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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

MSU Baby Names

*Update: Joe's cousin just welcomed a gorgeous little baby girl with an adorable MSU name: Breslyn.  Go Green!*

I tried to write another article for Nameberry but they rejected it (*hangs head*).  I wrote it because I got really excited about MSU-inspired names while we were at the (cough! cough!) ROSE BOWL, in ROW SEVENTEEN, watching one of the most exciting sporting events I've ever seen.  In case you didn't hear, somehow we won.  Must've been all the team spirit demonstrated by the fans, methinks.

Amazing seats courtesy of Chuck and Kay; amazing weather courtesy of Pasadena.
Anyway, here's the article.

Spartan Spirit!  Notable MSU Names

Michigan State University beat Stanford in a 24-20 nail-biter at the 2014 Rose Bowl.  In honor of this spectacular upset, here are some wearable, MSU-inspired names for little Spartan fans.

Malcolm (G. Malcolm Trout):  George Malcolm Trout was a renowned dairy researcher, emulsion chemistry expert, and developer of the process by which milk is homogenized.  He was a food science professor at Michigan State for half a century.  Could his last name, Trout, be worn on a boy, as could Bear, Fox, or Wolf?

Izzo (Tom Izzo):   Well-beloved basketball coach who has led the Spartans to six Final Four appearances and 16 consecutive runs in the NCAA Tournament.  Mateen Cleaves, Plaxico Burress and Earvin “Magic” Johnson are other high-achieving Spartan men’s athletics names.  Speaking of sports leadership, on the heels of Finn and Flynn could be the last names of venerated former athletic director and football coach Clarence Lester “Biggie” Munn and Olympic sprinter Savatheda Fynes

Willie (Willie Laurence Thrower): The first black quarterback to play in the Big Ten, Willie Thrower was said to be capable of hurling the ball over a distance of 60 years.  His skills were instrumental to the 1952 national championship win for the Spartans.  Although Connor Cook and Mark Dantonio were the major names of the 100th Rose Bowl Game, maybe the nickname name Willie will catch on in the U.S. as well as Freddie and Alfie have in the U.K.

Brody, Wilson, and Mason are dorm-inspired names that enjoy a healthy popularity outside of the MSU crowd.  The enormous Brody Neighborhood consists mostly of freshman living quarters, but on the upside, it is close to the iconic Red Cedar RiverRed, Cedar, and River would be much better names for contraband guinea pigs smuggled into a Brody Complex room than for triplet boys, though.

Vim: In the fight song refrain “Spartan teams are bound to win/ we’re fighting with a VIM (Rah! Rah! Rah!)”, there is a word of relatively recent (1843) origin.  According to Mirriam-Webster online, vim is “robust energy and enthusiasm”.  These days, it seems to have little usage outside of lyrics and poetry (as in Dr. Seuss’ “vigor and vim” in Horton Hears a Who), but vitality is an attribute that is hoped for by many parents.  See also: Johnny Spirit (a.k.a, John Sheldon), legendary body paint enthusiast and die-hard MSU sports attendee who has embodied superfandom since 1993; Eli Broad, cum laude graduate, billionaire, and arts philanthropist.


Linden: A tree, a famous East Lansing street near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Grand River, and an excellent place to party.  If you adore your Aunt Linda who went to Michigan State (I do!), consider naming your little girl Linden and calling her Lindy for short.

Maude Gilchrist, Elida Yakeley, and Mary Anne Mayo are three important women in early MSU history for whom the West Circle residence halls are named.  (Elida may be a variant of Elidi, which is thought to be related to the Ilida Valley in Greece.)  Accomplished female graduates also include HGTV and Food Network founder Susan Packard (’79, ‘81), an advocate for women in business, and Julie Aigner-Clark (‘88), 2009’s Entrepreneur of the Year.

Lou Anna (Lou Anna Simon):  This sweet double-barreled name consists of the cute Lou paired with the evergreen charmer Anna, and President Lou Anna Kimsey Simon has been a boon to the university with her aggressive support for research in the sciences.  (Full disclosure: Dr. Simon is my distant relative.)  Names with a farm and country feel, like Lilah Mae and Lulah Mae, are all the rage for baby girls in mid-Michigan right now (at least among my large extended family and that of my husband).  Another name with notable family ties is Clara Bell Smith, late mother of NBA player and former Michigan State All-American Steve Smith; the Student Athlete Support Services center (Clara Bell Smith Center) was named in her honor.  Perhaps Clara Bell or Lou Anna will inspire the names of the next generation of women in the MSU family. 

Hannah (John Alfred Hannah): An administrator and longest-serving president of the university, Hannah is largely responsible for having brought MSU into the research age.  He also served as president of the USAID and as an administrator of the UN World Food Council.

Aggie: Agricultural College of the State of Michigan was founded in 1855 as the first land grant university in the United States.  Owing to the school’s agricultural science roots, “Aggies” (farmers) was its original nickname.  This evolved to “The Michigan Staters”, and ultimately, the Spartans, after the school transitioned from Michigan Agricultural College (MAC) to the names of Michigan State College and Michigan State University, respectively.  Texas A&M, Utah State, and New Mexico State currently share the Aggies nickname.  Aggie is decidedly girly, but the retro Mac might make an adorable unisex nickname for a baby born into a family with an affection for East Lansing.

Me, Joe, and James, at the alumni meet in 2004.

Zach, rooting for the home team in 2014.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Photo Book

I made a photo book thingy for my mom, my Grandma JuJu, Joe's parents, and my dad.  Happy early Christmas, if you're peeking at this, and sorry for spoiling the surprise.  Never could keep a secret.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Nameberry Blog Post

I got to do a blog post for Nameberry!

In case you aren't already obsessed with it, Nameberry is a highly addictive name site.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Misheard Lyrics: Kid Version

"Two turtle-dogs, and a partridge in a pear tree!" -Elise, singing

"Go right thru for MSU, watch the people growing..." -James, singing and banging a drum, when he was about two and-a-half

"Up above the world so high, like a dinosaur in the sky..."  -Will, singing, when he was about two

"It's CACK-tivated, not captivated!" -Elise, correcting her friend as they stared at Zach on the car ride home from school

Thursday, October 31, 2013


"I just blew a booger out of my nose and it was white!" -Will, bemoaning an apparent drawback of white grease "zombie" makeup

"Guess what that song's about?  Wetting the bed!"  -James, on the Violent Femmes' Blister in the Sun

Scary zombies were all the rage in our neighborhood this Halloween.  While our kids were regular, run-of-the-mill, Martha Stewart Everyday-wear zombies, one of their buddies was a 'rock & roll' zombie with a guitar prop.  And another zombie friend seemed to have the blood spatter and oatmeal gore thing down to a science.

Zach wasn't a zombie, though.  Couldn't bring myself to put grease makeup on a two-month-old baby, so we Goodwilled it until we found something in the 0-6 months size range.  He was, quite charmingly, a baby pumpkin.

But I'm seeing a theme costume in our family's future: zombie football players, zombie referees, a zombie cheerleader, and a baby zombie football.

Will and James, looking more Charlie Sheenish than I'm comfortable with.

Zach attack, calling it a night after handing out candy with me.

Left to Right: James, Faded Scarecrow stolen by the men's swim team that was accidentally moved with us to the West Coast, Will, Elise's BFF, and Elise.  F. Scarecrow has seen better days.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Little Pony

Zach farts a lot.  Most of the time, whether he is awake or mostly asleep, he is farting or trying hard to fart.  The result is that he sounds like a grunting, straining, whinnying little pony.  Poor, gassy little baby!

"Za--a--a--ach Baxter!" [whinny whinny whinny]

It is weird.  Our other kids' repertoire of noises at 6 weeks old included "Donald Ducking" (James), bleating like Stevie Nicks in a South Park Episode (Will), and saying "Nah!  Nah!" in ultra-feminine fashion when crying (Elise).  But not sounding equine.  I am starting to wonder if something is wrong with him.  He coos, rolls over from front to back, cries, eats, poops, and pees just fine.  He smiles (and my heart doth sing!).  He is gaining weight well and growing tremendously.  But seriously, most of his time is spent grunting and whinnying and trying to expel something'r'uther from his bottom.  Should I look into whether the Guinness Book has a record for this sort of thing: most farts per kilogram of infant body weight in a 10-consecutive-minute period?

I do remember James farting a lot, too, and it was shocking and hilarious because it usually sounded so deep that it should have been coming from an adult's anus.  Thus began one of the primal bonding activities between father and child(ren).  Nowadays, farts are the comedic glue that holds our family together.  But We The Parents have long since stopped laughing at Zach, because he does it so often!  How can so much bad air come from such a tiny digestive tract?

One of my favorite things to do with my husband only forms of recourse against Joe's ubiquitous farts is to immediately tell him what his most recent emanation sounded like.  My God, that sounded just like a towel ripping in half.  Jeez, that was totally just like someone stomping on an empty juice box with both feet.  Air letting out of the stretched neck of a giant, "punching bag" balloon.  Marbles hitting a tile floor.  Lotion being pumped out of an almost-empty bottle of Jergen's.  Somebody squeezing a cat.  A note blown into a recorder with all of its finger holes uncovered.  A full cup of Top Ramen being thrown at the wall.  Marge Simpson's moan of skepticism.

Zach's farts sound like Marge Simpson's voice actress blowing bubbles through a straw into a jar of spaghetti sauce.  Or Donald Duck playing the "cat bagpipes" while Huey, Dewey, and Louie wail in protest.  Maybe I will switch him to some kind of formula, because apparently my breastmilk is filled with helium bubbles or whatever offensive liquid it is Marge Simpson is gargling with.

Monday, September 23, 2013


"He's about the size of Cragger's Command [LEGO] Ship." -Will, when he saw Zach for the first time

"Smells like scrunched-up diapers with poop inside." -James, when Will waved an old pair of shorts in his face

"I'll have a beer." -hilarious neighbor kid, nonchalantly, as we hit the McDonald's drive-thru while carpooling home from school

"Are you going to be a witch for Halloween?  Because you look like one." -Elise, to a lady we know

"Let's double-douche these guys!" -James, tragically misappropriating the word while playing Nintendo

"MOM, Will just said the C-word!"  [WHAT?!]  "Yeah, he said 'Crap'!" -James

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Zach Attack!

He's heeeere!
Zachary Allan B.
6lb, 5oz, 18"
Had to be induced @37 weeks because of stinkin' cholestasis.  Then, the induction was exciting--too exciting for my taste.  Will post more once I have time (HAHA, not sure when that's going to happen).

Laura, Joe, James, Will, Elise, and Zach

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekend Weddin'

"I know why you wanted to have kids: so you could boss them around!"  -Will, in an eerily insightful moment

"It smells like banana slug poop."  -Elise, as we drove around Santa Cruz and admired the trees

"This is Laura.  She and her husband have twenty-five children." -my new friend Matt, introducing me to another wedding guest

Our dear friends got married this weekend and it was awesome, awesome, awesome.

 Elise strikes a pose; James and Will affirm that they are more twin-like than Irish twins.
Whale skeletons!
A beautiful day for a wedding in coastal central CA.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grade 3 Summer Heartache

"It's summer.  That means no homework.  Do you understand?  I am BETRAYING work." -James, protesting his summer reading tonight before dinner

                                       James, betraying his homework at the local theme park

Monday, July 8, 2013

O Frabjous Day

The kids are all (except for the one I'm gestating) at camp for a solid twelve hours today.  Oh, the thrill of watching them drive away on a bus, sunscreen pre-applied, immunization forms in hand!  They won't be back until 4:30 this afternoon!  Callooh!  Callay!

If this is such an amazing experience for me, why are we having another baby?  Like, totally-on-purpose, I mean?

This is a really hard thing to explain.  I can't speak for other mothers, whether they have large or small  or medium-sized families, but I happen to live in a conflicted state of momhood.  This state is especially impossible to describe to a person who isn't sure whether or not to have any kids at all.  If I can't wait for the chillun' to be out of my hair so I can spend a summer's day internetting and/or trying to decide whether to make a trip to Walmart to get a haircut, then how can I possibly claim to love my job as a stay-at-homer?  How can I be stoked or even slightly willing to tack on at least another 4-5 years before all of my kids hop up the steps of the camp bus with hardly a backward glance?

The 'conflictedness' of being a mother of young kids is one of those things that doesn't translate well in English or any other language of which I'm aware.  If you are not a mother (and, perhaps, even if you are) I can only speak in the Jabberwocky-Lewis-Carroll-ese of my ambivalence.  It sounds like English, but it is nonsensical when you examine it.  Or possibly German.  BTW, the Germans have some excellent and difficult-to-translate abstract words, such as kummerspeck ("grief bacon").

(See also:

It comes to this: having kids is utterly mimsy and frabjous at the exact same time.  And when they all grow up and fly out of the parental nest, this experience will taste exactly like grief bacon.

****Update****  It has come to my attention that Lewis Carroll, a.k.a. Charles Dodgson, apparently enjoyed drawing and taking pictures of naked children and is widely considered by modern biographers to have been a pedo.  Oy.  This is NOT the undertone I was hoping to have with this post.

In any case, grief bacon.

That is all.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Letter to Our Fourth Child

Dear Zach,

First of all, I am so, so sorry for all of the stress hormones.  I hope they do not shape your tiny, developing brain into something that only soaks in sadness once you are born.

You are wanted; you are loved.  All of our kids were (are) wanted and loved deeply, but judging from the amount of crying I have been doing during this pregnancy with you, one could easily be forgiven for thinking it's not so.

I am worried, and probably depressed.  Depression and anxiety don't have to have a reason, but there are many.  For starters, what if your brothers and sister don't feel like I care about them anymore once you arrive?  What if I can't be my best mom self to you?  Your dad is, blessedly, gainfully employed in a field he loves.  But for twelve hours a weekday, it is all me as far as parenting goes.  So I am frankly and panic-strickenly terrified that I won't be able to do what I was once so confident I could do--smile into your face, and cherish you and the three kids who came before you to the full extent that you deserve it.

That list of affirmations in the bathroom--I am writing and reading and re-reading them for me and you.

One thing you could do, if you are so inclined, is to happily comply with swaddling and breastfeeding (or bottle-feeding) and sleeping.  Ideally you would do these things in perfect tandem with your siblings' needs.  And in perfect harmonic oscillation with the times the Helper Lady is going to be around in the afternoons.  But in the mornings, when we drop off James and Will and Elise and whomever we are carpooling with this fall, perhaps you could ramp up your hunger, thirst, diapering needs, and needs for stimulation within the time period between 8:20 am and noon, wherein I will shotgun a Red Bull and deftly exceed your wildest baby dreams.

Also, could you please not have anisometropic amblyopia that requires glasses and occlusion therapy in your infancy?  The pediatric opthalmologist down in the valley who treats James and Elise wants to see you when you are a newborn to determine whether you'll need infant glasses and/or a patch over one of your eyes.  Oh my God.  I know it's probably entirely my fault, anyway, were you to have the condition.  But maybe you can, like, wait to develop it until you are about twelve months old, and then we could neatly discover it at one of your siblings' regularly scheduled checkups.  That way, you may be old enough to be bribed against clawing at your own face to remove any foreign devices.

Furthermore, maybe you could figure out how to induce lactation in your dad with your infinite cuteness.  Yes, that would be very helpful.

That's all for now.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Quotes I Can Relate To

"Some people are that--more than a parent, more than a role model, more than anything less than a religion."     -Margaret Cho

"There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you." -ZNH

"I don't use drugs; my dreams are frightening enough." -M.C. Escher

"I was born without the gland in my asshole that makes me care what your political affiliation is, so this...isn't meant to be partisan in any way.  Morons should offend us all, not just those of us who vote the same way morons do, or those who vote against them." -Felix Clay

"Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible." -Albert Einstein

"I just saw all the animals in the neighborhood running in circles, so I guess that means your mother will be arriving soon."  -Dan from Roseanne

"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do...but how much love we put in that action."  -Mother Teresa

"I'm on low-battery right now." -James, when he woke up this morning

"I am confident that nobody will accuse me of selfishness if I ask to spend time, while I am still in good health, with my family, my friends, and also myself."  -Nelson Mandela

Friday, May 3, 2013

Things I Could Never Have Imagined Prior to Parenthood

Or, notes to the "myself" of nine years ago.

10.  When a toddler swallows a raisin and it makes its journey through the digestive tract, the raisin "arrives" completely intact, waterlogged, and approximately the size of a kidney bean.  Don't be afraid; nobody secretly fed beans to your toddler in his Cheerios.

9.  Elementary-aged boys (and girls!  But, extremely often, boys) will find it important to caveat their affection for others.  I don't care how sexist it is to point this out; it's true of my sons--and my statistical sample size is growing every day--so clearly it is true of yours, your neighbors' and everyone's.  Take, for example, the following letter written by my eight-year-old son:

"April 25, 2013

Dear Mateo,

I can't beleav [sic] we thought of the same business journal.  Well I want to have a playdate on Saturday, after the Star Test.

Love As A Friend,

8.  Coffee or other mood-improving substances (okay, legal ones) are required for functional parenting.  See also: Regular Breaks From Your Children.  Don't try to be a hero.  People who strive for absolute purity in parenting, people who never, ever compromise on anything, people who never, ever separate from their kids for even small intervals, in my experience, tend to be assholes of the tightest order.  I used to try to be one of those people, and a wise pediatrician once took a glance at me and offered to write me a 'prescription' for getting the hell away from my children for a few minutes per day.  They were infants and toddlers at the time.  I finally listened to her and we hired some helpers.  Was I significantly happier?  No.  Happiness has a different definition when you have toddlers and infants.  But at least the kids were exposed to someone else, not all whose neuroses coincided with mine.  That turns out to be important.

7.  On the Other Hand...People who can't be bothered to hang out with their kids for more than a few moments a day, on the account of it being hard and everyone needing to recharge one's batteries after a long, hard day at work, etc, etc, etc, and it happens this way every day, are also assholes.  The floppiest, most emotionally bereft ones.  Your career, your triathlon, your favorite sports team and text messages and mojo are all important; so are your kids' feelings!  Take more than a minute to look them in the eyes and recognize that they have souls to feed, not just mouths or brains.

6.  The carpool is the deep end of your parenting resource "pool".  If someone is willing to carpool with you, especially to preschool, early elementary, or KinderBasketWeaving Class, glom onto to that fellow parent like a remora to a shark.  Swim alongside them!  Bask, bask in the commensalism!  This person is a better friend to you than most of the ones you made in college.

5.  Childbirth kind of sucks.  It's supposed to be all 'spiritual' but honestly, in twelve months you probably won't remember it.  And that, my friends, is a good thing.  If you feel the need to write down your baby's birth story, that's great, but just realize there is probably an evolutionarily favored reason that your brain is burying all recollection of the intense pain and other (*cough*) indignities.  A hypothesis for future investigation:  If you try to thwart the childbirth memory snatchers, you'll be less likely to do it again.

4.  Note to would-be hipster parents, or maybe just hipsters in general: Read Dan Zevin.  Specifically, Dan Gets a Minivan.  Even more specifically, the chapter entitled, On No Longer Giving a Shit.

3.  Speaking of giving a shit, in human infancy, all fluids exiting the body have the potential to be projectiles; plan ahead.

2.  No matter how heroic or great your own parents were, you may discover that, upon the closer examination that comes with parenting, your folks were actually astonishingly incompetent.  This is especially poignant and disorienting for those who were emotionally abused as kids.  Please note, however, that there is hope.  There are self-help books and therapists and things you can do to nurture your inner child, and there is also the rare friend who is candid enough to admit that she hates her mother, too.  Plus, it will be years before your kids realize the extent of your suckitude.

1.  It's worth every bit of the difficulty.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Name Game

My husband and I are playing an epic game of Name the Baby.  Here's how it goes:  I suggest a name, he shoots it down by suggesting a rhyming or otherwise ridiculous middle name to go along with it.  Or just a negative association.

Ready?  Go.

Me:  Theodore.
Joe:  Teddy Rup-skin. [editorial note: he means Teddy Ruxpin]
Me:  Arthur.
Joe:  Arthur Barthur [Last name].
Me:  And Andrew is out for sure?
Joe:  I don't really like Andy.
Me:  Well, what about Drew?
Joe:  It's kind of...douchebaggery.

Me:  Samuel?
Joe:  Mmmm, maybe.
Me:  Richard?
Joe:  Richard is Dick.

Right now I really like Matias (or Mattias, or Matthias, as long as you still pronounce it with a "Tee", not a "Thigh", in the middle).  Matias Charles.  That's my pick right now, as of this very moment.  Meets all the major requirements, as far as I'm concerned.  Family names?  Check.  Fairly traditional?  Check.  Mostly pronounceable?  Check.  Gives me a good feeling?  Check.

But Joe says that he can't tell what the spirit-of-the-baby is calling himself yet.  This is an inside joke.  For those of you who aren't from California or have never overheard a conversation between new-parent hippies, the spirit-of-the-baby is an unintentionally hilarious construct that tries to suss out a newborn's....I don't know....spirit?  Like, in early infancy, or even before the baby is born.  In any case, it's when they're still at the cherished, sleeping paperweight stage.  Without having too much derision for the idea, I can say with some amount of confidence that babies are notoriously difficult to get to know deeply until they're at least a few months old.  Before then, they don't do much except eat, sleep, poop, pee, and require things.  From my fuzzy recollection, there is one defining characteristic of a newborn: they often get pissed off and cry a lot, just because it is developmentally what they are supposed to do and for no other reason.  All of them do, not just some babies.

Naming a child, then (at least for us), is a blind act of faith, as is bringing a child into the world at all.  Who could have known that James is undeniably a James, even though my first reaction to that name when Joe suggested it was, "Uh, no!  That was the name of a strange neighbor kid who stuck two green M&Ms up his nose!"  Or that Will would be perfectly named because of his absurdly strong will?  Little boys grow into their names as gradually and irrevocably as they grow out of a squished, impossibly small, and frail infancy.

In other news, we have our anatomy scan tonight.  (They took a peek last time, and that's when we saw peen).  Hopefully all is well with this little one.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

White & Thirty

I turned 30 the other day and finally feel like a grown-up, despite having been initiated into suburban middle-aged life over nine years ago.  Now that I am celebrating my 'white & thirty' (as in, 'white & nerdy' by Weird Al) birthday, I can appreciate that this particular mundanity is awesome, and I could not be luckier.

Laura's List of Other Things That Are Decadently Mundane, Nerdy, and Awesome:
-Will and Joe's competitive hand-clap games, during which Will never says die
-James and his excitement over starting soccer, as he kicks his new ball around the house in his socks
-the fact that our babysitter is engaging and reliable (knock on wood)
-Elise and her willingness to wear an eye patch for four hours a day, so her weak eye gets stronger
-the kids' total enthusiasm over buying me a rice cooker for my birthday
-the fact that we have good health insurance
-the fact that we've met a great local postpartum doula
-the fact that the pool is open for the season, and it's April
-the price of red delicious apples today (97 cents a pound!)
-my blood calcium level, which is currently stable (knock on wood)
-talking with the kids about baby boy names
-the wonderful, hardworking teachers at our kids' school
-Joe's stable, rewarding job
-the good health of Joe and the kids
-library books
-leftover BBQ
-the new brakes on our minivan

It's gangsta to be thankful for stuff.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On Kids and Religion...(Spoilers!)

Elise:  Mom, am I Jewish?
Me:  Nope.
Elise:  Well, what am I?
Me:  Hmmm.....I guess, if you want to call us something, you could say we are UU's.
James:  I know what that means.  Ultimate Underpants!
Will:  No.  Unexpected Umbrella!
Elise:  Haha!  Unexpected Underpants!
Me:   UU's means Universal Unitarians.
Elise:  What does that mean?
Me:  We pray for people to be kind to each other?


In other news, it's a.....BOY!  We found out today, kind of unexpectedly, at my (17 week) doctor's appointment.  They had warned me that they would probably make us wait until 19 weeks, but I harassed them to take a peek.  Peen and balls!

We found out fairly early with James, at 16.5 weeks.  Will, I don't remember exactly, but I think it was around 16 weeks as well that we knew he was a dude.  Elise was like 20 weeks by the time they even saw me, for some reason, so it took forever to find out her sex.  This time around, I am shocked.  Not that I really had an inkling either way with our other kids, but the pregnancy with Elise seemed different than the first two, with worse nausea.  And this one has been way more along those lines.  Apparently that's no indicator of sex, though!

We told James tonight when we got home from the appointment, since he was still wide awake.  He was absolutely beaming when I went in to kiss him goodnight.  Will was passed out, still wearing today's clothes--must've been that kind of night.  But I am assuming he will be somewhat pleased, because he has been suggesting boy names.  We haven't told Elise yet, and she has been requesting a girl so she might be disappointed.  But we've talked about it lots of times, that it's pretty much up to God, so hopefully she isn't too mad at us.

Friday, March 22, 2013

And You May Find Yourself

"You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automo-minivan,
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful fam'ly,
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

-Talking Heads


A Capital-C Confession:  Once, I wanted to have a child because I longed for my mom to take delight in something I had done, someone I had made.  I wanted my parents to love me and nurture me, and maybe they would care deeply for me like I'd always hoped if I had a baby.  Was this healthy, and did I admit it to myself at the time?  Not remotely.  But I did, we did; we had three children.

They are exquisite.  And much of the time, I can't imagine how any of them actually came to be.  I am not talking about sperm and egg, friends.  I am talking about longing for someone who is yet to be, hoping for someone who isn't here yet, wanting someones, and these people actually coming true.

The gratitude I've felt lately doesn't have words, especially since I was such an undeserving asshole in the first place for trying to fill an unexamined void with innocent human beings.  And so, the usual platitudes like "children are precious" and "children are a blessing" are almost irritating in that they are so inadequate.
My astounded gratitude takes the amorphous "shape" of what the Double Rainbow Man might try to express if he saw a triple 'bow (and wasn't wacked out on wacky tobaccy).  Or Kate Farrell's unclassifiable but universal imagery in anticipation of her wedding:
"The Cosmos was Laughing with Lasting Love and Light".

Lasting love and light?  It is only in ourselves, and we can't find it when we project it onto babies.  But still, I found something better than what I was hoping for all those years.  I figured out how to love people other than sad, needy self-absorbed me (not that needy, self-absorbed me didn't deserve love, but this was no longer my only goal).  Some days I am more successful at demonstrating this love to my kids than others, but  most of the time, I make good work of mothering them.  And I figured out how to accept, along a dynamic, grief-filled path, the regrettable fact that my parents will never love me the way I had needed as a baby, as a child, or as a young adult.  The latter realization wasn't from the kids, directly, but has come from therapy and lots of work and searching that was inspired by them.  This is the miracle--the goddamned miracle!--I am talking about.

Same as it ever was.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Predictions and Postdictions

I'm going to be super dee duper surprised if this baby is not a girl.  Like, Barney the purple dinosaur flaps his feeble little arms in the air surprised.
Barney & Friends (TV show)
"Hey there little baby!  You have different genitals than I expected!"

First of all, in case I have not been whining about it quite enough, the NVP (nausea and vomiting of pregnancy) is outrageous.  With James and with Will, it was just a matter of a little queasiness.  With Elise, the nausea was similar and terrible but not quite this bad.  So if I didn't know better--read: weren't getting ultrasounded every two weeks--I would go so far as to be convinced it was g/g twins or g/g/g triplets.  Thrice the symptoms, thrice the babies, right?

And then there's the chinese gender chart thing.  I do not believe for one hot, hormonal instant that this thing could possibly be accurate, even as I type this.  But it was tripping me out today, as it correctly "predicted" (postdicted) all three of my previous kids' sexes based on age at conception and month thereof.  And so when it decreed that this one will be a girl, too, I kind of sort of believed it.

I brought James and Elise to the eye doctor the other day, in one of the first times I've ventured out of our neighborhood in awhile.  While we waited for the doctor, the kids were making requests as to the baby's sex.  James wants a boy; his top name picks are Phineas and Ferb.  Elise is demanding a girl baby.  (Will didn't get to vote because he has freakishly good eyesight and was at karate, but he seems neutral.)  I told them it was "up to God, and daddy's sperm".  In hindsight, this was not the best answer.  I think they came away from my confused, rambling, overly-caveated explanation with the idea that there's some kind of godlike quality to Joe's sperm.  Not that I personally disagree, or that sperm are taboo per se, but it might be slightly wrong to talk about daddy's particular splooge.

Pictured: More than you need to know about Daddy.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

And Now, Some Memes

Ain't Nobody got time fo that - get off the internet and do something productive? ain't nobody got time for that

Yeah that'd be great... - if you could go ahead and bring me a full jar of pickles that'd be great

The Most Interesting Man In The World - i don't always lol at celebrity baby names but when i do, it's at holly madison's

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Baby's Named A Tasty Thing

There's this new Indian food place by my house; it's so close that I could bike there if I were nonpregnant and nonlazy.

So much appreciation do I have for this food. I went there twice yesterday, and made a lunch date with my friend for future deliciousness. Their food is currently the only real-meal food that doesn't make me violently ill, and I start sweating when we run out. This is progress, though, from an entirely cracker-based diet of the last few weeks.

The compulsion to Google search 'intense food craving pregnancy' led me to discover that there is a blogger (Heather Flett of RookieMoms) who has already addressed the funny premise of naming one's child after the particular cravings that prevailed (ruled!) during the gestation.

James would be Colby Jack Cheese and Matzoh (nn Jack).
Will would be Campbell's Chicken-with-Rice Soup, or perhaps, Funfetti Batter (I don't have a good nickname for that one. 'Fetti?).
Elise would be called McDonald's Hash Browns Right This Minute (nn Mickey Dee).

This baby shall be known as Chicken Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice Oh Dear God Please It's So Good.

Another gem unearthed in this Googling: Wikipedia claims that there is something called Taste Addiction Disorder, which is:

"a psychological condition with a biochemical basis in the brain where the person develops an obsessive/compulsive relationship with food...the brain produces more dopamine, which drenches the brain in 'happy hormones'. Other [non-food] ways of giving the brain a dopamine bath include, but are not limited to, singing, running, dancing, laughing with other people, or engaging in sex."

Ehhh, sex? Kind of a tall order right now. At this point I could be more easily encouraged to do a full reenactment of The Sound of Music.

Not pictured: sex.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

This Summer

I can't wait for this to happen when I am able to eat a reasonable amount of food again and get fat, fat, fat:

"Wesley, get Mama's pryin' rod" -Lisa Simpson as a fatty

No, I take that back. When I have energy again, I resolve to not lay around anymore. I resolve to do all of the fun things ever thunk-up with my kids. They deserve an embarrassing overcompensation of fun in their lives for putting up with my current lethargy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Way We Were

Once upon a time, we were pregnant with our first. And in the final, early summertime weeks of my college degree I dragged Joe to the MSU main library and forced him to watch this video with me.

We were so young and clueless (well, at least I was). I thought this PBS video, as it contains footage of actual childbirth in its later segments, would somehow prepare us for parenthood. LOLz!

Instead, we snickered at the footage of pasty, beachgoing men in speedos and pretended we had it all under control. We even talked about how funny it would be to go into Olin (if you went to MSU, surely you'll remember Olin--only for pregnancy or mono!) and say "we think she might be pregnant, she hasn't had her period in awhile". I was visibly, obviously, like seven months pregnant at the time.

I gave my last BMB lab report, the one upon which my graduation rested, a lick and a promise; we moved to Seattle exactly a month before James was due. Joe met me at the airport in his '88 Jetta with the muffler that sounded like an afterburner, and swept a gigantic, tear-streaked me off my feet. We lived in the Totem Lake Inn in Kirkland for the next two weeks, so that I could waddle the quarter-mile to my doctor's appointments at Evergreen HMC while Joe took the car to his new Boeing job. I would even get up with him before work and make him a sack lunch (but that only lasted about 3 days).

My mom called and said, very helpfully, "well, if you go into labor early, you can always use a laundry basket for a crib!" Thanks, Mom.

The lab report eventually got finished and baby James got himself borned, but not until some fairly dramatic shit went down.

We moved into a little apartment on Mercer Island. Why Mercer Island, the rich folks' playground? Joe wanted to live there for some reason, probably that it was fairly close to Boeing field, and he liked the death-defying daily drives on its floating bridges. A hilarious aside: we eventually tried to buy a house there, and our realtor thought that idea was SO cute! For 23-year-old Joe and 21-year-old me, it was kind of like driving innocently through Westwood or Bel-Air and saying, "this is nice. Let's live here!" (Later, we ended up right on the border of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, close enough to Lake Washington so that we could the watch the descents at the Sea Plane port. James would, as a toddler, double-finger-point and shout "airplane" in our backyard several times an afternoon.)

Anyway, about a week before our EDD, the Boeing-sponsored moving truck came, straight from my dad's garage, and filled up our 800-square-foot Mercer Island apartment-hole with stuff. Like, everything my hoarder parents thought we might find useful (two or three kitchens-worth of utensils!), and then some. Our tiny place was filled with boxes from floor to ceiling, and we STILL didn't have a crib. We had to tunnel through the boxes to get from the front door to the kitchen. Joe was miserable and insisted on bringing fully 70% of the stuff to Goodwill.

From there came the biggest drama of all. Joe had been working on his first major project as a manufacturing engineer, and it seemed to be going pretty well. Then, one day, he came home from work with a headache. A big one. He started vomiting from the pain, and even hid under the little dining room table like a cornered muskrat. I begged him to go to the ER, but he refused. He went to the nurse practitioner a day later, and she was pissed that he hadn't at least gone to urgent care. "Stress does funny things to people!" was her diagnosis.

Then, it was Joe's dad's turn to say something helpful: "I knew a guy who had that happen, and that's how they found out he had a huge brain tumor and was dying! He was dead, like, six months later." Thanks, Joe's dad!

The next night, I went into labor. Twenty-six hours later, James was born. For some reason, he looked Asian (as did our other two kids when they were born in the following years, and not that there is anything wrong with that!). This prompted some serious questioning from Joe, but the paternity was, unfortunately for him, never in doubt. Joe was stuck with us.

Asian James:

With James, looking slightly less-Asian, in the Cascades

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kid News: A Snapshot

James informed me yesterday that he has started a business with his "coworker" friend from school. His products are whimsical, accordion-legged pieces of origami that he calls "hubbies" which he sells in his classroom for 20 cents each. He proudly poured a pile of change on the table today as proof of his first income, and he claims to have a list of peers who eagerly await these wares. A backlog demand! We should all be so successful and enterprising. I do not know whether these hubbies are an original idea, but even if it turns out to be something for which he should be paying royalties to the makers of Pokemon, the whole thing is pretty darn cute. He is introverted and creative and somewhat of a benevolent weirdo these days, but he has a few good friends and a teacher who is enthusiastically supportive of his ventures. Ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, and he says, "An inventor!"

Will was righteously indignant this evening, as we were climbing into the minivan to take James to trampoline-&-tumbling. First of all, he had to sit in the back-backseat. (Someone always does, and by our family's rules it is always the last person who gets in the car.) The second grievance was that there was a banana peel back there with him. He put the banana peel in the spot where the trash can goes, but the trash can was not currently there (it was actually in the house, next to my bed, so I could puke into it). Throwing the peel away as best he could, he was inspired to call his siblings some names. "YOU'RE a rotten banana buttcrack!" Will roared at James, for some reason. James laughed good-naturedly, as did Elise. I couldn't help it, but I couldn't stop laughing either, and this infuriated Will. It got so bad that tears were rolling down my face, which was very distracting because I also happened to be driving and gagging at the time. Poor Will! I tried to tell him that it wasn't funny that he was upset, but what he had said was funny (and mean). He was not having it. But generally, Will is doing wonderfully these days, and has many friends, a second-degree orange belt in Tae Kwon Do, and an abundance of near-perfect grades.

Elise is a daisy girl scout now. She can sell a mean cookie, that girl! Not that this is the point of GS, or anything. She is also doing trampoline and tumbling, and seems to have scores of best-girlfriends. She was getting in trouble frequently for talking to her friends in kindergarten, to the point where the teacher had to rearrange the classroom so that she sits with all boys now. We have had lots of talks about this, and she seems to be improving a little. She is basically the opposite of me as a child, and I could not be more surprised or proud.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Song: Go and Catch a Chicken Shawarma

Or, More Ways That I am an Asshole

For those who didn't know, my husband is a saint. Here is approximately what we said to each other this evening.

Joe: So, what do you want for dinner?
Me: The Sheik! Chicken shawarma, with a mountain of rice pilaf with little, baked almonds in it.
Joe: Uhh. Isn't that that restaurant in [mid-western state, 2,000 miles away]?
Me: Yes. And their cucumber salad, and only their hummus and tabbouleh, NOT the kind you can buy at a store. And I want ice water out of a glass with a picture of an American flag on it.
Joe: How about a baked potato?

For some reason, this situation reminds me of a stanza of one of my favorite cynical poems:

"If Thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where,
Lives a woman, pregnant and reasonable."

-John Donne (1572-1631)

Okay, maybe that wasn't how it went. But, my VERY-favorite cynical poem contains the most hopeless of all language. It takes mad skills to be this hopeless:

"The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house*"

-Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
*his actual words

Why the cynicism? And why is this, Philip Larkin's Aubade, the best cynical poem ever? I will tell you. To answer the first question, I have been trying for four days, and not necessarily succeeding, to NOT plaster the walls with my vom. As it turns out, Reglan is not the wonder drug I was anticipating, and back to Zofran I've gone. To answer the second question is trickier. Maybe I am bitter that a doctor isn't coming to my house. How cool would that be, if they still did that? In fact, my doctor's partner seemed kind of pissed when I called her for a refill of the anti-vomit pills today ("If you have a problem, call back tomorrow when it's regular business hours and not a holiday!"). There is little question that Larkin is writing about death. But I am not dying, just feeling like death.

In this "intricate, rented world", morning sickness "is no different whined at than withstood" (Larkin, 40). Whoops, I am still whining, though!

How about this:

"Busy old fool! Unruly fetus!" -John Donne


How about this:

"I imagined holding you close,
rocking you,
watching you make faces as you dreamed"

-Anne Bowen ("I Loved You Before You Were Born")

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

There Will Be Barf

Today I'm going to beg one of my doctors for some Reglan (anti-nausea nectar). Now that I've had a taste of its sweet, sweet efficacy through an IV in the ER on Monday, there's no going back. Short version of the story: horrible nausea and scary headache, emergent but uneventful MRI of the brain, with the verdict of absolutely nothing besides mommy's first migraine.

This doc is interesting. He is widely considered to be the best, best, best when it comes to high-risk OB care, but his bedside manner is hilariously lacking. He basically talks to his computer and the ultrasound machine, directing the occasional grunt toward me, but usually talking directly to the nurse. "What are we complaining about now?" was the closest he came to addressing me two weeks ago at my last visit. Haha! So funny, so reassuring, this man. But as long as he keeps the images of a happy little fetus coming along, I don't even care that he runs 2.5 hours late or thinks I am a complainer (it's true).

Joe is saying he doesn't want to do this pregnancy thing again, and I can't blame him. I am a hot mess. Today, we fetched my car from UCLA in between rounds of vomiting, and I started crying when the following song came on the radio: A New Day Has Come by Celine Dion Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads. Yeah, it's that bad.

He's pretty much pushing for me to sign something that says I do not want any more kids after this. Oh Joe, I am so sorry how hard this has been for you. And kids, I am sorry I have been sick and distracted. I know this stupid nausea will not last forever, but it has sucked for all of you.

But here is where I'm an insufferable asshole (okay, one of the places where!): I'm scared to NOT do this again. Not so long ago, I used to narrow my judgmental, easy-pregnancy, beady little eyes and say, "I don't believe in [psychological-] only children", which was a convenient stance for me, because our first three were so rapid-fire in succession we could hardly get their basic needs met for awhile. But they are getting their needs met now, and then some (if I do say so myself). And I had my heart set on two more, and my husband sort of agreed.

But it will be okay, if this is our last (and hopefully he/she makes it)! Right?! Tell me it's not bad that our older kids are basically going to be 9, 8, and 6.5 when he/she is born. Tell me he/she won't be bratty and chronically trying to catch up to the big kids. I know I'm being irrational here. I know plenty of absolutely AWESOME only-children, psychological or otherwise. One commenter here has one that I remember being particularly cool and well-nurtured. But I know several non-awesome ones, too, who never, ever learned to share their whole lives or got along with or gave a crap about other people. And I believe so much in the importance psychological sibs; I am loathe to imagine growing up without the developmental trials of having a brother who was 2.5 years younger than me (and often wiser and better at everything).

We will have to see. I am not giving up hope for anything, now that I have managed to keep down a girl scout cookie this afternoon. Sweet, sweet nectar.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Am Zofran (And So Can You!)

Started taking anti-nausea medication yesterday evening. All I can say is, Zofran! Where have you been all my life? I can now do things other than vomit and cry.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Everyone Pukes

Warning: disgusting; graphic; TMI

Four out of five of us have been sick in the last few days. It seems like it is only a matter of time before we all succumb to the puke.

I thought we were over it after Will threw up a few times one night last week. He stayed home from school the next day and was fine by the evening. But then, the other night James started puking into a plastic toy bin that he's been sneaking into his bedding for some late night LEGO fun, and it all cascaded down the ladder of his bunk bed. It was like a fish ladder, except the fish were swimming downstream......and were composed of puke.

-----Note to self: when a child feels sick as he is going to bed, do not put him to sleep on the top bunk.-----

I tried to comfort the boys and clean up. I had to run away as I immediately started puking so hard I pulled a back muscle. I put James in the guest room with a trash can and fresh clothing/sheets, and I moved Will to the couch. Then, Joe came home from hanging out with the neighbors (read: drinking Coors Lite), tried to clean up, and started puking himself silly. Elise slept through the ordeal.

The flu is definitely going around our part of the world, as it is going around everywhere else. But I have to say, experiencing the flu with morning sickness and too much calcium in the blood is not good, not good at all. This morning, after all the aftermath had been addressed by my wonderful husband (he got out the wet vac and took one for the team! Yeah!), I was still heaving into the sink after just sipping water.

In other news, my endocrinologist wants me to drink a fluid ton of water (enough to produce a superhuman 200 ml of pee per hour, he said!) so as to flush out the excess calcium from my system. I am inclined to listen to him do any damn thing he suggests, since he is one of the people who will weigh in on whether I should have parathyroid surgery in the second trimester, to save our fetus from fates unpleasant. Right now they are swinging back to Yes, We Should Do The Surgery.

I am so mad at myself for these complications, which could have been prevented if I had just checked with my endocrine surgeon and endocrinologist and some other fairly random people before becoming pregnant. We are hopeful that it will still work out okay, since surgery in the second trimester (especially when it is not on your abdomen) is surprisingly safe. The risk of having a baby who does not develop a functioning parathyroid gland is significant without my having that parathyroidectomy in trimester 2; this is to say nothing of the bare fact that many embryos/fetuses/babies don't make it through a hypercalcemic pregnancy. Right now the baby is okay and I am fluctuating between 10.5 and 11 mg/dL, where a Calcium level of 12 mg/dL is worrisome and 9-10.5 mg/dL is normal. They want to see me and siphon my blood all the dang time, which is fine.

If you are the praying type, it would be cool if you'd say a little prayer for the lil' baby. Actually, please pray a big, prayerriffic prayer for Steve, who is waiting for a heart and kidneys. He is a funny, brave, positive, and inspiring friend, and if he were the one tackling the puke ladder, he would definitely have held his own.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

OMG, Becky.

We saw a 2.5mm embryo with a heartbeat yesterday at the high-risk doc. It looks like the little bean is okay!

In my cynical world, this is an impossibility. Still can't grasp that we are this lucky. I cried and cried, even though I was happy. My husband was like, See, I Told You Not To Give Up Hope. (He is the guy who stays until the end of the game where the home team is down by 22 and there are 40 seconds left on the clock.)

They are worried about my hypercalcemia, which they will probably have to treat with more parathyroid surgery in the second trimester. This is pretty damned scary. I refuse to sicken myself with worry for the better part of 34 more weeks, though.

Please make it to the second trimester safely, little bean!!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Time and Life

"If you get a time-puker and you puke in it, it sends puke back in time." -James

"The important thing is that God knows you and you're not a bad guy." -Elise

"My wish is for you to live a long, happy, living, life!" -Elise


I am probably having a miscarriage. Looks like a blighted ovum, said the radiologist in the E.R., but we've got to wait to be sure. Tomorrow we should know more, once my doctor does a repeat ultrasound and labs.

The second-worst part? It's my fault. I should have checked with all of my doctors before getting pregnant, not just some of them. I guess I just wanted to be a normal person who doesn't have to consult with anyone (besides her husband, and possibly an ob/gyn--certainly not a physician committee) as to whether a pregnancy is okay. Now my blood calcium is high again and the parathyroid tumors are recurring, which is apparently quite incompatible with the development of an embryo. My endocrine surgeon--and I think the world of this lady--is basically saying as much.

The worst, worst, worst part is that my daughter was there for it. The boys were (mercifully) at a birthday party, but E and I were at Wal-Mart and finishing up some grocery shopping when I suddenly felt hot and dizzy and exactly like I was going to pass out. I paid, leaned heavily on the cart, and pushed us into the in-store McDonald's, where I managed to sit down. She was worried about me, so I tried really hard to reassure her, but I couldn't stand up or do anything except whimper. She got me a cup of water. Then I felt a gush of blood while I was trying to text the husband to please come get us.

About six hours with the three of us in the emergency room told us this much: beta hcg was in the 14,000's, Calcium was 10.9. Ultrasound showed a gestational sac but no fetal pole or yolk sac. At 5w4d, this might still be okay, but they made it clear that they really weren't hopeful that this is a normal pregnancy. And it has been agony to wait for what feels inevitable: the death of the idea of a person who never quite was.

I'm a science person. I know there is TONS of room for debate on the beginning of life and personhood. But this feels like the loss of a person to me, the loss of a much-anticipated conception. Few scientists would agree, I think, that a sac is a person. In fact, I just read somewhere that blighted ova/anembryonic pregnancies tend to result from chromosomal issues in the gametes. But we'd looked forward to this together and I know what we're missing, three miracles in.

I don't want the kids to feel my pain. This is precisely the reason I hadn't yet told them about the pregnancy. We weren't really planning to tell them for at least a few more weeks when a routine (if there is such a thing for me anymore) ultrasound might have shown a viable little pre-humanoid.

I am sorry, little sac. I am sorry, husband and kids, who have slogged through grief with me for two days and the overwhelmingly likely more to come. I am sorry, brother and friends, who have texted me their support, given me their hugs, and seen me through thus far.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Squeee: MamaCon 2013!

I am so. so. stoked. to be going to MamaCon in Seattle this May. Like, unreasonably excited. I've never been to this conference before, but it looks cool. The speaker list from 2012 included the fascinating and beloved Amy Lang, whom I had the opportunity to hear when she was a guest speaker for our preschool co-op back in 2006. Squeee!

It's nice to be taken seriously, to have a conference of one's own, as a mom. It's kind of neat that there are speakers, therapists, and community educators who recognize that professional momming is not a fancy description for sittin', eatin' Sketti, and watchin' Honey Boo Boo. Where the heck is one of these conferences for SoCal moms?

I never really thought I would want to come back up to Gotham City, even for something as awesome as a mom conference. We fled Seattle a few years ago when we could no longer stand the daily gray grind of the weather. But I miss the people terribly--the moms (and dads, and grandparents, and the teachers) who are so much in step with the emotional and spiritual growth of their kids. Gah, we should not have stayed, we could not have stayed, but it brings tears to my eyes, the loss of that particular group of people. If our neck of southern California has a collective consciousness of parents that are half as committed to the development of thoughtful human beings as those I met in our Seattle-area preschool, I would love to make its acquaintance.

There ARE nice folks here. There are! But an alarming number of moms and dads I have met in these parts are stereotypically "SoCal" distracted, and their deepest commitments are elsewhere. They are deeply committed to polishing a boat or the doors of an RV with a cloth diaper, or deeply committed to culling the perfectly bronzed, unnaturally rounded boobies that only plastic provides. Their kids stare up into their faces for solidarity and perspective, but mom or dad (if she/he is not working 80 hours a week) is texting or pretending a hipster-clothed bulldog is an infant.

But anyway, the conference, oh joy! Doesn't matter if the sun comes out that weekend, because I will be inside with my people, listening raptly.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Douchebags

We had some of the boys' school friends over for a New Year's celebration. Overall, it was fantastic. Joe made up a scavenger hunt, which they sprinted through with great enthusiasm. Generous bags of candy and those little "popper" bang-snap thingies that pop you throw 'em on the ground were the prizes. We roasted s'mores over the firepit, and they played Wii, Legos, and Beyblades to their hearts' content.

Against my better judgment, I had let the boys extend a spur-of-the-moment, spoken invite to a particularly trying neighborhood kid, who happened to be in my house at the right time yesterday. Let's call him Jack. Oh, we were nervous. We've generously brought along Jack on several major outings, and had him over for countless hours playing in our house--all ending with his inability to be a reasonably kind human being. On independent accounts my husband and I extracted various promises from young Jack yesterday that he would behave nicely at our party, given that he is, almost objectively, a budding douchebag.

Suffice it to say he did not. Even after he had been gently ushered home (after all the other kids had been picked up), there was douchebaggery. And his parents weren't sorry.

The text conversation that followed between his dad and me went approximately like this:

Me: Your kid is throwing poppers [fireworks] at the doors of my house and leaving marks

(a few minutes elapse)

Lovely Neighbor Dad: My "kid" is on his way to clean it up and apologize with one of the other kids

I cleaned it up myself and told the LND to save his kid's apology; I was too annoyed to hear it right then. The other boy who was involved came knocking, said he was sorry, and offered to make amends. Most importantly, the parents cared enough to text me an 'I'm sorry". It is good to have good neighbors.

Now, it would seem that the latter is a case of the apple falling not too far from the tree. The emerging 'baggery of one second-grader who lives across the street (and the ongoing douche-cruise-shippery of his dad) is just a price we pay for happening to buy this particular home at this particular time in the course of human events. Besides, there was another kid involved (though not one I had just entertained for the last 16 hours). My kids are far from perfect; they regularly offend, and I am sure I regularly make mistakes in my attempts to discipline them. Why, then, should this incident make me so angry?

Possibly because I might be pregnant. We should find out in approximately 1-2 business days, or when peeing on a stick might elucidate things. And, as my friends who have children may recall, there is no rage like pregnancy rage. When I was pregnant with Elise I almost threw our blender away, free-throw style, because it couldn't (or wouldn't!) grind ice to my satisfaction for a smoothie. Joe pretty much had to hold me back from our kitchen appliance like an impending bar fighter. I am not proud of having been so irrational, and let it be known that the kids were not awake to witness the outburst, nor did this level of hormonal anger happen more than once for me.

If I am (and I do hope I am), I swear on a vinyl copy of Waylon & Willie
that I will treat all the children real good. Especially the ones that ain't so easy to love.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spared No Expense

We went to a mega-church this Christmas Eve. I wanted to hate it, but we might go back. It’s a Christmas miracle, if you ask me.

Walking into the place, one could tell we were within a stone’s skip of Hollywood. This church consisted mostly of a sparkly sound stage, dominated by an enormous hanging sculpture that resembled a graphic designer’s depiction of Big Bang. It was simultaneously seductive and pop science-y, and there was no altar to be seen.

There were about 80 rows of wraparound stadium seating in the auditorium, and at least two TV cameras nestled within the studio audience. Most entertainingly of all, the pastor looked like the guy who played Dr. Malcolm in Jurassic Park, and he opened the sermon by likening himself to Oprah and throwing stuff out into the audience à la O’s Favorite Things. And the music. It was like Guster with all its new-agey percussion and harmony, and then sang a woman who could have been a Celine Dion sound-alike. The crowning glory was in the bass guitar player’s exquisite and technically improbable rendition of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.

Maybe all of this contributed to why I began to let Dr. Malcolm into my narrow, uncharitable little mind. Based on his looks and likeness alone (and glasses—oh, the Geek Glasses, they get me listening every time!), I expected academics. Khan Academy, even (if Sal Khan wore geek glasses). Surely this man was about to start talking about chaos theory or superstrings, or the hallowed principles of evolution, or anything at all besides Jesus. And then, before I could fully shuck my biases, the musicgasm swept in, followed shortly by these amazing little self-contained communion cups (wine and crackers together in a teensy cup). Hallelujah.

It took me by surprise, this swift and sudden acquiescence to Jesus, the rising and flowing of the J-tide, and the ebbing of the science one. And ironically I expected the whole process to involve more science. The beginnings of the sermon, in fact, were predictably wholesome, anecdotal, and precipitated by God-themed video clips viewable on one of two jumbotron screens. So, what happened?

I suppose there was one nod to the empirical in one of these video clips. At one point we virtually “roller-coasted” down, opening-movie-credits style, upon an unwound strand of a DNA double-helix. This was amidst narration about us allllll having parts of God’s DNA. Wowsa! That’s kind of a compelling idea, there, Ian Malcolm: if we are all related on a molecular level, and some of us here in the studio audience or on stage are at one with God, we have logical proof (of my own personal association with God, that is) by deduction. And so I started floating on this proof and was buoyed up by it, as if going along by inner tube. Irrefutable, lazy river faith.

In the end, I was really moved, though. Maybe it was due to the holy music of Christmas, which is the reason we sought out Church-with-a-Capital-C that night rather than the scrappy, lovable UU church with its honest budget and feebler singing. Likely it was my feelings of loss for a particular few folks these last few years—my folks, who, while they are technically still alive, have turned out to be weak excuses for grown-ups. Probably it was the pastor’s insistence that we are all allowed, nay, invited to feel joy at the birth of a stranger’s child.

Mostly, it was this idea: We are welcome; I am welcome to feel joy about God.

I cried off all my mascara and Tammy Faye eyeliner—had to bring my A-game to a real-life Hollywood venue, you know—and decided to come back.

It won’t be easy. There is so much resistance from the kids these days when we try to go anywhere or do anything. They are a little overscheduled and would spend the entire day on the Wii if allowed. Fortunately, one of the premises of this church is accessibility to the unshowered masses; it’s available online as a live stream. Now I can cry about the beauty of the birth of Christ in the privacy of my own home, and this time I will skip the mascera.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More Kid Quotations

"I have a friend; she has a Spanish aroma..." -Will, on his classmate's accent

"Let's see the buttcheeks of the tree!" -James, looking at leaf stomata under a toy microscope

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Quote of the Day

"He's got a really good sense of stink" -James, talking about his dad's farting

Thursday, December 13, 2012

And Speaking of Letters

It's late in the game for the Holiday 2012 Season, but I've opened an Etsy. If your family or small business is in need of some holiday card custom calligraphy for your addresses, give me a holler.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chess Man

My seven-year-old might be a chess prodigy tournament player. Okay, I made that part up about there being a tournament of any kind (that we know of, yet). But he should, he really should enter some kind of competition. Will's got talent. It's eerie.

We started playing chess with him just before he turned six. Well, when I say "we", I mean I delegated the task to Joe, since I suck at chess. Badly. In fact, that has been the fun of it. Joe taught Will, who picked it up easily. Will taught me the rules, and continues to remind me of them to this day. We'll play, and it is a win-win for all. Those who are watching as Will roundly beats me are delighted. I am delighted (which is weird, because normally I hate losing). And, of course, Will is stoked.

The chess set we have is missing some of its cheap, plastic pieces. Instead of kings, we have Skylanders Giants. They are too fat and unwieldy for the board, but this adds to the amusement of all parties.

The only bad part about it is Will's reaction to losing, which has happened exactly twice. It would seem all this winning has made him downright averse to not winning! During that infamous game I charged forward and with a haphazard-to-nonexistent strategy. He'd laughed pretty hard and pointed out the futility of several of my moves, right up until my knight was checkmating him, or whatever it's called. Then, stuff got real. He wanted a re-do. He begged to break the rules. I told him I was sorry, but we'd play again after I won. After all, he'd taught me everything I knew and beaten me dozens of times and it was my first win ever! He swept the board and ran away, shouting about the injustice.

Tonight, I beat him for the second time ever (pure luck, I assure you, and also, the fact that he blurts out advantageous move possibilities for his opponents that I'd never even considered). He took it in stride. Now that he may be at a maturity level where he can deal gracefully with the outcome of a game, I think we'll ask him if he wants to join a club.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What, No Invisibility Cloak?

I just hope I can find the fore headed belcher dragon at Wal-Mart before it is all sold out.

Monday, December 3, 2012


I'm making a knitted blankie from yarn remnants of other projects. Scarves, mostly. This is fun. I made it up (I think). Mind you, I'm no craft bloggeress. If you want to read a real blog about crafts that is refreshing, clear, and Tori Spelling-free, check out my cousin's blog, The Craft Nest. ( Formal learning aside, I am really enjoying myself with this homespun, motley blankie thing.


We attempted to take a wholesome family picture for our Christmas cards this weekend. This involved a modest amount of trespassing into a nearby neighborhood for its attractive water features. It's also been the one solid week per year that it rains in SoCal, but it stopped raining long enough for a few shots of the kids. The only hiccup is that a few of the kids happen to be at a toothy, oversmiling stage that makes them look a little bit like nonhuman primates in said-pictures. Oh well. Faces a mother could love.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Gifts for the Soul

1. Listen to your sons take turns reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas out loud, in their Boris Karloff voices.

2. Let go of people in your life that aren't bringing you higher. Nope, that's not a 420 reference!

3. Learn to knit (YouTube can help!). Make someone a scarf, and picture them wearing it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Brought lunch to James at school today. He’s had to eat in the office since he’s been on the crutches. Yesterday, the school nurse told me he’d eaten alone (the better to take away the sting about not getting to have outdoor recess?). When I asked him about it, James threw me a soft toss. He said, “Hey, how about if tomorrow you bring me Subway? Do you know my recipe?”

James’ Subway Special
turkey and roast beef on wheat
extra black olives, a shred or two of lettuce
vodka martini vinaigrette, just a splash
shaken, not stirred

I brought it. He seemed stoked. We sat together for a few minutes. This time, his friend Aidan was there with him. Suddenly, he goes, “Okay, Mom, you can leave now!”

So, here I will take the obligatory turn toward the philosophical. This blog would be nothing if not for the flashbacks to my oft-shitty childhood. Oh, it was not all bad; after all, these are letters to Aunt Kay, who was/is my mom figure for reals. Without Aunt Kay, whom my kids refer to as The Great Aunt Kay (or, my favourite, Aunt Kay, The Great), there is certainty in my bones that I could not endure the painful growth of motherhood, the work and humility of it, the shame of getting it wrong and the triumph of getting it right. Nor could I care one iota about other humans. She is truly the reason for the season. However, sometimes when I do something a little bit nice for one of my children (in the spirit of W.W. A.K.D., or What Would Aunt Kay Do?) it reminds me of something less good that happened between me and my parents.

West Hills Middle School, my thirteenth birthday (and my fourteenth), in the large, open front entryway. My mother, in her nurse’s scrubs. She has a huge bunch of mylar balloons; some are pink. It is the timing, really, that is sad. Around lunchtime, and the whole school is lingering. She breaks into a run, which is easy because she is in those orthopaedic nursing shoes that belie her youth. I am impossibly small and under-pubertized for my age, and so very mortified by this random entry of my mother into my everyday life. She envelopes me in a hug, which is so enthusiastic it is almost like a dip between ballroom dancers. I feel so conflicted, so embarrassed. What The Fuck, do you want to scare away what few friends I have? They are watching, and I can feel from across the room that they feel badly for me and are laughing a little. Oh, and right there’s the school bully, who picks equally on girls and guys. He is pantomiming the whole scene in the background, which is hilarious and so unfair at the same time. My mother doesn’t do this shit for me, guys. Ever. Don’t, like, discourage her or something.

So, Thank God. Thank God that James doesn’t feel responsible for all of my feelings at a young age. Thank God he asks freely for what he wants and needs from me, without filtering these things first for possibility. Thank God he has friends, and the front-office staff of the elementary school looking out for him, and M and Q, and a host of good gadgets, and maybe even a flying car for his birthday one day, and as many balloons as he pleases. But not in front of his friends.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Thanksgiving Story

Dear Aunt Kay,

We had an eventful thanksgiving, and I was thinking of you.

William had four whole days of hives, full-body ones; we noticed the rash all over him when he was getting into the bath after turkey dinner. Benadryl, swollen lips and hands, Urgent Care, Prednisone, more Benadryl. The hives seem to come and go, but he went to school successfully today and hopefully the ordeal is over. We still don’t know why it happened or what he may have eaten or drank to have had such a huge allergic response, but Joe is convinced it was the rosemary and thyme. I LOL’d at that; I’m pretty sure it was the eggnog.

Then, tonight, James jumped off the couch for some reason and landed funny on his ankle. Back to urgent care--not broken, but strained. I got kind of mad at Joe, since the scene of the injury was a little bit like the beginning scene in Mrs. Doubtfire. So, the part that was making me think of you was this: tomorrow I drive a five-kid carpool to school, one of them is on crutches. How did you do it all when you were raising your kids, plus one or two from down the street?

Thanksgiving dinner itself was so-so, but Dad is hopelessly disinhibited. He’s telling this wildly inappropriate story...Joe’s co-worker and all three of our kids are in the audience. It’s after we’ve eaten dinner. Or before dinner, I can’t even remember, there were so many lovely moments. It was bad. My mind is blocking it out but at one point he was putting both his middle fingers up, presumably imitating the attitude of that lead actress from Top Gun as she was hit on by one too many navy guys. [[Editorial note: Dad was there when they were filming Top Gun, okay, okay, I get it. But has yet to receive the memo about Kelly McGillis being gay.]] I know I stopped him at several points, shouting, “Dad, Kelly McGillis is not ‘weird’; she happens to be a lesbian, and anyway, maybe straight actors don’t like being swarmed by military dudes, either.” Pretty much nothing fazed him; he just kept talking over me to make his retarded point, whatever it was.

Luckily for us, I had said something a few weeks ago to Joe’s co-worker about the possibility of Dad: Live and Unfiltered version. Hopefully he and his wife will still want to hang out with us after this. It is hard enough to make friends with busy everyday life, and this is more than I can stand. Oh yeah, and Meryl was here for Thanksgiving, which was nice.

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. Did you visit Jessie?

Yours in Serenity.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Conversation of the Day

Elise: Why do you keep looking at me like that and smiling?
Me: Because you're beautiful.
Elise, with mock indignation: No...
Me: Why not?
Elise: I'm just kidding! I am!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

List of Things To Ponder Before Falling Asleep

1. The kids really need haircuts. 'Nuff said.

2. James is a good voice imitator. His favorite thing to do as an adult will probably be to get out his twinkly, Disney voice and give the tankside talks as some sort of volunteer at SeaWorld (but egads, hopefully not for the Shamu Show).

3. What if (insert Loved One's Name) NEVER chooses a hand to write with/quits waking up at night to pee the bed/gets married/appreciates the humor of Frog & Toad/has babies/learns to tie his shoes/recognizes that farts are funny but only in appropriate settings/consistently defends me against his evil mother/flosses regularly?

4. How attractive should a nanny be? Bonus question: how much makeup would the pre-K assistant teacher have to take off before she looks normal?

5. Now that Dad has his driver's license back, will he get into an accident? Should he wear a bike helmet when driving?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I can see Tinkerbell's hoo-hah in that dress: Things my children are never allowed to watch

Movies My Kids are Never Allowed to Watch (and Why) 

1. Astro Boy (2009). Reasons: Gratuitous violence; kids will beg for rocket boots for the next 10 Christmases; machine guns inexplicably come out of boy's rectum 

2. The Secret of Nimh (1985). Reason: I still have nightmares about Mrs. Brisby's encounter with The Great Rat Leader 

3. Lord of the Rings Animated Version (1978). Reason: Scenes with Gollum and the giant spiders would cause grown men to wet their pants 

4. Lilo & Stitch (2002). Reason: Tragic themes on loss and child neglect make Bambi's mom's death look tame in comparison; primary character's name is slang for 'vagina' 

5. Tinkerbell (2010). Reason: Cleavage-cupping frock for main character deserves NC-17 rating 

6. Any "Wiggles" movie. Reason: Preponderance of theme songs that will earnestly be repeated in fake-Australian accent 

TV Shows 

1. Burt & Ernie segments of Sesame Street. Reason: NOT the usual bigoted, homophobic objections! It's just that Burt is such an as$hole to Ernie. Ever notice that?

2. Sailor Moon. Reason: Potential for kids to grow up to be adults who attend semi-annual Sailor Moon Conventions at the Fontainebleu 

3. Caillou. Reason: "Mom, Why is Caillou bald?" "I don't knoooow!" 

4. Spongebob. Reason: Supremely annoying main character 

5. Pee-Wee's Play House: Reasons: too numerous and obvious to list here.