Monday, September 26, 2016

Smiles, Netflix

I opened Netflix and the search window popped up from Smiles's recent Saturday morning browsing for shows he wanted to watch while his sister and step sisters were still asleep. . .
It said "search for: magagicians and alens."  Magicians and aliens.  Yep.  That is what he WOULD most want to watch.  Has anyone made that show yet?  It'd be a nice change from Jessie . . .

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Baby Mice/ Ethics

The kitchen has mice. Mice live in the kitchen.
For the first time in my life, I live with dogs but no cats, so this is an issue.  I also have two pet rats, who look a lot like big mice.  So. 
Irritated by the nibbles taken from a bag of tortilla chips, I set traps.
I caught two mice, and tried to quash my internal dilemma: if I am a keeper of pet rodents why kill the mice pooping on the counter? (A: because pooping on the counter is gross.)

Then, there was a baby mouse trapped in the sink. Tiny.  So small.  It's whole body would have fit in the circumference of a quarter.  It had freakishly long hind legs though, hopping desperately to escape the sink.
I was too overcome by its cuteness to kill it, so I trapped and released it outside (where it has likely died).
Then I felt bad.  Poor baby mouse!  It had never been outside before.  How was it to survive?  It probably suffered.

Days later: another tiny mouse in the sink.  Tinier, even.  The body small enough to fit in a nickel.  This one I trapped, and released on the kitchen counter, whereupon it scurried into the toaster.

Now: tiny poops in the dishrack every day, and I am anxious about the toaster's cleanliness.  I am skeeved out (wish I'd killed all the mice) and optimistic that I'll find another tiny adorable grasshopper-like baby in the sink (wish I could stroke all the mice).

Monday, August 15, 2016

Where'd the Humor Go?

I've been struggling to be funny.  The blog has suffered because funny requires me to self mock, and that's hard if you think you may have critical readers.  It's also hard if you're working to obscure the identities of four children while being specific about their wonderful wackiness.

Humor is essential to survival though, the valve in the pressure cooker's lid.

I need it.

Today's pressure cooker:

I am in Baltimore and it is too hot.

Father is in hospital (he can't hear me on the phone and I don't know if he's about to die or about to, against doctor's orders, discharge himself: both are possible).

Father is Mother's caregiver, ergo Mother has been moved to respite care, and is distraught that Father doesn't recognize her voice when she calls him in hospital.

Neighbor (whose husband died three weeks ago) doesn't want to feed their cats or look after their house anymore because it is too much responsibility.  She advises I call other neighbor (Eee.  But other neighbor always reams me out for not hopping on a plane and being there even though I have been out twice in the last 4 months.)

Brother is in an addiction recovery house somewhere in Vancouver (but which one). Either that or he is on the street.

Funny, maybe, is how this mimics, exactly, the feel of a thriller based on paranoia and suspense.  What is going on?  I don't know,  father doesn't know, mother doesn't know, neighbor doesn't know, brother doesn't know!

Time to call the hospital and see what the nurses (who can't legally tell me anything over the phone) are willing to illegally let slip.

Friday, July 15, 2016

It's a New Day

Bow to her father regarding the packed lunch he made her for summer camp:
"Nobody likes tomatoes, Daddy"

Daddy (BF): "But.  You ate tomatoes last night!"

Bow: Yes, but today is a new day.

Annual Wild Berry Blow Out

I kind of missed mulberry season this year.  Dog walks from this house, were we've lived since October, don't seem to lead under any accessible fruiting mulberry trees.  There are some inaccessible ones behind forbidding poison ivy along the long alley people here refer to as "The Lane."  There had been a great tree a block from the pool, but it has been cut down. I could have gone further out of my way to look, but instead I went to Vancouver, and now mulberry season is over.

 I have been extra vigilant about the wild cloud berries.  I didn't want to miss them too.  Yesterday, despite the "Code Red" heat which closed the Spanish language summer camp at lunchtime (que no vale), and the dentist appointment for Smiles, we went to [a location I cannot reveal because I am jealously hoarding berry bushes] and picked cloudberries from thorny branches hung like bedecked Christmas trees.  It was great.  Easy, fun, tasty and the bushes were even in the shade!

This morning we (Me, Voice, Smiles) presented Wisp and Bow with a heaped bowl of garnet colored juiciness to enjoy.  Wisp, seemingly always concerned that the adults in her life are trying to poison her with what they claim are "tasty"  "foods,"  attempted some preemptive buzzkill "I've HAD cloudberries before.  They AREN'T as good as raspberries."  Nonetheless, the four children enjoyed a finger-staining and rapid consumption of berries, and ate the whole crop.

I feel like I can rest easier now.  At least I didn't blow the cloud berry harvest . . .

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer Adventures

1) Vancouver.

We went to visit my ailing-aging parents.  My father describes himself as "shrimping" with age.  He means "shrinking" but the curvature of his spine is so severe, and the three fingered hand . . . well.  He's righter than he knows.  My parents held themselves together for the entire visit: no falls, no disasters. It didn't rain once either.  Both weather and good health were very suspicious.

Now we are back and I phoned last night from Baltimore to discover that my mother is in hospital. Mostly, it seems, she is there because she was about to have her first bowel movement in 18 days and my father, with the benefit of past experiences of her montezuma-like evacuations, decided he just wasn't able to deal with the mess that was about to come.  So he called an ambulance, and now my mother is in hospital pooping.

2) Spanish Camp.

Voice and Smiles were looked after  by a wonderful Argentinian woman at a home-run daycare when they were babies, and she spoke only Spanish to her charges.  They were fluent at age 3.

At ages 7 and 9 they only know this phrase, "Hola ardilla caka", which I have implored them not to lead with this week, for this week they are at Spanish Camp, rediscovering immersion in Spanish.  I wonder if they will miraculously remember all they have forgotten?  Perhaps a door in their brain will open and verbs in complex tenses will pour out?  From their faces when I left (tense, not conjugating tenses), I suspect not, but I am curious, hopeful nonetheless.

I ought to go visit their old daycare provider.  She really was amazing.  She cooked different lunches for six toddlers every day, catering to their whims while also providing delicious food.  They always played outside in her nice little yard.  They sang and read.  I was so lucky to have found her.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Robins, part 4

Doctor Robin, as seen from inside.
Three of the four babies, as seen from outside.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Robins Part 3

There are at least 3 babies in that nest now.  They hatched on Wednesday afternoon (Bow was the first to see them).  They are, today, slightly firmer looking, a bit less like wet dinosaur-fish.  Today their wide open beaks reach up over the lip of the nest and look pointed.  Today you can hear their "peep peep."

Standing inside this morning, BF and I watched Mamma Robin (I call her Dr Robin, because Mrs seemed too retrogressive and Ms seemed too formal) and Daddy Robin deliver worms to the nest.  The scene then, on the two sides of the transom's window glass:

Inside: Human couple watching robins delightedly.
Outside: Robin couple watching humans suspiciously.

"I bet,"  said BF, "Daddy robin's saying 'Hmn.  I don't know about this neighborhood' and Mamma's answering 'Well, you picked it'."

This is funny because BF and I have exactly that conversation all the time.
I don't know about this neighborhood.
Well, you picked it.

Anyway the baby Robins in the transom window are pretty darned special.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Smiles as Frat Boy

It is easy to see Smiles (age 7) as alarmingly similar to my male college-age students:

Long dirty blond curls looping to his shoulders as he slouches on the couch wearing a T shirt and Y fronts, absorbed in playing a video game on a device nestled on his lap.


Asking me to remove the puppy from his bed at 9 Am on a holiday Monday morning "because it's a holiday, and I am going back to sleep."

Or, most of all,

At the top of the porch steps, yelling excitedly about his return to the back-yard cookout (from a trip inside to the bathroom) can (of fruity seltzer at this age) in hand "Hey guys!  The Party's Baaaaaaack!"

Monday, May 23, 2016

Robins, part 2 (On unusual perspectives)

Through the glass window of the transom one can see the back of the nest,
the robin's tail
its bent legs
and its pointy butt.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Our front door is made of glass panels and has a glass transom window (is that a good idea in a "marginal" Baltimore neighborhood?  No.  But at least we have two dogs--one large, one noisy).

Robins have made a nest on the transom part of the door.  Despite frequent egress.  Despite noisy children.  Despite barking dogs, porch lights, and mail delivery.

This means one can sit inside half way up the stairs and be level with the nest, and see it through the glass.

1) Wow!  I hope the birds stay there and have babies, because the kids are going to be able to spend all day on the steps inside watching!

2) Robins, really.  What are you thinking?  Your nest sits on the door frame and is backed by clear glass. Perhaps you are just happy to be out of the (incessant) rain and are willing to put up with a lack of privacy in exchange for dryness?

I guess their nest is in a better spot than the sparrow nest in our drier vent last year. (I can imagine a sparrow pitching that one to his mate; "But look, honey.  It may be loud and windy, but the eggs will always be warm!")

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mom(osyllabic) Day Sentimentality

 On Mother's Day: Great cards from Voice and Smiles.  Voice actually wrote me a card every day during the preceding week, which is more protestations of love than I have ever received from her, and does the predictable thing of turning me into a ball of weepiness.  Those cards contain all the praise I want ("I love your gardening," "Thank-you for the pasta workshop. I loved cutting the pasta,"  "I really liked going to the bluegrass festival with you" "Mommy, I love you here, I love you there, I love you everywhere!").  So much recognition I am afraid: what's making her think all this good stuff?? Is she OK??

Also on Mother's Day, after dropping them off with their father, the retired-nun-neighbor asking over the fence "Well, did you get to see your children at all today?"  That too pretty much reduced me to a ball of weepiness.

Moving on: yesterday, the day after mother's day, Voice told me she'd put a special stuffy, one I gave her, in her back pack because she'd been missing me.  While we were busy doing homework in the dining room the puppy got into her backpack in the hall, and ate the body of the toy, leaving only its head (what is the word for the opposite of decapitation?). 

Voice was reduced to a ball of weepiness.

I am no seamstress, but I like solving problems.  Out of the remnants of the Sock Puppet Birthday Party in January, I made a new bunny body (tail and all).  Voice deems it "lumpy, but even better than the real one because YOU made it, Mommy."

And I weep again.

Friday, April 22, 2016

April is the Firiest Month

In April 2014, I stood outside my apartment building for an entire afternoon, watching firefighters douse flames.

Today, only a few days off the actual anniversary, a home mere blocks from that building caught fire, closing Roland Ave (an essential thoroughfare for people taking kids to Roland Park Elementary, Roland Park Country School and Gilman).

To get the kids to school, we walked past the firetrucks, and through the smell of diesel (trucks) and woodsmoke (burnt building).

I feel very unhinged.  It's right there, that panicky feeling of vulnerability, that feeling of swirling in a current of fate totally out of one's control, that combination of luck (I am not in mortal danger, I am not trapped in the fire) and unluck (fire takes everything).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

(Dante's) Seven Circles of Stress

1)  You don't sleep because (it's a full moon, you are anxious, BF is snoring, you have PMS)
2) Smiles gets a nosebleed and wets the bed.
3) The puppy wakes up at 5.17 AM
4) Breakfast is rushed, and there's laundry to get in ( see 2))
5) You leave for school 5 minutes late
6) There's roadwork
7) You yell at a child for not getting out of the car fast enough.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Elemental Man

We tried Assateague in the spring this year. 

In sum: darned COLD (so windy even under the clear blue sky.  In fact, so windy that one of the tents wrenched itself out of the sand and rolled, like a tumbleweed.  Voice kept it from rolling into the fire--good thinking, girl!-- but from there it rolled, ever faster, all the way down to the porta pots where a startled user of the facilities helped me stop it.  All in all it rolled a good 250 meters, at speed).
Plus side: no mosquitos.

Also, and my main comment here, Smiles was able to demonstrate his obsessions: running in the wind ("it feels like you are running so fast!" he says), and the warmth of tarmac which he desperately needed after playing for too long in the cold waves, and of course, nothing is more compelling than a camp fire.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Elemental Man:

Earth, Wind, Water and Fire.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Smiles is a Hipster

"When I grow up, I'm going to have a really big beard so I can stroke it."

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sandwiched, Sandsquished

1) Never title a post "one of THOSE weeks" (as I did my last post) because it invites the fates to throw more at you, vengefully, spitefully. I imagine the Roman gods (Neptune, for instance, in an especially petty mood) and the Bacchae (who will rip one to shreds) combined here.

2) My 85 year old father went to hospital in Vancouver and, because he is my mother's primary caregiver, and because their a) extremely helpful or b) somewhat intrusive neighbor thought it was a good idea, she went too.

3) I flew out for a week, taking emergency time off work.  The whole week I was not with my children (gah!) and then I left, even though my parents are both still in hospital and both still really need help and should really (really) be convinced they need to move to assisted living but I was unable to convince them (gah!).  Sandwiched and squished!

4) Evidence re: the wisdom of assisted living:
Mother: "Oh, but I see my Dr. on the 33rd!"
Father: "Just reach through the wall, Knut.  The dry cat food is right there."
Father [from hospital bed]: "I think the neighbor's dog was just here looking for your mother."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

One of THOSE weeks

Monday night: alarm-like whine in the basement turns out to be a substantial amount of water, under pressure, spurting from a pipe near the hot water tank: basement flood.

Tuesday: porch repairs stalled til weekend because workman doesn't have the right size post and need to order one.

Wednesday: all the wet woollen carpets (heavy, smelly) from the basement get draped on parts of the broken and under construction porch (classy!).

Thursday: Kids bound out the door to be driven to school, whereupon we all discover that someone ploughed into my parked car overnight and it is not driveable.

Sigh.  At least the weather is nice . . .

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Shoe Shopping Frustrations

Here are some questions for you:
Though DSW sells children's shoes online, they do not in their Towson, MD store.  Why?
Macy's in the mall doesn't sell children's shoes, even though they have a huge children's CLOTHING section and an impressive Layette layout.  Why?

I would have thought that children's shoes would be a great thing to sell (those feet grow so much so often and so stinkily, new shoes happen all the time).  Why doesn't everyone sell them?

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Did I mention the puppy?  The one acquired before Xtide primarily to make me feel better when my children were away?  The one that's half pug, half question mark?
Mm. hmn.
That puppy is roughly 5 months old, naughty yappy, and blessed with a prodigious and adorable underbite.

Last night  between 8.40 and 9.30 pm he peed in the following places :
On Voice's bed,
On Voice's carpet,
outside in the yard,
in the basment, on a throw rug (while I was trying to get Voice's bedding into the wash),
outside  in the yard
on the couch.

1) My god, is the dog ill that he peed so much?? (No, I just put down too much water with dinner and let the smelly puppy jump into the bath with Smiles at bathtime, where the small dog drank large amounts of bathwater)

2) And how am I holding up?  Ragged my friends.  Ragged cranky ass bitch faced ogre does school drop off this morning.  Whee!  The broken-down bus clogging up traffic and making us late didn't help . . .

Friday, February 12, 2016

Migraine and Lowered Expectations

Nevermind the idea of "teaching well" or producing wonderments and fun for the children, a migraine day is simply about surviving time, keeping classes moving and children alive, without barfing or weeping.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Oh, but there was Chinese New Year . . .

It recedes as guilt and loss fill the foreground of my thoughts,
we had a rocking Chinese New Year, with dim sum (yummy things AND sesame "ick-balls"), a lion dance at the museum, slices of pizza, and then a swim at the YMCA.  A good day.

Ways I make Myself Crazy: 1

Regret and Self-Recrimination

2 hour snow delay for school.  Kids are with their father.
 Do I have 80+ pages (in small font) of Said's Orientalism to prep for class?  Yes. 
Do I wheedle in a text to the kids' father so that I don't become responsible for the extra at home hours and then dropping the kids off?  Yes. 
Do the kids get, presumably, a chill morning playing extra video games at Dadda's house?  Yes. 
Do I feel wracked with regret because I have gone to work and missed out on parenting time? Yes.
Do I have to be at work though?  Yes.
Do I feel grief-filled and guilt-ridden nonetheless?  Yes.

Monday, January 25, 2016

After the Big Snow

Will they remember that we played outside in the driving snow and it was fun?  That we drank hot chocolate and ate popcorn, and played at being a Loud Rock Band  with real amped guitars and a microphone in the basement?  That we slept in and I made blueberry muffins?  That they dozed on the couch with the dog and the puppy?  That we made a Lego shark and tried an impossible puzzle?  That there was enough snow to sled over our rock wall?


Will they remember the number of times I said "m*therf*cker" when I discovered that a dog had peed in my bed?  That I got unreasonably cranky after shovelling for too long?  That I complained about how one was ready to go out, all bundled up, but the other was lying on the couch and would not get ready--I howled at him "you are NO help at all!  Now Voice will get cold and want to go in just as you, Smiles, are ready to go outside finally.  Why do you have to be that way?"

Well, we are all alive.  And the washing machine still works.  So that's pretty good, right?