Monday, December 31, 2007

Year to Come

On this day of last year I was walking around less than one cross-eyed look away from falling and crashing into sharp, jagged shards of myself, the result of living too long without sleep and compressed by the full, combined vulnerability of motherhood and small business ownership. But a day or two later, there was something about the turn of the year that encouraged me. Sometimes it does. The Fall was behind me and the just-finished retail season's numbers were very good compared to the previous year's. The store was closed for the first week of January, which gave me a break, and our first day of inventory seemed to go well. Major plumbing work happened that was long overdue. It seemed like even if I was still fragile, I was getting a little more functional, and that there was reason to think things would settle down enough for me to catch up on lost sleep, at least.

Then Helen Hill was shot and killed by an intruder in her home. A few of you reading this knew her and were rocked by her death as much as I was. I spent January in shock and tears, searching the internet for answers that weren't there. I read every newspaper article. I combed her memorial site constantly. I read every blog I could find. I listened in on message board discussions between her friends in Halifax and between slime who'd never met her but were willing to say that her political views led to her death.

Anything that mentioned her name or her husband's, anything that gave me a scrap I could use to understand what had happened, I searched it out, hour after hour for weeks. I wanted to spin those scraps into a story that would let me contain the shock of Helen's murder, but what I found instead was a map of the way one violent death in one doorway in one American city tore into person after person, uncontainable.

It tore into her husband and son more than anyone, of course.

I've been sending them care packages. I sent the first one the day I heard, a package of books that had in common that they held no mention of parents. The exception was Michael Rosen's Sad Book, a simple, searingly honest picture book about the author's anger and grief at the death of his mother and son. Charming Boy's father and grandmother later told me that during the weeks they stayed with Helen's family, that was Charming Boy's favorite, the one he wanted to have read to him over and over.

Since that first package, I have tried to send one box a month. I haven't quite met that goal, but maybe every six weeks, I've collected a few books and toys and added things Z. or I have made and sent them off. Z. is only a few months younger than Charming Boy--if he were going to her daycare, they would be in the same class, so she takes a close interest in these care packages. We usually have a box going, collecting things over the course of a few weeks, but after I sent the last one off--late, as usual, mailing out my blue-and-silver-wrapped tchotchkes a few days after Hanukkah ended--well, I haven't started a new one.

What could I possibly send for the beginning of January, the end of the first full year without Helen? The beginning of the next year? The beginning of all the next years? I'm stuck. All of a sudden that next package feels beyond me.

I think I need to send it anyway, though, and I think I need to get it in the mail before Friday and Helen's yahrzeit. But I have no box going and I can't begin to think about what to put in one. I sort of want someone to give me a shopping list this time so I don't have to think and can just do. So I'm asking you for one. Be my autopilot, will you? What should I send this time?

And, no, at the risk of sounding snarly, I don't want to be told about what a nice gesture the care packages are. I just want to get a push to get over the lump of my grief so I can keep going with them.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The pirate's mama and her bandaid

Photo 2

Even pirates' mothers scrape their elbows from time to time.

Z. got a pirate ship for Christmas. I got a new computer. With Photobooth.

Hey, everyone.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays, All!

Hey everyone, I'm blogging from the living room of my parents' house, at the end of a day that felt like at least three different days, each of them focused on gifts and connection.

This is the house I grew up in. We moved here the year I turned seven, when my sister was five and my brother turned three. It was the same year I moved from public school to private school, a year that saved my life. When we were growing up, the urban children of suburban parents, we roamed around the alleys and made up fantastic civilizations woven around Star Wars action figures and moving through the backstairs and basement entries and window wells of the houses on our block. Our games were sometimes as focused and contained as the garden boxes of the neighbors two doors' down, and sometimes as freewheeling as the bicycles that took us around the block and to the park across the street. There were earthworks to build in the little park in the center of the block, for matchbox cars and Death Star Droids. There were tiny pebbles of crushed blue glass that we found in a driveway on the east side of the block, and we gathered it and used it as currency. There were alliances and rivalries to be made with the slightly older and considerably poorer black boys who also found their way to our alley, as we found our way into a world structured by cultural forces we wouldn't understand for years.

This is where I grew up, a minority by numbers, but privileged by skin and class. The neighborhood looks very different now. It was marginal when we first moved here, nearly thirty years ago, but it is far from marginal now. The brick sidewalks that mark the limits of gentrification have long since replaced the concrete of my childhood on the northern and western sides of the block, where I'm most likely to walk when I come here, but today an errand took me to the eastern side, and as I was walking along I realized that I still correctly anticipated the way the pattern of the concrete changes for a driveway.

But when I looked around for the blue crushed glass, the currency of my childhood, it was nowhere to be found.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Shortest Day

This is a poem that was part of the Christmas Revels my family went to for years while I was growing up. It's by Susan Cooper, and I offer it on the solstice in the spirit of a pagan fellow-traveler.

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

The witch in her hat


Magpie, that's the gingerbread house in the background, before we decorated. Post-decoration pix coming this weekend.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pay it forward

This one has been going around and I love the idea of a meme that relies on self-tagging and results in an actual cascade of real items going out to strangers via snail mail, but requires no self-revelation at all. It just completely tickles me on so many levels. Magpie signed up for it at Dawn's place. I missed my chance to get in on the action at Magpie's, but she told me Dawn still had a slot open. I'd never read Dawn before, but I headed over and grabbed the third slot, and found someone new to read, to boot. (Hi, Dawn! Thanks for coming by and commenting!)

Cool, no? Or, rather, yes?

At any rate, I've been on a knitting kick recently. I have a large project well underway for Phantom, a small one just started for Z., and a mid-size one recently envisioned for A., but when those are off my needles there will be Things for Bloggers heading out in the US mail.

Here's the meme-y boilerplate:

“I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this Pay It Forward exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.”

What do you have to do?
1. Respond on this blog and give your email address so that I can contact you for your address.
2. Place this on your own blog and also send the first 3 people that respond something.

Anything else? No, can't think of anything. I think that's it, then. Your turn. Who among you out there wants to make and give away more stuff than you'll get out of the deal? Any takers?

Edited: hey, all, don't be discouraged by the number of commenters. At least three of them are from people not claiming spots!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The schoolgirl with her first braids


Yep. Same hair as in yesterday's pictures. That's how much hair goes into those corkscrewing curls.

* * * * *

Z.: I don't want to be yeuwr daughteuwr. I want to be a beautiful lady and sing my songs.

Phone call

A. is on the phone to new mama, Z.'s Auntie Lo.

A. to Lo: You spell it in Yiddish. K-v-a-t...*

Z.: K! V! E! T!

A. to Lo: Oh, Z.'s spelling now, k-v-e-t.

Lo on the phone: Z., the end of that word is "c-h."

Go forth and Kvetch Out's Wednesday Whining!

*A kvaterin is someone who agrees to be responsible for a baby's Jewish education.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The artist at her easel




I realize this sweater has made an appearance in this blog before. Actually, it was in my fourth post, ever. You might be surprised to know it remains one of my most popular posts (coming in just after the one I unwisely titled "braless").

Why? Because it comes up third when you ask google for the last frost date in Philadelphia. Never let it be said I do not provide my readers with useful information.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

In Z.'s pocket

  • rocks
  • binky
  • old cookie
  • dreidl
  • Cookie Monster
  • spare kisses

And, again ... what do your kids keep in their pockets? Assuming you have kids and they're big enough to have pockets they put things in and little enough that you still know these things about them.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In my pocket

  • Folded paper money--almost always less than $20--and a little change
  • A brown hair elastic, the kind Scunci makes that looks like a miniature pot holder loop
  • A binky
  • Some miscellaneous bit of plastic from some wrapper or other, waiting til I find a trash can
  • Sometimes, my cell phone
  • Sometimes, my camera
  • Often, a tissue

And yours?

Welcome to the world, Baby O!

Check out the comments (unlike me, you should actually read the comments before commenting. Flipper is here! Hooray to moms Lo and Co!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sick day

This morning Z. woke up and climbed into bed with me, not to bounce me awake but to keep on sleeping herself. She hasn't done that since June. When she did get out of bed for real, she was in a fragile mood, crumbling easily at very little provocation. In the mornings there's often a point where I sort of veer away from the scaffolding of getting us out the door and while my attention wanders, Z. has suddenly got a puzzle out, or blocks, or drawing things, or stickers. When that moment came today, instead of taking the chance to toodle off on her own, she came up with an activity that more or less required sitting on my lap.

Also, she had a cold that seemed on the verge of streaming-nose territory. Without the fragility and clinginess, I would have packed her off. And, I think I'm being honest here, but I am open to the possibility that I am rationalizing, I believe if she had been fragile and clingy without also being clearly physically sick, I would also have packed her off.

We went to the store. We found coverage for my hours. We went to the co-op. We found snack. We came home and ate snack. We had success on the potty. We decorated the gingerbread house, roof and gable ends, with Necco wafers, Swedish fish, and Sourpatch Kids (Z. referred to these as "feet"); also m&m's and those Twizzlers that pull apart. We watched Sesame Street, the one where Ernie and Cookie Monster sing about D. We traipsed lightly through lunch territory. We requested and were given socks for our hands and feet. We felt that we did not need to wear pants for nap. When our mama definitively left the room, we felt that we had been stranded pantsless in the bed we had promised not to leave and did not remember that pants had been provided for us on the end of the bed until we called our mama back to us with plaintive tears.

Nap was finally achieved.

Our mama washed every dirty woolen item in the house that she could find without considering where all of these woolen items, once wet, would be spread to dry.

We needed to be cuddled back to sleep about 2 1/2 hours into our nap. But then we slept for another hour and a half.

And decorated the long sides of the gingerbread house with more Twizzlers when we woke up again.

And if we are not well enough to return to school tomorrow, our mommy is taking care of us instead.

I know it's late, but've got six more hours on the West Coast and all you folks elsewhere in the world can cheat. Get yourself over to Wednesday Whining and tell us the lowlights of your day, week, year, life.

You know you're dying to unload.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hanukkah Sameach

Hi. I'm back.

It was, all in all, a good Hanukkah, I think. We only forgot to light once, and we wouldn't have had enough candles if we'd lit that night anyway. Actually, any Hanukkah during which we finish the holiday with essentially no candles is a good one in my book. (We ended with 2: we started with over 100, a full box and some leftover from last year and a box from Z.'s daycare.) I'm not going to go into the acquisitions, which were not too excessive but also not entirely free from excess, but the excess was excess I can live with, so, you know, it was okay.

But oh, those dancing lights.

We're in the time of year when it's hardest for me to feel connected to the world around me, especially when it's a week like this one and the clouds are low and the color of dust and show no signs of giving way for days. I start to feel like I'm drowning for lack of light, like the oxygen isn't making it to my lungs because they're slowly filling up with grey.

Those candles, they help. They might not be anything more than pretty lights, but they are cheerful and they are an excuse for people to come together and sing and to Maccabee yoga, even. The simple fact of a holiday that we arrive at each year--in gladness or guilt or hope or sorrow--promises that the earth will keep revolving until it's our turn in the sun again. This year, when the holiday was entirely before the solstice, I imagined that each additional candle made up for the diminishing light in my mid-Atlantic day. And I recalled winters that were harder than this one, and counted myself lucky, really.

The year is turning, the sun is going, the sun will return. At least, it always has.

This is a time of year when I feel like the Christianity I was raised with and the Judaism I embrace now are entirely inadequate to the rhythm of the year. Everything powerful for me about Christmas is pagan. The loss of the sun is profound. All the green, abundant growth of the year that needs the sun for survival--all that is done, it's dead, it's returning to the earth to be used again for new growth. If anything is happening at all, it's happening underground, where it can't be seen and to disturb it would be to destroy it. I can consider the dead leaves, or turn my face from them, it doesn't really matter. Mostly I just need to keep going, trusting that beneath my feet and past my conscious mind there is something that will, in the fullness of Spring, turn into the tiniest of buds and the most translucent of green and grow, day by day, to harvest the energy of the sun.

In the meanwhile, I wish hibernation were an option. I really do.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Precautionary measures

So. Reviewers, they avoid spoilers in their reviews, right? That's because if we're going to see the movie, or read the book, or whatever, we want to find things out for ourselves. Suspense and all that. The plot unfolding before our eyes. That's part of the fun.

But what if you what you need to know is: DON'T watch this movie! Not because it's bad, but because it's the kind of thing that, if you watch it, it's going to hit every single one of your triggers and you're going to need a week to recover, never mind what it's done to that nice date night you had planned.

What we need is a website where you can plug in the things you want to avoid--children dying young, planes crashing into mountains, lovers separated eternally, household cleaners run amok, banjo music, cockroaches. Clowns.

You enter your terms in the field and out comes a list of books and movies you know you need to give a pass. Brilliant, right? If you put it together, I want a footnote.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hanukkah hiatus

November was fun, but December is going to be patchy. It has been already: first I had this problem with cookies. The internet kind--mine went stale, or moldy, or something, and blogger wasn't letting me sign on. But I threw out the old ones, and blogger gave me some new ones, and now I'm good to go, only I have NO TIME this week, and only Sunday for the foreseeable future. So this is me saying, hi and bye, all. See you on the other side.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

So, I'm sure you're all dying to know...

...about the latest potty-training advances over here chez Javelot.

The last time I reported from the trenches on this one was back in the summer, when she was going bare-tushed in service of the Grand Potty Goal. She was doing great, when there were no bothersome encumbrances like training pants or diapers or shorts or anything to get in the way. We moved the potty into the living room, to keep disruptions to a minimum, and it worked beautifully. She felt the urge, she went to the potty. The floor did not get peed on, much. Life was good.

Then daycare started again. And not only were her diaper parts re-diapered, but the potty was a LOOOOOOOONG walk down the hall, requiring a teacher escort, and all these thrilling friends surrounded her, distracting Z. so that she no longer noticed her once-compelling urinary urges. During the day, progress went in a backwards direction. Back home on the Rhyming Ranch, the Grand Potty Goal got lost in the shuffle of various Smaller and Trivialer Competing Goals that really should not have obscured the Grand Potty Goal, but they did. So things gradually began to slide at home, too.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized that the child who had been fairly cheerful about the potty in September was once again resisting the potty fiercely. Sticker charts, which had been working beautifully in the summer, had lapsed into disuse. We had only the barest remnant of a potty schedule, and we were presenting that remnant to Z. as a suggestion ("Do you feel like you need to go to the potty?") rather than as a given ("It's potty time now!"). The message everyone was giving her was that using the potty was not that important. And meanwhile, we've had to order the next size up in training pants. And her diapers are getting smaller on her--no way do I want to buy the next size up of them.

We've gotten back on message. It's sort of exhausting. But every time we slip, we pay.

In all of this, we do have one clear area of success, however. Possibly even victory. Contrary to conventional wisdom on the subject, Z. appears to be committed to pooping on the potty. And as a launderer of cloth diapers, I am a heck of a lot happier that way.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Susan's question

Susan from Crunchy Granola asked me about why I felt a need to intervene in Z.'s pronunciation of "a" (as it's pronounced in "pants" and "hand" and "lap"). I've been thinking it over and I thought instead of burying my response in the comments I'd use it to round out my November posts.*

My first level of answer is that the sound of that particular vowel sound grates on me when I hear it from my own daughter. I haven't intervened in any of the rest of her pronunciation, so I'm not sure why that one is worse than anything else, but somehow, it is.

The first time I noticed her doing it, I thought it must be something that I do, but it's not--I have been paying attention to it now, for months, while she's been in two different daycare classes, and it's just not something that she's picking up at home and presumably it's also not from one particular teacher, though she may have picked it up from one teacher last year and it stuck--though of the two most likely teachers, one has standard American English pronunciation and the other has the remnants of a Trindadian accent, so neither seems to be a real likely source (you can see this has been bothering me a long time.). But whatever--in some way, I'm reacting to that diphthong as both a reflection on my own pronunciation and also as evidence of some kind of linguistic invasion from outside my home.

That vowel sounds foreign to my culture. Immigrant parents must have this with every word that comes out of their children's mouths (Nu, Julia?), so the fact that I am homing in on one sound is pretty nitpicky of me, I admit.

I think the dimension on which it sounds foreign is class. I'll own up to it: to my upper-middle class, mid-Atlantic ear, it sounds uncultured and uneducated. Of course I know that she's 2, but it is my vanity to hope that she comes across as a well-educated, highly literate 2, and that impression falls apart, for me anyway, when she asks to sit in my liap to read a book.

My father, a midwesterner, both schooled himself out of saying "ya" when he moved East and later schooled us, his children, in the correct pronunciation of his hometown (it is Omahaw, not Omahah). He was mildly appalled when I temporarily picked up "ya" during a two-year sojourn in Wisconsin. I think that there is something about hearing both the sounds of your home and the sounds of your aspirations in your children's accents, and I am acting it out for at least the second generation of my family when I cringe as she puts on her piants.

*I didn't manage every day, but I did average one post per day. For an unofficial go, I think that's a success.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Future acquisitions

S.: Hey, Z., guess what I got you, it's coming in the mail? A purple shirt with a ladybug on it.

Z.: No, a peuhpeul hat!

S.: No, but I'll make you a purple hat.

Z.: No, don't make it, knit it!

S.: Sure, I'll knit it!

Z.: Wif my peuhpeul yawrn?

S.: No, yours is a little too tangled. I have some purple yarn downstairs, I'll use that.

Z.: And den you'll put all yeuwr peuhpeul yawrn, you'll take it and you'll shove it into dat hat, and den it will be all gone, and I'll have it! It won't be yeuwrs anymore! You'll shove it into dat hat, and it will be in dat peuhpeul hat, and it will be mine!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just call me Henry Higgins

The linguistic map still says differently, but in our house there's evidence that The Northern Cities Shift has arrived in Philadelphia.

Actually, I don't know whether the entire shift has arrived, since I'm not listening to all of Z.'s vowels that closely but the final feature of the shift is that a word like "pants" is pronounced "pee-ants," because all the other vowels have shifted over and therefore to stay differentiated from whatever vowel sound has bumped it out of its old place in the world of differentiated vowel sounds, that "a" in pants gets diphthongized. And that is just how Z. is saying "piants."

In the past week or so, I've started actively combating it, and it's starting to take. Today I heard her say, spontaneously and uncorrected, "hahnds."

I don't care. I'd rather wash her "hahnds" than her "hiands."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blue, Green, Red, Yellow

Caring Honesty Respect Responsibility--quick, which one goes with which color?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Writing prompt

Today A. used this as a journal topic for her 7th graders. (It's getting late in November, isn't it?)

What's the most dramatic way you've altered your appearance?

Me, I'm tempted to answer it three different ways.

The single thing I did that people noticed most was to cut my hair off, from the middle of my back to above my ears. Close friends didn't recognize me, from even a foot or two away. But hair grows, and in time mine grew back, so that as dramatic as that change was, it's gone now. As far as my hair goes, I look about the same way I did in high school and college.

The thing I did that felt the most dramatic at the time was getting my first tattoo. It's pretty discreet, a vine around my ankle, hidden easily under a sock, but it took hours and it hurt with a welcome kind of pain, and it is never going to not be there. Doing it felt like it radically changed my body, from pristine to deliberately marked. My second tattoo, a snake, is almost hidden under my hairline (catch the Helene Cixous reference, anyone? Yes, I am a theoryhead, thankyouverymuch) so it's even less dramatic. But both of those body alterations felt very intense in the way they insribed and acted out my own ownership of my body, at an age and a stage in my life when claiming my body as my own was central.

But, well. In the end I have to say that the most dramatic thing I've done to change my appearance--and it was both temporary and radical--was to go get pregnant.

And you, my commentariat? How about you?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

One will spread our ashes round the yard

Home again, finally.

After too much time spent on living room couches or in the car over the last five days, and after far too little time spent paying attention to my own thoughts, I finally squeezed in a late-afternoon walk over in my little patch of woods.

Since the last time I walked there, before we went up to A.'s parents' house, the trees have gone from mostly covered to mostly bare, and the leaves that were up on the branches have settled down on the ground in an inches-thick carpet of gold, red, orange, green. The little shallow creek at the bottom of the woods is covered over with leaves, too; in places it looks like little more than a wet ribbon in the russet groundcover.

I came to the spot where I usually perch on the creek's bank to let my thoughts wander along while the water flows over its shallow bed. The place where I leave the path for my spot lies between the footbridge and the fencing that keeps the erosion-control project safe from wandering feet and paws. It's a favorite place for dogs to get wet, and suddenly I realized what it was that my eyes had just barely been registering without taking in, as I'd made my way down along the path.

Fine, grey dust lying on top of the leaves. Fine and grey, but not uniform in grade or regular in shape. Fine and grey, across the leaves on the side of the creek. On top of the leaves that carpeted the creek itself. Settled on the bottom of the creekbed. As yet completely undisturbed.

I walked along from rock to rock for a few yards, respectfully, carefully. I found more fine, grey dust on the opposite bank of the creek, another place where pawprints are common.

I stood there on the rocks in the creek for a few long minutes and thought of Smartest Dog, whose ashes I spread in the St. Mary's River years before I moved to my house near the woods. I thought of Diva Dog, whose ashes are buried near the gate to our garden, who loved this spot in the creek. I thought of the Iron and Wine song, "Naked As We Came," that made me cry this morning while we were on our way to a shiva visit.

I thought of how much longer it is, forever, with people than with dogs. Decades and decades longer, god willing.

I thought of how little I know of how you get there. To forever.

Good question.

Z., surrounded by a toppled tower of blocks: How do I cope wif dis? How do I cope wif it?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy Nothing Day

Way-ell, I didn't buy nothing. I bought lunch for me and Z., and I bought McVitie's chocolate biscuits, sold at the corner store in my in-laws largely Irish immigrant neighborhood. (Alas, they only had milk chocolate, not plain. But I'll manage.)

However, the store was closed today. The Co-op on the Corner is closed the Friday after Thanksgiving, and so is everything else on the corner, so after two years of dismal sales we put up an Adbusters flyer in the window and decided to call it a celebration.

Thanksgiving at the in-laws--well, I had some kind of stomach upset that kept me from enjoying the morning, but A. valiantly braved the local supermarket chain just before it closed and got me ginger tea, which made a big difference. I did manage to eat some small portions of the meal. I'm much improved but not all the way better today--could be stress. I do okay with A.'s immediate family but I kind of shut down when her extended family is involved. I realized that I often need to just retreat from the scene--sometimes my body comes up with some physical thing, sometimes something else overwhelms me. Anyhow, worth keeping track of, I guess.

Here is what we veggie folks ate last night--this is my recipe, and I've made it in four states, the District of Columbia, and Mexico City.

Thanksgiving casserole:

Layer one:
1 1/2 c. lentils
1/2 tsp. ground sage, bay leaf
salt and pepper

Layer two:
olive oil
1 tsp ground sage
2 clove(s) garlic
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 apples (Fuji, Gala, etc.), diced
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
1/2-1 c. dried cranberry
1/2 small jicama, diced (optional)

Layer three:
2 cups grated sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook lentils w/ bay leaf until just tender.

While lentils are cooking, saute all ingredients for layer two, beginning with garlic and onion. Apple should go last.

Remove bay leaf from lentils, drain well, add sage and salt and pepper to taste.

Spread layers in a large, lidded casserole, in order indicated. End with cheese. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, then remove lid and cook for 5-10 minutes, just so cheese looks more finished.

You can make this vegan by leaving out the cheese, but it's better with cheese. Though in my opinion, everything is better with cheese.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The deal with the phone line

Writing from work to fill y'all in on the bloggy silence. We've had no voice line for a couple of days, except A. did manage to call me, very staticky, from work this morning. But when you pick up the phone, there's no dial tone, just a little lonely crackling.

Oddly, we do have some DSL service, but it's extremely patchy and liable to vanish and leave you stranded on the side of the information highway.

We checked the box with an old-fashioned plug-in phone, and the trouble is outside the house and therefore the phone company's problem. Hooray! They're supposed to fix it Friday while we're still at my in-laws. Anyone want to make a bet on it? The day after Thanksgiving?

Meanwhile, for Mom and anyone else who might be calling, our phone is being forwarded to my cell, which spends 95% of its life both misplaced somewhere or other and turned off so you can't call it to figure out where it is. But I dug it out when we figured out the landline was down and I've had it with me since. Yeah, ambivalent about the cellphone revolution, that's me: if cellphones didn't so obviously solve the problem of staying in contact while in transit, I might be perfectly happy for it to pass me by.

It's kind of funny, having it with me. It's like there's a phone in my pocket, or something. I feel a little bit "on" all the time. There's also a phone at my elbow, the store's phone, and objectively speaking it rings much more often. Why having a phone in my pocket should make me feel more keyed up for it to ring, I don't know.

Any thoughts on cellphones, or am I just a decade too late on this one?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bad news

DSL on the fritz. Details to follow.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My gaping wounds

Z.: (pointing to Mama's chin) Do you have a ouchie?

S.: (fingers the spot) Yes, I guess I do have an ouchie.

Z.: Can we put a band-aid on it?

S.: No, that ouchie is called a zit, and we don't put band-aids on zits.

(Z. pauses to consider this for awhile, then shares her conclusions.)

Z.: Maybe dey can sew you up again.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Binky crisis

Earlier this week, a binky wound up under the car, and that was the end of it. And another one showed enough signs of wear and tear that we pitched it. And we just hadn't been paying attention to numbers of binkies because usually one can be turned up when you need one.

But after the losses of this week, one could not be turned up today. I think we were actually down to one, single solitary binky, and it could not be located for several critical hours.

She's doing better on the whole binky thing, Z. is. She's capable of forgetting to ask for one for an entire run of errands. But we still weren't about to go to synagogue without one. So for lack of a binky, a morning was lost, and for lack of a morning, well.

We've had better days around here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Life and Art

This installation went up in the woods last weekend.


These are papier mache tree trunks, and they have been wilting all week.

I generally like the little bits of human-made beauty I find in the woods, but they usually run to sculptures of twigs and branches or rocks, or arrangements of seeds and leaves.


These trees, though. I appreciate the work that went into them. I just think I would have liked them more if I weren't comparing them so starkly to real trees that withstand the weather. I think if I encountered them indoors they would have been more imposing.

Maybe that's the point, though.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


On Thursdays after school, I take Z. to the cafe in the next block. It's a ritual that developed last Spring, though I'm a little hazy on exactly when. School gets out at four, so we're seldom there much before four-thirty, and the cafe closes at five, in a flexible kind of way. If you're already in, they don't kick you out, but they do start cleaning around you.

Z. gets warm milky tea and a lemon brioche. I get a hot jasmine green tea and either nothing or whatever looks good. She picks out two dog biscuits from the complimentary jar near the register, for taking home to our dogs later. I cut down her straw so it's easier for her to drink. She asks for a napkin and I tuck one into her collar. Puppy Pie gets a seat of honor on the table. Z. picks the lemon part out of the brioche (think cinnamon roll with lemon curd filling) and scatters the crumbs around her plate. I drink my jasmine green. When Z. loses interest in the crumbs, I get a little bag for her to take them home and we bus our table with enthusiasm. Occasionally we score some leftover baked goods for free when they clean out the case. We then have the bag, the milky tea, and Puppy Pie to juggle on the way home, and sometimes the stroller, which Z. no longer wants to occupy.

The half-block home is sometimes a little tricky, honestly, especially if she drops something while we're crossing the street. But it's been a good way to organize the end of the week for us. On Fridays, we have a similar routine at the bakery where I pick up the pastries for the weekend's events at the store, only with milk instead of milky tea, and a cookie or a cupcake instead of a brioche. (Fridays are are a cheaper date than Thursdays, it will not surprise you to know.) So if there are baked goods and go-cups involved in our afternoon, we know the weekend can't be far away.

When we first fell into this pattern, Z. sat at her chair at the cafe and her chin just naturally rested on the table. Now her shoulders are well above it, the table comes about to her armpits. Today, there were no lemon brioches left, but there was fruit tart, and we each had a slice. I gave her my strawberry slices and she gave me her kiwi ones, and she used a fork to eat most of her custard. (And her finger for the rest, of course.) It occurred to me that we have a long, long time ahead of us, mother and daughter, sharing pastries over tea. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New stage?

Z.: Dat's my job. I can do it by myself!

A.: I think that we may be out of "The Why's" and into "All By Myself."

S.: Oh, I don't think that the one is replacing the other.

Z.: Why? Why? WHY? Why? Whywhywhywhywhywhywhy? Whhyyyy?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To everything, there is a season

This November thing selects for quantity over quality, doesn't it? Though it's also pushing me to put up more photographs out of deadline desperation, and maybe that's all to the good. It certainly livens up the place. In real life, I crave sunlight and brightness and I'm not sure why I continue to inflict this dark, melodramatic template on everyone, except that I'm still kind of delighted by the way my late-night fiddling with color turned out. Also, I'm lazy.

I chose it because I was mired in grief and depression when I started blogging, and this is the template you wind up with if you're mired in grief and depression, I think. Well, no one who's been reading for long will deny that those have both had their place here.

I'm heading into the toughest part of my year, Thanksgiving through my birthday (early April). Well, I'm usually doing better a few weeks before my birthday, but I've learned not to count on it, or I wind up depressed about still being depressed, and that's just depressing, if you know what I mean.

This morning was hard. I had a hard night last night, and woke up to grey half-light, feeling bleak and pointless. Like being me was pointless.

Tuesday is the day I'm most committed to swimming, so I swam, but I managed it only through the inertia of driving a route I've memorized. You know the way you drive yourself to work, say, or the supermarket, mostly by telling yourself that's where you want to wind up? After you've set the destination, some not-quite-conscious part of your brain takes care of the navigation for you.

Well, first I drove home from dropping Z. off, even though the only reason I drove those four blocks was to continue on to the pool. But I drove home because I was trying to stay depressed. Luckily, parking is tight on our block, and there wasn't a spot near our house. Instead of circling, I let that not-quite-conscious navigator take me to the Y like it was originally planning to, anyway, but all the while I was lining up excuses to turn back: I just washed my hair yesterday anyway; I didn't want to be wet on such a grey day; it was already nearly 9:00 and I had a meeting at 11:00; I hate the smell of chlorine; etc.

My autopilot is sturdy, though. I tuned back in to my surroundings and found I'd made it to the locker room. There was another moment where I told myself how comfortable my clothes were and how cold my feet would be if I took them out of my shoes and socks, but really, the locker room is plenty warm. I took my time stowing things in the locker. I took my time with the lock. I got in the water because wouldn't I feel ridiculous changing into my bathing suit and not getting wet? I swam the first lap because I might as well, now I was wet.

In the end, I managed my half-mile. It didn't pull me out of the depression of the morning, but maybe it gave me enough of a boost that chatting with a friend at lunch and playing with Z. in the afternoon and a gift of flowers from my sweetie in the evening let me climb out the rest of the way.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Running, Leaves



Z. visiting the park near her aunties Lo and Co, somewhere nebulously-identified in the New York metropolitan area. Edited: there are still more pix up at the Family O, including an adorable one of Z. with Teh Maggie!

Photos courtesy of A.

(Mama stayed home and played with iTunes.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

From Friday

If it happened Friday but I blog it today, that's not cheating, right?

S.: Who was at school today?

Z.: No Enthusiastic Blond Boy!

S.: Was Enthusiastic Blond Boy on a trip?

Z.: No, he was at his house. He was at home wif his Daddy.

A.: How do you know?

(Z. makes dismissive hand gesture identical to one her Mama makes)

Z.: I just made it up.

A. took Z. to see Lo and Co today--bloggable pictures resulted, so watch this space!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Time to put the garden to bed


November tomatoes


The child's gloves in question, rescued from the digging box.


Virginia creeper on the sidewall of the store.

Friday, November 9, 2007

From my morning walk

Still a little too dark in the woods themselves for good natural light, but here are some views from the way there (northeast- and southwest-facing views of the same tree):


...and the way back:


Thursday, November 8, 2007


This morning, as she stepped down from her chair, Z. took her finger out of my hand. Then she very carefully wrapped her four fingers and palm around all four of my fingers. Granted, my hands are small enough to fit into gardening gloves made for 3-5 year olds (the stretchy kind of glove, but they do fit.)

But Z.'s hand is now big enough to hold mine.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bloggy milepost

Hey all,

At some point since the last time I updated my profile, I crossed the 1,000-views mark. I'm now an established blogland citizen, thankyouverymuch.

It made me wonder what bloggy markers you pay attention to--anyone want to weigh in?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Civic duty accomplished

Election Day, Election Day. It's an off year, and this country still, shamefully, has not made it a national holiday, so even if you're American, you probably didn't notice. Around here, the big deal is the primary, since the city is over 70% Democratic. The mayor presumptive was established back in May, and our mediocre coucilwoman was returned to her seat because the challenging Democratic candidates split the overwhelming vote against her. There were no burning ballot questions, but we trekked on over to the church one block down the hill because it's one of those things you just feel like you can't NOT do. The last time I failed to vote was when the Republicans swept the mid-term elections in 1994, and there are some lessons you never forget.

Two districts vote at The Church Down the Hill, ours and one that has sixty more people in it but, more importantly, has far less turnout. The election commission has decided that all districts should get two voting machines, end of story. We stood in line for a good hour, in an off-year, when the election's outcome was a foregone conclusion in order to vote, while two perfectly fine voting machines went basically unused in the very same room.

But I voted for the Greens, something I only indulge in when it doesn't make a difference. Since one of their candidates was running against my councilwoman and I actually know him from our babysitting co-op, it felt like eating a whole damn bar of Maya Gold, guilt-free.

Oh and another thing

Yeah, I'm just going to sit here and bitch at the computer until it's time to go to work.

This Elizabeth Mitchell kids' cd that everyone is so excited about? I got it for Z. awhile back, and never got into her, but I remembered thinking she might be good in smaller doses. Listening to it again this morning and I loved the first maybe 4 or 5 songs, then I tuned out, then I realized how insipid it was and couldn't get to the end. Is this a failing of mine? Have I ever listened to the end of this album? Is there something great I'm missing?

Anyway, Ben Rudnick's Emily Songs are playing now and I'm so relieved to have some rhythm going on.

(iTunes is my new toy and it's all Phantom's fault.)

Advice, please

Okay, this is one where I'm asking a question, but I already know what the answer is, I just want you to tell me everyone would decide the same thing.

So the stereo in the living room, the one with the cd changer? Hasn't worked in at least six weeks, maybe longer. Everything's plugged in, and nothing happens. The machine is at least twelve years old, so I figure some crucial circuit just burned out.

There are still cd's in it.

I should take a screwdriver to it, right? To get the cd's out? I won't be doing irreparable damage because it's not going to be repaired anyway, right?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Will dance for o.j.

When A. and Z. came home from picking up the pizza, Z. raced into the living room and started singing "I like pizza, I like pizza, I like pizza, I like pizza," and doing a knock-kneed dance where she lifted/kicked out each foot in turn. The knock-kneed effect was enhanced by the fact she put a rock in her cargo pocket on the playground sometime today, so her pants were halfway off her tush.

It emerged that she had made up the dance on the sidewalk outside the pizza store, and then repeated it for the pizza guy, and he loved it so much he gave her a free juice.

It's her first performing-for-drinks gig!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The benefits of a religious education

Despite a brief early foray into short reviews, I usually try not to name books on this blog for fear of coming up on publishing industry radar screens.

But Z.'s new favorite book is the hot-off-the-presses new edition of The C@stle on Hester Street, and it's really beautiful. The new illustrations are gorgeous and the story is a wonderful balance between the grandfather's tall tales and the grandmother's no-nonsense facts.

Here's what Z. said to this passage:

"Grandpa came on a boat, like I did. It was terrible. Hundreds of families were crowded together. Babies were crying. Bundles were piled over. The boat rocked so much, I thought we would drown. But in Russia, life for Jews was very hard.

"We couldn't live or work where we wanted. Sometimes we were attacked just because we were Jews. We had to leave Russia any way we could"

Z.'s response?

"Dat's just like PHA-roah!"

In related cultural capital news, we were talking with her about the teenagers who enacted the weird sister scenes from Macbeth, over and over, on our corner on Halloween. Did Z. think they were good witches or bad witches?

And of course this led to a discussion of Glinda and Dorothy. Z. has watched The Wizard of Oz exactly twice. But she told us dat Glinda asks Dowaty "Ah you a good witch ohrw a bad witch?" After two viewings! The kid's a queerspawn genius, I'm telling you.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Havdallah in November

So I realized this daily November blog thing is going to be easier for me than it would have been in, say, June, because shabbat ends before I actually feel like it's late. But then it got late, anyway.

So here I am, cheating for the first time this month, by putting up pictures that were already sitting, unblogged, in my flickr account. I uploaded them recently, but they're from September.


This is Z.'s first self-portrait. The mysterious piece of cloth is the pirate hat she wore to school on September 19th--this was kosher because our synagogue, which is where she goes to daycare, actually sort of celebrates International Talk Like a Pirate Day. After all, it's a secular holiday, unlike Halloween. (Really! Costumes only go to school on Purim.)

The tiger's name is Bannister. Every pirate needs a tiger. The arnica is for treating the bumps and bruises every pirate incurs. The tea party is just what pirates *do* at the end of a long, hard day. C'mon, everyone knows that!


Self-portrait by me, on my morning walk, at a place where the path is wide and the trees are thin. At the time of day when I'm there, almost all of the rest of the woods are too dark for my camera to manage natural light, but as the leaves come down, I may have more to show you.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Want a dog?

(Un)relaxeddad has pointed out the imperialism inherent in calling November NaBloPoMo. So I thought about making my tag be IntBloPoMo. But I'm not being official, anyway, so I'm just gonna go with "November."

So that hiatus I took--there's still a lot on my plate, but I'm finding it a little easier to cope. It's the new normal, you know? Also, I find it useful to scapegoat my dog.

Last year, after Diva Dog died, at the end of August, I got stuck feeling like it should still be August right through the end of December. Emotionally speaking, I just skipped the Fall and landed--hard--on my ass in January. This year I got most of September in, but October did not register. It's early days for November, but I think I'll manage to settle in. I've got my handy tag to remind me, after all.

One of the things that happened in my extended August last year was we got Annoying Dog, and it will not surprise you that I never bonded with her. Not in the correct headspace for bonding, you know? The fact that she had a minor but hideous injury the second day we got her should have helped me feel tender and solicitous towards her as she settled into her new home, but instead it just made me feel like we'd made a mistake to have another vulnerable life in the house racking up vet bills. And she barked at everything!--when going down the stairs, when people showed affection, when she felt like herding people, at 5:30 in the morning (when A.'s alarm goes off), and for a solid hour before mealtimes--well, it did not endear her to me. Also, I don't like her name, but she's old enough that it would be unfair to her to change it.

With her now getting into fairly regular spats with Hunter Dog, leading to the whole biting-Z.'s-hand-because-Z.-put-it-in-the-middle-of-a-dogfight incident, I am entertaining fantasies about not having this dog any more.

Have I mentioned the regular bouts of diarrhea in the house?

But giving her up would entail massive guilt, and probably a weekend spent driving her back to Ohio. We talked to someone at a dog discipline service, and it sounded okay until he got to the pricetag. So we're back at scapegoating, but doing nothing about it. Probably if we actually got rid of her, we'd realize it's all just us, anyway.







Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Playing by my own rules

There's a rule on this blog that if Niobe suggests it, I do it.

Tomorrow, National Blog Posting Month begins. I'm not signing up officially, or anything. But I'll give it a whirl.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


There's a lot of stuff going on for me just now and it's sort of not so good for me to be writing publicly, I think. I'll be back when I get through it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Unwelcome perspective

Today, at really just the moment I could least use this particular insight, I spent 20 minutes looking at myself in the video screen at the credit union.

Here's how it works at the credit union: the tellers are off in a different room, but there are these screens with a pneumatic tube on the right, for your deposit, and a phone on the left to talk to the teller, who only appears on the screen briefly: once to tell you she got your tube and once to tell you she's sending it back. Since there are more screens than tellers, there's always a wait, and unless you're organized enough to bring a book or your knitting, you just stare at the screen. There's usually a sequence of credit union ads and weather and sports reports and factoids about Hollywood movies and wire service blurbs, but for the first time in the three years I've been banking there, it was down.

Instead, the screen showed what the tellers must see when they look at you: the view from the camera right above the screen.

That camera is more or less pointed at your forehead. To look at the camera is to look above the screen. To look at the screen is to appear on it as though you are looking down, crestfallen and shifty and ashamed of yourself.

Twenty minutes of that would do anyone in.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Z. adores pumpkins. This is something that arose spontaneously in her, as though by instinct. Last year, the first Fall she had language, she was able to tell us about her passion, and gamely, we introduced oil pastels and glitter into our household, because how else would a one-and-a-half year old in a cast decorate a pumpkin?

Eventually, those fabulous pumpkins began to go the way of all things, so we moved them to a corner of Z.'s digging box, which is a raised vegetable bed that we just left unplanted the past two summers.

So the pumpkin vines that have been taking over our garden are not quite volunteers. If you put a giant native squash, full of seeds, on top fertile earth and let it rot there, and turn the earth over it when the resulting mess becomes unsightly, you cannot feign surprise when vines push their way up the following year. But we have been startled at how many vines, and how vigorous, our non-planting produced. We have thinned them, and pulled them out, and cut them back, and in the end, we were left with only one pumpkin, which is as many as we need, though not nearly as many as Z. wants.


This weekend, we took Z. to a Fall Festival at Nearby Arboretum, co-sponsored by The Co-op on the Corner. It was humid and in the upper 80's, but we rode up from the improvised parking lot in an air-conditioned shuttle bus with one of Z.'s daycare classmates, Articulate Girl with Perfect Braids, and when we got off at the top of the hill, the autumn smell of straw was in the summery air from the scarecrow-making booth, and the lawns were abuzz with parents and young children.

The Festival had a great, great many pumpkins, all of adorable size, all waiting eagerly to be painted and beglittered. Z. chose one of near-perfect roundness, with a marvelous stem, and set to work. Another daycare classmate, Exquisite Girl with Long Straight Hair, set up her pumpkin next to Z.'s and they daubed tempura and sprinkled mylar with absolute concentration for longer than you would think possible. Z.'s technique was to incorporate each sprinkling of glitter in with a new application of paint, which resulted in a muddy, purplish effect and was not easy on paintbrushes.


I just plain like that muddy, sparkly little pumpkin. Even indoors in the dark evening, relegated to a Safe Place on top of the broken stereo, that little pumpkin shines.

Friday, October 5, 2007


S: Hey, Z., do you know what we're going to do today when the stores open?

Z.: (looks expectant)

S.: We're going to run some errands!

Z.: We're going to get new play-doh!

S.: And we're going to make a package for Charming Boy and take it to the post office. It's his birthday in two weeks. Not even two weeks. Do you know how old he's turning?

Z.: Two!

S.: No, Three.

Z.: (in tones of awe) Thrwrweeee! We can get him a thrwee.*

S.: Should we get him a three?

Z.: Yes! And he can hold it tight!!! in his hand so it won't get brwoken.

*a three-shaped candle.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wanna de-lurk?

Edited Friday morning: okay, lurkers, I'm getting impatient. So far no one has commented for the first time on this, and I know some of you have clicked through. You think I can't see you out there?

Okay, it's not the third anymore; I should have done this yesterday, but I am lame and distracted. Still, even a quiet little blog like mine has folks who read silently in the background, and I wanna hear from you. Since I am a statcounter addict, I know that you're out there in Somerville and Vancouver and Indianapolis and other places. Won't you speak up?

The Great Mofo Delurk 2007

Here's my audience participation question, just to get the ball rolling--this being me talking, you know I'm going to get all introspective and shit on you.

When you're overwhelmed with people and work and dogs and doctors' visits and life and all of the rest of it, where's your refuge? If you've been reading me awhile, you know I take to the water or hole up with yarn and mystery novels, if I can.

How 'bout you?

And if you remember how you found the blog, I'd be interested to know that, too.

Oh, and regular commenters, don't be shy--I wanna know your route to me and your self-indulgent caretaking habits, too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

First smile in awhile

I passed this bumper sticker while making an emergency naptime delivery (of Puppy Pie) to Z.'s daycare:

Will somebody please give Bush a blowjob so we can impeach him?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Today, the dog bite on Z.'s left hand is pretty much healed, and it's her last day on antibiotics. She may not even have a scar, when the redness fades.

Oh, yeah, her left hand: the same arm that was broken last year. It didn't make me happy to see her favoring it again, though she only favored it for a couple of days. And it shocked me back to the NICU to smell antibiotics in her diaper--the first diapers she ever wore in her life reeked of amoxicillin, too. Not that I was allowed to change those, since they were still attempting to get a urine sample from her at the time and it was very easy to dislodge that little bag, but I smelled them when the nurses took them off. I recognized the smell last week from how it smelled 2 1/2 years ago. I recognized the smell then from my own pee earlier that morning, in the maternity ward across town where I'd given birth and she'd been taken from me. Those needless chemicals passing through our bodies and our separation were just two of the long list things that I hated about having wound up in the hospital to birth her.

And the dogbite itself, well it flipped my mother out, thirty-odd years after I was bitten as a toddler.

It was a week like that. Everything and everyone set on edge. I've been seized by an irrational need to hold Z.'s hand everywhere we walk.

So when I was riding in a friend's car this weekend, and I watched the sequence unfurl as we were hit by another car turning left? It was just the next shoe dropping, you know? It was the thing I'd been expecting from the moment I got in the car, the thing I expect whenever I get in any car. The only thing surprising was that when we looked for damage, there was hardly a mark to be seen: the fender had done its job well.

I only wish every collision left so little to regret in its wake.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Back home

Hey all, we're back in Philly and wiped out. Trying to unpack while already launched into another short week at day care, and, you know, carrying on.

It was a lovely weekend in New England. Better weather than we could have hoped for, and Z. had a marvelous time playing with all the kids. She thinks we should drive to Massachusetts daily.

Today I received a piece of snail mail from a blogger (thanks, Magpie!), and that snail mail included a link, so I'm completing the circle here. Click through to the various projects listed to see them. Very cool stuff if you like numbers and yarn. (But--alas!--not the best pictures in the world.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Heading North

See y'all after the weekend!

Bad start

This morning, while I was sleeping in, Annoying Dog bit Z. on the hand. It was completely and totally Z.'s fault: the dogs were fighting and despite being warned off and in every way knowing better, Z. stuck her hand in the middle. A. yelled a lot, and I woke briefly at that noise, but when it quieted down I went back to sleep. Really, that was fine--having me rushing out of bed and to the rescue would have just added to the general shock and alarm.

Z. has a puncture wound on her palm that's swollen, and toothmarks on the back of her hand from where Annoying Dog bore down but didn't break the skin.

It could have been worse and it's not the dog's fault, but maybe we should still get rid of her just so we don't have two dogs. If we don't have two, they can't fight each other. Not that Annoying Dog and Hunter Dog fight frequently, but it happens some and when they do, it's ugly. Hunter Dog and Diva Dog just about never fought.

On the other hand, if we gave the dog up we'd have to tell them she bit a child and that might well be a death sentence.

It really wasn't her fault.

Even so, I can't say it won't happen again.

We're still waiting for the doctor's office to call us back--I'm assuming Z. will need a shot and we may need to do hot compresses for the next few days. I'm thinking of my own dog bite, when I was a year younger than Z. is now--when I was, in fact, about the age that she was when she broke her arm--and the scar on my cheek that I see clearly even though no one else notices. That dog bit because I hugged it while it was sleeping. It wasn't my dog, but I loved that dog. The neighbors who owned it didn't get rid of it, and that was the right decision.

I guess we keep Annoying Dog. But I have no idea if that's the right decision.

Update: no shot, but five days of oral antibiotics.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

5/15/98--Hot Springs, NC

(Note to all: These are transcribed trail journals I wrote by hand on a 1998 thru-hike. They were originally written for pre-blog era web publication, and were hand-transcribed at the time. Those archives are gone, so I'm reproducing them now. To catch up on the whole hike, click on the tag at the bottom and start from the beginning. --S.)

106.7 miles from Fontana Dam

What did I say about long days? 19.4 to make it here at around 7:15, which means I'm hiking at 2 mph again. My arch hasn't been hurting until mile 16 or so, but on the other hand I've had some vexing problems with my hipbelt, which has been making the surface of my upper right thigh go cold and half-numb. I'm not sure if it's circulation or nerves that have been squashed, or what the long-terrm effects might be. Hopefully, a day off will help.

The Trail was once again a charming place to be: sunny, friendly grades. Sunrise on Max Patch was the mirror image of sunset, and the descent took us through a long tunnel of rhododendron that seemed like something from a children's book. The day continued with beautiful streams, an historic shelter, a snake, a turtle, a toad (reptile and amphibian day on the Appalachian Trail). I hadn't planned to make it all the way to town, but when I got to the last shelter the final few miles seemed eminently doable and I am so happy I made that call. At some points I was almost running down the last descent, I was so glad to be coming in to town. There was a room still free at D. House, which was where I'd been hoping to stay (on Florida Tim's recommendation--thanks!) and it's a more healing place than I can hope to convey.

The evidence of love put into restoring this old farmhouse and tending its grounds is just enormous. The care that B. and F. have for what they're doing shows in the finish on the floors, the shampoo in the bathroom, the wildflowers on the mantle, the water carafe on the table, the spruce trees by the roadside. B's cooking is wonderful, reminding me of meals cooked by talented friends. I can understand why people have to tear themselves away.

Tomorrow an entire day with no pack on my back! Hooray!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Analysis of a bad walk home

The first problem? Z.'s animals were not packed with her things. When all goes well, she is all packed up and ready to go at the foot of the stairs. Today, we had to walk the long hall back to her class to get the missing animals: no forward momentum.

The next problem was a miscalculation on my part: instead of herding her homewards, I let her run around on the lawn in front of shul with some of the other kids, also destroying forward momentum and furthermore burning through what was left of her blood sugar and proliferating the opportunities for delaying tactics. She had a good time: climbing, jumping, looking for sticks. Admiring big kids at a close distance. But she is like me: it is hard for her to stop once she's started. It's hard for her to shift gears. She would rather accumulate than choose, and every choice is an occasion for delay. Because that's kind of how I'm built, too, it's hard for me to give her the structure to move on to the next thing. I'm working on it. I've been working on it consciously since last May or so--much of what I do for her as a parent is scaffold her day and limit her choices.

But she fusses. Which was problem number 3: she opted for running rather than the stroller, and when--half a block later--that blood sugar took its final plunge, she started losing it. Fusses and tears, and apparently there were all kinds of heretofore undisclosed rules about following a running toddler with a stroller that I was violating. Really, who'd'a thunk there was such an intricate protocol?

Problem 4: I wiggled and I didn't adequately signal my decisions to her. I told her we needed to get to the tiny park a block from school, and then we could sit and talk about our options. But she was still falling apart, and I sat her down on someone's lawn instead. Which was fine, until we were at the park, and it had already been 40 minutes since school let out. Forty minutes: one block. I did not want to stop again. Of course, we did. She drank water. I thought of what Julia talked about today.

Finally, she clambered into her stroller. We talked about wasting time. We talked about how time spent fussing is time we don't have anymore. We can't go to the bakery if she wastes the time we were going to use to go there.

At the foot of the stairs, she lost it again over getting unsnapped from her stroller. Lost it worse than anything to that point. I was beyond toddler management and all about getting us both off the sidewalk and then getting some calories into the kid. I hauled all forty-nine pounds of her-plus-stroller up the damn stairs (and yes, every time I do something like that I think of the friend who told me that Z. would be my weight training--too bad I can't use her for wrist curls.) At least when she screamed at me for removing her bodily from the harness we were in the yard.

When she was finally in the dining room, strapped into her kinderzeat, the ritual purple sippy cup filled with milk, the cereal and nuts and berries deposited before her, I gave myself a break. Before cleaning up the garbage the dogs strewed all over the kitchen.

And we don't need to talk about how fast an unwiped toddler can move, do we? When you've just vacated your favorite seat expressly in order to wipe her?

The seat cleaned up okay. If you were wondering.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday musings

Today, the Rhyming Family recreated itself into the Sukkah Crew. A. was on the power drill. I was hand-starting the screws. Z. was doling the screws out, in between dropping them all over the patio and calling a halt to the whole proceedings to gather them up again, with maternal help.

Only right now, Z. is napping (at last!) and A. is finishing up outside, and I am eating something before going to the pool, and rehydrating, and trying not to let another week-long gap emerge over here, blogside. I shudder to think of the state of my feed reader, though--I promise, I promise, I will catch up with everyone when things settle down!

This morning I went to the vet, and ran into a woman who I met at a two-year-old's birthday party at the beginning of the summer. She's another lesbian mom, and her kids are very distinctive looking and also not of her racial background, nor her partners. I was chatting about them, as one does, and when I asked what if they came to her as babies, she said that was private, which is fine, but she went on to say something about everyone wants to know, and it's enough that they are their kids and I thought, hunh, I wonder if she's reading me as straight? My hair is long, after all, and to most people, the wedding ring on my left hand implies a husband. My legs are hairier than is generally considered acceptable in a straight woman, it's true, but she didn't initially notice the dog who was with me, so she probably didn't take in that particular indicator.

I made sure to insert "My spouse, she..." into the conversation, but I'm just wondering, alla y'all out there who pass for something you're not, at least by accident, from time to time, how do you handle it?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Figs and strollers

Sorry that it's been quiet here, all. Time gets a little tight around our house during the Jewish Holidays, and we are still in the middle of them. Tonight and tomorrow are Yom Kippur, and Sunday we need to put up our sukkah in time for the beginning of Sukkot on Wednesday. Day care keeps closing, I haven't been getting enough time at work, and the evenings have been crowded with errands and back-to-school events. In the triage of focus that comes with the beginning of the year, blogland has lost out to the real world. I promise to catch up with everyone when things settle down ... after, oh, Columbus Day or something.

And, oh yeah, my head has been done in a little, too. I've had this one in draft all week, turning it over and working at it for really much longer than you'd think, given the end product.

Monday, I kept Z. home from school even though she was not sick. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll realize that for me, admitting this is a little like someone in AA admitting to spending last night with a fifth of bourbon. Getting Z. to school on time, five days a week, every day she's fit to go, has been my marker of functional recovery since last Spring, and on Monday I blew it.

It was the Monday after the big school break for Rosh HaShana. And last year, on the Monday after Rosh HaShana, the first day back to school after that same break, I turned at the top of the garden steps and picked two figs.


It was a perfect, sunny, cloudless, early-Fall day. You know the kind. Z. was standing behind her stroller. She was in a phase of pushing the stroller. She was too short to see over or around the stroller. She wasn't touching the stroller. The stroller was at the top of the steps, and she was behind it. I turned and walked three steps to the fig tree. I picked two, for her lunch. I turned back. Her stroller was beginning its first bump down the steps. She was flying in an arc through the air above it. Somehow I was back on the top of the steps. There was no way I could throw myself beneath her to break her fall. She fell head first. I saw her crown was going to take the impact. I saw her death about to happen in front of me, while I was trapped at the top of the stairs.

It wasn't so much I shouted as the words tore themselves out of me: "Oh, God, Z.!" I do not pray for things. I don't think that prayer works by intervention. I don't even capitalize "god." I don't believe there is a personality behind that word. But when my daughter's death was in motion in front of me, I prayed for something omnipotent to stop it from happening.

At the moment of impact, I did not close my eyes, and I did not turn away, and she did not come down on her crown. Somehow, she twisted. The sound of her hitting the sidewalk was the kind of sound you never want to hear, but it was her ribs and her arm that hit. In the final instant, she twisted towards me, towards the sound of my torn words. The thought of an interventionist god is as alien to me as ever. But maybe, maybe, I can believe in the fierce desperation of my love for her.

When I kept her home this past Monday, the Monday after the big school break for Rosh HaShana, I did not turn at the top of the garden steps to pick figs. There were, blessedly, no strollers in my day.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Answering the birthday question

This year, I learned that chiropractic works. I learned how to knit with fishing line and beads. I learned a pomegranate tree will survive and break dormancy in my front storeroom. I learned how to take care of curly hair. I learned what an airbag looks like after it's gone off. I learned a good therapist is worth almost anything, and so is a good events coordinator. I learned what a failing transmission sounds like. I learned how to order books from publishers electronically. I learned what pwned means.

To my surprise this year, I learned I am a writer. I thought I was a reader, a teacher of writing, and an editor of other people's work, but writing itself was not something I claimed. Now, thanks to some of you, I do claim it.

I learned something I had been taught but had not understood: that writing is in its essence an art form of connection. My words on this screen are nothing but pixels until you read them. But once you do, the words I was hearing in my head, you are now hearing in yours. Few connections are more intimate.

And this year, I learned that the hits can keep coming. There's no upper limit to the number of things that can knock you over, and no lunch break guaranteed in your contract. I re-learned that in an instant a life can be gone with no bringing it back, and there's no limit to the number of bad things that can happen in a month, or six months, or a year. There's no limit to who is vulnerable in your life. If you love, you are vulnerable beyond the limits of your own body. If you even just connect, you are vulnerable.

Nevertheless, I learned connections are the only way to heal those kinds of injuries, so I am trying to figure out how to live, connected and vulnerable and open.

(Wish me luck, people. And help me out, okay?)

And you--did you take some time to think about it? This past year, what did you learn?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

L'Shana tova!

This evening is the first night of Rosh HaShana, the Jewish new year. I hope it begins a good and sweet year for everyone, and that if you're going to spend tomorrow grappling with the High Holiday liturgy of death, life, judgment, and repentance, you make it through the day with grace. Lord knows I'm going to need some myself. Or maybe you should just look for me on the playground.

So here's one for audience participation: when I turned eighteen, a friend of mine asked me the birthday question. Do you know it? It's simple, but it's a doozy. Since tonight is the birthday of the world, I figure we can all stand to think about it...

What have you learned in the past year?

Take your time with it. Go away and come back if you need to. Things are going to be quiet here on the Rhyming blog for the next few days. I'll be thinking it over, too, while I watch Z. run thrilling circles around the big play structure. I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say when I'm back online, and I'll let you know what I come up with.

Monday, September 10, 2007


I promise I'll make it back when the summer has warmed me awhile

A few weeks ago, on a shabbat morning while A. and Z. were at services, I walked down to the trickling creek that emerges three blocks from my house, in a bit of woodland that is a vague approximation of wild. Wild enough that my dogs once found a deer leg there, anyway, even though if you look you will see that below your feet, the rocks of the main path are actually the tumbled bricks, chunked concrete and asphalt of construction fill, as much as they are the mica-sparkling local schist that provides the stone for so many of my neighbors' houses.

One of the reasons I wanted a house here, in this little corner of my neighborhood, was that I could walk to those woods with ease: one block up and one block over from my door, a broad path bounded by escaped ivy leads into young beech and maple forest. It joins the main path about a block-length in, and at the intersection there is almost a plaza bounded by roots and capped high above by green canopy on these late-summer days.

I usually head through this crossroads to a little oxbow of path that meanders along parallel to the main one before rejoining it where Anonymous has placed a bench honoring an anniversary. I like that: the public gesture, the private identity.

On the oxbow path, the terrain is more uneven, the path slicker with leaves in fall and winter, but I have walked it often enough that my feet know the roots and the dips in the forest floor. In the nine years I've been walking these woods, efforts have been made to close off the most eroded routes downhill, so there are barriers made of branches and logs along the sides of the path from time to time, and beyond them you can see where the forest is beginning the slow work of undoing the damage we've inflicted on it. Who knows how many years yet before all the traces are gone?

That bench that faces me when I return to the main path is where A. and I had one of the toughest conversations of our pre-dating history. While we were sitting there, almost seven years ago now, a couple I know came by, walking dogs who have since died. They made idle chit-chat with us while we pretended not to be screaming with tension. For years, we made it a point to sit on that bench whenever we could, to layer it over with happier associations.

And we have always been friendly with that couple without quite crossing the line into friendship, but now they have a little girl three years older than Z., and we recently joined their babysitting co-op, and they are staunch loyalists of my store. They have invited us to their house for a yet-to-be-confirmed day during the Jewish holidays--about to finally cross that line and find ourselves friends, I hope.

The first time I babysat for them, a young person dropped by their house looking for them, a young person who is the sibling of one of my former staffers, a child who grew up at the same street number where I live but one block north, someone I first knew as a sixteen-year-old frustrated with the limitations of the school where A. now teaches, and who--while we were chatting that evening--conceded to me that it will be impossible to maintain a genderneutral presentation in nursing school. But I am giving it my best shot here in blogland.

Layers upon layers. My staffer, this young person's sister, would have lunch with their mother every week, a butch woman of many talents, and I would chat with her while my staffer got her things together. A few years back the mother was the inspiration behind an all-woman, mostly-lesbian production of Grease in which A. played the part of Kenickie, and the mother took the Frankie Valli part ("Beauty School Drop Out"). When the Israel-Palestine peace group that A. and I were briefly involved with got into a tangle with a local rabbi, the mother, who's a mediator, came and helped us sort it out. That rabbi is the step-parent of my friend who got married at the end of June and moved to Boston, which freed up her apartment for a neighbor who teaches at Z.'s day care to move in.

Living here is living in a web of intersecting lives. The longer I'm here, the deeper and more layered they become. I live only a few dozen yards from the co-op that is the heart of my shtetl. I shop there daily, and I pass the bookstore on my way. It is rare for me to walk that handful of houselengths without seeing someone I know at least to say hello.

But on that Saturday when I returned to the woods and walked down to the creek, I saw no one else. I listened to the intent buzzing chorus of cicadas as it rose and fell, and heard the wind high above me, but no dogs, no people. I found my way down the hill at the end of the main path, to where a lower path rounds the wetlands and cozies up to the creek. It seemed like saplings were crowding in where there used to be more erosion. The woods are healthier than they were nine years ago.

The creek, never very big, was gentle and contained in the center of its course. I walked along looking for a place to settle and write--I made my way down into the creekbed eventually and, figuring my sandals won't make it til next summer anyway, I just walked in the shallow water for awhile. None of the logs that rested across it looked trustworthy, so I found myself at the footbridge that crosses the creek at the edge of the meadow. It had been my plan to settle in there if I couldn't find anywhere better, but when I sat, I found that just a little ways down was a solid tree whose roots grew down and along the bank, reassuringly solid and perchable.

The creek was maybe 2 or 3 inches deep there, moving through the rocks with eddies so small they were just dimples. Where the bottom was smooth, a half-dozen water boatmen jumped and danced on the surface, making delicate circles of ripples that jittered into each other over and over again. The leaves flashed back at me from the surface of the water, grey and green, with blue sky flashing up between them, and their shadows layered onto the rocks of the creekbed, splitting and doubling the patterns there.

That Saturday was my first trip, alone, to the woods, in years. I had gotten out of the habit of going at all, because going was a production. It involved dogs, and kid, and spouse; leashes and stroller and plastic bags and tennis balls and rinsing off the poison ivy oil from the dogs' coats later. All the layers of home coming right along with me. Why bother?

But a friend and I made a pact to walk for morning sunlight this fall. We both suffer when the sun starts coming a little later and a little later every day, and leaving a little earlier, and if that's how you're wired, too, you know the best way to stave off the blues that creep up on you and the weepy days that pile on in December is to soak up as much light as possible as soon as you can manage it after waking. So we walk in the mornings, in our different hometowns, and check in online later.

That's what I've been doing in the two weeks since Z. started school. I drop her off as early as I can manage, and I head to the woods: all on my lonesome but fulfilling a promise to a friend. It's not as much sun as if I stayed on the sidewalk, but the green all around me eases my jangles and the earth and rocks and roots under my soles keep me focused on the living world that we try to cage with our grids and our masonry and our asphalt, and my online world is layering onto my physically present one. And that little creek at the bottom? Well, I know where it goes. I know the way the storms make it swell and the drought thins it to a trickle and I know the path it follows to the ocean as the water keeps cycling round and round in our saturated world.

*Isn't that the opposite of wrung out?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

What happens while I'm sleeping

S.: I have a weird bruise here. Where do you think I got it?

A.: I don't know. It must have been from when Z. and I poked you with pens while you were sleeping.

S.: Oh, is that what you were doing? (takes a sip of water)

A.: (laughing) No. I don't where you got that bruise--

Z.: (interrupting) With penCILS!

(S. sprays water from laughing.)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Can you spot the trend in our house?

Breakfast. Z. is resisting wearing the shirt she wore last week to the first day of class. We are using a variety of approaches to avoid switching shirts, because switching shirts is not something that Z. is allowed to do in the morning. We have arrived at discussing the new classroom, and how she feels about it.

S.: Do you miss your old teachers?
Z. nods gravely.
S.: Do you think your old friends miss your old teachers, too?
Z. nods.
S.: Do you think your new friends miss *their* old teachers?

(we discuss which new friends had which old teachers last year)

Z.: My old frwiends miss *my* old teacheuhs.
S.: They miss P. and C.
Z.: And R.! R. isn't dair anymorwe because she's sick.
S.: Yes, she has a big sickness, so she can't come to school anymore. If she had a little sickness she would be back at school.
Z.: And we can go to heuh house and put a band-aid on her sickness. And den she will get betteuh!

I was surpressing tears at this point. Teacher R. isn't back because she's dying of cancer. I was hoping that being out of her old classroom would let us sidestep the question, but it looks like Z. is going to cross that bridge somehow when we get to it.

* * * * *

Z.: When I'm a kid I'll get my kid teese, and when I'm a gwrown-up I'll get my gwrown-up teese, and I'll keep dem til I die!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Communication is tricky

Z.: Can you tell me a storewy about da high genius?

S.: The High Genius?

Z.: Da High Genius.

S.: Can you take your binky out so I can hear you?

Z.: Can you tell me a storewy about Suzanne?

S.: Suzanne the High Genius? Is this a school story? I don't know this story.

A.: Maybe you can tell Mama if it's a school story.

Z.: It's a dentist storewy.

* * * * *

S.: (playing with Z's curls) Z., All your life, people will tell you you have great hair.

Z.: Ah you my life people?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Parental pop quiz

We are at the restaurant. We are eating fajitas. My parents are eating enchiladas. Z. is eating ketchup. Z. states:

"I'm afrwaid of dying."


She clarified: she, herself, was afraid of dying herself.

And what, my friends, would you have said to that?

We told her she wouldn't die for a long, long time. We told her about how our Diva Dog was ready to die and wasn't afraid of dying.

She seemed okay with that. She went back to scooping up ketchup up with fries.

I guess we passed. But it's hard to tell.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Because Niobe's doing it

The rules are: 26-word poem, words in consecutive alphabetical order

All bitter cold days,
ever fearful,
going home
in January's knowing light,
mine never over
painful questions
ranging snakily through, under
vast, wasted

And, yes, I cheated on the x. I hate it when people don't cheat on the x. How many xylophones does the world need, anyway?

Check out what Niobe and Julia wrote. Slouching mom proposed the challenge.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The way to a girl's heart

A.: Hey, you're looking all skinny! Except for those great big shorts you've got on.

S.: (grins!)

Mind you, skinny is a relative term. When I got pregnant, I weighed more than I ever had in my life, 55 pounds more than the weight I think of as "mine." But as of today, I'm back at the weight I was before I conceived. I've lost 17 pounds in the last three months, by moving away from depressive eating and moderately increasing my exercise. And yeah, my shorts are kind of falling off of me.

I can't tell you what a relief that is.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Me and the Iditarod: not gonna happen

At dinner (not dessert!)

Z.: I found some cookie to eat.

S.: That's because I didn't wipe down the table.

Z.: Why?

S.: Because I'm a lazy housekeeper.

Z.: Why ah you a lazy husky?

First day, new classroom

I'm home from dropping Z. off at her first day in her new, infant-free day care room. Everyone but Z. is 2 1/2, and Z.'s half-birthday is Sunday. There was no changing table in the classroom! Wow. A bright new era dawns.

Since A. doesn't start back at school until next week, we dropped her off together. Dropping her off was fine. The room is beautiful, and the teachers had the best, most fabulous toys out for first-day drop-off distraction. The other three kids from her infant-toddler room were already there, so all the promised people were reassuringly present. The assistant teacher was floating last year, so Z. already knows her well from when she covered in Z.'s infant-toddler room. The head teacher blinked at our cloth training pants, but it was only a blink: "okay, we've had cloth before." And the binky-free trip to school went unprotested. Really, nothing could be better.

Except every waking moment of the eleven hours that led to getting her out the door. Z. usually goes down around 9:30, after her bath. Recently, she's been getting up about once and needing to be firmly directed back to bed, but she does go and that's usually the end of it. She's been under the weather for a few nights, so she's been getting more cuddling down, and I think that, on top of a late nap, was what set us up for disaster.

Last night, she popped up seven times between 9:30 and midnight, with tears and coaxing and threatened time outs each time. When I got to bed at 12:15, A. was in Z.'s bed, and Z. was doing everything she could to keep her Mommy in bed with her--in other words, to keep herself awake. I took over, and it was more of the same with Mama until I dredged up the Cuddle of Last Resort.

The Cuddle of Last Resort is a cold-season manoeuver, for when Z. is too stuffed in the nose to sleep flat. I get myself propped up on pillows and she drapes herself over me. The problem with this for me is that I can't get to sleep when she's touching me and I don't even really get sleepy on my back. We haven't used this one in a few months and she was considerably lighter then--put enough toddler weight on your chest and it gets hard to breathe.

It took her a good 45 minutes in this position before she finally dropped off. I crawled into my own bed at 1:30. The alarm went off at 6:00. We got Z. to school at 8:30, and it's only a four-block walk. It was pretty much solid tantrums--about getting out of bed, about eating breakfast, about finishing breakfast, about ponytails and hairclips, about teeth-brushing, about another book, about getting dressed--until I cottoned on to what she was saying:

"I'm too cwranky to go to school."

Yes, everyone, I set us up for this morning's mess by keeping her home when she was cranky last year. I am still paying for that one.

Lucky for us, Z. is proud of being a big girl. When she was finally cuddling in Mommy's lap, I told her that when she was one, it was okay to stay home from school because she was cranky. I told her what wasn't strictly true: that when she turned two she started going to school even when she was cranky.

And so, we coaxed her into her training pants and her shorts, got her new librarian shirt on her, re-did the ponytails, got the sugar bugs off the teeth and the sandals on her feet.

She's off at school. There are no babies in her classroom now. She's not a baby anymore.

And it was my turn for tears walking back down the hall.