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3 kittens

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.

July 5, 2014 (1)

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. 

3 kittens

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.

June 29, 2014 (2)

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

3 kittens

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.

3 kittens

A round-up

Posted on 2014.06.16 at 18:59
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.

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.

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:

June 15, 2014 (28)

Heebie, that photo is hard to discern.

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.


Hawaiian Punch used to have long hair:

June 8, 2014 (5)

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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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.

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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:

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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.

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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 " 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."

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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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You're Pinching My Thighs

Posted on 2014.05.04 at 13:02
Life is joyous, etc. Classes are over. (Still remaining: finals, grading, and also a field trip to SeaWorld, but whatever.) The last few classes required Herculean strength, and now they are done. I would like to take this moment to express my supreme gratitude to the passage of time. I couldn't have done it without you.

Here is a thing I found intolerable:

At Hawaii's birthday party, we set the cake down at our kiddie table, and sang happy birthday. Then, sitting in a mini-chair, knees around my elbows, I received the knife and set about cutting the cake and passing plates around.

In my cramped, tiny chair, four and five year olds stood taller than me, and swarmed in. They pressed against me, wanting cake. I had an urge to swing the knife menancingly around me and warn them to stand back or I'd cut them.  Yes, yes, you all want cake. You are all two inches from my head, pointing at different pieces of the cake and issuing demands. I hate you all.

Next time I will remove the cake from the tiny table and regain my height and head-clearance, and cut and serve cake from an adult height.

Somehow our toilet seat cracked:

May 4th, 2014 (2)

When it was just a little crack, it would pinch your thighs as you shifted your weight. Now that it's a big flagrant crack, the whole seat just bends ominously. I think we shall replace it today.

The kind of (adorable) Easter thing we get deluged with:

May 4th, 2014 (1)

I played with Ace on a picnic blanket. Our friend's daughter B sat down with us and solemnly said, "You know, I still like some shows for babies. Really! And some baby toys."  She and I chatted about such things. In the meantime, Hawaiian Punch came over and joined us.

Hawaii adores B, and began...I don't know how to describe it. A parody of adult fascination. (She wasn't being sarcastic, though.) More like experimenting with adult inflections. "Really!" Hawaii said, faux-rapt, "Tell me more!" B obliged, talking about some baby shows they used to stream on Netflix. Hawaii threw her head back and laughed. "So interesting!" The interjections weren't exactly coinciding with pauses in content. "Really!" she exclaimed. "Do go on."   (She probably didn't say "Do go on!" imploringly but a blogger can dream.)

The counters, the counters

Beautiful pink onyx, it turns out, is a terrible choice for a kitchen.  It is fragile and not at all recommended.

Beautiful blue macauba quartzite is an excellent choice for a kitchen. It is a terrible choice for our budget. Beautiful blue, you were quoted to us at $240/square foot. Holy fuck, you assholes, I know when I'm being hosed.

You know what is cheap? Floor tile. Since I really do want stone countertops, I would prefer a bit of grout over a laminate or IKEA or something.  Floor tile is about $1.50/square foot.

I am in the process of haggling over the beautiful blue, just for giggles, but seriously - that is too expensive.

Did you know that I'm almost on sabbatical?
This was probably contributing to my extreme semester fatigue - I am nearly free from the shackles of work until January. (That is not true - I am planning on doing some assorted math projects. But they are inviting and fun, at least from this distance.)  Like I said above, beside myself with joy, etc.

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No Thank You notes afterwards.

Posted on 2014.04.27 at 11:52
It was Easter.

The kids got one of those roadmap rugs to drive toy cars on. (I don't know why.) All that Hokey Pokey wants to do is drive cars on the roadmap rug.

April 27, 2014 (10)

(I never would have guessed that a roadmap rug held any appeal, so don't listen to me when it comes to presents. I find it hard to intuit which toys will be immersive, though.)

I had a passing thought about my failure to acknowledge Passover to the kids, since they get deluged with The Easter Avalanche by virtue of life itself. Easter is a giant snowglobe of bunnies and candy and egg hunts and potlucks. It would be nice if they felt a tad alienated from it all, like I do. (I don't have much of a personal connection to Passover anyway, nor drive to host a seder. It just feels like the only available balance to offset Easter Intensity besides general surliness.)

It was Hawaii's 5th birthday.

We had a book exchange at Hawaii's party, in lieu of presents, and she was pissed at us. Everyone brings a book, everyone takes a book. Here's why a book exchange is great: no plastic crap comes into the house, no goody bags to prepare (because all the guests leave with a book), and no thank you notes afterwards.

Hawaii felt the sting of the loss of the presents that never were, though.  She took me aside several times throughout the party to tell me how sad she felt.

(She got a modest stack of presents from family. She wasn't totally empty-handed. Also that display of ennui above wasn't during the party. That would have been too sad.)(Favorite gifts: Mary Poppins, Frozen, box of Lucky Charms, nail polish.)

Jammies and I have different opinions. Jammies is in favor of keeping the book exchanges in the future. I think I'm caving. You don't have that many magical kiddie birthdays in your life.

It was Ace's 1st birthday.

She ruptured her eardrum. We got a call from daycare that her ear was oozing, but that she still seemed happy.  This was actually the day before her birthday. On her actual birthday, she got a cupcake.

April 27, 2014 (1)

Pictures would help this entry not feel like such a slog.

I feel like a slog. Every morning for two weeks, I cough until I throw up. I keep plastic bags in the car.

(Yes, Heebie, you're pregnant. People throw up. But not me! I never have before! This pregnancy is different in many ways - I don't crave gatorade and ramen. I'm throwing up.  If this were my second pregnancy, I'd attribute all this to "MUST BE THE OPPOSITE GENDER!" It's so easy to attribute everything to gender. Good thing I can't do that here.)

This past month has been maybe the most brutal physical slog I can remember. One more week of classes. Also one more week until I should feel a bit better.

Then Things Got Better

But then! Yesterday morning I got to go browse countertops! Jammies dropped me off and took the kids to Target.

When you enter the warehouse, you get a clipboard and instructions. Rows J-M are lowest price, and fine-grain. (Read: speckled granite.) Rows A-I are medium-high priced, and rows D-E are marble.  I asked what a typical price was, in these ranges, and she demurred, "We are a whole saler. Your contractor will have a fabricator, who will bid on the counters you pick, and we'll go from there."  Gee, what an intentionally obfuscatory process. I'm sure a low-information single buyer from outside of Austin like me will score a great bargain.

In the warehouse of slabs, another customer passed me and said, "This is awful. Everything's running together and looking the same." I remembered to nod in commiseration, because that is what polite people do. On the inside I thought, What? This is amazing. A warehouse of countertops! We get to wander around and be opinionated! It was divine.

Oh so beautiful.

Counters which I fell in love with, but do not fit my vision:


April 27, 2014 (6)

Let's splash in the cool blue water of this counter. I can picture cooking dinner on this, and finding it soothing.

April 27, 2014 (4)

It's a counter Mars-scape! Let's frolic in this acid green sci-fi-scape. I love it.

If I could figure out how to incorporate either of these, I would. I did ask for prices on them.

This is the current front-runner:

April 27, 2014 (2)

You are truly pink!

These below are two that I'm very fond of, even though they are so nondescript.  I love them.

April 27, 2014 (3)    April 27, 2014 (5)

They are like a monument. Or a black and white photograph. Of a monument. Calm, eternal, etc.

And even more

Chuck E. Cheese is sort of fun? This was not Hawaii or Ace's party, but merely one we attended yesterday, after the glorious countertops.

April 27, 2014 (8)

It's not awful.

April 27, 2014 (8)

It does what it's supposed to do.

April 27, 2014 (9)

During the cake and Chuck E. Cheese Rock Band portion of the event, they played a song called "My Karate Kid" to the tune of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative", for one of the strangest song-location mash-ups I've ever conceived.

When Bobby Brown breaks it down and says "It's MY PREROGATIVE! You can do what you want to do", Chuck E. Cheese sang "It's MY KARATE KID! The one with Elizabeth Shue." No lie, that was honestly a lyric.

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Keep it short

Posted on 2014.04.19 at 10:23
Good riddance to this fucking week. I can't remember when I've been so ill. Hokey Pokey got a cough and felt awful for a day. Hawaii and Ace seemed to catch it, but barely. I spent the week completely knocked out. I did not get out of bed from after work on Wednesday until Friday (except I did, but I didn't want to.)

Monday and Tuesday were probably the worst. I wanted to stay in bed, but my Official Administrative Program had its external site review, where people from other universities come to visit for two days and learn your program inside and out, and give you feedback.  The site reviewer was very nice and I enjoyed her, but I also felt like the shit end of a stick.

Other times I coughed until I threw up. New experiences! I can't remember feeling so completely decimated.

Today Hawaii is five! I have not yet seen her, because Jammies took the big kids camping for the night. Tuesday Ace is one!

The cat just hopped on my lap and smeared poop on my arm. Good times. Better me than the furniture.

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Representing the data

Posted on 2014.04.12 at 14:38
Today I shall brag about the children.

1. About a month ago, Hawaii said "Mom, this is going to make a mess but just listen. I want to organize all my books and make a list of all their titles and..." this point I hollered for Jammies, because he is highly organized, and Hawaii is highly organized for a four year old, and they can step inside each other's brains more easily than I can.

She spent the better part of the weekend copying the names of her books into a multipage document like so:

April 12, 2014 (1)

On the first day afterwards, Hawaii fetched "Unexpected Africa" for us at story time.  "Ok," we thought, "this is the game - she wants to read each of her books an equal number of times."  This is not unprecedented - she has a similar system for her closet.

The next night, she got "Unexpected Africa" out again, and we balked, because it is a terrible book. (It's central conceit: forty vignettes of savannah animals doing western activities. Lifeguard lions telling cheetahs and antelopes to WALK! because they're poolside. Animals getting hyper-caffeinated from coffee, getting stuck in traffic jams, rhinos in ballet shoes, etc. The captions are inevitably twice or thrice too long, littered with weak puns.)

Jammies and I said, "We read Unexpected Africa last night. What's next?" Hawaii said that she only crossed out the letter "U". We had to read it fifteen more times, you see, to get through all the letters.  I don't know why, but we did, for the next two weeks, read Tails of Unexpected Africa every goddamn night.

Now we are currently one week into a charming poem book about a girl-pirate. I think I have it memorized.

2. Yesterday, the kids said "We want to show you our science experiment."
They had eight assorted balls lined up on the couch, and this piece of paper:

April 12, 2014 (2)

Hawaii explained: Each ball corresponds to a line on the database, and each line shows the trajectory or behavior of the corresponding ball, when a force was applied to it. Possibly I'm paraphrasing.  (The real given explanation: "This ball goes like THIS!" [gesturing, pointing to the picture, acting it out, etc.])

Look at these kids, running trials and representing the data pictorially!  I felt pride and hubris.

Good things:

  • I'm sitting between two open windows on a beautiful day, and the whole house feels like a tree house because there is so much fresh air and visible foliage.

  • Jammies takes care of me. Every night I go to bed more or less at the same time as the kids. He does the dishes and the laundry and way more than his fair share, in general.

The bad:

  • I am so goddamn tired and awful feeling. I should have four more weeks of feeling this shitty. There are only three more weeks of classes, before finals.  I am seriously struggling to hang in there. There is nothing to do except do it.

Suck it up, Heebster

Hawaii and Hokey Pokey have abruptly reached the stampede stage of childhood.  When they are wound up, their rambunctiousness is now colossal. They wrestle like thrashing, whipping, ...I can't resolve this metaphor. Hornets nests? Bulls in china shops? Tasmanian devils? They would be illustrated with a blurry single ball of motion, with random legs sticking out akimbo and fists flailing.

I find it overwhelming, but maybe that's the first trimester talking.

It says Let Me Rest

Last summer, our friend said, "Use this swim instructor. She's absolutely magical. My daughter was swimming within two weeks."  Our experiences with group swimming lessons is that the kids have not learned how to swim whatsoever.

This summer, we contacted the sainted swim instructor. The swim instructor said that we should sign our kids up for ISR lessons. ISR stands for "Infant Safety Rescue". We dutifully checked out the website.

ISR lessons are:
a. ten minutes a day.
b. five days a week.
c. six weeks of hell.
d. $600 per child

I texted my friend, at the Old Settler's music festival, spending five days presumably stoned out of her gourd:
"Did you guys do the ISR program for [your daughter] last year with that swim instructor? Or just regular lessons?"
She wrote back, "That lady is magic!"
Me, "Did it cost $600? ISR is $600."
She wrote back, "Magic is expensive! but our girls are older and cheaper."
Me, "Hawaii is the same age! Did you do a class that was 10 minutes a day, five days a week?"
No answer. I felt a twinge of guilt for harassing my friend at Old Settler's.

Next day.
Me, "Ok for real: did you do a class that was 10 minutes a day, five days a week, for six weeks?"
She wrote, "Nope."
Me, "Oh thank fucking god."

I told the instructor that the logistics were not feasible for our family. Mostly I just cannot get over putting a bathing suit on your kid for ten goddamn minutes of rest, only to take the wet swimsuit off again, every single goddamn day. For $600.

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Much Joan. So Rivers. Wow.

Posted on 2014.04.06 at 15:13
I suppose I should resolve the story from last week, but it has a happy ending, and I'm hyper-aware that people have trouble conceiving, or are having a perfectly normal time conceiving but that itself is frustrating, or are having severe problems conceiving, though those people have probably self-selected themselves away from this blog years ago.

I thought, "The last time I miscarried, I didn't start spotting for three or four weeks." So I decided to make a doctor's appointment. I told the ultrasound tech, "I think I was pregnant for about a day, and then miscarried, and I just want to know what's going on."

She checked, and said, "Oh, you're very pregnant." By which she meant about two months. Far enough along to see the heartbeat. But I'd had a recent period! A full-fledged, unmistakable period. Apparently this is a thing that happens to people, not terribly uncommonly.  Periodic bleeding while pregnant. Who knew.

I am very happy! This is great! But unexpected; I'd been steeling myself for bad news.

I think this part is funny: before the ultrasound, the tech asked why I thought I miscarried, and I said, "I'd been having first trimester symptoms, but then they went away."
She said, "That's really early to be feeling symptoms."
I said, "Yes, but I've been paying close attention."   Ha ha.

Here is my secret delight: the symmetry. Oh my god, the symmetry. I am beside myself with glee. Hawaii was born in April 2009, Hokey Pokey was November, 2010. Ace was April 2013. This one will be November 2014.  When I was pregnant with Ace, it felt like I was reliving my pregnancy with Hawaii. And now I get to re-live my pregnancy with Hokey Pokey. This is so fucking satisfying.

(How much do I like symmetry? One big reason that I hate getting massages is that inevitably the masseuse does not touch you with perfect symmetry, and the phantom spot - the mirror image of wherever they rubbed on one side but failed to perfectly duplicate on the other - that spot starts driving me crazy, to distraction. I start keeping track of all the ways the massage fails to be perfectly symmetric. It's not very relaxing.)(The other reason is that I don't like being touched.)(Aren't I less fun than a barrel of monkeys.)

Anyway: four kids, with internal patterns to their births. Wow. So symmetric. Much pattern. Very design.

While we're on the subject of babies: Ace, good lord. What a delight. She just wants you to sit on the floor with her, and she is so, so happy as she crawls in and out of your lap, pulls up on your shoulder, bounces, babbles. Just so happy until you try to get up and get something done.

(I meant to take a photo of Ace, but then she went down for a nap, so instead you get mesquite trees.)

I've been in Laredo for a conference, where it was 101° at first. The drive to Laredo was full of spring green low mesquite trees; very monotonous. (Such repetition. Wow.)

I did not explore the city. I was either at our hotel or the university. I might have enjoyed exploring, but it was not convenient and I'm so very tired, and Joan Rivers was on two different channels on cable TV. Simultaneously!

For the record: I like asymmetry just fine. What I can't stand is failed symmetry. If you're attempting a pattern, do it right for god's sake.

3 kittens

Diet Coke with no repulsion

Posted on 2014.03.30 at 21:14
It is said that most miscarriages happen before the woman even realizes she's pregnant - her regularly scheduled period is at most a day or so late. I, however, was paying attention. Last week I felt increasingly awful in that tell-tale first trimester way. I spent the week planning contingency plans for next winter, based on an early December due date. On Friday I took a pregnancy test and it was positive.

On Friday afternoon, I opened a diet coke and felt no repulsion.  I drank it. It dawned on me that I felt absolutely fine. And I have felt back to normal ever since. If I get my period tomorrow, then it will be exactly on time.

Easy come, easy go - the technical term is a "chemical pregnancy" if the turnaround is this quick, I think - but I still felt a touch of sadness.

This all happened during Geebie Family Day Weekend, at a rental house on Canyon Lake. A very well-labeled rental house - the coffee pot indicated that it didn't use paper filters, the light switches all explained themselves, the trash cans distinguished themselves from the recycling. I appreciated that. We were pampered: crown molding with its own lighting for when you want twilight in the bedroom. Whirlpool tub (that went untouched). Sinks with no basin - just a fancy stone slab, angled, with a crevice in the corner functioning as a drain. Plush bedding that reminds you that expensive bedding actually feels noticeably amazing.  (However, a house entirely floored with stained concrete is a pain in the ass, if you've got a baby whose skull you're protective of.  There were two very short flights of concrete stairs. "Turn around, Ace!" we clucked, concerned. "Go backwards!" we said, approximately two thousand times over two days.) They gave us two souvenir pint glasses with their family name on them.

We planted cheerios, and interviewed the kids. We harvested donuts in the morning, for breakfast.  We had hoards of friends join us for the party portion. I put on my party pants, and we fed them fajitas. I was distracted from the very, very quick demise of my pregnancy with some delicious sangria.  (There is a lingering question - what if I'm wrong? I do not like this uncertainty. It would be convenient if I just get my period, but it's also possible it won't return for a few weeks.)

Before we left, I put dish soap in the dishwasher, by mistake. That shit sure does cause a lot of suds, I now understand experientially. I apologized a lot to the owners.

3 kittens

Cackles with glee, etc.

Posted on 2014.03.23 at 19:56
Hokey Pokey:

  1. Wears his underpants backwards because he doesn't like the penis pocket

  2. Says, "poop, wake up! Don't take a nap, poop! Come out," when sitting on the toilet, in wait.

  3. Is sleeping in his car seat in the parking lot of HEB. He said "I want to stay in the car" and so I stayed behind with him, and then he promptly fell asleep. I'm writing this draft on my phone.

  4. Said "guys, one at a time. Underpants, you gotta go first. Pants, you're next," while pulling his pants up, after using the bathroom. This was not the same occasion as (B).

  5. Is forever my darling.

  6. Might not be amused in ten years that I told everyone how he doesn't like his penis pocket. Confidential to older Pokey: please, see (E).

  7. Obviously all of the above.

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Grandma Collie and Hokey Pokey, in the birdcage chair, at dusk. (The deceptively dangerous birdcage chair, because idly twirling can unscrew the bolt, and you will crash to the floor, and then that ball on top will roll off the top arm, and clank you on the head, as punctuation for your foolishness.)

Hawaiian Punch:

  1. Says, "Let me see your pretty eyes!" in a cajoling manner, when I bury my face in my hands in exasperation. Inevitably it makes me laugh, which is totally counterproductive. Once I start laughing, it's dreadfully hard to accomplish whatever was exasperating me in the first place.  I often say, dryly, "I suppose we're making memories" as control of the situation slips through my fingers.

  2. Sees Pokey having fun, and wants to recreate that exact experience. You can't swoop in on Hawaii and swing her high in the air and zherbert her stomach. She will not enjoy the surprise, nor lack of agency, and will tensely shriek to be put down. But you can swoop in on Hokey Pokey, and so we do. He cackles with glee, etc, is very merry.

    Hawaii watches Pokey's reckless abandon, his carefree zest, and says "Now do that to me!" So you put down Pokey, and pick up Hawaii, and try to do the exact same thing. Inevitably, it is not perfectly recreate-able. You can't swoop in on the same river twice and zherbert it.  Inevitably, Hawaii gets a little heartbroken and busted and has a miniature - yet real - run-in with the angst of the immutability of one's core temperament.  I'm so sympathetic to her plight, and I can't fix it for her, but poor Hawaii. (For what it's worth, I was a child with Pokey's temperament, not Hawaii's.)

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Matching skirts with Grandma Collie. No, Grandma Collie does not know she's being blogged. She would be hurt that I haven't shared this journal with her, but not at her presence on it. (I feel bad about not sharing this journal, because I know how much she'd love it. But, first, I tell no one. Second, Mom is not good at secrets. Third, I tell no one, and if you want something to stay a secret, you tell no one.)

Good afternoon, Morningside Nature Center:

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Swamps and sheep kept their distance from each other, as best they could within the same park.

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On the drive home, we stopped in Lake Charles, Louisiana, to play on a playground with a fire truck.  We did the drive home in one long stretch - wake up at 4 am, Eastern time, and pull into our driveway at 10:30 pm, Central time. One thousand miles, chump.

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Ace frolicked with the garden hoses.

3 kittens

To be friendslocked - my Hollywood vacation

Posted on 2014.03.18 at 14:02
I've been to Hollywood. We met Veronica Bell:


(I will friends-lock this before too long.)

Let's back up. First up: the La Brea Tar Pits, because I drove past them on my way to Airedale's hotel.

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The La Brea Tar Pits are complete with life-size plaster mastodons mid-dying a slow, sticky death. The tar pits were bubbling holes and one tar pond, which were fenced off. The park is pretty smelly and fascinating, both.

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In a few grassy areas, tar had just erupted:

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The whole tree was splattered with tar from that one little hole. The hole was actively bubbling and oozing. It was not hot.

After that, we learned that Los Angeles really is not walkable, as we decided to explore and ended up mostly not getting anywhere. We did pass the CBS building, and were awash of contestants leaving a taping of The Price Is Right. A nice combination of kitchsy, local, and envious.  They were still wearing their nametags.

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Danielle, don't you want your nametag?

The next morning we hiked Runyan canyon, alongside some Herbalife enthusiasts, complete with transformational testimony at the peak. They all jogged past us on the way up the canyon, and we obligingly admired their stamina. Then at the peak, they sat in a circle, and took turns testifying how Herbalife had revolutionized their life.

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Herbalife aside, Los Angeles felt plenty normal. Maybe it's a matter of which suburbs you're in, but I was braced for plastic and silicone and beauty, and people looked pretty normal.

We got gussied up and went here:

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The movie was not-disappointing. Like a solidly entertaining episode.

Then we went to the cast party! We met Logan, who said "I like your dress" to me:

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That might have been the highlight of the whole evening.

We met Keith Mars, who was exceptionally charismatic:

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Dick Casablancas said, "I did one with teeth and one without. My cheeks are getting tired from smiling."  

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Dick later pulled a girl onto a table and danced for the crowd. When he was chided by security, he failed to understand how difficult it was going to be for the girl to dismount in 4" heels, and she kind of toppled.

We met Rob Thomas, and I said "I'm from your hometown!" Which is true. He graduated from the local high school.  He convincingly feigned enthusiasm.

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There was Wallace and Hannah and Weevil and the kid from Freaks and Geeks, and the principal:

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Hannah was not actually in the movie, but I think she was sitting a few rows ahead of us, and maybe attended as a backer.

The trip now seems slightly surreal - what a fancy theater! At the after party, the cast treated us like beneficent financial backers, whose egos should be stroked, rather than gormless fans who should be tolerated. That was very kind of them, and made the party fantastically fun.

Now we are five hours in to a 16 hour drive. We just entered Louisiana. So far I prefer the drive to flying. The kids are on their third movie.

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In Louisiana, they sell wine by the glass at the gas stations.

Then I put this entry aside for a few days. Now we are in Florida, where the fences say "Sinkhole in Enclosed Area - No Trespassing":

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It's been raining:

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WAIT HEEBIE, DON'T GO! What was the carpet like in the hotel?!

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It was not bad!

3 kittens

Twin buckets of overcompensation

Posted on 2014.03.08 at 08:37
In a few years I'll have a mastectomy. (My second cousin called me a few weeks ago, and asked me about BRCA stuff. I last spoke to her in 1994, but it was oddly easy to chat about sex without breasts and our bodies and vaginal dryness, and how old we might be and still have babies. That's because I see on Facebook that she is a fullfledged commune-living soul with cuddling and purple linen clothes and Rainbow Gatherings, and it is very easy for me to relax around fullblown hippies. We also discussed holistic therapies, but I was an unforthcoming establishmentarian dud on that tip.)

My residual concern has been thus: would Jammies miss my breasts in bed, to an extent that I should get implants instead of going flat?

I am pretty sure that five years after surgery, I will be so used to whatever I look like that I will never think about it. Which would imply that I should just get implants, for his pleasure. But in the short term, I just don't want to get them. Jammies said "I would not want to get them, either. I'll miss them a little, they're nice, but there is no way in hell that that's a reason to get implants." He also pointed out that I'm not someone who uses them much in the bedroom. That he would miss them more if they'd played a bigger role in giving me pleasure. This was the first reassuring thing.

THEN I remembered this: conventional wisdom holds that men with small penises are great in bed, because they are extra-focused on compensating and making sure their partner has a great time, right? Maybe a touch of insecurity will make me a doubly-attentive, enthusiastic bucket of fun. And an enthusiastic bundle of overcompensation is probably a good time, even better than sullen, uncooperative breasts.

So the original plan - which at this point is a decade old - is still the plan. To have my mom draw a zoetrope of kittens and get them tattoo'd on my torso. Go on, google zoetrope. I'll wait.

On my drive yesterday, I had the following mindless thought scenario:
Hypothetical Surgeon: when we do mastectomies, it is absolutely the standard to also do some liposuction.
Me: What! I am not the type of person who would ever get liposuction.
Hyp. Surgeon: It is the standard. It is just what we do.
Me: Well, if it's the standard, and you promise I have no volition and free will, then that sounds awesome.

It was one of those ill-formed, nebulous scenarios where only afterwards do you realize what a massive dose of wish-fulfillment you just indulged. Oh, I could rid myself of back fat and stay true to my feminist ideals? Twist my arm.

On Tuesday I will fly to Los Angeles. There I will don my brown floral caftan and yellow heels and shmooze with La Kristen Bell and Enrico Colantoni and Lurker Airedale.

On Saturday, we will buckle the kids in the minivan and drive to Florida for Spring Break like responsible frugal parents. Sounds awful! Stay tuned.

3 kittens

Team A Knows More Plays

Posted on 2014.03.02 at 09:56
Hokey Pokey steals the show: "Mommy, I'm going to go waaaaaay over there" - we're in a big gymnastics warehouse, and he is pointing to the far side of the gym - "and run all the way back and give you a hug, okay?" This may be the most adorable thing that has ever happened to me: my three year old boy, twenty yards away, running at me with his arms out wingspan-style.

I held my arms out similarly, as directed, while chatting with other parents. Pokey ran and ran and ran, arms akimbo. When he arrived we had a big sweeping hug. Then he squirmed down so that we could do it again. I could play Long-Distance Hug all day long, for real.

Hawaii jraws conclusions:

Hawaii: guess what I did today. It starts with the letter J. Or maybe G.
Me: jump rope? Jelly beans? Juggle? [etc ad nauseum]
Hawaii: NO! I drew pictures for all my friends!
Me: that's great! What's the word that started with J?
Hawaii: "draw". J-j-jraw.

She's convincing! We do say jraw, don't we.

Then E. Messily explained to me (because I posted that dialogue to FB, but while Facebook records everything forever, I will never read my archives):

Phonemes (sounds, more or less) have, as features
what moves to make it (active articulator)
where the active articulator touches the rest of the mouth (place of articulation)
and some other things
but when you make two phonemes next to each other, some of the features from one can end up being made early or late
because of all the planning of muscle movements you're doing
when features from one thing show up in another thing, it's "assimilation"
when the feature in question is place of articulation, it's called "coarticulation"

Heebie Geebie: Does everyone say jraw? I'd never thought about it, but I definitely do. (I'm not interrupting your explanation.)

E. Messily: T and D, normally, are made with the tongue touching the very front of the mouth
R is made with the tongue curled backwards, and touching the roof of the mouth further back
so the "place" for T/D is "alveolar" and the "place" for R is "coronal"
and when you are planning to say tr or dr, you end up making the t or d with the tongue closer to the R position so it doesn't have to move as much
everyone pronounces them this way
but grownups have learned to mentally categorize the (slightly different sounding) ts and ds as regular so they don't hear the differences
kids who haven't finished learning the system (and/or who haven't figured out which sounds map onto which written letters) pay more attention to what their mouths are doing and what they're hearing
and, it turns out, if you make a T with your tongue farther back in your mouth, it turns into a ch

Heebie Geebie: Neat! Choo-choo-chrain.

E. Messily: except I didn't mean coronal, I meant postalveolar. I think. It's been awhile since I reviewed all the speech sound features.

Aren't they both adorable? I choo-choo-choose them.

Ace: I have a tooth!

March 2, 2014

That was a few weeks ago. Now it's tall and still isolated, Popeye-style. She yis what she yis.

It should be recorded how Hawaii dotes on Ace. Hawaii makes faces at Ace and wants hugs and cuddles. Ace is in full fledged game-wrecking age, and she grabs Pokey's, trucks to put them in her mouth, and shrieks bloody murder when he tries to reclaim them, and Pokey gets (rightly) upset. But Hawaii is indulgent. "You want my dollie," she coos, "but it's not for babies! No, it's not! Here," she suggests, "here is a baby toy!" Ace shrieks bloody murder anyway, as the swap happens, but Hawaii is an endlessly patient, devoted sister.

The Battle of the Marching Football Teams

Hawaii's piano book has a song called "The Football Game". The lyrics are
Team A marches up. Team B marches down.
Team A knows more plays, oh look their field goal wins the game!

Clearly this "football game" is actually a band competition, and then at the end the composer said "I need something to replace "judges' score". How do you score in football? Field goal? Done."

The composer may have attended many football games but only has the vaguest foggy about what happened during the sports-parts. I like this song.


We held our yearly calculus high school competition yesterday. The t-shirts said "2013! Third annual!" which is not true. I am so deeply ambivalent about this outreach massive competition that I end up never talking about it here. It is a shit-ton of work, and clearly there is a local appetite for such a competition - we had over one hundred teams compete in Round 1 this year. (Only the top ten teams came to Heebie U yesterday for the final round. Not all one hundred teams.)

I rely on students for help, but not other faculty members, which makes it tedious and frustrating to execute.

It occurs to me that this competition should feature a parallel conference, with sessions for calculus teachers where they can form a local community. This would be so much work that I want to curl up and forget I ever thunk it.

3 kittens

No tinkering.

Posted on 2014.02.23 at 08:00
Am I the only one who faces existential dread when spring taunts? Perhaps this is a Texas-sized jab at the top half of the country, freezing under their polar vortex, but I don't mean it that way.  Here, buds are appearing and temperatures are creeping dangerously close to 80°, and the sky is vast and blue.

It's the vast, blue sky of spring that somehow feels like a wretched abyss. It makes my commute feel like we're driving to the beach; isn't that ghastly? The dread is this: we wrapped up a year, and ended with a winter. We did all that work. And now a new year (and its correspondingly blue sky) is opening up, full of phony hopes and everyone will start making plans. A new year of failing to learn the same hard lessons. Oh no, here we go repeating ourselves and getting this phony blue hope-stuff again.  (This is not true despair. This is the sadly delicious and woeful kind that you savor.) Another fucking year of hopes to dash.

Die, hopes, die.

On Thursday morning, I shuffled the kids into the bathroom and put toothpaste on their toothbrushes. (I take both of their toothbrushes and put a single glob of toothpaste on them at the same time. Then I make the toothbrushes make out with each other - a la Barbie and Ken kissing passionately - until the toothpaste glob is shared equally. Hawaii and Hokey care very much who gets toothpaste first, and so I amuse myself and piss them both off.)(Aren't they old enough to put their own toothpaste on? They are old enough to sneak in the bathroom and chug toothpaste straight out of the tube. They have lost their toothpaste privileges.)(It's not the kind with fluoride.)

After the toothbrushes french kissed, the children began languidly chewing on their toothbrushes (it's what passes for brushing), and Pokey stopped to use the bathroom. From the toilet, he pointed out this two inch red hornet:

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(Our hornets are organic.) It was crawling around in the light fixtures, over the mirror. Isn't it clever how adrenaline really does wash over you? Like you feel it on one end of your body, and the edge of the tide physically passes the length of your corporeal self, and you are awash? Very droll, Adrenaline.

I gathered the children and hurried them to the other bathroom. Pokey still needed to use the potty. Hawaii held her toothbrush. Pokey had left all his planes in the bathroom. (Ace was still asleep.) "Are you going to kill it? Do we need Daddy? Are you tall enough? Can it fly out?" they nattered on incessantly.

After getting them Sesame-street-medicated, I found a flyswatter and broom. I braced for a dizzying snowglobe of swatting in a small enclosed space.  I was pretty sure that I could keep it from stinging me - wouldn't it need a few seconds to land on me? - but also pretty damn sure that I couldn't kill it.  It would be zooming around crazily. I feared this dragging on, and on. That I'd take breaks from the bathroom, and it would still be alive, and eventually I'd just put a towel under the door and give up.

So: how anticlimactic when I headed in, and it was gone? There are million hiding spaces - a big medicine closet, towels with tiny folds, shelves have undersides, etc. I dusted around with the broom. It never zoomed crazily out. I gave up (and put a towel under the crack in the door, just in case.)

That evening, Jammies checked the light fixtures, and it turned out he'd fried himself anticlimactically to death. The end.

Fry, Hornet, fry.

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Without-flash/computer-tinkered, compared to with-flash/no-tinkering.  EVERYONE IN THE CRIB!

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