Saturday, December 28, 2013

Xmas with Parents, not Children (a long post)

How was it, you ask?  How was your Christmas?

First, let me say that I am writing from Vancouver's airport, waiting for a 7 am flight that has been delayed to 8 am: another travel day off to a stellar start.  This while the nervous sweat in my armpits is still drying out after the drive here, chauffeured swervingly by my father (still heavily bandaged after the surgery that amputated two fingers on his right hand, seemingly blind in the dark, and afflicted, like so many of the 80+ set, by the conviction that 40 kmh is close enough to the posted speed limit of 100kmh).

My Christmas was so bad, so bad, I am going to transcribe here the terrible poetry I wrote about it.  I will lose the 3 readers I have, and I will be sad about that.  But that's how bad it was.  So bad my judgement is even worse than usual.  So bad that even though I know I am not Michael Ondaatje, I imagine the lines below through the filter of his excellent writing and delude myself (well, not quite), about their passability.

In case it's not clear: being away from my children over Christmas was devastating, damaging, punishing.  In the cold neon light of the airport I can joke a little, but this may take some time to recover from.  This is an experience which is indeed like an injury and all the more confusing because 1) it is so terribly painful and 2) it results directly from decisions I made, and is thus self-inflicted.

I want the depth of grief to add up to something, to mean something, to be convertible into some good outcome.  (It's also tempting to try to do deals with the gods "if I never have to feel this bad again I will be the best mother, I will be the best person, I will perform endless acts of charity.")

Here're the two poems.  It's unlikely I will regularly post poetry, so it may be safe to come back to momosyllabic in a week or so. (Bonus for those who scroll to the bottom of this post: a picture of my three fingered father.)

Christmas in Vancouver

The lights on the ski slope at Grouse Mountain hang in dark distance
like a spangled fishing net thrown up from the coast into the mountain's pines.
My heels slip in cold earth.  I walk along King George Highway.
Dripping air.

But the hearth fire I've carried here in my chest
is out of control
two young blond heads I cannot sniff
too far to kiss them
too long from them.

I walk as one burning,
becoming fossil dark
in orange flame
and smoke tears.

something will be left
some frame
some architecture desolate of flesh?

(And I miss you too, love--
hard as shock--
the worst realized here
in having
neither you nor my children near me)

Come, time--
over this raze--

Stumble on to an uncertain future.


And then there's one more, just as mediocre (even more melodrama!)

December 26

So low I'm under

I see it all from below
people            past

I lean back into

everything above,

the people I love

walk past over me.


And now: take a look at my father!  7 weeks out from surgery.  Only three fingers on his dominant hand, and still a goofball.  Go Pappa.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What the astrologer said

The assemblage of random allusions below is what happens when you try to glean something from reading everybody's horoscope for the week (thank-you Rob Brezsny for the wide/ wild range of psychology, poetry and art).

"Life is best organized as a series of daring ventures from a secure base," wrote psychologist John Bowlby.


Pussycat Interstellar Naked Hotrod Mofo Ladybug Lustblaster! | Derrick Brown

pussycat interstellar naked etc etc.

how silly i get.
how lost and silly i get
unravelling my fingers
to where your arms connect.

i come to your body as a tourist.
endless rolls of black and wine film in my fingertips
documenting the places that change your breathing
when touched with the patience of glaciers retreating drip by drip.
it reverses your breath back into the places
that trigger subtle curls in your purple painted toes.

the breaths are not worth hundreds of sparrows
they are worth all the gray air sparrows die and wander in

there are things about you i collect and sell to no one.
i journal them in a book you gave me with the inscription,

'don't leave your ribcage in the icicle air. something will break.'

i wrote about the courage my hand would need
aiming down the worn comfort of your hair,
hang-gliding across the summer slits of your winter dress,
searching the perfection in your rock-and-roll breasts,
stealing the heat off the drug of your stomach.

let me die a White Fang death
trembling on the snow and linen of your shoulder blades.

i want to buy you a black car
in 66 shades of black
to match the wandering walls of your heart
filled with the mysteries of space and murder in space.

let me spend my days on the shores of abalone cove island
collecting bottles that wash ashore
and burning the messages inside
to fill them with new messages like
"send more coconuts" or
"send more coconuts and wild boar repellant. i'm re-reading lord of the flies." or
"wow, I'm actually on an island. please send my five favorite albums.
i've already built a Victrola out of sand and eel poo-poo.
It's the MacGuyver in me. this volleyball won't shut up."

i will float the armada of messages towards the atlantic
and wonder if a pale girl in new york spends time at the shore.

i will wonder if she can see the stars i carved our initials into
when I got sick and weightless.

lay in bryant park and look hard into the air.
your last initial isn't up there
for it is worthless to me
since i had dreamed of changing it.

this is the love of mercenaries.
i'd kill an army of sleeping cubans for the rum desires
in the clutch of your tongue.

touche to your lips!
touche to your way!
touche to your ass!

you are an electric chair disguised as a la-z-boy recliner
and i find comfort in you.

my clear bones take shape in the mouth of glassblower with asthma
for there is no perfection in me
but maybe clarity.

crush me with the satisfaction of your black misted, unclocked breath.
i always come back to the secrets and wonder of your breath.
It is something for sparrows to wander in.

it's not that i wait for you
it's that
my arms are doors i cannot close.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I should be grading

But instead I am planning the parade.  What parade, you ask.

Well, remember the Apartment I live in when I'm not at the kids'  House?
Right.  Well.  It has a cupboard, with a weird flap . . . in which I have argued there is a tunnel leading to the Cat Goddess.
The Cat Goddess sends the kids treats on the nights I am here, and I deliver them the next day when I pick the kids up from school.

For Xtide/ the Solstice, there will be a parade to and from the Cat Goddess that I will film/ photograph for the kids.

There will be some serious trompe d'oeil going on, if my artistic skills bear muster.

I am planning.

It is much more fun than grading.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Comportment Dilemmas

Option A:
(just used this one)
Insist everything is Fine, despite food on sleeve, hair in disarray (on grounds that if one is able to pretend everything is fine, it's probably close enough to get by on).

Option B:
Cry, or yell publicly, or fall asleep with mouth open while drooling, or faint dramatically (to see if sympathy can be garnered from some quarter and/or, more interestingly, to see what will happen if I openly manifest an inability to look after myself?  Possibly nothing much).

Option C:
(for later)
Responsibly, silently, alertly, professionally, uncryingly grade essays in office with view onto a grey stone wall and wonder if the sun will come up tomorrow as Annie so plangently promises in her lyrics.

Option W:
(now) Go for a walk, dammit.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ways to make your back hurt

1) Indulge the 40 pound child who is afraid of the ice (Winton) and carry him to school. (Wednesday)

2) Indulge the 40 pound child (Winton) who wants to be held and snuggled . . . but then, when you reach to pick him up, jumps to land in your arms as you are hunched over in a most back-unfriendly posture. (Thursday)

3) Carry that still cowardly 40 pound child to school another morning. (Friday)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sleeping Son

It's been a long while since Winton came to sleep with me.  I've always loved having Winton sleep in my bed.  He's a snuggly boy.  Soft and huggy. Affectionate.  He's getting older; I am often not at the House overnight: the end is nigh for this pleasure.  Perhaps the end is already past.  The boy is, after all, very nearly five. (Five!  But they still snuggle until at least twenty-five, right?  I'm going to want to snuggle with that child when he's forty, paunchy and balding.  He's going to have to deal with it.)

Anyway, last night I was at the House overnight, and Winton arrived at the side of my (small, single) bed hopping with agitation about a nightmare involving being scratched by our affectionately feral cat Pepita (possibly that had actually just happened and wasn't a nightmare at all-- Pepita does like to curl up with her boy, kinda aggressively).

Into bed the boy hopped, as if it were a year ago (when such nocturnal visits to my bed were pretty typical).  In the dark I could see him smile, the apples of his cheeks plump with pleasure.  For about ten minutes we were both very happy.  Then we both tried to fall asleep, and there were too many elbows/knees/feet in the bed and sleep was uneasy at best and that cat of his followed him and tried to sleep perching on my head so as to be close to him.

He's big now, that boy.  He's also strong.  While asleep, he repeatedly checked that I was still in bed with him (sweet), which he did by slapping the pillow, and/or my face, with his palm flat and hard (not so sweet).

At 6AM we had a conversation:
Me: "It was nice to snuggle with you, Winton.  Did you get any sleep?"
Winton: "A little bit, but not a lot."
Me: "Maybe you sleep better in your own bed."
Winton: [Nodding, while shifting position to better nudge Pepita off the bed with his hip]

Monday, December 9, 2013


I am fortunate to know folks who are creative.  I know someone (American) who writes as an Albanian in translation.  I know a couple of short story writers.  I know a poet.  I know people who can bake, and cook. I know people who can pick up instruments and make music good enough to sing with or dance to.

These people make stuff out of thin air; they turn ideas into things you can read, or see or hold or eat or hum.

Magicians, the lot of them.

Snow day today: kids home slightly sick, and cranky.  The snow is actually muddy mush, unsuitable for sledding or snowballs.

My creative friends, I am channelling each one of you for help.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Burning up on re-entry

I spent two days of the Thanksgiving weekend camping.
(Camping!  Near a beach!  On November 29 and December 1!)

 There were wild ponies, there was woodsmoke, there was coffee made on a camp stove, there was even a long long stretch of sandy beach against which blue-tinged water crashed.  It was pretty idyllic.

There were, however, no children.  And missing them was like having a frantic and toothy rodent living inside my gut for those two days. 

On rearrival at the House, having missed the children so badly, I was assaulted by Clara's need to have me knit for her on tiny needles with delicate yarn. (My fingers were still sausagey from the cold and twig gathering, so this was a significant challenge).  Winton ignored me.  And I felt teary-eyed.

Inside was too hot, and re-entry was too emotionally scorching as well.

Transitions to and from the House where my children live are terribly hard.

Is it best to handle these transitions the way people with dogs handle introductions between their canines (outside somewhere, where everyone is on neutral territory)?  Having played outside somewhere maybe then all residents can move indoors with greater ease?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Swimming Pool Changing Room

Winton: "Mommy, your naked butt is like a big white TV for ghosts."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blessed is the Dirty Bathtub

Blessed are they who have a bathtub to clean and a Morcheeba cd, for they will do something useful with their evening, and will not drink too much wine, and will not think too much.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

And the point of it all is . . . ?

Hi Fans and Other Readers,

In the overpopulated world of mommyblogging, this one interjects at the intersection of humor (the kids I love do funny things) and schadenfreude (wherein you guys get to laugh at me).  Other people do an excellent job of precisely this (dooce, especially before she really got her shit together, or Jenny Lawson).  Clever people encode their children's names (Belgian Waffle): I wish I'd done that.  Still.  Here's today's disclosure:

Inscrutable humor, Clara and Winton's

C: "Winton!  What did one hotdog say to another hotdog?"
W: [long pause]
C:  [expectant silence]
W: "Toothpaste!"
both: shrieking laughter.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Referring sites: fail

Someone found their way to momosyllabic via some site called "coping with a cheating husband."  Well.  I bet they were disappointed when they arrived here . . .

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Better Dream

And THEN over the weekend I dreamt of a quaint Viennese town c. the 1800s in which the horsedrawn carriages featured horses whose rear halves were invisible.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dreams for the therapist

1)  I dreamt Clara got left in a stranger's car on a road-trip.

2) I dreamt I had both children in my car but couldn't drive it properly and we veered off route and wound up coasting to a stop in a dangerous place in which a red haired woman with a moustache and a cigarette told me I was useless but needed to stick around to look after the children.

And, in real life, Clara and Winton discussing yesterday what they would do if I died.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I love the crows that migrate through Baltimore every fall.

They remind me of being a graduate student in Kingston, Ontario.  I had a tiny office in Stauffer library, with a small window which looked out into the branches of an oak tree.  In November, the sky would be the colour of the inside of an oyster shell, the tree would be black and stark, and the crows would mill through the sky cawing.

Here the skies are slightly more colourful in November, the temperatures not quite as cold, the trees still possessed of some scant, and bright (red, yellow) foliage, but the crows loom and wheel and yell to each other in the sky, especially at dusk.

Murders of crows.  Best part of the season.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Is it me, or?

Yesterday I re-entered life at the house at 3pm after an 18 hour spell away from it.  I was greeted by: a Peanut Butter Leaf Pony Party, staged in my room.  Then the children fought with each other.  Then Clara burst into tears and fled to the basement. Then we had a nice dog walk together.  Then another temper tantrum (collective).  Then Daddy returned.  This morning, instead of groceries with Daddy, the kids came to the gymn with me to play at kids' club, and allegedly hated every moment of it, even the watching of Scooby Doo.

I am now writing here, while the children play with cars in the (dark) living room despite the bright sun outside.   I'm hiding.

Two theories:

1)  Disturbing the weekend routine which usually involves me being with the kids on Friday night and Saturday, but away Saturday night and Sunday (meaning Saturday night and Sunday are Daddy Time) was a disaster.

2) Halloween hangovers last for longer than a day, and compounding them with a time change is a disaster.

Clara just came upstairs to request an outing to the backyard to "scoop dog poop and weed": sounds great.  This is progress?

In other news, Winton thinks his food preferences are changing with age ("Mommy!  My taste buggers are changing!")

Off we go to the rank poop field known as our back yard.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Kinda Embarassed: Clara

Clara: "Well, Mummy.  I have a secret to tell you but it's kind of embarassing."
Me: [?]
Clara: "I have a boyfriend"
Me: [??]
Clara: "But he doesn't know, and it's a secret."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Swimming Pool Games: Winton

Mommy!  Mommy!  Let's play Baby Policeman Seahorse again!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Inexplicable Customs

Also this week I attended Winton's school's field trip to a pumpkin patch.
Hallowe'en is an exciting time, what with the pumpkins and the promise of much candy to come.
But it's hard to get a straight answer from anyone about why we do these things (Ok sure, ghoulish things around an old festival for departed spirits . . . but why the candy?).

I wound up driving there with a new parent and her daughter, both from Burkina Faso, both only in the US for 3 weeks, and both only speaking French.

Trying to explain with inadequate vocabulary and a complete inability to conjugate verbs into the correct tenses left me telling this poor woman something about kids and faces on pumpkins  . . . baffling.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Volunteering at the Elementary School for recess, lunch and library

Oh sure, you say: pick a day when the weather is gorgeous to stand on the playground.  Tss.  Piker.
Shut up.
At least I went.

Things I learnt on the playground:

1) everyone is obsessed with those rainbom loom bracelet band things
2) even the boys
3) you can make the bracelets on your fingers
4) little girls are very bossy teachers when there's a parent trying to learn how to make a bracelet out of tiny elastic bands on her (massive, sausagey) fingers.

Also: lunch rooms are very sticky.

And libraries can be, like my bookshelves at home, arranged as much according to the librarian's inner logic as by the dewie decimal system.

I'm smug about the elasticy bandy necklace I just made for my son though.  I'm enjoying a brief shining moment of understanding the zeitgeist of the under sevens.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Carrying Too Much Stuff

I carry around a large backpack every day.  It contains: a laptop; my purse (with wallet weighted down by nickels and pennies); a large nalgene water bottle, my lunch (generally in a heavy glass pyrex container), a binder for miscellaneous papers, a notebook, a datebook, my ancient cellphone, a million pens, and a cache (large) of sanitary supplies because you just never know.  Also often: yoga clothes, children's toys and the childrens' snacks for school pick up.  Combined weight: probably 30 lbs or so.

The kids' father carries around a bookbag.  Contents: I don't know in detail but the bag is heavy.  Probably 30 lbs or so of books.

Today Clara went to "work" in DC with her father for the day, and packed her own backpack.  Contents: a 300 page volume about James Audobon which she can't read (it's a textbook) but whose pictures she is fond of; two blankets, several soft toys, all of her Pete the Cat books, a shoe box full of My Little Ponies and a pillow.  Weight: too heavy for a little girl.

That apple didn't fall from the tree, did it?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Parenting Sloganeering: a homework assignment in the style of Grade One

It's not a competition.
It's not about me.
It's my issue.
It's a marathon not a sprint.

Draw lines between the above and the below to match each slogan up with the topic to which it applies:

parenting (vis-a-vis other spouse or other parents)
parenting (vis-a-vis defensiveness, guilt, anxiety, fear or loss)
parenting (follow through)

Prizes for most correct responses, and most inventive ones.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


It's a weird thing to miss someone (or someones).  Sleeping children are almost certainly not missing me, but while I grade essays and read South African Literature, I miss them. 

It's an uneven business the who misses who and when.

Meanwhile, I remembered Winton once proposing he name a pet "Eyeball."  Perhaps Hallowe'en has brought this to mind.  It is a great name, for any kind of pet.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cooking for kids

French Toast requested: 7.40 AM
French Toast served: 8.10 AM
French Toast rejected in favor of pickles: 8.11 AM

Monday, September 30, 2013


Mummy:  "OK, you can each choose a book, and then let's go sit on the couch."

Winton: "We have two books."
Clara: "Two books!"

Mummy: [picking up pile on couch] "But!  There are THREE books here!"

Winton: [laughter] "We tricked you!"
Clara: [snuggling against Mummy] "We tricked you about everything but the love."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

back in Balt

Dogwalk with children this lovely fall morning.  Them: pretending to be horses.

Clara: "My name is Rainbow Mane!"
Winton: "My name is Scheissekakka"

Apparently my trip to Germany has wielded significant influence.

It's good to be back.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Homi K Bhabha/ Toni Morrison, Germany, Whose house is this?

Home is the oldest sawhorse in postcolonial studies, in diaspora studies, and possibly, if you count The Odyssey and its chronicling of Odysseus' nostos, in literature.

It's always fresh though, and circumstance (travel, away from the kids and missing them, away from a new situation of bifuracted residence in Baltimore) makes things resonate.

Bhabha opened his plenary today with Kathleen Battle's rendition of this Toni Morrison lyric.  I can't stand the atonality of the music, but check out the lyric:

Whose house is this?
Whose night keeps out the light
in here?
Say, who owns this house?
It's not mine.
I had another, sweeter, brighter,
with a view of lakes crossed in painted boats;
of fields wide as arms open for me.
This house is strange.
Its shadows lie.
Say, tell me
why does its lock fit my key?

Bhabha went places with this that touched side-by-sideness and DuBois and states of internal immigration (Adrienne Rich) or sovereignty (Butler/Spivak).

I went places with this too, in careful blocky handwriting all over the inside of my conference binder as I tried to think through my right place in the world in a series of numbered and competing considerations (ultimately narrowing eight items into a condensed list of one through three).

In sum:
#1 is important and without it I will die or go mad;
#2 is something I should be able to not want, but I want it;
#3 and #2 are incompatible.
In the incompatibility of #s 3 and 2 I lose significant parts of #1.

My right sweet light place open field is my children.
Bhabha contends we live in both houses, the sweet bright one and the strange one, simultaneously.
I am walking  German cobbled streets, eating too much kuchen, missing the children, marveling at the irresolvability of my maths, and wondering what Morrison's third house would be like if she wrote one.  Better still, a fourth house, one that goes beyond my #s and presents something better:

Say, whose house is this?
Whose light keeps the night
out there?
This house comforts people I love.
And me.
I had another, but this is sweeter, brighter
with a view of mist rising from summer darkness into a fall light
and rooms wide as arms open for me,
echoing with playing children.
The rules in this house are strange
but its flower boxes grow the old, new, herbs and nettles
and are gorgeous.
Say, tell me
how the unorthodox lock fits my key?
Whose house is this?
Say, tell me.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

In Monster

I took the train from Hamburg to Muenster (Monster) today.  It stopped in Bremen en route .

My mother was born in Bremen, in 1935 (ish). My mother, like the protagonist in the movie Big Fish, doesn't tell factual stories, so the details of her life are hazy to me at best.  It seems probably that she was in Bremen during the war, and later Hamburg, and that still later she was put on a train with other children evacuated from the city to Switzerland.

My mother has left Germany behind her, totally.  Germany as a whole is her Monster.

She doesn't know I am here.

Today the train sped through fields of remarkable flatness, over bridges above narrow canals of water, through groves of tall, straight-trunked trees whose small round leaves explain incontrovertibly what Klimt was going for in his paintings, past two-storey farmhouses with clay-tiled roofs, and into Bremen with its ornately-fronted Geibel-Hauses (reproduced in the Eighteenth-Century style after the bombings or original?  Hard to tell from the train). It's beautiful here.

Mother tells the story of being at her grandmother's farmhouse (where?  Somewhere in this flat green countryside?)  and riding the black pig across the fields, until it plunged into the canal at the end of a field in order to get her off.

(It's nice to be thinking of my mother and not so much of the various ways my heart is parceled.)

Friday, September 20, 2013


I am on my way to Muenster, Germany for a conference.  Clara likes to refer to my destination as "monster."  It feels a bit like I am travelling to a monster, or through a monster.

Here, if I name it most specifically, is my monster:
What if my children don't need me?  If I am not there, if I am not in their lives every second making myself indispensible, if I am not the one they go to with nightmares in the night, do they still need me?
(And what if, oh you rotten stinking internet for having planted this terrible seed in my brain, it would be better for them if I died than if I divorced their father?  What then? Suicidal ideations, anyone?  Lengthy conversations with self in mirror about cost/value of self's existence ensue.)

Muensterous and self-indulgent musings from the floor of BWI's international departures terminal.

Muenster: the hotel looks like it will be very modern and flashy (I love that).  And my mother comes from Germany but has never told me anything about it, so I am curious to be there as a grown up with my own eyes to see the world.

And I think perhaps I am doing well in my career and am creating a research niche for myself, perhaps, with the whole third culture literature thing.  So, there's that.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Clara, Spelling

Clara figuring out how to spell, on her own.

"Jric" (Drink)
"Jitli" (Gently)

Both included in the guide she wrote to caring for cats:

They need "milk to jric" and tuna with mayonnaise stirred in "jitli" (gently).

What happens to Mummy's lunch anyway?

Winton, in car, 5.35 pm: "Mummy, what do you have left of your lunch for me to eat?"

Mummy: "What do you mean?"

Winton: "What lunch of your lunch did you save me because you knew I'd be hungry?"

Mummy: [sigh] "A banana"

Winton: "Mummy.  Never eat your bananas.  Always save them for me, okay?"

Friday, September 13, 2013

What Winton Said

While pushing a doll stroller with two soft toys in it:
"Let me go in front.  I'm doing all the hard work here."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Artistic Redirection

One strategy I concocted was writing an email to the kids the nights I am away, for their father to read to them in the morning.  The email comes with pictures of me holding a stuffed animal of theirs, so they can see it with me and be amused.  Plot lines, and adventures were evolving around these stuffed animals.  At work, I'd print the email and pictures (often tiny sizes of the pictures so I don't use up all my printer ink) and when I'm with the kids, I pass them along.


At my departure yesterday I was issued a list of demands:

Clara: Send us pictures Mummy!
Winton: With words on the back.
Clara: And I want mine separate from Winton's.
Winton: Take pigeon.
Clara: Wear your glasses, and don't put your hair down.
Winton: Take pigeon.  And "I love Winton" on the back so I can make it a flappy picture with words on the back and have it on the wall by my bed. [He intends, I think, to tape one side of the picture to the wall and not the other so he can lift the flap and read my words when he chooses.]
Clara: I want mine separate from Winton's.
Winton: With words on the back.  And pigeon.
Clara: And not too small.  The picture shouldn't be too small.  Print it at work.  Ok, Mummy?
Winton: With words on the back so I can make a flappy.

Ok then!  No story.  Pictures of me.  No hair down.  Separate ones for each.  Some loving sentiment on the back for them to refer to when needed.

Never mind my creative ideas re: plot lines and adventures.  The children have spoken. And Mummy will deliver (or try to . . . Clara has something very specific in mind and in spite of direction I may not get it right.  She is, after all, the child who had an epic meltdown at bedtime with me once because I smiled closed-lippedly rather than showing my teeth.)

I love my kids.  Sweet, specific, demanding little bubs.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Feral (Self-Indulgent, Melodramatic)

What leathery sinew is this that stretches from behind my ribs all the way to my children?

(In my rational mind: they are fine.  They are happy.  They are with their father, and he loves them and cares for them.  He is a good father.)

In my animal self: I am pacing and whimpering.  I feel that cord pulling my heart out of me.

(Rational: this feeling is all about me.  It does them no good.)

Animal: I just want to be near them, would chew off my own leg.

(Rational:  It does them no good to show up at preschool and school crazy as a wolf  that's been penned indefinitely in a too-small cage and demand to hug them and sniff their heads.  This I must not do, will not do.)

Animal: [ So what do I do?]

(Rational: Swim faster.   Let the chlorine wash the animal off me, the churning water roar a silence to still my fretfulness.  Or, and: Write the internet for advice.)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Breakfast Delicious

For weeks, the house has had a sign, made by Clara (age 6) on the door.   It reads "Breakfast Delicious," which is the name of her "restaurant."

Today while I was mowing the lawn, a passerby on foot asked me "Is that a joke, or for real?  Do you sell dinner?"  He looked genuinely interested in eating.

Clara nearly had her first patron, but of course Breakfast Delicious is primarily a Breakfast place: we don't really do dinner for paying guests.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Car Seats

Doesn't matter how nice the day is, driving to work without people--small, talkative (frequently annoying) people-- in the back feels like a vast emptiness.

However!  It IS a nice day, and there are 16 minutes before class and I am already ready (Oh the luxury of time!), and I've had a very nice morning (barring missing the kids).  Indeed I had a nice evening yesterday too.  The result of the nice evening and morning is that I'm at work today and I don't feel utterly unhinged: that's novel.  I like it very much.  I feel like I could have a conversation with someone today and not delve into either craziness or weepiness (or at least not immediately).  That's all VERY good indeed.

And yesterday afternoon involved a visit to the duck pond with the kids (who found a dead koi and enthusiastically pummeled it with a stick), a bike ride with the kids, and a dinner that featured chicken cooked in tomato sauce and a lot of red wine.

Empirically, objectively, even in terms of scheduling: Life is good.  The kids are fine.  I am fine.  There is much, a great deal, to be happy about.

In the great guilt-fest question, "OMG but how can I be a good Mom if I am not there every second of every day?  Or of every night?," one answer might be that being a less-worked up and guilt- ravaged mom, a mom more able to enjoy the sunshine, would be being the best Mom I can be right now.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The mind is its own place

Is it just me that comes home from the therapist feeling more crazy than before, not less? (Yesterday: probably my fourth therapist visit ever over the last 43 years of my existence.)

I get caught up in my desire to know what does she think of what I'm saying?  And what does she think of me?
Why?  Why does it matter what the therapist thinks of me?  I'm not renting her out as a friend.  I don't worry about what my physician thinks of me (or not much), but at the therapist I feel like she must be judging me, or she should be judging me and why won't she deliver the verdict, dammit?

Anyway, 90 minutes of that, a late school pick up which involved retrieving a tired boy (and me interpreting, narcissistically, his tiredness as evidence of his being traumatised by his crappy ass mother) and then also retrieving an overtired/ overexcited girl fresh from gymnastics, and then a protracted bedtime which involved both children working it for extra snuggles (and me, guilt-ravaged, easily falling prey) and:
it's no surprise that I left my alarm clock at the house
packed the wrong clothes for work today
and arrived here in such a black mood that goths themselves would have been impressed.

Post title is of course a reference to Milton's Paradise Lost:
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven

I know brainwashing has terrible pejorative connotations, but today would be a great day for a good thorough spring cleaning so that I can see out of my own head more clearly.

It's important, cause under current (trapped in own head) conditions, I nearly miss the brilliance of such observations as Clara's last night.  Of the soup pouring off her spoon into her bowl she said "Look! It's a waterfall for ants."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Stepping in and out of what was, until very recently, my life is profoundly disorienting.
In the afternoons, I still get the kids from school, and we do fun things, and I make dinner and read to them and then put them to bed. Normal . . . but Not Normal.
No one warns you that it is the dog who will most break your heart with his joy on seeing you again after an absence from the family house.

In other news, Winton insists that his nipples are called "Pimples," while Clara's are "Boobs."

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Defined: cutting something (experimentally) off a living organism, sometimes without anaesthesia.

Redefined:  A day that is not my day with the children.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

But I'm Back!

Apparently, difficult things = more reason to blog, not less!  So, Hello.  I'm back already.

Here're my thoughts for the day:

1) Do not turn to the internet for parenting advice for it will reaffirm your reasons for feeling guilty and make you wonder if it would be better if you were dead (don't google "which is worse for kids, divorce or death?" because I can tell you the interwebs say divorce.  Hmm.  Well that's not reassuring.)

2) This poem is by Philip Larkin and it sums up parenting research tidily:

This Be the Verse

By Philip Larkin
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.
3) Assuming it is too late (you have kids already) and you are doing something generally considered bad for your children (like, for example, leaving your spouse, their other parent, and moving out of the house), expect unexpected moments of empathy with society's other Wrongdoers.  Today, I'd be in a good frame of mind to befriend all kinds of folks who have Done Wrong, just to see how they deal with it.  So: if you're reading this and you happen to have killed your mother and then eaten her,  or if you happen to have on purpose killed a beloved family pet (or sibling), or if you have a habit of leaking high-level security documents to the press, please be in touch. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Conflagrations and Cessations

[Blogging hereby suspended for a while--maybe a month or so--while various difficult things happen.  Tune in again in October 2013 for renewed banalities, narcissistic musings and child witticisms]

Friday, August 16, 2013

Corporeal dilemmas: Clara

Clara: "Mummy, my skin isn't big enough for my face"
Daddy: [looking over his shoulder while driving] "Your lips are dry; you just need some lip balm."

Setting: car driving across Deal Island, Maryland. More on that and on vacation week in a subsequent post.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Slightly misspoken: Winton

"I did not have a pee pee accident.  Feel!  My crouch is not wet."

Friday, August 9, 2013

I shouldn't feel smug

about beating a 6 year old at chess, or about winning at bowling when playing with that 6 year old and her 4 year old brother but I do.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Overheard Phone Conversations

Clara [in voice of PTA mom, talking into a plastic bath toy]: "Oh.  That's very disappointing."

Winton [in voice of serial killer, talking into a stuffed dog]: "You'd better come over right now, or you will be dead forever."

Hmn . . .

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Birds, Bees, Paper Towels

Scene: Dinner table

Clara: "But, how do Mummies and Daddies get babies?"
Mummy: "Well . . ."
Clara [interrupting]: "It's something to do with their butts."
Mummy: "Actually,"
Clara [balling hands up and knocking them together--with a piece of paper towel in one hand] "Their naked butts."
Mummy [laughing at the graphic nature of Clara's hand gesture]
Winton: "Naked butts and paper towel!"
Mummy: "Well,"
Winton: "Naked butts WITH PAPER TOWELS!"
Mummy: "Actually, the paper towels aren't an essential part of the process."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Things I especially like about this first day off:

1) Weather in the low 80s with low humidity allowing for children outside more than half of the day.  Two different playgrounds today!

2) This conversation with Clara over lunch:  Apparently she sees auras.

Clara: "You know the light around people, Mummy?"
Mummy: [???]
Clara: "You know.  People have light around them.  It's different colours.  Around me it's yellow."
Mummy: "What colour is it around me?"
Clara: "Mmm.  You are blue.  But I can't see blue very well."

(Today's migraine really bit though.)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pee, Running while sleeping

Winton wet himself 4 times yesterday.  He's four and a half and technically well beyond such problems. 

Theories: bladder infection?  too lazy to go to the bathroom?  too distracted to go to the bathroom?

Last night I heard a sound like a panicked badger in his room.  On investigating, I discovered Winton, in his room, running in frantic circles and clutching the front of his tiki-mask undies all while fast asleep

Sleep running.  This is new, and scary.  I think I'll shut the baby gate at the top of the stairs tonight (good thing we've been too lazy to un-install the baby-gate).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Clara and Winton: Treats

Indulgences en route to summer camp (8.15 AM):  These reveal our palates are in different time zones.
Mummy: Iced latte (whole milk)
Winton: Blueberry Muffin
Clara: Large Ham and Cheese Panini

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Horse Show & Mythical Beasts

After too many episodes of Horseland, we went real on the kids: off to a horse show in Westminster!  We saw the 7ish kids do some show jumping, the teenagers do an event that involved riding around the arena together showing off how well they could walk, canter, trot and change directions, and then the teenagers doing some show jumping.

I had two responses to American riding (having been an avid British Pony Club rider in Singapore and then Wales myself, waaaay back in the day):

1) It's far too soft on the kids.  Fell off at a jump?  Get back on!  At least ride your horse out of the arena! (Not what happened this morning when a young girl fell and then had help running her stirrups up so she and her horse could walk, separately, out of the arena).

2) It's far too hard on the kids.  The riding teachers heckle the kids as they are doing their trip round the jumps.  One girl caved under the pressure and started crying.  Another was told, harshly, to "Smile already."

Clara had this response to the outing: "Mummy I know for sure that I am half horse, and half cat."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It's not all murders at dawn, despite what you've heard about shootings in Rodger's Forge

5.17: Mummy gets up to practice yoga alone in a quiet house.
5.18: Winton gets up and demands to watch Mummy practice yoga.

Mummy: [sun salutations]
Winton: "Mummy, Look!  Pepita's on your mat!  Look, she's eating the plant!  Look!  Pepita is breaking the blinds!  Mummy?  Are you finished yet?  How many more minutes?  Mummy.  I'm hungry [coda]"

 Clara: [sneaking into living room] "Boo!"
Mummy: "Gah!"

Husband wakes.  Mummy leaves on dogwalk, leaving children to hector Husband about the possibilities of watching Horseland on TV.

Quiet.  No traffic.  No people.
Sun: Fluorescent pink.

Across the street: two men, apparently making a direct approach on me.

Mummy's internal monologue: "Oh, crap!  This is the morning on which I finally get mugged!"

Men approach, say "good morning!" cheerfully, drunkenly and then pay me no mind in order to continue their loud, slurred conversation . . . which is about how fun it is to feed the seagulls at the inner harbor.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


We've moved on from My Little Pony to a cartoon called Horseland.  Full of improbably slender tweens with impossibly large eyes, it also features horses, and riding instructions.

It's excrutiating.

Yet it is the likely cause of my dream the other night about being in a riding lesson (I haven't been in a riding lesson in almost 30 years . . . Christ I'm getting old).

Today Clara and Winton were arguing about a character and her horse:

Clara: "Bailey's horse is named 'Aztec'."
Winton: [with the extreme insistence and inflexibility that is his everyday mode right now] "No. Bailey's horse is called 'ASS-TANK.'"

Good Dream: Winton

Winton's Good Dream

" I was in the basement bathroom, and the toilet was on the ceiling.  I pointed my penis up, and peed into the toilet and nothing fell down."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Inadvertent Poetry, Montage: Clara

Look at the sky!  Cloud Rainbows.
I'll keep them in my memory bag, forever.
Let the burnt dust fall.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How old?

How old does Winton need to be before he attains full urinary continence, even on hikes along Stony Run?

How old do I need to be before I think to check if his crotch is wet before picking him up to carry him?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sprinkler Party

Where are Clara and Winton during the Birthday sprinkler party we were invited to on a hot summer's day?

Winton: in the basement, with a tumbler he's filled with potato chips in order to hoard them.

Clara: busy outside putting a bucket over the sprinkler so that the water makes a river, not rain, and no one can get wet.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

If you had to describe your child as an egg

If you had to describe your child as an egg, what would you say?
Sunny side up?
Over easy?

Clara is definitely hardboiled and pickled.
Winton is badly poached, with frills and gills and utter insubordination.

Friday, June 28, 2013

And then there's Clara's drop-off . . .

Suddenly my six year old (six years old, minus EIGHT baby teeth as of this week) doesn't want ME to be too clingy on drop-off.

At the entrance to camp, Clara tells me where I can stand to watch her walk away.   I am told I can stand there until she turns and waves and, at that point, I am to leave.

My little girl, toting a vast pink backpack, dismisses me in the mornings with a businesslike wave over her shoulder and (only if no one is looking) a furtively blown kiss.

What a big girl.  (What a tiny girl, with a huge backpack.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Drop-off debacles: Winton

It used to the the case that I would drive Clara to her elementary school first, drop her off, and then continue on with Winton to his preschool.  In the afternoon, I'd again go to Clara's school first, and then Winton's.  This meant that every morning Winton had 15 minutes of alone time with Mummy, and every afternoon Clara got the same.

Now Clara is going to a summer camp run on the campus at which I work.  We drop Winton first, and pick him up last.  Clara gets 40 minutes of alone time with Mummy.  Winton gets none.  He's not happy.

We're on day 9 of summer camp and today Winton decided he just wasn't going to be dropped off first.

He clung to the car: I removed him.
He opened the door and got back in the car, hiding in the footwell: I removed him.
I carried him into the building.
When I put him down to put his lunch in the fridge he lay on the floor shrieking.
When I picked him up, he managed to get one hand under my skirt, hiking it up, and the other hand into the neck of my shirt, pulling it down.
Thus disarrayed and indecent I staggered over to his teacher, who helped me prise him off my person.
(Did I mention he was also TRYING to smear his freshly applied sunscreen onto my clothing, which he knows I dislike?)

And then I walked away, dragging Clara (unhelpfully full of questions) behind me.

Starbucks should have "shot of Xanax" on their menu.  I'd totally buy more coffee from them if I could have both espresso and tranquilizer in my beverage.

Tomorrow I plan to do drop off in armor.  Or maybe I will drop Clara off first . . . spending my day driving around in circles is actually preferable to this morning's debacle.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

American Teeth

Iced-tea season.  Stained-teeth season (for me).  I should have a t-shirt made to remind people that, as they say in India, "only dogs and babies have white teeth."
Hey, at least I don't chew betel . . .

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mulberry Evangelist

Last year the children and I harvested mulberries in the alley we refer to as "poop alley" (because it is where the dog prefers to poop).  (Don't confuse this with "rat alley" which is far grosser).  Anyway, we live in Baltimore, in the city, in a nice *enough* nieghborhood, but rats and poop are still de rigeur.

Last year we managed to get a young man (with gun tattooed on his hip) to venture out of his row house to  try mulberries hanging over the alley. He was cautious ("Those gonna kill me??") .  It was a good urban B'more moment.

Today: more mulberry harvesting, and important discoveries.

1) there are blond mulberries as well as purple, and the blondes are as tasty, if not more so.

2) there are actually lots of mulberry trees, and they are easy to find: just look for messy bits (purple smeary and sticky) of pavement and then look up.

We (Clara and I, on this morning's forage) also stumbled into the remains of a 92 year old's birthday party.  Any party that has been going for 15+ hours is a bit scary, as was this one.  Those attending who had teeth had mostly gold rimmed ones.  Red-rimmed eyes were ubiquitous.  Conversations involved both abusive yelling and vast generous hugs.

Clara and I were picking mulberries in the alley behind said party and were asked what we were up to.  We went into the party, and shared our harvest (warmly received).  I tried to show at least 2 drunk people that I'd gotten the fruit off of the tree that also leaned over the party's side of the fence.  Did it work?  I  don't know.  I like to think that those people now know that tasty sweet fruit hangs right in their yard and all they have to do is reach up and pick it.

Also, unrelated: new greek olive stand at the Waverly market!  I smelled it before I really saw it (it smelt good).  They have green olives marinated with lemons and garlic.  Meet you all there next Saturday morning, for I plan to be there, "sampling," for as long as I can get away with it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Harper's Index

Baltimore was named in the Harper's index this month!
"Number of female guards impregnated by a single Baltimore prisoner: 4"

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More things to do with Winton's butt

W [on toilet]: "That's not poop.  That's dragons coming out of my butt."

Friday, June 7, 2013

Vacation Round-Up: An Ominubus Post

We've been away (Long time no see, blog.  How are you?).

We went to Vancouver, to visit my parents.  The trip was organized to coincide with a conference in Victoria at which I gave a paper.

Here's some stuff that happened while we were travelling:

1) In flight entertainment.
I recommend tic tacs.  They take a long time to eat.  They keep kids swallowing (and thus their ears from hurting).  Winton calls them dik diks (which is funny in and of itself).  And when the box is empty you call ball up miscellaneous shreds of paper to see, as Winton put it, "how many dik diks you can put in the box."

2) Random conversations
Clara: "Mummy, who invented all the words?"
Winton: [interrupting] "Dr Seuss."

3) Parental slights, directed at Mummy:

Opa: "You only got here yesterday, but it feels like you've been here forever."

Opa: "Yeah, you do bruise easily.  It's a sign of old age."

Oma: "Clara is a much nicer child than you ever were."

4) Parental slights, directed at Husband:

Opa [at IHOP, while 8 people including Uncle Michael, were trying to seat themselves and find menus]: "Are you just going to sit there and sulk?"

Oma: [several days later, while Husband was trying to wedge himself into a seat at the very cramped table at my parents' house]: "Are you sulking?"

5) Parental slights, combined targets.

Opa: "Knut [his nickname for me], don't lose any more weight.  But it's good [Husband] lost some weight.  He was kind of fat."

6) Conference highlights

Number of people at my paper: 5 (I blame the unusually nice weather in Victoria).  Responses to my work: worried, primarily.

Response to price of my book: "$40??  Oh, my god!"

Monday, May 20, 2013

Babies are assholes

We were at Winton's spring concert yesterday, seated next to his bff's exhausted parents and their very new baby. 
The baby slept through the preschool concert, the amazing loudness of many children in a confined space helping themselves to ice-cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles after the concert and a rambunctious hour on the playground.  As the (exhausted) parents made a move to put new baby back in their car though, he woke and started fussing.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Singing Range

I have a cold, or allergies, or something that is making me sound a lot like Johnny Cash.  I'm enjoying being able to sing something like baritone.  The children don't want me to sing "Ring of Fire" ever again.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why Winton Loves His Mommy

According to the picture he made at school: "Because she has a nice face."
However, he was quick to clarify.  He had wanted to say "Because she has nice feet" but his teachers wouldn't let him.

Clara: Learning (the wrong?) things about getting what she wants in the world

Clara's class went on a field trip to the Aquarium a few months ago.  Somehow (how?) she persuaded one of the accompanying parents to buy her a large, pink, glittery, stuffed dolphin.  Just one for her, not for the whole class.  That there wasn't a kindergartener's mutiny over this is a miracle.  Clara insisted on bringing her ill-gotten dolphin to school later that week.  And then someone "borrowed" it.  Can you blame them?  I would totally have stolen it myself were I another, jealous kindergartener.  Clara made a tragic poster: "I lost my dolphin, I loved my dolphin." Miraculously, it showed up again.

Last week, Clara left a toy pony (the purple one, what's her name?  Twilight Sparkle) on the outside picnic table at Winton's preschool, and it disappeared.  She made another poster.  "I lost my pony.  I loved my pony."  Yesterday one of the preschool teachers presented Clara with a replacement pony (a New pony, a Rarity not a Twilight Sparkle) because she "just felt so sad when she saw the poster."


Monday, May 6, 2013


I am not going to say I am sorry.
I am sorry,
but I am not going to say it.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On his mind: Winton

Upon waking, while still rubbing eyes:
"But, Mommy.  What kind of pesto does Liam use on his pizza?"

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Potty Talk

Things Winton has told me while pooping:

"Mummy!  I have ghosts coming out of my butt!"

"Mummy, did you hear that?  That was the caterpillars coming out of my butt."

I think I'm ready to write up some horror-movie scripts now.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

4's a crowd

Sometimes after a challenging day, it is nice when the 4 year old boy stumbles into my room at 1AM wanting to squeeze into the bed with me and the two cats (whose proportions double in the dark--anyone who's ever slept with a cat knows they are larger in the dark than in the light).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Claraism du Jour

Clara [plaintively]: "Mummy?"
Me: "Yes?"
Clara: "Will you be mad if Rainbow Dash catches on fire in my backpack?"

Monday, April 8, 2013

Resilience: A Study with a Single Participant

Wake Mummy at 4.30AM, or 1.20AM and 4.30 AM, every night for 11 consecutive nights.
On night 9 add a broken (and therefore un-openable) window and markedly warmer temperatures outside (and consequently VERY warm temperatures inside).
On night 11 add copious quantities of cat vomit so the room is hot, stuffy and smells of cat puke and the vinegar used to try and clean it up.

Decline in maternal resilience and patience.  If, ideally, one "bounces back" against the minor challenges of parenting (refusals to brush teeth, insistence on My Little Pony trading rather than putting on of shoes, complaints in car about being hungry when Mummy has just thrown away 88% of child's uneaten breakfast), the Mummy in this experiment doesn't bounce.  In fact, she responds more like a duck pin bowling ball dropped on a concrete floor: loud, jarring, unpleasant, ugly, ruinous.

God help me, I think Mummy's going to sleep in the living room tonight.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My Little Pony: Mummy

I have developed favorites among the 65 episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic available on Netflix

That says enough, doesn't it?   I know them well enough to have a pseudo-intellectualised preference for the episodes focusing on cutie marks and what they imply about aptitude/ destiny/ the needs for various kinds of talent in the world.

Who am I??

(I don't like Pinkie Pie though.  Really not.)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Clara's Restaurant

Yesterday afternoon, Clara created a restaurant in our living room. She named it Breakfast Delicious.

She pulled together two footstools, draped a "table cloth" (blanket) over them, set cushions around them (to seat four) and then started work on her menu:

2 figs
ps [peas]
green beans

She then made a sign: "It opens at 10, the rest."

And discussed problems in her business plan with me: "But, Mummy.  Someone will have to be here to run the restaurant while I'm at school.  May be we should only be open on days when you don't have meetings at work."

And then she had an epic melt-down when I wouldn't let her go out onto the sidewalk to solicit guests.

Me: "OH.  But I thought we were playing restaurant!"
Clara: "Noooo.  It's a real restaurant!  I have to tell people it's open or no one will come."
Me: "Clara, I don't want to have strangers in off the street eating our figs. And I just washed the floor."
Clara: "I hate you, Mummy."

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Winton: trips over bath-towel and falls, bringing his lower ribs down hard onto the lip of the step out of the bathroom.  Wails.

Mummy: cradles naked Winton.

Clara: Stands in her bedroom doorway apprising the goings on, then with impressive pouty mou-facedness,  slams the door as hard as she can.

Mummy: "Clara!  What was that for?  Your brother hurt himself."

Clara [angrily, through keyhole]: "Winton always gets all the best hugs!"

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Winton has been claiming he's scared of his new bed (Perhaps he is?  He did split his lip on the frame while horsing around at bedtime a week ago).  I think he's primarily motivated by a desire to share my bed.

I can, shockingly, sleep with him in my bed.  He's a snuggler, but responsive to nudges if he starts to crowd me too much.

Last night Clara woke at 3AM and, cool as a cucumber, declared loudly and clearly from her bed in the next room: "Mummy.  I had a nightmare.  Come get me."

So, thinking to myself "Well, it's only fair.  Her brother has been sleeping in my bed a lot lately," I got her.

40 minutes later, after much wiggling, sighing, fidgeting, kicking, elbowing, sighing, coughing and sighing, I asked if she wanted to return to her own bed.  Clara:  "Yes: but come make my covers perfect."

How odd that I can easily sleep with one, but that the other is like having an electric eel in bed with me.  I think Clara finds it odd too: how does her brother get any sleep in Mummy's bed??

Monday, March 18, 2013

Empathy: Winton

[On Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, particularly the part where the mutant rabbit "dies" for a few seconds before being re-animated]
 "This part always makes my eyes a bit wet."

Friday, March 15, 2013

The week in review


Work filled with rescheduled meetings from last Wednesday, meetings which had been cancelled because of the "snow" (which turned out to be rain).  Today is a heptathlon of talking talking talking.  So much so that I get home to discover I never had time to drink my thermos of tea.


Dentist: "do you wear a mouth guard?"
Me: "Yes"
Dentist: "Shame you can't wear it during the day, huh?  You have two new cavities, and they're almost certainly from cracking your teeth by grinding them."

Later Tuesday, the children's piano teacher quits.  I love(d) the children's piano teacher, a young man trained in percussion and piano and a number of other instruments.  Clara wanted to practice during the week in order to please him.  Winton thought he was funny and laughed for his whole lesson.  How can anyone compare?  I am extraordinarily blue about this.


Clara falls at school and cracks her head against a concrete wall, badly enough to need to hang out with the nurse for an hour, but not badly enough to be sent home.

At around the same time someone cleaves my head in two with an axe . . . or close enough.  That's what it felt like.  I spend the afternoon crying in bed at home (with garbage pail in case of vomit), missing an important department meeting I am supposed to chair.  All while Husband rushes home from DC to collect our children from their schools.


It tastes like I've eaten a lead pencil, but my head is spacious and light.

I try to talk about Bakhtin and find I can't put more than 3 words in a row.  There's a lot of gesturing.

The plumbers come to begin ripping out and replacing all of our second floor pipes.  They find a bottle in the walls that once held a brand of beer I've never heard of before (Wiemann's).

In the evening Husband's car pulls up in front of the house sounding like an 18-wheeler truck (muffler problems?)


The problems I avoided by not being at Wednesday's department meeting burgeon in my email in-box, like cracker crumbs bloating in water.

Winton shrieks "Paddywhacker!" incessantly.  He claims the word was in a book about St. Patrick's day at school (what book?  A dictionary of ethnic slurs?  Of homophobic jargon?)

I wish I had worn looser pants: that lead pencil I feel like I ate yesterday wants to come back up.

I get home to find the plumbers just packing up, re-piping done BUT somehow dislodging all manner of galvanized crap has clogged up our shower/tub faucet.  Solution?  Send me out to buy one  . . . with the children.  We spend 20 minutes browsing things that don't seem quite right, buy $80 of plumbing stuff, get half way home and think maybe we need an actual spout as well, go back to the hardware store, pile out of car, buy spout ($17) and hurry home to be told none of all of the stuff in the (disintegrating) plastic bag is what the plumber meant by "faucet".  They will buy their own.  They will be back, maybe Monday.  Or Tuesday.  In the meantime: no bathtub (that's OK.  Week 3 and I'm pretty used to no bathtub).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Who says there's nothing new after 40? Headaches

Apparently there are two kinds of headache: 
1) the "please go away so I can get on with my life" kind 
2) the "this is awful; I am whimpering and vomiting. I think it would be OK if I died now" kind. I'm new to the #2 option, and DON'T LIKE IT one bit.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


On the "snow"day (school cancelled and then it rained all day) we went duck-pin bowling.
Winton: An enthusiastic bunny hop to the "deadwood" and "reset" buttons after every ball!  Delight!
Clara: After dropping every ball from height, hands flung up in gymnastic-dismount style!  Delight!

Yesterday: Baltimore Folk Music Society Family Dance.
Winton: enthusiastic bunny hopping in circles and do-si-dos!  Delight!
Clara: whingeing galore.  Wouldn't get off the bench.  Claimed (but only until we were back in the car and heading home, after only 3 dances) that she had a stomach ache.  LOATHING!

Today: Trying to create a raised vegetable bed out of clayey soil webbed by thick, old ivy roots.
Both kids: tuckered out. 
Mommy?  Delighted.  Sore, chapped hands and sun-burnt lips BUT: bring on spring!

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Rapid Spread of Contagion: Clara

Well-Child Appointments for Clara and Winton's annual physicals: 2.35pm.
Children: both well, according to the Doctor.

Clara's temperature at 6pm?  103F

1) Can she really have picked something up from the sticky waiting room that had such a short incubation period?
2) Was she already incubating something when we arrived at the Doctor's office?
3) Do we need to bring her back to the Doctor's office for a note so that her school will excuse her absence*?

(* Why do you care, oh callous mother, you ask?  Well, we have a trip to my elderly/insane parents in Canada coming up. It's timed to coincide with a conference in their vicinity so that at least my airfare is covered. It will involve 6 unexcused absences for Clara.  Too many unexcused absences will negatively affect her brother's chances of getting into the school in Fall 2014.  So.  Long stress pipeline here.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Clara and Winton: Beer

Context: we eat Sunday dinner en famille.  Husband cooks.  Often he has a beer with dinner.  Nothing excessive, just a beer.  Nonetheless, it seems we're raising alcoholics. 

Winton routinely asks for a sip of Husband's weekly beer.  Again, nothing outrageous: the boy gets one sip of beer once a week, and only if his mouth is clean. 

Winton has, however, run up to the parent of one of Clara's friends and announced, apropos of nothing, "I like red beer, not black beer or yellow beer." He's four.  He has preferences.  But the impression this gives to the outside world is that we live in a trailer with a fence made of beer cans (we don't), and that child services should step in (please don't: we're actually a very responsible establishment over here in B'more).

Anyway: last night . . . .

Clara: "When I grow up, I'm going to be a brewmaster!"
Winton: "When I grow up, I'm going to be a brewnmaster."
Clara: "I'll make strawberry beer."
Husband: "You know, fruit beers are called lambicks."
Clara: "Are they real?"
Husband: "Yes.  And you need science to make beer."
[Clara's eyes widen with wonder]
Winton: "I'm going to make blueberry-banana beer!"

Thursday, February 28, 2013


(with a nod to January Dawn at

Winton and Mummy, fighting over every little thing:

frustration (his) + frustration (mine) = yelling (both) + ( wounded silence (his) + guilt (mine))

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Winton routinely climbs into my bed at 5.30AM for a pre-dawn snuggle.

It occurred to me yesterday (finally?) that Clara, though older and mature at age 6, might be jealous.   So I said, apropos of nothing, as we walked through the blowing gale to school: "I miss snuggling with you.  Want to have a snuggle-date tonight?"  Her cheeks broadened with a smile she worked hard not to let her little brother see.  But no comment.

Yesterday was Wednesday: our longest day of the week.  It is blighted by faculty meetings for me and, though I have KICK ASS childcare arrangements (soccer for Winton, dance for Clara and neither require me to drive or wait around!), everyone is an exhausted, cranky, dysfunctional bag of sh*t by the time we're home with our heaps of backpacks and sticky tupperware. 

I fed the children, speed-bathed them, got teeth brushed, Winton dressed . . . and turned around in time to see Clara, appropriately PJed and already in bed, pat the space on the bed next to her and say, winsomely, "Snuggle date, Mummy!"

I love my daughter (and my son too).  We must all snuggle more.  I must dole out the snuggling equitably.  But there must be lots of it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Goodnight Ritual

Mummy [in bedroom doorway, blowing 5 kisses to each child, then]: " OK, Winton.  Say goodnight."

Winton: "Merry Christmas, Bunny Love, Cat Love, Dog Love, Turkey Love, I love you miss you Mummy."

Mummy: "Merry Christmas, Bunny Love, Cat Love, Dog Love, Turkey Love, I love you miss you Winton.  Your turn, Clara."

Clara: "See you later alligator, after a while crocodile, happy Santa, Merry Christmas, Bunny Love, Cat Love, Dog Love, Turkey Love, I love you miss you Mummy."

Mummy: "See you later, alligator, after a while crocodile, happy Santa, Merry Christmas, Bunny Love, Cat Love, Dog Love, Turkey Love, I love you miss you too Clara.  Ok, now goodnight everyone.  Be quiet.  Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.  See you in the morning.  Love you."

Ritual performed exactly this way for 6+ months, possibly even a year.  Hmm.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Clara: Office Management (the chicken solution)

I have a colleague who is very unhappy.  Indeed she has fallen off the bottom rung of unhappy into a far worse place.

In wracking my brains for a solution, I presented a sanitized version of the predicament to Clara, aged 6, and asked for her advice.

Clara: "Let me think about it" [She's wise, this one.  She knows not to commit to a plan until she has thought things through.]

Several days later:

Clara: "You should give your colleague a real [live] chicken."

What stunning advice.  I wish I could follow through.  It would do the whole department a world of good were I simply to show up with a live chicken one day.  Imagine!  "Here. It's a chicken.  You'll need feed for it, I guess.  I don't think you can potty train it.  Maybe it'll lay an egg on your printer? Enjoy!"

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Alcoholism or Knitting?

It's been a stress-fest at work lately.  Lots of emotion, lots of it negative, lots of it directed at me.
It makes it harder to stop my mind from whirring away at home, scrambling the day's conflicts to try and make them come out differently and blending in a hefty measure of rehearsal for tomorrow's conflicts.

I notice that I have begun to clench and unclench the fingers of my right hand, quickly, nervously.  My mother does this.  She has done so always, as far as I can remember.  And I've always hated it for showing, like steam spurting out of a pressure-cooker valve, how close she was to exploding.  She recently acquired a wrist brace to protect her from the carpal tunnel syndrome that her constant clenching has resulted in.  I am on that path.

Unless: I take up drinking.  I see now why it's so appealing for a working parent.  Nothing like a shwack of alcohol to silence the yammering brain AND (bonus) give one the sillies (which actually improve the bedtime/bathtime routine with Clara and Winton dramatically).  I suspect there's a law of diminishing returns with the alcohol though.

Maybe more exercise?

And knitting to keep the hands busy?
(I could knit at work meetings: that'd be distracting.)

Clutching at straws over here (and clutching/twitching all the time now, apparently).

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winton's Story

Told to me while we took shelter at the Starbucks near Roland Park Elementary in the dark and during a downpour.

"This is a SPOOKY story. 
It was dark and raining. 
A Blue Thing came into a cave.  It was a monster. 
A Red Thing came and said 'AAAAAAGH!': it was a human. 
Then a Green Thing and Orange Thing came into the cave: they were monsters TOO.
Then the Red Thing ran out of the cave and went back home."

Me: "So, the moral of the story is to run away from monsters?"

Winton: "Yes, and then go home to bed."

Likes/ Dislikes and Home/Work

A cryptic but cathartic post --tune in next time for actual sentences and a return of my sense of humor.

Like teaching.  Love my children.  Love Husband.

Hate conflict.  Hate feeling squirrelly about having an opinion.  Hate feeling like a dirty rebel.  Hate all of this growing up into being disliked by some who had once liked me.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Winton: "Daddy, in my head you are anger."
Daddy: "You mean I'm angry?"
Winton: "No, in my head you are anger."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Favorite student evaluation comments: Fall 2012

Sometimes when I was stuck in a hard passage of an essay I had to go in the stairwell and stretch out my quads and arms and do some silent yelling.

She was often flustered, but always prepared.

A bit stout Id say, but thats human - as a teacher she is great.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Apology Letters

Dear Clara,

I am sorry I left your water bottle in the car.  I hope you are not too thirsty at school today as a result.

Somehow whenever there are umbrellas (three, today) involved in the morning drop-off, they crowd other details out of my head.  Apparently I can remember  to check for five things, and only five.  Usually they are: water, lunch, snack, folder, special friend toy.  Today is was: umbrella, umbrella, umbrella, lunch, whatever else happened to have found its way into your backpack by chance.  Your water, secure in the car drinks holder?  Still there.  I am sorry.

I forgot the library books we were going to return this afternoon as well.  Oh well.  They'll keep.

I love you,


Dear Winton,

I am sorry I grouched at you about the umbrellas on our way back to the car after dropping off Clara.   I was mad at myself for having forgotten her water bottle so when I said "Hold it upright, and look where you're going!  Stop poking people. Grr.  I hate these umbrellas!"  It wasn't really your fault.  It was me.  Taking my self-loathing out on you.  I am sorry.

I love you,


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Winton: Ambitions

When I grow up I'm going to pick things up with a pick up truck and turn them all into cotton candy.

Party tricks

The day of Winton's birthday party.

Winton: I am going to open presents!
Clara: That's NO FAIR.
Me: actually, it's his birthday, so it is fair.
Clara: [Furious silence, red-face, NOSE BLEED]

Monday, January 7, 2013

Birthday parties

I didn't grow up in the US.  I'm still figuring out the norms for American children.  Apparently the annual birthday party is de rigeur, especially for the elementary school set (and apparently most parents loathe/dread the elementary school aged birthday party).

"Party" is not simply a nice meal, cake and the family. It is a hoarde of however many children you can tolerate squealing and playing in the upstairs bedroom with the door slammed firmly behind them, even when one has asked that the party stay downstairs and has provided entertainment, also downstairs.

Yesterday: squealing six year old girls upstairs; art supplies for an art party downstairs. (For Clara's Jan 3 birthday)

Last Sunday: squealing four year old boys upstairs, and various races, games and hopping balls downstairs (For Winton's Dec 30 birthday).

I think I remember being brought to see Cats (the musical) on my 10th birthday or thereabouts.
I also remember a sushi dinner followed by the car breaking down on the highway a different year.
AND I remember a melting cake at the Singapore zoo.
Oh the parties of my youth!  They were not like these American parties, with their coteries of uncomfortable adults and sequestered children.

The only thing I seem to have nailed in entertaining small people is that Mac'n'Cheese out of a box pleases everyone and that cake will get them all to come back downstairs, albeit briefly.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Seriously? (My fear of all matters related to finances)

As I type, I am waiting for Health Hub to reload.  I screwed up my dependent care claim, AGAIN.  I do it every time.  It's not difficult.  All I have to do is click the right boxes, and yet somehow, reflexively, with Freudian inevitability, I ALWAYS C*CK IT UP.