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What colorful everything.

Posted on 2014.09.20 at 17:42
What season is it in Texas? Hot and drab. Brown and dead. I do find the dead brown sort of pretty, in an "all the leaves are dead" winter's way, except for it being so fucking hot. But I'm not in Texas - I'm in Wisconsin, visiting Grandma. This is ornery Grandma, who remained super ornery until her early 90s. Now she is 96-going-on-97, and really the fight has left her. She's basically only loving and forgetful at this point.  She wears an ankle bracelet, and the Alzheimer's wing of her retirement home has airlocks with codes and alarms at all points of entry, to keep the adults safe.

In Wisconsin, the season is Vibrant and Alive and beautiful. My aunt and uncle took me to the Madison Farmer's Market this morning, and it was a mess of unnaturally large vegetables in unseemly bright colors. Also tons of people.  I tried chokeberries and seaberries - neither are that good.

September 20, 2014 (1)

From there I went to meet Grandma for lunch.

So: the farmer's market was extremely over-stimulating: too many noisy people, throngs of them, tart apples, rhubarb, fingerling potatoes, odd colors like purple cauliflowers and rainbow tomatoes. Samples of squeaky cheese (hey you, Wisconsin), bold revolutionary coffee, and so on. Very big. I indulged a kind of country mouse mentality where I oohed and aahed over the abundant luxuries. (It really is a giant farmer's market.)

Then I walked to Grandma's retirement home, and the lunchroom was equally-and-oppositely under-stimulating. Very quiet (which is nice when people are hard of hearing). Large, wide aisles. Also sensible. Muted colors and bland mushy food - just plain bad taste, but not egregiously so. Grandma is now in Level Three care, so this whole wing is populated by people who are in varying stages of Alzheimer's and need significant care throughout their day.  The adults were slow-moving and confused, and I tried to imagine living here and how it might seem okay in a certain light.

Now we are back in Grandma's room, watching Ken Burn's documentary on the Roosevelts, and Grandma has dozed off.

September 20, 2014 (2)

Is Grandma still ornery and curious?

Like the evil little bunny personality she cultivated her whole life, is she still that? Vestigially so. Last night at dinner, and then again today at lunch, she asked how birds reproduce. So we went over bird sex - corkscrew penises, cloacas, I can't really put the pieces together but I know those vocabulary words - and fertilization of an egg that is then laid. She asked "But how do they know which is the male and which is the female?" and we talked about sexual dimorphism, roosters and chickens, peacocks and peahens, and so on. That is the curious side, not the ornery side.

She asked what we are naming the new baby, and I told her, and she pointed out that the name rhymes with Nosy, and she doesn't like mocking. That is the ornery side of Grandma. I replied that every name can be mocked, and she disagreed. "Not Erik," she said, which was my (sainted) grandfather's name. "You can't mock 'Erik'."  A younger Heebie would have taken this as a challenge, but modern Heebie merely agreed that Erik is a nice name. A minute or two later, Grandma said, "Jim. You can't mock the name Jim. Erik and Jim are both nice names." I agreed. She continued, "Well, work on it. I'm sure you can come up with something better." I laughed.

She keeps bags of chocolate all over her room, although I don't think she can find them terribly easily. Still, bags of chocolate strewn seems like a rather pleasant way to spend age 96. I'm uncomfortably full; bags of chocolate isn't a great fit for Pregnant Heebie in her 30s.

September 20, 2014 (3)

Tonight we are all going to the symphony orchestra.

We apparently have amazing seats that are ostensibly "obstructed view", but are actually really cool box seats, muppet style. I am worried about being excruciatingly bored. I find it hard to drift mentally when there is music or speech going. Live music shows feel like someone is saying "Now you must have your thoughts sabotaged, but you also can't chat or explore. Sit still and be sabotaged."

I'm boiling hot at the moment. What's up, retirement home.

September 20, 2014 (4)

My other uncle - not the one here in Wisconsin - is on a course of steroids.

The steroids are in the context of a larger ongoing fight against cancer. The steroids are affecting his personality - a calm, loving, steadfast type now has problems with impulse control and anger, and bouts of disorientation. It's all distressing.  But this bit is funny: he got it in his head that Grandma needed a robotic baby seal. They sell them in Japan, apparently. People there who can't have pets buy them. They are furry, and have some artificial intelligence learning capacity. They don't swim, but they interact. They cost $6000.

The uncle asked the family who would like to split the cost of such a thing, and everyone declined, and so fed up, he just up and purchased it, which itself was not an easy task.  Along the way, the family convinced him to give it to the retirement home, and not just Grandma.

So now the Alzheimer's wing here has a very expensive robotic baby seal. It is a huge hit with the staff and patients. The patients dote on it, and the staff like having it in their arsenal of activities. Grandma herself is lukewarm on it - "I played with it once, and once is enough," she said. She explained to me that if you touch its whiskers, it talks to you, and if you place it in a shadow, it goes to sleep.

September 20, 2014 (5)

On the plane here, an iphone gave a whistly-chirp, of the kind you've heard a million times. A woman near me asked her partner, "What was that? I heard that sound the other day, and another time before that!" He hadn't heard it, and they had a perplexed, charmingly innocent conversation about what it could be.

Ugh I'm so hot and uncomfortable.

Did you know I had a minor car crash last week? I hit our baby-sitter's car. Just drove right out our driveway and into it. That was a major doltish move of mine. I had to confess, and call the insurance company and file a claim, but at least it was very convenient to just put him on the phone directly with Allstate.

September 20, 2014 (6)

Will you still read me?

I wonder what it might be like if I'm blogging when I'm 96 years old. All three of my grandparents who have died basically of old age, all became very docile and agreeable and relaxed in their final years. I know other people find senility to be very stressful and anxious and unpleasant - there was an agitated woman near the door of the dining room. She lurked in the doorway for a while, explaining periodically she was supposed to meet someone there. Finally someone came over and escorted her to a table, reassuring her that she was in the right place. Clearly not everyone finds it relaxing to become senile.

But if I were 96, I'd have seventy years of blogging under my belt. My grandfather could play bridge long after he became senile, because it was such a rehearsed routine. Perhaps I will have so internalized the process of blogging by then that I can blog senile.

Will I find it a relief that someone brings me my medicine, and I could offload such tasks? Would I comment on such things? Would I be able to write coherently about the encroaching mental fogginess? I like to think that I'll still be blogging, even if it's depressingly Flowers For Algernon-esque.

September 20, 2014 (7)

I laid down and took a nap on the rug,

When I woke up, Grandma was topless. It sounds undignified, but it was not particularly. She was just hot, as was I. We turned on a fan, and she put her camisole back on. She no longer wears a bra, so I do mean absolutely topless.

On the one hand, Younger Grandma would be embarrassed caught topless. It's clearly a sign of her mental decline. But on the other hand, who cares. She's hot, she's 96 years old, why on earth not go topless.

Because she's not doing it as an activist, Heebie. She'd doing it in confusion.
Younger Grandma would be upset.

But Younger Grandma had to deal with Young Heebie, and Young Heebie had to deal with Younger Grandma. Middle-Aged Heebie is happy to deal with this Grandma instead. And I'm glad that Grandma was not distressed.

September 20, 2014 (9)

What colorful tomatoes. What colorful everthing.

September 20, 2014 (8)

3 kittens

Unanimated gifs

Posted on 2014.09.14 at 10:51
Hokey Pokey has started peeing standing up. "Miguel started it," he explains. I don't care who started it; my little baby, all growed up.

On the other hand, he's started leaving his bedroom and crawling in bed with Jammies and me. He lays perfectly still (as opposed to Hawaiian Punch, who would compulsively fuss and mess with Jammies or me, escalating in intensity until we throw her out).  Sometimes if I am up and about, I'll say to Pokey: "Who put this small child in my bed!" in faux-consternation, but then I'll mug on him. It's all very mushy and sweet.

He's having some anger problems at school - his temper spikes, and all of a sudden he's a tornado of throwing toys, biting, shoving anyone nearby, etc. It spikes briefly and then he calms down, but it's still a problem. In my muddled thinking, the sneaking into our bed and cuddling will help refill his cup so that he can tone down the explosive temper.

Sept 14, 2014 (10)

There was a chicken in our pecan tree. Cluck cluck cluck.

Hawaiian Punch: "I don't like this new school."
When pressed, it's because there are too many rules and too much structure, compared to daycare. I'm sure she's basically right. There's a whole lot of "Everybody be quiet, so that we can be quiet during lunch, in preparation for being quiet while we walk quietly back to the classroom, in order to be quiet while you sit in your chair." It's probably excessive. (On the other hand, consult me when I'm required to teach twenty five-year-olds. I'd be huffing valium by the second day.)

Here are the kindergarten rules for coloring:
1. Stay in the lines.
2. Only true colors.
3. No white spaces.
"But when I'm at home, I can color however I want, right?" Isn't that woefully poignant? Don't worry, Hawaii herself enforces the first two rules naturally, so I think it amounts to "do I have to keep coloring in the boring background?" No sweetie, it's the weekend. Live it up.

She has a new friends named Mercury, which is a word that is hard for me to say. You know how you pronounce the second syllable to rhyme with "pure" and not "purr"? Somehow my brain wants to apply that to the first syllable and not the second: myur-curry. Which is not right.  Anyway, Myurcurry comes over and kisses my belly and talks about the baby inside whenever I pick Hawaii up from the after-school program.  Five years old might be the upper bound of how old you can be, and still kiss your friend's mom's belly.

Hawaii to me: "If you were younger, and skinnier, and not pregnant, and your skin was darker, you'd look like Pocahontas." I think there's a compliment buried in there? Of the form "you have long dark hair"?

Also: "Dry cleans up wet, wet cleans up sticky." Somewhere Hawaii has learned this aphorism, and quips it professionally as she goes about cleaning up messes. She's right, and has also surpassed my degree of sophistication for cleaning shit up. Quite right, never better.

Wee Ace with a scratched up nose:

Sept 14, 2014 (2) Sept 14, 2014 (1)

For 9/11, they were invited to wear red, white, and blue to school. Hawaii tried about five different outfits before declaring them all unfit and returning to her regularly-scheduled outfit.

I told them all about 9/11 - the four planes, the box-cutters, the hijackers, and so on. They were fascinated. I kept it pretty matter-of-fact. They asked me to re-tell it several times. I included a bit about going to war afterwards.

Later, on the local mother's board on Facebook, someone posted a question about how to discuss 9/11 with your kids. My approach is not a popular choice. Most wanted to preserve the kid's innocence. A few had answers like "I emphasized all the positive things that came out of that day." (Huh? Like the groovy war?)(No, like the cooperation and how it brought us closer as a nation.)(Sure, why not. Is that's what we're pretending?)

The mothers all seemed to think that since we adults found 9/11 very scary in 2001, that it will be super scary for our kids in 2014. Which seems like nonsense to me. Nothing from before you were born is scary unless you get the idea that it could happen again, imminently. Otherwise it's just history.

(That said, the full question asked was "At school today, they showed the first-graders the video of the towers being hit...how do you handle explaining 9/11 to your kids?" Showing six year olds the actual footage is a whole 'nother kettle of fish from talking about the facts. That's like comparing apples and lightbulbs, as an old math professor of mine would say. I think he said it in a Russian accent, but I'm not sure. Definitely an eastern European accent.)

Sept 14, 2014 (4) Sept 14, 2014 (3)

State of unpacking

So: I can be pretty sociable, but also be pretty awkward. (Just like you!) Lately, it takes me longer to warm up socially. Like the neural pathways are a bit overgrown, and have to be re-pruned each time. By "awkward" I mean: someone tells a story, and I'm only paying half-attention, and I'm wearing a perplexed expression that matches the digression in my mind, but is nonsensically mismatched for the charming story I'm being told, about buying new mixing bowls, or whatever.

When I'm in a social groove, it's easy to pay attention. Funny stories and rejoinders spring to mind. During the awkward warm-up period, it's a struggle to pay attention, and I can't figure out things like "if I sit down, will it be odd and I'll immediately want stand up again? How do people hold cups without slamming their drinks? Are we still talking about Pyrex?"

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Right now I am helping Hawaiian Punch make a cootie catcher. She had one, and used it until it fell apart. She alternates between explaining to me, authoritatively, how they work and asking me for my expertise in making a new one. The disconnect is amusing.

Question: how long does it take for a public school to initiate fundraising drives?
Answer: in the second week of school.
We got a shitty catalog full of shitty items that nobody wants, and an incredibly enthusiastic (exploited) kindergartener telling us that if they sell ten items, they get to squirt the principal with ketchup and mustard. The logistics are fascinating to Hawaii - are they allowed to squirt his clothes? Will he be naked?

We filmed Hawaii explaining about the catalog and the prizes, and sent the video to our exploitable-relatives, who dutifully bought wrapping paper. The consensus seems to be that the only useful thing in that whole goddamn catalog is the wrapping paper. I think Hawaii will get her ketchup and mustard dream.

Let's go to Taco Cabana, where we shall all cram in the same chair. An unanimated gif:


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3 kittens

Back In Ballet

Posted on 2014.09.06 at 20:47
Now, most of the world lives in pretty tight quarters. Our house is about 1900 square feet. During the renovations, we were living in about 1200 square feet. Which is plenty of room, by many standards. People actually live in apartments in New York City. (People actually live in New Delhi slums, too, but let's not pretend they wouldn't prefer a 1200 square foot apartment in New York.)(Probably they'd prefer a 1200 square foot apartment in New Delhi, not New York, given the choice.)

I wish I could recieve sympathy while saying something completely un-sympathetic: boy was that renovation period awful. It is so nice to have our whole house back. With our TWO living areas. I like to sit in one, quietly by myself, and look down the hallway at the commotion at the other end of the house. My head feels clear and glorious.  Tra-la-la.

Having a kitchen back is the best. (That part at least doesn't sound particularly privileged.) I can chop vegetables on a cutting board at countertop height, instead of lowish table height. I am no longer using a camping stove. There's an oven, instead of merely a toaster oven. (I'm kind of sold on steaming things in the microwave, though. Maybe I'll stick with that.) There's counter space and a dishwasher. Ain't life grand.

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Hawaii said, "I'd like to play soccer" when asked to pick one extracurricular activity. We were pleased and surprised: she loved her ballet teacher last year. We said, "That's great!" but also "how come?" and she answered, "Well, I know what ballet is like. I don't know what soccer is like yet. So I want to try it, and then I can go back to ballet if I want."

We were buoyed by her maturity and planning.  (She did play kiddie indoor soccer last year, but this is considered big kid outdoor soccer.)

Then: at back-to-school night, the beloved ballet teacher had a sign-up table in the cafeteria. Hawaii saw her and ran over to give her a hug. Jammies sighed with forboding.

When Hawaii returned, I mentally counted 'One - one thousand. Two - one thousand. Three - one thousand--' "Mama," Hawaii interrupted me, "I think I changed my mind about soccer. I want to do ballet instead." And so that was that. We're back in ballet.

(Later Jammies admitted that he nearly steered Hawaii away from the ballet teacher, when he first spotted her, so as to preserve the tenuous commitment to soccer. Ah, well. Ballet is nice, too.)

Ballet is not her only extracurricular activity - just the only one she gets to choose. She's still in piano, but the Hairy Gru-like Italian moved away to get his PhD, and we've located an elderly-seeming instructor who I think is actually in her 40s. Her demeanor is ridiculously grandmotherly, a visual mismatch, in a way that I find endearing. She's also a much better instructor than Gru.

Finally, both Hawaii and Pokey are going to stay in swim lessons. Because next summer, we'll have two babies under two years old; the older two have got to be safe-ish in the water. So Hawaii, in kindergarten, has extracurricular activities three days a week.  That is possibly excessive, but I want them all in her life.

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For my sabbatical self-imposed structure, I made myself email my old graduate advisor with three possible research ideas. He and I are tentatively collaborating, so this isn't completely out of the blue.

As the week went on, I knew how dumb my ideas were, but I also saw all kinds of risk-taking encouragement on Pinterest. Great things never came from comfort zones! Successful people take big risks, knowing that they might fail hard. So I went ahead and emailed him on Friday. (To compensate, I liberally used words like "I know these ideas are terrible" and "this is just an exercise" and so on. Also "feedback is welcome but not expected." I know he's super busy at the beginning of the semester.)

Anyway: radio silence, and I'm climbing the walls. (The beautifully wallpapered walls.) I know he's busy and I explicitly said he shouldn't feel obligated to respond. And yet, emotionally WHERE'S MY VALIDATION PLEASE TELL ME I'M OKAY.  I'm wringing my hands and concluding that these ideas must have been embarrassingly awful. Secretly, of course, I'm hoping he's thrilled, but that is nine kinds of unlikely.

I don't very often feel this kind of insecurity anymore. I guess that's nice?

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A regular fight that Hokey Pokey has with either parent:
[Sobbing] "I can't wear these socks. They're too tiiiiight."
Either parent: "I don't know what you mean. They're the right size. They're thin socks. You wear them all the time."
Repeat for ten minutes.
Usually I end up forcing him to put them on, and saying "If they're still too tight when it's time to leave, we'll change your socks."
(He never does. Even when I ask him if he'd like to change his socks, he still declines.)

A gross/funny thing Pokey said:
"One time I had diarrhea like water. It came out of my butt like raindrops. Except it was brown."

He said this while having more diarrhea, from the toilet, with the door open.  Last night he had a dramatic black eye, diarrhea, and was frothing at the mouth and crying from the taste of the bitter nail polish we put on his nails, since he bites them down to the quick.

The frothing was the worst. He'd nibble his nails, and then just start drooling and spitting and, well, frothing. And tearfully sad. It was a rough night to be Hokey Pokey.

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Here I am, sticking with Crossfit in month seven of pregnancy. Because I am obedient, I record all of my significant occurances in lifting weights. And my lack of progress. The trainer who gave me the introduction classes told me to, and hey, I'm obedient.

In July, my one rep max strict press 65 lbs. (That is pathetic, by the way.) That's about the same as I could strict press in January. On Friday, I did three reps of five at 65 lbs. Aren't I ever so fluent in the lingo? Anyway, that's ridiculous progress. In the last month, I'm suddenly much stronger and more awesome.

Here is my theory: I'm in the human growth hormone phase of pregnancy. My hair is thick and luxurious and I do not lose a single strand in the shower. I think I'm sort of on steroids. Packing on muscle.

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Here is a horrifying thing that happened: I went to hang up this photo of my dear, sainted mother:

September 6, 2014 (1)

She is fourteen years old in that photo. Isn't she cute?

This pus-stuff ran down the wall, starting from behind the picture:

September 1, 2014 (1)

Then this ran up the wall, starting from the top edge of the picture:

September 1, 2014 (2)

I popped a spider. Isn't that the grossest thing that's ever grossed? I was super nauseated but I feel the need to preserve this moment for posterity. 

3 kittens

First we had flies.

Posted on 2014.08.30 at 12:37
Omg, it has been a very exciting week. Where to start.

1. It's impossibly hard to photograph wallpaper:

August 30, 2014 (1) August 30, 2014 (2)

When I try to include the window inbetween those photos, the wallpaper turns into a dark indistinguishable mass, instead of looking like pretty reflective herringbone feathers.

Here is one of the curtains that will go in between those photos:

August 30, 2014 (3)

All together now:

August 30, 2014 (1)August 30, 2014 (7) August 30, 2014 (8)August 30, 2014 (2)

I don't know that that helped.  Maybe if I add in the light fixtures? And some math?

August 30, 2014 (6)+August 30, 2014 (1)+August 30, 2014 (7)= the new dining room.

In the other little sitting area, we now have this wallpaper:

August 30, 2014 (4)

In the rest of my photos, it just comes out looking like a plain white wall. I dunno. It's paintable; I'm hoping putting a glossy white on it helps to bring out the texture.

On Tuesday, the wallpaper guy stormed out in a huff after seeing the flat drywall. He had a shouting match with the contractor and everything. "You think this counts as flat?" "I didn't know! You're the wallpaper guy! I asked you how flat it needed to be and all you would say is 'It doesn't need to be perfect'!"

Following the quitting/firing of the wallpaper subcontractor, the contractor hired a very sweet, nice hippie, who did a great job, and just hand-sanded the unacceptable patches of drywall. (Major parts of the past three months of delays have been due to the first wallpaper guy - he spent a month in Europe, he had a lot of other jobs, etc. Would that we started with the gentle hippie.)

2. On Monday, the doctor's office called and asked if I could come in for more blood draws. They wanted to do an anemia panel.

Hallelujah, there is a clinical reason I have felt so drained and awful. Being validated is the best!  But on the other hand: anemia treatments will destroy my fragile gut. Iron is well-known to shut down all digestion, which is not what I need.  So I was conflicted - elated and fearful, both.

Anemia panel yielded a B-12 deficiency. HOORAY. So I have been on some mega-pills, and the placebo part has kicked right in, at least. (The real test is being home with the kids over the weekend.)

Is this new surge in energy more exciting than the wallpaper? It's a toss-up: both are amazing.

3. Hawaii was petrified as I walked her to her classroom on the first day of kindergarten. I don't think she said a word the entire time I was there with her.

Welcome home Hawaii! How was kindergarten?
- I love the after-school program more than life itself.
- Did you know that some kids get lunch in the cafeteria instead of having their parents pack them a lunch in a lunch box? They get spaghetti and corndogs and enchiladas. Why don't we do that?
(I'm paraphrasing.)

We have learned nothing about her actual kindergarten experience, but priorities.

(More seriously, kindergarten seems to seriously drain her superego of all its energy. I think she must have her executive brain on overdrive the whole day, because she is a crabby, exhausted, spent mess at the end of the day. I assume this is a transition period and I should have sympathy. Poor Hawaii.)

4. I pick my skin compulsively. It's gotten much worse since having kids, for two reasons: first, something about pregnancy put lots of tiny pickable pores all over my arms and legs. Second, I log so many hours coaxing kids to do whatever task at hand, and it's boring, and I'm sitting there, and I pick at my arms and legs out of sheer boredom.

Hawaii picks at her bellybutton until it bleeds, and then asks for band-aids. It's kind of gross. Hokey Pokey chews on his toenails until they're down to the quick, and then asks us to cut them so they'll be smooth. We're going to buy the bitter polish. It's also gross.  The point being that they both have inherited my compulsive pickiness. I'm sorry kids: it's not my best trait.

My grandmother used to find my picking horrific - she thought it meant I was disturbed. She would tell me that it was a form of cutting. I briefly flirted with the idea that I was disturbed and cutting, and needed help, and it all seemed romantic and desirable. Fortunately I was sensible enough to recognize that actual depression is awful and not romantic nor desirable, and that I was neither depressed nor unhappy, and that I just found picking zits to be super fun.

(Then the internet came along, and zit popping videos exist, and I discovered that I really do not have the passion. Those videos are gross.)

5. First we had flies in the house.



Then came the spiders, which were better, and the flies receded. The spiders kept mostly to themselves.

Lately we've had lizards in the house. Technically they are anoles, and they are generally all over the place but normally they stay outside.

August 30, 2014 (9)

Sometimes they are bright green.  We even had a moment where we realized that Hokey Pokey was not playing with a plastic toy lizard:

August 30, 2014 (10)

but rather a dead, desiccated anole.

The flies were the worst.

6. Ace has a sign which we could not figure out. She would rub her hands up and down her sides, whenever we were getting her dressed or getting ready to go somewhere. It was inscrutable.

Finally we figured out that it meant sunscreen, as is "I dearly love to put on sunscreen and please can we do that constantly forever?"

3 kittens

Panelling of Golden Brown

Posted on 2014.08.23 at 12:24
When the family is driving me up the wall, I finally discovered the best coping strategy: go do the dishes. You get to turn your back on all the chaos, and stare out the window at some trees and birds, and you're being A Good Adult - obviously dishes need done. It's the best.

Our kitchen is set up around the laundry sink in the back of the house:

August 23, 2014 (4)

The commotion, screaming, crying and provoking each other continues, but it is behind your back.  Isn't that a nice window to gaze out of?

Quit provoking each other.

Progress in the front of the house! The contractor put up the wood panelling, and the painter painted and stained. It was an awful week - the fridge was tucked away under drop clothes, and the area was blocked off by plastic with a cumbersome zipper. The house stunk like paint and turpentine and whatever other fumes, so we had the windows open, and I wilted from the heat. Don't worry, I didn't hold back from complaining.

But now! The panelling is beautiful, the fumes have dissipated, and I can waltz to the front of the house and access the refrigerator without having to reach to the floor to unzip a fragile plastic wrap zipper (with my hands full of food and a baby and bending over itself has become a difficult exercise in air-expulsion.)

August 23, 2014 (1)

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What remains to be done? Wallpaper, mostly.

What about the kitchen?

Of all my pleasure, I still have some indigestion about the kitchen counters. Here are the opposing facts that I struggle with:
1. Of the choices available, these counters are my favorite.
2. If perfect counters were unavailable, then I should go cheap. Which we didn't. These were expensive. (Not crazy expensive like the blue marble I mentioned at one point. But not IKEA cheap.)

Part of me regrets buying expensive counters, when they're not my perfect pink marble vision of counters, but I don't like any of the other options as much.

Here's the dilemma: Jammies wants to seal the marble on the imperfect, expensive counters. In other words, they're currently unsealed counters. They will never be unsealed again! This is the one and only opportunity to experiment! If the truly perfect counters are pink marble, couldn't we try to stain these counters? I'm picturing spilling red wine on the counters for a few hours, but there's probably a more established methodology. I proposed this so many times that finally Jammies said, "Look, are you actually being serious? There is no way we're dying the counters pink."

(If Jammies called my bluff, I'm not sure what I'd say, but I'd probably research it at least.)

Here is the kitchen:

August 23, 2014 (3)

I know that is a violent shade of green. It's intense. Some will get covered up by the refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher. But I still feel a bit apologetic, like I'm hurting everyone's eyes.

However, listen: I love it. Against the violent green, I'm content with the counters, even. (The counters are still wrapped in the photo above, though, what with the yet-unsealed state.) It is my picnic, my outdoor patio, and hey, I log an awful lot of hours in the kitchen.

Not redone for resale value

Hawaiian Punch wrapped up daycare last week, and she starts kindergarten next week. She and I spent the week together running errands, buying school supplies, visiting IKEA, and so on. We met her kindergarten teacher at Back to School Night. (My brain kept chanting "Joey and Janice's Day of FUN!" which is an embarrassing reference to Friends that you should be relieved you don't get, or ashamed if you do.)

On Wednesday, Jammies and I took Hawaii and Hokey Pokey to Schlitterbahn, the local water park. (Sorry, future Ace. You got sent to daycare alone.) What is there to say about Schlitterbahn? We all had lots of fun. Hawaii liked the rides, Pokey liked the kiddie areas (but cried about spilling his Dippin' Dots and then got down and tried to eat them off the nasty green outdoor carpet, which I put the kibbosh on.) We were all beside ourselves with exhaustion afterwards.

Which is all to say: Hawaii starts kindergarten on Monday! I know it's supposed to be momentous, but I'm like "Eh, she's mature enough to start fourth grade." (Except for not knowing how to read or any of the content between kindergarten and fourth grade.) Mostly I think she'll really enjoy herself.

Five going on Forty

Here are two canonical images of Ace at sixteen months:
1. Rustling around Hokey Pokey's closet and putting on his shoes and walking around proudly. Or my shoes. Or anyone's shoes.
2. Saying incessantly "A-dat? A-dat?" and pointing, by which she is saying "What's that? What's that?" and inducing her companion to name and describe different aspects of the environment.

Pokey hates the penis pocket in his underpants. (I've mentioned this here before, I think.) So we turn them around and he wears them backwards. Which yields the extra following "perk" - he uses the penis pocket hole to dig in and scratch his butt directly.

It's hilarious and gross, and kids really don't wash their hands very often. But so funny to look over and see him rooting around through the hole in the underwear over his butt.

3 kittens

Forever with a slope of one.

Posted on 2014.08.17 at 09:49
"What's inside here?" asked Hokey Pokey.
"Those are your testicles, inside your scrotum," I said. We've been talking a lot about reproductive organs again, what with being pregnant.
"That's where the sperm is made?" he asked.
"Not yet," I said, "not till you hit puberty. But that's where it will get made when you grow up."
"No," he said. "Mine make sperm. Because I'm a SUPERHERO. So I have sperm in my testicles."
Isn't that great? We called him Sperm Boy! and Pokey Sperm Boy! and he was totally on board. (We also reminded him that this was a private conversation and that he should not be Sperm Boy at school.)

"What's your superpower?" we asked.
He struck a Spidey pose, palm out as though shooting a web: "The power of BUG SPRAY!" he declared. "I kill mean bugs."
We all agreed that that was a really great superpower.
"Not bees and wasps, because those are scary. And not nice bugs. But mean spiders and mosquitoes." That would be a really great superpower, no contest.

This summer Hokey Pokey has discovered the world of little boy toys, and he is joyfully beside himself. "They are turtles! They're ninjas! And they fight bad guys!" It's all more amazing than he ever dreamt.  Superheroes in particular are really ringing his bell.

Remebery foam

I am 27 weeks pregnant. (I stopped and counted.) My back and hips basically feel...fine. It's amazing. I attribute this to the memory foam mattress pad and to the strength training of crossfit. Aren't you used to me complaining? Isn't this nice for a change?

The memory foam is hot. To compensate, we turned our ceiling fan up to "wind tunnel". I had no idea it had a destructively powerful wind tunnel setting, but it does, and I love it. I actually feel comfortable and not-hot at night. More amazing not-complaining!

Banalogy Ann

Unfogged has an analogy ban, instituted probably six or seven years ago.  You are not allowed to argue by way of making an analogy. The reasoning was that the discussion gets derailed on the aptness or flaws of the analogy, and is no longer on the actual topic.

The analogy ban has made me work much harder to find words to say what I mean. I'm much more rhetorically skilled as a result. I used to use analogies as "This situation reminds me of another, clear-cut situation, and so I'll just stop now." Now I have to identify what the resemblance is, and translate it into the context of the actual discussion, and sometimes it falls apart in this process. Saying stuff is hard.

Foulsicle

One of my best friends came to visit. It is the type of friendship where, mid-discussion, you say "Where's our list of topics? I just thought of a few more things for us to discuss, but let's finish this first." We do keep such a list, starting a week or so before the visit.

She convinced me to hit up a GNC-knockoff type supplement shop, after I complained that I have no energy. There may not be anyone else alive who could get me to buy $90 of powders to mix in a concoction and pretend it tastes like a creamsicle. (It doesn't. Maybe a gross creamsicle.) The reason why is that she operates from the premise that this is all placebo and any normal person would also roll their eyes, but isn't it fun to experiment on yourself? Won't this be ridiculous and fun? This is also the approach you should use if you want me to drink more alcohol than I was planning on drinking.

This concoction of three powders - protein powder, veggie extract, and fuel blend - was originally prescribed by her chiropractor. It has thirty-two grams of protein, and all sorts of thousands of percents of recommended daily allowances. Honestly, I am not sure about this. At 27 weeks pregnant, the baby is pretty damn developed, but still. I seem to get a burst of energy for a few hours, but it hasn't affected the crashing-and-needing-to-urgently-nap routine.

For funsies

This is a graph I made:

August 17, 2009 (1)

It shows the average age of Geebies over time. So, from April 2009 to November 2010, we had just Hawaiian Punch. All of a sudden, Hokey Pokey was born, and the average plummeted from 1.5 years old to .75 years old. After growing steadily for 2.5 years, the average plummets once again with the birth of Ace, in April 2013. We now move into the future, anticipating the plummeting arrival of New Baby in November, 2014. After that, the moving average will grow linearly with a slope of 1 year per year, forever (god willing).

3 kittens

All fractional landmarks by mileage and time

Posted on 2014.08.09 at 09:45
All kitchen renovations are unhappy for unique reasons, and there has never been a happy kitchen renovation. Ours is unhappy because no one has showed up to work on our kitchen for over a month. "I think we can get it done before you go on vacation" turned into "It will get done while you're out of town" which turned into "The week you get back, there will be people there the whole week" and no one has showed up.

Allegedly they will be here next week. MM-HMM.

I'm sure other people's reasons are frustrating to them, but at the moment I lack the creativity to think of anything more frustrating than nobody showing up for weeks and weeks on end. We've been in our New York Style apartment since June 3.

August 9, 2014 (4)

Montana, much more serene than my current opinion of our contractor.

+++++++++++++++++++

Ace is done with pacifiers. What happened is that she started biting through them, which leaves a nickel-sized round of rubber to choke on. Sorry, sweetie.

It was a rather abrupt transition - we discovered the second pacifier, realized in hindsight what had happened to the last pacifier, and that was that. Whereas with Hawaii, we read online about some Binky Fairy who takes your pacifier and leaves a toy, and we prepped her in advance, and generally were model parents. (After that, we denied pacifiers altogether to Hokey Pokey, just to see how it would go. It went fine; he used his baby bottle as a pacifier; we had analogous trauma when it was time to be done with baby bottles.)

August 9, 2014 (3) August 9, 2014 (2)

Night-night, bug-boxes. Night-night. I wish I had a photo montage of all the inanimate objects that Ace patted to sleep, saying "Nigh-nigh. Nigh-nigh."

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My friend who is 30 told me "You're a model for me on how to go gray, gracefully. I can't think of anyone else who doesn't dye their hair."  I was like "My gray hair is that obvious?"

It's depressing to be simultaneously pregnant and a model of aging gracefully. Truth be told, I feel conspicuously too old to still be having babies. (I am 36.) Here is the catch: Anyone in my cohort who will still have future babies is obviously not yet pregnant. So my status as "oldest ever of people my age" is an illusion, and only time will tell who will have more babies. But emotionally I feel like an outlier.

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Hokey Pokey, font of wisdom:
"We're not in Montana yet because I see fences. There are no fences in Montana."
"Everything that's tall and has a light is a skyscraper. It doesn't have to be a building."
"When a soccer player takes a corner kick, how does the ball get into the goal?" (He came out after bedtime to ask that question. We were openly delighted that he was contemplating the logistics of such a thing, and readily chatted about putting spin on the ball or having a teammate head the ball in.)
"I'm just practicing running from danger." (On tearing back and forth on a sidewalk, and explaining to me that he was not going to run off.)
"Does the inside of a tank turn, when you turn the outside of a tank from the inside?" (What he means is: does the soldier's little room also turn, when he turns the gun mounted on top of the tank? That question did not arrive in the final form quoted above, but rather mangled.)


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Tuesday morning, Amarillo, morning gas station stop for coffee. Another man approached and tapped on my window as I was getting in the car.  I froze, flooded with deja vu, and my heart raced.

"How do you get your knowledge?" he asked, after I rolled down the window. "My knowledge?" I stammered.

He handed me this pamphlet:


August 9, 2014 (8)

Hint: Not science or philosophy.

He scampered off rather meekly after giving me the pamphlet. His hair was a silver televangelist's helmet, swirled up something like this:


August 9, 2014 (1)

except a bit more Elvis-like. He wore a pearl snap shirt and light blue old man jeans, but the hair is what I wish I could reproduce for you.

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Wyoming has a beautiful picnic area, just south of Cheyenne:

August 9, 2014 (5) August 9, 2014 (6)

We pretty much ignored the full-fledged playground in favor of this one tree.

August 9, 2014 (7)

That was Sunday, when we dropped Jammies and Ace off at the Denver airport, and I finished the rest of the drive with the big kids.

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When we finally arrived at home, the house opened up like a grand cathedral at twilight. It was clean. Dust sparkled in the sunlight. It was calm, aside from the fact that we had just showed up. The headspace, oh the headspace, and how not-clausterphobic I felt anymore.

Let me describe the last day: we drove 530 miles from Amarillo to our house. According to my phone, it was projected to take nine hours.

I got dizzy with fractions: I mapped out all fractional landmarks by mileage and time, ie landmarks are when we are 1/10th of the way home, 3/5th of the way home, etc. Then I'd compute: By how much am I beating the projected travel time of nine hours? If I finished the rest of the drive at exactly 60 mph, how much earlier than nine hours would I arrive? Then I'd do it the other direction - if we're coming up to a nice fraction of nine hours, how much are we beating the corresponding percentage of mileage?

It was very dull, but I'd thought about everything else possible by that point. (The kids' TV does have headphones.But the headphones are adult-sized, and the kids complain. In theory we've solved this problem in theory - use stuffed baseball hats or something to make the headphones fit. We haven't actually implemented any of the solutions. So their movies play over the main speaker system, and I drift in fraction hell.)

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The most delirious moment came between when I past 3/5ths of the way home (at 318 miles) and I thought that there were no more landmarks until 3/4ths of the way home (at 397.5 miles) and that stretched very far away.

All of a sudden I jumped and silently screamed "I forgot about 2/3rds! How could I forget about 2/3rds!" And 353 1/3 miles was fast approaching! Oh god look at this war chest of fractions flooding me right this minute! (How could I? 2/3rds, how could I forget about you? and how delightfully thrilling that I did.)

I secretly ate three large bags of jelly beans and three small bags of M&Ms (to stay awake) and the kids never realized. Like an asshole, I offered them rice cakes and fruit and sandwiches, while I silently retched from my sugar overload.  I felt totally sick and nauseated, but it kept me wakeful and safe to drive, so who's zooming who.

3 kittens

Boeuf du Carpet

Posted on 2014.08.04 at 21:51
Greetings from Day 3 of 4, on the return trip. I'm actually writing this in Amarillo, in the same Inn of Swanky Decay as last time. The kids are more frayed, I'm more frayed. The hotel room is dark, the kids are tearfully in bed, and there is a metric ton of ground beef under my feet, because I ordered ten bean and cheese tacos (meaning soft, because I'm a normal person) and they gave us ten crunchy ground beef and cheese tacos. (I should have known something was wrong when he clarified "So no lettuce and tomatoes?") Hawaii and Pokey initially turned up their noses, but I let them play in the pool for two hours, at which point they were starving and decompensating and wolfed them down. Anyway crunchy tacos are super messy and there's a lot of ground beef on the carpet under my feet. Ground beef and cheese crunchy tacos (from Taco Bueno) taste primarily of salt.

Here is a stage that Geeblets seem to hit at 3 1/2: the relentless monologue. Today Hokey Pokey asked what the biggest bone is (don't even go there), and I answered "The thigh bone." For twenty minutes, he listed bones (the hair bone, the eye bone, the chin bone, the tummy bone) and their paths (it starts in your hair and goes to your wrists, then your toes, then your hands, then back to your toes, etc) until he definitively outlined how each one was longer than the last. For twenty minutes.

Finally I said "I have to stop listening," because it was making me so drowsy. (When Hawaii was this age, I vividly remember a two mile hike in which she chatted continuously for the whole thirty minutes.)

Ugh, this ground beef carpet is so gross.

Montana was lovely. I'm not really in the right headspace to upload a bunch of beautiful photos and describe the slip-n-slide, the sunset, the climbing tree. There were extra guests there - friends of my sister-in-law's - the whole week, which made it very easy for me to be reclusive as much as I desired. We watched Naked Dating a bunch.

Really the kids have been basically fine, and I'm finding that four days on the road is just too long for me. I thought that as an adult, I could drive indefinitely, but no. (Jammies says "Next year you won't be pregnant". Thank fucking god for that. Right now picking something off the car floor knocks the wind out of me. On the plus side, brushing my teeth feels like heaven.)

Today is Jammies' birthday, but he's home with Ace, 600 miles away. Tomorrow, my dear, I will bring you amped up children whose tummies always seem to hurt.

A nice thing is that the pool is right outside our door, and listening to evening cavorting and splashing is kind of soothing. It's a heavily trafficked pool. One of my favorite things in the world is when you're camping, and you're nice and stoned, to go to bed in your tent and eavesdrop on all your friends around the campfire. It's just like hanging out, except you're snug in your sleeping bag with your eyes closed. 

3 kittens

Price change in progress

Posted on 2014.07.28 at 21:40
On Wednesday afternoon,

I took Hokey Pokey and Hawaiian Punch to swim lessons. Then Jammies met us, handed us a cooler, we buckled ourselves in, and started driving north to Montana. The first thing we did was watch Annie.  (They watched, I listened.)

July 28, 2014 (1

What's up with the foot, I-35?

We got to Fort Worth by that evening.

On Thursday morning,

we ate the hotel's customary breakfast.

July 28, 2014 (1,4)

After, I stopped for gas and coffee. When I got back in the car, some guy knocked on my window.  I rolled down the window and he said, "I'm a lawyer, and you could be arrested for leaving your kids in the car like that. Someone could call the cops on you."

I somehow shifted into Professor Mode, and thought he had a valid point - other meddlesome people might be meddlesome, and I should be aware of those meddlesome assholes.  So I said, "Actually, under Texas Law, it's legal to leave your kids in the car unattended for up to five minutes." Which is true.

He said, "You were in there for eight minutes." Now I realized that he was an asshole, and I got flabbergasted and lost my composure. "It's 8:30 in the morning! It's not hot out!" I protested. It was maybe 75° out.

He told me I was irresponsible and should know better, and I got out of the car and followed him to his car, calling him a meddlesome ass. He responded, "You know you were being irresponsible, and that's why you're getting so upset now. Because you know what you did was wrong." He was super smirky and pompous about it. I was outraged and flummoxed and flailing.

It's funny: harassing parents about leaving kids in the car under perfectly safe conditions is such a trendy, current thing to do. It has been in the news so much lately that I had a well-thought-out opinion on it: meddlesome assholes who meddle are assholes. If he'd picked a different, unexpected topic, I would have been accommodating and apologetic, and only later realized what a jackass he'd been. I would have seethed differently then, mad at myself for not recognizing his meddlesome assiness in real time.

Anyway, he drove off. And I drove off. And there's no recourse except to tell Jammies and write about it online. I was worked up and furious, and had no way to wind down, so I just fumed for awhile. My best retroactive line was: "Your friends and family must think you are the world's most pompous ass," because it's probably true and so it would sting.

We watched (listened to) Annie a second time.

Halfway through the day, I pulled over and napped for 20 minutes. The kids patiently watched TV. I let the minivan idle, because what else are the options? I didn't feel bad about it, but it feels like a Bad Environmentalist to type it out for posterity.

July 28, 2014 (1,6) July 28, 2014 (1,5)

DO NOT LIFT NOZZLE. PRICE CHANGE IN PROGRESS. Okay then, I won't.

We arrived in Amarillo that afternoon. We stayed at a marvelous hotel chosen for its indoor pool.

July 28, 2014 (1,7) July 28, 2014 (1,8)

It was a glamorous 50s hotel, renovated in the 70s, and left to decay ever since.

On Friday I drove west.

About a half hour outside Amarillo, I realized my phone was telling me to take back roads, in conflict with the main roads chosen by my printouts and intuition.

I pulled over and consulted the phone, which said to me "Look, it's 7 hours if you go my way, and 8 hours if you double back and go your way. Your pick." I hemmed and hawed and finally agreed with my phone that 7 hours was better than 8 hours.

We started down tiny two-lane roads with no shoulder and no sign of life. We watched (listened to) Annie a third time, and my anxiety rose, and I tried to game out what would happen if the minivan broke down. It was beautiful, though: pink little arroyos or mesas or I have no idea what they're called. Pink little sandy rocky structures and lots of scrub brush hills.

About 45 minutes later my phone said "Haha, you forgot that I'd quit working when I stopped getting reception." I told it, "Asshole, I didn't forget. I took note. You said to stay on this road for the next two hours, until I get to I-25."

We drove on. Then, in a tiny town, the road I was following (385/87) split into 385 and 87. I chose wrong, and so we visited New Mexico briefly.

July 28, 2014 (1.1)

See Dalhart in the tippy toppy northwest corner? It turns out both 385 and 87 collide with I-25 and it won't make much difference which you choose.  You might as well base it on whether you'd rather briefly see New Mexico or Oklahoma. Since I've been to Oklahoma, I'm happy to say I chose well. But at the time, I felt like I'd made yet another tactical error, and got anxious. I may have yelled at the kids.

(I am not recording all the times that I lost my temper.  Rosy-colored memory, activate!)

We got to Denver that afternoon, and stayed with my college friends with perfectly-aged children for Hawaii and Pokey to gallop off with. Jammies and Ace arrived that night. I felt like I'd accomplished something profound, by which I'm referring to just getting the solo drive done, not something more better profound.

On Saturday morning,

we started off, as a family of five. It was nice to have Jammies to talk to. We watched (listened to) Annie for the fourth time, in the morning, and drove through Wyoming, and later we watched (listened to) Annie it a fifth time, after dinner outside of Billings, in violation of the explicit rule that we can only watch Annie once per day.

Montana, you're so pretty:

July 28, 2014 (1,9)

We drove and drove and drove and arrived at Mimi's at 2:30 am, late Saturday night. I really feel like I earned this vacation, you know?

On Sunday,

when we watched Annie, I finally discovered what anyone looks like. (Bernadette Peters, that was you?! And Tim Curry.)(Bolsheviks are trying to get Mr. Warbucks, because they hate that he proves the American Dream works.)("Mr. Warbucks, Mr. Warbucks, those weren't Annie's parents - they was bad people!" "Leapin' Lizards!" Etc.) It's not the worst movie, but it's not the best either.

I love Tim Curry:

July 28, 2014 (1.2)

3 kittens

The kids still can't swim worth shit

Posted on 2014.07.20 at 10:40
I would be so anxiety-riddled if I were going back to work in August, like usual. How pathetic is that? "If I had to function like a regular employed adult, what a mess I'd be." Thank god for sabbaticals!  I'm miserably low-energy, but sure, I can sit around the house and think about math.

Right now I am also taking a driver's safety online course because I was naughty and got a ticket. (I feel genuine shame: I sped in a school zone. It's very hard to say that without listing extenuating reasons: there are no blinking lights or markers on this school zone, and it was a few minutes past 6 am, and I usually pass through before 6 am, and uh, I sped.  I mean, I sped with respect to the school zone speed. I didn't blow through there at 60 mph.)

I'm learning:
1. you should tap your brakes to let the driver behind you know you're about to brake.

2. If your engine fails, you are not supposed to shift to neutral and try to restart the car in motion, which I swear is what I was told twenty years ago.  Which I used, extensively, with the defunct Volvo. Now you're supposed to get off the road first.

3. Steering: 10:00 and 2:00 are no longer the recommended hand positions. Now it is 8:00 and 4:00. You can turn the wheel further without your arms crossing. Also it's better for the air bag to deploy.

"For most drivers, when properly seated, an 8 and 4 hand position allows a smooth rotation of the steering wheel of nearly 90 to 160 degrees in either direction without crossing your arms. With the push/pull or push/pull/slide method, while one hand pushes or pulls the steering wheel up or down in the direction of the turn, the other hand slides up or down to make fine adjustments as necessary." I like cumbersome descriptions that boil down to "pretend you are an ordinary person who gets what a steering wheel is."

The section on vehicular emergencies - a blowout, loss of power steering, etc - is my favorite and I'm finding it actually helpful. Evasive action! What to do if you are forced re-enter the roadway before you've come to a stop: hold the wheel tightly. Steer and immediately counter-steer. "The two turns should be made as a single "steer, counter-steer" move."  Evasive acceleration!

The section on drugs and alcohol was my least favorite, complete with gory videos to make you cry about people killed by drunk drivers. (To identify drivers who might be on drugs, be aware of drivers who cannot seem to stay in one lane, who are not using their headlights, and who are sitting in unusual positions.)

"Remember, skids are usually caused by driver error."

On Wednesday evening, I will load Hokey Pokey and Hawaiian Punch into the minivan and we will drive to Denver. Jammies and Ace are flying in, and we will pick them up in Denver on Friday night. Then we will all drive to Montana. A week later, we'll do this in reverse. It's a 16 hour drive to Denver, and another 16 hours to Mimi's house in Montana. (Jammies and Ace are flying to and from Denver so that Jammies doesn't have to take so many days off work.)

I am planning like a madwoman for the stretches when I am solo-parenting and -driving. I'm concerned about my stamina and lack thereof. I'm concerned about my patience and lack thereof.

We are doing this because flights to Montana are super expensive. This year we'd only need four tickets, but soon we'll need six. With the big kids well potty-trained and Ace still flying for free, it seemed like a good year to get a test run under our belt.

Patience and lack thereof

Hawaiian Punch is fantastic at coloring things in:

July 20, 2014 (2) July 20, 2014 (1)

Jammies and I quietly mutter to ourselves that neither of us had any sort of drawing dexterity close to that degree of coloring.

Exactly nothing has happened in the front half of the house in two weeks. Some prep work, but nothing exciting.

The kids still can't swim worth shit, but this summer's swim lessons has gotten them bold and comfortable in the water - going underwater, trying as hard as they can to swim back to the wall even if they flounder and sink, etc. I count it as a win.

When we enter the swimming pool area in the gym, Hawaii takes a deep breath and exclaims "CHLORINE! I love chlorine!" She hams it up: "My old friend, chlorine! I love you!" The swim instructor is named Karina, and the kids adore her, but it's possible they think her name is Chlorina.

After swim lessons, Pokey suffers a regularly-scheduled existential crisis over his wet, wrinkly hands. "My food will get soggy!" he wails. "We can dry them off," I tell him. He dries them on the towel, sees that they are still wrinkly and white-palmed, and melts down. "My flip flops will get soggy," he sobs as he puts them on.

My old friend, Chlorina

As I am somewhat obsessed with death, it occurs to me that my I contemplate my own, it's very closely tied to the existence of this blog, and how at least a detailed narrative of my interior life exists. In other words, I blog to stave off death.

Stave, stave

Oddly, I can still go to Crossfit and exercise like a crazy person for an hour. Something about the context is so consistent that I just automatically go through the class like always. But afterwards I am zapped to my core and generally must nap. Later on, in the heat of the day, if I walk Hawaii to the library to pick out biographies about Pocahontas, I get stupidly drained and must nap.  (On the plus side, I know a lot about Pocahontas and the establishment of Jamestown now. Or should I say née Matoaka, née Rebecca Rolfe.)

Energy-wise, it's genuinely as though I am not a full-functioning adult, and it's kind of awful. On the other hand, I've got the luxury of Jammies' work ethic and parenting, and this job situation, allowing me to live as a partially-functioning adult until this baby is born and I'm never ever pregnant again. Gratitude, etc., thank you magical ether for the dappled sunlight and cush job, and I should probably rave about Jammies more here, but on Facebook if someone raves excessively about their spouse, I often suspect they're having marital problems.

Also I've now learned how to query a literary agent and get quickly rejected. Skillz.

3 kittens

Nicely gawking without openly rudely gawking

Posted on 2014.07.13 at 11:00
On Monday we drove to Kansas. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Jammies' family gathered and the cousins played, and we attended the funeral and reception. On Thursday we drove home again. It's about ten hours.

July 13, 2014 (3)

The first half of the funeral was a slideshow and some touching memories from family.The second half was a sermon called "Sin and Death Go Together", delivered by a psychotic pastor who relished describing hell with a smirk. He kept referring to the recently deceased as "a pile of ash, before Jesus." It was pretty over-the-top offensive. On the plus side, all of a sudden I wasn't messily weepy. I regained my composure and then some anger on top.

(The psychotic pastor told a story of a brash senior in high school who visits the guidance counselor (like the deceased), and is super excited about college. The guidance counselor asks him "And then what?" The kid speculates about post-college. The guidance counselor asks him "And then what?" about five more times, and the kid gets less sure and less sure, the further out he tries to predict his life. The pastor got smirkier and smirkier as the kid's answers got vaguer and more unsure. Somehow the moral of the story was that the kid should have been certain that his life would get him into Heaven? He was supposed to be super cocky and have all these right answers about how his life would unfold, instead of not knowing? What a nonsensical crock of shit.)

I feel like I ought to describe the aunt, her personality and character, as unappointed unofficial archivist here. That maybe someday the value in this entry would be reduced to her grandchild wanting to know more about her. But I didn't spend that much time with her, so everything I'd say - she was stern but loving in that schoolteacher way, she was a worrier - is second-hand. Those are things her sons and Mimi say about her, and anyone searching here for that would already know what the sons and Mimi say about her.

The town is so rural and isolated that the directions to the reception were "Don't turn onto any dirt roads. Stay on paved roads and you'll be right there."  We ate mashed potatoes covered with a sauce of chicken and noodles. I've never had such a dish before, but how convincingly midwestern.

July 13, 2014 (1)

(The funeral was not in Moore, Home of Toby Keith. I even like Toby Keith, of Moore, Oklahoma, or the less partisan parts of his musical repertoire, at least. Just recording things we passed.)

Jammies' youngest brother is a 25 year old petroleum engineer. He's not dumb, he took AP history classes, etc. He just got back from his second trip to Europe, with some of his frat-bros. There's no dignified, respectful way to say this: he just found out about the Holocaust. One of his friends wanted to go to the Holocaust museum in Berlin, and Jammies' brother basically found out that the whole thing happened. "I hated it! I mean, I'm glad I saw it but now I hate Germans. I can't believe it happened."

I tried to tease him and nicely gawk at his ignorance without openly rudely gawking in his face. Hopefully I walked that very fine line.

WVWVWVWVWVWVWV

I've got this confusion: I am on summer vacation and then sabbatical, which means I am utterly free from time-related stress. It's marvelous and relaxing and I want to savor it.

I am also pregnant and uncomfortable and my digestive system is a petty, fickle bitch, and all I want is to be no-longer-pregnant ever again. To have this last baby, have him be healthy, and finally be done reproducing.

But the latter means the former is over. The former means savoring the pregnancy. I find these two frameworks difficult to simultaneously hold.

WVWVWVWVWVWVWV

When Hawaii was two months old, my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer. That was the worst summer.  That fall, mom was undergoing chemo, Jammies and I got married, I adjusted to being a working mom, (I got swine flu - it was 2009 - which allowed me to briefly be at my pre-pregnancy weight for the wedding itself.  That part is funny.) It was a rough stretch.

In the middle of this, a publisher said that they wanted to publish the children's book that Mom and I had written. They asked if we had any others, which we did, and offered us a double-book contract.

We acquired an agent, which is quite easy to do when you've got a contract in hand.  The agent negotiated the contract while mom was on the phone post-op, pretending that the wheezing of the machines were not actually hospital noises.

The agent turned out to be an utter shithead, who really did not represent us afterwards and jerked us around. I did not like her at all.

In the middle of this, Random House closed the branch that was publishing our books. The first got published but went unpromoted. The second, which was all mocked up and ready to go, got canned. Although they did pay us a tidy sum to ditch us.

Our agent failed to shop around the second book, and Mom began to ship it off to various places, and five years elapsed. Mom (oh so happily for me, did I dodge a bullet or what) has stayed in remission.

Then on Friday, an e-publisher said they want to acquire the digital rights to the second book. Isn't that nice? The end. I mean, let's see what happens!

WVWVWVWVWVWVWV

I am not tolerating the heat very well. About a month later than usual, temperatures have become summer-like, and I get faint and pukey-feeling and have to nap. It feels so stupid to be so fragile.

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Sometimes Hokey Pokey looks like Richard Simmons, except cuter.

Ace is a solid brick of baby. In Kansas, I saw new sides of her: she walked up and snuggled with anyone. But she was very serious about it. Calm and serious and snuggly, whereas at home she is sillier and more active.  

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Atay, atay, atay

Posted on 2014.07.05 at 11:27
Maybe it will be funny for Halloween this year, when I will be nine months pregnant and manatee-shaped, if I dress up as the Bee Girl from Blind Melon all those decades ago.

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To capitalize on my frumpy condition.

Renovation Nation

After a month in our New York Style apartment, this past week saw a ton of kitchen activity. We now have floors and counters and a backsplash:

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It is exactly my vision. It looks like an outdoors patio. (It is not complete. More brick plus apple green paint to come. Trust in Heebie.)(Also the counters have plastic wrap covering up their gray-ness.)

The Last Baby

We found out that this last one will be a baby boy! I am so pleased. Knowing the gender makes the fetus into an individual that I start relating to (because I am indoctrinated with the patriarchy and but a pawn for The Man in the system, etc.)  We get to start thinking about names. I can purge a mountain of baby girl clothes.

We will be that kind of family, the symmetric kind.

The Aunt

Last week, Jammies' aunt took a serious turn for the worse. She's been battling pancreatic cancer for over a year. She's a lovely person and the whole thing is distressing. Mimi was staying with her.

Jammies made plans to spend the 4th of July weekend up in Kansas with them, to say goodbye and support Mimi. He was going to take Ace with him, to make my life a little easier.

I made plans to be Model Grandma this weekend - ply the kids with treats and movies and swimming this weekend. I even got revved up that we'd have a great time.

Then, the aunt died on Thursday. Which yes has the silver lining of not prolonging her suffering, but at the moment is just rather sad for those who are closest to her.  So Jammies and Ace are home this weekend, after all, and we will all drive up to Kansas for the funeral on Monday.

At the moment, I'm reminded of how many aunts and uncles and grandparents and parents are still living. Of how many sad deaths and funerals there are to come. Natural age-related deaths. Not going to contemplate the tragic shock kind of death.

The family

Ace has new words: "Atay!" for okay, "all da!" for "all done" being the main ones, although I think she calls her stuffed owl an "Owl" on prompting.

My favorite thing is when she mutters "Atay, atay, atay," under her breath, as though she's exasperated with the situation. And maybe she is.

Hokey Pokey is passionate, but passionate, about soccer and hockey. It is all he wants to play.  He has a soccer outfit, and asks if he can wear it every day. He explains how his other shirts are soccer shirts for complicated reasons.

"When is soccer practice?" he asks often. We tried. We signed Hawaii up for the Under 6 soccer team this fall, but Pokey, at 3 1/2 was younger than the cut-off. Pokey will have to wait for the kiddie indoor soccer season in November, which they both played in last year.

The odd thing about babies and kids is that you're always loving this person who is in a state of rapid change. The baby you loved three months ago doesn't exist anymore.  One thing that is nice about having so many babies is that all of their 15 month old stages run together, and becomes a little more tangible and concrete, even as it slips away. 

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The crust on the ice cream

Posted on 2014.06.29 at 19:20
I had a lovely time with my parents in town. I exploited their largesse and acquired some curtains and lights, but that's not (entirely) what made the visit nice. They played with the kids a lot, and we went to the Witte museum in San Antonio.



Somehow I got a ring of chigger bites around my middle, which confounds me. I haven't done anything in nature in forever.

Many years ago, my dad would tell this story, on regular rotation: "So, I was peeing, and I looked at my penis, and I saw something!  I looked at this black dot closer, and it turns out there was tick! on the tip of my penis!" he would say. "A tick! The thing is, my entire life is: home, hospital, fitness center, and back home. In between it's just parking lots and my car." You see where he's going with this. "When on earth did a tick get on my dick?! I haven't been in nature in months! I haven't been out of the air conditioning in months, in fact."  My chigger-waistband story above is really less salacious.

This is the first visit in years by them. Excluding visits where I give birth. It's much better when nobody is waiting for me to go into labor. It took a lot of needling from me to get them to visit, and now that is a sore spot. (The context is that they visit my brothers each once or twice a year, but not us. My brothers do not visit my parents, and don't generally attend family get togethers, which we do. So my parents see all of us kids about the same amount, but it's all very lopsided in terms of who is doing the traveling.)

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But the visit was lovely.

At an emotional scene in the movie, Hawaii crawled into my lap, sobbing, and said, "That thing is happening again. That thing where I feel the same thing as the people in the movie." We were watching Pocahontas, which is a pretty relentlessly serious, emotional little kid's movie.

That is just so sweet, though, that Hawaii gets weepy in empathy with the characters. In turn, I get weepily protective of her sweet heart.

"Why am I crying?"

Hokey Pokey likes to tell people that the new baby will be a boy, because Ace needs someone to marry. As in: he will marry Hawaii, and Ace and New Baby shall also pair off. This makes me look like a homophobic asshole: wherever does he get these notions that girls can only marry boys! We do not propagate such nonsense at home! (Or I'm paranoid.) Either way, I clumsily clarify, "We tell him that girls can marry girls too! Anyone can get married. Ha ha thud."  It's all very clunky.

In fact, we will find out the sex of the new baby on Tuesday! I'm terribly curious. Will we be a three-girls-and-one-boy family, where people comment on Pokey's loneness? Or a two-girls-and-two-boys family, where people comment on the symmetry? They both seem nice.

When I was pregnant with Pokey, I was burning hot. Jammies said, "Is that you giving off all that heat? You're an oven!" laying next to me in bed. My belly radiated heat.  This time I'm not so hot, so when asked, I say that I think this one is a girl. But really I have no idea.

I bought these shorts:

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Those are faux-paint splatters, which is stupid but harmless. When Hawaii saw them, she gasped "What is that?" and I launched into an unnecessary explanation about why one might fake the presence of paint splatters. At the end, she waived me away, saying "I thought it was bird poop."

At one point I asked my parents, "So, you've got eight grandkids. Do any of them do anything that reminds you of any of your own kids?" My parents put their alien hats on and were utterly stumped. "Its…it's never occurred to us!" they fumbled. "Why would we…anyone…I think we're short circuiting out?"

It's a good thing that they see all people as individuals. It's best not to assign too many traits to Heritage and Family, and just let each person be themselves. But still - never crossed your mind?

(In other ways, they are happy to compare us. Brother #1 has a beautiful grand piano which is horribly out of tune, which my mother finds abhorrent. The kids take piano lessons and practice on a horrible-sounding piano. Mom is aghast. Me and Jammies, we have a $200 crappy keyboard which does not even have a full 88 keys. Mom was appalled. She sat down to do some sightreading she'd brought and was traumatized. She wants to buy us a fancy digital piano. We are happy for her to do so! Buy away! The last sibling has a fancy digital piano, which we expect that Mommy-Goldilocks will find just right. Mom argued that she may hate it, who can say. She will play on this last piano next week, and she will let us know. Her own piano, which we grew up practicing on, does have a very beautiful resonance.)

Also they are utterly incurious about my grandmother's memoir. In fact, no one in my family is reading the memoir.  I find this baffling. It's such a light, lively read! She's your mother/in-law/relative!

Fortunately, anyone bothering to read my Livejournal, years in the future will clearly be the sort that cherishes boring old family memoir accounts and will side with me.

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But really I had a lovely visit with my parents! I'm just a complainer!

(Liveblogging: kids, for the love of god, stop messing with each other's private parts. I really, really miss having separate adult space in this house.)

Cute things the kids did:

Pokey: Milk comes from a cow's udder. Where does chocolate milk come from? From the cow's mouth?
Hawaii (laughing): No! They get the milk first, and then they get chocolate syrup, and they mix the chocolate in with the milk!
Pokey: But cows don't have hands!

Oh we are just a sitcom on wheels. The whole family was laughing in a slightly picture-perfect remember-forever way.

Also Pokey calls an ice cream cone - in particular, the cone - the crust on the ice cream. "You can eat the crust when you get ice cream with crust!"  With delight. The kids now love cones.

I withheld ice cream cones from them their entire lives, until a few weeks ago when Grandma Mimi gave them some. I detest kids eating ice cream.  The worst is kids eating ice cream cones. Also I hate popsicles. Also I hate bubbles.  Blowing bubbles is the absolute worst. You have about two seconds before the kid wants to hold the bubble mix, and then you have another three seconds before the bubble mix has been up-ended all over the kid and yourself. I would get rid of the entire bubble blowing industry if I could.

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This is the time of year that the crepe myrtles bloom like they are rock salt configurations.

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The most convenient messaging device available

Posted on 2014.06.21 at 17:17
Each summer I like to have a project. I think my project this year is sloth. I'm vastly underscheduled. It's a defensive reflex, recovering from the end of the school year, but I should probably get with the program, since it's been a solid month. But it's so goddamned lovely. On Friday, I planned meals for my parents' visit and went grocery shopping, and only that seemed like a reasonable amount of structured work. I had a lovely day.

I do have a real project - remember my grandmother's memoir? I am now blogging it biweekly. However, her name is very similar to my real name, so I'm keeping my firewall intact. (If you'd like the url, leave a comment. I'm happy to share it over email.)

My plan had been to start my sabbatical early.  Math sounded exciting and engaging, from the point of view of the end of the semester. "I'll read a bunch of papers, and tinker around with some ideas, and start my sabbatical already running," I naively predicted. I mused that perhaps I should have chosen a career path involving more research.

And the big answer is: nope! I have picked up math exactly twice in the past month. I am not pulled to it. Occasionally my mild sense of obligation pushes me into it. Teaching, with it's schedule and format, is actually a good choice for me for the exact same reasons it was a good choice eight years ago. after all. What a nice outcome for a sabbatical: to confirm my life choices.

I'll have to do something, because I have to account for the semester, although "see, I made a baby" probably gives me some slack. For this moment, though, I'm taking lots of naps.

Being well-rested is the best.

Hokey Pokey has a tendency to shriek "I NEED A WET NAPKIN!", horrified, when his hands are sticky. (Our kids detest having sticky hands.)

But when he hasn't been eating, we're not sure why his hands are so sticky. "Let me see your hands, what's up?" we say. When he shows us, they are covered with little sugar crystals: we put the sugar on a lower shelf in our New York Style Apartment, and he has discovered he can plunge his entire hand into a vat of pure sugar and lick it off.  When he has had enough, he shrieks in horror that his hands are sticky.  (So we moved the sugar.)

It's his cheese.

My parents are arriving tonight. I left a message with them, to double-check they weren't renting a car. Here's how my mom responded - she logged into Travelocity, and re-sent their flight itinerary to my email account, and in the little box where you can include a message, she wrote "Hi, No car rental. Will phone/text if delays. Looking forward :) Hugs, Mom"

I laughed (out loud, even) because:

1) sure, why not use the itinerary message box of Travelocity as the most convenient messaging device available in the year 2014. I can't think of a better way to get in touch.

2) See, Mom writes messages as though she's being charged by the character. The best was when I went to college, and she would leave messages conserving the number of words uttered. But not elapsed time. Nice long pauses, while she mentally shortened each sentence to its barest form. "Hi Heebie.....Mom....Out Thurs, call Fri?" Who actually utters "Thurs" and "Fri"?  (Oh mothers! what the dickens.)

Part of me is masochistically curious to find out what my children will mock me for, in a decade. The dorky way I open my eyes too wide when I'm sizing up a situation? I got mocked for that, once.

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A round-up

Posted on 2014.06.16 at 18:59
Ace:
Has an emergent personality. She is passionate about sitting in chairs:

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All chairs, really, not just the toddler barrel rocking chair. I just wanted a photo montage of Ace sitting in that one chair.

She is also passionate about the Itsy-Bitsy Spider.  She will do it along with you, sort of. Her siblings are passionate about the "The Poopy-Poopsy Diaper (Fell off the Baby's Butt)" which I made the mistake of improvising.

Also Hawaii has four teeth coming in, all at once, all in the top row:

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and she can point to her eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and belly, upon being asked to do so.

Pokey:
Explainer of all things.

"Did you know the only thing that can land on a roof is a bird?"
"Did you know that water turns germs into water?"
"Dragon flies are our friends. They don't want to bite us. That's why they have long legs."

"This is a baby branch:..

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...It will become a new tree when it gets bigger."

Pokey was naked at story time, and we read the book version of "If You're Happy And You Know It", which is more animal themed than the regular song: in different verses, you stomp your hooves, give a roar, etc. When we got to "If you're happy and you know it, wave your trunk",  Hokey Pokey obligingly wiggled his toddler penis this a-way and that a-way. It was pretty great.

Hawaii:
Jammies picked her up at daycare, and Hawaii said "Do you know what my necklace says?"

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"It says F...A...R....T!"

Jammies was amused. The teacher was caught flatfooted, "She...she did it on her own. I only saw it just now."

She also was diagnosed with four cavities at her dentist appointment. If you're keeping score at home, this is cavities numbers 5 through 8. Some enamel development failed to happen in utero, or around birth.

They told us to get her flossing. At first I balked. What I then realized is that five year olds really don't have many teeth, total. It's nowhere near the task of flossing one's adult teeth. Here she goes, with her hand mirror:

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Heebie, that photo is hard to discern.

Jammies:
Played in a hockey tournament this weekend, which I failed to document. But I did document the game room downstairs. What's that stuffed toy in the claw-grab game?

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It's the racist shitheads from Duck Dynasty. That seems questionable.

Hawaii and Ace play on the Dance Dance Revolution machine:

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Happy Father's Day, Jammies!

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The house:
We have a garden window!

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While I love the garden window, it didn't exactly take nine days to install. But nine days have elapsed. While living in our NYC style apartment has its charms, I wouldn't mind if we were minimizing our stay.

My butt:
This is embarrassing and TMI. You may remember that I get monstrously stopped up during pregnancy. It's always an internal struggle (HA) between my desire to complain and reap sympathy vs. my embarrassment about my broken butt. There was a month when I was very pregnant with Ace, where I wept, walking around, and it's all very embarrassing to explain the details of what made it weepingly painful. I was prescribed topical steroids, but they were only effective for seven days at a time. Post-Ace's birth, I had three out-patient procedures to correct some of the most dire of consequences. It's been a big problem.

I get asked for my recommendation on pregnancy books. (This is connected to the prior paragraph.) Since I have no go-to recommendation, when I came across The Panic-Free Pregnancy, I bought it to skim and potentially be able to recommend it to the newly pregnant.

I flipped to the section on common complaints, and looked up Constipation. The book said "Stop taking those fucking over-prescribed prenatals, for one."  (Maybe I'm paraphrasing.) "Look, a folic acid deficiency is dangerous in the first trimester, but you're fine.  Everyone over-emphasizes them out of inertia and laziness and inclination to feel virtuous. They have side-effects, and stop taking them at once if you're stopped up. Especially if you're past the first trimester."  I assume there's iron in there, but I never made the connection before.

So I did, and also bought some Super Colon Blow cereal. Wonders.

Three horrible pregnancies with real, awful symptoms, and no one said "Quit the prenatals." No one in any pregnancy forum or anything.  ARRRRGGH.

(As a side-benefit, my weight gain has slowed noticeably. That would be nice to not gain extra weight, like always.)

3 kittens

Nest of Cowlicks

Posted on 2014.06.09 at 12:49
A week ago our house looked like this:

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We huffed and puffed and eventually it looked like this:

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Now it looks like this:

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(ie not that different, just shrinkwrapped in plastic and cardboard.) Which is how it has stayed for five days. Keeping ET safe, one plastic-wrapped cupboard at a time.

For the next two months, we're living in the back half of the house. We can pretend that we live in a tiny New York apartment. I've always wanted to live in New York City, but not exactly in order to enjoy the itty-bitty apartments.

Our New York style apartment looks like this:

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The refrigerator is actually located in what would be the adjacent apartment. It's inconvenient.


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Refrigerated Slit

I was caught off-guard yesterday, which was the first Saturday with the kids home, by how trapped I was in our New York style apartment. Things like loud singing and tackling each other and general commotion: I was unable to slink off. It's not exactly misbehaving, but I usually leave the room if it's going on too long.

I handled it by becoming a raging short-tempered bitch.

Today I will be the very model of a mighty zen monk warrior. (Cue my mom: It's easy for monks to be zen when they aren't surrounded by small children.) I am resolved to find my well of meditative patience. Maybe I should acquire some pot.

Chop-chop

Hawaiian Punch used to have long hair:

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but she wanted to cut it all off:

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(and Jammies heart probably broke a little.) Now she looks like this:

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What Hawaii doesn't yet fully grasp is that she inherited my nest of cowlicks. While it looks tame and well-behaved in that picture, like Hawaii herself, by the next morning it was frolicking, like Hokey Pokey in the background. "My bangs won't stay down," she said, "should we cut them shorter?"

She does not need to know that the back of her charming swing bob is also fraying out in chunky directions, every which way, and not at all like the straight hair in the photo she admired.

It's almost a cliche to note that one's daughter is learning a lesson about five years earlier than the previous generation, but I didn't discover the pain of cowlicks until I got bangs in 5th grade.

3 kittens

I volunteered you for something.

Posted on 2014.06.03 at 11:58
Well that was one hell of a weekend. We hosted a three day camping bender going-away party. Five families camped, another five families dropped in for parts. I had some intense panicking leading up to the party. We were the vessel; more aggressively social friends of ours were the party planners. Jammies talked me down from canceling major chunks of it.

(How did I cope? Self-centeredly. I just left when I was sick of people, or left the kid area when I was sick of kids, which was a lot. There were too many kids.)

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I did not describe my doctor incident last week because it still makes me so furious.  As far as I can tell, I have no recourse.

I showed up for my monthly prenatal visit and the receptionist told me that I owed $400. "For what?" I ask, "Prenatal is finally free, because preventative."

"Your deductible is $2000, and you have to pay it off by the time you're 32 weeks," she answered. "So you owe $400 at each visit until then."

I told her I didn't understand, I hadn't run up any costs yet. She explained that this was in anticipation for my delivery charges in November. I said, "What if I spend my deductible elsewhere between now and November? I could get into a car crash and owe this money to the hospital." She promised that they'd refund their theft.

I was super-duper furious, but I also very much wanted to keep my appointment, so I was very much over a barrel.

Things I've found out:
1. This is super common, and probably illegal-ish, at least the part where they withhold medical care unless I pay. However, there is no recourse, is there.

2. From the OB, "Good luck going anywhere else. Everyone within an hour's drive has the same policy."  She also added, "I had a pregnant mother who left, and discovered that her new OB had a policy that was even stricter. She wanted to come back, but we wouldn't let her. Not after she left like that." I refrained from punching my OB in the teeth.

3. Also from the OB, "80% of all L&D delivery deductibles go unpaid. Whoever bills while there's still a deductible gets stuck eating the bill. It used to be that hospitals had to bill insurance within 30 days, and doctors had 60 days. So we waited until the hospitals filed, and then we filed, and the hospitals were stuck eating the deductible. Then the hospitals changed their policy, so they now have 365 days to file. So doctors had to eat the deductibles, and so we determined that patients have to pre-pay their deductible."  Also, "I have to put my family and the people that work for me first. Otherwise we'd go out of business, and that helps nobody."

I guess my anger should be rightly focused at insurance companies and the criminally kleptomaniac concept of a deductible, altogether. "If we make patients put some skin in the game," say the insurance companies, "then they will be more economical seeking out medical treatment such as delivery for their baby." Why do we all pretend that this is not just outright corruption?

But also: co-pays on preventative care are now illegal precisely because they discourage people from seeking preventative care. And they're slamming on a $400 fee, attached to preventative prenatal care, by virtue of the fact that technically it is not a co-pay or cost-sharing measure. Which is probably twenty times higher than a typical co-pay, and will absolutely discourage women from getting prenatal care. The whole thing makes me livid.

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Entirely separately, my insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield) is in a fight with our hospital, and so I'll have to go to an entirely different town to deliver. "Don't worry," says the OB, about the other hospital where she has applied to have admitting privileges, "It will definitely be built and operational by the time you deliver."

Entirely separately yet again, I've developed an intolerance to sugar. I get very queasy and acidic feeling afterwards. In hindsight, I've had this every first trimester but never put my finger on it before. This is the first time it's lasted this long, though. My mom is sugar intolerant, and has the same reaction, except hers is chronic, and began when she was a teenager.

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My friend (who is moving away) said this: "Heebie, you have great boundaries. You are just great at putting a boundary where you want it." I am so tickled by this compliment. Yes, you are not getting closer to me than I want you to.

My boundaries were strained like so: during the party, across a room, a friend called, "I volunteered you for something!" I asked what, calling back across the room. "I've got these two former foster care college students who are totally frightened of college algebra, and they need just the right tutor!" she called back. Everyone was now quiet and listening. She went on, "You're a great personality match for them! They need someone just like you!"

In my head, I'm thinking this is a terrible idea. Committing to get someone through a class is a big endeavor. She continued, "Just an hour a week, I think! That's all they'd need!"

It's possible that someone with low self-esteem but basic proficiency would only need an hour per week. It's also possible that my personality is a dazzling fit for these students. But I feel mostly pressured. And everyone is listening and it seems so reasonable to give - just an hour a week! - to the former foster care college students. (And how do we know that an hour a week would be sufficient? We do not. And it usually is not.)

I actually do not enjoy tutoring math at all.  To do it correctly involves focusing all your attention on the student as they work problems, but saying and doing very little. This is like watching paint dry. Whenever someone really enjoys tutoring math, I assume they're doing too much of the talking and explaining, instead of just giving the student the barest of clues to keep them from spinning their wheels unduly. A good tutor is like cairns on a hiking path. It's really dull to be a cairn.

Furthermore, I don't teach at this university. I've never taught out of their textbook, I won't know their instructor, and so on. Furthermore, it won't be an isolated hour per week. It will be a new routine that I have to navigate with people I don't know, and I'm feeling particularly antisocial lately. Friendly faces will have to be put on and I'll have to put these young students at ease.

Hopefully, reader, part of you realizes that I am being an asshole. These girls have had an extraordinarily hard life, and college algebra is frightening, and I have skills to help them out.

What I said was, "Let's email. I will definitely make sure these girls get connected with someone who can really give them the kind of help and support they need."  What I sounded like to everybody, including myself, was "Here is a face-saving measure because I transparently just want to be left alone." The moral of the story is that there is a fine line between having good boundaries and being an asshole.

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On Saturday night, overlapping with the camping bender, an out-of-town friend arrived until Monday evening. I need that isolation chamber, stat. Also on Monday we rented a moving van and packed up most of the front of the house.  Kitchen renovation and wallpaper extravaganza is imminent.

Mimi and I took the kids to WonderWorld Caverns, which you should immediately add to your Kitschy Roadside Attractions list for your roadtrip down I-35 down to Monterrey.  (Stop and say hi to us, too, why dontcha.)

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We bought tickets and then were told that our tour wouldn't begin for twenty minutes, so why don't we hang out in the gift shop?

The gift shop itself was anachronistic - a wall of Davy Crockett faux-coonskin caps, pop guns, polished rocks with tiny bags to fill, mechanical games like the paddle with four chickens facing inward, whose necks are connected to a dangling ball, such that when you swirl the paddle in the air, the chickens all start pecking erratically at the paddle. Not so much as Authentic 1950s kitsch as truly authentic 1980s nostalgia for 1950s kitsch.

See:

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Why are all those raccoons desperately trying to scramble over that wall? They're trying to get away before you wear their butts.

Or this wooden nickel:

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"Hold pill between lips until weight is attained."  Thanks, asshole.

Or this paddle:

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"Grip here firmly in case of frustration for the cute little deer with the bear behind."   HAHA. The important thing is that someone is getting paddled.

Eventually our train arrived, and took us across the street, through a man-made waterfall (splashed, squealed), and into the zoo area, a free-range plot for peacocks and deer, mostly. The deer ate the food pellets out of our hands. A couple turkeys, llamas, and emus.

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"I got licked!"

After the train-ride came the tour into the cave.

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The cave descended in an S-shape, back and forth down a crevice. They gave us all the lurid details - originally the cave was used as a gambler's den, whiskey and cards and no women or religion. The wife called the cops, and the cops stormed the cave and joined the party. Then the wife called the judge, who shut it down.

The next owner charged ten cents for you to explore, by yourself, holding a candle. "This room we're in now," the guide said, ten minutes into the tour, "would have taken you four to six hours to get to."  Jesus christ. People obliged in order to hunt for gold and precious stones, and also to get fresh water from the aquifer which bubbles to the surface at the lowest part of the cave.

At one point they turned out the lights to demonstrate True Dark, like the olden folks would have experienced if they snuffed their candles out, accidentally, six hours below the light of the sun.

May 26, 2014 (8)

Hawaii was frightened in the cave, and to be honest I had a touch of the willies, as well. A couple times she said that she didn't want to go any further. She sounded more conversational than panicked, though, and so (gracefully, like a loving mom) I forced her to keep going. (That sounds crueler than it was - mostly I chatted with her about we'll tell Daddy about this short, scary part, and he'll be excited to hear about this next room so let's go check it out, and bravery is about feeling scared and still doing the things that are scary.  The problem was that I discreetly asked the tour guide how we might exit the tour, and he basically said that the whole group would have to return to the top.) Hokey Pokey was serious in the cave, but not particularly scared.

After the darkest depths, you then get into an elevator, which takes you back up - and up, surprise! and up - until you're in a lookout tower which was not that fascinating.

Finally, on your way out, you stop here:

May 26, 2014 (9)

which makes your inner ear spin.

It's built on a 30 degree angle, and is chock full of visual cues that the offset angle is the true up-and-down, and so you crash against the far wall without understanding viscerally why you can't move freely. Except Pokey, who was quickly able to run around.

May 26, 2014 (10) May 26, 2014 (11)

Finally: here's the pen where we keep the albino peacocks, although at this point I was weary of photographing dumb shlock. This concludes your tour of your WonderWorld Trip Through Time.

I'm not sure you needed a 3000 word photo essay of WonderWorld but now it's burned in your brain.

...Please come back and see us again!...

Mimi left on Thursday, and thus spake summer-vacation-athustra. Summer vacation begins when I have continuous hours in total isolation. All I want in life is an isolation chamber deep underground where I can freeze time and hide without being negligent on my endless responsibilities.

Utter silence unto hallucinations, please.

We've got one hell of a fly problem.  It comes and goes in cycles. At the peak, the window sill looks like this:

May 26, 2014 (13)

after I spend ten minutes killing flies that are desperate to get outside. Count them, there are 16 dead flies.

On the plus side, I'm a wizard with a fly-swatter now. We've tried hanging flypaper, setting out apple vinegar in jars with holes, neither of which work as well as our deft fly-swatter skills, which itself pales in comparison to the "they'll die naturally in two days" method of fly control. And then the cycle begins again.

Like life itself.

Ace has started to walk. She's so cute:


May 26, 2014 (18)May 26, 2014 (17) May 26, 2014 (25)


Scene: Jammies is explaining to his family what we'll be doing to the kitchen and front rooms.

Jammies: Wallpaper here, wood panelling there.
Jammies' sister: Wood panelling? [barely concealed disgust, but the sibling variety, not actually offensive]
Me: Like wainscotting.
Sis: [visibly relaxes] OH. Jammies, wood panelling sounds totally different than wainscotting. It makes it sound like you're doing some weird ugly 70s thing.
Me: Keep that mental image of the weird ugly 70s thing. It's closer to that than wainscotting.

It will be panelling in the kind that makes people shudder and cringe, but when my vision is properly executed, you shall not shudder nor cringe. You'll smile and feel warm. Trust in Heebie.

Anyway, we're packing up the front half of the house. In the course of packing up, we got rid of this vanity:

May 26, 2014 (16)

which I bought in college. I failed to photograph it before we dropped it off at Goodwill, so I returned and pled my case. They said that customers aren't allowed in the inventory area, but they'd be happy to photograph it for me. Which is why the Goodwill employee is featured in the photo. He was very sweet about the whole thing.

I sort of miss the vanity. But we've got no place for it.

Then this happened:

I went up into the attic to fetch a pail of kid clothes, and stepped off the edge of the plywood and plunged through the ceiling.


May 26, 2014 (15) May 26, 2014 (14)

Fortunately the 2x4s are close enough together that I didn't fall through. It did scare the crap out of me, though.

Also I've got a monstrous bruise on my ass from landing on the 2x4.  (That's not true; I don't bruise. It feels monstrous but looks like a bitty varicose vein. I feel cheated.)

May 26, 2014 (23)

All better.

3 kittens

Sort of moaning and quacking

Posted on 2014.05.19 at 12:55
Last week, I got a phone call from an unrecognized number. "Do you have a cat?" a young voice asked. I was sitting in my office, at 9 pm at night, after graduation on a Saturday night. No introduction, no ascertaining my identity. Just "Do you have a cat?" I started to explain that she had the wrong number, but when she repeated the cat-line, it occurred to me that this might be the babysitter. (I hadn't met this babysitter (actually, plural - two babysitters) because Jammies had handled the hand-off.)

So, "Yes. We have a cat. Is everything ok?" Obviously now I am picturing that the cat got outside and has been run over, or acting close to death in some other way.

"Does he make weird noises?" she asked.   OH. YES. He does.

"OH! yes, he does. Is he sort of moaning and quacking?" I asked. "Yes," she said, "It's really creepy."

"He just wants to be fed," I said, which isn't exactly true - he wants attention but only from me - "but he's been fed. So just ignore him. Sorry about that!"  The babysitter got abruptly off the phone.

It turns out that the babysitters were a very sweet pair of 8th graders, who we will be using again, in part because they'll be in town for five more years and seemed totally competent. I'm just very amused that they did not introduce themselves on the phone whatsoever, and just opened with "...do you have a CAT?"

..........

Hawaii had her piano recital yesterday. It went as badly as possible. (The day before, the dance recital went smoothly. Pink sequins, upbeat tempo, shuffle-toe-tap cute.) Jammies' parents, sister, and her two year old and infant all came to visit for the weekend of recitals.

Hawaii was the only performer, and the audience was just family, plus the instructor and two of his friends.

First Hawaii started on the wrong song. She and I went offstage and looked at the music, and she started over. In the second song, she played a wrong note and got stuck. Then (apparently) the stranger-friends in the audience chuckled. Then Hawaii crumpled and refused to play. She left the stage, crying, and hid offstage in the tiniest corner, behind a bookshelf, and was shattered and crying and absolutely done.

I went back there with her, leaving the audience to squirm. It seemed highly important to me that we not end the recital on a note of horror and agony. (Something Kahneman peak-end experiences something.) So I kept trying to get her to create the kind of recital she'd like to have. Finally she answered that we should kick the strangers out. (Awkward, apologies, and done. Go away, strangers, it was sweet of you to come.)

We got her into the audience, where she huddled against Mimi. I sat up at the piano and cajoled Hokey Pokey and my nephew to come tinker on the piano, in order to just de-escalate the entire experience.

But Hawaii would absolutely not return to the piano.  We were nearing a face-off, because I felt like she just had to get back on the goddamn horse in some fashion. Eventually we kicked the family out, too, and it was just me and Mimi, and she picked one song to play. (Yankee Doodle, which is a duet with the instructor.) She composed herself and played it well, and recovered from a wrong note or two, just fine.

Mimi and I burst into applause, and Hawaii burst into wailing tears all over again - "I didn't want you to cla-aa-aap" she sobbed.  At this point I decided that ending on a note of horror and agony was probably okay, after all.  We packed up and the instructor and I apologized to each other, and left.

We've got about thirty minutes of torture on video, complete with empty stage, off-stage crying and negotiating, squirming toddlers in the audience, etc. Hawaii, some day you can show it to your therapist.

..........

As I was leaving school last Thursday, there was a hitchhiker at the on ramp to the highway.  He was maybe in his 50s, with a long gray beard, and held a sign that said "Need money for fuel for spaceship to return to Mars." I recognized this as the opening scene of at least one Daniel Pinkwater novel, and that his sign was supposed to be taken seriously and would launch one thousand adventures. But of course thirty-something mothers-of-three, in our sensible work-appropriate outfits, sandals, and coral necklaces, are not characters in these novels. My job is to drive past him and represent the hamster wheel of blind adulthood, and hopefully a scrappy ten year old will come forward with a clutch of one dollar bills and they will embark to Mars. May they spare a moment to marvel at my tunnel vision, because it keeps the dinner on the table and the world going round so quit judging me, wise-alien-hobo.

...........

My housekeeper invited us to her daughter's graduation party. She is graduating from UT. The other kids are also all enrolled in local universities. This family is pretty remarkable. They immigrated in the late 90s from Mexico, learned English here, and have built their lives from scratch since then. In the past year they all became citizens.

I went solo, what with the in-laws and cousins in town.

Here was my big traumatic fear: that in the course of the awkward smalltalk with other guests, the other person would ask me how I knew the family, and I'd have to say, "The mother is our housekeeper."  How stomach-curdlingly awful, and then what an asshole I am for feeling like I've got the raw end in this situation, right? I want all the perks of an upper-class lifestyle but without the inadvertent lording it over anyone's head.

It turned out that there were some friends-of-friends there, from a different math department, who are all very lovely and I ate dinner with them. The best part: eventually one of them did ask how I knew the family, and I could answer "Actually, through you guys!"  When we were looking for a housekeeper, my word-of-mouth travelled through adjacent math departments and ended up with these acquaintances. We all agreed that this family is incredibly resourceful and intelligent and and remarkable.

............

I have not yet told Crossfit Dude Bro Owner that I'm pregnant yet.  He is maybe all of 24, and does not have the best grip on the warm-supportive-mavericks ethos of Crossfit gyms.  At this point I look pregnant.  At some point it may cross his mind, but perhaps not.

My fear is that I can get kicked out, and I'd like to not get kicked out.  Pregnant Crossfit is a thing, with lots of internet resources for modifications and lots of spunky mavericks encouraging you to buck conventional wisdom about coddling yourself during pregnancy.  But of course, Crossfit Dude Bro Owner may just say "fuck the liability, go home."

3 kittens

It will become a chrysalis and then hatch.

Posted on 2014.05.10 at 15:49
Why do I feel bursting with things to post, bright and mundane? I just do.

The One That Killed a Bear When He Was Only Three

We took Hawaiian Punch to tour the local elementary school, where she'll start kindergarten in the fall.  Is it named after a member of The Stirring Defense of the Alamo, Heebie? Why yes it is!

In the front office, Hawaii and I sat on padded benches, with a fish tank, while administrators looked over our immunization forms, emergency contact information, food and allergy forms, repetitious forms, after school care forms, and so on. I heard the lady place a surreptitious phone call asking someone to verify that our address is indeed within their school district.

I felt ever so mildly fradulent, like I'd been caught sneaking into a wealthier school district than I deserved. (That was exactly the implication. We have an anomalously fancy house in a rather poor neighborhood. Heebieville doesn't have a wealthy side, but this elementary school is considered to be the good one. And the district has this odd little finger which stretches into our poor neighborhood.  There used to be an elementary school a few blocks from our house, but it was shut down for being sufficiently shitty, and our neighborhood is now farmed across town, presumably for economic-evening-out reasons. So the phone call was being placed because our street is far away from the elementary school, and in a poor section, but don't cry for us because we're not representative of the economic struggles of this street.)

Does that mean the elementary school is good? I don't think it means much. They have art once a week, music once every two weeks. They do a lot of worksheets. Recess gets cancelled often, especially to punish kids who have too much energy (which is not Hawaii "I'm going to pick out my clothes for tomorrow before dinner, so that after dinner I'll have more time to play" Punch).  I suspect that their elementary school experience will be extremely similar to what I got thirty years ago. (What I think is that the other elementary schools in town have super high rates of poverty and all the associated problems that accompany super high poverty. Alamo Hero Elementary is more solidly middle class. It's all depressing if you think about it for very long.)

There are five kindergarten classes. The school has an upstairs. Hawaii did look very small in the middle of these relatively giant hallways. She was fairly petrified but also very interested.

It occurs to me that Hawaii will be finishing 11th grade when the last child graduates from this elementary school.  (Assuming we are stationary people. We seem to be.) We will be enrolled in this single, same building with its stucco covered drop-off area and bricks with tiny metal Stars of Texas cut-outs, from the fall of 2014 until the spring of Spring of 2026. There will probably be a new principal and mostly new teachers, and just one or two of the teachers will remember way back in 2014. Hawaii, Hokey Pokey, and Ace will be 17, 15, and 13 years old. I am a touch superstitious about overplanning a kid while they are in utero, because things can easily go so very wrong. But if nothing does, this one will be 11 and graduating from elementary school in merely twelve years. Heebie, you'll be 48 years old.

May 10, 2014 (1)

I'll be 13 years old. Where does the time go.

Squeezing under fences and through culverts

Jammies and I started dating eight years ago.  We had kids five years ago and then got married a little later.  But I think he is now officially a part of me: he has recently started showing up in my dreams. Welcome to my brain, sweetie.

My dreams generally have no people besides me, which probably means I'm a self-centered asshole in real life.  I have big meandering dreams but I never, ever meet anybody, or at most there are people-as-incidental-furniture, who get almost no attention but may cause a plot point. Mostly I dream about elaborate houses and elaborate paths through swamps and woods, vaguely YA-ish.  BUT. Lately Jammies seems to live in these houses with me.  We occasionally discuss the layout of the houses, even.

(Perhaps this would have happened sooner, but when I'm sleep-deprived I stop dreaming very much, and we have a lot of sleep deprivation in our lives.)

I do hope he's right.

Hokey Pokey is newly full of elaborate theories on life.  He painted a flower pot containing a marigold for me, for Mother's Day. "It will become a chrysalis," he explained, "and then it will hatch out of its shell." It's the kind of theory where we follow up with questions, trying to get him to contradict himself, but the theory becomes fractal-like and repetitive and we let him keep it, in the end.

May 10, 2014 (5)

"All cookers live together," he said, and by cookers he means chefs, "they live in the same house together, because they're cookers, and then they go to work." We all nodded. Hawaii said, "What about the cookers in Spain? How could they live in the same house?" Hokey Pokey fumbled and said there'd be a Spain cooker house but reasserted that all cookers live together, and the basic problem is that Spain doesn't mean much to him.

Calculus II Has Been Graded

Yesterday ten Heebie U students and I went to SeaWorld.

May 10, 2014 (2)

I parked myself in Rosita's Cafe and graded Calculus II tests for five hours, with a Sesame Street music in the background. I could see roller coasters through the window:

May 10, 2014 (3)

It poured off and on, particularly when it was time to meet the students at the gift shop near the entrance. My feet turned brown from my sandals, wet in ankle-deep rivers of run-off.  Cracking lightening so close that you feel uneasy carrying your metal umbrella. I guess it was better than taking the students camping last year at 8 months pregnant, but that's a low bar.  (Fortunately I will be handing off this administrative program! Someone else can take these students on outings and nurture their intellect!)

For Mother's Day I bought myself this, to hang on the wall:

May 10, 2014 (4)

I also got a marigold from Hokey Pokey. I'll find out on Official Mother's Day what other goodies I scored.

Today I had to go to a baccalaureate preachy sermon thing this morning, and then I have graduation tonight. Right now Jammies has the kids at a mammoth four hour birthday party, thrown by some masochistic parent for their three year old. PSA: birthday parties should be two hours, max.

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