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4 kittens

G'bye 2017! Welcome to the Space Jam!

Posted on 2017.12.31 at 21:45
Well! I did not expect to be posting, because I had the flu. (I know for sure it was the official flu, because I got it from my dad, and my dad responded well to Tamiflu. Also I failed to get a flu shot, but the rest of the household did, and no one else has succumbed.)  Then I spontaneously healed around 3:00 this afternoon. It was truly the darndest thing: I'd spent the past 72 hours with a spiking fever in between doses of Theraflu, bones aching and self-pity aflame, and then it just wrapped up. Spontaneously.

While I was writing that paragraph, Ace got out of bed and came to the table, and said seriously, "Mom, the thing that usually puts me to sleep is staring at Rascal while he sleeps."   Ha.

It's New Year's Eve!

We forced the kids to watch Space Jam, everyone's favorite 20+ year old website. Cartoons were very...frenetic in the 90s. It's set at the height of the Looney Tunes craze. It's very manic.

Happy New Year!

Before that, and before I was struck down by 'flu, my parents were in town.

Pokey and I took my mom and Rascal to some of our adventure spots.

That is where Yoda lives.

I got my mom some eccentric socks for Christmas. It was a token thought, socks bought opportunistically. My mom wears nutty socks, and she always brings gifts, and I think she likes to be remembered.

She opened the bag, and gagged. "Not more SOCKS!" she wailed. I was taken aback. My first thought was, "Jesus mom, can't you keep that thought to yourself and just give them away later?"  She must have read my face, because she walked it back and explained that since it's become a thing, she has far too many socks and is trying to get rid of them.

The sting, though, lasted far too disproportionately long to the offense. I have to remember this, especially with Hawaii: things sting disproportionately when they come from your mom. Little slights from one's mom can really knock your breath out.

The thing is, even knowing this and being Hawaii's mom, you can't balance on the tightrope of avoiding these little slights. What, my mom's not allowed to have a tactless, honest response to a half-assed gift? Of course she is. I can't possibly avoid the little transgressions with Hawaii, and I can't fix them perfectly when they happen. Craving everlasting approval from your mom is a tough row to hoe.

Before that, it was Christmas morning, and the kids all waited restlessly in our bed:

This is before my folks arrived, and instead Jammies' parents were here.

Ace wouldn't come out, actually, to see what Santa brought her. (In Jammies' family, the family presents are on Christmas Eve. So this was just the last few bigger presents.)

I think she first decided not to come out, and then she balked because she became the center of attention and the situation spun out of her control, with everyone waiting and watching for her to come out. Eventually, when the present-opening had ended and grown ups had dispersed, Ace did in fact come see her presents.

She was really happy with what she got.

She is probably the easiet kid to shop for.

She tells you straight up what she wants, and then she loves it.

Ace, bellowing at us from the other side of the house: "I can walk in Belle's shoes kinda perfectly. It's actually like they're my own shoes."
(5 seconds later)
"They kinda hurt," she yelled as an afterthought.

This doofus is pretty easy, too.

During the Christmas Eve present exchange, where gifts are opened patiently and individually, Rascal heard Ace say, "You've got to be kidding me!" about something, and he adopted it when he opened his present, and got big laughs.

So then, every present he opened, with bigger and bigger aplomb, "You've GOT to be KidDinG ME!!" he'd exclaim, in that inarticulate gargle-exclamation way.  The more we laughed, the more embellishments he added. "WHAT!! You've gotta be kidding me!!" and my favorite, "You've gotta be kidding me, boyeee!!"

"I'm wearing all three of my PJ Mask costumes at once!!"  (Yes, some TV creator had the brilliant idea to name a children's show the audio-identical word to TJ Maxx. Everyone is confused the first time they hear three year olds say it.  However, I suppose we're all used to Paw Patrol, which is wildly unintelligible if you only hear a small child say it. "Pop a what? a Troll? Papa Troll?")

My mittens will eat this bar now.

I didn't take photos of Pokey and Hawaii with their gifts, I guess. Pokey got some giant Star Wars lego sets which took him a very short length of time to assemble. He was the most heartbroken of the kids on Christmas morning - "I didn't get a present!" he mourned to us. What he meant is that none of his gifts from Santa were wrapped in wrapping paper. The rest of the kids had at least one wrapped present, because we'd exchanged stuff from under the tree as we made last minute decisions of what Santa should bring.  (I get it, there is something special about a wrapped gift.)

Hawaii got an MP3 player so that she can listen to Taylor Swift whenever she wants, which she was very excited about but hasn't really started using yet. Also a big schoolteacher set that she was very excited about.

I got Jammies one of these:

It fires table salt at bugs.

Ace and Hawaii made ornaments for us, and Jammies got me a kitten Christmas sweatshirt.

Before that, Mimi made graham cracker gingerbread houses with the kids:

Hawaii's house.

Pokey's house.

Ace's house. There was a story about a tornado.

Pokey's house. The decoration festivities took place during naptime.

Also Pokey's house, after naptime.

The memes are true: the days have been a blur this week.

I don't want to jinx it, but the kids have been playing really well together lately. For hours, they'll be absorbed in a game for everyone. Hawaii has become more flexible. Pokey has a higher tolerance for frustration. They're able to find pleasure in each other.

Scene from playing the board game Life:
Ace, to Hawaii: You have a boyfriend?
Hawaii: There's no dating. You just get married. It's kind of sad.

4 kittens

You really are the best + everything I need.

Posted on 2017.12.24 at 20:21
Oh, huh, I failed to post. Whoops.

My cousin told me this story: my uncle R was radicalized in college, upon talking to his grandparents, Sonia and Jerome, and finding out their communist beliefs. Sonia and Jerome lived down the street in Lawrence, Kansas; he spent the night at their house all the time, growing up. How had Uncle R not learned of their communism before that?  He asked them this. Sonia and Jerome explained: their daughter (his mother (my grandmother (the centurion))) had forbid them from discussing their political beliefs with the grandchildren.

I was gobsmacked to hear this story, which is a story primarily about Grandma's controlling, domineering ways, and whether or not her domination had limits. It's not about the communism or radicalism, both well-known and carried on.  This story was told to illustrate my cousin's side in the perennial debate of Whether Grandma Knew. Did Grandma know about my grandfather's secret identity? My cousin said yes - Grandma is capable of great duplicity. (We also know that Grandma can lie freely, because she covered up my grandfather's first marriage which she helped wreck.)(Sure, Grandma and Erik Sr. broke up a marriage in their courtship, and then never admitted it. In and of itself, I'm not too concerned. What's hilarious/terrible is how Grandma lorded her longterm marriage over people every chance she got. She had a standard stump speech about how her marriage lasted 40 years, and all her children had never been divorced and were in longterm marriages. Grandma would give this speech recklessly, ignoring whoever she was insulting along the way, like at my cousin's wedding, where the bride herself was divorced. OH GRANDMA.)

Nevertheless, I generally don't think Grandma knew. I agree that had she known, she'd have been capable of keeping the secret, though.


I have two brothers, and occasionally we all sit together.


Grandma's cake had 100 candles:

The 36,525 days was computed with careful consideration of leap years: in a year divisible by 100, there is no leap day unless it is also divisble by 400, as was Y2K. So Grandma did in fact have 25 leap days, but it was a non-trivial deduction.

The 5200 weeks was computed carelessly. I chose not to divulge this fact to my uncle, who worked so hard to make the weekend a success, and who was so proud of his calculation of the total days. In fact, if you take the total days - 36,525 - and divide by 7, you get 5217.86 weeks. Each year has 1 or 2 extra days beyond 52 weeks.

Grandma now wears these headphones so that she can more easily hear you.  After we sang happy birthday and the great-grandkids blew out the candles, and ate cake, we sang Here We Are Together, which is a family ritual of self-imposed embarrassment.  My cousin had us sing it when she was 2 or 3, and then Grandma enforced it for the next three decades whenever we were all together. We all used to feel terribly self-conscious, but of course less so this time around. It's just so dorky.

Then my uncle offered up the mike (figuratively) for anyone who wanted to share a special memory. Each of Grandma's three children spoke, and I spoke, and Grandma's eldest nephew spoke. Then there was a lull, and my uncle suggested we move on to the next item on the agenda. "Rik!" my grandma admonished, "Give everyone a chance to talk!"  She was unusually lucid and attentive. She really adored hearing everyone talk about her.

I hope this doesn't come across as too mean. She is/was a very smart, incredibly affectionate, difficult person who lacked all ability for introspection and dominated everyone in her family. Is that nicer? I really am fond of her. What I said, in my speech, was something like: [first I choked up and had to wait until tears receded, such is the curse of sentimentality] "When we were in a family gathering, we always butted heads and fought a lot. But when it was just the two of us, it all fell away and we just hung out and talked about anything and enjoyed each other's company." Then Grandma asked, dreamily, "What did we talk about?" I was caught off-guard and couldn't think of something. "I don't know! Everything!" Instead I segued to the trips we took: "You visited me at college, in grad school, at Heebieville. We went to Poland together. We went on the road trip from Toronto, down through Vermont, over to New Hampshire, Boston, and ended up in New York."

It is a true thing: without a third party, I put my full attention on Grandma and didn't feel the need to needle her. Without a limelight, she stopped provoking and dominating quite as much. We still fought some, but it was okay. I'm not opposed to sparring with Grandma.

After the speeches, we danced the Virgina Reel. It was mentioned that my grandfather was the one who brought square-dancing to the family. The Jewish guy from the lower east side who reinvented himself as the American cheese to end all cheeses. Coincidentally, this article just came out about the antisemitic perpetuation of square-dancing in the early 20th century. Who can say.

My brother pushed my grandmother around during the Virginia wheel. She seemed to know what was going on.


The next day, I visited my grandmother, and she was really not clear-thinking and able to grasp conversation. She was focused on areas where no one was standing, addressing people who weren't present, and so on. I'm sure the party really took a toll on her.  It was amazing how lucid and herself she was, during the two hour affair.

Her vision and hearing are both dismal, at this point. She must be so bored, or maybe she's winding down. She sleeps nearly all the time, waking to eat. She no longer eats solid food.  My uncle visits her daily, but I don't think she has energy for more than a 5 or 10 minute visit.

Would she be more lucid if she lived in a big, boisterous noisy home full of family? Is she bored, or is she winding down on the inside? She mostly has not been distressed in her senility, although sometimes she now does have confused, distressed days.


Sleeping boys:

Jammies and Rascal, in Wisconsin.

Me and Pokey, also in Wisconsin. He had just turned 2, and I was pregnant with Ace. We were waiting for a train in a blizzard, after my grandma's 95th birthday party.


Rascal has a new catchphrase.  He says crossly, "Who cares about that," when he's grumpy. I love it and cannot help but parrot it back to him. Then he says, "I SAY THAT. Not you," with a touch of anger.

Hey Mosi! Did you know you have blue smudges on your nose?


Here is the canonical Rascal at this age: "I'm Taz! Pretend I'm a puppy named Taz!" (That's the name of his teacher's puppy.)  So we do. C'mon Taz, it's time to get into your puppy carseat! Brush your puppy teeth! Would you like some puppy treats? while he scoots around on his hands and knees and screeches like a hurt bird. His puppy sounds are not accurate.


Ace, playing tic tac toe with Uncle K:
"Let's play where you can put two down, at a time!" It's a big wooden set with physical Xs and Os.
Uncle K agreed. They played like so.
And then, "Let's play where you can put three down at a time!" Ace pushed.
(This time Uncle K balked.)

Jammies' parents and brother K arrived on Thursday.


This thank you note is from a classmate of Ace's:

It reads:
Thank you Ace for giving me presents for my birthday. Sometimes I love to play w/ you. And Ace, you really are the best and you're everything I need. Love, Ashley.

This really is the best and everything I need, too.

Ace was very worried that the cats would open the Christmas present for me:

and so she hid it in my closet.

It's been two years since my mastectomy. I thought that wearing fake boobs would be more comfortable. In fact, I thought it feel more-or-less invisible. It doesn't, and that is discouraging. I just don't like the way some clothes look, when I'm flat. So I'm always planning my outfits in response to whether or not I feel like wearing prosthetics that day.

I did buy a super fancy mastectomy bra from Ana Ono. The fabric is a million times softer than any other bra I've ever felt, which helps substantially with the band. The cups, though: sometimes they're against my skin, and then they fall away (because I'm a bit concave), and the repeated on and off is irritating.


What kind of things do you find in Hawaii's bed? Things like so:

Hilarious. I assume she cradles and strokes it when she wants to kill us. I asked her about it, and she gave me the shruggie emoji, more or less.

Later, I asked her to create a Hawaii Original work of art for our friend's birthday. She complied thusly:


I used my mother's day present photo for the holiday card:

Right now the Catholic church down the street is playing Silent Night on its bells. It's rather lovely.

4 kittens

One Century

Posted on 2017.12.17 at 21:58
Grandma turned 100 years old on December 16th, 2017! We're currently wrapping up a family reunion and will postpone writing until Tuesday.

4 kittens


Posted on 2017.12.10 at 22:57
What's up, nerds?

Let's gather up ye quotes from yon kids:


December 10, 2017 (8).jpg

snow boy!

1. "Is this our shone-tel?" when we pulled up to our hotel. (On the drive home from Denver.) He said it more than once.

I knew he was mispronouncing hotel, but it didn't quite click that shone-tel was actually as in show-and-tell, as in, "I'm bringing in my Lightning McQueen car to school for Shone-Tel".  When it fell into place I was so tickled.

2.  Rascal plays his last soccer game:

December 10, 2017 (9).jpg

The buzz of kids occasionally swarmed through and around Rascal, but he focused hard on having nothing to do with them.


3. Rascal gets out of bed after bedtime, wanders over to us, and just about the time that we're growling, "Why are you out of bed?" he responds, "When I wake up in the morning can I give you a hug and kiss?" and then we melt and he usually does in fact settle down and go to bed.

December 10, 2017 (1).jpg December 10, 2017 (3).jpg
December 10, 2017 (2).jpg December 10, 2017 (6).jpg
December 10, 2017 (5).jpg December 10, 2017 (4).jpg

December 10, 2017 (7).jpg


snow glee!

1. Noticed her ear tag for the first time. "I found something!" she exclaimed, so surprised, "A bump!"  It's funny, because it was perhaps the very first distinguishing feature of her life, which the doctor remarked on while we were still in the hospital. I suppose we never exactly sat down and chatted with Ace about it. What the doctor said was, "I don't mean to freak you out, but there's actually a very, very slight correlation between those ear tags and reduced kidney functionality, so we just need to make sure she's urinating well these first few days."  (Lo and behold, ye google confirmeth.)

(Nowhere near as hilarious as Pokey, age 2, in the bathtub, saying, "Daddy! Daddy! There's a hole in my bottom! See? right here!" We also had never exactly sat him down and chatted about his hole, I suppose.)

Played legit little kid soccer.  May have convinced Jammies that she will never play again.


2. Coined the exuberant tag-line, "SO LONG, SUGAR DIAPER!" It's so intrinsically gratifying to sing out theatrically that pretty much everyone in the family has adopted it.

So long, Sugar Diaper! Sing it proud!



1. "Ok, will you listen to my joke?"
"Sure, go."
"There's a boy from New York. And he tells his teacher, 'Look, it's a boid!'
The teacher is just from Texas, and she says, 'That's a bird!'
The kid from New York says, 'Well, it's shaped like a boid!' "  (ba-dum-ching!)

I think I see what he's getting at with the punchline. But moreover, I love so hard how Texas is used to indicate the nondescript, neutral speech pattern.

2. "The toilet moved! It did! Did you guys move it?!"

Pokey is used to seeing the bathroom looking like the photo on the left, and then when he came across the version on the right, he was completely bewildered. We must have moved the toilet! he told us vehemently.

We actually have a rotating shower curtain:

which bows out for extra shower luxury, and then rotates around again for optimizing compact bathroom size.

Pokey draws some art:

I believe the prompt was "you're spending a day with a police officer".  Political tensions aside, I love this picture and I think it looks like a wonderful day.

Pokey brought home his props from the community art class:

He spent months working on an elaborate stop-action claymation video. He has jabbered on about having to take five photographs for each second of video.  I am absolutely dying to see this video.



1. "Ok, so a meteorite took a test, and failed! What do you call a meteorite that takes a test and FAILS?"
"A meteorwrong!"

2. Art class goings on:

Not Kelly Ann Conway.

It occurs to me as I post this that Ace also attends art class, but I didn't see her bring anything home after the last class.


I guess I don't have a snow photo of Jammies. However, I love this photo so much:

Remember that time we coached a bunch of random kids we don't know?

I also love this testament to Jammies' bad handwriting:

That...is not our last name.

Anyway, Jammies asked me to please remind him not to coach next year. I intend to make an animated gif of Jammies explaining to future-Jammies not to coach. Squarely, man-to-man. (I also want to make an animated gif of Rascal wrestling the froggy umbrella in the wind.)

Jammies got us all out the door, to a Christmas tree farm, and we got ourselves a tree:

We all like the Frosty the Snowman top hat on top.

I also like the sunglasses underneath, like the invisible man or Mr. Potato Head.  It does detract from the overall prettiness of the tree though, so they might go.


snow me.

1. I have a vivid memory from childhood, a recurrent thing that spanned years. I would be 5 years old, or 6, or 7, and I would want to tell a story about an ongoing problem.  For narrative arc, I felt like I needed to use the phrase, "It went on for years!"  But I was lucid enough to realize that that would have meant I was 3, or 4, or 5 or so when the problem started, which was usually self-evidently ridiculous.

Everybody else - my parents, my older brothers - got to tell stories involving rueful claims of things going on for years. But when I did it, it was tinny, through no fault of my own. How enraging.

2. A flat tire! What!

That was exciting/delayed everything.

Private jokes I have with myself:
1. I like to tap the hands-free-sensors on paper towel dispensers. I like to pretend I'm well-meaning and daft and would say brightly, "They just work better this way!" if someone happened to question me.

2. To mentally insert "violently" whenever Facebook informs me that someone has reacted to my status.  Facebook has already forever altered the meaning of "liked" - I'm going to preserve "reacts" from their grubby likey fingers.  Let's preserve the startle-effect. Someone reacted violently and lashed out; they just were on edge.

3. To mentally substitute "dramatically" for "automatically" in phrases like, "Discounts will be automatically included at checkout." Yes they will! Included with flair!

4. R-I-D-I-C-U-L-U-L-O-U-S, sung as it is in the song R-I-D-I-C-U-L-U-L-O-U-S. This isn't a private joke so much as a joke that I foist upon the kids often. They are willing and eager participants to cheer-spell ridiculous when the moment presents itself.

OMG my initials!

That is the very edge of the chalk-tray on the chalkboard.  RIGHT THERE! BR in a fancy logo!

The Snow

It was really quite a shock to discover that the drizzle had transformed to heavy snow, on Thursday.

Heavy for Texas.  We let the kids go nuts for the better part of an hour.

Palm trees taking a beating!

Then lured them back inside for some warmed-over chocolate milk.

It all felt very magical.

The big kids' snowmen hung on gallantly through the morning,

but eventually were reduced to pairs of sticks, in the sun.  SO LONG, SUGAR DIAPER!

We got about 2" maybe. I think it even snowed in the Valley, and down into Mexico. There were no forecasts for snow and the whole thing felt extremely special.

Apparently the last time snow accumulated in this area was back in 1985.  They got 13" that time. Now that would be unreal.

4 kittens

The Heft of the Trophies

Posted on 2017.12.03 at 22:29
Good evening!

This week is one of those stories that's hard to tell, because what made it harrowing is exactly what makes it boring. The entire week was packed into Saturday: a soccer game, a karate tournament, a dance recital, with precariously finite transition times.

The days leading up seemed to conspire against Saturday: water mains breaking cancelling karate where they were supposed to test for their yellow belt, karate belt testing rescheduled elsewhere, ( "Can we just skip it?" I wondered. "No," answered Jammies, "Because if they don't test for their yellow belts, then at Saturday's tournament they'll compete at 3:30 with the white belts instead of 2:30 with the yellow belts, and then we'll never get back in time for Ace and Hawaii's dance recitals at the Small Town Xmas Festival"), Wednesday being half-price ride night at the small town Xmas festival, culminating with Friday, in which both Pokey and Ace were diagnosed with strep throat.

On Friday, Jammies and I actually discussed the 24 hour clock that begins when take your first dose of antibiotics, to determine if the kids could still attend their various events. Only if they felt better, mind you, but if they did perk up, we wanted to have that 24 hours of contagiousness done with. We semi-rushed the kids to the doctor in order to beat the clock. (Ace never actually felt that bad - Pokey felt terrible - but the clock was ticking.)

(Have we taken on too many kid activities? Of course! You're so polite to keep your opinions to yourself like that, for which I thank you.)

So How Was Saturday?

1. First up was Ace and Rascal's 9:00 am soccer game.

Ace stayed home, because of the strep throat diagnosis. Rascal threw a holy tantrum. Jammies doubted his ability to coach the team while parenting an uncooperative Rascal, since I would not be there.

This squirrel (photo taken out my office window) symbolizing Jammies going off, by himself to coach a team of 3 and 4 year olds, of entirely other people's children, while I stayed home with all our kids.

We strongly second-guessed our life choices.

2. By noon or so, Pokey was rambunctious and back to normal, which is to say going nuts with cabin fever, so we decided the karate tournament was a go. (Hawaii was very unenthusiastic about the tournament. I need to talk with her about whether or not she is enjoying karate.)(I personally would not enjoy sparring. I do not think I'd like having to attack or be attacked. Too intense.)

This tournament had an actual play-off system, so the kids could advance and spar more than once, unlike the last tournament. We were told that the kids would be in groups of 6-8, single elimination.

It turned out that they split the kids into groups of four. "Wait a minute," I asked Jammies, "So those trophies are first place trophies, one for each group of four?"

"First and second place get a trophy," Jammies told me, "Third and fourth place get medals."
"But aren't they going to run out? With all the white belts after us?" I asked.
"Those boxes under the table are all trophies," he told me, "They keep refilling the table."
It was the Hanukkah Oil of karate tournaments. Or loaves of bread and fish, all over again. Some sort of important miracle.

Pokey spars:

(wearing red) and wins!

Pokey goes to the Decagon of Doom in the middle:

and wins again!

Pokey is given this trophy:

Again Jammies and I question our life choices. If we go to these tournaments every few months, where on earth will we fit these things?

Hawaii spars:

(also wearing red) and also wins! Hawaii advances to the Decagon of Despair:

and loses there. And is upset afterwards, but won't address it, instead focusing on some proximal injury. She got a fairly enormous trophy as well, but we didn't take a photo.


Hawaii looked like one of those jib-jab elf videos that were popular a decade ago.

Hawaii also wore Ace's penguin costume, three years ago, and did the (same) Penguin Cha-cha in 2014.  But Rascal had been born mere weeks earlier, and it seems I did not take photos of Hawaii as a penguin. Presumably I was holding the new baby and Jammies took photos. (Also! We'd just learned that my grandfather had a secret identity, and hadn't yet talked to the other half of his family, and didn't yet know that they knew us! What a crazy time that was.)

(And then Jammies went to Korea for a week, leaving me with a five year old, four year old, 18 month old, and 3 week old, with just a few days advance notice. I was severely not pleased. Thus kicking off that stretch where Jammies travelled for a week per month. I'm so glad that's over.)

Hawaii really owns her performance up on stage. It's hard to explain, but she snaps her movements with a sparkle, and really stands out. Several friends independently mentioned this to me, so I'm not just parent-blind.

Ace made the most darling haunted penguin apparition.

After that, the kids frolicked in the snow - big giant wet flakes being blown from the Christmas-tree-shaped-light-sculpture:

It collects on the ground, and forms sort of bubbles,

because it is soap, not snow.

Pokey kept catching it in his mouth, c/f above, but it really is not edible.

Pokey is the eyes of Santa, Ace is the first elf, the hands are of Rascal, and Hawaii is dangling off the end. (If I didn't write that out, I'm not sure I'd be able to correctly identify them in five years.)

Wise men gonna wise, camels gonna camel.



With nothing to do, we fall apart and scream a lot and misbehave and I'm glad it's almost bedtime.

There was one highlight:

Hey there Beto! Whatcha doing?

On my way to drop Hawaii off at a birthday party in SadTown, I passed Beto O'Rourke doing a bit outside this restaurant:

I doubled back after dropping her off, and saw the newsvan still parked outside, so I headed in, out of curiousity.

It turned out that the restaurant was filled exclusively with Beto's team, and they were grabbing a quick bite between events, and invited me to pull up a chair and join them. Don't mind if I do!

Politicians are so good at blowing smoke up your ass and making you feel like every utterance is a jewel. It's great. They asked about SadTown and I demurred, because I'm really unqualified to weigh in on SadTown's politics. But I did tell them all about Heebieville. They were angling for what makes the town unique, what issues to be aware of, and the best ways to connect with the people. I felt very self-important and pleased with myself.  God I hope we can grind a big fat smelly defeat into Ted Cruz's smug chump-face.

At the SadTown grocery store, they sell mega-packs of intact octopus tentacles. I wasn't expecting that.

One time the kids all played well together:

It was a beautiful ten minutes.

4 kittens

Pie Face and Other Sports

Posted on 2017.11.26 at 22:15
I am tired! I should have started this earlier! Let's see how it goes.

Last we chatted, Jammies had struck out across the southwest with the Geeblets. I had the house to myself from Sunday to Wednesday morning, but somehow I failed to have a leisurely rejuvenating time. I was productive and felt harried.

Jammies' parents bought a house in Denver last spring.  Denver was leisurely, full of food.  Jammies' youngest brother brought his girlfriend, so there was a fresh face. I liked her.

So this game is called Pie Face:

You spin the spinner, and then turn the crank.

If the trap is sprung, the whipped cream is flung.

in your face.

Then it's the next person's turn:

Everybody wins!

Jammies is a good sport.

They drug me to a hockey game:

I attended because I'm a good sport. Just kidding. I tried to bail but Jammies pointed out that we were all meeting the new girlfriend and it was supposed to be a nice group thing.

Hawaii ice skates!

Rascal wasn't trying at all to stand up.

He whooped and hollered and gamely splayed his legs every which way, not actually attempting to gain purchase.  Relishing in that cartoony scramble, legs akimbo.  Jammies crouched over for several laps around the tiny rink, because he is actually a good sport.

Pokey, looking particularly poetic.


Pokey got Battleship for his birthday:

My beautiful kiddos. How do they do that.

Jammies' parents' new house looks out over a golf course. It is a wee bit soulless and McMansion-y.

But still, Denver is very pretty.

Pretty ombre trees, with red tips.

Pretty medieval times ren faire building. Just kidding, that's the McMansionhood Clubhouse.

That double door leading to a balcony is a big double wooden arched affair, the kind with big triangular hinges. What the heck is going on in this neighborhood.

Pretty golf course sunset.

We left Saturday morning, and drove to Abilene Lubbock. [Oops. Thanks, Jammies.]

Back in Texas. Howdy yourself, authorization sign on the gas pump.

Howdy yourself, Crystal Pepsi?

Abilene Lubbock is known for it's three styles of carpet.  First, the stairwells, featuring a nested cross-hatch pattern:

and next, the halls and breakfast area, with its intersections of circles theme:

A little ugly, but at least it's bold.

and finally, the rooms themselves, with a stained glass church window pane motif:

 Probably my favorite of the three.

You'll notice that all three featured the same cream-teal-brown tri-color combination. In this way the hotel gained a coherence that lesser hotels might lack.

We awoke on Pokey's 7th birthday, in that hotel in Abilene Lubbock. Happiest of birthdays, Pokey! My 7 year old, my darling.

He spent his 7th birthday driving from Abilene Lubbock back to Heebieville. Pokey and I agreed that it was a terrible for a birthday, but really great for a day spent in the minivan.

For his birthday dinner, Pokey requested nachos. I made them with optional ground turkey, beans, jalapenos, and sour cream.  For dessert, he wanted mint chocolate chip ice cream with graham cracker crust and chocolate sauce, which is also my special birthday dessert, because it was also my dad's special birthday dessert..

Blub blub glub blug.

4 kittens

Amped & Manic

Posted on 2017.11.19 at 19:55
Jammies loaded up the kids in the minivan and set off for Denver this morning. Drive safer than you've ever driven before! Safe like your life depends on it, Jammies! Eek! My plan is not to leave the house or talk to anyone until I go to work tomorrow.

Three hours into his trip, he texted, "Pokey threw up twice. Ace once all over herself," so it's going swell, I think.

(I failed my vow of silence when the five year old next door came and knocked on the door, but it was minimal.)


"Hey Dr. Geebie! Your jacket perfectly matches the chalkboard!"

"Here, I'll pretend to write something. You take a photo of me!"

I also did the joke where I plastered myself against the chalkboard, as though I was a cat burglar trying to sneak by. Everyone politely laughed.

I sold Clutchy five years ago:

right before Ace was born. Clutchy had started breaking down a lot, and plus you can't fit three car seats across the backseat.

This car appeared the past week:

Now that I've got the two photos side-by-side, it's clear to me that this is not Clutchy. Perhaps Clutchy's cousin. At any rate, this car has taken a major beating and is held together by duck tape and wishful thinking.

Thank god I'm documenting this so we'll never forget the time someone had a blue volvo across the street that carried no significance.


Hawaii won a contest! They made Veteran's day cards in her school. She won first place out of third grade, which is about 100 kids, so that's something.

I have not seen the card. I'm curious to know exactly how much patriotism the Texas schools have instilled in our kids.

It turns out that Texas instills the recorder in your kid, starting in 3rd grade.  They cost $3.


Ace wearing a Minnie Mouse dress, skirt, leggings, bow, and carrying two Minnies:

Many minnies!

Ace wearing both of her red striped dresses, one on top of the other, and her red striped leggings:

I was super excited to dig out our candy cane stuffed animal, and Ace was super excited to take it to school.


Rascal turned three yesterday!

I mean this lovingly: Rascal is a metric fuckton of work. He's the most physical kid we've had. Just always barrelling against you, using his noggin as a wrecking ball, asking to be picked up and then writhing aggressively all over the place.  Good thing he's so cute.

He's the only one of our kids who gets amped up and manic when he gets tired. And being the youngest, we pretty much always keep him up too late. He is one chronically manic, amped up little hellion, is what I'm trying to say.

The flip side of this - every trait has a good side and a bad side, right? - the good side of that physical energy is that Rascal gives the best hugs.  He loves you so hard.

How did you spend your birthday, Rascal?

1. He played in his first soccer game! Ie it was his third soccer game, but the first time he actually got on the field!

The kind of soccer where you hold your daddy's hand.

It's a nice kind of soccer.

Ace, for her part, actually ventured into the fray, and kicked the ball. She was in the middle of the clausterphobic mass of small children clawing at the ball, and she held her own. I was so pleased.

2. Remember the Princess Tea Party on Ace's birthday in the spring? It's the high school choir fundraiser. This year they changed it to November, and it fell on Rascal's birthday.

I knew he'd love it! He told me he would not love it.

But I knew he would love it.

It turns out he didn't love it.

He was super bored and not willing to interact with the superheroes or princesses. Thus continues Jammies' and my streak at doing a bad job of kid birthdays.

(Ace loved it. Happy half-birthday, Ace.)

3. What do you want for your birthday dinner, Rascal?   Noodles!  With cheese!  So we all dined on noodles and parmesan. (NB: this is what I serve every night that Jammies is not attending dinner.  This or rice with soy sauce.)

Afterwards we went for ice cream.

My baby is THREE. welp/sigh/sob.

(I made the kids sit on the couch and do their two, four, six, eight cheer one last time on Friday night.)

4 kittens

Loopy orbit

Posted on 2017.11.12 at 21:37
Pokey's doing very well at his new school. His remaining problems are at home: intense sibling rivalry with Hawaii, and this caged tiger snarling angry thing he does all day long.

Pokey's Dia de los Muertos alter to Big Kitty:

The plastic bag in the front symbolizes Big Kitty's obsession with chewing on plastic. The skeletons are for ambience and authenticity. Hidden behind the stuffie hanging skeleton is a photo of me, because Big Kitty loved me truly deeply madly. Also: a photo of our striped club chair (where he slept), the photo with baby Pokey, and some kitty treats.

What a good kitty he was.  Alters really are kind of touching and meaningful.

I had kind of a breakthrough insight around Pokey's restless snarling energy: he cannot handle being bored. Zero tolerance for boredom, and very little flexibility and creativity for coming up with things to do when he's in this snit.

Jammies had a lot of restless energy when he was little, or so Mimi tells me. And I certainly have an extremely low tolerance for boredom. Most of my worst moments - when I treated people poorly or was insensitive - have been when I was motivated to make the situation more interesting for myself.  So put us together and Pokey's snarling restlessness is not entirely surprising.

The lower dragonfly is the shed skin of the upper dragonfly.  Or it's just a blotchy photo of a window screen.


I was part of a faculty group involved in the aftermath of a frat party.  The various students...they sincerely do think we were born yesterday. They earnestly explained to us:
     - what it's like to take care of a drunk person - "they'll walk away on you! You have to really stay next to them!"
     - what pot is like - "No, you can totally smell it. Really, if someone is smoking pot, it's obvious"
     - what house parties are like - "There were a lot of people! The house, it has a lot of rooms. It has an inside and an outside! There's a kitchen and a living room and..."

My favorite bit was that last bit about how big the small, ordinary rental house was. I dryly repeated back to the student, "Oh really? It has an inside and an outside?"  I love that line. That kind of house.

OJ! Those aren't real goldfish!

He did actually eat one or two. OJ, I also am reminded of stale dead salty fish when I eat them. No judgment.

Jammies went to Phoenix to ride bikes with his friends. Mimi came to town to preserve my sanity. She's always the best. It's very relaxing to have Mimi running the show.

At semi-annual Sorting of the Seasonal Clothes;

That photo is pre-sort - what's stored in the attic, what's been recently passed down from other families.

Post-sort: we are sending about five garbage bags of clothes to other families. Let's call it a draw.

At Rascal's second soccer game:

He slept through the whole thing. We were there too early. Rascal ran around with the soccer ball with fifteen minutes, and then he was done. Done before it ever started.

Ace played all three 5-minute periods without fuss. She stayed far away from the ball.

At the last period, she was chosen to kick off. She stood opposite a little girl who was two full heads shorter than Ace.  The whistle blew. They both stood there. Ace looked around. Nothing happened. All the coaches and grown-ups shouted encouragingly for them to do pretty much anything. Finally the other little girl came up and gingerly toed the ball out of the way. Ace resumed jogging her loopy orbit outside the fray.

This is the best part: all during that last period, Ace had some song in her head, and she was singing, with gestures and facial expressions, the whole period. Grand arm sweeps, furrowed brow. She'd stop trotting to allow for some dance moves or grand poses, and then resume.  I assume either Taylor Swift or The Descendants.  It was so great. She was not aware of the audience at all - just the self-consciouslessness of young children.


Today we had a joint birthday party for the 3rd and 7th birthdays of Rascal and Pokey, at Peter Piper Pizza. It was great! By which I mean it sailed smoothly and happily unremarkably.

Hawaii counts her tickets.

Ace drives the truck.

Rascal is the passenger.

We are so cute.

Pokey concentrates on games:

We are so enormously serious and intense about getting those tickets.

In the family bathroom,  Ace was trying to get soap from the soap dispenser, which was higher than her outstretched arm by a few inches. She stretched with all her might.  I stood up from dealing with Rascal and pressed the soap dispenser for her, and it squirted soap all over her face and in her mouth.

Poor Ace! It was so slapstick and so awful. She took it gaily and was grossed out, but good-natured about it.

Hawaii is intentionally making that face, aimed at a camera that was facing her from the front. Goofikins.

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The evil one is...you’ll find out.

Posted on 2017.11.05 at 21:38
Here is Hawaii's new riddle:
A family lives in a circular house. One day, the mother comes home, and she finds that the baby is dead. She asks the dad, but he says, "I was watching TV." She asks the butler, but he says, "I was counting my money." She asks the maid, but she says, "I was sweeping the corners." Who killed the baby?
If you answered, "what the FUCK, why isn't everyone in a FULL-BLOWN PANIC at the dead baby?!?!" you're correct! It was the maid, because round houses don't have corners to sweep!  Nailed it.

Also it has made me reconfigure "who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?" as "who killed the baby from the baby jar?"  Not me!


I had two instances this week of people being complete and utter dicks to me, both times when Ace urgently needed to use the bathroom. Originally I planned to recount the details of both here, but it makes me too overwhelmed to dredge up the details and rehash them.

They were both EGREGIOUS. In the second, I paused and told the haircut woman, "We're next on the waitlist, and we're here! My daughter just needs to use the bathroom real quick," and when I came back, the stylist was cutting the next person's hair.  I was like, "What gives?!" and she told me it was their policy that if you don't answer when they call your name, they go on to the next person.

BUT! Then she and the customer had this outrageous conversation about no-shows, and how this is like the doctor's office, and how I'm lucky I wasn't charged a no-show fee...I'm getting irate all over again. I think I need to stop telling this story; there's not much more to it, anyway. I talked to the manager; I was not placated.

The first was trying to find a bathroom while we were trick or treating. We were just stranded, far away from the house of anyone we knew, and my four year old needs to pee, and I've also got Rascal. Why are people such assholes? Specifically that one guy who was confrontational and mean about it?


Look, a singular autumnal tree!

That's better.

On Monday, I dreamt of a long line of kids in Halloween costumes. They were snaked around buildings, not moving, and I was getting more and more agitated until I woke, agitated because my stomach hurt terribly. It's like the line of kids was my intestines, in knots, bulging and not moving.

I was in groggy agony for the next two hours, and then I puked a lot, and then slept soundly for the rest of the night.  It was all very strange. I was a little shaky the next day, and then life went on.

On Halloween proper, it poured rain and cut trick-or-treating short. Jammies and I did not dress up this year.

Neither did Ace nor Rascal.

On Wednesday, Ace and Rascal had their first soccer practice!

Jammies was coaching,

Ickle was crew,

and Tickle served coffee and mulligan stew,

as Pokey got to be the big kid helper,  and I took tiny photos from far away, and then cropped and zoomed them into fuzzy oblivion.

When it was time to scrimmage, Jammies gave a big pep talk about which way you're supposed to run, and who is on your same team, and whether you can touch the ball with your hands. Rascal ran in circles and shadow boxed.

The first thirty seconds of the scrimmage went great!  Then this happened:

Rascal is the orange blur in the middle. Ace is not a blur, because she's not running. She's holding Jammies' shorts and walking next to him.

She walked everywhere with him, holding his shorts.

At the break, Jammies took a knee. Ace gripped Jammies' beard in both of her hands, and looked him in the eye and said, "I thought this would be fun. But it is BORING."

Then she went and sat by me for the remainder of practice. The end!


And then Saturday was the first game!

Ace at her first soccer game:

She did play after all! A little.

Pokey at his first soccer game:

Pokey did not play.   The basketball courts are loud and echoey when they're crowded for the games, and they use the super-loud basketball buzzer. It's hard on the little kids.  Rascal bailed altogether for my lap.

Ace played, but unenthusiastically.  After one five minute period, she said she was done. But then Hawaii bribed her, and Ace went out for a second turn near the end of the game.

How did Hawaii bribe Ace? "I promised her that I'd sing her ten Taylor Swift songs. Like, on the couch, with my hairbrush for a microphone."  Seems fair.


This is our new coffee table, which is my grandmother's coffee table that my mother wanted to stay in the family. They bought it in maybe Norway? or Finland? maybe 50 years ago? I should really get my facts straight on this coffee table.


Here is an idea for a children's book:
"Mom, look!" said Ace, "A yellow chicken!" [Illustration of a person on the sidewalk, dressed like a chicken with sandwich board.]
"Neat!" said Mom, "Do you think it's a real chicken?" [self-evidently not]
"It's like that pink monkey we saw that time!" said Ace.
"Do you think they're friends," asked Mom, "Pink Monkey and Yellow Chicken?"
"Can we write a story about them?" said Ace.

That is a conversation that we had in the car, and I thought it would be a charming meta-story if we then composed a story of the Adventures of Pink Monkey and Yellow Chicken, and it was told as if it were being made up in real time by the characters Ace and Mom, story-in-a-story style.

So when we got home, I pulled out my computer and asked Ace to tell me the story of the Pink Monkey and the Yellow Chicken, and I transcribed (and described) as she talked:

“First they were little kids. It has to start out when they were little,” said Ace. “And then when they grew up, they became friends."

“And when they grew up, they were very very very very best friends. Okay read me what we have so far!

“They actually met another little kid, and the little kid, he was just dressed up as their old friend who actually is not their friend anymore. He was really mean.

He was very awful. But how he became mean was very very mean."
"How did he become mean?" asked Mom.
"You’re going to find out! At the end of the story!"

"And how he became mean was: he was once a good friend, but there was once an evil snake, and it bit him, and he became very very evil."

"What does this have to do with pink monkey and yellow chicken?" asked Mom.

"So wait, which one is evil?"
"The evil one is...you’ll find out. The evil one is actually their mom and dad."

"Ok mom, I have to tell you what the story is actually about," Ace levelled. "So they were actually evil, and the kid that we were talking about was their younger brother. But when they crossed to the good side, they forgot about him. So when they met him, they didn’t recognize him because they forgot about being evil. So the parents say, “make an evil plan and make them evil again,” because when they were on the evil side, the good always lose, but when they turned good, there were only three people on the bad side, so they’d always lose. Now what does this all say, starting from the beginning?"
So, probably not the next Goodnight Moon.

4 kittens

Villager cow, Elsa kitty, Robot blogger

Posted on 2017.10.29 at 22:11
It's not worth it to squint and try to read the first paragraph of this silly thing:

because I'll just transcribe it for you:
Surprising fact! Most students don't drink. Only 64 percent say they drank at some point during the last 30 days, according to a 2016 survey of 31,512 students by the American College Health Association.

Surprising fact: I am rarely a mathematical pedant, but this managed to irk me! 64 percent indeed.


My mother's day present is finally framed and hung!

I am pretty annoyed at how reflective the glass is; I may take it back to the framers.

I know this for sure: when they make our sitcom, the opening credits will start with that photo, and then zoom out to the larger living room, and it will say The Geebies in cursive below.  Possibly diagonal cursive.


My lovely parents Dampa Ten and Dama Tollie came to town for a very short visit. We went to a pumpkin patch:

and a karate tournament:

What are karate tournaments like? Mass chaos for 20 seconds of action. All the white belts were supposed to compete at 3:30. There were hundreds of families milling about the middle school gym, and no one had ever done this before, because all the kids were white belts. There were probably 15 different rings, and there was caution tape around all fifteen, so everyone was confined to the edges of the gym. It was very crowded.

Hawaii was incredibly nervous, and kept clutching me on the drive up and inside the gym.

They announced over the PA which gender and age went to which ring, and we bid our contestants adieu. Then they were arranged by size and matched by gender and size, and there was a short demonstration, and then the sparring started.  All the rings spar at the same time, but we got lucky that Hawaii and Pokey did not spar simultaneously.

Sparring takes maybe 30 seconds? And then they give the winner a first place trophy and the loser a second place trophy, and you're all done and can go home.

But both Hawaii and Pokey did very well! They kept their composure, kicked their opponents, bopped the opponent on the head, and so on. They each won their sparring match, and it was very sweet and we were all happy, except for the exasperation of having to drive to a different town and pay $60 for two kids (plus $30 worth of spectator tickets) for 30 seconds of action. But mostly fine.


On Saturday night, we lugged my parents to a Halloween party.

Hawaii dressed up:

She's Mal, from The Descendants 2. It's eerily spot on.

Pokey as a ninja:

First Pokey wanted to be a Villager, which involved a cloak and weapons. I loved that idea. (I kept pushing him to be a Villager-Cow, because I love costumes-dressed-up-as-other-costumes. A robot wearing a hula skirt! A pig dressed up as a king! That kind of thing.) But a ninja is also fun.

What did Ace and Rascal dress up as?

NUTHIN'. They would not put on costumes.

 Ace, who literally wears her princess costumes to school once or twice a week, would not put her Elsa costume. (I tried in vain to get her to be Elsa Kitty Cat, c/f nested costumes above.) Rascal, who is a bunnyfly one day and a puppy dog the next, would not put on the Lightning McQueen costume.

Zip, zero, ztreet clothez zonly.

Even this little dude got into the spirit:

So the wig won't get tangled between now and Halloween.

It was unusually cold this weekend. It felt so good.


This is the local Frost bank:

It's an amazing midcentury building, with those bronze panels, and a line of palm trees out front. The guy who owns it will probably tear it down and sell it to developers. I can't stand that asshole.


How did pumpkin carving go? I'll let Jammies tell it:

Pumpkin carving. # fuckhalloween # fuckweekends # fuckI35
  (Ace, Rascal, Hawaii, Pokey)

Ace knew what she wanted and had me help and was done quick.
Pokey knew what he wanted and drew it himself and I had to help him carve it because his pumpkin was hard as shit.
Hawaii drew then redrew then redrew and ended up with the cat picture you see. Although she called it a wearwolf cause Pokey also did a cat. Anyway, the second whisker broke because they were too close together and that was the final straw. She sat there and just stabbed the pumpkin for awhile and then started cutting out chunks and licking them. At one point she referenced the pumpkin as my head.
Rascal was napping and woke up late and we started carving his when my phone went off we should be leaving for a birthday party that started at 3:30 but I thought started at 5.
We didn't have time to finish because it took us over 2 hours to get home from the birthday party because of a crash on I35.

(I was off driving Dampa Ten and Dama Tollie to the airport.) Hawaii's pumpkin is indeed lacerated with little stab marks.

Later, Jammies told me, "So at one point, I was helping Hawaii. Pokey and Ace were elbow deep in their pumpkins, just going to town squishing the goop and the seeds between their fingers. I looked over, and Ace had her feet in her pumpkin. So those pajamas are in the wash, now."

Git him! Wrassle that daddy.


"How old is Taylor Swift?" asked Hawaii.
"I assume she was born in 1989," said Jammies, referencing her album. "Same as Uncle Germ."
"They're the same age?!" squeaked Hawaii, thrilled. "Maybe they'll get married and she'll be my aunt!"


This semester is really, really tiring. Worse than usual. It's not very interesting to discuss. I do not like it when my days are 120% full, on end.

Not every semester is this bad. Last spring was great, and next spring should be good. But this semester is awful.

4 kittens

So, who do you think you are?

Posted on 2017.10.22 at 21:20

This is from June, 2011, and that is Pokey being a squishy little 9 month old baby, and dear Big Kitty being quite agreeable.

Pokey in 2017 was assigned to create an alter for Dia de los Muertos, and so he is building a shrine to Big Kitty. Along with this picture, we'll include things like chairs he liked to sleep in, kitty treats, and sugar skulls. Such a good kitty.

Comida, porque me gusta.

Look at all that nice Spanish.

I took a photo of this unusually big flower:

but I didn't really capture the context. There were no other flowers in the landscaping, so it really was quite surprising.

Under the house kitty.

Ace wears my old Annie dress:

When Hawaii was four, she'd never seen Annie, and could not be coaxed to put on the stiff, scratchy Annie dress. When Hawaii was 5 1/2, we bought Annie for our first drive to Montana. We instituted a rule that you could only watch Annie once a day, she loved it so much. When we got home, Hawaii went to put on the dress, but it was too small, which was kind of sad.

At age three, Ace tried on the dress a year ago, and it was too small for her, as well, which was a bit confusing. But then she lengthened and became less toddler and more kid, and now the dress fits.

September, 1982.

In the car:
Ace: My favorite marker is running out of ink!
Me: Are you coloring in the car?
Ace, so smoothly: Don't worry about it.
Me: Ha. But are you?
Ace, oh so smooth: It's okay. Don't worry about it.

(I wasn't worried. I was just checking. The point is that I got out-smoothed by my four year old.)

"We're all caterpillars."

"Not me, I'm a frog!"

You all are taking forEVER.

I'm starting to lose my patience. Come ON.

Rascal! Come sit on Ace!

We'll be a sandwich! Rascal!

Rascal just could not be pursuaded to come round out the stack.

KIDS! I'm losing my patience! Come ON!

Pokey improvises cool origami.

Phrases that are fun to deliver in jest when you're enjoying yourself:
1. Who do you think you are?
2. Don't worry about it!
3. You think you're better than me?

Jammies and I walked downtown for our eigth anniversary.

Mama, what am I?

Let me see. What have you got on?

Why, you're a Bunnyfly. Of course.

And a builder of trains.

That's all I got, Ma.

4 kittens


Posted on 2017.10.15 at 21:33
Ugh, I don't want to talk about it.


Okay, let's talk about it.  I showed up for my tattoo appointment today.  I had dutifully taken notes during our planning session, ten days ago. At a few spots she'd said, "you'll have to decide if you want X or Y" and so I had thought and decided on each of those. I shared my thoughts. Then we got started.

She printed out daddy cat and held him up to my torso for size. "A little larger?" I said. She agreed. She returned and said, "I made him 40% larger" which was quite a bigger jump than I was expecting.

I held him up and tried it on. His face was larger than a real mancoon cat's. I had it in my head that these would be actual-sized cats.  She said, "Everyone wishes they'd gone larger when they get tattoos. They seem to shrink once it's on you. It's better to err on the size of going too big."  That sounded plausible to me.

We moved on to the first kitten. She printed out the size I expected, which now looked very small next to the big daddy cat. She said, "I'd like to double the size of the kitten."

I thought about it and looked at my 3d model, and thought some more. I said, "If we double the size of the kitten and make all these cats larger, it's going to affect how close together they all are." I looked at it and tried to picture it, the gaps all shrunk because the cats were all larger.

"I'm sorry," she said, "I don't think this is going to work out. I can't work like this." I was caught totally off-guard. I'd thought we were communicating and making good progress.

She basically said that this process is not a collaboration and I have to stop debating every little thing.  "It's too much for me to keep it all in my head," she said, "I have to focus on how the image looks on your body and I can't focus." I said that maybe I could release artistic control, but I can't imagine not turning over every stone, and commenting on each thing that I'm wondering. Would she be okay with me making my comments? She said it knocked her off balance and was too destabilizing for her to settle into her groove.

Then she got out her phone and asked if I'd put my deposit down on Paypal or if I'd paid by credit card, and then she returned my money. I was out the door, back on the sidewalk, stunned at how fast it unravelled. Bye now!

(I'm leaving out some details. We talked about how I might find another tattoo artist. Me: I don't think there exists a tattoo artist who will be a good fit. Her: You need to find someone who's just in it for the money. She did the little "money" finger-rub of thumb against index and middle fingers, to indicate exactly how impure a sell-out I need to find. In other words, someone who will yield to my control freak rigid opinions, because they're all about the Benjamins. But basically it ended very quickly.)

(Also she did squeeze in a big lecture about how overly generous she's been, trying to make this work. She enumerated her generosity for me. I agreed! She's been way more collaborative and patient than any other artist I've met with. I just hadn't realize we were on such thin ice.)

Also: holy moly. If she thought I was being picky about the size of the cats, it would have been an utter disaster when we got into their shading and faces.

I get that she needs to be in her mental artist head space, but I also don't understand the expectation that your  clients will submit their actual bodies wholesale to you. (But there seem to be plenty of them that do!  She can afford to be picky.)

As Jammies put it, "All the high quality tattoo artists want to only play their own songs. None of them want to be studio session artists that show up to record other people's songs."

The problem is that the very high quality tattoo artists don't realize that they have constrained themselves to a very narrow range of artistic style. THEY'RE SHEEPLE. They believe that there's a wide range of tattoo styles, but it's actually the narcissism of small differences talking. In any other medium - pencil, or painting, or pottery, or whatever - the range of what's done is gigantically wider than the range of what's done with tattoos. THEY'RE ALL JERKS.

So that's my sad story. I'm too demoralized to add photos and flesh out this post.

No wait:

"You've seen how picky I am about my shoes, and those only go on my feet!"

That's better.


What nice readers you are, reading this boring saga.  Griping for weeks on end about my inability to get tattooed. Did you know many people have a similar story - trying in vain to get taken seriously - only they're trying to get medical care, or their education, or a therapist, or to get the police to listen, or to get a sympathetic lawyer, or to get away from an abusive situation?

All I'm trying to get is some body art. If this is all I've got to complain about, I should be so lucky, right Bubbe?


From the artist's point of view. I have zero credibility. There's no reason they should trust me at all to design a tattoo. It's similar to when mathematicians get an email from a citizen who has been working on the Grand Unified Theory of Physics by themselves, and has a big breakthrough they'd like to share. There are red flags all over the place. I'm sure I'm setting off red flags - I'm not immersed in the tattoo community. I'm not versed in the norms or lingo. I do weird things like take notes during my tattoo appointments.  I'm a super basic fucking soccer mom with a minivan, and I put my ideas on Pinterest for god's sake. What's more depressingly basic than that?

All the same, I have a goddamned vision. It will look beautiful, I swear. I just need someone sufficiently talented to buy into the premise.  I can feel where the cats are supposed to go, little cat phantoms. I just can't conjure them up on my own.

Missed Connections/ISO
You: highly talented tattoo artist.
Me: Controlling, rigid client with nontraditional vision for a giant tattoo, where I mean "nontraditional" in a bad way, not your cult of "nontraditional" which is actually quite constrained in the acceptable ways of rejecting mainstream America.  I mean I will make your skin crawl with my unpleasant notions of middle aged sedentary basicness.

At this point I think there's a 10% chance it actually happens, and a 90% chance it becomes a story I tell, of the time I spent five years trying to get a tattoo and couldn't make it happen.


This is the first line from a Yo Gabba Gabba song by The Roots:

Sometimes when I am sitting by myself,
Those quiet moments when not with no one else,
I'm mesmerized by all the many good things in my life.

Isn't that the most lovely line? It's not profound. Just nice. The entire song is so lovely:

I just want to devote my life to cultivating friends and family relationships. Everything else is deck chairs on the Titanic. And boy, is the larger Titanic sinking fast or what.


Maybe I'll learn to draw and paint and mock up the whole tattoo design myself! Then order it online as a temporary tattoo, and put it on, and photograph it! Prove to the world! Then all the tattoo artists will surely be sold on my vision!

Eccch, that sounds so tiring.


The kids did cute things. The weather was crisp and beautiful, if still warm.  Ace said, "It smells like tacos from Savanna," upon getting in the car. I was totally mystified.

"You mean Taco Cabana?" asked Pokey.
"Yes!" said Ace happily, "It smells like that."  And lo, so it did.

4 kittens

Now that's what I call a new access road!

Posted on 2017.10.08 at 22:32

My tattoo story has spanned years and multiple artists and has been a royal mess.

Jammies also has a tattoo story:

His is a very short story: Happy 40th birthday!  I absolutely love it.

He got the black and white part about a month ago, and we've had to keep a secret for a MONTH:

Secrets are hard.

My mom said, "Tell Jammies that that is one fantastic horse!"

Jammies' mom said, "Really that big?!?"


Things with my tattoo artist got worse, and then they got better.  Last Sunday she sent me a few mock ups:

Also some drawn on the photographs of my torso. Ornate cats, and with added flowers.

I felt very queasy. She was trying, definitely. I had this sinking feeling. She kept saying, "We can make the cats look more realistic or more stylized..." as she described my options.

Finally I asked, (this is all over text message), "By 'realistic' do you mean more photographic, or more like Clare Turlay Newberry's and Ferdinand Oger's cats?"

She replied, "I mean my style, which is surreal. I can't "copy" another artist." She stopped short of saying how dare you, you asshole, but I inferred it.

I wrote back, "Oh. I know it sounds dumb, but I hadn't realized that." I stopped short of saying I've looked at hundreds of artists' work. How on earth would your ten minute sketch be better than these great historical masterpieces?

I showed up to our scheduled meeting on Thursday anyway. I was super pessimistic. I hoped she would help me connect with another artist, and I felt pretty sure she'd refund my deposit, at least.

I arrived and she brought out her sketches and started talking. (As an aside: she is very susceptible to the manipulation where you fall silent and the other person feels compelled to talk and keep talking and keeps talking to fill the silence.)  So she rambled and I sat there.

Finally I said, "I'm feeling a bit paralyzed. I just have such a strong connection to those particular cats by those particular artists. I'm not sure what to do." Which was the honest-to-god truth.

She paused. Then she apologized, for missing the point when we met last July. She said, "You've got to understand - no one does that. No one shows up with an exact thing that they want. They all have sort of a loose idea, some inspiration, and that's all."

Fair enough.

She continued, "If you were getting a small piece, just one kitten, I'd tell you that I'm not the right artist for you." But, she said, she is very intrigued by the size and scale and nature of this unconventional project. She wants to be a part of it. So she's setting aside her convictions for me. I was pretty relieved.

We started looking at my cats. Originally I'd sent her my six cats, plus some extras for inspiration. She said that my kittens would not age well over time, and that she'd need to thicken up some of the lines to make it work.  (For your recollection pleasure, the kittens are:

In order: Hawaii, Pokey, Ace, Rascal.)  I was okay with that - it did not seem like it'd compromise the essence of their kitten-ness.

Then she asked if I was concerned about having three different artists. (For your recollection, Mama and Daddy:

.) I admitted that it was something I was concerned about. She pointed out one of my extra cats:

and said, "That shading would make a great tattoo. What do you think about doing them all in that style?"  I was intrigued.  (I can't figure out who painted that cat. I did a reverse image search but I'm just getting a bunch of tumblr reposts. It reminds me of the cats by Bela Tarcsay, who paints amazing cats:

but I don't think it's his.) So we developed this idea - still my cats, in the original places that I picked, but shaded like that watercolor cat above. I love it. Hard edges to the cats, not that mushy watercolor bleeding style you see sometimes.

Next: she'd added some goddamn flowers for connectivity in her sketches. In response, I made a pinterest board of potential backgrounds which I showed her. We both liked this one:

So we're thinking a ribbon of that stippling behind the watercolor cats.

So it has evolved! I'm terribly excited. We begin next Sunday.  As I left the tattoo parlor, this little guy came up to say hello:

Of course it is a sign, and a good one.


TXDOT gave me an amazing present over the summer. They built two new access roads, just for me. They take me directly from the highway outside of SadTown to my office door, and back, shaving almost ten minutes off my commute. It saves me about three traffic lights. It's truly a highway miracle.



I'm very fond of the 3/4-angle that we're viewing her face from. "She's not watching TV," said Hawaii. "She's looking at books. Everyone thinks she's watching TV, so I had to write LIBRARY in the corner."


"It's my secret language."

What does it mean?

"Attacking: In America, people were sending boats to China. It was a World War."


At karate on Tuesday, one of the lesser instructors was warming up the group. They were all doing push ups. He called out "White belts, you can stop!" and then a bit later, "Yellow belts can stop!" and then orange and purple. One of the purple belts kept doing push ups.

"Hey! you can stop!" stage-whispered the other kids at her. She kept doing push ups.

The instructor called everyone to their feet. "I want to point out two students!" he barked, pointing at the girl and another boy. "These two have had me before! They know that they should do extra! That's how you grow!" He belabored the point a little bit, telling a story of a time a student did 100 extra push ups, just because you should always do more than is required.

Much later,  Hawaii and Pokey's small group was on the far side of the room, with the same instructor. They had both been eliminated from a balancing contest. Two kids were still wobbling on one foot. I looked for Pokey and Hawaii. Hawaii was sitting off to the side. Pokey was doing push ups, and calling out "88...89...90..."

I guffawed. That is so Pokey. It's so his competitive side and quirky side and driven side. (Mind you, these are the back-arch/neck-wrench terrible kid push ups. He's not doing 100 actual push ups.  But he did do 100 neck wrench push ups, and flopped down.)

The instructor was aware, but did not fuss over him, which was probably for the best.

And here's Pokey, setting up check mate positions. For the longest time, when I was a kid, I didn't understand the concept of checkmate - I thought that you might sneak up on your opponent, and take their king when they weren't paying attention. Whereas Pokey sets up these airtight scenes where the king is trapped, and he'll walk you through the various reasons why the king's goose is cooked in all eight directions.


Pokey and I had a playday on Saturday - we went and visited PGF and her boys, and all went to Dart Em Up to shoot nerf guns and eat Asian food.

We bought a tremendous assortment of candy from the Asian grocery store, and had a little tasting party back with the other geeblets.

PGF's boys have an astonishing assortment of creepy pets. This is the shedded skin of their tarantula:

It was as soft as a kitten.


Scene: Hawaii and Ace are working on a puzzle together.
Hawaii: I'm bored to DEATH by this puzzle.
Ace: Bored to death! I learned a new word from Hawaii! Bored to death! Bored to death!

Ace and I had a playday on Sunday. We had a fancy tea party out on the tiny picnic table that our contractor built for us.

We wore matching shoes:

When Hawaii was four, she and I bought those matching gold shoes together:

 We had a cheer: "Matching gold shoes at the railyard!"  and Hawaii hugged and kissed those shoes, she loved them so much. I'm a bit misty-eyed to remember it. And to continue it with Ace.


Scene: eating edamame at dinner.
Pokey: I'm not eating any Obamabeans.
Rascal: Obamabeans! Obamabeans! [continues for the next 30 minutes]

Rascal is a champion echoer. Last month, at the Mermaid parade, Ace said, "Now that's what I call King Triton!" pointing at a particularly fancy King Triton.

Rascal spent the morning wearing out that construction: "Now that's what I call a chair!" "Now that's what I call a Mama!" "Now that's what I call a rock!" That's what I call lovable.


The worst hour of my week is 4:30-5:30 on Monday afternoons. I hate it so much. I take Ace to dance class and grade homeworks while she dances. She finishes up at 4:30. It's hot, and I'm hungry.

It's the worst because Ace is still in a five point harness, in her car seat. She still needs to be buckled and unbuckled by an adult. So I buckle her and we leave dance. We drive two minutes. I unbuckle Ace, get a grumpy Hawaii, and rebuckle Ace. We drive five minutes. I unbuckle Ace, get a grumpy Pokey, and rebuckle Ace. We drive ten minutes. I unbuckle Ace, get a manic Rascal, and rebuckle Ace, and also buckle in Rascal. We drive home and unbuckle. It's a solid hour, when I'm hungry and tired, of coaxing and buckling and unbuckling, while Hawaii and Pokey terrorize each other in their harried grumpy hungry state. It's the worst.

Of course, if that's the worst of my pain, then I should be so lucky, right? Yes yes. It's October. It's the beginning of the best time of year. September is over.  The calendar goes straight from the worst month to one of the best months, and I always feel a little euphoric.

The mosquitoes have been the worst, though. They're particularly annoying in the car, and in one of my classrooms.

This dumb door in my building.  Some doors are located in ways that are hazardous - they somehow invite the user to swing them recklessly open, and someone's poor nose gets smashed on the other side.

This door does not invite recklessness. It is big and heavy, and it has a fucking window. You can verify that no one is coming.  SAFETY FIRST. Please lecture me about door safety, Officer Door. "People may be approaching from the other side." Yes. Because it's a door.

Whereas the door at the top of the stairs has no window, and no sign, and is mildly more dangerous, except we're all goddamn adults who know how to use doors.

4 kittens

Everyone must have a happy face.

Posted on 2017.10.01 at 22:10
Ace: When I grow up I'm going to be evil because bad guys are usually stronger then good guys.
Hawaii: But then you'll go to jail, Ace. And you might be there a long time depending on what you do. And you only get dirty water and bread to eat.
Ace: I'm not going to kill anyone. Just have my dragons, knights, and bats get people and bring them to me so I can talk to them.
Jammies: What people?
Ace: My enemies and sometimes my friends if they hurt my feelings.
Hawaii and Pokey: You can't control bats!
Ace: Then clowns, dragons, and knights. I'm going to have 100 of each. And they will go and get people when I want to talk with them.

So Pokey has been more scared lately - of going to the bathroom by himself, being in parts of the house by himself, getting from car into the house at night, etc. More scared than usual.

When I asked his therapist about it, he said, "Well, when kids realize more of the dangers in the world, they get increased fearfulness, until they develop a healthy denial about it all, again."

On Tuesday night, I dreamt that I was in a backyard.  A young adult showed up with an assault rifle. I realized he was about to start shooting up the place. I was beside myself with fear.  I dropped to the ground and  army crawled out of the backyard, through the shrubbery in the very back.  I did not pause for a second. No shots had been fired yet. I stood up on the other side of the shrubbery and started running. I just could not outrun my fear. I ended up in another building, maybe a campus building, mostly empty, still quaking with fear. I was still petrified of that backyard and I didn't know if the siege is still going on, or if everyone was dead, or what. At one point I was trying to explain to my dad what the situation was, and how I handled myself, and I was totally fishing for his approval. Many of my dreams take place in Gainesville, where my parents live and I grew up.

I woke up, terrified. I wanted solace, but clearly as an adult there's no place to get solace from a nightmare.  At any point in time, some madman with a gun could kill one of my children and wreck my life, and at that moment I understood how clearly it could happen. I couldn't imagine closing my eyes and sleeping again.

It reminded me of Miles - when you realize the dangers in the world, you get increased fearfulness. I'm usually in denial about random lunatics with guns, but when I realize it's a thing, I get increased fearfulness. Intensely.

Somehow I did fall asleep again, and amazingly enough, I resumed the dream. I was making my way back to the backyard. I passed a parking lot full of shattered glass, which meant in dream-speak that the madman must have come through this way, and probably was apprehended, and the backyard siege must somehow have ended.

I arrived at the backyard. The scene was entirely cleaned up.

I looked around until I could find someone who can give me some answers. I was still so terrified that I was stuttering. But finally, we sorted out what I was asking, which was, "who died?" and he says, "No one was killed. He never opened fire on anyone."

And poof! My emotions did a 180 and I was elated! My healthy denial was back intact! No one has to get hurt by madmen!

I know it's a cliche that telling someone your dream is the most boring thing. And yet I subjected you to it. I almost never have nightmares or even remember my dreams.

Mostly in my dreams, I'm  going over and back over the layout of houses, or sometimes going over and back over the layout of streets. Occasionally other buildings - stadiums, apartments. Sometimes it's a path between cities. Often we've moved into my parents' house and they're not there. Mostly I'm by myself. It's like I lack the creativity to create other people in my dreams.

"Before I sing you my song, I need to tell you that this is 11 pm, not am. 11 at night. Ok, ready?"

Crazy (a song)
By: Hawaii

Wake up at 11
Breakfast at midnight
Dinner in the morning
And lunch before bed

Brush my teeth while playing
Soccer on Christmas
Hit me with a hammer
Right on the head

All I want is glory
It’s a long story
Ask me another

Break a leg at football
Turn into a meatball
But I still have a
Real good time

Poo on your friends head
Don’t stop till
The timer ends
Drink a little too much wi-e-ine

Punch a guy in the face
Speed at your own pace
Drink a little more wine
Until you’re drunk.


For my own sake, let me semi-record the tune.
ff ff f c
ff ff f c
ff ff f c
a -ga g -

(ie 4/4 time, ff means 8th notes, and -ga means an 8th rest followed by 16th notes.)

Hawaii earned a sleepover for good behavior. She planned it out:

Hawaii, is that your first draft? Nope:

Oh, are those your first drafts?  Nope:

This kid badgered me for three days to help her write a schedule for her sleepover. I kept deferring because I didn't know what time the friend was available. So Hawaii had to start on a pink Post It note without me.

So our guest arrived and was informed of her highly regimented evening. They began playing Family immediately at 5.  (Hawaii kept checking with me to make sure dinner would be on time.)

They ez baked some ez cakes right after dinner, and then began the art dancing...:

Cauldren. By Hawaii.

Cinderella's carriage. By the guest.

Fish. By Pokey.

...which is where you play a YouTube Disney compilation of princess songs and draw what you feel. And then identify what your subconscious drew.

At 7:35 they began silly speeches. Here are Hawaii's:

As you can see, this speech was awarded Most Short.

Awarded Most Inappropriate and Most Pottylike.

Awarded Most Doglike.

They stuck to this schedule so accurately that they literally turned off the lights to go to bed at 10:10.   A very good, if exceptionally self-regulated, good time.

A thing we do is potty-train using three M&Ms. Obviously kids potty train just fine without it, but my parents used three M&Ms on me and my siblings, and I felt it was a nice thing to carry on.

When Rascal uses the potty, he gets 3 M&Ms. Ace has somehow seduced him into giving her one M&M every time. He gets his three, runs over to Ace, and gives her her toll. Hawaii found out and asked for one, and Rascal told her sternly that it was ONLY for Ace.

Rascal does not yet go to the bathroom by himself at our house, and he still wears pull-ups overnight. But the important marker, as far as I'm concerned, is this: that you speak up, consistently, before you need to use the bathroom. To me, that means you're potty-trained.  And Rascal is, thus, trained.

"Mama," said Sister, "I know it's my week to clean up Little Lady's calling cards. It's just that I'm waiting for them to dry. They'll be easier to scoop up that way."

Do you see that fucking calling card, in the corner of the room, with the stink line coming up off of it? WHAT THE FUCK, Sister Bear. That is so disgusting.

"Everyone has a happy face!"  I love that sentence. I like to say it, forcibly, when perhaps not everyone has a happy face. YET.  You, there, you must haz happy face.

I'm pre-writing a lot of this, because my tattoo appointment is from 4-8 pm on Sunday. I anticipate being very tired when I get home. I'm pretty nervous at the moment! Will I walk away empty-handed because I can't commit to a design that I've just seen for the first time a few moments ago? My stomach keeps clenching up what with the unknown of it all.

Pokey was watching me scroll through cat paintings, and he said, "I thought you already got your cat tattoos? Why are you looking at more?"

I thought it was funny - he knew I had a tattoo appointment, and he knew it had passed, back in June, and therefore I must have cat tattoos.  Despite never actually seeing me with a tattoo.  And the kids see me naked.

I told him that it hadn't happened, back in June, like it was supposed to, but that my new appointment was to be this Sunday.

I arrived at the tattoo parlor promptly at 4. Another artist was working. My artist's room was dark. I sat on the couch.  Around 4:15 I emailed her. At 4:30 I texted her.

At 5:00 I forced myself to actually give her a call, and I left a message. I also called their other location. (I was still hoping she'd show up.)

I felt so sorry for myself. I'd been so agitated all day - stomach clenched, anxious. Just to be stood up. I was mad, too. I figured the invisibility of generic middle-aged women had to be a factor somehow.

Around 5:30, the other two tattoo artists realized how long I'd been waiting there for, and they were very concerned. "This is very out of character for her," they told me. They called her husband and son and couldn't get ahold of either of them, as well. I acted concerned, but privately I relieved that I hadn't been ditched for no good reason.

So now it's 6:30. I am at a nearby Cat Cafe, with an elderly sleeping tabby who purrs when I put my hand on her, but otherwise does not budge from her perch.  (In fact, she is pictured in the very first picture of this post. All these cat photos are cats from the Cat Cafe.)

I had hoped to really cuddle, but now I realize that's not super realistic, even for friendly cats like these.  I still feel a wee bit sorry for myself, for enduring the emotional roller coaster of getting mentally to the tattoo shop, ready to dive in, and have it fall apart. YET AGAIN.

(This is our homegrown OJ, of course.)

Oh look, I have a real-time update: I just got a text message from the tattoo artist.  It turns out she did stand me up, after all. She got the dates mixed up. She's very sorry about that.

Why, oh why, did I not confirm with her in the last day or two? I don't really know how it will unfold now.

(And homegrown Fluffy.)

It's sort of funny that Pokey will yet again assume I must be tattooed, since the appointment has come and gone, and since he is not in the habit of verifying the tattoos. I can totally get that - as a kid, you would just assume, "Oh, tattoos must be something that isn't necessarily big and visible. On to the next thing!"

4 kittens

Due to the loss of generality

Posted on 2017.09.24 at 22:57
I found myself in conversation with three other moms, at a birthday party. One said, "I tried to go to a PTA meeting, but I felt really awkward and not like those other moms."

I knew what she meant! It's easy to feel awkward and terribly uncomfortable around PTA moms!

Another mom nodded. "I don't even feel like a mother," she said.  I was less sure what she meant. She continued, "I'm an adult with a kid. Just one kid. We don't do things like have a bedtime routine." The other chimed in, "I can't do mornings! We're late like every day, and we live five minutes from school. Or bedtimes! I'm dropping f-bombs every night! The rest of the time everything's totally fine and no big deal!"

The other moms nodded. One of them observed, "We each just have one kid! There's only three kids between the three of us. It's not like the whole mother routine."

They looked at me. "We have four kids," I admitted, "and a killer bedtime routine!" (I wish I'd said that. I actually just said, "We have four kids, and a bedtime routine.") I shrugged sheepishly like, Ya got me!

It's funny that I was The Establishment in contrast to this newfound camraderie that I had thought I shared for a millisecond. I am totally comfortable with the label mother. We are regimented within an inch of our lives. It's not just a bedtime routine, and a morning routine, and I blog on Sunday nights, and we do bills on Monday nights, and Tuesdays are my planning meetings, and Friday is for hockey, and...and...we just run a tight ship.  This isn't even getting into kid activities.

(At the same time, I see the appeal and romanticism by flying by the seat of your pants, you and your kid, taking each day as it comes. Not seeing yourself as a mother, but just a person raising this kid who you love a lot.)

I exited the conversation to call my brother for his birthday, who wowed me with his crackpot theories of Bitcoin and Elon Musk. I was entertained but I might not park any large sums of money with him any time soon.


Don't park under this tree, folks! What is that?

A whole lot of grackle shit is what that is. Park under this tree instead:

Those two trees were maybe fifteen feet apart. That's what being a grackle roosting tree will do to you: utter shitstorm.


A bat totally dive bombed Hawaii around sunset one evening, swooping out from under our house. We were all unsure if it was a giant moth or a bat, as we watched it beat erratically up and away. But it was a bat.

When the adrenaline cooled: how could bats not be under our house in these inviting rafters?  I would like to welcome them and have them eat our mosquitoes, but I'm also slightly spooked by rabies stories.


Students say the darndest things.


On Thursday I hosted a big social luncheon for math majors and faculty to mingle. On the one hand, it was totally one of these Woman in the Department assuming the emotional labor and doing the woman's work to bring people together. Homecooked chili, brewing all morning in the crockpot, smelling good and waiting for students to ladle it up. On the other hand, I was sort of doing it in order to prove the chair wrong - when I proposed a big group lunch, he maintained that it would have to be a big expensive thing and wasn't worth doing.  I could have just agreed with him that it'd be too expensive and not bothered, but instead I had to prove him wrong, that it could be done on the cheap.

I really don't like doing this sort of thing at all. I don't feel like getting to work early to chop green peppers. Chili in a crockpot, with fritos and shredded cheese. There was sudoku and some math puzzles, and mechanical pencils as prizes. I don't like event planning or being a host, or making smalltalk. I like teaching class where there is a topic that I care about, and I'm in control. Our secretary did a ton of work, and one colleague also helped, but there was no buy-in throughout the department.

Leading up to it, I kind of wanted it to fail dramatically.  If no one showed up, I could sulk about my lack of support and I'd never feel obligated to do it again. Win-win!  However, it was immensely successful. We ran out of chili in the first fifteen minutes. There was a big turnout, students solved the problems and had a good time and  everyone said nice things afterwards. Damn it.

Hawaii is drawing these princesses lately. I like her little goat feet.


At Open House, Pokey's teacher raved on and on about him. How quickly he's grasping her spanish. How he translates for the class more often than the native spanish speakers do. (That surely speaks to our Geebie sense of participation entitlement more than anything else.) At any rate, she seems to really get him. She lets him be her helper, and has good strategies in place for when he loses his shit.

"He always participates and wants to answer," she said, which is exactly how I was in school. "So I tell him that we need to give other students a chance to answer, as well. Then after they give the right answer, I call on Pokey and let him also answer. That seems to make him happy!"   (That cracks me up.)

Later, I felt a little bad for Hawaii when her teacher did not rave at length about her, in kind. Hawaii's teacher seems to be a free-wheeling hippie, who perceives us as being, well, straight-laced establishment types. I got the sense that raving is just not her style.

More importantly: I am NOT a straight-laced establishment type. Okay a little, c/f above. A British bank is run with precision; a Geebie household requires nothing less.


"Hi, I am the cat girl from cat tales."  I'm not sure what Cat Tales are specifically, but I like Pokey's illustration.


Ace was telling me how they put on upbeat music at daycare when it's time to wake up from your nap. How strange and intimate to sleep next to people in the middle of the day. I can't imagine feeling relaxed enough next to my colleagues to fall asleep.  (Lies: I fall asleep during meetings all the time. But somehow stretching out with your snuggle on a mat seems different.)

Ace has been on a tear of quotable lines lately:
- "When I grow up, I want to be a mom. Just like you," Ace told me, "Except with no husband and no kids. Just me in a big house."  I can't wait to crash her pad.

- "What do you get when you cross a sun with a crocodile?" said Ace.
 "A sun dial?" Pokey guessed.
"What? No! A croco-sun!" exclaimed Ace.

There were a few other jokes - What do you call a giraffe with one leg? A two-headed thing! (Because the one leg looks like his other neck and head.) - and - What do you call a flamingo with no legs? A fish! - both of debatable merit.

Pokey has entered the realm of smart alec jokes, like:
"What's the difference between a dog and a cat?"
"Don't you KNOW? They're totally different!"
It's only now, writing it out, that I realize I should have responded, "You're the one who brought it up!" but eh, maybe that horse is too dead to beat.

Artwork by Ace.


Next Sunday is my first tattoo session. A few weeks ago, I emailed the tattoo artist and asked her about her ideas. She replied that it was too soon, she'd start working on it a few days before our session, and that we'd spend the first hour planning and making sure we had it right.

When I met her, back in July, she very clearly stated that we'd be collaborating back and forth over the next few months. However, I had the wisdom to have smart tattooed friends who told me, "ha. Don't count on it. They all save everything until the last minute." Given how flaky the tattoo artists have been so far this year, I took it to heart, and was not expecting anything, and ta-da, nothing has happened.

Perhaps next week I'll have ink permanently englossed in my bod! I really like this artist, but I also have very low expectations that it will actually come to pass.


Rascal draws. I see a big abstract nose in the middle of this. Like a nose with angel wings.


There were assorted paper cuts this week:  I found out the City Council had more or less scoffed at the amendments I'd proposed for the new land development code. I went and watched the video. It was one of those council meetings where no one is in attendance and they have let their guard down and are just being casual, and they were pretty fucking rude and dismissive of my amendments, which I still think are good amendments. The problem is that my amendments are not on anyone's radar, and I did not actively promote and make a fight out of them. I just proposed them. But it was still demoralizing to see them get squelched like that.

I found out that I can't get rid of the advertisements on my LiveJournal blog, if you're not logged in and viewing on a mobile device, even though I have a paid account. It's been bothering me, and I finally emailed them. They told me that LJ was sold to some Russian company who changed the policy a few months ago.  Jerks.



Here's a new milestone: weekends are more relaxing than the work week.  For years now, Monday was sort of a relief. I could go to work, sit at my computer, and be in control of where I put my attention. Sit in silence. It felt like a break from the weekend. But the weekends are now much easier than they used to be. Parenting by myself doesn't require a pep talk and preparation anymore. I'm sad about weekends ending, the way I used to be, back a long time ago. It's a pleasure.

We're 1/3 of the way done parenting. There are 24 years between Hawaii's birth and Rascal's graduation from high school, and we're 8 years done.  The diaper, baby, toddler years are all behind us.  It feels bittersweet.

4 kittens

"Here I go! I'm dissing appear!"

Posted on 2017.09.17 at 23:17
This refrigerator at work:

with one solitary note on it:

This note has been there for months now, and it always annoys me. Quit debasing yourself! Quit over-thanking! You deserve a functional refrigerator, you're worth it.  Quit being a such a fridge martyr.

I want to see how long this note will stay. Clearly no one feels it's their place to remove the note, so it's still tirelessly thanking the powers that be for their generosity.

I'm similarly torn about low-battery chirps from the fire detectors. They bug the shit out of me, but I also need to know how long everyone else will live with the chirping if I don't say anything. Will we let it chirp for a week? a month? Or Jammies' disposable contact lenses - occasionally one will snag on the sink and not go down the drain, and I'll watch it slowly melt over the course of months. Or price tags, sometimes, the gummy ones from garage sales. Sometimes I just want to know how the time-lapse degradation will go if I don't tamper with it.

Also at work:

Agar dishes with notes that say DO NOT TOUCH! (minus the end "-Willie". "Do not touch Willie. Good advice!") Placed in all the convenient handspots for maximum science projectyness.

It's really hard not to touch the agar gel that says DO NOT TOUCH. I resisted but I don't appreciate the drain on my cognitive resources.


"Mama, do you know why I like this dance outfit?"
"Why, Ace?"
"Because it's half black, and I want to be bad when I grow up. And half pink, like a princess."

My bad princess. This is due to The Descendants.

Ace has taken to wearing three or four outfits at a time. (Three dresses in the above photo.) It's very cute but creates a lot of laundry. Sometimes she also dances for us, removing one outfit at a time, which is obviously hilarious and cute.

One last Ace quote. She was doing magic tricks for me by ducking out of sight.
"Ready Mama? I'm going to disappear! Here I go! I'm dissing appear!"

Whatever gerund conjugation that is, like wrecking havok, is great.

A full week ahead of time, Hawaii asked if I could do her hair on Friday morning. She had a specific outfit she wanted to wear to school. I said no, I had my 6 am exercise class on Fridays, and Hawaii wakes up at 5:50. Hawaii asked if she could just wake up really early and I didn't see why not. I also wasn't sure she'd follow through.

But sure enough, six days later, I woke her up at 5:20 so that she could shower and I could do her hair at 5:40 and she could carry out her vision:

My dedicated cupcake.


Where did Hawaii get this love of fashion?

I haven't a clue.

(It turns out my hair holds a beehive incredibly well. It was a snap to get it to stay in that helmet all night long.)

"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anyone, come sit by me."


This weekend was the Mermaid Festival.  The Mermaid Society Ball was on Friday.

Compared to last year, it was 10% less surreal. The sheer surprise factor could not be replicated, and there were no actual mermaids swimming in tanks of water this year, perhaps due to cruelty of the job.  Overall, the costumes were slightly less spectacular - there was a sort of Society Ball Standardized Look of women in fabulous sequin dresses with some Amazon-ordered mermaid garb.

It was also 25% better organized. They didn't run out of booze and food after two hours, primarily.  And it was still an open bar, which feels luxurious.  Aside from the missing mermaids in tanks, they still had land-mermaids on couches and outrageously costumed acrobats (like the phoenix above) to mill around.  The glass bottom boats were taking guests on little trips.

This dude from the front:

and from the back:

turned out to be my GODDAMN CROSSFIT INSTRUCTOR who is not at all a flamboyant costume type. I could not have been more delighted; he had assumed that he wouldn't know anyone at the ball, and had agreed to be a decorated piece of meat as a favor to a friend. Those are three dimensional nipples on his shoulder blades.

Rooftop view as the ball closed down.

Our friends were about 1000% more in attendance, which was the best part. I never see much point in rhapsodizing here about my real life friends, because I also cherish my internet friends, and it seems obnoxious to wax on about one group of friends to another. But I love them dearly and it was such fun to have  them there.


Saturday was the parade.  Right after it started, there was a ten minute pause while a train rumbled by, further down the path of the parade. This samba group and drum line stopped in front of us, and treated us to an extended beat-thumping drum-and-dance routine while we all waited on the train:

It was so marvelous that I sort of teared up in that, "aren't humans wonderful, that they'll go to such lengths just to put on a nice parade for my children and other children to enjoy?" No one is dancing for their personal financial gain. They're dancing because we're motivated by love and motion and music and human connections, and sometimes it's all just very wonderful.

I particularly loved these goth dead Mermaids from our local goth dead coffee shop.

Pokey had his first soccer game:

I failed to take any other photo of him playing soccer, but I did like this abstract structure he made with the magnablocks:

It looks like a midcentury modern airport to me.

Hawaii opted out of soccer this season. I used to feel that soccer was mandatory. I felt like it could be mandatory in a cheeky, endearing way that would not become awfully coercive.  It sort of worked? We could have gotten Hawaii to play soccer again, and I don't think she would have really fought us over it?

But it started to seem meaningless. Right now she likes dance and karate. So do those things. Why did I care?  (It's not mysterious. I cared because I personally did not like soccer when I was little, but only played because my brothers did and I couldn't conceive of anything else, and then eventually, years later, I started to like it. Hawaii is missing out on re-creating my exact life! Whut.)

Hawaii took this doll to school because she and some friends have formed a Stuffie Club:

(It's navy blue, and from Venezuela. It's not...stop.)

A boy in her class took it out of her backpack and yanked on the head and tore one of the seams. This is the second time he has damaged something of Hawaii's.  She informed me that he got in trouble for both occasions.

What is notable is this: it took me so much effort not to say something like, "He's doing it because he likes you!"

Most likely he is in fact doing it because he likes her. Kids do that!  It's just that I know the Official Feminists line is that you shouldn't put that burden on Hawaii. It's not her fucking problem if he is showing affection by damaging her stuff.  She needs adults in her life to have her back, show disapproval, and make it clear that damaging her stuff is not okay, and not to make excuses for him and explain that boys behave badly when they like you.

The point was: god I had to choke back the, "it's because he likes you!" line. It was on the tip of my tongue a dozen times, and it took conscious, intentional feministing to bite it back.

They unveiled Mermaid statues to go around town, decorated by local artists:

As is done in cities.

Our neighbor with his catfish, made of litter from the river:

It is a giant puppet that wriggles like a Japanese mechanical coi. The scales are all flip flops.


When Rascal climbs into bed with us, he likes to sleep belly to belly with either me or Jammies. Not next to you, but on you. As in, he wants the parent to lie on their back, and he wants to climb on you and sleep on his stomach, with his head nestled on your solar plexus under your chin, heartbeat to heartbeat. It's the best.  We did it with all of them as little babies, but Rascal is the only one who never let go of it.


 (When Hawaii was a few days old, Jammies fell asleep with her on his belly like that, and rolled over and she fell off him all the way to the floor. He basically had a heart attack with fear that he'd concussed our brand new baby.)

Back in July, Jammies asked his boss if he could work from home three days a week.  He has been pretty seriously burned out at work.

We waited and waited, and she didn't respond. We started seriously mapping out what it might take, financially, for Jammies to quit his job and take a few months off altogether. We would have been broke as hell (and drawing on savings some), but it was also sort of appealing - Jammies would have time at home to work on all his projects.  We'd trade money for time.

But then finally, last week, after being prodded yet again by Jammies, she agreed that he can work from home three days a week.  This is mostly a relief! We'll see if it helps replenish his well.  And if it doesn't help, maybe he'll grab two beers and jump down the inflatable slide.

Mon cheri.

4 kittens

Jungle duck!

Posted on 2017.09.10 at 22:02
To tie a bow on it, here is the finished elevated house:

You can see the cute picnic table our contractor made for fun. And for comparison, the before shot:

Same old house, all growed up.


champion of costumes

champion of getting stuck in this toy trunk.

 "Haaalp!" he hollered.  I hugged him tight as I laughed helplessly, after we fished him off the edge.

champion of wearing this bunny scarf, which Pokey also adored:

pictured here at age four.


"I just wish I could go back, back to when I was a little girl," Ace whimpered, tragically.

When Ace is tired, she gets very weepy and pathetic. She was holding my hand, walking to the Pride festival at the park with me, half-crying. (She would have fallen asleep if she'd have gotten in the big jogging stroller with Rascal, but she refused, because she was panicking about the stroller flipping over, because that is exhausted Ace logic. So she walked and whimpered and was so tragic.)

 We had a moment of quiet. Then she said, "Mama. Even though I'm not crying outloud anymore, I'm still upset."

Happier, later.

Ace wanted to show me her dance.
"Hang on," I said, "I'm making myself some food."
"When I was little, my daddy used to say, Make your own food!" said Ace, nostalgically.
"You are little!" Hawaii guffawed. "Daddy's right over there! And he never says that!"


Pokey, what Spanish words did you learn in school today? Ventana, corriendo, and sombrero. (Cumulative for the week, not all on the same day. I think it's fun to inquire each day.)

"Sombrero means the same as it does in English," he informed me.

As mentioned above, we took the kids to the Pride festival on Saturday, outside in the park. There was live music, and in between, an emcee trying to entertain the (sparse) crowd. The emcee announced a singing competition. A handful of teenagers and kids got up on stage. Lo and behold, Pokey was among them. We all wondered what exactly was his plan.

On his turn, Pokey belted out the following schoolyard chant, directly into the microphone:

Train train number 9.
Going down Chicago line.
If the train goes off the track,
do I get my money back?
Yes, no, maybe so!
Choo choo choo.

We were all stunned that he kept his composure up there. Voting was by applause and he did not win.

At the next break between bands, the emcee this time had a Cher Lip Sync Contest.

This time Pokey, his twin friends, and Hawaii all got up on stage. Now: none of them had ever heard the song "Do You Believe (in Life After Love)?" (although now they're very familiar with the first 30 seconds.) None of them know who Cher is, and for that matter, they don't really know what a lipsync contest is.

Pokey watched the first six contestants with studied calculations. When it was his turn, he turned it on. Pokey danced his heart out.  Jammies reported, "Pokey was eyeing these girls in the front row. If they clapped and reacted to a move, he did it ten more times, bigger and better." He threw everything at that performance.

For participating, Hawaii was given these Minnie Mouse ears/bow, which Ace adores.

The bow lights up in the dark. (Hawaii's performance was muted, compared to the dance moves I've seen her improvise at home.)

And Pokey?

He won a goddamn tablet.  Good lord. The rest of the prizes had been t-shirts and plastic necklaces, so we were all taken a bit aback. Pokey was very pleased. (If you'll recall, Pokey is pathologically competitive. Always nice when one's vices are rewarded.)

Later there was one last singing contest. Hawaii and Pokey both got up again. Pokey sang some song about a fat cat, and Hawaii sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Tiny Hawaii singing to a very sparse end-of-the-day crowd.  Neither Hawaii nor Pokey won anything.


Bought herself this tail at the Pride festival:

Wore it to HEB when she accompanied me grocery shopping. May be intending to wear it to school, possibly with her unicorn horn.

With respect to Pokey's bloody knee, Hawaii says: "I mean, if it's just a little blood, you can make a blood picture, and that's fun. But a lot of blood....bleyech! So gross!"

They were all quietly (independently) playing Legos. So sweet.

Hawaii wandered towards the front of the house: "MOOOM. DAAAD. I need some boxes. Lots of boxes."  Jammies cordially directed her towards where we keep a bunch of small boxes.

Why does Hawaii need a lot of small boxes?

It turns out that Hawaii's legos were driving her crazy.  She has three sets of Legos. Now each set is organized. Each one has its own group, above. You see all those labels?

The labels tell you which color pieces you'll find inside the box. So if you're looking for a Light Tan Ariel Lego, you'd know to look in the Ariel group, box labelled Gray, Tan, and Gold.   What, isn't this how most kids play with Legos?

OJ-wojay and Fluffikins

They're very pretty cats, although maybe that's just youthfulness.  And they like my company.

OJ snuggles some, but not a ton.

Fluffy likes intense affection, but she is quite skittish about the kids, and won't cuddle.

Jungle duck! That little white guy, on the left.


The weather has been bizarrely pleasant this week. Usually I'm braced to hate September, and instead this year, I find myself moved to emotion.

It's all so pretty: the children, the trees, the sunlight. I find myself overcome.

4 kittens

6:10 Do Hair

Posted on 2017.09.04 at 22:42
Labor Day weekend: we compounded, with five other families, in a compound near Kerrville. Here was our compound:

Apparently it used to be a honky tonk sort of rural bar. That panorama is pretty accurate, though: barren open field surrounded by dilapidated buildings. It was super cheap and we were not worried about our children destroying anything.

We stayed in the Paradise Room. (Only one spot you could step through the floorboards if you weren't paying attention. I'm being serious.)

The creepiest/best building:

Freestanding structure built entirely of lattice and windows. Inside:

The kids didn't seem to mind the layers of dust and lost souls of drunken revelry past.

The stairs next to the Lattice And Window Hut led to the Guadalupe River:

Distorted panorama.

Twelve of the sixteen kids jumped off this:

On Saturday, Pokey jumped off it several times, with just a few other kids. They had fun, except when they smacked the water a little too hard. Land on the soles of your feet! That day, Hawaii wouldn't go in the river at all.

But then on Sunday, Hawaii started swinging on the rope swing, and then - unexpectedly - marched herself up to the dock and jumped off. I was astonished and so proud of her.

And then! Her bravery kicked off a parade of kids, one by one, taking on the challenge of the dock. They each perched up there and confronted their inner demons publicly, visibly, on stage. The evident psychology was epic. We all whooped and cheered from our tubes down below. (Most of the kids were glad they jumped, but not all.)

I personally think rope swings are super fun, much more fun than smacking the water off a high dive.  But watching those kids, one-by-one, volunteer to wrestle with their brains and take it on was truly something to behold.

These doofuses trawled up and down the river now and then:

What is that? Let's zoom in!

You know, Huck Finn's tiki bar raft with trawling motor. It puttered by each day, looking very pleased with itself. Ostentatious dumbasses.

We threw Jammies a teeny-tiny surprise 40th party:

He was indeed surprised! We all wore unicorn horns and mugged on him.

It was a very good weekend.

Minutia from last week

I came home to this family portrait:

The horned melon and pomegranate are from HEB, the wrinkly green brain is from my hurricane stroll with Pokey:

Tree shed of its wrinkly green brains. (It was rather rainy and windy at that point in our hurricane stroll, so I was taking the photo through plastic protection.)


I've spent the the summer having tooth-pullingly slow conversations with Pokey about our feelings. So much boring silence, so much "I don't know." And perhaps he doesn't! Just lots of agonizingly content-devoid feelings-conversations, while we try to find substitutes for violence when frustrated.

Then last week, Ace tore up Hawaii's paper. Hawaii reciprocated. They were each furious. I intervened.

Talking with Ace and Hawaii about their feelings...holy moly, were they eager to dish. Especially Ace. She cozied up and launched into intricate reflections: "Hawaii gave me the paper and I said I liked it, but I DIDN'T. I only said it to be nice. Do you know I sometimes say things to be nice but I don't mean them?" So many feelings, and so much pleasure in articulating and expressing them.  So acutely opposite of Pokey's basic lack of pleasure of those sorts of talks.


Hawaii is now riding the bus to school. Hawaii's bus arrives at 6:45.

Here is her morning schedule:

Do you think that I made her plan her morning in five minute increments? It was not forced upon her.

There was even a morning schedule rough draft preceding the polished version:

I didn't make her do a rough draft or a final draft, but I certainly enjoyed the whole process - and facilitated it - because Hawaii was really into it. (That's my handwriting.)

Here are things I had no idea were part of her morning schedule:
 - Showering. Since when?! I guess she's outgrown a weekly bath.
 - Stretching routine
 - Doing her hair.


Pokey is at his new school, supposedly learning Spanish. He told me, "Uno, dos, tres, ojos a mi!" and then the class says, "Uno, dos, tres, ojos a ti!" It's a call and response thing. We're familiar with the English version, where the teacher says, "One, two, three, eyes on me!" and the class responds, "One, two, eyes on you!"

Pokey with one of his very best friends, on the first day of school.

The point is this: when Pokey first said, ojos I thought he'd said ochos, but not quite. It was a sound in between the h and the ch. I am at taking that to mean his accent will be legit.


Our house lifting is complete. The stairs are painted and stained. The contractor has packed up his supplies. Remember our workaholic contractor? Here are two last things that want commemorating:

1. He built us a little child-sized picnic table with the excess lumber, on his own.

2. He put together a photo album for us, of our project:

This is the cover - it's plastic sleeves, bound, ready to go in a binder.

Sample interior page.

I know everyone loves their fur-contractor-baby and posts cuddly-contractor photos all over Facebook every time they get a home renovation.  But did your special contractor make you a photo album of your project?  Mm-hmm.

(For the record, we also love our contractor from when we built the addition. We are very thankful.)


This is the edge of Harvey. To the left, blue skies began. To the right, dark gray clouds still swirled. This was last Monday.

In each of my classes, I had everyone take out a sheet of paper and answer the following:

1. What percentage of your brain is preoccupied with Harvey damage/friends/family? What percentage of your brain is present here in your school semester?

2. Is there anything you'd like me to know about your situation?

A majority of students were not too preoccupied; a few were very preoccupied. Some shared details which were not related to Harvey at all: "My parents kicked me out and I'm living with my boyfriend," or "I'm really stressed out about this semester and not sure if I'm going to be able to handle it."

I was like, "Fuck." As in, argh, I should probably be checking in and taking a snapshot of their mental health once or twice a semester, whether or not there's a hurricane. It's just not something math people usually do! But I should probably start doing so.


Magical neigh.

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.

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