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January 2018   01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Oh man, it's 10 pm and I haven't started posting yet, because it felt like a Saturday instead of a Sunday, because all of the schools are closed tomorrow.  "Last Saturday of the summer!" we all quipped, since the first day was postponed until Tuesday. (For the kids. My classes started this past week.) So we had a hurricane party today and drank beers, because we are all going a bit stir crazy with the lingering Hurricane Harvey drizzle. (We've had power this whole time, although some of the friends have been without since Saturday.)



Hurricane Harvey was very mild for us. Hurriboring. I did some hurribaking on Saturday and made some of my mom's cookies. My children will have the same memories of hurricanes that I had growing up: tons of anticipation and preparation and then a bunch of rainy days. There are some downed trees, a whole lot of down branches, and power outages, and that's about it.

 (Houston and further east are, of course, in the throes of wildly dangerous, destructive flooding right now, so I don't want to be too flip about it.) The eye of the hurricane stalled out over SadTown, where Heebie U is located, for much of the weekend. But we were on the far side of it, the mild side, while the north side of Harvey got pummeled, because that's how hurricanes rotate. Or rather, it's the counterclockwise face of land that gets pummeled - when they bend through the gulf and hit the west side of Florida, the south side of the hurricane gets the beating. I think.



I feel very disconnected from classes and my new students - Heebie U started last Tuesday, and then classes were cancelled on Friday and now Monday as well, and I just can't quite remember that I'll see them this coming Tuesday. They seem so distant.

My parents were in a full blown panic on Thursday, and basically badgered me into reserving a hotel. So we did have that in our back pocket, and if the hurricane had angled a bit differently, we might have used it.



By Sunday, I was so stir crazy that Pokey and I went on an epic walk through the beating drizzle. Occasionally it was quite gusty. We wandered all over for about two hours, on the edge of parks, spying all the swollen ditches and downed branches.

The first day of public school was supposed to be tomorrow, but will now be Tuesday. The big kids have been home with babysitters since theater camp ended. All of this feels a bit like suspended animation.



That's Darth Kylo Ren over Yoda. You can see Yoda's ears peeking out.

 Right now I'm watching Catastrophe with Jammies, and listening to a podcast, My Favorite Murder.  I have not watched any TV of my own selection (in any dedicated, continuous way) since I was home with Ace on maternity leave, four years ago.  Some dormant coccooned part of me is flexing its wings and remembering how great pop entertainment. People are so marvelous and funny.



Darth Kylo Ren showing off his princess slippers. But no Yoda ears anymore.

The opening song of Descendants is called "Rotten to the Core", and it's about how bad the bad kids are. They're the descendants of all the villains like Maleficient, Jafar, Cruella DeVille, and I forget who else.  The song is full of deliciously dated expressions like "A dirty no-good, down to the bone" and "They say I'm callous, a low-life hood" and "Call me a schemer." Yeah! You low-life hood, you scoundrel!  It's straight out of The Great Brain - oh no, you conniver! You've been hoodwinked!

The chorus goes:
I'm rotten to the core, rotten to the core.
I'm rotten to the core, rotten to the core.
I'm nothing like the kid that's like the kid next door
Rotten to the core, rotten to the core.


Isn't the third line divine? "I'm nothing like the kind of kid who is like the kind of kid next door. I'm more like a kind of kid who's like a bad kid who lives elsewhere." I take such pleasure in the terrible TV that my kids love. (My actual honest favorite song is It's Going Down, from Descendants 2. It's super awesome.)



Rascal is just really good at dressing up.

It's forever ago, but last Monday, Pokey and Jammies made these great pinhole boxes to see the eclipse.



They worked really well.

This week had a lot going on, but it's all so distant. (Harvey Cabin Fever has distorted time.) The big kids stayed home with babysitters all week. Hawaii got another infection, in nearly the same spot as her walnut-sized lanced chigger bite from July. We intervened much earlier. Apparently she's colonized with some sort of resistant staph. We're wiping the antibiotic cream around her nostrils twice a day; apparently it loves to hide out there. And after the antibiotics fully clear this wound, we're going to have to give her bleach baths.



One odd thing about having an eight year old is that I'm eight years older than I was when I started parenting. For a long time, your kid changes dramatically while you stay the same. But eventually, you've gotten a bit older yourself, along with them.

(I feel like I should tack on how I've grown myself, but intead I'm just going to wind down this sentence.)

Jammies is home! but he might turn around and leave again. His job won't confirm. He may have to leave on Tuesday, but we'll wait until Monday to determine it. That drives me batty.  Anyway, Jammies went to a wedding in Michigan and I had what was probably my best stint of single-parenting ever.  I positively enjoyed almost all of it.



We got Pokey's psych eval results and I felt sad about the whole thing. He's lagging in a couple areas of emotional development, and he's also experiencing some minor-to-moderate depression. He is apparently emotionally constrained, especially around negative emotions, and is lagging in his ability to communicate that kind of stuff. Which sounds totally fixable - kids develop different skills at different times and lagging doesn't mean never. Mostly I still think everything will sort itself out in the end, and I'm not having any critical distress about his longterm mental health, but I still feel sad that he feels sad. Also we have to stay on top of our parenting game, which is tiring.

I idly wonder what my psych eval at age 6 would have turned up. Or at age 10. Would I have shown any of this? Was I depressed as a child? Did I lag in maturity? Do I still?

The night after we got Pokey's eval, I had a dream that he was 18 months old and it was suffused with the grief for the loss of our former selves. I'll never get to hold 18 month old Pokey again. It's so casually tragic.



The events in Charlottesville last year also felt like an emotional hangover all week long. Fucking Nazis brazenly marching in full militia gear. Are we ever going to be able to make sense of this year? Are things going to become reasonable and calm in five years, enough that we can talk about how disorienting this year was, as every political code of conduct was systematically broken and dismantled? How we all were tied to the mast through this storm that was a perfectly predictible horrorshow and yet we were powerless to prevent it? Our collective ordeal. Are we all going to have a Breakfast Club kind of bond on the far side of this for weathering this ordeal together? (Cue the predictable response that if I think any of this is new, I wasn't paying attention before. YES I know the racism et al is not new.  I'm also growing battle-weary of all the factions on my team.)

But also: maybe this isn't that different than it felt when Nixon came to power by sabotaging the resolution of the Vietnam war.  At some point, a shithead president is a shithead president, and we've weathered them before. Certainly there will be another one that ties my stomach in knots.  That's when I end up just saying, "Fuck humanity" which is where I end up lately.



On Friday, we attended the kids' theater camp production. They put on Mulan, except all the names are slightly un-disney-fied, although they use the actual Mulan Disney logo. I don't quite understand all the copyright rules.

Anyway: With 6-10 year olds, you want all the kids to have enough lines but not too many lines.  So if there are a lot of small parts, perhaps you have one kid play several parts. And if there is a major part - say Mulan herself - you split it up among many kids. Fine. What I find absolutely unforgivable is this: having a kid who is in multiple parts and part of a split up role. WHAT THE FUCK. The play just becomes incoherent with all the part-switching. Hawaii actually had a scene where she left as one character, came on as another, and then came back as the first character.

Last year, I just couldn't follow the play whatsoever. The costumes amounted to a prop someone was holding, so you couldn't tell if the prop was being passed, or if the identity of the character was being assumed by a new actor.

This year, in the opening number, all four Mulans came out together, and sang the song each as if they were the only Mulan, and since I was aware of the role-switching-mumbo-jumbo, I keyed into it and was more prepared. The costumes were a bit more substantial, the kids spoke a bit louder: it all seemed to work a bit better.

In that photo above, Hawaii looks like she's delivering a mighty speech, but she's actually doing the heart-thumping dance move while singing.



Today I was informed by a 9 year old,  quite seriously: "I really like wearing a bathing suit, because, first, it's festive. Second, it's cooler. And third, it's like moisturizer."

I really enjoyed that analysis. The 9 year old belonged to my new bloggy friend Echoes. We got the kids together for a generally haphazard, leisurely, thoroughly enjoyable playdate.

4 kittens

As the whiz streams.

Posted on 2017.08.13 at 23:15
I suppose I never did post last week.



Back when we were in Montana: I went for a jog, and, finding jogging tiresome, took a bunch of photos on a walk instead. Now you can know what Jammies' parents' road is like.



Thoughts from two weeks ago:
This was our hottest vacation ever in Montana. I of course suffered the bug-eyed existential angst of climate change. I will always reserve 5% of my brain to sit in the movie theater and fret over the humans, blithely enjoying the warm weather, in the narrative bliss of the beginning of the movie about our fall from weather grace into weatherpocalypse.



The other 95% of me enjoyed the slightly warmer lake and temperatures immensely. I think this extra 20 lbs is really helping me float in the water. (When I was slimmer, I never really understood that people could actually float, and I thought that we were all making tiny flipper gestures with our hands to help keep us up.) Treading water is easier, too.



The girls spent large parts of the vacation doing this:



and this:



They were both engrossed for hours, coloring. Ace has also become an impressively competent color-er, like Hawaii is.



Pokey discovered that he very much enjoyed doing this:



and even some of this:



Rascal did a lot of this:



We abandoned underwear for the duration of the trip, thank god.

I spent large parts of the vacation looking like this:



I'm very fond of my new hat. It's that lopsided brim kind, with a large visor in front and a very small brim in back.



Jammies turned 40 years old!




Happy birthday, Jamster. I knew you could do it.



He celebrated by taking everything out of the minivan and cleaning it thoroughly.



This is the disassembled pieces of Rascal's seat belt, air-drying after being scrubbed clean. That is probaby the zenith of Jammies' cleanliness.



This pales in comparison, merely the components of the car seat covers airdrying after being washed.  I am 95% sure that if I weren't married to Jammies, it never would have occurred to me that car seat covers could be removed and washed. As it is, with this knowledge foisted upon me, I have never acted upon it.



Then we drove back across Montana, down through Wyoming, down through Colorado, through the itty-bitty corner of New Mexico, and back into the wrath of Texas.



I am very fond of La Quinta hotels, because years ago they had an advertising tagline that went: "La Quinta! It's Spanish for high-speed internet!"  I love to quote this.



I actually forgot to photograph the carpet in Casper, and complained on Unfogged, and Moby pointed out that it was documented in the photos on Yelp. Isn't the internet marvelous?



My beloved Fifth Season Hotel has been renovated. I'm a little heartbroken. It's still kitchsy, but now they're charging three times as much to stay there. However:

In 1951, the army air base was reactivated as Amarillo Air Force Base and expanded to accommodate a Strategic Air Command B-52 Stratofortress wing.[20] The arrival of servicemen and their families ended the city's depression. Between 1950 and 1960, Amarillo's population grew from 74,443 to 137,969. However, the closure of Amarillo Air Force Base on December 31, 1968, contributed to a decrease in population to 127,010 by 1970.

It turns out that Amarillo has quite a lot swanky hotels from the 1950s. Instead of the 5th Season, we stayed at a very similar feeling Amarillo Inns & Suites - the same sort of oddly shaped indoor pool, large planter rows incorporated into the architecture around the pool, large old hot tub, more plants around it, etc. The carpet above is Amarillo Inns & Suites Carpet. It was very cheap and the TV had about 10 channels, and no kid channels, which was annoying.



Here is how we handled hotels on this trip:  we slept three to a bed, one adult with two kids. I think we hit every possible combination. We just would put on the TV and let them zone out watching cartoons until everyone was asleep except Ace. Ace never falls asleep.



These cottonwood trees are so lovely in person, because the leaves twinkle nonstop in the breeze. It's like light glancing off tiny waves in the lake, just the constant flickering prettiness of being outside. In the photo, it's pretty boring.

In Dallas, we visited my cousins, who gave me this:



It's velvet and I love it.  It's from my cousin's wife's parents' house. She salvaged it for me.



I enjoyed these two phrases described as being engraved on antique clocks:
1. "Take the Gifts of this Hour." Take them, you ungrateful little shit. That's the kind of bossing around I need from my mindfulness leaders.
2. "Tedious and Brief."  or, the clockmaker's version of the food was terrible and the portions were too small.  There's an Annie Dillard quote, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives," which I've always liked. The tedious, brief life: it's what we're given.

The clocks were featured in the podcast S-Town, which we listened to on the way home. It was mostly unremarkable -  it's just NPR fascination with a great southern drawl.



We also listened to Big Little Lies, which was wonderfully frivolous and superficial and I loved it. (We argued about the way we would cast it. I agreed with the actual casting of Nicole Kidman for Celeste, and I want Parker Posey for Madeleine, and a young Mary Stuart Masterson for Jane. Jammies wants Connie Briton for Madeleine, and I forget who he picked for the others, but he was wrong all wrong.)  Way way better than S-Town.



My nephew B is five years old. I watched him dart across the room to the bathroom. He left the door open and started peeing into the toilet. As the stream whizzed, (as the whiz streamed?), as he peed, he then remembered to lift up the seat. So he lifted the seat up through his streamy whizziness and propped the seat up at the top. Finished up peeing, and left the bathroom. I thought that vignette on life was pretty funny.



Thoughts from this week:
Now we're home. Texas is hot AF.



How is Pokey? Up and down! The kids are in Theater Camp for two weeks, and we probably would not have signed Pokey up if we'd known he'd have such a rough summer. It's going marginally well.  Signs of progress: we are starting to understand the source of anger - most likely he blows up when he feels weak, and that he has anxiety about being controlled. Hawaii also has strong emotions around control, although hers manifest very, very differently.



(Same sap, different angle)

From a running monologue de Ace, "Mommy, mommy. Would the movie paddington have been longer if the bad guys caught Paddington and stuffed him? I think it would."  Every statement began, "Mommy, mommy."  but that's the only one that I managed to write down.



Hawaii: "There's this stuff I need to tell you about so you can buy it at the grocery store. It's these noodles, and they're really skinny and wavy, and it comes in a bag, and it's good and I want to take it to school for lunch."
Me: "Is it called Ramen?"
Hawaii: "YES! I really like it. Is it expensive? Can we get it?"
Me: "sure, we can get some."



Rascal likes to have the same conversation over and over again. Here are some grand slams:
1. "When I don't wear my life vest, I sink!" I tend to just echo what he just said, enthusiastically, in response, "When you don't wear your life vest, you sink!"
"But when I do wear my life vest, I pop back up!"
"That's right! when you do wear your life vest, you pop back up!"



We played a lot of hide and seek, including that hilarious two year old kind, where Jammies can sit on the couch, languidly grab a blanket and drape it over his head, and call out, "Ok, I'm in my hiding place! Come find me!" and it's not obvious to Rascal where Jammies is. The best part was that after hiding under the blanket on the couch two or three times, Jammies went and hid by standing by the recliner, and Rascal kept checking under the blanket in disbelief. "He's not there! He's gone!"



We also played a lot of hide and seek involving just his stuffed animals looking for each other.

Rascal admired this chandelier of Mimi's, and kept calling it an octopus. "I yike its tentacyulls!"



It's funny. We no longer have to trail someone around on the playground. We can hand out tubes of yogurt to all the kids without monitoring closely for a yogurt explosion. Everyone can sit well in the bathtub.  In the realm of gross motor skills, they are all solid kids now. I'm having wistfulness even though it's also a relief.



This isn't from my walk. This is just a nice sunset photo.

4 kittens
Posted on 2017.08.06 at 21:51
We're home! We got home ten minutes ago. Boy does it feel good to get out of the minivan.

I'll try to post tomorrow! I lack any will at the moment.

On Tuesday, at karate, the kids had to spar each other. They used a lot of kicks and were evenly matched. Eventually Pokey won. (I did record the whole thing but I doubt it's fascinating if you're not their adoring parents.)

How is Pokey's anger going? Any improvement? The therapist asked me this, and I asked how one measures improvement. He said, "Any hitting?" I said, "Just adults? Or including siblings?"
The therapist said, "Including siblings," and I laughed. I can't imagine that level of cure. Are there siblings that refrain from hitting each other?

Later Jammies and I decided that things were better, because there's a certain level of outburst that we haven't seen in a few weeks. (There are three outbursts foremost in my mind, but I feel uncomfortable recounting the details, for Pokey's privacy. Note to self: Piano lesson, morning before camp, swimming lesson. And getting sent home from camp.)



This photo is darling except that he's showing off how he smushed gummy bears into his teeth.

Some of the most-praised books by our experienced friends are by Ross Greene. All of these books seem to open with a general description of a struggling kid. He is fond of saying, "If sticker charts worked with these kids, then they'd be cured by now. It's time to try something else."

The thing is: sticker charts do work extraordinarily well with Pokey. The strategies in the Greene books also work, but earning a Pokemon card a day is itself very effective.
Our lessons from this summer:
1. Pokey responds very well to carrots (but really poorly to sticks, especially from me).
2. Pokey may get hypoglycemic. All of those worst rages were, in hindsight, times when he'd already complained of being hungry. When he's edgy, shove a banana at him. Or two.
3. Strategizing known problems ahead of time works well (ie, the Ross Greene method).
4. Isn't Ross Greene the character from Friends?

Today he had an outburst - mostly swearing, nonviolent. What's notable is that afterwards he was acutely embarrassed. I think this is great! That's how you decide not to repeat something. I want to have a conversation with him about paying attention to your big feelings - in this case, embarrassment - and analyzing the context to determine how you want to handle the next similar situation. (Sometimes you do want to repeat the embarrassing thing. Sometimes it was the right thing to do. Other times, not so much.)

.....

On Wednesday, we drove to Raton, New Mexico.  This is the trashcan for the car:



The lid used to always fall off, and so Jammies has devised a solution:



Art by Jammies. On Devising Solutions, in Gray

Here is another fine work of art, titled The Basket for the Third Row of the Minivan: Between Hawaii and Pokey



and a birdseye view:



Note the tiny green roll in the center of additional trash bags so that the children (existence implied by the artist) may dispose of full waste and replace the mini trash can with a clean liner.

....

Pokey threw up all his breakfast tacos about thirty minutes into the drive, which made us nervous, but he was solid after that.  For the first time, we had Kindles for each of the kids.  The big kids were amazingly self-sufficient and the squabbling decreased dramatically. Highly recommend.



The first morning we stopped in Snyder, Texas, an hour outside of Lubbock.



Snyder is a desolate hellhole, from what we could divine.  Sorry if that's your happy place.



We hit up our old favorite splash-pad/playground in Amarillo.









Around Amarillo, I begin to enjoy the drive. I like the mesas and arroyos.



If I could change one thing about the drive, it would be that goddamn hotel in Raton. I got a Priceline deal on it, two queen beds for $56. The walls could barely contain the beds. Rascal went bonkers in the tiny room and we all died a little.  (Especially Jammies, who was suffering a violently angry digestive system. He had a rough time.)



That tiny little red smudge is the word Raton. I couldn't get it in focus from the hotel.

....

Two conversations with Rascal:
1. Rascal has climbed into the driver's seat. I've asked him to get out. He tells me he is driving.
"You don't have a driver's license," I said.
"Yes I do!" he crowed.
"Show me," I said. He pointed to his shoulders, as though it was a pair of epaulettes. I laughed. He looked questioningly at me and pointed to his eyebrows, and then drifted to his ears, and then buzzed his hands all over the place in a giggly frenzy.
"Do you even know how to drive?" I accused him. We were killing time while Jammies was using the restroom. "What do you do at a red light?" I quizzed.
"You stop!" he said enthusiastically.
"What do you do at a green light?" I continued.
"GO!" Rascal squealed.
"What do you do at a Slippery When Wet sign?" I asked.
"You fall and hit your head!" he screamed in delight. I laughed and then it was time to drive again, so I really did kick him out for good.

2. "What's this cracker?" said Rascal, holding up a wheat thin.
"It's a wheat thin," I said, enunciating carefully.
"A muff fin?" he asked, with his head cocked and eyes screwed in confusion.
"A wheat thin!" I said, with more big pauses.
"A meat fin?" he asked.
Close enough!

.....

On Thursday, we drove from Raton to Sheridan, Wyoming.  New Mexico is so pretty. Colorado is so pretty. Wyoming is so pretty. I always feel like we're ascending to new, magical places on the drive up. (On the drive home, I imagine we're descending the concentric rings of hell.)

This is the only photo I took in Colorado:



Surprisingly pleasing gas station bathroom art!  We flew through Colorado, to be honest.

We wyomied through Wyoming. Cheyenne is so pretty.





It just always feels so crisp and vivid when we get there. Cool in the shade. Colors pleasingly bright and happy.



Why am I always re-newly delighted by the pink roads?



That was actually not a panarama photo. I just cropped the car window out of the frame.

A big hail storm hit Sheridan shortly after we checked in to our hotel room.



The Geeblets channeled their post-drive hyperactivity to collecting hailstones and generally acting like they'd never witnessed weather before, to the delight of some elderly Harley Davidson riders who were enjoying a cigarette while watching the storm.



This was the only pleasing carpet in either of the hotels:



Wild Python Rattlesnake of the Southwest, it is surely called.

The last day we wyomied the last wee bit and then set off across Montana.



I'm very happy with this photo.

We finished the drive on Friday, and we were very glad to arrive.



...

Two conversations with Ace:
1. "Can I have more beef chicken?" she asked.
We laughed. "It's beef jerky!" we corrected. We thought that was cute.

Later, Pokey asked if we'd ever had squid jerky. We said no, he'd have to make some.
"What do I need to make squid jerky?" Pokey asked.
"Well," we said, "you'd need squid, and you'd need-"
"-TURKEY!" Ace finished triumphantly.

That's when we realized she'd been saying "beef turkey" and when she'd earlier said "beef chicken" it was because she'd swapped foul. Isn't that excellent?

2. "MOM. What do you call a zebra with five legs?"
Me: what?
Ace: No! I need to start over. What do you call a giraffe...? No. Ok. What do you call a zebra with really long legs?
Me: I don't know, what do you call a zebra with really long legs?
Ace: A STRIPED DADDY LONG LEGS!!!
I laughed.
...

Saturday was Jammies' grandmother's 90th birthday party.



Wasn't she beautiful?



Here's how she looks while I've known her:



I love seeing the continuity of features in people's faces over the years; how their faces change and age. Here's her face at an intermediate age, maybe in her 50s:



I love her smile. (I especially love her house, which is mid-century-frozen. I've posted photos of it before.)

Here's their getaway car from their wedding:



Yes, it says "You'll be sorry" on the hood. And "Sucker".  This is even worse:



"She got me today, but I'll get her tonight!"  That's kind of creepy.

....

Hawaii made $12 fetching beers from the keg, during the party. She earned 25¢ per beer. Jammies' dad taught her how to hold the cup so that the draught ran down the side and didn't form a head.

She kept a sheet of paper with everyone's name next to their personal tally marks, and then folded the paper and kept it under her baseball cap. So amusingly, we also had a tally of how much everyone drank during the party. Jammies' dad settled up with her at the end of the night, and offered to give her $20, but we restrained him.


Goodbye cabin!



The kids never did know that big table was a pool table. They also never noticed the mounted weapons on the wall:



Hello house! I like to say that we live in a second story walk up.



This photo was taken before the stairs were built.

It's so nice to drink coffee out of my coffee mug, and sit in my striped chair by the window.  There's going to be a lattice over the front, and I'd like to plant a climbing vine, maybe jasmine, along it.

I was reminded about a TV show that aired before 2011, and I remembered that Jammies and I watched it in the old blue living room that no longer exists. That room got dismantled when we built the addition. The addition was built in the space the blue room had occupied, and beyond.

The physical location of that blue living room is four feet lower than our current house. Surely the ghost of a former room does not get elevated when you elevate a house. So not only was the room dismantled, there is literally not even any house in that location anymore. I think we are living in a House-Ship of Theseus. (We could add a ship's steering wheel to the front porch, and an anchor, and be Admiral Boom about it all.  Crow's nest up top, cargo net to climb down to the backyard.)

When you leave our front door, you now walk backwards towards our backyard for a half flight:



and then forwards towards the front yard for a half flight:



I like it. "Face the river," I think, for a moment, "then face the day."

Hawaii and Pokey





They had their first sparring practice at karate! They were nervous; they both did well.



We checked an origami book out from the library.



Penguin and cats by Hawaii.



She asked for a some wide popsicle sticks so that she could make the cats into puppets, which I haven't yet procured, but will.



Pokey made himself a village of llama-like zebras.



  This crane was the hardest thing to figure out; he and I did it together. (It wasn't in the book; we had to look online.)

Pokey is really intense about the origami. He folds quickly and sloppily. He asks you for help, but his brain works so much quicker than Jammies and mine that you can't really get him to hold still and let you think. He snatches it away and says, "I think I got it," and keeps going. It's a bit manic.

....

Each night, Pokey asks me to give him a good dream. His favorite is one where we're cute little squirrels on a snowy mountain. To get up the mountain, we have to scrabble over the tree tops. To get down the mountain, we grab big leaves (yes, don't tell the storyboard editor that there are big elephant ear leaves available on a snowy mountain) and slide down the snowy bank to the bottom. At the bottom, there's a big pot of hot chocolate and a ladle, and we have cups, and there's a big campfire.

I only set the stage for the dream, and then Pokey has to dream the rest. "I like this one so much I wish it were real," Pokey said wistfully. It was bittersweet.

Rascal



Auuuggggh my baby is growing up. I'm not going to have a two year old forever. I love this age.  Those knuckle dimples and thigh pudge, and general sweetness.



Rascal's verbal skills have ratcheted up in the past month. He's now expressing much more complicated ideas. (This would be a good lede for an example, if I'd thought to write one down.)

Ace

1. On the plane to California, Ace said, "This bathroom is amazing. We're going potty on an airplane! It's like being naked on an airplane!"  I know what she means - it's not like how you leave a movie theater and go to the bathroom in the lobby. It's more like if there were one special potty-seat in the movie theater, which was enclosed so that you could pee while watching the movie. You're in such close proximity. Or when you're camping and you change clothes in your tent - there's just a flimsy piece of nylon and some etiquette rules preserving your modesty.

"This trash can is amazing!" she exclaimed, when we washed our hands at the tiny airplane sink.


2.  "It's our family!"


"Now take a picture of their butts!"



3. "I'm worried I'm never going to figure out what to name my baby when I have a baby," Ace says periodically. "I just can't think of any names.

The temptation to start listing off ridiculous names is irresistible. "Petunia? Brunhilda? Petticoat?"
"No, no, no," she'll veto. "And I can't do Hawaii, or Pokey. I already have a stuffed animal named Fantasia, can't do that." The monologue of off-limits names takes awhile, and always concludes that's she's coming up empty. "There just aren't any names left!"

4. "Ace, c'mere, I need to comb out that knot in your hair."
Ace, walking away, "Stop! I like it. It's so comfy. It goes like this," flicking it fashionably up on top of her head.

5.


Dear weirdos,

You guys are strange and amazing, kind and occasionally annoying. But you are great neighbors.


Ace and Rascal, and Hawaii and Pokey

Ace and Rascal are just so different than Hawaii and Pokey were at their age.  When Dora the Explora is on,  Ace and Rascal answer Dora out loud. They do the arm movements that Dora requests of them.

Whereas Hawaii and Pokey used to look at Dora like she was a dumbass - Dora would pause for the audience to respond, and the silence would just drag. Hawaii and Pokey would not be cajoled to stand up and pretend to climb or swim along with Dora.

At lunchtime, Ace and Rascal loved it when I brought out all the ingredients I could think of, and made them tiny tiny ridiculous sandwiches. "This one is a piece of apple and a raisin and some jelly!" They thought a lot of the mini-sandwiches were gross, but they laughed and squealed and loved the premise.  Hawaii and Pokey would not have thought this was great fun. They would have been suspicious - especially Hawaii - and increasingly upset that they weren't being given the lunch they'd asked for, and I'd have abandoned the endeavor.

Hawaii and Pokey were often cranky and mad, but they took rules seriously.  Ace and Rascal are always merry and silly and having fun. They do not take discipline seriously at all.

The other night, Hawaii came to me and complained, "I can't find the invisible tape."
I laughed. "Of course you can't! It's invisible!"
She got mad. "MOM. This isn't funny! I need the..." she tried to avoid saying the word but couldn't, "...invisible tape! Where is it?!"
I laughed harder and tried to tell her that I honestly didn't know.
Eventually Hawaii started laughing, too, and agreed that it was pretty funny. That made me happy. She wouldn't have come around like that when she was little.

Jammies

Has been waging war against the utensil drawer. This is his third attempt, at least. The problem is that the spoons and forks need to stack neatly, instead of sloshing around willy-nilly with their like silverware, in a slotted tray.  Plus a lot of other rules I couldn't hope to recite. I love that he's working so hard on this, even though I can't really describe the issue while keeping a straight face.

I didn't take a before-photo - I mean, silverware drawer - and I didn't even take an after-photo, even though I obviously still could.

Look what's going on inside Jammies' favorite mug:



That silver spirograph is from stirring his coffee.




Me

"Shut up and eat your tri-colored glop."



This might be the lamest dinner I've ever made? (We were totally out of groceries.) That is potato flakes fakely mashed, frozen edamame freshly thawed, and refried beans from a can, gently warmed.  Lots of protein, but it felt like a meal at vegan prison.




FAMILY PORTRAIT! I wish I knew two dads raising four boys; it's really their family portrait.



 I fished this out of a trashcan at the gym. It used to belong to the former owner of my gym, whose name is Jack. So now I have a jack named Jack.



This quesadilla I made has a sloth face.



2017 is the year I said fuck you to bathing suits. I'm totally done with the idea that my inner thighs should be visible to the public. This year I am wearing bike shorts, basically, and a rash guard, and I'm so happy about it. It's like wearing your regular shorts and t-shirt when everyone else is in lingerie. Oh, sure, wear your lingerie! You look great! but I'm really glad to wear actual clothes, thank you.

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Best leave when your nose starts running.

Posted on 2017.07.18 at 22:54
Greetings from Newark Airport. I spent the weekend in New York, with old friends from when we lived in Austin. Just me - Jammies stayed home with the kids.

I am told I’ll be sleeping back in our yellow house tonight! Our long dark night of the perfectly nice log cabin is over.



While in New York, frolic in the Washington Square Fountain like the locals

I haven’t properly described our workaholic elderly Texan contractor, Pearce, who says things like, “I’ve started getting here around 6 am and leaving around noon so I don’t get heat stroke, I been to the hospital twice for heat stroke. When my nose starts to run, that means that I should leave before I start throwing up and gotta an IV.” He also tore his fingernail out, went to the hospital, got it wrapped up, and returned.

His wife told me once that she saw him shoot himself in the arm with a nail gun. He pulled it out, wrapped the wound with a shirt, and got back to work, because he had a predetermined stopping point in mind. He is a tough guy.



Keep your graffiti Greek and your ideas uncertain

Pearce the Contractor also told me, “I keep daily logs of everything that happens. That way, you wanna know why we’re not further along? I go back, I tell you, it rained this day, on that day these guys didn’t show up. I can show you why it went how it went.”

He’s 60 years old and just had his hip replaced. He built our stairs super shallow - only 5” risers - so that when we’re old we’ll be able to get up and down them more easily, which is how he prefers his stairs. He’s one tough fucker.



The storefonts that smile together, stay together.

Last Wednesday, Jammies and I met with the psych eval guy who will be testing Pokey. When I scheduled the appointment, he was very dry and harrumph-y on the phone. On the phone, he asked about Pokey’s behavior and I gave him the abbreviated version. He paused and I could see the gears turning in his head, “This is the part where you are supposed to express compassion to the parent.” He mechanically said, “This must be very hard on you.” It was like someone patting you without bending their elbow. Pat, pat, pat. I almost laughed.

I told him the truth, which is this: It’s fine. Pokey’s only six, I’m not too worried about him longterm. I think we’ll nip this in the bud. It’s just exhausting to be A+ parents all the time. It’d be nice to be B+ parents again.



Among other things, Pokey is pathologically competitive. I don't think that I’m competitive, but maybe it manifests in some suppressed adult way? Do I compare myself to other people? Neither of the friends I visited in New York have kids. (Although one is pregnant.) It invited a lot of comparisons in my head - what would my life be like without kids? - but maybe I was just musing and not competing. (Comparisons being joy-thieves, as we know.)

Would I feel lost and drifting without kids? My friends don't seem to feel like they lack purpose and meaning. Having kids keeps me too busy to fret about big questions like that. But in the absence of kids, would I have fretted? Will I have some soul-searching to do when the kids leave the house? Both friends have pretty good lives, but would I have been content with a pretty good life, or would I have been obsessed about milestones or production and recognition?



Make America Cyrillic, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic again.

At one point in the psych eval, we admitted that the kids compete for our attention. The psych eval guy said,"Maybe don't have so many kids close together?" That’s a sore spot with me. I’m self-conscious of having so many kids close together, and then not being able to handle it.

Later, in New York, as the pregnant friend recounted all the infertility troubles they’ve had, I felt self-conscious again. If she hadn’t yet gotten pregnant when I visited - if they’d still been in the midst of IVF - my presence might not have been very welcome. What could she say - “don’t come, I will have difficulty containing my bitterness and jealousy towards your ease of baby-having”? If she hadn't, I might have arrived unaware and had an awful visit. Infertility, the awful feeling of wanting so badly, but having no control over the outcome. I am self-conscious of how I might be unwelcome around people struggling with infertility.



New-fangled Ramen

Rascal wore underpants to school! What terrible timing, since we’re driving to Montana next week. But the daycare wants what the daycare wants. We are powerless to refute it.

Canonical Rascal at this age is to run in circles until he slams into someone’s backside, head into their butt, and is knocked backward onto the ground, where he starts rolling around maniacally, grabs something like a shoe or a diaper, puts it in his mouth, shakes his head like a puppy dog with a chew toy, gets a laugh from one of us, and stands up with the object still in his mouth and resumes running in circles. He is basically a labrador puppy right now.

“Can I sit in your yap?” he still says, which I love love love.



This is a bunch of fancy condos, housed in what used to be the Jewish Forward Daily Building. We went on a tour hosted by the Tenement Museum of the Lower East Side. I swear the tour guide told us "a tale of two banks" of which this was one, but now I can find no evidence that the Forward building was also a bank. At any rate, that is Karl Marx, Frederich Engels, Karl Liebknecht and Ferdinand Lassalle.

Ace got what she wanted: swim lessons at daycare. Last year she wouldn't get in the water, so we didn't sign her up this year. All June, she watched the other kids leave to swim, and felt sad about it. So we signed her up in July.
“How’d swimming go, Ace?” we asked after the first day.
“Bad!” she replied cheerfully. “I hated it all! I wouldn’t go with the boy in the deep water,” by which she means the swim instructor.

After the second swim lesson last week, this note came home with her:



All about Ace's Swim Day
1. I walked out of daycare.
2. I liked walking into swim class.
3. I like the water ramp.
4. I liked playing in the shallow and the deep end of the ramp. NOT THE REAL DEEP END.
5. I liked taking a shower.
6. I liked standing in the water ramp.
7. I like drying off.

Note: the class does not take place on the water ramp.

Today when I arrived home, I asked her about her day, and she said, "Best part? I DIDN'T HAVE TO GO TO SWIMMING!" She basks with pleasure in being contrarian. It's a real source of joy. (In contrast, Hawaii seems to find it bitter and unpleasant - but irresistible - to be contrarian.)



One night in New York, I went to my mom’s cousin’s for dinner. They live in a brownstone in Queens that has been in the family since the 1920s. My mom’s cousin grew up in the house, then raised his kids in the house, and now his grandkids. At least two of his grandkids. The landline phone number starts FL, for Flushing.

All his kids - my generation - have stayed in New York, and they’re all very close and loving. They turned down jobs away from the city because it was a priority to stay in New York. Maybe it’s city provincialism, but I also think it’s family ties. I want my grown children to come over for dinner, and I want our dynamic to be affectionate and chaotic and funny. Make it so.



My mom and my great-grandmother, age mid-30s and maybe 80.  I had big feelings looking at her dewy youth.

My uncle also shared a journal he kept back in 1990, of a trip that we took. (He is my first cousin once removed, but let’s call him my uncle, right?) When I was 12, my grandmother and I, and this uncle and his daughter (also 12)(she is my second-cousin, but let's call her my cousin), all went to Mexico together for about ten days. This uncle has a cousin on the other side who had a furniture factory down there, born of a vaguely Kerouac-ian adventure with his wife and some family seed money. I haven’t much thought about this trip in the 27 years that elapsed. Whereas my uncle and cousin seem to have revisited it together from time to time.



My uncle read his journal, and they brought out a photo album, and my brain exploded, remembering vividly all these details that I couldn’t have retrieved otherwise. The bouganvilliea-filled compound that exploded with rainbows of flowers, like a crazy Lotus land in the middle of fields of cows and donkeys.

One day, my cousin and I went to school with the eldest daughter, to play a game of soccer. I remember this game very well. It was an all-girls game, and in hindsight it was supposed to be amusing, like a powderpuff game, and none of them had really played much before. It was the first time I’d ever been good at soccer - I could dribble around them and do whatever I wanted, and score - and the first time I vividly remember not being able to catch my breath. We blamed it on the altitude, but it actually turns out that that's just me. When I sprint, I succumb to dry heaves. The other team complained that my cousin and I weren’t from the school, and so my cousin was not allowed to play her half of the game.



That makes it sound like a wonderful trip, but I mostly remember enduring the trip until it was over. My uncle’s described me as leaving to read in my room whenever the eldest daughter’s Spanish-speaking friends were around. In contrast, my cousin stayed and listened to the girls speak Spanish. I am pretty sure I found it unbearably awkward to be twelve and not understand a thing.  I was mildly surprised to hear my current antisocialness described back to me in my tween years - I thought that at age 12, I would have feigned extroversion. Also I spent a lot of time with all the animals in the compound - the dogs, the cats, the kittens. I particularly remember the kittens. My cousin was very solicitous of the younger sisters, particularly the three year old; I wasn’t.

I don’t think the cousin and I got along very well on this trip. We didn’t fight, and superficially you would expect us to find common ground, but we just didn’t. I didn't enjoy the trip very much, so I was probably a bit of a pill. I like to think that we’d be friends as adults, if we were in closer proximity - I like her - but maybe not. Some people I’m very fond of but can’t figure out how to hold a conversation with, even if they’re chatty.



Oh! I passed my tattoo interview! I’m so pleased! The current artist is roughly my age, and had a sort of quaalude earth mother vibe to her. I don’t think it ever occurred to her that she could reject me. I showed her my cats, and she said roughly, “Well, this will take a lot of collaboration to get it to a place we both love! Let’s get started.”

I’m slightly skeptical of her ideas, but entirely confident in her collaboration process. That no ink will be poked until I feel good about the design.

After I paid my third deposit - I now have dropped $500 in deposits to three different artists - two other tattoo artists emailed me out of the woodwork to follow up. Too late, suckas.



Vase in Korea Town

I have a very tiny weird spot where my skin is tugging, on my chest near my left armpit. I have visions of breast cancer forming in some left behind gram of tissue. It makes me nervous. Maryam Mirzakhani died this week at age 40. I never met her, but it was one of those famous deaths that hurts as if you did know them faintly.



Big props at Governor's Island, which was unpleasantly and surprisingly hot.

I am home now. Really home, in our yellow house, with the cats and Jammies. It feels more surreal than it did during my quick visit. There's ten feet of empty space under the floor! The views are thick with leaves, light dappled! I'm enjoying it quite a lot.



Finally, this is from before we went to California. Hawaii packed her own clothes.



Very tidy!

I had to open up her nested packing cubes the next day and ascertain whether there were the right numbers of socks, underpants, etc.



The filing system of alternating underwear, with allocated spaces for socks, made my job a breeze.



She's like a Doogie Howser of organization. She and Jammies get into passioned arguments about the best way to organize things. Afterwards, he vents, "I can see why she thinks that's the best way to organize it, but if she could step back and see the whole picture..."  It's so great.

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Posted on 2017.07.17 at 08:18
In New York (with shitty wifi, which is sort of surprising.) Will update on Tuesday. 

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I Just 'Plaining.

Posted on 2017.07.09 at 22:34
I'm sort of demoralized as a parent. Why is the energy demand so unsustainable? If I'm demoralized, in my lofty privileged state, then what about the vast majority of parents? That relative luxury itself kicks my legs out from under me sometimes - my lack of standing to complain.  Neverless, I'll persist in complaining.



Banana slug, Muir Woods

Rascal likes to excuse bad behavior by perkily saying, "I just 'tendin!" by which he means, "I'm just pretending!" For example: I'm not really biting you or destroying the living room, I just 'tendin!

My brain has spawned a derivative urge to perkily say, "I just 'plaining!" when people start to take my complaining too seriously and try to fix things. Don't fix anything! I just 'plaining!



I remember when Hawaii was about eighteen months old, and we went to Parents' Night at her daycare. I was struck by seeing Hawaii in the context of all these other 18 month olds. All these emergent parts of her  unique personality turned out to be just what all 18 month olds do. The toddlers were so much more similar to each other than I expected.



Last night, Rascal got out of bed again and again to use the potty. He kept saying that he had to poop. A small part of me wondered if he really was working on something, and that eventually he would come out with a massive turd.

(I hate the word turd. I hate the word poop. I hate the word shit to talk about actual shit. Likewise crap. I suppose I really just don't like talking about bowel movements.) (I never used to care about talking about bowel movements. Is this something about parenting? Too many years spent up to my elbows in actual excrement? Too many years spent listening to the kids gleefully talk about their butts? All the glee and joy of discussing shit has been thoroughly wrung out of me. Also pizza: I would happily never eat pizza again.)



Anyway: I kept taking Rascal to the potty, over and over again, because one of the other kids used to do exactly that: at age 2 or 3 the kid would take three trips to the bathroom, and just when I was getting exasperated and angry, the kid would produce a giant movement.




Here's the point of this tired, twisting story: which kid was it? I couldn't remember! I mapped Hawaii, Pokey, and Ace's faces onto the memory, and they all seemed plausible. The kids have blurred together. Each kid at age 2 resembles the other kids at age 2 far more than they resemble their future or past selves. The horizontal resemblance is much stronger than the vertical resemblance. (I think it was one of the girls.)

.......



My old work building is being torn down. Above is a church in the Mission District in San Francisco - I thought it looked like Early Christian Art with the sun-halo frame.  My building at work is not nearly so pious.

On Facebook, some oldtimers started reminiscing about the building. One retired colleague said:

[I remember] the time two students were found dressing a deer in the showers that they had shot. Blood all over and guns leaning in the corner. Sieden/schwartz was Dean of Students and showed me the letter presented to the disciplinary board some years later. They got put on double secret probation. A different time. Sq/uires didn't even get any deer sausage.


Yowza.



Also not my work building.

......

I climbed up the ladder to our house for the first time:



I thought it'd be serene and wondrous, surreal to see new portions of trees out our windows. No air-conditioning, but it was a dry heat, because of the DRIZAIR TWELVEMILLION. It was not too unpleasant.



The house was cluttered and messy. There was no grace period of joy. Perhaps because I was in a sour mood when I headed over.



It felt like the same old house.



See?

Was it at least wondrous to look out the window? Yes and no. It was pretty and leafy.  Here's our bedroom window:




But I'm neurotic about appearing not appearing ostentatious, and we are literally looking over everyone else's roofs. It's a snobby effect, or so it felt. On the plus side, the houseplants seem mostly happy.

(I'm having a bit of an AW meltdown, AW being a neurotic friend who makes her family jump through big hoops to avoid being introspective. Maybe this will make me happy! Or this! Elevating the house does not seem to have made a measurable difference. I guess I wasn't that anxious about a flood after all, at least not anxious enough to feel grateful ecstasy at the reprieve.)



If I hate single-parenting so much, does that mean that Jammies is basically single-parenting when I'm around, and I actually just hate parenting? Am I a terrible spouse? Don't answer that.



I single-parented on Saturday, while Jammies had a bachelor party. At the pool, a father asked me several times if I needed help collecting my kids. I suppose I seemed hapless and frazzled. That's not a great look on me.



I spent a lot of the day holding strict disciplinary boundaries, as we're under instruction to do from the therapist. For example, we were trying to get out the door for a movie, and I cancelled the outing due to rudeness and misbehavior.  They spent a lot of time in time out.



When I teach, I am very strict for the first week or two about not providing the answers. I let the silence drag out for several minutes. When you're a student, you don't know how long the teacher is going wait for an answer. If they're only going to wait for 20 seconds, it's not worth it to engage your thinking. So that first day of class, students let 20 seconds go by and just sit there. After a minute, they start to trust that I'm actually allocating enough time. Then I need to fulfill my implicit promise, and actually sit there for several minutes longer, so that they can actually think through the entire problem.

You have to be strict to earn trust, at the beginning. However, there is no beginning to parenting. It's incremental. You don't discipline a baby. I think that makes it harder.



Today I asked Jammies, "What can I buy to make myself happy?" He chuckled and shrugged. It turned out to be a coffee au lait, at the grocery store. I was by myself, grocery shopping, and I started to think fondly of my loved ones while sipping my coffee au lait. Then I saw this:



and I truly felt better, filled with genuine empathy and humanity for poor Hammer. It's a rough gig. I should be so lucky.




I spent too much time analyzing "Do. No Harm."  Are they intending to echo Google? Or just being cutesy with "do no harm"? It's not very cutesy, but it made me stop and stare, which is in fact harmless.
....

This is a ridiculous, long winding post. I'm jumping all over the place, chronologically. The idea of re-ordering it is making me want to go to bed.

Stories which I did not tell last week.

Hawaii woke us up near midnight. I made her show me her chigger bite. It was huge, with a pencil-eraser head of pus. It was bright red-purple (angry, as they say), and it hurt her if we even looked at it. It was on her inner thigh, an inch from her crotch. (I was hoping my dad would offer to lance it, but he declined and sent us to the ER.)



Ace's favorite game, to wear all her swimsuits at the same time.

At the ER: One doc said, "Chigger bite? You must be from the south!" which made me wonder if I'd inadvertently said something racist. More likely, Californians just don't have any bugs.



"I'm this many."

First they said he wanted to look at the bite, but it wouldn't hurt. It hurt a lot and Hawaii screamed bloody murder. Then they said they needed to do an ultrasound, but it wouldn't hurt. It hurt a lot and Hawaii screamed bloody murder again. Then they said they would properly numb it before they aspirated it. They had me smear lidocaine cream on it - I was as gentle as possible - but Hawaii screamed bloody murder.

She was quaking with anxiety about the actual lancing. It was a gruesome scene. They told me they'd give her some fentanyl to calm her down before they opened it up. It turned out that the fentanyl was a squirt up each nostril. She hated it.



Hawaii did not calm down. It was not numb whatsoever. It was time to lance the (boil? carbuncle? abcess?) and Hawaii was in a full-blown panic attack. She would not roll over. We only had 15 minutes until the fentanyl stopped working, (although it never seemed to work).

Finally I wrapped her in a bear hug and forcibly rolled her over, and we held her against her will. She screamed bloody murder. I told her to dig her nails into my hand. She complied:



which resolved to this:



I got asked if we had a new puppy.

Then it was lanced, and it was over. Clouds cleared, and Hawaii felt much better. They put her on some heavy duty antibiotics and now she's fit as a fiddle.



Ace with my nephew. I love this photo. "They have the same eyes," my brother observed.

San Francisco was nice. We Muired the redwoods, we paraded the 4th of July. Jammies flew home with all four kids, while I stayed an extra night to visit with imaginary Unfogged friends.



It was kind of hard to return to the cabin. Anticlimactic, homesick, all of that.

On Monday, while we vacationed, the house-lifters lowered our house down onto its pillars. Next, the contractor built a platform for the air conditioner, and the AC guys discovered that we had a cracked evaporator coil. What's another 2K, right folks? Next, they are going to build us some stairs and hook up the plumbing. Optimistically, we can move back in within a week.

View from the front porch:



The photo doesn't really capture the vertigo.

The only thing I'll miss about this cabin is that you can actually see the river sparkle from inside the house. It's beautiful.

View from the cabin:



The river is so sparkly and alive - much more enchanting than this photo would have you believe.

View from our back deck:



Perfectly nice. All I can think is how blazingly hot it is out there. I wish our backyard had some shade.



The key to understanding Rascal is that all his emotions are outsized. All two year olds have outsized emotions; it characterizes the stage. But even among our kids as two year olds, Rascal is the most outsized. He gets amped up like no one else. He sobs his heart out like none of them. He gets angry like...well, all of them can get pretty goddamn angry. What's that about, anyway. Point being: Rascal loves hard, plays hard, does everything the intense way.



I go see another tattoo artist tomorrow. This one is a lady-artist. Hopefully she doesn't shit all over my dreams. I had a dream that my friend had a big torso tattoo done, and I was so jealous.

Super terrible internet here in California! Greetings! I'll save photos of Muir Woods for next week. I'll save the photos of the skin on my hand, shredded. That's an overstatement - it's not really shredded - but it's a good story. At any rate, this hotel internet is SO slow, and this week SUCH an unadulterated mess, that we shall see how far exactly we get in this entry, and we'll post whatever we get. I'm not attempting any photos.

The main topics of conversation are:
1. The terrible process of packing for California
2. Pokey's terrible, horrible, no-good very bad week
3. Hawaii's minor ear infection, and then later, her very major chigger bite infection.

The terrible process of packing for California

This is the most work it's ever taken to go on vacation. The landlady said we could store our belongings in her closet-with-a-lock, which was generous and we packed it to the gills.

We had to be out Thursday, and we didn't fly to California until Friday. So the packing categories were:
- Stuff for the closet
- Stuff to take up the ladder to our house, because we won't need it during the last few weeks
- Stuff we're taking to California
- Stuff we would need in Texas on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, but not for California
- Stuff we don't need on vacation, but seems valuable and we'd rather leave it at our friend's house.
- Fridge stuff that seems wasteful to throw away.
- Cats that must get boarded at the vet and cat paraphenalia.

It was complicated and a lot of work. One month of household living is a nontrivial amount.

Pokey's terrible, horrible, no-good very bad week

We were fully out of the house by Thursday morning. I drove to my friend's house where we were staying the night while they're out of town. I took a nice nap.

The phone rang and woke me up. It was Jammies, telling me that Pokey was getting sent home camp. He had hit and kicked a counselor.  We had to meet with the director later that afternoon. She said this was the final straw in a string of incidents he'd had all week, and Pokey could not come back for the rest of the  session,  (which was only one more day). That with some ground rules we could try again later in the summer.

Tantrums at home have gotten worse. He threw rocks at me in one particularly memorable outdoors tantrum.  "Tantrum" seems like the wrong word, as does "outburst". "Fight" seems better, except he doesn't have an opponent.  But a fist-fight captures the balls-out intensity by which he'll scratch, bite, throw, destroy property, and rage however he can.

 We are doing a bunch of new things in response, including upping the frequency with which he sees the therapist, putting some strict, explicit rules in place, and some incremental rewards. These things do help. It is very high-maintenance parenting. It's tiring.

Hawaii's minor ear infection, and then later, her very major chigger bite infection.

Thursday afternoon, Hawaii mentioned that her ear hurt, and so she and I went to a med clinic, and sure enough, she has an ear infection, right before flying.

Thursday night, it really dawned on me that our friends' house was packed full of fragile tchotckes. (They have two calm older daughters, age 9 and 13.) Jammies had already been advocating for a hotel over their house, lest we destroy it.  

What tipped me over the edge was a mailbox: lifesize, made out of construction paper, functional and adorable. It was precariously taped to the wall, in the middle of a hallway. Sticking out unstably, as mailboxes do.  Real life height, ie Rascal's eyeline, Ace's shoulder line, Pokey's chest height. There is no way that Pokey, Ace, or Rascal would be able to resist futzing with it. It would have been destroyed within ten minutes.

We all relaxed in the hotel.

On Friday afternoon, we flew to California.  In the middle of the night, Hawaii woke us up, complaining about her chigger bite.  She's had for a week or so. It is located fully up in her nether regions, right in the crease of where her butt meets her inner thigh. It now was swollen to the size of walnut maybe, instead of mostly flat like a regular chigger bite, and had a head of pus the size of a pencil eraser. It must have hurt a lot.

I think this is as far as I'm getting! More adventures at some point!


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Maybe a nice 15 minutes.

Posted on 2017.06.25 at 22:32
This was a quiet week. The big kids went to a quiet day camp; the littles, daycare. I relished the quiet at home. No houses rose, no tattoo artists rejected me, no children away at sleepaway camp. No massive snakes crossed our path. Everyone squabbled a lot and cried about everything.



It probaby seemed like a good idea to build a lazy susan CD rack, but at some point you realize that you're stuck owning a spinning swastika. I didn't buy Equipment for the Organized Nazi at Goodwill, but I did buy some stellar shirts and some jeans.

Also questionable:



These pool toy diving rods from my mother-in-law. Just look at the helmet on that phallic symbol, am I right?

The kids miss the yellow house. Ace and Rascal say so, often. They miss their toys and snuggles, and their beds. And maybe the TV.

I am looking forward to their bedroom, where their four mattresses aren't nestled together, edge to edge, because they kick each other less when their legs can't reach an adjacent bed from their own bed. (Kicking each other at bedtime to be jerks, not the innocent leg-jerks of deep sleep.) For the most part, this ~1000 foot two bedroom cabin has not felt overly cramped. That's because it's not crammed to the gills with all of our posessions.

I wonder how long the good feeling of being home will last. One full day? A full hour? Maybe we'll get a nice 15 minutes?



What's the cat going after?



Just a big fucker with lots of legs. Nature is still infiltrating my life.

Every couple days, Ace says, "I hated my birthday. You guys got it WRONG. I wanted a dance class party, and a PJ Mask cake. And you made it a dance party, and had extra PJ Mask stuff."  She is nothing if not consistent! She did indeed tell us ahead of time exactly what she wanted: a ballet party with a PJ Mask cake. We did indeed modify it into a general dancing party, and got some extra PJ Mask decorations. At the party, Ace was super upset about our deviations. She's fairly philosophical about it now - two months later - but boy does she stick to her convictions.

The worst party we ever threw was probably Hawaii's 5th birthday, where we told the guests not to bring presents, but instead bring a book for the book exchange. We'd gone to other parties that had done that, and in fact we'd done it for Pokey's 3rd birthday. Hawaii told us that she wanted presents, but we cited all these other parties and told her we were going forward with the book exchange.

She was so sad and upset at her party, when she really truly did not get any presents, and I felt like shit. I still feel bad about that one.  (I don't feel bad about having extra PJ Mask decorations at Ace's party.)



Pokey had me take a photo of this bird's nest in lieu of bringing it home.

I tactfully asked Pokey's therapist this week if Pokey should continue to work with him. It hasn't seemed to be helping at all. The therapist asked me to describe a typical incident.  I did; we'd been quizzing the big kids on some karate trivia, and Hawaii answered a question before Pokey had a chance, and he did something obnoxious. We went through our routine, "you have a choice - you can quit doing the obnoxious thing or you can go to time out." It escalated severely...I'm losing interest in telling this story. He bites and scratches and hits, and hits himself, and I don't think it's a medical disorder exactly, but I do think he's still having a rough time coping with fairly ordinary trials.

I expected the therapist to say, obnoxiously, "Well, when do you think it should end?" or "What outcome are you looking for?" But he didn't. He said, concretely, "Yes, this should respond well to therapy. It's worth being here. We're working on it."

I said, "It'd be so nice if Pokey could just articulate what's going on."
The therapist said, "Well, that's what I'm working on with him."
That seems like a helpful, clear-cut goal.

.....

The big kids are taking karate over the summer. It's offered by the city, at the activity center down the street.



Hawaii is extremely precise and controlled in her (early beginner) motions.



Pokey is a bit more of a spazz, but he also got praised for shouting "KIYA!" when they got to the 10th repetition of something. The instructor whirled around and barked, "Who said that?!" and Pokey meekly raised his hand. The instructor thundered, "THAT'S RIGHT! That's what we say on the tenth and twentieth repetitions!" and for the rest of the class, they all kiya-ed in chorus on the tenth and twentieth repetitions.

I had a bit of a meltdown the next day, wondering about Activity Creep and how we'd possibly reign in all these good, wholesome activities, when we cannot possibly do them all. Wouldn't it be nice if the kids could all do piano, and soccer, and dance, and karate, and art class? They can't. We would die. It probably wouldn't even be fun for them. Still, it's hard to narrow down the list.

......

We are going to California on Friday, to see my brothers and their families, and my parents. We are ostensibly celebrating my parent's 50th wedding anniversary, but it was technically back in March and I doubt either of my brothers really remembers that that was the original point.



A lovely recent portrait of my mom.

We have to completely move out of this cabin by Thursday.  The landlady had already rented the 4th of July weekend to other guests before I ever contacted her about staying here. That is a rather large pain in the ass.  Then we'll move back in when we get home.

We are hoping to be back in our house by the first or second week of July. We shall see.



Heebie, what are you, 14 years old?

Y is for YMCA Camp.



When I took Pokey there on Thursday, Hawaii had been there for five days already, and we hadn't yet gotten any letters from her. I had no idea if she was homesick or happy as a clam. I wasn't sure if I should say hi and give her a quick hug, or if that would be awful for her.

Hawaii was standing with some kids at a picnic table right by the parking lot.  I walked a few yards away, and stage-whispered, "Hawaii...want to say hi and have a quick hug?"

She did not look over. She literally kept her eyes trained on her art project and made the shoo-fly, quit-bothering-me gesture in my direction.  I nearly laughed out loud and concluded she was having a great time. I shooed.

On Thursday and Friday,

Ace was the oldest kid. We let her sleep in Hawaii's bed and Rascal slept in Pokey's bed. This was because Ace and Rascal are sleeping on tiny nap-mats at the cabin, because the four of them are sleeping wedged like tetris pieces in that tiny room.





We're the only kids!

On the drive home from camp,

Pokey and Hawaii talked our ears off about all their great adventures. I suppose this is where the boundary of the blog lies - I can only record their lives to the extent that I'm there.  The older they get, the less I'm privy to.

I sometimes muse about how much this blog fails to capture Jammies' experience as their father. I have a tendency to think that all of life should be archived in real time, for future graduate students of Americana someday.

Anyway, I suppose as the kids get older, I'll have less and less access to their adventures. This blog will gradually return to being my humdrum thoughts, my own life and times, like it was pre-2009, except all the whimsy and silliness will have been stomped to smithereens. Maybe I'll be able to make forced jokes and laugh hollowly as they rattle, cough, and die on the floor? The jokes, not the children.

At camp pick-up, we were given a packet for each camper, with a little summary of each kid:



See, Pokey had to declare his goals as a camper. He chose "Being the best kayaker in Hopi", which was his (racistly-named, I know) cabin.

Good job, Pokey! That's a good goal!

What about Hawaii?




"Camper Goals: Be more organized."

Just your ordinary 7-year-old Container Store protege, why do you ask? Park your judgey attitude in some other filing cabinet, alpha-numerically by keyword then author, please. (What the ever-loving. That kid.)

Also: on both yellow slips if you look at the checklist on the left, "Things we LOVE about your Camper:" you'll notice that neither kid has a check mark next to "Humor". What the fuck? I feel like I'm failing as a parent. Kids, pay attention! This shit is important!

Anyway, the kids had a blast, and it's hard to return to a  dumb old family after being at summer camp, if I recall correctly.



The tattoo saga continues to discourage.

If you recall, after sitting on his waiting list for two years, the first tattoo artist balked and pawned me off on his friend. I met with the friend-artist, liked him, and put down a deposit.

Since then, I found myself feeling more and more uneasy about the second artist's technical skill, based on his Instagram feed. Finally I admitted to myself that the main reason I was sticking with him was so that I could get on with getting the tattoo, and avoid another two year waiting list.  Basically a sunk costs fallacy. One should walk away when it's not right. So I emailed the very nice artist and said I was cancelling. He asked me why, and promised that I wouldn't hurt his feelings. So I told him honestly why, and felt absolutely awful about it.  True to his word, he gave a thoughtful response, thanking me for my insight and helpful criticism. It was all terribly mature and I felt like shit about it.

On the same day, I had a consultation with a third, new artist in San Antonio. This guy had the same reaction as the first artist to seeing my cats: eergh-yuck-puke! what a terrible idea! This will look like shit! "They just don't flow with the muscles!" he said. "Think in terms of S-shapes, which wrap around the contours of the muscles."  This is similar to what the first guy said, except the first guy tacked on some shit about adding flowers or ivy or picture frames.

There's some truth to it - I'm sure that's why serpents and coi and dragons are drawn to coil and bend as they do.  But I think it's also narrow-minded - this guy has done tattoos of lions placed in similar spots. He's got portraits of bears. Goat-devils are currently in style. You know what's not in style? Big serious kitty-cats.

I also emailed a very talented woman in Austin for a consultation, and she tersely replied, "How's July 10th at 6 pm?" which was also discouraging.  Yes, okay, I will be there in three weeks and 20 hours.  Thank you may I have another.  (If I were an amazing tattoo artist, I would deliberately only schedule consultations a month out, just to filter out the yahoos who are too impatient to wait a month. "If they can't wait a month to meet with me, then they'll never wait an entire year for their appointment. Fuck 'em."  So maybe that's what she does, too. She'll see, I can wait a month, because I'm already a sedentary middle-aged soccer mom. Time is already distorted and monotonous and closing in on 40, what's one more month? Thank you, may I have another, indeed.)

So the whole thing is discouraging. Right now I'd estimate there is a 1/3 chance that I just abandon this whole tattoo adventure.  I no longer feel quite as mutilated as I did right after surgery, anyway. Maybe this stupid body is good enough, undecorated.

Here are the letters

that have arrived so far:



Dear Mom and Dad,

It is Monday. This morning we went to raise the flag. Then we all took a swim test for the pool. Then we played some outside games. Next we did our clubs. I chose art and hiking. Then we went to lunch. Oh, sorry, I forgot breakfast! That was in between Flag and the swim test. Now I'm writing this letter. Sorry that my writing is messy, I'm writing in my bed.

Love, Hawaii





Dear Mom and Dad,

Before I start talking, I want to tell you something. Yesterday I wrote you a letter after lunch, so you did not hear everything. That's a bummer because I rode horses! Anyway. It's Tuesday. Please don't tell Ace that I am making her a necklace. Well, I don't have any more room, so bye!

Love, Hawaii


These letters were maybe my favorite part of the week.

While transcribing them just now, I got an intense memory of Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah, which I now have learned is a novelty comedy song from 1964 by Allan Sherman, (whoever he was. I'm so unhip, when you say Allan, I think you're talking about Alan Turing. This lady ain't got no soul.)

Anyway, you know the song I'm thinking of: Hello Muddah, hello Faddah, Here I am at Camp Grenada.

Killer lines like:

I went hiking with Joe Spivey
He developed poison ivy
You remember Leonard Skinner
He got Ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner


and

Now I don't want this should scare ya'
But my bunkmate has Malaria
You remember Jeffery Hardy
They're about to organize a searching party


The 60s sure were a gas!  I remember a knock-off version that bragged about extensive drug use and ended with "I'm so fucked up I can barely write this letter!" (Hello mother, hello father. I've been smoking marijuana. It's all coming back to me now. Pot is good but [something transgressive]'s better...I'm so fucked up I can barely write this letter!) Good times.

Rascal Keeps Running Away:
1. On Thursday, a stranger brought him back from the edge of an alley, implying that she thought he was running away down the street. (We were listening to a concert in the alley; see stacked kids photo above.) Maybe he was and maybe he wasn't, but I'd rather not test it.

2. On Saturday morning, I awoke to him yelling, "Someone help me open the dooor!" He was rattling the front door, trying to get out of the cabin.  He thought Jammies was down by the river, and was trying to go find him.  Jammies had been down by the river the night before, when Rascal had fallen asleep, so the notion wasn't invented whole sale. (Whole cloth? Sale? Cloth.) Still nerve-wracking!

3. Also on Saturday: Jammies took the kids behind the restaurant at lunch, to play.  Somewhat near a country road with cars flying by.  He brought the kids back in to me, and disappeared to use the bathroom. While I was calculating tip and signing the check, Rascal disappeared back outside to go find Jammies. Aaaugh!

I do not like having a runaway kid. So far, none of these have been completely impulsive - he's always got a method to his bolting. It's still making me nervous!

Ace makes up a joke:
Q: What does the birthday girl's sister say?
A: I'm fat, I'm a cat, and I'm ready to wrap!

It's an actual joke with a double-entendre and everything. Hawaii brought home a rap from camp, I'm fat, I'm a cat, and I'm ready to rap! and so Ace was legitimately riffing. I was very pleased. (Maybe this will be the kid that gets a check mark next to Humor in her summer camp debriefing file. Let us hope.)

From Thursday, June 1 to Thursday, June 15th, I was more or less a SAHM, with the big kids. The littles still went to daycare. If I had to stay at home with kids, I suppose I'd develop tricks and practices that kept everything running smoothly, but I don't and I haven't.  I honestly had a lot of fun with them, but I dearly missed having some quiet time to myself to think clearly.  Balance is best.

How's the house, Heebie?



We've got pillars! Balance is best here, too.

4 kittens

Outdoors

Posted on 2017.06.12 at 20:42
Tour of nature!



Dead tarantula. Toes included for scale. This was outside the kids' elementary school.



This snake. Oh, you don't see anything? Let me zoom in for you.



I know, just a tail.  That fucker was ambling across the walking trail across the river, so close that when Pokey exclaimed, "Mom! Stop!" I thought he was pointing out that I was about to step in dog crap.

He was six feet long and thick.  He was not moving very fast, but it took a while for me to get my bearings enough to get my camera out. I'm so glad I got that photo of his tail, or no one would ever believe that he'd been more than a puny little 4" snake.

Best guess is that he was a Diamond-backed Water Snake:



which are not venomous, but people kill them because they think they're water moccasins. Apparently these guys are little assholes, though, and will attack you with their regular, non-venomous teeth and give you a puncture wound. And maybe it would get infected - I know cat bites often get infected because they are puncture wounds, which push the bacteria way down deep. People often put antibacterial ointments on puncture wounds, which is counterproductive because it traps the bacteria deep in your puncture.

(Alex the Attack Cat once was trying to attack a stranger who came on my porch. Alex was inside. The stranger left a leaflet. When I brought the leaflet inside, ten minutes later, Alex attacked the leaflet and bit my hand in the process, and it got infected.)

None of us were scared by this tiny snake:



because we're not wussies. And because it was dead.

(I know everyone thinks their cat is crazy. My crazy cat was so crazy that the Special Behavioral Vet at Texas A&M had me record footage of Alex, to show at vet conferences. And then, years later, my Heebieville vet had seen the footage of Alex at a conference! VERIFIED.)



There might be three Cooper's hawks in that tree.  There are certainly three hawks; the Cooper's part is undetermined.



They could be Red-shouldered Hawks, I'm told.



Jammies showing off his bug beard.

Not pictured: the time that I found a giant red hornet in the cabin and bravely set him free without getting stung.

This wild aquatic creature:



This aquatic sea creature has been using the potty! He peed several times and pooped at daycare, before we found out. Good thing this is our fourth kid and not our first, or we'd be heartbroken to have missed the first time, and the second and third times.

This big lizard:



He's kind of hard to see.

This young colt-like thing:



is off at YMCA sleepaway camp for the week!  The camp is straight out of Parent Trap. All the bunks have Native American names and there was a totem pole out front. I apologize on behalf of my white forefathers.



Half the counselours are from England.  It's kind of funny to be the destination for young Brits wishing to see (exotic?) outreaches of the world. "Mum! Dod! I've been stationed about an hour west of San Antonio, in the middle of fucking nowhere! Do you think it will be terribly hot?"

For the sake of documenting life: last week the big kids were at soccer camp in the morning. Neither of them liked it very much. I honestly did not like soccer camp very much, either, when I was a kid. It's just too hot and too tiring and boring. On Friday we took them to Schlitterbahn.

Good Hawaii Quotes from Last Week:
1. "Is a nudist colony like being Native American, or can anyone join?" asked Hawaii.

2. I showed Hawaii and Pokey the salad spinner in the cabin - how you take the lid off, the basket inside a basket. How the handle turns a gear which spins the basket.  Without telling them the name, I asked them if they could figure out what it was for.

They stared and thought and made silly guesses. Finally Hawaii said, "I KNOW! Is it like the thing at the pool that we used to dry our bathing suits? It's for drying things!"

I was so impressed! I told her she was exactly right, and explained about wet salad and so on. Also, we have not been at that particular pool for over two years.

3. Hawaii told Pokey a long, epic story about a girl named Fuckilaura, and the adventures of having the F-bomb as part of your first name. They giggled hysterically throughout the whole thing. I only caught bits and pieces, including the scene at the hospital when someone tripped and fell and mis-spoke their newborn daughter's name at the crucial moment, and how she got in trouble growing up, and various other hijinks.

These three left-behind yokels:



Later this week, Pokey will also be going to YMCA camp, for a three-day, two-night mini-session, starting on Thursday.

A conversation with Pokey:
"Why did Alexander Hamilton say he was going to meet his son?" asked Pokey.
"Because he was at war when the baby was born," I explained.
"I thought it took both a mom and a dad to make a baby?" he said.
"It does, but at the beginning, when the mom gets pregnant. Not to get the baby out, when the baby is born," I said.

File under things you thought were obvious. In hindsight, the book we use, It's Not the Stork, does use blankets to cover up the heart of the baby-making sex action, and later the baby-born L&D action shot.

Still, I'm amused by the idea that the daddy's penis could be needed to get the baby out, during the L&D process. Like a shoehorn, maybe?



A conversation with Ace:
"I thought this part would be scary, but it wasn't!" said Ace, about Moana.
"Haven't you seen this movie forty times?" I asked.
"Yes!" she said.
Sure!

Last Tuesday, we made our yearly mistake of thinking that Movies In the Park sounded like fun. We walked over around 6, stopping for a picnic dinner. We set out our blanket around 7:30. The kids were hot and tired and whiny.  Hang on guys, you'll have fun as soon as Moana starts!

Hang on!

Hang on!

Moana eventually started, at 8:45 pm. Pokey might have been asleep within ten minutes. Hawaii would not have lasted much longer. (The two little ones were wakeful and perky, for the record.) We packed it in around 9 pm and walked home.

Later that night, when I was cozy in bed, I observed that Moana was still running, down the block. There was still another hour of Moana to go, in fact.  I was very glad not to be there.

Rascal and Ace are driving us crazy at bedtime. Hawaii and Pokey immediately fall asleep. That is the natural, god-given state and all children should be obedient.  But instead, Rascal and Ace get more and more amped up and silly and bonkers.  (Pokey and Hawaii generally sleep through the whole thing.)

It's madness! Our kids are supposed to be good sleepers!

4 kittens
Posted on 2017.06.11 at 20:42
I'm having trouble uploading photos. >:(

I will try again in the morning.

4 kittens

Gondola in its Original Glory

Posted on 2017.06.05 at 15:20
Someone knocked on our door, which is surprising, because this cabin is anti-socially sequestered. You have to follow an unmarked driveway behind another house, and then you get to a privacy fence which can be locked, and only if the privacy gate is open can you see the path to a door.  I have not ever seen a mailbox or a house number. (I find all this privacy hostile and off-putting. You're part of a goddamn neighborhood.)

Despite all this, someone knocked on the door, and when we went to get it, it was our mail carrier, hand delivering a package. He'd seen the construction, and asked around, and figured out where we were. I was pretty blown away. That is above and beyond the call of duty.



This week has been mixed! The house is going well. If I had to pick one thing - house, tattoo - to go well, I'd have prioritized the house over the tattoos.  So let's call this week a net win.

....

Girders:

 

Since the air conditioning is disconeccted, this little fella - the Drizair 1200 - will be keeping our place from smelling like mold.



He is capable of removing 18 gallons a day from the air.  We use the water to water the plants. It's some sort of cycle of life.

Before we moved out, I built a little house of cards:



House-in-a-house.

On Thursday, they started to lift things. The disconnection begins:



Here's the machine they use:



The lift-guy let me lift our house!!  Here's what I did:

   

I DID THAT!! It's about 2.5" difference.  (The lift-guys real name is Gator. Ga/tor Dod/son. It's such a great name.)

Were the kids as excited as I was?



no.

Our house weighs 132K pounds. The metal i-beams weigh another 30K pounds. How much does your house weigh? Oh, you don't know? Mm-hmm.

HERE WE GOOOOOOO.......



 

wheeeeeeeee!  The final height will be about 18" lower than the second photo.

Your house is such a laden meaningful symbol of the basis of your life, where everything is grounded from. Things that are grounded are usually sitting on the ground. Grounded. Watching your home levitate is very surreal.



Now the house stays up on those jenga towers for the next month, while they build the concrete piers underneath.

I have fears about those Jenga towers: I picture some teenagers wandering around, drunk off of malted fruit juice, and taking a baseball bat to the towers. Unable to do much, they all gang up on one corner of one tower, and start taking turns, like it's a piñata.

Eventually they nudge one loose, and the tower buckles, and then the house slides slowly, epically, to the ground, crushing one of the kids. The death of a teenager and destruction of our house would both be major, major buzzkills.



Still standing!

Living in the tiny cabin...is tiny. It has the good parts of minimalism: the daily chores are way down. There's not that much to keep clean or maintained. We're sort of on top of each other. It's fine.

...

I showed up on Friday to get my tattoos. The tattoo artist went to go open the email I'd sent him ahead of time. He was gone a long time. When he got back, he said, "I have to be honest. I think this will look really, really terrible. The whole design is awful."



He was very apologetic that he hadn't opened the email when I set it. He clearly felt awful.

"Two years ago, I didn't do any design work," he said, "but I've started since then. Now I'd never send someone away to come up with their own design."

He felt like my design was too disconnected. "Maybe the cats could be connected by a vine or some flowers?" he suggested. I was lukewarm. "We could put picture frames around the cats, and then connect the picture frames somehow?" I was tepidly cool.

He said that if I demanded, he would go ahead and tattoo, because he felt like he'd made a commitment.  But I did not really want an unenthusiastic, begrudging tattoo artist, and so I declined.

We sat there for a while, unable to figure out how to proceed.

Eventually he referred me to another tattoo artist. I left, feeling at loose ends.



I felt sort of embarrassed and ashamed by this whole encounter. I don't think I exhibited hubris. Or lone-cowboy-ism. But I feel like I got my come-uppance nevertheless. I was wayward, and when the Tattoo Adults finally got ahold of me, they were like, "oh shit. We shouldn't have let her go so long unattended." It feels embarrassing to get rebuffed like that.

At the same time, let's pause to observe how massively unprofessional Mr. Tattoo Guy was: two years ago, he said, "We'll consult a month ahead of time."
A month ago, I called to set up a consultation.
"Just email me the designs," he said.
I emailed him the designs, and also asked a bunch of questions. Then I sent him a text message, asking if he got the email.
"I'm sure it went through," he said.
Jammies was having a panic attack about this exact scenario - that the tattoo guy couldn't be bothered to look at the email ahead of time, and something would be crucially wrong.

I also felt pretty pessimistic about meeting with another artist to collaborate. I'm not an artist, but I can gut-check things. What I do best is start with a collection of axioms and derive inevitabilities.  That's how I feel about my design: I started with some constraints - which cats do I like? What's my body like? - and then exhausted combinations and had been reduced to the only configuration that satisfied the constraints and passed the gut-check.

The new tattoo artist booked a consultation with me for Sunday night.

....

The current cabin looks like so:



The owner's grandfather started Aquarena Springs, Heebieville's former kitchsy roadside attraction, known primarily for its Aquamaids:



(Jammies and I were married there, but in its Nature Conservatory age. All the Aquamaids are off in a land called Honalee these days.)

In our cabin:




This is Ralph:



Gondola at the cabin:



Gondola in its original glory:


...

So, Sunday night I met with Ben the New Tattoo Artist. I was primarily worried about seeming nice, while being honest that I loathe nearly everything. It's hard to be likable when you're completely disagreeable.

I showed him the cut-outs. He agreed with the first tattoo artist. He got out some vellum paper and started sketching some ideas - "Could we bring all the cats around to the front?" he asked.
"Would they fit?" I asked.
He said, "Oh yes, see..." and he started to sketch.

I said, "Hang on," and got out the photographs of my body, for which the cut-outs were cut to scale.

"OH!" he said. He explained that he'd thought the cut-outs were the actual scale, that I'd wanted six very tiny cats. I explained all the moving parts to the situation.

He stared at the layout for a long time, and asked how I felt about color.

I am in fact fond of color. I'd been thinking over the spring that they should be in color, and I thought perhaps in the future, I'd have have some browns added - shading on top of the original black and white original.

Ben the New Artist uploaded Mama cat to photoshop, and did this:



I like it!

All Ben wants to do is add some shaded abstract cloudy smudges, connecting the cats, and make them pop a little better with some color. The basic idea is not going to change. I felt a little better.




It will be what it is!


4 kittens

Just a stub.

Posted on 2017.06.04 at 22:44
It is late! It's like 10:30 Sunday night. I have lots of exciting things to catch you up on! But I am going to wait and write it all down in the morning, when I've got a fresher mind. Morning is wiser than the night and all that.

4 kittens

3D in the Sense of a Water Bottle

Posted on 2017.05.29 at 22:36
(For the sake of continuity: the lice check turned out to be a sanity check. They found one nit in Pokey's hair, and four nits in Rascal's hair, and the rest of us were clean. Maybe we don't have chronic lice infestations after all.)

Our house is currently detached from the pillars it's sitting on. That's pretty creepy.

Before:




On Wednesday, they're cutting off the plumbing, water, gas, and air conditioning. But not the electricity - the electrical lines will be given excess slack, and just stay attached. Starting Thursday, they will start jacking it up. Apparently the first inch is the hardest inch, what with friction and things being pressure-bonded. But once it breaks free of that first inch, they lift it pretty quickly. Then they spend a few weeks building new, cement pillars underneath. It'll take longer if it rains a lot.

Another before:



We rented a very cute little cabin, two houses down.  We got incredibly lucky. I was anxious about the whole moving out thing, but it got much more manageable when we saw this house on VRBO.  It turned out the owner also needed a longterm renter for the next month or so, and deals were struck. Cats are allowed. Relief is palpable.

We are even allowed to climb in and out of our house the whole time.  I'm not sure how this is going to work, because the house will be higher than its final resting place. Are we using a ladder? Maybe!

{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}

On Friday, I'm going for my first tattoo session. I'm very preoccupied with this. My body is going to be permanently drawn on! What if it looks terrible?

I have finalized my choice of Mama cats:



Although I have fattened her up a bit, for verisimilitude.

Part of the consideration was: do I want a hodge-podge of different artists? Ultimately I decided yes. Daddy cat is by Ferdinand Oger, Mama Cat is by Aurore de la Morinerie, and kittens are by my beloved Clare Turlay Newberry.

What if all my houseplants die from the lack of air conditioning?
What if my tattoos look pretentious and dumb?
What if the tattoos look amazing but the underlying body looks dumb?
What if the lifting of the house drags on for much longer that we are planning? (They told us three weeks. We are giving them eight weeks before we get cranky.)
What if the tattoos hurt really, really bad?
So many questions!

{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}{:}

I bruised my ankle at the gym. I was doing a handstand, and whacked my ankle on a bar on the way down. Jammies also bruised his leg, at hockey.

 

Guess who complained more?

Hawaii also complained, last Wednesday, that her tooth hurt. On Thursday, her face was visibly swollen:



The dentist said that she had cracked a filling in her baby tooth, and it had gotten infected. Poor thing. She will have it pulled this Thursday, and they'll put a spacer in. The dentist would not use the phrase "pull the tooth" or "remove the tooth" or anything direct when she talked to Hawaii - she would only say, "We'll give it a little wiggle." I found this condescending and unhelpful, but your mileage may vary.

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We did not go camping this weekend. Some families were struck by illness, storms threatened, parents lacked will to pack up all their shit and drive to the campsite, etc. (Not us. We were packed up and ready to go when plans were cancelled on Friday afternoon. But we weren't entirely sorry to scrap the trip, either.)

Instead we did some of this:



and some of this:



(sometimes when you love someone, you love something because they love it, even if it wouldn't have occurred to you to love it on your own.)

and when the storms did materialize, we were all watching Flight of the Navigator in our sleeping bags, in the pit.

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In preparation for my tattoos, I made a 3D model of my body out of paper, and xeroxed the cats to scale.



That is the front. It is 3D in the sense that there's a water bottle sitting in the middle of it, making it not flat. This is the back:



It's not exactly finalized, but that's the general idea.

I also photographed my body, and xeroxed a second set of cats to that scale.  I fully intended to share the body photos, but the reality of my naked body is making me suddenly feel very self-conscious and vulnerable.  I am banking on the fact that I'll be happy and excited and eager to show off the actual tattoos, or else perhaps this is a giant mistake.

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This is for sure: our house will look weird and looming and out of place in our neighborhood. I'm not very happy about this.

The lifter told us that there has been a regulatory change, and flood insurance rates are now allowed to increase at 15% a year. Apparently FEMA is sick of people rebuilding in known flood plains. So rates are expected to rise dramatically over the next ten years - people paying a couple hundred dollars a year now will soon be paying 1-2K/year. He thinks that houses along our street will start popping up over the next ten years.

I hope so! Both of our neighbors are small cinderblock houses, where the owner just bleaches it down and hoses it off when it floods, and re-rents it to new tenants. After the floods in 2015, I think that makes you an asshole. The city did pass an ordinance that you must tell your tenants that you're in a flood plain, but new tenants don't know it quite as certainly as the owner knows it. Or if they do, they're renting anyway because they're poor and options are limited. Either way, all of their stuff can be destroyed pretty easily.

4 kittens

I AM HAPPY BECAUSE EVERYONE LOVES ME.

Posted on 2017.05.21 at 22:31
What was the week like? Oh this and that. Some strep throat, some dance recitals, some in-laws, and finishing it off with some lice.

Louis Wain is known for doing these big-eyed anthropomorphic cats:



Wain lived 1860-1939, mostly in London.

I have come to the conclusion that all of Heebieville has a low-level chronic lice infection, and we're all kidding ourselves that we're ever lice-free. Now and then the flare ups are undeniable, so we are forced to beat it back to its customary lurking presence. Two years ago, I shelled out beaucoup bucks at the professional lice-pickers. Since then I have combed the kids clean several times and begun to trust my ability to nit-pick.

But tomorrow, we are taking a big six-person family trip back to the professional pickers because I am worn down and defeated. If your entire household is checked or treated and pronounced clean all together, then you get a 30 day guarantee, which will last us into summer vacation.

Isn't it marvelous how the grossest things become your new normal and you just drearily admit it and keep going?




Wain drew hundreds of cats a year, published in annuals, postcards, etc. All these images are from Pinterest.

Pokey got sent home with a raging case of strep throat on Wednesday, so I missed the last half of faculty conferences. That was a perk.  The only thing I enjoyed was hearing my colleague say, "What's so bad about opening up a can of worms? You just scoop them up and put them back in the can. No, this is a can of bees. You open them up and you're screwed, they're flying everywhere and trying to sting you. This thing we're doing here is a can of bees."



Pokey and I, despite raging strep, had a high-quality mother-son day. I took him to the library. We found the graphic novel section, and his eyes got so big as he saw all the choices. He is currently reading the Babymouse series. "So I can just come back and get more when I finish these?" he gaped. He was smitten with the library.

After that, we went swimming in the river. It was freezing. He clambored all over me, teeth knocking, and I piggy-back carried him up and downstream.

 

On Friday, my in-laws came to town, to watch everyone in their dance recitals and baseball games. Baseball ended up being rained out.



Hawaii was in three separate numbers: one tap, one ballet, and one hip-hop. Pokey was in a hip-hop number, Go Ninja Go, which you may recall from Vanilla Ice's hit single from the Ninja Turtles 2 movie in 1991.  Ace was in a ballet piece.

(Is it cringey cultural appropriation to have your nerdy suburban kids in hip-hop? Maybe! But if you can get past that, it is just so much amazing fun.)

Our ballet teacher puts on a great dance recital. Everything is very short and almost all the songs are upbeat and merry.  We always buy the DVD and then the kids ask to watch themselves for cartoons all year long.



Louis Wain was in and out of institutions throughout his life. These are his kaleidoscope cats, which (apparently) often show up in psychology textbooks as examples of schizophrenic thought patterns. Most of the websites I see claim Wain had schizophrenia, but Wikipedia says that's not certain.

Since the in-laws were in town, Jammies and I snuck out for a date night. We discussed the kids.
"I can almost see the light at the end of the day," Jammies opined, which is my new favorite Jamaalapropism.




They certainly have that very specific paisley-fractal thing you get when you're tripping balls. Try not to stare at your face in the mirror. In fact, generally do not linger in bathrooms.

I'm not planning on getting any Louis Wain tattoos, but I'm sort of fond of the guy for his prolificness and his struggles.

I've got some god-awful acid reflux tonight.



I've mostly run out of things to say, but I still have a few more photos.



Next weekend, we are going camping for the long weekend. So your regularly scheduled programming here will be delayed until Monday.



We blew past that magic moment when your car hits 200,000 miles and did not notice.



But we got the magic of 200,407 documented for all the world to remember us by.

4 kittens

Rub your baby with an egg

Posted on 2017.05.14 at 23:44
This semester was so nice that I didn't even feel euphoric when it ended. I just faded from one nice thing to another. Grades are due tomorrow.

Kitten 1


This is Rascal, who yells and yells and tackles other people, the ground, a pillow, whatever. He likes to just howl wordlessly and run in circles, especially when he's very sleepy.

For Mother's Day, he made me this:



and this:



the latter by head-butting me. With exuberance!



At dinner - we went to the ever-monotonous chain restaurant Jason's Deli which has magic child calming powers - Rascal pointed out a baby and said, "Look at the baby! He's so cute!" and then later repeated it about two ducks in the water. "They're so cute!" Both times he sort of bent over at the waist, overcome by cuteness. As was I.

Kitten 2


This is Ace, who at two years old was one big invitation to come play, and always led with her belly. She was alllll belly, leading with belly, inviting you to play, arms and belly out. Rub that belly.



Rub that purple swollen arm, from where she got her 4 year old shots, with an ice pack. Look how tight that bandaid is. We actually took her in to a walk-in clinic, we were so alarmed by the swelling.  It was hot to the touch. They reassured us and sent us home.



That last line is hard to read. What's it say?



Oh, well, good. That seems like a low bar to clear.




We're the younger of the Geebies!

Kitten 3


This is Pokey, who at two years old kneaded on me always.  He was always in my lap, one hand up under my shirt. The cuddliest. The most in love.



Some pre-packaged schmaltz.



Flowers for his mama.



A robot saying hello, for his mama. It's a good likeness for when I'm a marshmallow.



"To help the earth, I can...not pee in the river."  At least he's learning to skirt the line of getting in trouble. The teacher did let this pass without comment.

Pokey and Hawaii have been obsessing over riddles lately, so I have been trotting out all the most tired ones. "Where were the survivors buried?" and "Which is heavier, a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers?" and so on. They were entirely stumped by "I can't operate on this boy - he's my son!", which I found depressing. Pokey did propose, "The boy's other father?" which is nice and progressive, but still depressing.

Railroad Crossing,
Look out for cars!
Can you spell that
Without any Rs?


"Use Ws!" proposed Pokey. "Wailwoad Cwossing!"  I laughed heartily at that. (The real answer is T-H-A-T. Ah, pedantry.)

What has a face, two hands, but no arms or legs?

"An emoji!" exclaimed Hawaii. I enjoyed that answer, as well.



Either one.

Kitten 4


This is Hawaii. At age 2, she was cautious and suspicious. Taking in everything about the world, but trusting no one. I could not make her laugh for the longest time. She'd look at me, not sure why I was trying to get her to laugh - what was the catch? How might this backfire on her?



I don't think Hawaii has forgotten the latch hook rug or her incomplete play that she was writing, but she has a third passion which monopolized this past week:



A Fuji Instax Mini 8. She spent all her birthday money on it. It spits out poloroid photos, only they're the size of a credit card.  It's really cute.



It took Hawaii forever to get everyone to cooperate for a selfie. She bribed, cajoled, threatened, cried, etc.

I really love this one:



That's only the first card! Hawaii also made this:



Aww, thumbprint cats.

 

I love you so much.
I love you more than the bumble bee loves buzzing round his flower.
I love you more than little Rascal loves his baby powder!


The bumble bee line is either riffing or derivative of a book we own, but the baby powder line is all her own, and charming, and true. Rascal adores that stuff.

Then the prescriptivist school stuff:



Sure, a recipe for me. At least she trusts me now.

Finally, Hawaii made me a robot to join Pokey's:



I'm sure these sibling robots would never bicker and fight:




Who is this handsome tomcat?

Daddy Cat


Why it will be Jammies.  I haven't decided if I will keep it original, or use an edited charcoal brush version to bring it in line with the kittens.  I love the original so much. I've got some heavy thinking and planning to do.




This is one of those stools that floats on three wheels, on springs. If you sit on the stool, it rests on the floor. If you get up, you can push it smoothly on the springs.

Every night, Rascal pushes the stool while resting his full weight on it. It scrapes awfully across the floor and the wheels break off. Every few nights, you'll find Jammies re-glueing the wheels back into the stool. It's our own little Sisyphean epic.

The actual drawing is more sepia-toned:



For mother's day, I asked Jammies' for a photo shoot of the kids.   We set up an appointment at JC Penney's. Here's a little prop couch they had laying around in the studio:



I would say that that photo is better than any taken by the real photographer.



Our kids were a big mess. Pokey'd had a (first!) sleepover the night before. Ace was exhausted. Rascal has the attention span of a goldfish.



But the photographer also did a shitty job. Here is what I wanted:



(Stephen Slaughter - Portrait of Sir Edward Walpole’s Children, via Pinterest)

I thought this was completely standard pose. But now I've searched for stock photos and I came up so empty-handed that I had to dig back in time, so perhaps it's not de rigeur.

The photographer tried her best to wrangle the kids. Her only trick up her sleeve was a feather, which she used to threaten to tickle. The school photographers joke while simultaneously snappying photos. This photographer would joke, and then pause for a few seconds to get back behind the camera.

She took a few, said, "Oh, that's a good one!" a few times, and it was over. We didn't see anything until we were out of the studio and back in the waiting room.

It turns out that she took exactly seven photos:






SOME MOTHERS JUST WANT A CHEESY JCPENNEY'S PORTRAIT OF THEIR FOUR STUPID KIDS, OKAY?  Is that too much to ask?

None as charming as Hawaii's:



I was in a foul mood afterwards. We didn't buy any. We paid $30 for the experience.

I just want one nice one of them looking angelic, to frame in an oval. And possibly to decoupage it onto a cross-section of wood with a raw edge to hang in the dining room.



(via) We'll try again in a few weeks.

Is there a Mama Cat yet?

Not yet. I have a couple contenders, but I want to print everything out and play around with some configurations.



The contractor put up this story board. It's really hard to see what's going on.  The top red arrow may be pointing to 580' above sea level, or else the lower red arrow is pointing to 580'. Either way, we'd like to raise our house to 580'. Small child included for scale.

That height - 580' - gets us up and over the 500 year flood plain by a foot. That's the level of water where the flood breaches our neighborhood and engulfs the larger world out there. We've been looking at a lot of contour maps.

Our base flood elevation, or BFE is 576. While we met with the city engineer, I thought about how BFD, BFE, BFF, and BFG all have distinct meanings.



Sad fruit bowl. Bananas undressing themselves and then feeling shame.

Some mother on the local facebook page posted some click-baity newstory about a kid who got sick and the doctors were wrong about their diagnosis. There was only one comment:



Rub your baby with an egg and it's gonna absorb the high fever and once you do, get a glass of water, only half, and break the egg in, and you'll see the yolk and the clear of the egg get cooked, and your baby will break the fever down. This is an old home remedy I use, as my mother did with all her children.

(Lightly edited for clarity.) I mean, what the fuck? What the utter fuck are we talking about here? I found this mesmerizing and kept coming back to re-read it. Certainly, rub an egg on your baby all day long, just whenever you're hungry.

4 kittens

Doused Liberally

Posted on 2017.05.07 at 22:50
What the fuck is this thing?



It was in our front yard. I'll tell you what it is: a dirty men's undershirt, with a leather shoelace tied around the bottom, and the other end of the leather shoelace is tied around a ziploc bag, which has been snipped off about two inches past the knot, so that it doesn't function as a bag.

I can't fathom what it was for or why it was in our front yard, though.



I threw it out.

[Hawaii]

Hawaii leveled up this past weekend: we allowed her to walk by herself to a friend's house, about four blocks away. It involved mild direction-remembering and street-crossing.

I guess in this day and age, we are mildly violating a community norm about unaccompanied minors. By historical standards this is no big deal. Also, the friend has ridden his bike over to our house before, though, which we thought was fine.



I continue to take Hawaii (and Pokey) to the grocery store on alternate weekends, to help me shop. Hawaii continues to be a great help, and Pokey is pokeying.

Hawaii asked, "Can I have a computer?" which is new. Usually she wants a phone.
"For what?" I asked.
"So that if I write a play, we can print it out."
We reassured her that she could use our computers to write her play, and so she has been busily doing so:

It's not short!Collapse )

That's it so far!  It's super long. At this pace it will be a season-long TV show. I do hope she finishes it.

What else, Hawaii-style?



Dear Mom, I was passing notes in class to a boy and it said "I love you". From, Hawaii.

x___________
Sign and Return


Reactions:
1. [snicker.]
2. Oh, shove it, Ms. D. This isn't 1950 and we don't need a special note in Hawaii's handwriting admitting that she was being romantically precocious.

[Pokey]

Pokey only got sent to the principal's office once this week. Good job, Pokey.

Have I forgotten to mention that Pokey has learned to read? Pokey has learned to read. Good job, Pokey.

Pokey was invited to do a Ballet Folklorico thing for Seis de Mayo on Saturday.



It was adorable.  He had to wear jeans for his costume. In his drawer, he had two pairs of jeans:



One is 5T girls, and one is 5T boys. Isn't that super weird that they expect the 5 year old girls to be so much tinier than the five year old boys? So darn weird.



After the dancing, we ate fundraiser food. I thought this looked good:



First, the woman took a big dill pickle and cut it into four spears, which formed the base of the dish. Then she put chopped jicama, cucumbers, peanuts, gummy bears, and these things that looked like Twizzler strands but were actually Salsaghetti:




Then the whole thing was doused liberally with chili-lime sauce and chili-lime powder.  In the end, I was served this:



Those dark green things are gummy bears. It was super weird, but I liked it.  It just tasted overpoweringly of lime-chili. The rest was texture.

We sat outside and ate.  Hawaii was hugging on me. The day was beautiful and we were all sharing a happy content feeling, and I asked Hawaii curiously, "How come you don't like it when I hug you when I pick you up from school?"
She smiled indulgently, "Because I'm in such a bad mood!" she explained cheerfully. Silly mommy!



It was a stunningly beautiful day for a Seis de Mayo celebration.

[Me and Jammies]

We have officially decided to elevate our house instead of move. We are raising it about 3', to be 7' above ground. This puts us at the 500 year flood plain.

The worst part is that we have to move out for 1-2 months. Ugh.  I'm dreading this, but it's becoming increasingly real.

[Me and Hawaii]

Hawaii taught us all a song about making a purple stew, where you add various purple ingredients and the list grows ever longer.

As I sang along, it occurred to me that Hawaii and I have identical singing voices. It was surreal. It was like having multiple tracks of myself layered on top of each other.  Hawaii and I were in stereo together.

[Me]

I'm going to cautiously declare my neck trauma to be healed. I do my neck exercises religiously, three times a week. The cartilege still feels a little creaky, but I'm no longer scared of the pain if I give a reflexive neck-jerk, if there's something flying through the air at my head or a kid lunges at me.

Similarly: when I started at xfit and we had a warm-up run, it used to drive me crazy that everyone bounded out of the gym at full gallop. We're supposed to be warming up! Our muscles are creaky and we must move gingerly until we warm up, or else it hurts!

But now, I'm able to gallop out, from a cold state, as well. It's nice to have the occasional indicator of progress, because it sure as hell doesn't show up anywhere else.

....

I'm busily finalizing my tattoos. I still have a questions about the Mommy and Daddy cat and the overall configuration, but I've got the four kittens selected:





The kids were spontaneously able to identify which kid was which kitten, which pleased me enormously.  The theme is that I wanted to capture the essence of each kid at age 2.  Can you identify which kitten is whom?


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