Sunday, August 10, 2014

Driving North as the Children Fly North West

The children are in Illinois visiting their father's parents; I am in Clark's Summit PA, far far away from them (though not alone: goodness there's a lot of traffic wedged into this scenic, evergreen- dense, cleft in the mountains).

I cling to those child psych books that tout "Loving, Authoritative Parenting" because maybe I can still pull those off, at least sometimes?

Loving?  Check!  I love the little buggers to pieces. I think I am pretty good at emoting that (though sometimes I do also emote irritation and other less pleasant things).
Authoritative?  On a good day, I manage to be calm and in control (On a bad day I am hectoring ineptitude embodied).
Parenting?  I try.  I try to be there.  I try to be There with them when I'm there.

I miss them.  Should they come to read this blog (angrily perhaps: how dare I pimp out their lives to a world of unknown readers?  For what?). . . Anyway.  Should they come to read this blog themselves one day, I hope what they find here is how much I love them.

I am going to use the hotel pool now.  They would love it.  I will miss them (and there will also be a tiny bit of pleasure, guilty pleasure, because I will be able to swim rather than lifeguard).

They would have hated the drive.  As WYPR faded into the Harrisburg Public radio station, I managed to catch the same episode of Prairie Home Companion, twice!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Big Bravo/ Boo Hoo

It's the last week of a month of camp.  Last night Clara and Winton both performed in a production involving snippets of music from the movies.

Why does it make me cry?  They are both so cute, so small, and so easy to lose in the teeming children on stage.  They, like their peers, are by turns enthusiastic, shy, surprisingly good, and distractedly incompetent.

Seeing Winton do macho-moves to Mission Impossible, and Clara race around to Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, was the crying pride or love or the sense that even as they were performing their childhood was slipping away and so there was nostalgia even as the performance was still happening?

I don't know.  But I enjoyed it.  And I cried.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One of those nights= One of those days

Ditz central, here.  Forgetful and foggy headed.  Why, you ask?

Well, the cat who was lost for a month came back (!!) but has spent the last three nights seeking attention most ardently between two and four AM.

Also, Winton claims to have nightmares but actually just likes some company on his midnight bathroom trip and then likes, if he can talk me into it, to sleep in my bed with me, ideally with his elbow wedged in my eye socket.

And the dog snores.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

There Was Camping

At Assateague Island.  And everyone came home unscathed.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summertime, and the leaving is . . . ups and downs

Winton had the pin removed from his elbow yesterday, a "minor" procedure which nonetheless required general anesthetic and a long day of anxious, hungry waiting.

-the check-in revealed that somehow his birthplace had been recorded on his surgical records not as "Baltimore" but as "Rwanda." (I wonder under what circumstances I would have delivered a baby in Rwanda . . .)

-overhearing a nurse yell at a young doctor "I've been looking for you! Your boy still has a staple in his butt."


-catching a glimpse of the pediatric OR surgery list for the day,  which included a vaginoplasty (lots to think about: much time killed thereafter).

Today, I left with the kids on a camping trip.

Packing, deferred til morning of departure?  Check.
Tired, post-operative 5 year old?  Check.
Errands to run prior to departure?  Check.
Unpredictable and ultimately rainy weather?  Check.
TPMS light on and off intermittently for the whole drive and neither I nor the guys at a remote "Mr. Tire" near Easton, Maryland could figure out if the problem was a slow leak or an electrical glitch?  Check.

Happily, we are ensconced at a hotel for the night, about a half hour from the beach.  Assuming the car tire is not deflating itself in the dark, wet parking lot, we will proceed to Assateague in the morning and camp tomorrow night.

We swam in the skunky indoor pool, and ate hummus in the room.  I have a bottle of wine from which I can now pour a paper cup's worth of night cap.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dear Winton,

Thank-you for never locking your car door.  I ask you every time we get out, and yet you, seated directly behind me the driver, seldom do.  Sometimes I notice, and lock the door myself.  Often I don't.

Today I was in the Dulaney Plaza parking lot, in the bright sun, with the trunk open while I read the amoxicillin prescription the endodontist gave me.  I can't handle giving up caffeine (which allegedly might make my migraines less severe) and recovering from a "re-treat" on a root canal because of an abscess, so I was taking my pill and then heading in to Starbucks for an iced latte.  And what the hell, I was thinking.  My head already hurts, and  my mouth hurts, so I might as well. 

Distracted by abscessing self-pity and thick with self-justification, I shut the trunk, keys inside.

"Damn, F*ck, Ouch.  Damn!" I said, squinting at the too bright hot tarmac, and then I tried your door and it was unlocked.

And I climbed in, and pulled the latch for the trunk, and retrieved my keys and it was good.

My sweet, curly-headed, quietly disobedient boy.  Thank-you.

In this and so many other ways your being yourself in spite of me and what I ask of you is simply wonderful.



Friday, May 30, 2014

Mothers and Teachers

From Eleanor Catton's The Rehearsal (p.18):

"In my experience the most forceful and aggressive mothers are always the least inspired, the most unmusical of souls, all of them profoundly unsuccessful women who wear their daughters on their breast like a medal, like a bright deflection from their own unshining selves."


"We expect our teachers every year to start anew, to sever a year's worth of progress and forged connection, to unravel everything they've built and move back to begin work on another child."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mr. Big and in praise of B'More

Spring has sprung, and the cats are turning into hunters.

3.30 AM, Clara arrives at my bedside holding her caterpillar habitat (lid missing), in full spate of tears: "Mummy!  Pepita [the cat] knocked over my caterpillars and ate them all!"

Thankfully the morning light revealed that Mr. Big and Flash were not eaten, but had in fact turned into chrysalises.  Splash, however, remains awol.

In other news: The children went to a science fair at the public library on Saturday.  Baltimore is fantastic for free enrichment activities.  Really.  Between the Walters (free!  and there's a mummified Egyptian child) and other events like the science fair, it really is better than a bigger city (here all the stuff is accessible) and better than a small one (for the stuff Baltimore has is really quite impressive). 

At the fair they made objects to put in a wind tunnel out of cut up bits of pool noodle.
Yesterday, Winton wanted to take his into the bath with him.
"Sure," I said.  "It is just pool noodle after all."
"Yes," he said.  "It is only half a poodle."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Untogether now

 It's 11.30 AM and I am still in my pajamas.  I'm feeling the remnants of last week's (stomach flu?  food poisoning?): dopey-headed and amazed at the paradox of my legs (flaccid, scaly and skinny: interesting).

The new apartment is a sprawl of space, dusty (dirty) floors and rooms whose purpose remains unclear.

Clara and Winton have been here a few times now.  After the dramatic timing of my revelation of my old apartment's location to Clara (while it was burning down), it seems appropriate to be really up-front about this apartment even though the children don't overnight here yet.

The big draw of my new place is that the pet rats have also been revealed.  Rose and Turnip, in their pink-eyed whiteness, have become playthings for the 7 and unders.  I think this is a development which delights children and rats alike.

When your apartment burns down, people give you interesting things.  Really nice cutlery, but also old boxes of cleaning supplies which include organic fungicides for garden plants (there is no garden here).  Sometimes also kitchen utensils which are fabulous, and ones to which old fried eggs cling.  Some furniture too, which makes for olfactory diversity: everything here smells distinctive.  A grand bed smells like someone else, a stately doyenne of a couch smells dry and hot, a chair salvaged after the fire smells of campsites downdraft of the cooking.

It feels like a very long time since my life involved showing up for work, working, and then going to a predictable location ("home") to relax or exercise.

But I am also working.  I had a theory that DBC Pierre and I J Kay were one and the same author.  On the basis of vastly different habits regarding semi-colon usage, I have disproved my own theory.  And thus I am working, regardless of how this pajamaed time reading novels looks.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Seven Signs of . . . (March 11 thru May 13, 2014)

1) Winton's broken elbow and surgery
2) Discovery of what "deductibles" actually mean under my new health insurance (Big Bills!).
3) Enormous tax bill
4) House burgled
5)  Apartment burns down
6) Car gets flat tire
7) Stomach flu

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Farm Stay, Rural PA

The farm stay vacation (2 nights in a converted pig sty, the coldest spring days with temperatures below freezing).  I look at these photographs and think how well they would suit album covers, or novel jackets.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How I Feel

like the dinner the dog ate,
and then threw up;
like a rusty muffler dragging;
like a dag of salt-grey snow hardened behind a front tire;
like a blackened banana in  a backpack
under a water bottle;
like bread toasted too long
and buttered anyway;
like an old grease stain on a freshly laundered shirt;
like the sound cats make
like ice cream left on the counter overnight;
like a stove-top espresso maker with used grounds in it
that no one can unscrew;
like a dirty cast with unravelling edges;
like a hat lost in an alley
still wet from rain two days ago;
like I need to sleep,
perhaps for a year.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Let it go

Idina Menzel's "Let it go" from Frozen is clearly going to be the anthem of Clara's childhood.  She sings it endlessly, and has memorized the complicated lyrics with their sometimes counter-intuitive phrasing.  She's not alone.  I stood on Roland Avenue the other day hearing young girls singing it without being able to see exactly where their voices were coming from.  In the pool changing room?  Likewise: a young swim team of female voices attempting to "turn away and slam the door," Broadway-style.  It's pretty cool, actually, to watch zeitgeist happen and take hold.

As a grown-up, it feels like perhaps Clara, or all these young girls, are unconsciously tapping in to the anxiety and fear of change welling up in their mothers.  (Tell me, how many people, how many mothers, do you know who do not feel like recent months or years have resulted in a "swirling storm inside"?  Exactly.  None, right?)

It feels like things are changing in this world, land is sliding, buildings are falling, rain is coming, tides are roaring: Menzel voices the possibility of elation arising from chilling catastrophe. Who doesn't need the relief of that possibility?

Winton broke his arm this year, coinciding with my workplace downgrading our health insurance so that we now have medical bills for "deductibles" not covered by the insurer.  Taxes are due, and they were approximately triple what I was expecting.  Yesterday the house was burgled.

Let it go: certainly there's no holding on to material aspirations as the money streams away.

There is so much I want to cling tight to.  So tight.
I want to cling to my children and to the ways of being with them I have enjoyed in past years.  I want to cling to that and I want things to change, to move beyond this transitional time.

I feel like I am treading water in a canal lock: deep, cold, black-looking water.  The surface is deceptively still, but water is pouring out under the canal gates.  Hard to say whether hypothermia or the undertow will get me first.

There should be a clear plan or resolve to go forwards with . . .

My best hope is that it is possible that "home" and "good mother" can be made from my cupping of a child's chin in my hand and looking love at them, of an unexpectedly successful joke lightening the work of a mundane moment, of a moment of play that arises unexpectedly in the midst of whatever fresh angst the world has offered up, of a good meal, a warm blanket, a calming heart.  These I aspire to.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Books and Lowering the Bar

I just read Paul Theroux's Dark Star (a travel narrative chronicling the author's journey from Cairo to Cape Town overland).  Now I am 40 pages in to Peter Godwin's When A Crocodile Eats the Sun (a white Zimbabwean's memoir).

The two remind me that my scant contact with the African continent (6 weeks in Ghana over two visits) had a profound enough impact that my memory remains crowded with red earth, baobabs and the sound of women pounding fufu.

There is a branch of my father's family that extends deep into Namibia.  It is odd, unsettling, to read memoirs like Godwin's and feel myself at one remove from white Africa.  Only one remove for it is Uncle Harry and his family (my cousins) who reside over there.

Reading about Africa (Theroux) and about the wives/ mothers in remote African locations (Godwin . . . and also Alexandra Fuller of Don't Let's Go the Dogs Tonight and Scribbling the Cat) also makes me wish I was mothering in a remote African location in which simply surviving, and simply trying to keep your children alive, is recognized as a mammoth task.  Survival is not guaranteed in the third world.  A good mother feeds her children and tries to prevent them from catching guinea worm.

In the first world, survival is still not guaranteed (children die, children fall and break bones), but keeping your children alive is taken for granted.  Of course they will live.  You have to make sure they live, and here in the first world it is so easy, comparatively.

But here in the first world you must also ensure that your children are:
enrolled in character-building sports
knowledgeable about art and art history
culturally sensitive
globally aware
good community citizens
athletic and bookish
outdoorsy and diligent about completing their homework
bonded well and fairly to both parents
deeply connected with extended family
confident but not arrogant
and above all, and again, happy

It would be easier, so much easier, if this list could be reduced to "You must ensure your children are: alive (circumstances permitting)."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Yesterday's sore throat turned joined up with a fever and a tummy ache, resulting in Clara being sent home from school early.

Winton, as you know, is wearing a cast.  He's also been having nightmares about a little girl "not part of our family" who flushes him down the toilet.

Because both were looking ragged, I fetched the double stroller out of the garage yesterday.  I should have sold that stroller two years ago.  It's only laziness that has kept it around. 

Yesterday we used it.  We crossed York Rd. into Guildford, enjoying the sun and the manicured gardens.  We walked a route that I haven't walked in about two years because on foot the two of them won't go that far (also two kids and a dog all on their own feet and trying to cross York Rd, twice, is a bit much).  The stroller walk was fantastic, a throwback into another era of dogwalking, and a means of being out with the kids without having to be so vigilant.

Today, there's more snow, more fever, more sore throat, more over-tiredness.  We've already been out in the stroller again.  I am tempted to embark on walk #3 . . .

Monday, March 24, 2014


Winton just a little too tired and a little sick with a sore throat and too sore last night, screaming "I HATE YOU" at me for 20 minutes because I made him take a quick bath (all the more necessary because his one-handed ass-wiping is really shoddy work).

Clara with a sore throat this morning, and off at school.

Me staring at an essay I thought I'd finished 18 months ago and am still (still) writing.

Snow in the forecast for tomorrow.

One of those silly buzzfeed quizzes said I was a medieval court jester, relieving people from their misery in times of darkness.  I feel like I need myself : Give me an egg, nuncle, and I’ll give thee two crowns.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Falling on Swords: More on Kids and Custody

Words I said:
"primary residence" (in reference to a future 6 months or so away and children and Kids' House with their father)

nota bene:
I still want and intend to carve out at least 50% of the parenting time and responsibility, but in other ways than asking the children to schlep between two "primary" residences.  They come to me two nights a week.  I come to them one night a week.  I spend weekday time with them every weekday and weekend time on some kind of sensible schedule all of which is TBD.

This is the right thing (for my children, in these circumstances.  You, Reader, may have entirely different predicaments to deal with and your decisions will be right for reasons just as good as mine.)

My primary residence and my children's may not be one and the same (even if I see them every weekday, as I hope I will; even if they come to me a couple of nights a week).  Even if this is the right thing, it is very very painful.

1) Losing closeness with my children.
2) Them thinking I didn't want them (So not true!  So very not true!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Blue Cast

Winton's cast is blue.  His elbow is pinned back together.  He is able to use his left hand despite the cast (this is especially good as he is left handed).  He took his first bath in a week last night and we realized too late that the bread bag over his arm to keep the cast dry had a hole in it.  Even that worked out OK, after Mommy had a wee stress-out over the water-filled bag.  Yesterday he rejected his Oxycodone altogether, preferring moderate and tastier doses of Tylenol and Motrin.
Today he is at preschool.
And I am at work, staring at a computer screen mostly uncomprehendingly.  (I'm sorry, I am revising a what now?  An academic article?  For who?  And why?)  Might be a slow day, but it's definitely a good one so far.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Saturday Surgery

Winton has a surgery date (Saturday), but not yet a time.  The head of pediatric orthopaedics at Johns Hopkins Hospital is doing the surgery (Baltimore is amazing).  Winton doesn't want to school because he thinks people will fuss too much over his cast.  I am fussing too much.  All I want to do is fuss, and touch him, and then fuss some more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Winton and the 4.53 pm nap

Winton and I have to leave to get his sister from gymnastics in about 20 minutes. 
He just fell asleep. 
He should have fallen asleep hours ago, but didn't.  We've been watching Ninjago all day. 
This is a bad time to fall asleep. 

I won't even be able to stuff him into a car seat without waking him, because of the elbow he broke yesterday at this time by casually tripping on a bit of curb right by our house. 

Of course he's exhausted now though: we spent all of yesterday evening at St.  Joseph's waiting to have his elbow x-rayed, and discovering that a bit of bone ( his elbow process, or olecranon)  has been snapped off and will require surgical reattachment. 

I myself haven't been napping today because I've been calling pediatric orthopedic surgeons and because the thought of my 5 year old boy having pins surgically inserted into a bone I hadn't even heard of until last night gives me the terrors.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Clara: Not Crazy

Let me explain:

Clara watches Dr. Who.  She likes the Tardis ("tartis").

Clara's Mommy (me) lives at an apartment in which I have argued there is  a Cat Goddess ("cat gotis") who sends gifts down a special cat tunnel accessed through a mysterious flap in one of the apartment's cupboards and whose magic operates on the strength of my love and missing of Clara and Winton.

Conveniently the Walters Museum and books about Egypt substantiate the existence of a Cat Goddess, and call her Bastet, and frequently depict her in silver, gold and bronze statue form (as drawn above).

When I saw the children on Sunday, after being away Saturday, "The Cat Goddess" sent along Tardis shaped soaps as gifts for the children.


No one's crazy.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Projects: Academic Research on Children and Custody

Thursday night again and my fingers are numb from banjo practice.  Triumphantly, I can muddle through the opening lick of Folsom Prison.

In other projects, did I tell you that I, an academic, decided a few weeks ago that I didn't want to read the amazon self-help offerings on children, custody and divorce but instead would help myself to the myriad academic databases at my disposal?

For instance: instead of The Good Divorce, I am reading Divorce and Custody: Forensic, Developmental and Clinical Perspectives.  My favorite piece so far might be an academic review of a self-help book: Kevin Shafer reviews Yours, Mine and Hours: Relationship Skills for Blended Families and rants "I am no fan of anecdotal evidence," writing the book off as being primarily a "marketable gimmick" where an actual study could have been of more use.  I pat myself on the back, for at my elbow I have a stack of actual studies, and I am, for now, shunning the marketable gimmicks.

The studies have words in them like "morbidity," which sounds bad.  They tell me in no uncertain terms that the rates for depression, acting out and other child problems are always higher in the children of divorce . . . but by 0.2% which is, apparently (me, I am no numbers gal) statistically significant,  though 0.2% higher risk of depression seems a lot less harrowing to me than the phrase "children of divorce suffer more psychological problems."

So, childhood will likely be 0.2% more prone to psychological difficulty?  OK.  Exhale.

The studies, or the ones I have read so far, also consistently admit that "positive, authoritative parenting" or parenting that is "loving but firm" can mitigate or offset negative effects of divorce.  Perhaps it's kind of like buying carbon offsets when you buy a plane ticket?  I'm doing this bad thing, can I compensate for it by doing X as well?  In this context, X is being even-tempered, loving and good at maintaining sensible structures and boundaries.  (Wait!  X is really really hard . . .)

Back to the academics:
Being too lax or all gifty-gus as a guilt-ridden parent?  That's a problem.  Crying all day?  Problem.  Losing your shit and becoming a dictatorial monster?  Problem.  [Note to self: someone should have told me about "positive, authoritative parenting" years ago, even before separation and divorce were on the table, because I did too much of all that bad stuff already].

Anyway.  Be perfect, and then it will all be better. No problem, right?

Also: conflict is bad.  Yelling in front of the kids stresses them out in ways that damage them.  Making mean faces?  Just as bad, as are rude hand gestures directed at the other parent or unkind caricatures of them (I'm extrapolating here; strictly speaking, the research simply says conflict is bad).  Also: dissing the other parent and/or causing the child to have split loyalties: bad.  [These seem pretty intuitive to me]

To my surprise, step-siblings are good.  WHAT?! Surely Cinderella and her nasty steps taught us all to fear the extra children a child might be exposed to in a step-family, and Austen's novels are crawling with orphans adopted into homes filled with mean boys and girls,  but, get this, step-siblings experience the positives of a sibling relationship and are spared some of the rivalry that comes along with their full siblings.  Huh.

I feel bad that this doesn't have footnotes.  Sorry.  Stopping here for now.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Clara's letter 2/26/14

I guess at school the children were asked to write a letter to someone, anyone.

This is what Clara wrote:

Dear Santa,
I hope you are haveing a good time in the north poll with the colld wethr. rite back to me some day please santa please.


1) I love that she thought of how Santa might be enjoying the cold that the rest of us are so sick of.
2) I love that she would like (in late February, a long way from Christmas) him to write back.

Monday, February 24, 2014


1) I have confessed to a couple of people in the last week that my real New Year's resolution was to be magic, by which I mean be Good, Kind and Full of Inventive Solutions that actually add up to net improvements in as many of the lives over which I have influence as possible.  It's a lofty goal.  Thank-god it's only February because so far I've not made much inroads with this.

2)  Clara put a curse on the ring I am currently wearing by applying a magic golden balloon, five bracelets and a chant to it.  Apparently now I can't wear it to work because, to quote Clara directly, "it will make your colleagues very greedy."  Oh dear.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thursday Night Banjo

Well, hello again, Thursday evening, and bite me.

Am I going to clean the tub?  No.
Am I going to do productive things?  No.

I am going to expand my banjo repertoire.  So far it includes flawed and uneven versions of Cripple Creek, Shortnin' Bread, Little Liza Jane and I'll Fly Away (all in tablature by Tim Jumper).  That's it.  My whole repertoire.  Plus a few chords (G, C, D7, F).  Everything in G tuning (I am afraid to even contemplate other tuning options).  This, my dear readers, after only 7 years of having the banjo sit on a stand in the living room, and a bit less than a year of actually trying to teach myself how to play it.

I have just found this amazing website (owlbanjo Schoolhouse) and its very excellent instructions for playing Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison.  Really excellent instructions, with recordings to listen to at various speeds.  And (AND) everything is in G tuning!  Super Bien!

Fumbling with this stuff should take care of Thursday evenings for at least a decade.

Good thing I decided earlier today that, having finished Clara and Winton's scarves, other knitting projects (tea cosy?) will have to wait until my retirement in approximately 22 years.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Healthy Breakfasts

are a challenge, aren't they?  Especially when faced with the relentless sugar-crusade that is Winton.  I suppose getting him to drink a kale and pineapple smoothie this morning is a triumph, but it is one significantly mitigated by the jelly beans that accompanied it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Oh, go on then. Write one more maudlin post. This one's about (not) being there.

Last mopey one for a bit. OK, dear readers?

Last night I was at the House, part of my exercise in trying and failing to be here while also trying and failing to have moved out.

At 4.30 AM, Winton got up to pee, knocking on his father's door and getting his father to take him even though I was home, door open and even, as it turns out, awake.  Ouch. My "baby" (he's five) doesn't come to me in the night anymore.

But: it's only ouch for me.  This doesn't actually hurt anyone else as keenly as it does me, so in the great game of trying to raise happy children, it doesn't matter.  Winton peed.  He was happy.  He didn't need me to be there for him.

I have spent seven years parenting on the model that being there was the most important thing I could do. 

Am I still there for the children if I sometimes not here  (as in physically with them)?  How do I pull that off?

Do I need to be X % better, happier, livelier, more attentive, more loving, more perceptive, more more more when I am with them because of the time when I am not?  (Oi.  That's just a bit of pressure, innit?)

So much of this is about my own ego, sense of purpose and insecurity about every damn thing: if the kids don't need me, what (cue the orchestra of tiny violins to serenade my self-pity), what am I worth as a human being and a mother?

But the kids do need me.  And their father.  They need both.

And this curent nesting arrangement is, as far as I can tell, fine for the children.  Possibly it is fine even for their father (it must occasionally drive him nuts though, surely: like having an intermittent but obtrusive roommate).


Friday, February 7, 2014


So the alliterative cures I list below, and which I used last night, work pretty well.  They keep one busy.

My better insight though is that a sense of purpose helps more than creating busy-ness.

If I am missing people, it is best to imagine how this time away from them can be used best, so that when I am with them my time with them can also be used best.

-bath and a goodnight's sleep = I will be more resilient and relaxed when I pick the kids up from school the next day.

-morning walk, tea and focused reading of work =  I have to do my job too, and if I work harder now, I can slide a little and not have to be thinking of work around the edges of being with loved ones when I next get to be with them.

This is also a very constructive (or so it feels to me) reframing of the narrative that had in the past led to self- pity and flagellation.    In other words, replace "You are feeling bereft because you deserve it" with "Feeling lonely?  Get busy now so that when you are with loved ones you can relax and enjoy it."

This is a version of my father's advice on Christmas morning when I was weeping about missing the children: "Oh, stop it!" He said, at the end of his rope with me, "Shut up, have another cup of coffee and read your book.  Soon you'll be back with everybody and they will be driving you crazy with something."  Touche, Pappa.  Touche.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Alliterative Ills and Cures

Had a day of Bumbleheadedness (in which everyone else seems to speed up while your ability to think, remember, and be effective slows down)?

Did the children have a Bona-Fide Bust-Up, hitting each other, yelling and falling on their Bums while out walking the dog with you this afternoon?

Are you tired this evening, and alone facing The Blahs? Or The Bleaks? 

May I recommend:

Bath (first take one then clean one)
Book (ideally something written for adolescents: easy, plot-driven)
Bed (tomorrow--look ahead to tomorrow)

I'll let you know if it works.

Monday, February 3, 2014


I mentioned to Winton, he of the massive piggy bank and fondness for coin sorting, that I needed quarters. 

Then I spent my usual Saturday night and Sunday away from the kids and their house.

On return to them/ the house on Sunday late afternoon, before I had removed my boots, Winton greeted me with three quarters: "For you, Mummy.  Because you need them."

Thoughtfulness from a five-year-old boy is heartbreakingly wonderful.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Important concepts, explained

Winton:  "No, Mummy.  In this game, there are good points, bad points and Hot Lava points."

Clara: "Let's see the wrinkles on the backs of your fingers, where they bend."
Me: "You mean my knuckles."
Clara: "The backs of your fingers, where they bend.  Oh look, see?  You have lines there.  That means you will come back as an animal.  You won't stay dead.  You'll come back as a cat, or a dog, or an elephant."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


1) On Winton, who stank of it ("I had a bit of an accident at school, but it dried out").

2) On my bed, discovered by the girl who sat down in it and started screaming.

I am here at the computer so I don't put the cat out into the freezing cold and can't hear the bath tub running water over Winton's urine-stained and stiff pants/ underwear.

Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Day and Clara's stomach flu

Me: "Winton, what do you think MLK day is all about?"
Winton: "Martin Luther King JUNIOR had a birthday once."
 Me: "Yes, true.  And you Clara?"
Clara [who's had stomach flu]: "Martin Luther King thought people should be judged by what's inside them not what's outside.  Today I would rather be judged by how my outside looks."

Friday, January 17, 2014

The joys of not medicating

So I've had this chest cold thing.  I went running on Tuesday morning, which added a fever to the mix.  Then I went out Tuesday evening and stayed out slightly too late.  And then on Wednesday night Winton vomited from midnight til 2.30 AM, so sleep was "disturbed."

Consequently, I attributed last night's crippling headache to sinuses and tiredness instead of migraine.  Last night's nausea was assumed to be either a result of swallowing too much mucus or the onset of my version of Winton's stomach ailment.  And when I woke this morning with the same pick-axe through my skull feeling, I thought "Damn!  I have to look after my health better.  These sinuses are killing me."

Headache abated around 9 AM . . . and by 10 I felt quietly, soporifically euphoric if a bit unable to string sentences together.

That's a tell: if I have a migraine and don't treat it with imitrex I get a really relaxed and unfocused euphoria afterwards.

I've had that all afternoon.

It's almost worth the bloody migraines to feel this sedately happy afterwards.

Maybe that's why my children are flooding the bathroom with a mid afternoon relaxa-bath and I am not yelling at them.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Today's news

Of the household, I am probably the sickest (ie the most capable of horking up green slime from somewhere in my lungs) . . .

 Clara is also home "sick" from school today (or, she is the reason I am home).  She had a minor fever and a major melt-down and voila: she is downstairs building traps for the cats Pepita and Pumpkin.
She is going to teach them math sentences.

It is also sunny outside so I feel gross, frustrated not to be at work, and frustrated to be inside when finally the weather is pleasant (after more than a week of it being too terrible to be out in).

Today's bathroom story comes courtesy of Winton:
W:"Ooops.  Mummy I peed on the wall by mistake."
Me: "Where?"
W: "There."
Me: "Oh, gross."
W: "And also there, there and there."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winton: Telling Jokes

W: What did one butt say to the other butt?
Me: [fart noise] ?
W: Nooo!  "I'm a little fruit!  Orange party!!"

[I think the humor of five year old boys might need a bit of weed or something to make sense to grown-ups]

Business Idea

"At your leisure: Medically Induced Comas when you need them"

Would rather skip Christmas through New Year's Day?  We can offer you sound sleep though that entire week.

Temperatures cold enough to freeze nose hair?  Come hibernate with us.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Birthday Week? Check!

Winton's actual birthday: Monday of last week. I made a big chocolate cake with white frosting.  I took the kids swimming.

Clara's actual birthday: Friday of last week (a school day cancelled because of snow . . . but I had made 40 chocolate chip cookies on Thursday night in case school was on that day and Clara wanted to bring treats for her classmates.)

Their father's birthday: Saturday.

Winton's birthday party (at a duck-pin bowling alley, with 13 friends): Saturday.  I hosted and provided veggies and fruit to round out the bowling alley's pizza and soda party package.

Winton's friend's party at the street car museum: Saturday, immediately after Winton's own party.

Dinner for their father (not a huge deal, but a nice meal I made of sausages, egg noodles and greens): Saturday.

Clara's My Little Pony birthday party: Sunday.  I made a life size Rainbow Dash drawing which the children coloured in.  I hosted.  I made fruit and veg and Mac' n' Cheese and we ate ice cream cake for dessert.

Monday: Clara brings Friday's cookies to school.

Now I am at work, resting.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Lost Luggage and Voice

One thing about the Vancouver trip to my parents' was that I lost my bag on the way there.  Well, not lost exactly.  I was flying Baltimore to Toronto to Vancouver.  In the height of the excitement about the ice storm, my trip was re-routed from Baltimore.  I flew from Washington DC instead (which meant an unexpected ride on a commuter train the morning of my departure).  So, I was rattled and delayed and had been to two airports before I had actually really left.

Then, there was Toronto's Pearson Airport, designed, apparently, to control population  size by causing aneurisms in passengers hoping to make connecting flights between the US and Canada but needing to clear customs, immigration and a security line first.

In the melee at Pearson, I claimed someone else's check-in baggage off the belt, cleared it through customs and had it checked (to myself) in Vancouver. I lugged someone else's luggage for close to an hour.  It felt like mine in terms of weight.  It looked like mine in terms of size and colour. 

On arriving in Vancouver (surprisingly, after all that, only 6 hours behind schedule), my father drove me to their house.  We wove in and out of our lane.   It was dark.  It was scary.

And then I assembled dinner for my father, mother and myself out of the items painstakingly procured by my father (rye bread, salami and prosciutto or, as he refers to it without realizing he has it wrong, promiscuitto).

Then finally it was bed time, and I opened "my" luggage, to discover dirty woollen men's socks and a cell phone and laptop with keyboards in cyrillic.

Air Canada had the whole mess sorted out by Christmas day. (Which was remarkable: the baggage handlers are very clever and kind; the clerks helping transfer passengers at Pearson are deliberately slow and cruel.)

And now I am back.  And my luggage is here at the House, and the children are prepping for their respective birthday parties (Winton's is tomorrow, Clara's is Sunday).  And I have lost my voice.

Happy New Year.