31 March 2011


I'm sitting here in the airport, using the free wi-fi, backpack at my feet. The last whirlwind trip I took was the one with my sister, back in January. This time, I'm alone - flying out to Seattle for a Nintendo event with a mess of other bloggers. Two nights in a hotel - alone. A visit to Nintendo headquarters, with a chance to try out the new 3DS. Dinner out in Seattle And three visits with friends on Saturday before I fly home on the red-eye.

It's a chance to escape my life for a bit - no child to read to, no work to do, no laundry to sort.

I feel lucky today.

But I'll love getting off the plane on Sunday, to the big hugs from my little family.

28 March 2011

How often do you get your hair cut?

Oy. Between now and about April 15th is like some kind of clusterfuck, and it’s not even that I’m a CPA doing other people’s taxes. Just too much work, too many volunteer obligations, too much child and family and friends stuff. And a trip to Seattle, even.

At the end of last week, I decided that my hair needing cutting - in advance of all of these various events - so Saturday morning I hauled myself over to the cheap salon. You know, the big boisterous local salon, the one that caters to little kids and blue-haired old ladies and everyone in between. I go there because it amuses me, and because you don't need an appointment, and because it's $24 for a women's hair cut. I've never had a bad haircut there. Undistinguished, sure, but bad? No.

Until Saturday.

I walked in and said I needed a haircut, and the receptionist asked whether I had a preference for a man or a woman. I said I didn't care, and ended up with the old man. The old man usually sits around, perched on one a vacant chair, peering eaglelike at the goings on, and not actually doing anything. I've always assumed that he owns the place, but I really don't know. I sat down, and he cut my hair. And it was crooked and I made him fix it. And I left, and I looked in the mirror when I got home, and I thought "this is the worst hair cut I have ever had". Old man. Don't let the old man cut your hair. Damn it.

I groused about it to myself, pissed off that I'd just wasted $24 (plus tip!) on a terrible haircut, until I remembered that Heidi had a hairdresser friend in the town where I was headed. Heidi texted me the phone number (and texted Ilene to warn her), and at 5:15, I settled in for the second haircut of the day.

You have to remember: I never learned how to be a real girl. I don't wear make-up, and I didn't get my hair cut by anyone but my mother until I was like 40. So the idea of two haircuts in ONE DAY was really just over the top.

But Ilene was great, and there wasn't anyone else there, and the late afternoon sun was streaming through the windows, and she had jelly beans.

The next few weeks are still going to be a clusterfuck, but at least I got a nice haircut to face 'em with.

23 March 2011


For years now, since before the girlie was born, I've had a little stack of parenting books by my bed. They come and go - all of the baby care tomes are gone, and I'm slowly replacing them with books like Reviving Ophelia and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen - but until the other day, there were three in the pile that we really didn't need: Weissbluth, Ferber and Satter.

It was like some kind of magical thinking: As long as the sleep books are under the bed, the child will sleep. As long as the sensible eating book was at hand, the child will eat.

Of course, she doesn't sleep, except with me. Oh she went through a period of sleeping in her own bed every night right after we got her a heated mattress pad, but she fell back into her old ways soon enough, and now every last stuffed animal she owns is on the floor of her room and she only goes in there to fetch clean clothes. I've given up.

And she doesn't eat, except with ketchup. The other night she ate salad for dinner - hallelujah! a green vegetable! - with a dressing that she'd made by stirring equal parts of ketchup and vinaigrette together. She eats rice with ketchup for lunch. Rice cakes with ketchup for snack. Hard-boiled eggs dipped in ketchup. She's discerning: only Heinz will do. Frou frou organic ketchup from Whole Foods? Feh. Homemade stuff from the Greenmarket? Feh.

I know that one day she will go into her room and close the door and blast the stereo and refuse to talk to me. I know that one day she'll eat something other than ketchup.

But I finally gave up those books, those talismans, and passed them along to my brother and sister-in-law. Maybe they'll do someone else some good, under another bed.

21 March 2011


One of the many delights of raising a child is living through her language development.

Last week, she had a dentist appointment. I asked her how it went, and she told me "It hurt. She poked my gums and fondled my teeth". Yeah. Fondled.

Then, lying in bed this morning, we saw the early bus go down the hill - the middle & high school bus. I said to her "It's a good thing you're not in high school; you'd have to be out there getting on that bus." She went off into a monologue about her bus driver and how he does the early run and then the elementary school run, and then "he puts the bus in the parking arena" until after school. Yeah, parking arena.

It's so ephemeral, this growing up thing. The best I can do is take a few pictures, write down some of the awesome phrases, and hang on for the ride.

18 March 2011


All week, I’ve been turning over disaster in my head. Here’s the thing: natural disasters are just that. They’re natural. You can try and anticipate them, build to ameliorate them, insure against them. But they’re going to happen and it’s no one’s fault when they do. You clean up the mess, mourn the dead, feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. Japan could recover from the one-two punch of the earthquake and tsunami. But the nuclear power plant problem? The one that gets scarier and more unmanageable by the day? It’s a man-made disaster that didn’t have to happen.

Three years ago, when we officially enrolled the girl in kindergarten, we had to sign a blanket permission slip to allow the school to administer potassium iodide in the case of an “event” at the nuclear plant that sits about 12.5 miles from our house. Let me tell you, it frosted my ass. I so wish I hadn’t had to sign that slip – not because I have some concern about the school system medicating my kid, but because that plant shouldn’t be there.

And now we’ve got Ann Coulter going off half-cocked that “radiation is good for you”. OMFG.

I sent that link to my husband and got back this:

Maybe she could go do a news segment from the top of the spent fuel pool in Reactor Building Four -- the one that's got 35+ years' worth of brightly glowing spent fuel-rod assemblies in it. When she points her camera into the pool it will help responsible scientists see how much water there is. Then we'll know that some radiation is good, because she'll be dead in an hour.

That husband of mine got himself arrested protesting a nuclear power station, back in the day. I think it might be time start protesting again. Who’s with me?

15 March 2011

Memento mori

I took a picture of a dead bird yesterday, and I’m trying to figure out why.

I was late, rushing to the subway to go meet a friend for a drink before heading home. I saw the bird out of the corner of my eye.


That bird was there on Friday.

Step, step.

It’s Monday. How is it still there?


I’m late.

Step, step.

If I don’t go back and take its picture, I’ll regret it.


And then I turned around, and walked back the 15 feet to where the bird was, and I squatted down and took its picture on the sidewalk in front of the church, where it had been lying since I’d seen it on Friday afternoon.

It was a little grey bird, body about the size of my thumb. Three days on the sidewalk had left it somewhat the worse for wear. Its belly had been neatly opened, exposing its guts. Lungs? Liver? And its gaudy orange legs – had they been so vibrant on Friday? I can’t remember. And why is there a band on its leg? I hadn't seen that until I pulled the photo off of my phone.

I took a picture of a dead bird last summer. It was on the beach, a big gull, equal parts dried, decayed and eaten, yet it maintained a majesty. Head tilted just so, wings arrayed as in a zoological museum display.

But yesterday’s dead bird? I’m trying to understand why.

I was late because we’d been clustered around someone’s computer in the office, watching sobering, heartbreaking videos of the Japanese tsunami – boats splintering like balsa wood toys, buildings floating away, cars tossed around as though Styrofoam.

Somehow, in an instant, that little bird crystallized for me the horror of the triple punch that Japan just received. I can’t do much for Japan beyond a donation to the Japan Society, but I can think on natural and manmade disasters, and remember that we all must die – a bird flying into a window, an elderly Japanese man in the path of a tsunami, my mother felled by lung cancer.

I took a picture of a dead bird yesterday, and I hugged my girlie hard when I got home.

14 March 2011

More Griping About Homework & Schoolwork

On a regular basis, I get all bent out of shape about the second grader's homework. Herewith, three examples:


When Mommy has to dump all of the change out of her wallet in order to play the math games homework, Mommy will be grumpy.

The instructions were to roll a pair of dice and then to take that many cents out of the kitty. We were to take turns, until one of us got to 50¢, swapping out coins to end up with the fewest number of coins possible. Honestly? Not a stupid game, and I was happy to see that her change-making and adding skills were pretty good. BUT. First I had to find a mess of change, and then I had to raid the Monopoly game box because who has dice sitting on the kitchen table, and then I realized that in more than a dollar's worth of change, there was not one single quarter. Without the proper tools, it's hard to support the kid's homework, but if you don't know what tools are going to be required, it's hard to have them on hand.


She has a spelling test every week. That's great. Last week's test came home marked "Perfect"! That's awesome. Unfortunately, the girl wrote down PRIASE when it should have been PRAISE, and the teacher failed to notice. So out of my mouth is coming praise at her for doing such a good job, until I realize that the teacher screwed up. So what do you do? Undermine the teacher, or keep your mouth shut? Oy.


In class, they do quick little grammar tests - drills for things like capital letters and nouns and punctuation and contractions and verb tense. The tests come from a published workbook - this isn't something that the teacher whips up in her prep time. Because I'm a diligent mom and a cranky nitpicker, I always read through the questions (and answers), and recently found one of the worksheets that really annoyed me - three of its ten questions had no right answer. I think that second grade grammar worksheets ought to be black & white and not subject to interpretation - which means that the answer should be present tense or past tense, not both! Save interpretation for a discussion of Mrs. Cantrip's motives in The Kingdom of Carbonel.

10 March 2011

Patchwork and Denim

Besides ribbons, I picked up a bunch of other weird bits in the aftermath of the costume shop going under: fabric glue, zippers, 75 iron-on roses and a odd swath of cotton patchwork that no one recognized.

I turned the patchwork into a cover for a throw pillow, and was left with a strip of material about 5" wide.

Then the girl demanded a new outfit for Ivy, so I made her a black skirt out of the sleeve of a shirt of mine that had ended up in the rag bag. And then she wanted a bag to carry around thus and such, but it had to look like Ivy's denim bag. I keep way too many old blue jeans around, because one day they're going to come in handy - like when you need to make a denim bag! I cut the end off a leg, just below the knee, stitched it closed at the cut side (with a box bottom even, though you can't tell from the photo), folded over the cuff end and used Velcro for a closure. What to use for a strap? Aha! The leftover strip of patchwork turned into an admirable strap - perfectly in keeping with the "San Francisco in 1974" era of her two American Girl dolls.

Oh, and now I have 74 iron-on roses left.

09 March 2011


The costume shop in my building went out of business, a casualty of a bad economy, bead-work outsourced to China, more shows in street clothes, and expensive labor. It's a damned shame, and makes me wistful on a number of levels.

On the other hand, I'm never buying Christmas ribbon again, and my packages will be the best dressed ever.

08 March 2011


So, the sweater error. I decided to punt and put in a zipper, so I wouldn't have to learn to make the damned buttonholes. I lucked into a zipper from the costume shop that was downstairs in my building, but, you get what you pay for: it was too long. So I cut it off. Alas, I cut it off without enough room to turn it properly so that it would form a stop at the end, meaning that the zipper pull was liable to go flying off. That'd be one thing for a sensible grown-up, but a chance not worth taking with a seven year old.

What to do? Sugru!

I read about Sugru sometime last fall, somewhere on the web*, and I promptly sent the link to my husband thinking his tinkering self would love it. Time went by; I forgot about it. But! Bestill my heart - I found some in my Christmas stocking! It is the coolest. It comes in tiny little packets, each holding a couple of teaspoons of this stuff that's sort of like sticky Play-Doh. You form it as needed, and over a day or so, it cures into silicone.

So, I made stoppers at the top of the sweater zipper so the zipper slide won't fly off.

And then, because once the packet of Sugru is open you need to use it all up, I made feet for a little ceramic bowl, to replace the felt feet it had - because the felt feet can't go in the dishwasher and the Sugru can.

sugru 1

And I made two pins - brooches? - out of cobbled together bits and pieces of stuff that was kicking around, just because I could!

sugru 2

It's insanely wonderful, the Sugru. It's only problem is that the packets have a shelf life, and mine has to be used by mid-May. I have more than enough left to fiddle around with, so if you'd like to try it, say so in the comments, before the end of the week. I'll send three packets out into the world, so more people can experience the joy of Sugru.

* I can't find the reference, but I think it was something that Katherine Belsey wrote about.

07 March 2011

The Sweater

I finally finished the sweater for the girl. Well, I actually finished it about a month ago, but then I did something stupid - something that I managed to fix, but I'll tell you all about that tomorrow*. In the meantime, here - at last - is the sweater on the girl, the girl having put together one of her inimitable outfits.

The reason the stripes look kooky is because the yarn was multi-colored, and it's a top down sweater pattern, pretty much knit all in one piece, and I was basically knitting back and forth from placket to placket. Oh well. Another lesson learned: multi-colored yarn behaves strangely unless you are knitting in the round.

In any case, I am happy to have completed another item off my FIFTY list.

*It's craft week here at the ranch. I'm in a flurry of projects.

04 March 2011

Best Friend

I have a friend.

Wait, that’s lame, I have lots of friends.

I have a special friend.

Oh, that’s not right either.

I have an old friend, a dear friend, a friend from freshman year of college. We lived in the same dorm that first year, and in the same suite during our second year, and near one another after that. And we’ve stayed friends ever since. We were pregnant at the same time – she with her fifth child, me with my first and only. Somewhere, I have a funny picture of the two of us at my baby shower, both of us in black shirts with big bellies, back to back.

My dear old friend is extraordinary. She’s wise, and smart, and kind of unflappable, even in the face of difficulties. And her life is complicated, with bright wonderful highs, and dark unthinkable lows, and not nearly enough hours in the day. Five kids will do that to you!

I’m hugely proud that she's just edited a book - Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood - which comes out at the beginning of April. It’s a book of devotionals, for first-time moms. As she says:

'This book is a guidebook of sorts, a travelogue written by those who have already gone down the sometimes rocky road of becoming a parent. The twenty moms (and one dad) you'll meet here will regale you with tales of love, frustration, exhaustion and humor. They open their hearts and lives so that you can walk with them through the daily challenge of growing in faith and parenting wisdom.'

You're probably wondering why I'm plugging a religious book, given my avowed atheism. My friend is a person of faith, deep and abiding faith. It's an important part of her life - as it is for many people. But to me, she's one of the most lucid parents I know. When my daughter was old enough to be in the bath by herself, but not old enough for me to be in the other room, I used to call Julia to chat. She was my touchstone, my "am I doing this right?" person. Still is, in lots of ways. So I know in my bones that any book on parenting that she's involved with is going to be a good one.

If a devotional is something that you could use, or share with a new parent, check out Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood. And if you just want an astute parenting blog to visit, add Lotsa Laundry to your blogroll.

She's the best.

And she could use a hug right now.

02 March 2011


For Christmas, the girl got an Alien Spy Camera. It has bendy legs and suction feet, and I recently found it wrapped around her iron bed, gripping her DS firmly against intruders in the night.

It's also been found protecting her doorway from those who might wish to enter, and keeping Daddy away from the baked goods.

I wonder where it'll turn up next.