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Last Tuesday, we went to watch a movie at an airplane hangar:

with a small museum:

A bomb or a missile. I think Jammies said a bomb, because it would just drop from a plane.

It was stiflingly hot and late for a school night and we sort of regretted it. They were showing Inside Out, which we've all seen a dozen times.

I don't think any of these planes were the kind of planes where the propellers had to be timed with the guns, because the guns shot through the propeller, so if it misfunctioned you could shoot yourself down. I've always been curious to see one of those.

and back in the museum:

They explained who Kilroy was, and why he was where he was:

"Kilroy was here" is an American popular culture expression that began appearing during World War II. It was typically drawn as grafitti and appeared in ordinary, but sometimes outrageous places. In theory, he was an American soldier who travelled all over the world scrawling the immortal phrase. In realty, whoever got there first most likely claimed the area or object for "Kilroy." The outrageousness of the graffiti was not so much what it said, but where it turned up. The torch of the Statue of Liberty, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Marco Polo Bridge in China were some of the more famous places he appeared. Quie often he would appear wherever United States servicemen were stationed, encamped, or visited. An ad in Life magazine noted that WWII era servicemen were fond of claiming that "whatever beach-head they stormed, they always found notices chalked up ahead of them that 'Kilroy was here' ", implying you're too late, Kilroy got here before you!

Scamps, all of them.

Rascal was here!

Cut to a different scene:
"All those years ago!" argued Pokey, debating lyrics with Hawaii.
"No, it's 'all those years before'!" argued Hawaii.
I played the song, and we all listened to King George sing "All those years ago".
Hawaii missed a beat while her mental gears turned. But then turned to Pokey, bent her knees with enthusiasm and said "We were right!! It was exactly what we said it was!"
Pokey was confused and called her out on it. She continued the improvised camraderie and protested. They fought. It ended with Hawaii in tears, crying sadly that Pokey was calling her a liar and she was being victimized. It was impressive.

Hawaii is masterful.

Here is the second example: Jammies watched Hawaii, Pokey, and young Cousin B go down to the basement, and said quietly to me, "She's setting them up for something." A few minutes later, Mimi found the refrigerator door open, and the boys sneaking cookies. So all of the kids got cookies. We were very suspicious. Later Hawaii confessed to Mimi that she'd told the boys where to find the cookies, and then had sat back and let them get in trouble, knowing Mimi would give her a cookie to keep things fair. MMM-HMMM.

Cut to minivan, on the road again
On Thursday, we drove through Llano:

and spent the night in Abilene. This was in the hotel lobby:

"Noah's ark", it says. Two racoons, one opossum, and one...what is that thing? A badger? All paddling in a canoe.

North Texas was northern.

Silos in Dalhart were industrial:

Kids were excited to pose in New Mexico:

and I tried to get a group photo:

Colorado on Friday. Wyoming on Saturday, to Billings. Across Montana on Sunday. It was very nice to arrive here, at my in-laws house.

I cannot stand how long it is taking to upload photos. I'm sorry. Maybe I'll finish this mid-week. Maybe you'll never believe that the roads in Wyoming are pink. Maybe you'll have to remember that I documented them in 2015 and 2014.

We shared a picnic table at a playground in Caspar, Wyoming, with a mother and her two kids. It turned out that they were headed to Montana as well. In fact, the same lake. In fact, the same road. In fact, their cabin is one cove over from my in-
law's. Small world.

Regal kitty:

4 kittens

Sheared off and dangling on your shoulder

Posted on 2016.07.17 at 23:01
I must have discussed my neck and back problems here - it's been going on for almost a year, and I'm a champion complainer. Earlier this summer I went to a sports medicine PT pseudo-doctor.  He alleviated much of the symptoms with intense massages and a list of stretches. I asked if we could get to the root of the problem.  I'm doing something weird in my sleep, and start to wake up partway through the night. I asked if it would ever go away.  "Nope!" he said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "you'll have this for the rest of your life! You can just manage it with stretches and strengthening." Depressing! A friend told me that hers had been treated and cured with a weeks' worth of muscle relaxants, but I wasn't sure how to explain that to a doctor.

So finally I went to a med clinic. And the nice lady doctor said, "You should take muscle relaxants for a week. And ibuprofen."  She said that there was some deep irritant and the muscle was clenched up around it, and we needed to break that cycle and get the muscle to fully relax. "Take them for a full week, even if you feel better," she said. "If they make you too groggy, just take them at night."

Hooray! What happened?

Well, I took one at 3 pm that day. I got very drowsy and struggled to keep it together during the dinner and bedtime routine. Then I passed out. I slept like I was entombed in a brick, and woke up feeling weird. I didn't feel normal until 11 in the morning.

Since then I've been taking half and quarter pills. I feel great while I'm on the muscle relaxants, but not when I'm not. I'm not sure what to make of all this.


On Wednesday, Jammies and I took everything out of half of the mezzanine. I forgot to take a before-photo, but here's the spread of stuff, downstairs:

We spent all day sorting all of that crap and finding homes for the stuff we kept. It is a great relief, because the mess up there had weighed heavily on me and going upstairs made me feel panicky and clausterphobic.

Here's the upstairs, empty:

and another angle, after I ditched the rug:

(This is my half of the mezzanine.)

My plan is to make a reading nook for the kids. My other plan is that the mezzanine railing should be less of a shin-height tripping hazard and more of a safety measure. I'd like to replace it with a regular railing.

Decorating for a reading nook will be tricky, because the vibe up there is depressing. It feels like a haunted summer camp. The light blue walls - Aviary Blue* - are soothing and cool downstairs, but up in the mezzanine they feel shadowy and shed-like. It's not a very nice space yet. I've got ideas.

(One time the contractor brought a client by to look at the finished space. The client really liked the wall color. "It's Aviary Blue," I told her. The client and the contractor had a discussion about her project, and they kept saying Avery Blue. I interjected "aviary, not avery," once or twice, and said, "like birds" and then gave up.  It occurred to me that probably everyone says Avery and that the people at Lowe's would easily locate the color.)


I spent the weekend in rural Illinois, visiting a dear friend. Most of Illinois looked like this:

ie vast cornfields. Such corn, very farm. Much idyll.

We decided to find parts that were un-corn-like, which took us here:

Lake Clinton. It's the coolant for a local nuclear reactor, and there's a little tourist beach along the lake. It's the weirdest place. Visually it looks chilly and northern, but then you walk in to hot water, and you soak and feel languid. We bobbed around until we were prune-handed. The water is 90 degrees, I think.

The next day we went to this weird place:

a forest in the middle of cornfields. It's the home of a ritzy estate, the Robert Allerton Park. The ritzy Victorian weirdo put paths to sculptures deep in the woods. There are miles of hiking paths, leading up to things like this:

At the top of that flight of stairs, is this:

The Last Centaur. It looks like he doesn't have a head, but he does:

It's just sheared off and dangling on his shoulder.

And this Sun-singer:

It was a neat place to explore. Then back to the corn for the drive home.

My friends live in a new development. There are a bunch of houses with this same design:

Apparently it is a thing in Illinois to make your garage into an open porch-den. Instead of parking your car in your garage, you have a couch and TV and fridge in it, and you open the garage door and semi-avail yourself to your neighborhood while also munching on chips and watching TV.  I can see the appeal, maybe.

The house in the photo is still being constructed. I didn't manage to snap a photo, but when the garage door is open, you can see that the garage runs the full depth of the house. Which means...there's not much house there, besides garage. I think 2/3 of that house is garage. Maybe there's a basement?

We also went to see hot air balloons, but those are cornfield-compatible, not cornfield-contrasting, like the lake and the estate.

My favorite was a harlequin one, lit up towards the left.


I have shingles!  My friend that I visited is super pregnant, and my sister-in-law who will be in Montana with us is super pregnant, so I'm violating the one thing they tell you: to avoid women who are about to have babies, and newborns.

Apparently with a course of acyclovir and keeping it under gauze, it should be fine for them. For me, it's super itchy. But none of the nerve pain that makes it really painful.


This Thursday, we leave for Montana. Stay tuned!

4 kittens

Tolerated my explanation

Posted on 2016.07.10 at 22:44
Oh another week of summer. I went to lots of doctor's appointments: the dermatologist, the gynecological oncologist, the dentist, the math doctor, the water park doctor. It was Ace and E. Messily's first time going to Schlitterbahn.  We probably should not have taken Ace.  When Pokey was three, he loved this frog:

but Ace would not go near it, nor any other extremely tame slide for small children.

In the far left of this picture, you can see a flight of stairs:

This was Ace's favorite ride - the stairs lead to a ramp going back down again. Calling it a "ride" is my idea of a joke. The kind of joke you have to explain. (But really, she went up and down about fifteen times. It was shaped like a little treehouse.)

All in all, it was not our finest Schlitterbahn trip. We forgot that the kids had dentist appointments in the morning, and so we didn't get there until past 11 am.

We are gerbil-sitting for a friend. The gerbils' cage (and the gerbils themselves) have been relegated to the bathtub because otherwise the cats pushed the cage all over the living room. So they sit in darkness, in the bathroom, until the light switches on and the room is filled with aggressive cats or screaming children. Rascal in particular shrieks and tries to bang on the cage a lot. It's a rough week for the gerbils.

I am doing my summer meetings with my grad school advisor. It is healthy for me to be demolished in intellect and to remember how awful graduate school is. I like the project we're working on, though.  I like going down to the river and thinking about math:

It was even prettier, rippling and glittering at a lively pace. Water clear and blue. (It looks gross brown in the photo, but that's actually just sparkling sunshine and amber-colored memories.) I thought hard and came up with clever mathematical ideas, which my advisor eviscerated. Or rather, he tolerated my explanation and then re-phrased it back to me using grown-up math which I am now supposed to write up. It is a good thing I have no math ego.

This summer is intensely summer. I have not worn a bathing suit so much in decades. Also I am so breezy and cool without breasts. It's like a 10 degree difference in comfort, I'd estimate. (I am 10 degrees more self-conscious, though, so overall comfort is a net-zero.)

I should really photoshop these images if I want to convince you that it's pretty.

"This is my toothbrush, and this is my vice-toothbrush," said Pokey, holding up his regular toothbrush against the new one that he'd gotten at the dentist. "It's my back-up in case something happens to my regular toothbrush."  That's an excellent prefix which I will be sure to incorporate more broadly into my daily lingo.  Be sure not to let your toothbrush, vice-toothbrush, and secretary of toothbrush all ride in the same car in case of an accident.

Captain toothbrush.

On Saturday night, the baby-sitter showed up at 8 pm, which is basically the kids' bedtime. "Not much for you to do!" we told her cheerfully.  "They're dressed for bed, teeth brushed, finishing up cartoons. Read 'em a couple stories and send them to bed!"

When we got home, late, I asked the babysitter how it had gone.
"Great!" she said, "They put on a talent show!"
I sputtered in surprise, but she didn't seem to notice. "No kidding," I said, "A talent show. What time did they get to bed?"
"Oh, around 10," she said.

Wow, new babysitter, you got played hard. Also I wish I could have seen it!  Apparently the acts were: a rock and mineral display, some artwork, some piano, and some magic tricks.

(The kids were total tired-scream-zombies the next day.)

4 kittens

A List of Depictions of Recent Quality Times

Posted on 2016.07.04 at 23:08
Jammies is back from Korea!  Land of be-bim-bop:

His reintroduction to civillian life was kind of rough. I thought the house had only taken a mild beating in his absence. But Jammies' tolerance to mild disorder had disappeared. Between deep sighs, he kept pointing out that the cat's food was six inches to the left of its proper spot, that the cutting boards were oriented lengthwise instead of longwise, that the chairs had all drifted slightly backwards towards the walls.  It's all true, although I was unaware that the cutting boards had an preferred orientation.

(By now his grim life resignation has happily re-established itself. Home again.)


My mom and I took Hawaii to the library, to exchange Junie B Jones books. ("Junie B Jones is a Neurotic Kvetcher", "Junie B Jones Possibly Has Speech-based Nervous Tics", and "I Would Leave JBJ at a Roadside Stand.")  When we checked out, the librarian told us that we had $1.25 in late fees. I tried to do calendar-math in my head, because I'm pretty sure it had been 2.5 weeks, and you get them for 3 weeks.  Simultaneously, my mom launched into a long explanation of how the late fee system works at her library.  (Admittedly, it sounds progressive and interesting - automatic renewals, no late fees, reminder emails. You just can't check out any new books until you return your old books.) My mom was not monitoring the cognitive load of the poor librarian, who had started a conversation with me, and was now trying to politely track three different conversations. (Hawaii was timidly checking out.) So I didn't pin the librarian down. She did say that she couldn't see any details in her computer, besides the fact that the books we had dropped off a few minutes ago had accumulated late fees.

I got home, checked my calendar, and I was super fucking right. That $1.25 was levied in error. It is a very empty, pyrrhic feeling. The library staff deserves charitable thinking and courteous manners, not $1.25-based investigative journalism. I really, really want to explain to them that I was right about the calendar. That's my one singular genius - putting events in chronological order - and deep down I know I just have to eat this one.

Passed out, cramming for Baby Finals.


We took Pokey and Ace up to see some family friends in North Austin. Pokey asked for some paper and markers. Then he made a solar system. It turns out that he knows basic facts about the planets and the order they go in. (They've been studying the solar system at school.) I clearly had no idea that he knew about this stuff. "That's a nice red planet." "Duh, mom, Mars. Mars is red. Uranus is on its side. Pluto is over here because it's a planetoid."

The scene seemed staged for my own personal glory, as I inadvertently fed him soft pitch balls for him to knock out of the park in front of these friends of ours. I couldn't have written a more flattering scene if I'd tried. "Oh gosh, is he spouting knowledge again? Who can keep track. Kids today, with their ceaseless appetite for learning."

That family had been making snake habitats. The next day at school, Pokey said he wanted to make a snake habitat. So his teacher also had the impression that he is just chock full of creative ideas, and I just smiled when she described it to me.

Pokey has been hard at work lately. At bedtime, he says, "I need a pencil. I have a lot of work to do tonight." Then he comes periodically after lights-out, to drop off his work - drawings of various lego sets that he wants for his birthday, drawings that he gifted the rest of us. I enjoy the notion that he's taking work home from the office and is just swamped with work.

Here are the gifts he made us. Each is a list of depictions of recent quality times he's had.

For me:

Row 1, left: eating an egg salad sub with me. 1, right: Showing me his solar system.
Row 2: me hugging him after he was in trouble and sent to his bed.
Row 3: Pokey and I looking for our water bottles.
Row 4/5: Me up in the mezzanine, retrieving the arrows that Pokey and Hawaii shot up there, while they watch from below.
Row 6: Showing us his snake habitat
Row 7: a household portrait.

This is the present he made for Hawaii:

Row 1: a household portrait
Row 2: Pokey and Hawaii listening to me read James and the Giant Peach.
Row 3: Pokey and Hawaii watching videos on E. Messily's computer.
Row 4: Pokey and Hawaii cheering on the kayakers in the Texas Water Safari.
Row 5: The two of them watching TV
Row 6: and playing with Pokey's bow and arrow.

Here are the scenes he drew for Ace:

Playing with her castle together, playing paw patrol together three different times, walking together, and a household portrait.

I did not catch all the explanations of Jammies' list of quality times. The whole thing was very thoughtful of him. Just swamped with work, Pokey is.


Rascal can say "airplane" and knows his animal sounds, but inevitably it sounds like he's mewing. He has a very sweet, high-pitched voice. He's really into throwing things - toys at your head, food from his plate, his plate itself. Stop it, Rascal! (Ace calls him "Moes", almost exclusively. Like Dwight's cousin from the office, or maybe the scale of mineral hardness.)

Ace says funny things: "Last night, Abby ruined my life!" about a girl in her class. "Oh?" I responded. It turned out to be some sort of playground disagreement, incoherent in the ways of three year olds, but Ace was very insistent about the life-ruining figure of speech. Not a life-ruining emotion - she told it rather happily and enthusiastically.

Also she and I were arguing about whether or not she could eat three tacos. I said she'd be full after two. She said sternly,  "I want to eat a taco, a second taco, and then another second taco."  I thought that construction was pretty good.


I had my worst P&Z meeting yet. I went 0 for 3 on convincing my fellow commissioners that they should adopt my perspective.  All three were fairly minor points with low consequences, so I didn't want to squander goodwill making a big stink about them. Nevertheless, there was a clear right answer and wrong answer in each case, and I'm annoyed.  I am finding that I'm not very convincing up on the dais. I do not like to appeal to people's emotions and apple pie and children's health. I like to start from an axiom, describe a sequence of implications and therefore the natural conclusion follows. It works really well in math class. Gut feelings are generally stupid.


For the 4th of July, we went to a hot, sticky, sweaty block party full of hippies and young people. It was a nice scene.

Ugh mom, we're so hot.

There were a bunch of slip-n-slides and baby pools, though.

Ugh mom, we're so exhausted.


This summer has slipped down the drain. The remaining bit is all over-scheduled and sad. I do not feel rejuvenated and ready for school.  Years ago, I spent a Fall Faculty Workshop sitting next two guys from the humanities side of campus. The president's speech went: "When you find yourself untouched by the enthusiasm of the new year, that's when it's time to quit." Except he took about twenty minutes to say that. The theologian and philosopher were rolling their eyes and muttering under their breath about for how long it's been time to quit. I was chuckling but also a bit alienated, because I did enjoy the bustling back-to-school feeling. I'm happy to report that I'm no longer alienated from their muttering. I now start the school year with dread, mostly. 

4 kittens

Self-piteous Mewing

Posted on 2016.06.26 at 22:14
I need a peptalk. Jammies left for Korea yesterday morning for a week. My parents arrived last night. E. Messily is here. I need a reassuring soothing peptalk (full of lies) about how good a parent I am, and how much energy I have for parenting. And how having four total adults in the household doesn't invalidate my tired whiny puny desire for sympathy.  E. Messily made us dinner. My parents cleaned up afterwards. My poor parents must be exhausted - we all went to the pool, they made cookies with the kids, they stayed in the game all day long. AND YET!  I'm the one who wants sympathy! I want my waahmbulance. (Maybe they want sympathy too, but I've got the mic.)

(At dinner, my mom made a pleasant-smalltalk comment about how wonderful a pianist her friend's seven year old daughter is. How the daughter memorizes songs so easily and plays them so beautifully. My kids did not give a shit one way or the other, but I was zapped intensely, some 30-year old neural pathway just electrocuted with a jolt of lightning. When I was young, my mom would rave endlessly about the talents and virtues of kids in my class, mostly kids that she knew independently of me, from the ballet studio, and I would seethe with super-ugly jealousy and rage. At this moment, in 2016, my thought was more or less, you will not do that shit to my kids. But of course my kids don't care. They're not primed to jealousy of their grandmother. They've got a whole different set of neuroses and anger towards me which I'm whistling by in the dark, which I'm sure they'll explain at length to me in the future. And which will be also unjust to me.)(also what an ungrateful jerk I am! My mom just spent all day playing with my kids and helping keep things from unraveling, and here I am telling a story about an ancient grievance.)

Here is a time I stood on my hands:

I've shown this picture to everyone because I'm so proud of myself. (The box is helping stabilize my arms.)

This feels like a real summer, mostly because I've been in the swimming pool about five times every week. As opposed to last sumer - massive flooding and Pokey's broken arm, and we basically never got in any water. This summer feels American - sunscreen and hot cement and pool noodles. (Hot cement is so USA. You don't know about it, out there.)  The swim lessons are paying off, too - Hawaii swam across the deep end and thus passed a swim test.

Do you know the meme that goes viral every summer, "Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning"? The gist of it is that movies have misled us. Drowning isn't thrashy and dramatic, it looks like "climbing a ladder". It's silent. The meme uses that phrase - climbing a ladder, head barely in and out of the water.  The point is to terrorize parents only a little bit. It's a creepy image! Anyway, that is how Pokey swims - like he's climbing a ladder and drowning. He's not very good yet. (At dinner on Wednesday: "It's good," said Pokey, "but my tummy is too full of pool water. I can't eat anything.")

I haven't checked the back deck any morning this week, to see if anyone is sleeping back there. I really thought I would but I guess I'm abentminded.

I guess this kitty litter isn't going to scoop itself. I should sign off and do it. And make the coffee. And prep the kids' school stuff. Shit, I hope nothing needed to be washed. And set the alarm for 4:15 am to take my dad to the airport, in the waahnivan.

4 kittens

Upholstery fabric being exactly right

Posted on 2016.06.19 at 22:51
On Thursday morning,  I opened the back door to the deck, to get Ace's towel from the railing. A man was curled up in one of our green plastic porch chairs, facing away, the back of his head maybe a foot from where I stood.  He was just wearing a bathing suit, and wrapped in our towels and Hokey Pokey's bathrobe. His hair was cut like Jammies', and for a second I couldn't understand why Jammies was sleeping on the porch. The man snored. I realized it was not Jammies and slammed the door shut.  Heart in throat, adrenaline coursing, wild-brained, etc. It was quite a jolt.

Pokey was with me. I called Jammies and told him there was someone on our deck. "I'm turning around and coming home," said Jammies.  It was about 6 am. "I'm calling 911," I told him.

One of my thoughts was, "Does this happen all the time?!" After all, I never go out on the back deck in the morning. Does he crash here often?

I called 911. Pokey was quaking and frightened, but by now I was feeling more relaxed again - the guy was solidly asleep, snoring loudly. I described the guy, and said he was passed out and could someone please get him elsewhere? E. Messily woke up, the kids woke up, we all hung out at the front of the house. The cop showed up. It took him several minutes of trying before he could get the man to rouse. Clearly the guy was super drunk last night, in his bathing suit from the river, and couldn't find the house he was looking for. None of it was particularly scary, but if our door had been unlocked, we might have found him on our couch. Lock your doors, folks.

Afterwards, the cop asked us if it was our towel, and we said it was. About ten minutes later, the cop came back with our towel. We put it in the washing machine.

"But seriously, why didn't he take the couch instead of the chair?" wondered E. Messily, "If I were sleeping out there, I'd take the couch." Also she is very tickled that I thought it was Jammies for a moment, by the idea that Jammies could be fake-having a job. That each morning, he clears his throat and calls out, "I'm off to work, honey! With my briefcase and professional demeanor!" and then shuts the door and sneaks around to the back of the house, to snooze in his bathing suit and enjoy the day.

It is kind of funny!

On Friday we drove to Grapevine, Texas, to stay at the Gaylord Texan Hotel with my California brother and his family. The Gaylord Hotel is a study in knock-off classiness. It has all the hallmarks of class anxiety - grandiose scale and inflated price tags - but no actual class. Here is a completely fake tree in the atrium:

We spent most of the weekend at the affiliated water park.  Blaring music, sensory overload. Riding around the circular lazy river felt a lot like doing laps at the roller rink:  "Let's Hear It For the Boy!" and jostling along cheek to jowl with all these strangers in their tubes.

See the Texas Flag bucket at the top of this structure? (via)

The bucket is probably the size of a small bathroom. Those longhorns continuously fill that giant bucket up with water. Every three or four minutes it tips over. It is like an explosion - loud, overwhelming, and a little painful if you're directly underneath.  Ace wanted no part of it, and spent a large part of the weekend under the umbrellas at the table.

My brother pointed out that our kids are super cuddly and constantly want to be in our laps, snuggling, sleep next to us, and so on.  I have taken this for granted. He said that his kids climb on him, but they almost never calm down and cuddle. I am glad to have this drawn to my attention - how nice to have cuddly kids! Let's all nuzzle.


Father's day!  Hawaii made Jammies a shirt:

and a card:

"Happy father-daughter, lovey-dovey, rosey-tosey, super-duper, Texas peanut perfect Father's Day!" That's pretty poetic, Hawaii!  She was very pleased with herself.


The kids have been funny:
1.  Hawaii thought the song was called "Hopeless" instead of "Helpless".  Pokey thought the song was called "The Boomberry Happens" instead of "The Room Where it Happens". Yes, all we listen to is Hamilton.

2. "Then one day, James's mother and father went to London," I read to the kids, from the opening scene of James and the Giant Peach,  "to do some shopping, and there a terrible thing happened. Both of them suddenly got eaten up, in full daylight mind you, and on a crowded street, by an enormous angry rhinoceros which had escaped from the London Zoo."
Pokey rolled his eyes and huffed. "Rhinoceroses are vegetarians," he said scornfully. True!
"They must have been really angry, then!" I told him.  (Also deer eat meat. Occasionally.)

3. Ace said, "I snabbed it out of your hand!" which is a nice portmanteau onomatopoeia, or as they say, portmanamatopoeia. Port-mahna mahna-poeia.  I hope snabbed catches on.

4. Rascal really likes Brown Bear. He turns the pages at breakneck speed, and you sort of give up on reading, until he gets to this page:

This is his favorite page. He lets you read it, and then he quizzes you on them, pointing to the different animals out of order. He likes to stay on this one page forever, pointing around and commanding your attention.

Also I love this video:


I had an appointment with a plastic surgeon. This is the guy that came and talked with me immediately before surgery. He is so nice and caring and is very enthusiastic about my tattoo plans (unlike the surgeon who did the actual surgery, Mr. Are-you-triple-sure? quadruple-sure? double-secret-probation-sure-you-don't-want-reconstruction?)

Here are possibilities: a scar revision for the hypertrophic portion of the scars, fixing the small poochiness on both sides, and fat injections for some of the dents and boniness. I would like to do the scar revision and de-pooch the pooches. The fat injection requires liposuction, and apparently I'd need to take a week off work and then be sore for two more weeks and I guess I'm a big surgery wimp, but the dents don't seem bad enough to warrant liposuction.


I bought suit fabric. I settled on this blue floral:

I wanted the suit to be both ridiculous and dignified. It turns out that upholstery fabric is exactly right for balancing those two impulses.  I felt well-understood by the couch people.

4 kittens

A Usual Round-up

Posted on 2016.06.12 at 23:02
Rascal now has a conversation, with himself:
First he throws something. Then he says, "I throw!"
Then he holds out his hands and says, "Where iggo?"
Then he points and exclaims, "There it is!" triumphantly. (And lo, there it is.)



My grandmother has a story about Saran Wrap, and how the serrated edge used to be on the top edge of the box. After you tore off a piece, the raw edge of the Saran Wrap would glom on to the roll, and the next time you wanted a piece, you'd have to find the edge and pick it off the roll.

Then they moved the serrated edge down to the bottom edge of the box. Now when you tear off a piece, the raw edge of the roll stays stuck to the box, for easy access for your next use. "The obvious isn't obvious until it's obvious!" exclaims my grandmother, at the end of this story. You would not believe how long it would take her to tell that story.

Ace has these velcro shoes:

See how the velcro forms a single U shape? It can't slip out of the eyelets. This is my Saran Wrap moment, and I will bore the fuck out of my grandchildren with this uninteresting design improvement. (I will start off with my grandmother's Saran Wrap story and when they think I'm at the punchline, I'll launch into the Velcro Sequel for maximum manipulation of their attention.)

I guess that one wasn't really about Ace. But she just told Jammies, "When I grow up, I want to play hockey with you."   Jammies said, "I know, sweetie. We can do that,"  and Ace said, "Well, you're going to have to hold my hand."  Awwwwwww.

She then said, "When I'm a grown up, do I have to sleep in my same room?" Jammies said no, she could sleep where she wants.  "Good," said Ace, "I'm going to sleep in your room, between you and Mommy. I like your bed."



Cannot touch his toes. He's maybe mid-shin, when he reaches down. I know that I also was not able to touch my toes as a kid, but it's still startling. He's only 5 years old!

Also he took apart this slap bracelet:

A tape measure?! Like, they destroyed an actual tape measure to make this bracelet? You'd think Big Slap Bracelet could source that at the tape measurer factory and have their stock diverted, just before the yellow paint gets applied.



We have a nice routine going where I bark "Son!" and she growls back, "I'm not your son," as taken from the dialogue between Washington and Hamilton.  (After the car crash, Washington says, "I can't operate on Hamilton, he's my son!" He's his DAUGHTER you sexist.)

Also I think she's actually very close to being able to swim?

She seems much more relaxed and happy now that school has ended. I'm not sure what is underlying that.



Acquired this bookshelf, on the left:

What a lovely piece of furniture. At the estate sale, it looked like a normal-sized bookshelf in a small room. In our house, it looks like a giant piece of furniture in a very large room. There's some perspective weirdness at play - the estate sale had (metaphorical) big building blocks, but then they were used to make proportionally normal rooms. Our house has (metaphorically) very small building blocks, but used to make proportionally big rooms. It's like comparing a dress with fabric with a giant print (the estate sale house) versus a dress with fabric with a tiny print (our house). The new bookshelf is a boutonniere pinned on each of the two dresses. (Or maybe a Texas homecoming mum.) Pinned to the Texas mum is a very labored analogy.

Also a local politician asked me to have an official position in her re-election campaign. I said, "you should find someone else who wants the publicity. But if you're stuck, I can be back up." A week later she said, "We talked about it, and we chose you!" I wrote back and said, "I really, really don't have time in the fall" and started to panic about over-committing myself.  She said to come to a campaign meeting and try it out.

At the campaign meeting, I got three hours of insider gossip and wow. It was exactly like being a 9th grader and having the seniors ask you to sit with them at the cafeteria.  Half the gossip concerns people you've never heard of, but it all has wonderfully salacious gravitas. It was super fun.

Being a publically-elected official seems awful. Campaigning alone would make me drive off a cliff. But I like the idea of being informed and opinionated, and maybe in a decade I could be a person behind the scenes. I like the idea of having influence.

Jammies: May get shipped out to Korea again next week. We won't find out until the last minute, as usual. I got angry all over again remembering how they shipped him over there for a week when Rascal was three weeks old.  I really, really resent that.

Jammies isn't even assigned to this project. Another guy is on his honeymoon for three weeks, so Jammies would be the substitute if the Koreans demand someone to yell at in person.

E. Messily: has offered to sew me a pantsuit. I'm so incredibly excited. I'm picking fabric.

Maybe a blue floral:

Or a different blue floral:

Or monkeys:

Or a blue floral:

You may recognize that last one from the bag that E. made for me, but I keep coming back to it. It's also available in mustard and green.

Anon: Obviously there was a huge massacre at the gay night club in Orlando last night. It's one of those tragedies that colors everything. I always feet a bit idiotic not acknowledging that something awful occurred, but my reactions are not particularly interesting or notable. Of course I feel horror and shock and sadness, but not in any unique way that anyone needs to read about.

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Onto the Larger Carousel Structure

Posted on 2016.06.05 at 21:36
Hokey Pokey and I went on a special trip, just the two of us.

to Atlanta. Atlanta is such a great city.

We visited my dear friend S who teaches aerial ballet and math.

We arrived via airport, as one does:

and Pokey was inspired to build an airport. Or he started to.  He mostly worked on this luggage carousel:

See the black suitcase passing out the mouth of the converyer belt onto the larger carousel structure?

He hasn't yet built the terminals. Don't tell Jammies that S said she would mail the airport home.

We went to a museum:

I would like to learn more about megafauna. Like giant sloths:

and what is this carnivorous giant bird?

And this frightening boyish stegosaurus?

We went to a 33rd birthday party for a friend of S.  Of their circle, two people recently had babies. Both babies came to the party. They were cute and cuddly. The group of friends is clearly not used to five year olds, even ones who are relatively calm and well-behaved. Pokey was not destroying stuff, but he was climbing on me. He was not running through crowds of adults, but he did like the cupcakes. I remember finding full-blown kids a little unfamiliar and rowdy, when Hawaii was a baby and toddler.

Each evening Pokey wept that he hadn't spent enough special time just with me. Each time I was bewildered. I tried to validate his experience, but also I think kids are insatiable. Also exhausted - we spent a lot of time in the pool each day.

Apparently Hawaii missed Pokey enormously. I expected her to enjoy having some space, but it's quite touching that she felt so sad. They have not spent nights apart since Pokey was a baby, I think.

Ace had her first gymnastics lesson. (She wanted to do gymnastics all year long, and not ballet. But since she was not yet three, she would have been consigned to the parent-tot class which is kind of a drag.)

The next day she kept saying her legs hurt, and we realized that her little legs were sore from all that jumping and running. Is that the cutest injury possible?

(Ephemera trapped in my head: the lyrics to a song that my third grade teacher made us sing to the the gym teacher on the occasion of his retirement. We have run, run, run till our little legs were sore. We have jumped and climbed till we couldn't go no more. We have kicked and ...(mumble I forget)...till something rhymes with sore, for YOU Coach Vickers, for you! There were a lot of verses. I guess most of it is not trapped in my brain, after all. I remember not liking Coach Vickers very much.)

On Saturday my neck and shoulder blades were spasming again, and I was quite upset. I hadn't been on a computer, or using my phone, or hunching over. I thought I must have some underlying condition that will worsen and hurt me.

Then we went swimming after dinner. I threw the football as far as I could, to Pokey. My shoulder blade and neck lit up like they were on fire. I realized that I was just super ridiculously sore from throwing a football the day before, in the pool.   Much less cute than Ace's soreness, but I was very relieved to have located the trigger.

Hawaii ended school and started a summer program at the daycare. Which means we've entered the holy grail: a single drop-off location all summer long.  Amazing.

I am punting for one more week on the things that I mentioned last week that I would post about this week.

4 kittens

Free of Rigging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 kittens

We can only shoot bullets.

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

This is the costume that Ace loathed:

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

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

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

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

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

She seemed to enjoy herself:

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

One recital down!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hawaii found my knitted knockers:

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


The demon child is my funny bunny.


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

Country bumpkin.


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


These little guys were growing near my house:

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

4 kittens

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

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

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

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


I cut my hair off on Thursday:

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Hokey Pokey named his catamaran Kitty:

Ace named her tugboat Sadness:

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

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


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

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


4 kittens

See if you can smell this.

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

From Hawaii:


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

From Pokey:

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

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

From Ace:

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

Fuck you, Mommy!

From Rascal:

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

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

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

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

Here's another time they were all playing together:

Then they all cried.

It was teacher appreciation week.

Hawaii wrote this to her teacher:

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

What else?

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

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

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

What else?

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

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

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

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

What else?

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

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

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

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

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

The kids were very talented.

What else?

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

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

Plant the cheerios, harvest the garden.

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

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

They are certified like so:

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

Maybe I should have gone with the dragons.

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

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


Hey Rascal, got any new artwork?

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

Hey Pokey, got any new artwork?

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

which apparently earned him this title:

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

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

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

Occasionally there is a drawing or two:

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

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

Hey Ace, got any new artwork?

No? How about a new song, then?

Wow. That's a really nice song.


Any new artwork with you?

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

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

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

A disco? A nighclub?

Be aware of potions!

Hawaii has something in mind, clearly.

Odds and Ends

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

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

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

4 kittens

Ranch sauce on burritos

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

Yes, yes, you're beautiful, dear.


We all love this phrasing, right?

Bottle brush trees.

Little alien flowers.

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

Even their stone greek Π symbols are better than ours.

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

These guys were pretty cute:

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

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

More wharf:

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

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

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

Now straighten up and fly right.

That's better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, this helps:

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

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

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

4 kittens

The Trouble With Things

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

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

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

I'm generally relieved not to have been scammed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, from their website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like a fuzzy duckling.

Hawaii made her a card:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Other things have been made lately:


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

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

E made:

A rascally tugboat.

A jolly steamer.

Together with Pokey, she made:

A wily catamaran.

Hawaii has been working on:

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

Really! See her design plan:

They will be painted and decorated when they dry.

This week was a doozy.

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

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

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

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

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

4. On Friday I dented a car.

Here are the resolutions of these crises:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like I said, the dooziest of the doozies.

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

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

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

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Glady's E. Steen's Water Tower Dormitories

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


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

and also these two towers:

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

It's the future of yesterday!

I liked these door handles;

this textured wall:

and these oval windows:

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


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

These trees are not architectural, I just liked them:

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

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

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


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

we stole all the change from Mom's ashtray.

I remembered what I forgot to tell you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The teams were called the Gnarwhals and the Rolling Blackouts.

While I was at my conference,

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

4 kittens

Stop and go, right away

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labeled by Jammies, yoinked from his facebook page.


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

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

T-ball season has begun.

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

I SAID, T-ball season has begun.

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


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

but she seemed to always be on the go.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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Meticulous Searching

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

Rascal learned to sit on a bike.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Princess. What are you looking at?

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

Of course I do!

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

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

4 kittens

Gosh Darn Fucking Goat

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

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

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

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

The park is right on Lake Charles:

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

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

Traffic was monstrous throughout Louisiana:

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

Look how ferny this tree is:

There are branches that are sheer gardens themselves:

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


Rascal is done with baby bottles.

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


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

Indeed. I laughed.

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

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


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



I had my first P&Z meeting last week.

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

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


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

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

But we're here now!

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