Friday, December 19, 2008

Food Drive for Equality

Hey all, I'm a little late getting the word out, but this morning Z. was doing her tzedakah thing (she scours the top of my bureau for nickels and dimes and puts them in the pushke) and I remembered about the LGBTQ food drive. Turns out it's tomorrow. To get involved, click on through and find the drop-off point in your area. I'm going to trade in the change in the pushke for bills and this afternoon we'll fill up a bunch of bags at the Acme to take downtown. I think it's a great way for us to be visible this time of year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Family picture

I had my first-ever parent conference yesterday. I've been ignoring them for three years because I imagined they would go like this:

Year 1:

Z.'s First Teacher: Z. is great. She's your first baby and I've had three and been running this class for a million years, so let me tell you, you're doing everything wrong.
Me: (cries)

Year 2:

Z.'s First Teacher: Z. is great. I am dying of cancer and I'm here on time every day. What excuse do you have for being too depressed to get her to school on time?
Me: (cries)

Year 3:

Z.'s Third Teacher: Z. is great. We sure wish she didn't miss play time every single day.
Me: (hems and haws. Manages not to cry until returning home.)

None of these scenarios happened, you understand, *because* I imagined them, and that gave me the foresight to avoid them. I never even signed up for a conference before this year. Also, until this year, all the times were in the morning, and in the winter I don't do so well with mornings.

This year, though, I signed up. Valiantly, I persisted in signing up, time and again! I missed the first two, because they were in the morning (see winter mornings and me, above), and then I asked if I took an afternoon appointment (they were right there on the schedule) whether Z. would have coverage. Z.'s current teacher said fine, so yesterday I showed up and Z. went to after care for a bit, and everything zipped along. It helped that Current Teacher had written up a two-page, single-spaced evaluation of Z.: it was organized by category like "Social Development" and "Cognitive Development," and she gave it to me in advance and I loved it! It was like getting to spy on my kid in school, and what mom doesn't long for that chance?

The conference was parent catnip, I tell you. Z. is a knockout, an artist, a dancer, a performer, a compassionate friend, a champion of memory feats, full of Yiddishkeit. What could be better?

Well. Her teacher had put aside a picture Z. made of her family. In it, all of her grownups are color-coded. A. is blue, Uncle Donor is red, my father is yellow, etc. In it, my mother, Z., and I are all purple. And I'm vast. I take up a third of the page, and Z. has herself nestled up against me, and we are looking at each other, and everyone else looks into the center, the constellation of her family revolving around us. Z.'s a little too little to make faces that smile, but the lines that represent our mouths are clearly doting ones.

I know I will become more and more peripheral to her. I know that process will be painful to me in lots of ways. But oh, oh, oh. This week my Doodle filled my heart to overflowing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Two from last night

S.: [relating a Dave Chappelle skit posted on Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog, edited on the fly because of nearby big ears. Go on, watch! Okay, now you can keep reading.]
Z.: (poking Mommy) Hey white person. White person! You look like a white person.
A.: Yes, I am a white person. I knew this was gonna happen.
S.: (laughing)
Z.: Are you a white person?
A.: Sometimes I'm kind of an off-white person.
Z.: (turns to Mama) Are you a black person?
S.: (gasping with laughter, tugs at the dark brown sweater she's wearing, nods. A looks perplexed. S. points at A.'s white shirt. Understanding dawns.)
S.: Z., are you a pink person?
Z.: (checks out color of her dress) Yes! I AM a pink person!
A.: And what is Hunter Dog?
Z.: A FUR person!

* * * * *

Z.: Why can't I sit up with my tushy off my seat?
S.: Because it's a precursor to mayhem.
Z.: Hamalama. (turns to Mommy) What she means is, what she's saying to me is "I don't like you."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A recipe for Jane Dark

Here's the chili we made in our house tonight. It's based on one that AJ from JP made with us a million years ago on a vacation in Maine, but there are variations.

One onion, chopped
Two medium carrots, cut in coins

(The rest can be gathered and prepared while these cook)
1-2 slices jalapeno, minced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cumin

1/2 cup green olives, cut in half
two cans diced stewed tomatoes, with juice
one can chili beans--we use the kind that have black/red/kidney beans all in one can
2 tbsp. cocoa powder

a decent handful of sliced, blanched almonds
a decent handful of TVP

olive oil

Heat a tbsp or two of the olive oil in a skillet on medium. Add onion and carrots, stir to coat, then cover skillet and allow to cook until onion is translucent, stirring very occasionally. Add jalapeno, garlic, and spices. Sautee one minute. Add tomatoes, olives, cocoa, and beans, stir, and allow to simmer ten minutes: leave uncovered for thicker chili, but beware that the TVP will absorb some juice. Add almonds and TVP. Simmer 2-3 minutes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Some good news

My life is way too tied to the computer, but you knew that already.

So there was rejoicing when my new computer came yesterday, and the reason it's so much cheaper than my old computer is that it's exactly like my old computer, except white instead of black. Really. That's it, that's the only difference I can tell. I even bumped up the memory, like on my old one. But it's last year's model of MacBook, and can you spelled "planned obsolescence," boys and girls? It's sort of amazing that the new bells and whistles keeping being priced at more or less what the old bells and whistles cost us, but that's part of what makes us long to spend the money all over again for the new one, isn't it?

In other news, the data recovery people called, and they pulled all the jpegs off my hard drive. Liz has made me think I could have done this for a fraction of the cost all by myself, but Dude at the Apple store was using words like "rust" and "corrosion" and at the time I sent it off I still thought I was going to try to have the old one rebuilt and these guys would have preserved the warranty. Which only had three weeks left on it, right. Who says we make good decisions under stress?

But in the end, I was willing to pay what they charged to have those pictures, and I wound up with a new computer with a new warranty for the same as what it would have cost to get the rebuilt one, and I am deciding not to worry about the money any more. I don't use credit cards much, and pretty much never more than I can pay down the same month (we are in a long, long process of paying everything off) but this is one time when it made sense.

And, yes, another bit of unrelated news!

My shul just made a plea that everyone use this search engine so they'll get a penny a search. It adds up, folks, and you can fill in any charity that's registered. I know the non-profits in your life are hurting, too. You can add it to your F!refox search engine list so it's super easy. Why not? Mitzvahs should always be so easy to do.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Here's my latest fantasy. It's a warm day, a summer day, almost hot but not in the least sweaty, and we're in a completely private place, dappled in sun and shade. We take off all our clothes. We strip all the beds. We put everything in the washing machine, we let it dry on the line in the soft summer breeze, and when everything is folded in the basket, for one brief moment, one brief, blissful moment before we relinquish our nakedness, there will be not a single piece of laundry to do anywhere in the whole damn house.

In unrelated news, there are two items on my grocery list at this time:


*link here

Friday, November 28, 2008


Yesterday at my parents' table I gave thanks for family and friends and safety and health and Hope and Change, but today is a different kind of day. Today I need to give another round of thanks to the Black Friday sales and to Lo, who thought of me when she ventured out into them, and to Am@rican Expr@ss, which has kept on sending me a card every year even though I stopped using it years ago after I paid the damn thing off. A new computer is coming my way, and I think once I figure in savings on shipping and having a brand-new warranty, it's going to cost me less than the rebuild would have.

Yesterday's thanks were more important, no doubt about it. But today's are nothing to sneer at.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Because life has its charming ups and downs

The breathing study was, on the one hand, a success in that my breathing appeared completely fine, but on the other hand, a dud, in that when people with asthma are in between flareups their breathing is completely fine. So nothing was ruled out or in.

And my dog spilled water all over my computer yesterday morning. The computer you say?...ah. Toast. The computer is toast: this is the word from the folks at the Apple store. It's going to cost an arm to rebuild it and a leg to recover the pictures, and another leg if I decide to get everything off the hard drive.

If I don't start backing everything up maniacally when this is all over, youall have permission to shoot me.

Meanwhile, posting is going to be pretty patchy--no computer at home, and all.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Store Birthday to Me, sort of

The store opened on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, 2005. It was a crazy process, and a long one, and it is not ideal for someone with seasonal affective disorder to be starting a major venture at the exact same time of year, to the week, when her biochemistry takes its annual nosedive.*

But that is what I did, not quite intentionally, but the retail season being what it is, the Saturday before Thanksgiving was the absolute last day I could tolerate opening--in the give and take between me and the contractors, therefore, the Saturday before Thanksgiving was the point past which I would not let deadlines be pushed. There were electricians installing track lighting in the morning, but at noon we opened our doors.

The first birthday felt like a huge accomplishment, and for different reasons so did the second. Last year at this time I was astonished that things were obviously improving. I'd gotten myself into a serious hole and it seemed like I was getting out of it. There were setbacks, but that was largely true. This year, there's still more climbing to do to get out of the hole, but we will emerge. Only it's a little harder to see where we're going after that. The economy is hard. Not horrible around here, actually: houses still sell, and most folks around here are relatively recession-insulated. There's no big company that's about to leave town, and in my case, my customers are the kind who see books as a necessity more than a luxury. But we're still feeling it. We were especially feeling it before the election, but even with the election over and people's moods turning around, it's still hard to see the kinds of steep gains in sales that would make me feel better about the store's long-term health.

I just feel mired. I know that a lot of this is about the time of year, as well as the economy. But I am having a hard time getting things done, as always, and a hard time feeling happy about the things I do get done, which is not always true. It's my bad time of year: mid-November to the end of March or early April.

I'm trying to keep it front and center that depression means that things that would give me a sense of accomplishment, a sense of "hey, I got that done!," don't. They just don't. Instead, this time of year each thing I do just seems to clear the way for the next thing to come at me and make me start the getting-things-done process all over again from the beginning. Sometimes I hang onto tasks I could finish easily as a kind of shield, or I leave little pieces of disorganization in place as a way to slow down the production line a little so it's moving at a pace I can handle emotionally, even if practically speaking I could easily be moving a lot faster. I'm capable of being more effective, but I'm not capable of feeling more effective, so I bring down my level of competence to the place where I can handle it.

This morning, I got change from the credit union, and I got the cake for the weekend's celebration. It was two trips when it could have been one, and both of those stops were places I have been on errands in the last two days and I could easily have gotten what I needed then if I'd made a list and been planful, but sloppiness is more where I'm at. I'll go over just to be around some now, and tomorrow, too. But I don't really want to be part of festivities I can't feel.

It's depressing.

*Kind of like what it's doing this week, right on schedule. It's the annual kablooey! of my sense of pleasure and ability to connect to the world. A. and Phantom are both on me to use my lightbox, and I am, and it's helping a lot, but the other major piece of routine that lets me stay on top of my depression instead of going under it is exercise, and there I am not doing well. The bottom has fallen out of my swim schedule because of what I suspect (after prompting from Phantom) is going to turn out to be cough-variant asthma, though I don't have a diagnosis yet. I have a breathing study on Tuesday, in the slot when I would have been swimming, and the name of a pulmonologist to consult. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In case you thought we were done with them

Z.: Will you tell me a bee story?

A.: I'm too tired for bee stories tonight. Maybe Mama will tell you one.

S.: Well, once there were two bees--

Z.: No, not DAT one!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Don't tell Z.

Pirates stole an oil tanker off the coast of Kenya.

I'm just wondering what kind of an operation you would need to dispose of two million barrels of crude.

Saturday, November 15, 2008



That's her pirate sweater. In case you couldn't tell.

Friday, November 14, 2008


So, Z.'s favorite thing about morning playtime is dress-up. She makes a beeline to the dress-up cubbies when she walks in every morning, and she squeezes herself into a pink tutu that is more than two sizes too small for her, because it is all pink tulle and sparkles. There is a pale, pale blue nighty of many flimsy layers. There is a red-violet velour dress with little silver hearts instead of polka-dots. There is a green floral smock. There is a row of purses, on hooks. There is one floppy hat.

And there is a basket of plastic, high-heeled mules, sized for preschoolers.

Dress-up has been bothering my inner feminist zealot for months now (c'mon, you know you all have one). Granted, these are discarded real fancy clothes, and there are no Disney logos, but there is also no boy-gendered dress-up, or even any non-frilly dress-up. I know that our children are geniuses of invention, but the costumes don't offer any obvious path for role-playing--no pirates or doctors or witches or firefighters or cooks or cowboys. There is the opportunity for fabulousness, and I'm not knocking that. Fabulousness is fun. But fabulousness all by itself is not very interesting. Do you keep telling stories about tea parties, and ladies who lunch?

And the shoes. The shoes. The shoes.

They drive me fucking nuts.

But I never said anything, because somehow, I had this idea that Z. wasn't wearing them. I dunno why I thought that. Of course she was wearing them; this is Z. we are talking about. Today I saw her putting them on as I was putting her lunchbox away. I went over to give her my goodbye hug and kiss, and I talked to her about how those shoes weren't good for walking, and weren't comfortable, and weren't good for her feet or her legs.

And then I asked the teacher if any other parents had said anything about the shoes. She said no, and the shoes had just come with the room, and she'd never given them much thought, except to tell the girls they could only wear them on the rug because otherwise they fall too much. (They fall too much!!! Of course they do, they are three-year-olds in HIGH HEELS!!!) And then I told the teacher (who dresses like an old school dyke, even though she is not one) that it would make me happy if the shoes were phased out.

And the teacher was totally fine with it.

So now I think we are honor-bound to buy some good pretend-play costumes for the classroom. Z. is thinking pirates.

Pirate captains.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm going to try to be there

Fight the H8 in Your State

I'm single-parenting on Saturday, and 1:30 is prime naptime. But this is important, and it's probably time for Z.'s first protest, don'tcha think? Assuming she's not dissolved into a puddle, anyway.

What I was saying about that bluest-part-of-a-blue-state thing

My ward voted 97% for Obama.

Actually, more than 97%.

Here are the numbers:

Obama: 12,604
McCain: 314
Nader: 20
Barr: 14
Write-in: 8

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Because if it's not about the election it's about my kid

My first! ever! RBOC post! It must be November!

  • So, I got Z. an Obama/Phillies baseball shirt, too, only hers is an adult medium (so is yours, Mom!), which was the smallest they had. Until such time--if ever--as she grows into it, or gets bored with it, she's using it as a pillowcase by night, and a cape by day.
  • Also, she had her flu shot yesterday, only it was a puff up the nose. She did great. I should probably get one, too.
  • Her class is doing an "All About Me" unit, where they look at who has what color eyes and has how many people in their family and which pets and all of that. Thus, I know that she has brown hair and brown eyes, three people in her family, one dog, and is now 43" tall. That makes her too tall to ride for free on SEPTA and big enough for many many rides at Sesame Place that she couldn't go on last summer.
  • This makes me feel better about having moved her into a booster seat last week. Once she started wearing her winter coat in the mornings, the carseat straps got uncomfortable for her and there was no more strap to pull, but she looks so, I dunno, untethered in the booster.
  • She learned "God Bless America" to sing at the Phillies parade at her preschool last week. Two weeks ago? Whenever that was, with the World Series and all. She thinks it's a swell song to sing for Obama. She's singing it all the time. I wish she knew more verses, if it even has more verses. It's getting old.
  • Barack Hussein Obama is gonna be our next president. How about that?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Does this brain still work?

I have coped with the past several anxious weeks by never slowing down long enough to really let my emotions catch up with me.

Pennsylvania was, until last night, the reddest of the blue states, and I live in the bluest part of it. Really, even in my strongly Democratic city, my neighborhood votes way to the left in primaries. I am used to electoral disappointment. I expect it.

When there was talk in the last week or two that Pennsylvania might still be in play after all, that without it McCain really had no shot at the electoral college, this election felt like Philadelphia against John McCain. My northeastern, largely African-American, heavily Democratic, underfunded, insurance-assaulted, university-dominated city, standing against the cynicism, vote manipulation, lies and disdain of a party that had no idea what kind of groundswell they were facing. Community organizers, my ass.

But I was worried. I was still really crazy worried that I hadn't done enough.

I know I have a lot of magical thinking about my participation in politics. I canvassed for nuclear disarmament the summers of 1988 and 1989, and you know that was why the Soviet bloc crumbled and the Berlin wall fell. In 1994 I failed to switch my registration to Pennsylvania in time and didn't bother with the absentee ballot in DC, and the Republicans swept both houses.

But what else can you expect from a lesbian born and raised in a disenfranchised city, within a mile of the Capitol? I expect to be left out and powerless, and I expect that my feet moving on the treadmill of the political process is the only thing that keeps this country from moving backwards faster. I think a lot of lefties in this country feel that way, though, and there are a lot of lefties in my neighborhood.

When they called Pennsylvania last night, I shrieked loud enough to make A. think I was hurt. When they called Pennsylvania, I finally believed Obama would win. Not just could, but would. This morning, Z. and I were ready to go more than an hour before we had to be anywhere, and I wanted to celebrate, so we did something we've never done before and went to the cafe for breakfast. Everyone there was saying "We did it!" No one said "He won." I started asking, and my neighbors had all been out knocking on doors and making calls.

We did it. We did. Philadelphia beat John McCain. Our side won.

But not in California, except, well, I haven't been as upset about Prop 8 as other queer folk I've talked to today. I guess the polls were running against it so strongly that I hadn't pinned a whole lot of hope to it, and I live in a state where what happens in California isn't going to affect us much. I also am not at all sure how I feel about civil marriage itself--as a shorthand for equality, hell yes; as a church-state catastrophe, definitely; as a wedge issue, I am pissed off beyond measure. But having spent my entire life outside of legally-sanctioned marriage and having a lot of, um, issues with heteronormativity, I'm not feeling it personally. My marriage doesn't have its basis in civil law. I feel pretty damn married without a slip of paper from the state. I grant you that I absolutely would not feel that detached from the fight if it were happening here, because then I would have done a lot of considering about whether A. and I should and would make it legal, and it would infuriate me to have those considerations rendered moot, but that's sort of where my limitations lie.

I'm actually much more upset about the Arizona measure that restricted state-approved parenthood to married couples. Z. would have one legal parent if she were born in Arizona. My straight friend who adopted as a single mom wouldn't have her daughter. If Pennsylvania hadn't allowed second-parent adoption at the time Z. was born, we would have made sure she was born somewhere that did.

Now I think I'm just rambling, folks. It's late, it's been a long month or two, or four, or twenty-two.

What I want to say before I tumble into sleep is that Prop 8 passed by less than four points. Eight years ago, California defined marriage, by referendum, as being between a man and a woman--that measure passed by 22 points.

From where I stand, The Bad Guys losing 18 points of their 22-point margin in eight years? That's us winning. That's all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election day/Election night

We lined up this morning at the Presbyterian church a block down the hill from us. Two divisions vote in the social hall there, and it was reminiscent of the co-op line fifteen minutes before closing on the night before a big holiday. Lots of crowding, but people patient and chatting with neighbors, everyone in it together and anticipating a celebration.

Z. dressed in a blue-striped dress top and (finally, after more shouting than I want to recall), red cords, with my yellow Obama "volunteer" button on her dress. An Obama poll worker gave her another, which I pinned on her coat--parents, you'll understand what a godsend that was while we were still lined up outside in the (somewhat) cold.

The whole wait was maybe 45 minutes. Luck of the draw, A. had Z. when we got to the front, so I went into the booth on my own. Standing inside the privacy of those curtains, I had a hard time pressing the green button to record my vote. For long, long moments, I felt caught in something that I couldn't move out of before I'd let it move through me.

It felt like prayer.

Please, god, please, god. A new world.

Edited at 11:02 pm: NBC just called it. For Z., President Obama will be who she knows, how she grows up.

Fly, my baby girl. Fly.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama is running so our children can fly.

This afternoon, I drove down Dr. King Drive, turned and took Powelton and Walnut out to West Philly, and knocked on doors for the third and last time this campaign.

I initially signed up to canvass because I was so infuriated by the McCain campaign's choice of Sarah Palin that I could not stand to sit by once she was in the race. I am excited about Obama and I voted for him in the primary, but I have always felt fairly cynical about elections because I'm pretty far to the left and it's always a fight between the center and the right. I'd much rather have the center in power than the right, but it's just hard to move out of my comfort zone and walk my feet tired to help people who, election after election, don't come out in support of my civil rights.

When the McCain camp shifted into buffoonery, though, it felt personal. I felt insulted, and I wanted to get even. So. I signed up. I joined the campaign.

Here's the thing: I clicked the wrong email, the one that said to come to Pennsylvania and volunteer for Obama. That meant I signed up as though I were an out-of-stater, and that turned out to be a great stroke of luck, because I didn't wind up at the campaign office on the main drag of my integrated, hippie-populated neighborhood, but instead was assigned to knock on doors in a part of the city ten miles away, in a neighborhood where seeing a white face on the street makes you wonder what brings them there.

Knocking on those doors changed my sense of what I was doing. Seeing the Obama signs up in house after house in a Black neighborhood, well. I'm a white girl, but I grew up in Southeast DC, on stories of Dr. King and Rosa Parks.

This was on the wall in the canvass office today:

Rosa sat so Martin would walk.

Martin walked so Obama could run.

Obama is running so our children can fly.

May they fly, may they all find the wings to fly.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What the cool kids are wearing

The new, hot shirt in my neighborhood...


...and I got me one. Score. I'm all set to canvass again tomorrow.

(Nicholas, I got you one, too, with slate-blue sleeves. I'll touch base about getting it to you.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Writing for Marriage

Today there's a blog carnival going on about gay marriage, to raise awareness about the fight to defeat proposition 8 in California. I'm a married lesbian. How can I not write? So I'm writing.

But I'm not really sure what it is I want to say. I chose to marry because I am a lesbian. I wanted to build a home with A. and raise children with her and marriage was the way to get, oh, legitimacy, yeah, but that's not even the word I want. I wanted the mojo of all our family and friends in one place making it so that our relationship became a structure strong enough to raise kids in. It's a ritual magic I believe in. I wanted to stand up with A. and turn us into a family. I wanted the pictures to show the kids we hadn't conceived yet. I wanted my cousins to get the same invitations in the mail that they'd sent me. Well, for their first weddings, anyway.

I have my doubts about civil marriage, but that doesn't matter at all. It is entirely irrelevant to this post. What matters is that in California there are some really virulent people spending a hell of a lot of money to prevent the rabbis who married me and A. from, well, marrying me and A. This is a church-and-state issue, folks. If you're not in California, you can help by giving money. Our side needs $3 million by Friday night to match the homophobes.

Please, give. Whatever you can. Everything counts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The home stretch

The potty fairy came to our house last night. You know the one. She collects the potties from the bathrooms and the living room, and in their various places she leaves presents from the stash of little bitty toys that your parents have left over from the days when it was all about filling out sticker charts every time you even sat on the potty.

No more bowls to empty. I can't quite believe it.

She's a long way from dry at night (but with hopeful signs). She's a long way from wiping herself (but with hopeful--oh, wait, she's still apt to run away with her pants around her ankles...never mind).


The potty fairy came to our house last night.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Store miscellania

Recently, I've been doing some long-overdue publisher orders, and the books that wind up on those orders are the ones that we have been living without for awhile, so I'm looking over the sales numbers, wondering. The rule of thumb is that you want to turn your stock three times in a year, so if a book has sold less than three times in twelve months, I'm getting more ruthless about letting it go out of stock.

I'm closing in on three years of doing this, which is as long as I taught high school full time* and I think I'm better at this part of my job than when I started, right there at the core of my work: judging what my customers will buy.

One thing they pretty much won't buy is cd's, so we're selling off all our adult cd's at more or less cost. What I finally realized is that this is the perfect chance to refresh the store's collection of cd's. If they make a detour to my laptop's hard drive before they make it into the cd rack, well, ya know. These things happen.

*I taught in high schools in one way or another for more like eight years, so I have awhile yet before I'm caught up.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Skyline and homecoming

Twice this past week, I've been in Center City with people who don't get there too often. Me, I used to live there, six blocks over from City Hall, and varying distances south.

I grew up in a city without skyscrapers, and I used to get absolutely tickled that I could look up and see those immense glass sculptures, vistas changing as I moved around town. It changed my sense of scale, and of homecoming. The moment when I rounded the curve of the highway and saw the glittering spires and felt myself settle back into my skin became the payoff moment of the drive home from my parents' house. Now that I'm often coming home from points north, and home is in the northwestern reaches of the city, I miss that moment.

(For the record, the best way to approach Philadelphia is from the south, on I95 or I76, or, as Jane Dark reminded me, the R1 from the airport. I have opinions on other cities, too: DC is best approached from the south on I295, and Boston from Route 2, coming in from Concord, preferably after a long day spent at Walden Pond.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Z.: For prwetend, we'yeuh not vegetawians.

S.: (Filling dishwasher.) Oh, we're not? What are we then?

Z.: Well we'yeuh Jewish, but we'yeuh not vegetawians.

S.: (Still filling dishwasher.) How very meat-eating of us.

Z.: We'yeuh not vegetawians, for prwetend, so I have dis dog on a stick for us.

S.: (Turns and sees realistic-looking Folkmanis black lab puppy hoist on cardboard-tube "sword." Dissolves into fits of giggles. Heads to the computer to record every word.)

Z.: We can eat it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm ready to go back to work now

The past week has included:

  1. Firing an employee, by far the thing I most hate about my job. The employee spent the week avoiding calls, then quit right before the shift when we were prepared to turn her back at the door.
  2. A weekend of grandparents (and my cousin Nick!): fun, but tiring, and especially fun-but-tiring for Z.
  3. A full-staff meeting. Also fun, but tiring.
  4. A court date for an incident involving the store. The incident was in May. The trial was Monday. Dude got 3-12 months.
  5. Therapy.
  6. A day when Z.'s daycare was closed.
  7. One giant zit. Giant.
  8. More therapy.
  9. Another day when Z.'s daycare was closed.
  10. Not enough time to swim.
  11. Not enough time to walk.
  12. Not enough time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Does this happen in your house?

Okay, this is one for the two- (or more-) parent families out there:

Z. has serious trouble coping with the transition between spending a lot of time with just one parent and then adjusting to the arrival of the other parent. She ignores, she's flat-out rude, she pushes, she tantrums. We hold a fairly hard line on it, and she's gotten a lot better than she used to be, but the problem hasn't gone away. It's worse when she's spent a lot of time with A. and I enter the scene (A. thinks this is because Z.'s relationship with me is deeper and more intense so her reactions to me are deeper and more intense), but it can go in both directions.

Does this happen in your house? Are there tricks that work for you? Advice would be appreciated.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


A few days ago it was poverty awareness day in blogland, and I've been kicking it around, wealth and poverty. Well, the financial upheavals and my own risk-happy way of earning a living mean that I've been kicking this one around for a very long time.

One of the things I clicked on the other day was a poverty ranking tool, one that took your annual income and told you where you ranked in the overall poverty standing in the world. I'm not linking to it. It was cute, it was useful to have a jolt of perspective, but it was also beside the point. It embarrassed me, some, that I feel pinched when other people have so much less, but it didn't make me feel like I had more cash floating around.

Unless you are super-duper enlightened, whether you're feeling comfortable or deprived about money doesn't have anything to do with how much money everyone in the world has. It has to do with how much money the people have who are living next door to you have, or sitting down to dinner with you.

Last night, I was talking with a friend who told me how growing up where she did, she thought her family was poor because she didn't get a Porsche for her sixteenth birthday, making a point about how that setting warped her: we tend to judge our wealth relative to others', and we tend to think we should have the things that the folks around us have. Juliet Shor talks about this as the question of the reference group, the way we aren't necessarily looking at people with similar incomes when we judge whether our spending habits are reasonable.

This is something I struggle with, because I tend to judge my spending against my family's, but I am downwardly mobile. There is no way that in my line of work I will make even a little bit of the kind of money I was raised having access to, and even though A. is in a pretty darn secure, middle-class, professional kind of job, urban public school teachers ain't pulling it in hand over fist, you know?

So the way for me to feel wealthy instead of poor is to spend less, to want less. To feel that what I have is enough. To simplify. Shor calls this downshifting. It's really hard to pull off in a culture of abundance, which is, still, what we're living in here. Clothes are turning out to be the hardest thing for me to manage, I think because I've been losing weight and therefore my old clothes actually don't fit me. I do need to buy new clothing, and it's hard not to notice that the pants I think I can only afford on sale are often the least expensive ones in the catalog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Special features

This evening, Z. and I varied our ritual watching of the Wizard of Oz by starting with the Angela-Lansbury-narrated animated storybook, which is far too abridged, but otherwise a really wonderful use of the original illustrations.

Then we moved on to the (also Lansbury-narrated) actor bios, and can I just say that I completely understand why Ray Bolger is my father-in-law's hero? What an amazing dancer. I can't say Wow! loudly enough.

Strangely, Judy Garland was omitted from the bio line-up. Do you suppose there was nothing they could find for a family-friendly DVD?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


For all the time I spend online (and oh boy, I spend plenty), my inner Luddite holds sway in much of the rest of my life. We have a television, but it's about 12 years old and has no reception, which is extremely deliberate: we restrict our cable service to phone and internet. This means I've been following the debates via friends' tweets, having recently been inspired to start using the Twitter account I set up last Spring.

I gotta say, I think I got everything that was important to get. Anything I missed, I'll pick up on SNL videos tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Patio camping

At kids' services on Saturday, I'm told the kids' service leader read the under-5's this Sukkot story and Z. has been in an ecstasy of living out the details of the book since then.

Last night, we slept in the sukkah. It was Z.'s suggestion but I was the one who made it happen--there aren't many years when it comes together: a warm enough, dry enough night, no guests, and no school for anyone the next day.

Sleeping isn't one of my strengths, and last night reproduced the conditions of both of the two longest consistently bad stretches of sleep I've ever had: the nights I spent in shelters on the Appalachian Trail, and the months in Z.'s second year when I slept close enough to her to touch her and her every twitch had an analog in my dreams.

So it was more of an aesthetic experience than a night of rest. Crickets, airplanes, traffic, a kind of nighttime hum from all the houses around us. The full moon, corona'd with a slight haze. The shadows of the garden on the green walls of the sukkah. The rough surface of the sleeping pad beneath me, the contrast between the warm covers and the cold, moist air. Sleeping with a hat on.

The sukkah is where I use up my tree-trimming energy, so we have a couple of boxes of harvest-y ornaments I've searched out in the after-Christmas sales, and they ringed us in two tiers. Usually I hang them all on the strings of lights that light the sukkah at night, but this year I contented myself with putting up the glass ones and strung up a line of purple cotton yarn at Z.'s level for the wood and metal and dried-gourd ornaments.

She was so serious and careful, making sure there was a green wire on each ornament's loop, hanging them equidistant from each other in each section of the wall. There's so much more her fingers can do now, and so many more things she's considering at the same time.

She needed me to soothe her through her buzzing excitement when we first lay down, and she woke a couple of times in the night. Once she saw I was putting my hat on, and wanted to put hers on. Once she thought she wanted to put the extra t-shirt on I'd brought out just in case she needed another layer, but she changed her mind and decided she just needed to rearrange her covers. Both times she went right back to sleep with no coaxing from me.

Me, I drifted into dreams and back out of them. Our street is eerily quiet at 4:15. A car starting up at that hour echoes strangely. Our three-storey house looms, when seen from the ground twelve feet away.

We woke and pulled on fleeces and sweaters to eat our breakfast in the sukkah: oatmeal, cocoa. A. davenned outside, with lulav and etrog (alas, once again, the etrog smells like wax to me). And then slowly our indoor lives took over again--showers, DVD's. Dishes.

We're sleeping inside tonight, but there is something comforting to me about having touched base again with that kind of halfway-sleeplessness, where my sleep weaves in and out of the night itself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Withs Bees

There was a bee named Beauty who lived with her, Doodle, bees don't really have fathers...well, they don't exactly have mothers either, but closer...okay, so, she lived with her mother in a village of beehives, where her mother ran a bookstore-hive and Beauty helped her. She put the books on the shelves of the hive, and sold them to customers. And took their money, yes. I think they paid in nectar, or something.

One day, Beauty's mother was coming home from a bookfair, and she was so tired from buzzing along hauling those heavy books all that long way, and it was getting dark and cold, and she was looking everywhere for a friendly hive where she could spend the night. She was getting tireder and tireder and then it started to snow and it was so cold! Bees don't like the cold at all. It's very hard for them to fly when it's cold. They just want to huddle up with the other bees in the hive to keep warm, and Beauty's mom was all alone outside and she was so unhappy.

Just then she saw a castle-hive all lit up, and she thought she would just park her bookcart in a dry corner and fly over and see if someone there could help find somewhere warm to stay for the night. She buzzed right up to the door, and guess what? It was open! Just a crack, but enough for a cold, tired bee to fly in.

She called out--okay, she buzzed out--"Hello, is anyone home?" And she looked in every room, but do you know something? No one answered her. So she flew a little farther into the castle, and she found the kitchen, a big, old-fashioned kitchen with a big table in the middle and a beautiful fire keeping it warm. There were dishes of everything a hungry bee could want laid , honey and pollen and nectar all laid out, and a little note saying "You are welcome here! Please have some dinner and there is a couch in the corner where you can sleep tonight." And Beauty's mother looked into the corner, and sure enough, there was a couch with pillows and lovely warm, fluffy blankets, so she ate as much of the lovely bee food as she could and she curled up under the blanket and slept so, so well. But she didn't see anyone at all.

In the morning, she wrote a note thanking her mysterious host, and when she went outside there was a beautiful rose in the garden even though snow and roses are seasonally incompatible, and it made Beauty's mother think of Beauty so she picked that rose to take home to her daughter.

All of a sudden, a huge, big, ugly, scary HORNET-BEAST appeared and GRABBED Beauty's mother by the wrist. Er. Leg.

"I gave you food and a place to stay and you repay me by stealing!" he shouted and shouted, he was so angry. "I'm going to kill you!"

Beauty's mother was so scared, but she was most scared because if the Beast killed her, Beauty would never know what happened.

"I have a daughter who's expecting me to come home today. Will you let me see her first, to say goodbye, so she doesn't always worry about what happened to me?"

The Beast thought that was okay, so they went to Beauty's house, and Beauty was so happy to see her mother and so worried about the scary-looking hornet-beast. Her mother told her what had happened. Beauty got very sad and scared, but also very angry, and she said to the Beast, "Don't kill my mother! All she did was pick a flower! I think you're a very mean beast."

The Beast was very lonely, and he thought Beauty was very nice to look at, so he said "I won't kill her if you come live with me so I can have company and see you every day."

Beauty said okay, even though her mother tried to talk her out of it. So the Beast let go of Beauty's mother and Beauty moved in with him. At first she missed her so much, and she didn't like that scary Beast at all, but then she got to know him more, and she taught him some things, and he learned how to be nice and not to be mean, and they were friends, and her mother sent her lots of letters and visited sometimes, so it was okay.

One day, Beauty got a letter from her mother, saying that her mother was very very sick. Beauty showed the letter to the Beast, and the Beast said "You need to go home to take care of your mother, Beauty. I know that it would be mean to keep you here when your mom is sick," and he pretended that he wasn't sad when he said it, but really he thought that if she went home she would never come back to see him again.

So Beauty went home to her mom, and helped her get better, and when she went back to the castle, the Beast was so happy to see her that he cried. Beauty asked him why he was crying, and he told her that he thought that after she saw her mom she wouldn't want to live with him anymore.

"It's true that I didn't want to live with you when I first came here, but you're my friend and I love you, and I do want to live with you now."

When Beauty said that, the Beast turned from a Hornet-Beast into a regular old bee. A witch that he had been mean to for picking a flower had put a spell on him that could only be broken when someone loved him. That witch didn't think anyone would ever love him, and maybe no one ever would have if he hadn't learned how to love someone himself.

After that, Beauty and the Beast and Beauty's mother lived together in the castle, and they had lots of friends and parties and sold lots of books, and lived happily ever after. The End.

Storyteller's note: I can't tell you how much I hate the story of Beauty and the Beast, with or without bees.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The benefits of a religious education: an occasional series

Last night, A. and I listened from the living room as Z.'s voice drifted down to us in the energetic tones of a storyteller. She was telling Puppy Pie stories. For three hours.

Z. still shares our bedroom so, even if we're tired, we usually wait for her to fall asleep before we go up so that our going-to-bed business won't keep her going, but last night we gave up. We were never going to wait her out, not if we stayed up a million years.

I finished my toothbrushing at midnight and when I turned out the bathroom light and crossed the darkened hall to the darker bedroom, Z. cheerfully informed me that Mommy had fallen asleep. Z. was still zooping along, chattering the way she does at 1pm when it's clear there's not one shred of nap in her that day.

I sat down on her bed and rubbed her back. The tone in her muscles was like a gymnast's about to start a routine.

"Little boo, sometimes when we have a lot of thoughts we're thinking, it's hard to fall asleep, and the thing to do is to fold those thoughts up and put them away."

"I don't want to put dem away!"

"Well, you maybe you could think them one last time, and then say 'Thoughts, I will think you again in the morning,' and then just fold them up and put them away."

"I want to keep thzinking dem! I don't want to fold dem up!"

"Hmmm. Are you having a good time thinking your thoughts?"


"Well, you could dream about your thoughts when you go to sleep, and that would be like your thoughts coming to life while you're sleeping."

"Yeah, yeah! Dat's wright, Mama! Dat's a good idea! I could have a dwream about some pirwates who build a sukkah! I could have a dwream about some BEES who build a sukkah!"

It's like the night before Christmas, when my brother and sister and I couldn't sleep for the excitement of thinking about Santa. Only, it's Sukkot, and wiss bees.

Our sukkah is up now, and lovely. If I can find our camera, I'll take pictures.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

How we arrived at the Apocalypse

Arwen, Els, and Rachel explain why those four horsemen are gaining on your retirement account.

For the original post by Arwen, animatrice extraodinaire, click here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Things are getting worse but I feel a lot better

Five songs in a row by the Counting Crows this morning. I'm not complaining about the Crows; I'm the one who put so much of them on the iPod, it's just that there are times when you pull the thing out of your pocket to make sure it's still on shuffle, you know?

Last year, there was a month or two in there when every. single. time. I did my half-hour walk I could count on the shuffle giving me "Amy Hits the Atmosphere" before it was over. Right now I'm playing through all 485 songs in my nano before I restart it, and Amy came up a few days ago. I think this was the way the iPod elves were trying to remind me of it.

I know we all have these flickers in the random sequence. What are the things that make you suspect your shuffle is controlled by elves?

For Penelope (and everyone else): laughing! yes, I will write up Beauty and the Beast, wiss bees.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yom Kippur 5769

Hi, all--I wrote this yesterday and then thought better of putting it up, because it seemed like I could just WRITE already. But Susan put up a similar post, so I changed my mind.

About this time last year I checked out from this blog, and I've been coming back to it very fitfully. Yom Kippur to Yom Kippur, it was an intensely hard year on several fronts, one I know I'll still be trying to make sense of for years to come. Very little of it was bloggable, some because it was intensely private, and not only for me, and some of it because blogging it could realistically have put me and mine at risk of physical harm. That didn't leave me feeling very free to use this space, but I miss taking the scraps out of my head and spinning them into something to put up in front of the little bitty world. I'm not sure exactly where it's going to take me, but I'm starting November early this year. I may finish early, too--retail season and all that--but I'm hoping it'll be more like I get into a groove I can stick with.

And I hope everyone who fasted had an easy one.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The forest for the trees

The little patch of woods near my house extends about four and a half blocks into the neighborhood and is three blocks wide at its thickest point. On a map, it doesn't seem like much, just a thumb of the larger Big Creek Gorge stuck into my shtetl like the World's Largest Urban Park was looking for a lift to some other metropolis.

But when I'm walking inside it during the months that the leaves are on the trees, I can see nothing but green as I look around, and for forty or more feet above me, just a canopy of foliage.

The past few weeks, they've been cutting down the Norway maples and it turns out a LOT of the trees providing that canopy are Norways. On balance, I'm in favor of removing invasive species, and they've only included about a half-block of the park in this project, so most of my walk is unchanged. It's jarring, though, to come up from the creek and find myself in a logged-out forest, all the leaves on the ground like a dozen blow-downs all in the same place.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Z.: I'm not going to answeuhr da question so da question can answeuhr itseuwf.

Thus it begins

Today I went to a "Kindergarten Tea" with Z. No, she's not going into kindergarten yet, but she will be in pre-K next year, and we have heard mixed things about the pre-K teacher at her school, and there are a goodly number of private schools* that start at pre-K around here.

What is a "Kindergarten Tea," you ask? Well, it's exactly like a college fair, but for preschoolers. It was held in the basement of the Unitarian church, and because of various other things happening in my life today, like rain and grocery shopping and new discipline strategies and snack, by the time we got there, folks were starting to clear up. But there were name tags to fill out and stick on, and banquet tables all around the edge of the room (not a very big room), and sign-up sheets, and professionally assembled information packets, and admissions officers or PTA parents sounding very cheery. In one corner, there were baked goods, and a samovar with tea bags, and cider with clear plastic cups to pour it into. I did manage to put our name down on some mailing lists, and I took a little subversive pleasure in writing "MyFeminineFirstName and A.'sMasculineFirstName OurSharedLastName" on the line for parents...little do they know what they're getting! Yeah, yeah, I know we're far from the first lesbo family for any of these schools, but I do kind of like that we won't particularly stand out on the mailing lists, since in the end we won't wind up being affiliated with most of them. I am all about flying under the radar until I know what the territory looks like.

Anyhow, I expect we will start to get catalogs in the mail in a week or two, and there will be open houses all fall and then applications and admissions visits and oh, lots of stuff to juggle in the coming months, and possibly all of this to do all over again next year.

One thing I did learn: it was a little hard to sort out the guests from the hosts, but it seems that you are supposed to be wearing a black t-shirt and khaki pants if you're either a Quaker-school admissions officer or a Unitarian mom.

*Why private? Long story. I'll tell you sometime if you're interested.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Our spate of dead possums

Tuesday night, A. was taking out the garbage while I was finishing the dishes. She came in with trepidation in her voice.

A.: S.? I think there might be a dead animal in our yard. Like a mouse or a shrew or something.

S.: Where?

A.: Out there, on the walk. In the shadows.

(S. goes out to the patio in bare feet and peers down the darkened walk)

A.: I'll do the rest of the dishes if you take care of it.

S.: Can I wait until morning, when I can see it? (comes back inside) You don't have to do the dishes.

A.: Yes, sure, just so long as I don't have to do it.

S.: This is where my secret butch powers come into play.

A.: I don't think there's anything secret about them. You went to dead animal camp. I went to music camp.

In the morning, there was the usual September getting-ready-for-school oyster carnival, so the dead animal was still there in our path as I was finally ready to drag Z. from the house to school. A dead possum, a young one, larger than a mouse or a shrew, maybe a little smaller than a squirrel (not counting tails.) How to keep her from seeing it? I eyed it from afar. I flicked and pushed and pulled the elements that set the stroller up, and put my three-and-a-half-foot three-and-a-half-year-old into the stroller while still on the patio five stairs above the street. We rolled down the walk until I needed to lift the stroller up and over the remains.

Z.: Why ah you doing dat?

S.: Because there's something on the path. (Returns the stroller to ground)

Z.: What is it?

S.: (Opens gate) A dead baby possum. (Pushes stroller through)

Z.: Why is it dead?

S.: (Lifts 50+ pounds of kid and stroller down stairs.) Something killed it, another animal, you know how some animals eat other animals to live. (Deposits stroller on sidewalk.) It was probably an animal that wanted to eat it.

Z.: But it DIDN'T eat it. (Stroller is rolling towards school.) I thzink it prwobably smelled bad.

S.: I'm sure it does now.

Once home, I used the spade and a Whole Foods bag to deal with the problem. Trash was still on the curb, so I counted my blessing as I deposited the paper bag into the can, and when the garbage truck rumbled in place in front of my house, I had the happy thought that the possum was on its way to return to the earth, and not the earth in our yard, either.

In the bath that night, Z. told me she wanted me to have my arms around her when she died. I told her that one of the special things about mamas and their babies is that whenever the baby dies, even if she lives a long life and she's an old woman when she dies, is that she can feel her mama's arms around her then. Even if her mama has already died, she can feel like her mama is holding her. Z. told me that after we both die, she wants me to hold her.

I promised her that I would.


Hunter Dog has still been taking a suspiciously long time to return to the door when we call her in, and her digestion has not been of the best. Last night she whined me up in the middle of the night to visit the outdoors and this morning I came downstairs to a note on the door from A.

"Hunter Dog has apparently been getting at the possum again. I put it under the big flowerpot in the middle of the patio so Z. wouldn't see it. :(, <3 Thanks! A."

A nest of dead possums? Either Hunter Dog is living up to her name or there's a killer cat on the loose on our block.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Anuddeur one

Can you tell me da stoawie of Beauty and duh Beast, just, wiss bees?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Transitions are not our friends

The beginning of the school year, yeah? Meltdown, meltdown, meltdown. Z. does not do well with transitions, like the ones between taking her pajamas off and putting her clothes for the day on. Or the one between not having a toothbrush in her mouth and having one. And going home? Well, in the time it took us to go from daycare to parking our car on the block, one of her classmates' moms had already walked her kid past our house to The Co-op on the Corner, completed her grocery shopping, and was passing us on the way back to her house. And we still had two more pauses for acting out and discipline before we made it to our gate.

Yeah. We are having some fine, hysterical times around here.

But I do think that Z. gets to the end of the day and she just needs to be hysterical for awhile.

Magpie helped us out today, by giving me the link that led me to this little piece of toddler catnip:

It's the most hilarious thing she's seen in months. She had to watch it twice, of course. And then when Mommy came home, she needed to jump up and down on the furniture for awhile.

Z: I want you to get off dat chair so I can double over wiss laughter.

As I recall, this doesn't last all school year, but it's gonna be a long September.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Halfway to Four

The semi-annual tooth-cleaning of the boo was yesterday, and as it happens, it was also her half-birthday.

We are bopping along in the car on our way to the dentist, listening to a cd a friend of mine put together for me for my own birthday a bunch of months back, and Z. is singing along to the words she can decipher.

Z.: "Happy Birssday..." When I listen to diss I sink dey're singing about me!

S.: Oh yeah?

Z.: Yes, because it's going to be my birssday soon!

S.: Sweetie, your birthday is still a long time away. As long as it's been since your last birthday, that's how long it is until your next birthday. There are a lot of months between now and then, and a lot of holidays first. Your birthday isn't until around Purim.

Z.: Dzat's vewy soon.

S.: Well, it's getting closer every day.

Z.: Dat's TWUE! En den it will be my BIRSSDAY!
1. My uncle once gave me a piece of wood from the petrified forest.

2. Never in my life have I been to Australia.

3. When I was five, I moved away from paradise.

4. High school was the first time I learned about friends leaving me behind.

5. I will never forget the feel of my daughter's head under my fingertips as she crowned.

6. Once I met an irresistible force.

7. There's this girl I know who's having a hard time, and it's twisting me up, too.

8. Once at a bar I saw a bottle fight between two women who looked like your high school gym teacher.

9. By noon I've usually found three different ways my life is a mess.

10. Last night I was asleep before 11:00.

11. If I only had a couple million dollars and a two-family house.

12. Next time I go to shul will be to pick my daughter up from preschool.

13. What worries me most is that I may crash and burn.

14. When I turn my head left I see a mess of books and papers.

15. When I turn my head right I see my fig tree, through the corner of my window.

16. You know I'm lying if I tell you things are fine at the store.

17. What I miss most about the Eighties is working theater tech. Lord help me.

18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I'd be Peter Quince.

19. By this time next year I hope to be financially and emotionally stable. Or pregnant. Right now those sentences appear to be incompatible.

20. A better name for me would be what my family calls me.

21. I have a hard time understanding how my heart works.

22. If I ever go back to school it will be to qualify to teach middle-school science.

23. You know I like you if I have a conversation with you when it's not socially necessary.

24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be my mom.

25. Take my advice: never have a baby and start a business in the same year.

26. My ideal breakfast is full of protein.

27. A song I love but do not have is "Flower."

28. If you visit my hometown, I suggest this tea shop E. and I went to on Saturday.

29. Why won’t people figure out a better way of doing capitalism?

30. If you spend a night at my house, I'll show you the bookstore in the morning.

31. I’d stop my wedding for heat prostration among the main participants. It was hot that day.

32. The world could do without corporate personhood.

33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than its head.

34. My favorite blonde gave me dinner Sunday night.

35. Paper clips are more useful than pipe cleaners.

36. If I do anything well it’s raise Z.

37. I can’t help but stay up late when I've had too much coming at me.

38. I usually cry when I feel like I can't find myself.

39. My advice to my nephew/niece is to be gentle on your mama, getting born.

40. And by the way, that girl who's having the hard time? I miss her right. now.

Monday, August 25, 2008


This is inspired by jo(e)'s latest post, but so loosely and tangentially that it seems silly to put it in the comments there.

At one point in my AT hike, I caught up with my friend Fishdance, who was standing in the middle of the Trail, stock still. (Mo, were you there, too?) There was a large black snake spread all the way across the path several yards ahead. I stopped next to him and we discussed the snake for a second or two. It was big, seriously thick around the middle, and looked perfectly happy to stay there all day. It looked like it had nothing planned at all except to stay there all day. What to do?

Diva Dog, who was usually a little behind me, caught up. We called to her to stop, but it was too late. She passed us in her dog backpack.

Her paw came down on the snake, the pads spreading slightly as if she were stepping on a smooth stone.

The snake's gleaming, muscular body flattened out slightly under her weight.

Her paw came off of the snake.

The snake returned, unchanged and unmoved, to its original shape.

Diva Dog turned and looked back at us, curious about why we were focused on her, why we were stopped, and what we were making all the fuss about. Deciding it was simply her, and delighted at all the attention, she started to move back towards us, still showing no sign at all that she was aware of the snake's presence. Anxious that she not step on the snake again, I stepped across it. We all did. The snake took no action to move out of the way.

Clearly, we had given it no reason to change its plans.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bee stories

For the past two weeks, Z. has been in a phase of wanting bee stories told to her. Bee stories are made up on the spot, and the protagonist is a bee. That's it, those are the rules of the genre in their entirety.

A. and I are getting mightily tired, not to say slap-happy, about the bee stories.

Z: Mama, will you tell me a stoawie about a bee.

S: Once there was a bee who got trapped in a car. Buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzzzzzz. She went all around the car, buzzing at all the windows, and the people in the car got scared the bee was going to sting them. Then a little girl in her carseat told the grownups to roll down the -- do windows even get rolled down anymore?--to put down the, to lower the windows, so the bee flew out. The end.

Z: Mommy, now it's youah teun to tell a stoawie about a bee!

A: (groans)

The benefits of a religious education

Z: Mama, I'm Pharaoh!

S: (opens mouth to speak--)

Z: But I'm not Pharaoh da man!

S: (opens mouth to speak--)

Z: I'm Pharaoh da bunny!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Don't try this at home

Putting that picture up in the last post, I realized I'm in this incredibly ambivalent place about my body. A year ago--well, actually, more than that, I know since I blogged it--Z. identified me as her Big Mama and A. as her Little Mommy.

When we met, A. was a size 10 or 12 and I was a size 12 or 14. We are built roughly the same, and in my deep denial about what had happened to my body over the years of depression, I was still imagining us as basically the same size. A. had crept up to a 12 or 14, it's true. But I was up to a size 20 at the beginning of last summer. I was more than 70 pounds over the weight that was my stable adult weight from high school until well into grad school. I was carrying more than half again the weight that I thought of as "mine," and I was sort of pretending that it wasn't really there. In a way, what the weight did was make my body so foreign to me that it wasn't really there. My body was gone, someone else's had taken its place, and it was all part of the project of my depression: erasing myself from my life, one piece at a time.

Z.'s wake-up call jolted me into realizing that her mother, the mother she loved, the maternal body she took for granted, looked like a stranger to me, and even at the depth of my depression, Z. had been the one part of my life I refused to absent myself from. I didn't want Z. loving someone I couldn't look in the eye in the mirror.

Sugar blues, sugar blues...I began writing down what I put in my mouth during the day, and what I wrote down looked like this:

White flour
White flour
Maybe a little cheese
Whole Wheat Flour and some vegetables

I was going through my day from one sugar hit to the next. I was drugging myself with candy and pastries, basically.

I also wasn't moving my body much. I was walking Z. to school and back only when I didn't get lazy and drive (4 blocks! when I lived downtown, I parked my car five blocks away!). It was the end of May, and I knew even that little bit of walking was going to stop when the school year ended.

I made a commitment to swimming. I changed my diet not by setting out to restrict calories but by considering that I had a pattern of depressive eating that I needed to break, so I broke it. I had some issues with hunger that dated back to my halfway-thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1998, and I finally sat down and had a talk with them.

That talk went like this:
S.: I need to learn how to wait and eat when I'm hungry.
Issues: You can't let yourself get hungry! It will already be too late!
S.: No, I really need to do this.
Issues: You'll get dizzy! You'll get woozy! You might fall over and no one will find you for hours! Days! Weeks! You could DIE!
S.: Actually, I spend most of my day in the same building as a well-stocked refrigerator.
Issues: You do?
S.: Yeah.
Issues: Oh. (pause) You're sure about that?
S.: You need to trust me on this.
Issues: (crossing arms, chin on chest) Hmmph.

By the beginning of last Fall, I'd lost 20 pounds. My weight loss slowed over the past Fall and winter, when I stopped swimming altogether for four months during the bad part of my year, but even so, by Springtime I'd lost another five pounds. I recommitted to swimming at that point because without those endorphins and that time set aside for myself, to think and connect to my body's strength, my depression had bloomed again.

I have finally accepted what growing up in my family should have taught me, only I resisted learning it because it was being offered to me in the guise of lots of competitive sports: I may have the soul of a nerd, but I have the genes of an athlete and my body needs exercise, really probably a lot more exercise than other folks' bodies need. Since April, I've been swimming three times a week, 3/4 of a mile twice a week and a mile at some point on the weekend. I've found that 3/4 is about what I need to hit to reliably shift my mood. I think if I could be swimming a mile daily, I would be doing what I should be. But I'm getting close enough to what I need, now.

I've now lost nearly 35 pounds. I'm down to a size 16, and the 16's are already feeling a little loose. I am proud of that loss, but I'm also uncomfortable about it because I'm doing it against a background of deeply hating what fat has done to my body. There is a fine line between hating the bodily distortion that was part of the escalating cycle of my depression, and hating fat, period, and I fear I am not always on the correct side of it. I'm also very aware that what I'm doing is exactly not the typical weight loss story of restriction, plateau, and bounceback. I was a chubby kid, but was never fat as an adult before this escalation. I have no past history of dieting. During the period of losing weight, I have been doing what the fat acceptance movement calls for to learn to love your fat body: intuitive eating and healthy exercise. Except that I don't love my fat body and I do have a target weight, which is what I shouldn't have because it means my goal is weight loss, not loving my body at its genetic set point.

Only my target weight is (I think) the weight point my body is set for, the weight my body always used to want to be. I have been losing weight steadily for 14 months without much effort only because during the years of depression I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing to override my body's programming. Crappy food and a sedentary lifestyle. Now I'm reversing that. I'm listening to what my body needs and is comfortable with, satisfying that and then letting myself go until I'm hungry again. I'm not as good at thirst, but I've gotten pretty reliable about hunger, and feeding myself what I need, when I need it, and stopping when I'm done with hunger, before I feel uncomfortable.*

One of the greatest reliefs of where I am now is that the bones of my face are less padded, so my features are clearer than they were a year ago. When I look in the mirror, I recognize myself again. Thank god, thank god, thank god. I hated seeing a bloated stranger in the mirror. My face was the last part of me to show the fat as I put it on, and it's been the first part to re-emerge. But in some ways, that makes the strangeness of my body in pictures even stranger.

How is it that I still look like that?


*(So's y'all understand my complicated eating history a little more: hiking the Trail, I needed so many calories that eating to the point of discomfort was necessary. I only fired up my stove twice a day--what I ate then needed to last. I was trying to maintain my weight during my hike, so on top of those two big meals, and I was eating 6 candy bars a day and chowing down in town--typical meal, a pizza, a pint of Ben and Jerry's and I would be raving with hunger again in an hour--and I still lost five pounds during those 2.5 months.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Learning about erosion

After I threw a little sulk about how I have become invisible in our family pictures since Z. became independently mobile and left my arms (hard to take a picture of the baby without her mother when her mother's carrying her), A. has started taking more pictures of me.

Learning about erosion

In the local woods, looking at the erosion-containment efforts of the park commission. I'm the one with the grey taking over her hair, almost halfway to her weight goal.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Missed opportunity

Tossed over the phone line that stretches across the last block I drive before I park for therapy: womens' knee-high, white, vinyl, platform, lace-up boots.

Gone now.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What was up in NJ yesterday?

Driving home on the turnpike last night, a little more tired than was wise, with the music up loud to keep my senses going. At about exit 10 fireworks appeared above the tree strip off to the right, sparks tumbling in every sloppy direction, untidy but festive. Hunh, I thought. Somebody's having a fair, maybe.

Four or five songs later--let's say 20 miles--another rocket lifted into the sky far ahead of me, fizzling, a dud, but by the time I reached that spot on the highway, another went off, proud, high, a red sphere inside a yellow circle, and then I was past, aiming for exit 6 and the bridge across the Delaware, sleepy and puzzled, no one to ask.

Just passing through.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hiking: snacktime


True queerspawn: I bought her the necklace at Lambda Rising.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Through the eyes of the young

Four comments! That's four more than I deserved, after neglecting this blog so long. I'm so glad you're all still reading...I've turned into a serious lurker out there in Greater Metropolitan Blogland, but I am still reading along.

This was the scene Sunday night: A. and I were in DC, driving home not too late after going out to eat for our anniversary. We were at a light on a street well known for being home to lobbyists, windows partway down because it was a pleasant night for a change.

A car full of college students--well, young men, but they struck me as college students--pulled up in the lane next to us, loud music rolling out of every open window like every stereotype you have of black men in their twenties, except somehow more scholarly. I'm not that good on car types, but I guess it was the kind of car that made me think, "studious kids." Still, I turned my eyes back into my car when theirs came to a stop, but eye contact happened first. Briefly, but it was enough.

The young man in the passenger seat proceeded to make a big bid for my attention. I kept my eyes on the light.

Finally he resorted to hollering this out into the K Street night:

"Slightly overweight white woman! I know you aren't going to look at me! But I'm smart, and I'm Nigerian, and I am very drunk!"

Monday, July 7, 2008

This blog ain't dead yet

...though I admit it's in a lingering state of suspended animation.


We went on vacation to a rural place a good deal farther south than we live, and far, far more tied to the military in its culture.

Best fireworks I've ever seen in my life, and I grew up in Washington, DC, a mile from the Capitol.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Allegheny Tuscarora Kittatinny Blue

...and I have been home now for a week without Annoying Dog. I'm not yet recovered from the drive (20 hours of interstates in two days) but I'm getting there. I no longer wake up to barking. I no longer enter the room to barking. I no longer live through an hour of barking before dinnertime. I don't need to do canine hierarchy management when I walk down stairs or through halls.

It has been like the story where the rabbi tells Joseph to bring the cow, the goats, and the chickens into his tiny, tiny house, and then finally tells him to kick them all out. It is so quiet in my house I feel like I'm floating. It feels like we've added several feet to every dimension of every room.

There are only two more days of the Daycare Relocation Carpool to get through, too. I'm hoping that the end of the commute will have a similar effect on time in my life, but somehow I'm not as hopeful.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blue Kittatinny Tuscarora Allegheny

Things I learned today:

There are double bathroom stalls on the PA Turnpike that have a full-size toilet and a toddler-size one, and a changing table. (Yeah, I thought that was cool, too.)

A person can get very wet under the gas pump awning.

The midwest is closer than I think.

My hair does extraordinary things when it halfway dries during a downpour and then heavy Ohio wind whips it up around and over my head to finish the job.

I can happily listen to The New Pornographers' Challengers cd six times in a row.

There is a family who already loves Annoying Dog and is happy to have her.

It is possible to be so nice to me that I cry.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The headline that made me subscribe to the Onion

When we lived in Madison, we picked it up on the corner every week, but The Onion has yet to arrive in Philly. I grabbed a copy when I was home in DC over the weekend and just got around to looking at it.

"Everything Falling Apart, Reports Institute For Somehow Managing To Hold It All Together"

Yeah. I need me some of that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earworms, almost

This was in my head all weekend. Only the CAKE version, but this is the classic.

Now this is in my head.

(Sorry, couldn't find M. Ward.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Union Maid

Phone call today:

"Hello, this is your union calling you"

It was a computer. I'm in Pennsylvania. The primary is tomorrow. I hung up.

Seeing as how I'm a small-scale capitalist by trade, I'm not in a union, but A. is. So if it was my union calling me, I guess the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has opened up a Ladies' Auxiliary.

Cool, hunh?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gimme that cookie

We are at the dining room table. We are eating passover cookies, the almond kind with the almond on top, and the raw paste in the middle. Z. is surrounded by the remnants of cookies that have their almonds removed and their centers eaten out.

Z.: I know how to take dat off. (Reaches across to my plate and takes my cookie.)

Z. removes almond from top of cookie and hands it to me.

Z.: Here you go. You can eat dis.

Z. proceeds to bring my cookie to her mouth.

S.: Hey! (S. snatches cookie from her child's mouth.) You can't just take my cookie off my plate!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Quick, what's the weather forecast?

Z. got some new boots this week. They are purple, with white daisies on them, and just like when she got her ruby slippers, she had to get out of bed once and put her boots on to clomp to the top of the stairs and ask for water. Apparently having cool new shoes makes her too excited to sleep, and very thirsty.

I let her wear them to school Wednesday (the first day she was at school after she got them), but not yesterday. "Only if it rains, or we go down to the creek," I said, in my best mom-lays-down-the-rules voice.

This morning she woke up and said "Is it supposed to rwain today? After school, I want to go down to da cwreek."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Thank you, everyone, for a great birthday

Last year I complained in this space about having a distinctly so-so birthday. This year, I had a really wonderful birthday.

To everyone responsible, thank you. At a time when I have mostly been thinking about what a hash I've made out of my life, you all made me feel loved.

(Also, Facebook's birthday reminder function is pretty darn cool.)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Secrets in my house

Z. and A. are standing two feet from me.

Z.: Mama, I didn't tell you about da prwesents. I just told you I was telling *Mommy* about da prwesents.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New York City, there we were

We took a mid-week, one-night trip to New York last night to see a showing of some films. It was only Z.'s second time ever seeing a movie in a theater--her first time was last week, when we pulled her out of school early to see a matinee showing of a documentary about a kid we know from our neighborhood. She hasn't quite got the whispering thing down.

Here is something that might happen to you if you raise your child to be polite and to respect privacy by asking first. You might be in a quiet theater and she might ask to sit on your lap. And then she might ask if she can hold your breast.


On our way to the car and home, I had the rolly bag and A. was herding Z. In the gutter of the driveway in front of the faculty housing where we were crashing: a bird's head, walnut-brown, long-beaked, red at the neck where it was severed. I bumped the bag up onto the sidewalk and went a few paces. I turned and waited to see what would happen when Z. got to the same place: would A. see it in time and head her off? But if I pointed it out, Z. would certainly see it.

Neither of them noticed it. I left it at that.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Life and Woods

Back in the middle of December, I took a walk in the woods on a Saturday in the middle of the day, not my usual time and not my usual day. The woods were a very different place from what they usually are for me early on a weekday morning: there was a whole pack of people attached to a five year-old's birthday party, who were searching out snacks and party favors secreted in different corners of the path. There were friends to greet and people I didn't know greeting each other and stopping to talk at length. There was, improbably, a cyclist on a mountain unicycle, who stopped at the end of footbridge as I sat at my place on the bank, and bounced in place three times to hop onto the bridge. There were no birdwatchers and not nearly so many dog walkers, and on the two blocks I walk to and from the woods, there were far more people hurrying to the co-op and milling around the cafe.

One of the people I met that December day, at the beginning of my walk, was the artist who made this installation. She's not someone I know well, but she's a good friend of our neighbors-through-the-wall, and I knew her slightly when I had my first-ever full-time teaching gig, a quarter-long leave replacement I did nine years ago, at the same time I moved to this neighborhood. Neither of us has been at the school for years--it was not a school that was good for the soul--and since I was just a long-term sub with far shorter hair and far less weight on my frame, I'd be surprised if she remembered me from then, but I tend to hang on to details like that.

That day, we stopped and talked for the first time since we were both at that soul-strangling school, me because I hadn't yet said anything to her about the installation even though I had blogged about it, she because, well. She was grieving intensely and freshly, she needed to talk to everyone there was to talk to. She told me her husband had died the very day after the installation went up. He'd had cancer for months, but it was the chemotherapy that killed him, so it was in fact sudden, and the installation took on a meaning she hadn't expected it to have.

After I talked to her I went to those papier mache trees, melting and disintegrating into the loamy earth, and I watched the birthday party making its way through the live, leafless, hibernating trees, and I went home and revised the post I'd written a month earlier, adding a final sentence.

Today, A. and I took Z. to the woods after a naptime that we grownups had used to wear ourselves out with talk. Z. bopped along the path, wearing her Queen Esther crown, making up games, jumping over roots and picking up sticks and futilely commanding us to stop. At the footbridge, Z. ran from one end to the other while I sat and listened to the water in the creek. When A. was too cold to stand around anymore, we ventured down to the creekbed to pluck a dirty plastic bag from the rocks ("We did a mitzvah forw da wateuh!") and made our way home.

On our circuit of the woods, I made a detour to the site of the installation. The papier mache is gone. The ground is exposed, still dark and loamy. Five young oak trees are planted in a circle.

Edited: the artist has a lovely site up about the work, but I don't want to link and show up on such a well-publicized neighborhood site. But if anyone wants to see it, drop me an email,, and I'll send it to you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What to do with this blog

I've been stuck on this blog for awhile now. Well, maybe you noticed. I'm not sure who I'm writing for, or why, and I'm not even quite sure what it is I was doing when I was writing more. Was it therapy? Was it art? Was it loneliness?

I lost my groove because I got more depressed, and I got really really scared, and my life got far too messy to be setting forth in front of strangers. Things are a little better now. But I'm not sure how to get back into writing.

The one idea I have so far for a new thing to be doing with the blog, if it happens, it ain't gonna happen this week. So I'm making my unofficial hiatus official for a week so that I can take blogging off my list of things I'm thinking about consciously.

Be back in a week.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Introducing the Pants Boss

I think that last one has been up long enough, don't you?

Co made a late comment I want to respond to here instead of burying it: Co, I can't imagine going through something like this, let alone something objectively worse, on a date that other people were always reminding me of--you have heaps and heaps of my sympathy. I also think you're right--as so many other people suggested--that having more layers of good associations with the date will help me. This was only the third time it's rolled around since it happened, after all. But I'm also thinking that knowing the anniversary was going to come in its inevitable time helped me contain the story more this year than I have the previous two years. Knowing I was going to open that box up no matter what let me leave it closed for longer, if that makes sense.

So in the spirit of both adding happy layers and closing the box up again, here are some joyful things that have come along with the arrival of the birthday:

An inundation of grandparents, a birthday cake, a Glinda snowglobe, a pair of ruby slippers, a wand, an inchworm riding toy, a puzzle, some videos, a toy Muppet, a scooter, some crayons for drawing on windows, and (preparing her for her future life of peonage in the family-owned retail business) a cash register. She has played with each of her presents intensely and happily and frequently in the past 48 hours. Three is an age when most things are interesting, but I also think that the relatives just did a good job of getting her and meeting her where she's at.

Her birthday night, she got out of bed twice expressly in order to put on her ruby slippers. Normally if she gets out of bed, she just pads to the top of the stairs, but Sunday night she donned her shoes and her witch hat and outfitted herself with her new flashy purple wand before inquiring after a drink of water.

Here are some other things that have followed in the wake of three: she chooses her own pants now, in the morning--I figure it doesn't matter to me what pants she wears so long as they match her shirt, more or less, and I still get final say in her shirt. Of course she started by choosing the purple ones.

She has jumped to wearing big girl pants, even to school. I'm holding my breath, I really am, because she is still fighting us way too much on way too many trips to the potty, but suddenly she loves the big kid pants and she's doing what I've known she could do if she wanted to, which is pay attention and keep them dry, and she has been dry for two days straight now. Not overnight, she's still in a diaper overnight, but even for naps.



The Binky Fairy came to our house.

On the night after her birthday, we had a binky hunt. I distributed our binky stash so that there was one in every place that a binky tends to be left in our house: the sideboard in the dining room, the kitchen counter, the side of Z.'s bed, the edge of the sink. Z. and I took a basket and we hunted down all of the binkies, each and every one (there were 8, not including the one in her mouth) and she put them under her pillow (but not! the one in her mouth--until she exchanged it for the only purple one). When A. went to bed, she collected all the binkies and put them in a safe place (my underwear drawer) and in their stead she left a purple Kermit the Frog shirt of magnificent fabulousness.

Now Z. has a binky when she's sleeping or when she's riding in the car (but not when she has a friend in the car). And that's it. She misses her binky. She really, really wants a binky in her mouth, especially in the morning when she gets out of bed. It is clear that we have an addict and she's jonesing. But she's also doing it.

In the space of two days, she is transformed. No binky, no diaper butt. She has been tall for her age for ages (I'm 5'5", and her head is almost at my waist) but all of a sudden since Sunday, she has stopped looking like a baby.

I'm proud as hell.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Trauma, trauma everywhere

Hey all, Z. was born at 2:02 am on March 2, 2005. Seventy-five hours.

I'm gonna write youall a cheery "Now we are three" birthday party kind of post, but you'll have to come back for it tomorrow.

That day, her very first birthday, was the worst day of my life and A.'s, so far. The celebration, the amazement of her arrival, the jubilant end of the long labor nightmare, that sense that we had arrived at the far shore and could triumphantly collapse in its safety: that all lasted 20 minutes, until Z. passed out at my breast while her footprints were being taken.

After they took her from me, after they resuscitated her, after I had reached my hand into the isolette to say goodbye, after they wheeled her from the room and I didn't know where in the hospital the NICU was, after the door closed behind her, what I thought was: "so much for that pregnancy."* Not even "so much for that baby," because I hadn't held her long enough for her to seem real to me, really outside me.

For the first five days of her life, Z. was attached to machines and sedated to the point that initially her eyes rolled back in her head. This was all because of the misdiagnosis (seizure) that was offered to explain her agonal breathing. The breathing trouble was clearly was life-threatening, but it just as clearly ended with no lingering effects. A partially obstructed airway was what she actually had, and a correct diagnosis would have meant no need for a level 3 NICU. But a seizure diagnosis did mean a level 3 NICU, and that meant Z. left the hospital where I birthed her, and seven hours before the earliest moment I was permitted to release myself.

NICUs save lives, I'm totally clear on that, but my baby's life and health were never in danger while she was in a NICU. Maybe that's why I'm also totally clear that NICU's are in the business of separating you from your child and they believe it's for your child's own good, so they set out to convince you of the same thing at the moment when you are least confident of your ability to parent or your identity as a parent, if this is your first pregnancy, and your body is yearning, physically aching to be with your baby.** It is a godawful way to begin parenting. The hospital has your child, and the hospital decides the hoops that must be jumped before your child is given back to you, and the hospital doesn't always tell you what those hoops are, and the hospital reserves the right to change the hoops without bothering to tell you they've been changed until days later, and the nurses call you "Mom" like that word means you're four years old.

I frequently make the Freudian slips "when Z. died," or "Z.'s death" when I am talking about something that happened at Z.'s birth. That was what it felt like. Being home with my wrecked body and my wrecked emotions and no baby and no real idea when I would have the baby, leaving the hospital without her day after day, she began to recede from me just the way she vanished from me when the isolette left the labor and delivery room. I was sort of stupefied that relatives were celebrating this event that felt like a trainwreck to us.

My best friend was my hospital grade breast pump, and I sort of mean that non-ironically. Pumping gave me a way to feel like I was connected to Z, even when she wasn't being permitted to drink it yet. It was something I could do as a mom when we weren't with the baby, it organized my hours and my days, it was measurable. I could see I was getting better at the lactating thing, at least, and I could even control it to some extent, with fenugreek tea and massage to get my let-down going, though the pressure to keep up with hospital feeding protocols during the three days Z. was transitioning to breastmilk threatened my sanity more than anything but the initial separation.

When the nurse said "Mom? There's a problem with your breastmilk," moments before the protocol was set to start and Z. was going to have my milk for the first time, you can imagine how hard I hit the roof. When it was all untangled, it turned out that some other baby's urine tested positive for marijuana, but that baby's sample was labeled with Z.'s name. (The clincher in our favor? That urine sample didn't test positive for barbiturates. Which it should have. If it were Z.'s.)

I wouldn't say that moved me from disintegration to ferocity, because I was still plenty disintegrated, but it at least let me understand that I could dredge up another response to the circumstances. And the circumstances permitted more responses: once she was fully on breastmilk, the wires and electrodes started disappearing. We started asking the doctor and PA who knew us best what it was the staff was looking for to feel comfortable releasing Z. to us. While the answers still shifted around some, they all focused on X or Y staying the same as the barbiturate left her bloodstream.

But really the answer lay elsewhere, because in the end, the unit, which had been half-empty when Z. was admitted, started to fill up again, and someone saw no reason for a normal, sedated baby to be there when there were quads and twins arriving on the same day. Z. left the hospital at one week old with clinical levels of phenobarbitol still in her system, a drug that had last been given to her five hours after her birth.

My mother returned to stay with us Z.'s first days home, and when the baby cried in the night, the next morning she told us what a relief it was to hear it. And it was.

*At the time I had that thought, the pregnancy wasn't, in fact, over, because the placenta was still inside me. After 75 hours my labor shut down prematurely. You know how in childbirth class they tell you that your body's adrenaline can stop or slow labor? Well, even with the Pitocin drip in my arm opened all the way up, I wasn't having another contraction. While we waited to hear word about Z. from the NICU, my midwife extracted the placenta manually.

Beats twiddling your thumbs.

**Which is not a particular yearning that you get back when the kid turns three. Alas.