fuck would I want to hold your baby when I'm single parenting four very young children?" I did not say this to them.

Their baby was in fact very cuddly and sweet. Much more cuddly than Rascal, who has newly discovered his muscles. He arches and squirms and grunts and grizzles in your arms (yet does not want you to put him down).

It rained a lot. Jammies flew in late Wednesday night.

The Part Where We Met My New Family - on Friday, we drove to Mobile, and met our new secret family. M. Aaron had one sister, who had one son, Eli.   Eli and his wife Rae live in Mobile. They have four grown sons and seven grandchildren, and they put us up for the night.

Our children were Stepford Wives for a day, playing sweetly in the rec room, using gracious manners and complete sentences, and we unexpectedly looked like Parents of the Year.

Eli and Rae were great - easy to talk to, relatable. They seemed plausibly like part of our family - not exactly the same, but relatable.  Eli believes that my grandmother Bea knew about his family, but this does not seem to be rooted in fact - he can't generate any instance of actual contact or proof. Rather, since they knew about us for all these years, I think he is failing to grasp how thoroughly unaware we all were of his family's existence.  There were not little clues. Nobody was gradually piecing anything together.  His existence was a wild shock. It was fun to talk about.

They fed us continuously, gave the kids odd toys that they had lying around, and it felt familiar and casual. We had bagels and lox for breakfast. It felt like a respite.

The Part In The ER: Saturday, the 4th of July, was the 100th anniversary of M. Aaron's birth. We celebrated by driving home.

We stopped in Houston for dinner. Afterwards, I told the kids to run to the end of the sidewalk and back, to burn off some energy before the last stretch of driving.   Pokey tripped and screamed and screamed, and his forearm had a C-curve.  It was freaky and my stomach turned inside out.

We rushed him to the children's hospital, which happened to be nearly next door.  Jammies stayed with the other three, while I carried Pokey into the ER.  They took him back immediately.

The next hour was awful. Pokey was in a lot of pain. "I just want my cast so it feels better," he wept. "Why isn't the doctor running?" piteously.  They gave him some codeine, but it didn't seem to take the edge off for a long time.

Eventually they took us to a room to do the reduction. "Reduction" refers to the angle of the break, from 30° to 25° or better.  They put an IV on him and put little monitors all over his body, and sedated him with ketamine.  They cut off his shirt. They warned me that he might seem to be in a lot of pain, but it was a dissociative state and he wasn't experiencing the pain. I don't want to think too closely about that statement.

(The next day we asked, "Pokey, do you remember the hospital last night?"
"Yes," he said, "They put me to sleep so that my cast would be a surprise."  That is a nice spin on it.)

They wrapped his little arm up in a splint, took new x-rays, monitored him for an hour after the sedation was over.

Sitting up and stirring. His hair is mussed up from me combing my fingers through it while failing to provide actual pain relief.

They then sent us on our way with a groggy, irritable kid. In total, the detour set us back only four hours, which is surprisingly little for breaking both bones in your forearm. (If it had been his elbow, he might have needed surgery. We were lucky.)  Same arm that he fractured last fall, in case you remember that.

The Part Where We're Home Again. We got home around midnight. Today is Sunday.

Tomorrow Jammies flies out of town for work again, for yet another week of single parenting. I'm trying not to be a crabby mess about it.

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