0, 1, 2.

by Alexa on June 17, 2014

Twyla

{ 10 comments }

Ministry of Grievances.

by Alexa on June 5, 2014

I am having one of those days. Weeks, even. And it is rude to complain because I am so lucky etc. but guess what? I am declaring this post the Official Complaints Department and I have some complaints to register and you should all feel free to do the same. No need to preface your complaint with how you KNOW it could be WORSE, just go right ahead and get down to business.

And the first person who says “yes, well at least you HAVE a job/a house/arms/whatever will be summarily shot.

1. The bottle of wine I opened last night was obviously corked and undrinkable, and so now I have no wine.

2. I have gin, but no mixers, and before you suggest a martini let me just inform you that I lost the top of my cocktail shaker (still a glass baby bottle—convenient to have measurements right on the side) so that idea is out.

3. Today is not Friday, but Thursday.

4. I am wearing an insubordinate shirt that tries desperately to curl itself up and expose me anytime I walk anywhere.

5. I have reached the peeling portion of my sunburn (which, if you follow me on Twitter, you are no doubt sick to death of hearing me complain about already) and not only is it very itchy but it is very, very disgusting, and every time I move I worry about whether or not FLAKES OF MY OWN SKIN are visibly falling from me, or dancing around my person in a Pigpen-esque cloud.

6. Today is the ten year anniversary of my first date with Scott, and instead of celebrating he will be spending the evening in training for his new second job, and I will be alone with the children during their Crabby Hours.

7. This second job, while helpful in offsetting our very high summer childcare costs, means that Scott will soon be away working on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings while I watch the children. Because it is my busy season, I have been in the custom of going into the office on Saturday mornings myself, because I cannot stay late enough during the week to get everything done AND pick up Simone on time. Now I will probably have to go in on Saturday afternoons, which is 1000 times worse.

8. My hair is behaving unreliably and I have had just about enough of it.

9. In order to lose weight I have to eat less food but I LOVE food.

10. Simone’s last day of school is next Monday, because they had to add a day to make up for winter cancellations, and half the kids won’t even be there so they are treating both this Friday and Monday like the Last Day and it’s DUMB.

11. We are postponing our plans to buy a house for at least a few months and every time I think about it I want to cry or smash something or even better to cry while smashing things.

12. I want to finish the essay I am working on but I am only a few paragraphs in and just thinking about how much there is still to do makes me want to retire to my bedchamber.

13. All that fancy “retire to my bedchamber” business is in there because I was going to say “makes me want to lie down” but can’t for the life of me remember lay/lie with complete certainty, and never will be able to, GOD ENGLISH WHY ARE YOU SUCH A DICK ABOUT THIS.

14. Next week Simone will finish kindergarten and Twyla will turn two which means my children are all old.

15. I have no shoes for work that are both comfortable and attractive.

I am sure I could go on, but surprisingly that has cheered me up considerably, and I now feel prepared to murmur and shake my head sympathetically at YOUR complaints. Go on, don’t be shy.

{Ed. Note: If you don’t have any complaints I will thank you to keep that information to yourself.}

{ 135 comments }

A Day in the Life, Weekend Edition.

by Alexa on May 30, 2014

This is almost two months old now, and has been sitting in my drafts folder since around the time Twyla was in the hospital, because I’ve been telling myself I have to post the conclusion of that story first, like I said I would, even though (SHOCKINGLY) once the episode was well past I didn’t particularly feel like revisiting it at length. Eventually, thank goodness, I realized I am a grown lady who owns this Website and so here we are.

(I did finish the story of Twyla’s hospital stay and have posted it as a link at the end of the previous post, in case you want to know HOW it all turned out to be fine. You can read the conclusion here.)

As with my previous Day in the Life, this is preposterously long, so do yourself a favor and get a snack. I recommend Nibs, or maybe something in the Chip family.

SATURDAY, APRIL 5th, 2014

Unknown times, a.m.:
Twyla wakes up, cries, coughs, obviously has croup. At one point wakes with face covered in blood from bloody nose, likely from scrabbling at runny nose too hard in sleep.

5:27 a.m.:
Twyla’s cough and breathing sound particularly awful. Scott takes her to stand in front of the freezer (she gets croup often, and the cold air usually helps). I hear Twyla start to wail. Scott returns with the baby, and informs me that she was crying because he wouldn’t let her have a frozen black bean burger to eat, even though they were right there in front of her in the freezer. This is very much in character for Twyla, whose feelings about food are uncommonly intense. We all go back to sleep.

6:01 a.m.:
I am awake. I do not remember whether Twyla woke me up, but it seems likely. I try to return to sleep. Various children wake up and I shush/pat them (Simone, as of a week after my last Day in the Life post, now sleeps in her own room on school nights, but on weekends is allowed to bunk with us). Try, try to sleep, fail to do so. I am of the unfortunate breed that once awakened, can only return to sleep if I do it very quickly, before my brain whirls to life. Scott—not of this breed—is dead to world.

6:35 a.m.:
I am clearly not getting back to sleep at this point. All children now awake. Scott mostly awake as well, thanks to toddler clambering onto him. We all get up. Scott and children head to living room, I head to kitchen to make Saturday Breakfast. Am still too lazy to cook much most weeknights, so Saturday Breakfast has become a special occasion. I whisk some eggs with a little half and half, debone smoked trout, add goat cheese, season, and put in deep saucepan over low heat to scramble gently. I make an over-hard fried egg for Simone as she will not eat scrambled eggs. I make espresso for Scott, espresso with milk for me. As halfhearted last-minute nod to concept of “balanced breakfast,” I slice some strawberries onto a plate for the girls. Simone’s egg is ready.
“I am not going to eat this YELLOW part,” she tells me, when I hand her the plate. I make it clear that this is of no interest to me at all and return to kitchen. A few moments later, from Simone:
“The yellow part is good! Maybe TOO good, even.” I do not ask her to explain, instead keep scrambling eggs while she eats hers. Eggs are done. I put Sriracha sea salt on mine (salt was Christmas gift, and I have taken to putting it on almost everything—it is known as Mama’s Special Salt) and take the plates out.

7:12 a.m.:
I sit Twyla at her table to eat. Scott and I eat while watching Parks and Recreation (which Simone calls “Yellow Hair”). Then Scott shows me the little part of Late Night he taped for me because one of my favorite comedians (John Mulaney) was a guest. Simone is writing in a kindergarten workbook Scott’s mother gave her on our recent trip to Iowa.

8:00 a.m.:
I ask Scott to clean off the kitchen table so that Simone and I can work on her Science Fair project there. He takes the dishes out and goes off to do that. Twyla hurries off to help/make things more difficult. Simone asks me to check her “homework” in the workbook.

8:15 a.m.:
The table cleared, Simone and I get to work. I spread newspaper on the table and give her some newspaper to tear into strips. I tear strips as well. Then I put equal parts flour and water in a bowl and let her stir it up. I get the large Styrofoam ball that is to serve as our Moon, and show Simone how to papier mache. (The moon is not smooth like Styrofoam is, you see, and also paint does not adhere well to Styrofoam, and also Simone has never done papier mache before and it is super fun). She gleefully covers ball with goopy strips. We have an excellent time. Moon left on plate to dry.
Camera Roll-1034

8:35 a.m.:
I run us a bath. I get in and wash my hair and such, then Simone joins me and I wash hers. Then she goes off to get dressed, as do I.

9:07 a.m.:
I spend a little time planning and making lists of what needs to be done.
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Twyla obviously unwell, so plan is that Simone and I will run errands, and some time after we leave Scott will nap with baby.

9:19 a.m.:
Put on makeup.

9:29 a.m.:
Simone and I leave the house. It is a beautiful Spring day, as you can see.
Camera Roll-1035
I put on Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” for the drive to our first errand. Simone and I have a whole routine for singing this song together in the car, with designated parts, which we perform flawlessly. (Also tunelessly).

Example:
ME: And Ma Bell sends you a whopping bill..
SIMONE: THAT’S THE BREAKS! THAT’S THE BREAKS!
ME: …with eighteen phone calls to Brazil!
SIMONE: THAT’S THE BREAKS! THAT’S THE BREAKS!
Etc.

9:40 a.m.:
Arrive at Target in high spirits. Consult list. To illustrate peculiar power of Target with which you are doubtlessly familiar, will now share with you list I took to Target, and list of items actually purchased there:

Target List:
-New set ballet clothes for Simone
-New socks for both girls
-Dishwasher detergent
-Napkins to pack in lunches
-Index cards
-Poster/presentation board for Science Fair project, the sort that is like a triptych
-Glue
-Bread
-Green juice for Scott

Items Actually Purchased at Target:
-New set ballet clothes for Simone
-New socks for both girls
-Dishwasher detergent
-Napkins to pack in lunches
-Index cards
-Poster/presentation board for Science Fair project, the sort that is like a triptych
-Glue
-Bread
-Green juice for Scott
-Duct tape (should have been on list, accidentally omitted)
-Small spool craft string from OneSpot (should have been on list, accidentally omitted)
-Package Shout Color Catchers from OneSpot
-3-pack travel tissues from OneSpot
-Chapstick shaped like crayon for Simone from OneSpot
-Pink headband with flower for Simone
-Frozen soundtrack on CD
-Frozen “young reader”-type book for Simone
-Fox in Socks board book for Twyla
-1 bag Pirate Booty
-1 box “healthy”-type fruit snacks
-1 box Wasabi Soy Triscuit Thins, as headed to checkout (have yet to try).
-Bottle of water for Simone from checkout cooler.

Believe it or not, this is an example of CONSIDERABLE restraint on my part.

10:36 a.m.:
Back in car, head to CVS. Discuss with Simone possibility of Lunch Out, first raised in Target to appease “starving” child and having additional advantage of keeping us away from house a little longer, as Scott and Twyla surely asleep and would like Twyla to get as much rest as possible. There is no parking anywhere near CVS. This is quite common on a Saturday. I decide to leave this errand (picking up non-urgent prescriptions) for another time (and likely for Scott), and instead pull onto side street to make phone call.

10:45 a.m.:
Call mother—would she like to meet us at favorite nearby Vietnamese place? Do we know if they have full menu or, as sometimes previously on weekends, only Dim Sum? Call restaurant to check. Full menu! Call mother back, arrange to meet.

10:55 a.m.:
Pick up dry cleaning.

11:05 a.m.:
Arrive at restaurant. This is the restaurant where Scott and I had our rehearsal dinner. Simone stops on bridge on the way in to coo over Koi.
Camera Roll-1038
Simone has Shirley Temple, meatball wontons, white rice. My mother and I split meatball wontons, curry shrimp, glass of bubbly. Lovely time had by all.
Camera Roll-1037
I mention how nice it is to have a girl lunch all together, and Simone says actually she quite likes a BOY lunch. On further questioning is revealed that a Boy Lunch is “handsome and stylish.”

12:00 p.m.:
Leave restaurant. Mother promises Simone that she (Simone) can come over the next day to watch recently purchased Brave Little Toaster on DVD.

12:10 p.m.:
Arrive home. Lug dry cleaning, leftovers, Target bags up many flights of stairs. Put away groceries, etc.

12:26 p.m.:
On way back from bathroom see Twyla is awake. Go in and sit on bed. Scott wakes up. Snuggle Twyla, talk to Scott. Twyla very feverish, obviously miserable. Take Twyla to living room to join Simone. Administer dose of Ibuprofen. Hold Twyla on lap, read her Fox in Socks.

12:52 p.m.:
I fool around on Twitter and snuggle Twyla. Simone reads me her new Frozen book. The girls play and watch Doc McStuffins.

1:37 p.m.:
Bring Simone her ballet clothes so she can get ready. Help her with tights.

1:58 p.m.:
Simone and I leave for ballet class.

2:00 p.m.:
Simone and I run back up stairs because forgot ballet shoes.

We listen to Frozen soundtrack in car and Simone sings along, loudly, declaring each song in turn her favorite. Instead of “let the storm rage on” she sings, as usual, “let the storm re-charge,” and I, also as usual, do not correct her. The way she really hits “BE THE GOOD GIRL YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE!” in “Let it Go” both amuses and alarms me.

2:19 p.m.:
Arrive at ballet studio. Simone changes into her shoes.
Camera Roll-1039
I get details of upcoming May performance. Simone races around with other girls.

2:29 p.m.:
Class begins. I play around on Twitter, Instagram, and read my book (The Goldfinch).

3:37 p.m.:
Class over. Simone and I head home, starting soundtrack over again from beginning.

Unknown time, p.m.:
Park car and realize cannot find phone. Vaguely remember setting it on edge of back seat while I buckled Simone into car. Did it fall out in slushy parking lot? Feel panicky. Have 1000 pictures on phone. Can’t remember when I last backed it up, but know it wasn’t recently. Scour area around front seat where phone usually rests. Remember “Find My Phone” app and hurry inside. Hand computer to Scott, instruct him to Make it So. Phone is revealed to be transmitting from right where my car is parked. Hugely relieved. I head back downstairs to search again. Simone accompanies me. She tells me she is great at finding things, and once found a teddy bear that was lost under the sea, even. It was in a treasure chest next to a sunken ship! I am suitably impressed by this. We do not see phone, but then it starts making a beeping noise (Scott, back in apartment, is making it beep via app—which works even with ringer off, thank heavens) and we are able to locate it underneath front passenger seat. No idea how it got there, but very happy to see it.

4:07 p.m.:
Back to apartment with phone. Simone flushed with victory. I proceed to sit bonelessly in a chair for a while. I know I do some things during this time, probably. Twitter? Lists? No idea. Lost time. I put my coat on and prepare to leave for dinner at my mother’s condo. Scott informs me that he is going to order Pizza Hut for girls, himself, because he has seen an advertisement for a new pizza that looks excellent. I remind him that the last time he had Pizza Hut, some years ago, he swore never to do it again, but he feels this time will be different.

4:42 p.m.:
I go downstairs to wait for my mother to pick me up. She has kindly offered to transport me so that I needn’t drive, as I am very paranoid about driving and otherwise would not consume even one full glass wine.

4:59 p.m.:
At mother’s, we sample various recently acquired items as we try to decide on suitable drinks for the evening. For aperitif, I choose champagne cocktail made with new amusingly named peach-flavored quinine based liqueur called “Rin QuinQuin.” Quinine base makes this a sort of health drink that will protect me from malaria, always a pressing concern. We do dinner prep and listen to music and chat.

5:24 p.m.:
Scott calls. “You are making all of my decisions from now on,” he says. Pizza Hut not a success.

Mother puts little goat cheese/mushroom tarts she made earlier into the oven to heat and dresses greens for salad. I set table. For first course we have greens with tart.
Camera Roll-1041
(My mother is truly an excellent cook.)

After we eat our salads my mother begins on the steak and mushrooms and I heat up some leftover potatoes and then mush them up with butter and quark. For our main course drinks we have Kirs Royale.
Camera Roll-1040
After dinner we pick up and then repair to couch with cheese, and homemade blackberry/hazelnut/citrus financiers, which I forgot to take a picture of. I have cognac, but mother does not, because she is driving. We chat. I get text from Scott with video of Twyla eating chocolate-covered granola square—well, formerly chocolate covered, as chocolate covering now entirely transferred to her face. It is getting late, but I didn’t drink much of my cognac because I had two glasses of champagne already this evening and I am a terrible lightweight, so my mother gives me the rest to go in a jelly jar. I have the best mother. (Does your mother send you home with little jelly jars of cognac for later? I didn’t think so.)

8:24 p.m.:
We leave for my house.

8:40 p.m.:
At home, I check on girls. Scott has fallen asleep in bedroom with them. I ask if he is getting up, he says maybe later. I tell him I am not really sleepy yet and he suggests I sit out in living room and watch episode of The Americans. This is very exciting for me, as I do not watch television in the living room without children ever—I watch almost all of my television on my laptop at night in bed. I gather blanket and supplies and sit in quiet dark to watch, on the big(er) screen. The Americans is my current favorite show, and it is an excellent episode. I’ve brought my mason jar of cognac and a glass of water and some chocolate out with me, just in case, but I only drink the water.

9:50 p.m.:
I Google to understand the confusing part of the episode. I do this a lot, as I am congenitally unable to let tiny things go by in shows, books, etc., without being certain I understand them properly. It is a very annoying trait to both others and myself.

10:03 p.m.:
I crawl into bed, and as is my custom, play SpellTower until I am sleepy. At this point it is soothingly Pavlovian.

10:26 p.m.:
Sleep.

{ 7 comments }

The party line, of course, is that daycare is a boon to women. But has anyone investigated the possibility that daycare is an invention of the patriarchy aimed at killing off working mothers altogether?

We’ve all been sick more or less continuously since Twyla started in February. The weekend of April 5th, she got a nasty case of croup, and was home sick for a few days. Mostly recovered (little cough, slight snorfles, but no fever) she returned to daycare for two days at the end of the next week. I’d been feeling sicker myself and on Saturday morning I went to the doctor to see whether my pneumonia had returned, because I have nothing better to do with my limited free time than get chest x-rays. My pneumonia was NOT back, but there was a lot of frowning while listening to my chest, where the air was apparently “really slow” and “swirling,” which sounds very elegant and all but it turned out to be a very elegant case of bronchitis. I was given a stern talking to about “resting,” and how I should start doing it. That night, Twyla threw up twice (extremely restful). I thought it was probably snot-related. Sunday morning she was not very hungry (which is not a thing that happens to Twyla), and sat around holding a banana for a while before eating a third of it. I mentioned to Scott how odd this was—usually we don’t keep bananas in the house because Twyla has a Banana Problem and becomes unhinged when not allowed to eat the entire bunch, one after another in quick succession—and Twyla promptly threw up what little banana she’d consumed.

So all day last Sunday I sat in bed, trying to “rest” (I do not know how to sleep in the day), and Twyla slept next to me. Occasionally she’d stir and I’d give her a sip of water, and at one point after this she gagged again, and then fell back asleep. By three in the afternoon I was a concerned that something was amiss. Twyla was still sleeping. She sounded congested, and I wondered whether her cold from the previous week could have turned into pneumonia. No fever, though. I Googled “toddler sick sleeping all day.” At some point Twyla opened her eyes. I tried to keep her up. She sat up and drooped over again, falling asleep on her face. I carried her out to the living room. She seemed blank and not quite there, and kept drifting off. I took her into the kitchen and made her drink a little ginger ale. Then Scott and I noticed that her fingers and toes were dusky. We decided she needed to be seen and he took her to the ER.

The ER, by the way, is also our clinic’s after-hours care venue. We go to the primary care clinic at the Children’s hospital, which dates back to Simone’s NICU stay, when they asked for a pediatrician as we neared discharge, and I didn’t have one because I hadn’t believed I would get to take home a live baby, and if you don’t have a live baby you have little use for a pediatrician. So the NICU nurses suggested the clinic one floor above, and one of the doctors came down to meet Simone, and we have been very happy there ever since. It makes referrals to specialists easy, they are used to ex-preemies, and they also cover parts of the hospital service, like newborn checks, which was nice right after I had Twyla. The downside is that if something happens after office hours and they decide you need to be seen before Monday, they send you to the ER downstairs. For a long time this made me feel guilty, like I was abusing the system, but that’s just the way it is.

So I sent Scott and Twyla off, worried but also feeling like maybe I had overreacted (maybe her fingers and toes were purple with cold!), only it became clear pretty quickly, via the texts Scott sent to keep me updated, that I hadn’t. The triage nurse must not have liked what she saw, because when Scott and Twyla got back to the room a doctor and two nurses were waiting for them. If you have ever been to an ER for something that does not involve screaming or obvious continuing blood loss, you know that this is not usually the speed at which events proceed. They kept asking if Twyla could have gotten into any drugs or medicines. I knew she couldn’t have, but I ran around the apartment checking every prescription bottle anyway, panicking and having visions of CPS coming to investigate and taking the girls away because our apartment was Too Messy (I was not in the very most logical frame of mind). Twyla’s oxygen saturation was normal. They took blood, and urine via catheter, and placed an IV. Twyla barely cared about any of this, and went straight back to sleep after they finished, which I think we can all agree is not Standard Operating Procedure for toddlers, and by now I was a wreck. The doctors were worried and moving quickly.

Simone and I played UNO and I tried to keep the both of us calm. She was still running a fever from her own version of whatever pestilence Twyla had been fighting off the week before, so I didn’t want to take her to the hospital if I could help it. I could have taken her to my mother’s and gone to the hospital myself, but at this point, as scary as everything was, there wasn’t the sense that it was time sensitive in a way that meant I needed to be there, which is my euphemistic way of saying no one thought Twyla was going to die in the next few hours, and I was having some severe PTSD-type reaction and every time I thought about going to the hospital I also thought I might throw up. I felt like I should go—god knows I’d be getting more complete information if I were the one talking to the doctors—and more than that, I felt like I should want to go, to race to Twyla’s side. But I was paralyzed with fear while also suspecting that I was making more of this than it really was, and I knew Scott would be able to keep it together in the ER, and I figured I could do more good at home than there, especially considering that if Twyla rebounded quickly with fluids—they knew by this point that she was dehydrated—there would be work and school in the morning for most of us.

People make snide comments about other people who post to Twitter when their children are ill, but being able to ask for support and receive it was amazing, and my friends on Twitter (and Jonna, who allowed me to text her about all of this as it was happening) were a great help to me, just by being there. 

I suppose around this point is when Twyla’s bloodwork came back. Most of it was fine, but her sugar was low and her lactic acid was high. They gave her some sugar in her IV and told Scott they would retest the lactic acid. I worried for a moment that she might be diabetic, but it wasn’t long before I hit upon another possibility—and this soon took on the feeling of an inevitable truth—namely that she had the rare metabolic disease that immediately comes up when you begin Googling Twyla’s symptoms and high lactic acid, a rare metabolic disease that often means death in early childhood. This had the ring of truth to me, because I have at times felt very superstitious about Twyla, because I am an absolute moron. Twyla, you see, was conceived so effortlessly, and then she LIVED, and the pregnancy chugged along* until she was born at term, and apart from dreadful colic and reflux in her earliest weeks she has been a dream baby. She is so lovely and has such a constant, goony smile that other people smile back at her everywhere she goes; she is happy and sweet and EASY, even during toddlerhood. So it seemed only natural to me, because of my previously referenced moronism, that something would go terribly wrong while she was still very young and she would die. Thus, even though the differential for Twyla’s symptoms and bloodwork was full of ordinary things, the most likely being “virus of unknown stripe,” I seized on to the rarest and deadliest and then, realizing how absolutely insane this was, didn’t trust myself to have any opinion on the seriousness of her condition at all. Twyla woke up. Her circulation was better. She ate part of a popsicle. The ER doctor decided to “leave it up to us” whether she should be admitted. If we lived further away, he said, they would definitely admit her, but since we lived so close to the hospital (about four blocks), it was our call.

Doctors, do not do this. Please, I beg of you. Maybe you think you are doing families a favor, giving us a place behind the wheel, but it feels as if you are asking us to make a decision above our pay grade and then live with the consequences. I will ALWAYS wonder if Ames would be alive if I had chosen differently when my OB gave me a choice of prednisone or lovenox, even though he made it clear that he didn’t think I needed either (and that he thought prednisone might cover some possibilities lovenox would leave unaddressed). I was tormented when the perinatologist on call the night of Simone’s birth asked me to decide whether to deliver at 25 weeks or wait to see if the contractions stopped on their own. And I was NOT thrilled at the idea of taking Twyla home only to watch her all night in case she became unresponsive (in…her sleep??) and needed to return to the hospital.

Luckily (?), I’d no sooner told Scott as much than Twyla threw up her popsicle, despite IV Zofran, and leaving was off the table. She was admitted.

I ordered a pizza for Simone and myself as I had been doing such an excellent job of parenting that I had forgotten about dinner and it was now 8 o’clock. We washed our hair and got into our jammies and ate. Simone was worried about Twyla. Most kids Simone’s age have a faith that doctors can fix things, and a distance from the possibility of death, that she doesn’t have because of Ames. She has asked, many times, why the doctors couldn’t fix what was wrong with him, and obviously this was different in a million ways (Twyla not being a 22-week-old fetus, for starters), but the possibility of Twyla dying felt real to Simone, which is not how it should be for a six-year-old. I was glad to be there with her. I reassured and cuddled and let her sleep in my bed. After Simone was out, Scott and Twyla Facetimed me from Twyla’s new room on the Peds Floor. She still didn’t look great, but she was awake, which was an improvement. I slept with my phone under my pillow.

*Typing this, I am realizing that my pregnancy with Twyla was awful–I had hyperemesis, gestational diabetes, polyhydramnios, was on daily blood thinner and weekly progesterone injections, started contracting at 15 weeks, needed terbutaline, etc.–and yet apparently all that need happen for me to regard a pregnancy as suspiciously easy is for no one to die during it.

———–

I am not trying to be coy or create drama—Twyla is fine!—but I really am out of writing time. I am not even sure why I bothered to write all of this out, as it is no doubt EXTREMELY BORING, but now that I have, I might as well post it and keep going. I will finish up the rest tomorrow.*

———–

*By which I meant a month later. Click here for the thrilling, belated conclusion!

{ 31 comments }

Is there such a thing as Morning Aphasia? Because the other morning I was unable to call up:

1) The name of one of my children
2) The words “water bottle”
3) The word “lunchbox”
4) The word “bag”

I compensated with “THING” and “THAT GIRL,” but it was a little alarming. I may not exactly be ingénue material but I am still extremely young, relatively speaking—especially if the things you relating me to are like, the Earth, or the span of human history. Is it pretty much a steady slide downhill at this point, cognitively speaking?

Another alarming possibly-age-related development: my right ankle clacks. It clacks when I walk, with every step for a while, and then it will fall silent, maybe out of embarrassment, and then it will start up again—CLACK, CLACK, CLACK, CLACK. It doesn’t hurt, but it is quite loud. And really, should my body parts be CLACKING? I would assume not. Do I need…oil? What is happening to me?

We have gotten some more information about the Science Fair, in the form of an email and a flyer, and I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say it is shaping up to be the social event of the season—or at least of MY season.

Here is a list of attractions from the email:

• Incredible Invertebrates {Ed. Note: Yes, but which ones??}
• MN Herpetological Society- Reptiles and Amphibians
• Wind Energy with 3M
• Static Electricity with the Bakken Museum
• The Bell Museum’s ExploraDome
• Fish Anatomy with the Minnesota DNR
• A Brain presentation with a U of M Neurosurgeon {Ed. Note: Too much to hope for that this will be awake neurosurgery demonstration, yes?}
• Owl Pellet Dissection
• Recycled Art {Ed. Note: Are we making art OUT OF other things or recycling art INTO other things? This point needs clarification.}
• Mini-Math Carnival
• Scholastic Book Fair

In contrast to the email, the flyer was less matter-of-fact and more geared toward exciting the audience. For instance, “MN Herpetological Society—Reptiles and Amphibians” becomes “REAL SNAKES AND REPTILES!” Most delightfully, “Fish Anatomy with the Minnesota DNR” becomes “SEE INSIDE A FISH!” I feel like the marketing team (hush, of course there is) did a great job with this one, because sure, Fish Anatomy sounds like fun, but SEE INSIDE A FISH! takes it to a whole new level.

I was thrilled with all of your post topic suggestions and such. I must also say, though, that those were some of the loveliest, most flattering and bolstering comments I have ever received. I feel very honored and very lucky, and I know this all sounds awfully sappy, but I have been writing for many years, whether just-for-sport bits like this or Proper Writing, and before the Internet, most of that writing was conducted with only myself for encouragement, and…myself is not very encouraging. The confidence and general sense of an-audience-of-friends I have gained from writing here has been invaluable to me.

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep I spent quite a long time pondering one of the questions you asked, namely which is my favorite punctuation mark. Comma is the obvious choice, in that it is the one I would least like to do without, but the comma is the ur-punctuation mark. We could get by with only commas, if we had to, and if I had to be trapped on a desert island with only one punctuation mark I would want it to be a comma. BUT if I could take TWO, the other one would be the em-dash. Hands down. Admittedly, I rather overuse the dash, but pthpthpthpthththth. (That was me, sticking out my tongue out and making a rude noise at those who would constrain my dash usage.)(I also overuse parentheses.)

If I WERE trapped on a desert island with only the comma and the em-dash, look at the lovely shelter I could build!

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
_                    _
_                    _
_                    _
_                    _

 

Why is it always a “desert island?” Why bring climate into it—surely any unpopulated island would do for those “only one album/person/makeup product” sorts of questions? Are there many desert islands? I would think by virtue of being an island and having all that water around them they wouldn’t be deserts? Do they mean “deserted?” But then why wouldn’t people just say “deserted” in the first place? Is “desert” some variant way of saying “deserted?”  I am going to corner some child at the Science Fair and make it give us an answer on this.

I am planning to do a weekend Day in the Life Post, but it will be next weekend, not this coming one, because this coming weekend will be quite atypical. It is Spring Break, and so we are spending a couple of nights in a classic Spring Break locale, namely Iowa. Nothing says “Spring Break!” quite like “Mason City” and also “Des Moines.”

I’ll tell you all about it of course—well, not ALL about it, because you know what they say: “What Happens in Mason City Stays in Mason City, Mostly Because It Turns Out It Doesn’t Make a Very Good Story.”

(Only kidding, Iowa friends!)
(It had better be warm, though. You are south of here, so I expect warmth.)
(50 days below zero this winter! 23 days with a windchill of TWENTY-FIVE BELOW ZERO or colder! 135 days below freezing! 61 inches of snow!)(I also like the exclamation point!)

{ 23 comments }

Information You Didn’t Ask For.

by Alexa on March 24, 2014

You will be relieved to hear, I am sure, that the Horse Council bill has passed and is now law. And I forgot to tell you: the true subject of the bill, the thing that is to be funded by the Equine Education Fund and overseen by the wise and shiny-coated Horse Council is…A HORSE CENSUS.

Let me say that again. A HORSE CENSUS.

A CENSUS. Of HORSES.

So, obviously, this is why the bill was emergency/immediately effective. I can’t believe state officials have managed to go this long without knowing how many horses are among their constituents.

(I know, really, that there are plenty of reasons to not want a law to be effective immediately, but that doesn’t mean I am not going to take my amusement where I can find it, for instance in very real circumstances under which a law designating “Noxious and Invasive Weed Awareness Week” has “an emergency having been determined to exist” language and takes effect immediately while a law regulating handguns on college campuses just gets the regular old general effective date.)(You will no doubt notice a sharp increase in Legal Publishing Humor now that I am back at work. I apologize for this.)

I am starting to feel there is some sort of US Treasury conspiracy afoot related to the fact that it takes 15 quarters to do a load of laundry in my building. No other coin of the realm is accepted, no credit cards are taken—no, you must have in your possession 15 actual, physical United States quarters.

“We did consider The Congressional Committee on Obsolescence’s suggestion that we discontinue the quarter, however it appears that quarters are still very much in demand in Minnesota, at least on the [REDACTED] block of [REDACTED] Avenue. We may need to step up production!”

There were only two openings for volunteers to give feedback on the projects entered in the Science and Math Fair, and I snatched one up immediately, so now I am JUDGING THE FAIR! I mean, technically it is just writing comments on “participation” ribbons, and there are no winners among the projects, but I will totally be judging them. (#teamTHEMOON)

Simone has a very strong vision for her project, and predictably I am finding it hard not to interfere. I make a suggestion, and she reminds me sternly that I am just her “assistant.” FINE, SIMONE. Good luck with the judges! I hear they have high standards and impeccable taste.

I had been going on a bit about the Fair to my friend Becky and I am not sure if she was actively mocking me or if I just sensed that she was thinking about mocking me, but anyway I told her, a bit defensively, that it really WAS going to be fun, and there would be NON-nerdy parts, too. The museum is bringing a portable planetarium, and there is going to be a book fair! And then I realized that the two examples I gave as attractions for non-nerds were “planetarium” and “book fair.”

I am so pleased to be writing here more, and I’d like to write here more still, but also I am tremendously lazy, and so I am opening the floor for requests. Is there a story you want to hear? Is there a question you want me to answer? (Questions are great for days when I have very little time but still want to write SOMETHING.)

I mean, don’t worry, I’m still going to keep you apprised of the important things, like elementary school science fairs and urgent horse legislation. But it would be nice to have a list of post topics for days when I feel chatty but can’t think of what to write about, and I know there are still a half dozen or so of my beloved readers hanging around, so I thought I’d go right ahead and delegate that to you.

{ 36 comments }

Average Temperature? -5 Degrees Celsius.

by Alexa on March 18, 2014

¶ It is a truth universally acknowledged that no one wants to read about how sick you have been. But I do not see the point of HAVING pneumonia if you cannot tell people how miserable you are and have them say soothing things and also marvel at the fact that you are, for instance, at work. Which I am. I have taken a couple of sick days and worked from home and now it is time for me to be back in the office, being congratulated for being back in the office. The antibiotics did get rid of my terrible coughing fits, but otherwise I feel every ounce as terrible as I did before, so I think the lesson here is don’t bother going to the doctor because no one can help you and you just have to wait and see whether you live or die, as your ancestors did.

Speaking of relations, the girls have been sick as well. Everyone has been sick—except SCOTT, who is like one of those impervious plague gravediggers— more or less continuously since Twyla started daycare in February. Daycare is a public health menace. How many people have to perish/be pretty sure they are close to perishing before we get state-subsidized nannies like the Europeans?

¶ If you enjoy weeping freely over the passage of time, boy have I got a hobby for you! I’ve started making a quilt out of the girls’ baby clothes, and there is nothing quite like reducing treasured onesies and sleepers to a small stack of cloth squares via a rotary cutter to make a girl feel empty inside. It’s going to be an awfully nice quilt, though! (Actually, this may or may not be true. I have never made a quilt before and I am doing the piecing by hand, so maybe this is all for naught!) (JUST LIKE LIFE.)

¶ Being sick maybe makes me a smidge more dramatic than I am under ordinary circumstances. Not that I can remember what those feel like, because I have been sick forever.

¶ Because I do not want to end this post on a whiny note (in case it is the last written record the world has of me), I will share something exciting: Simone’s school is holding a SCIENCE FAIR. We are She is to obsessively immerse ourselves herself in a subject that interests us her and then make a craft project about it!

So basically, I have been training for this all my life.

Simone has chosen The Moon as our her subject, and I expect those unfortunate enough to know me in real life will be treated to all sorts of interesting Moon Facts in the coming weeks. Maybe I’ll even share a few here! (SETTLE DOWN, SETTLE DOWN!)

Whatever we end up with for the Science Fair, I feel regretfully certain that it will not live up to Simone’s recent two-sided president-themed offering:


“George Washington was the first president…” (flips to other side) “…And Abraham Lincoln stopped slavery!”

(If you can look at that rendering of Abraham Lincoln without feeling deeply shaken yet curiously mesmerized, well, you and I are very different people.)

{ 20 comments }

A Day in the Life.

by Alexa on February 26, 2014

I love, love the “Day in the Life” posts that people (most recently Two Adults, Susie, Miriel) do, and so I did one. Ten-ish days ago. Since then we’ve had multiple rounds of illness, some of the LAMBADA variety, and it took me until now to find time to type this up from the notes I kept. People often include pictures, and I meant to, but forgot about this part after about 6:30 a.m., so except for a few dark, blurry shots at the beginning (everything is dark and blurry at 5 a.m.), you will just have to use your imagination.

I should note that I considered not publishing this, as things rather fell apart after work and this account does not paint me in the most flattering light, but what is the Internet for if not humiliating oneself? I do in fact cook sometimes, and bathe my children, and stay up late to accomplish things, though all of this has taken rather a hit since starting my new job. I think I will do a “Day in the Life” post every once in a while (ooh, and a weekend one too, as would be entirely different), and hopefully over time we will see a progression of competence. (Doubtful.)

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 13TH 2014

4:38 a.m.:

Wake up. Too close to alarm time to go back to sleep. Think whiny morning thoughts.

4:46 a.m.:
Get up. Take Fitbit off bedside table and carry it with me to bathroom so as not to lose those ten precious steps. Perform morning ablutions. Return to dark bedroom to apply moisturizer, squint at clothes. Alarm sounds, as forgot to turn it off. Get dressed using only sense of touch. Favorite work pants seem loose—feel smug. Looseness certainly due to full month of weight training, despite loss of not a single pound. Or, pants have stretched out a bit from frequent wear. Both explanations equally plausible, alas. Have no clean socks. Sigh loudly, feel aggrieved. Begin makeup. Go out to kitchen to retrieve powder from purse. Sight of kitchen only worsens mood. Civilization is collapsing all around us!

5:10 a.m.:
Hear Scott’s alarm go off. Return to bedroom. Scott tells me I can turn on the light. I do, and mention lack of clean socks. Continue getting ready.

5:14 a.m.:
Twyla wakes up. She slithers off the bed and comes over to me with her arms raised, wanting up. As is our custom, she points at various objects on my dresser top and I hand them to her in turn. She examines Petitcollin snow globe with baby doll inside, goat figurine, Matryoshka and contents, other goat figurine, baby snow globe again. I put her down and resume getting ready.

5:20 a.m.:
Scott’s alarm goes off again.
“Shut up,” he tells it.
“DAD! You said not to say shut up!”
Simone is awake.
“You can say it to phones,” Scott explains, “just not to people.”

I leave bedroom to find clothes for girls. Simone has no clean socks, pants. I am the worst. Scott, also, is the worst. Entropy will soon overtake us all. I put outfit for Twyla and only-partially-clean outfit for Simone on couch. Simone used to get her own clothes in the morning, but our schedule is such lately that it’s easier for me to do it. Simone often modifies outfit due to whim, or sudden “itchiness” of previously acceptable pants.

5:30 a.m.:
Everyone is out of the bedroom (Simone slept with us last night, as she still often does, though that will be ending when her new comforter arrives, per a previous agreement). I return to bedroom and make the bed, if by “make the bed” you mean “roughly pull up comforter so that cats will not lay on the sheet”
Good enough.
Try, fail to take picture of work outfit (grey tweed pants, black tank, grey leopard cardigan, black wedge booties) for this “Day in the Life” blog entry. Luckily am not fashion blogger and no one cares.
This is why I do not have one of those "outfit of the day" type blogs.

5:35 a.m.:
I put Twyla’s beloved stuffed kitty in her daycare bag. The children are watching TV. Scott is making them disgusting vegetarian sausage patties. I take lunches from the fridge and add ice packs. I remember that I forgot to write a note for Simone’s lunch the night before and do it now. Simone wanders into the kitchen.
Morning child
She wants to know why I don’t put a note in Twyla’s lunch, and I remind her that Twyla can’t read. She wants French toast sticks. I put some in the toaster and she begins to count to see how long they take (45 seconds). Scott is off getting ready now, children are eating in living room. I wash platter for the brownies I am bringing to work for Treat Day. I take my thyroid medicine. I ask Scott to print off a form we need to sign, and he does, and we sign it. There is a commotion in the other room—Lennie has stolen one of Twyla’s sausages. She is indignant, as well she should be. I pack some pineapple for a snack that I will later forget to eat, put ice in my water bottle, and go to fill it with water. Unfortunately, water pitcher near empty, because SOMEONE did not refill before putting it back. More muttering re: civilization, entropy, etc. Put on coat, gather up box of (bakery) brownies, work bag, etc. Say good bye to Scott. Wave good bye to children, who wave back, more or less.
Twyla waves goodbyeSimone mostly indifferent to my departure

5:55 a.m.:
Note time. Seems impossible that all of the above transpired in 20 minutes, but it did. Leave apartment.

It has snowed, but only a little, and feels very warm. Car informs me it is 20 degrees, which at this point qualifies as Heat Wave. Drive to work listening to NPR. It is Minnesota Public Radio pledge drive. Have not yet figured out how to make phone talk via Bluetooth to my car, so cannot listen to music. Remind self for 100th time (conservative estimate) to look at manual/Internet soon and figure this out (reminder instantly forgotten until next time I drive somewhere). Think uncharitable thoughts at radio announcers. I hold a bit of a grudge against Minnesota Public Radio, you see. Both of the times I was on an NPR program—1st when I read an essay on Morning Edition, and then when I was interviewed about my book on All Things Considered—Minnesota Public Radio did not carry my segment. I was very excited to be on public radio, and told everyone to listen, and then I was preempted, first for local story (I AM LOCAL STORY!) then for pledge drive. Both pieces were actually taped long distance with me in Minnesota Public Radio studio, and yet I could only listen to myself online, via a different affiliate, and I am not yet over this very grave and serious injustice.

6:20 a.m.:
Arrive at work. Try to take picture of work while walking towards it. In dark. Shockingly, it comes out poorly.
Work

6:25 a.m.:
Arrive at desk.
My desk

While computer turns self on, arrange brownies on plate atop central low bookshelf containing various annotated codes. Log on to sundry systems, check email. Session laws have come in, but are only appropriations. Do some work things with them.

6:45 a.m.:
Head to far cafeteria (farness means more steps for perpetually disappointed Fitbit) to get usual breakfast of delicious egg sandwich and cup of black coffee, which I consume back at my desk.

7:00 a.m.:
Text with Scott about children. Simone had a meltdown at daycare drop off, had to be more or less pried off of Scott, sobbed that she “doesn’t like her schedule.” I feel just wonderful about this, as you can imagine. Scott says Twyla fared better at her own daycare drop off, where she did not cry and was last seen playing with a toy lamp.

7:10 a.m.:
Work. Check email and become incensed all over again by very low scare tactics of school district, who have sent out email about possible teacher’s strike enumerating for parents all the ways in which a strike will inconvenience them, including “possibly impacting your summer plans.” Decide will definitely attend school board meeting/rally next week to support teachers. Possibly will speak eloquently but firmly as to importance of small class sizes. Try to remember words to “Union Maid.” Am, as Scott said last night when first mentioned attending the rally, basically Norma Rae. Am also all too aware that on actual night of rally will probably come home too exhausted to possibly attend. More work.

7:50 a.m.:
Scott texts that we need one more quarter in order to do laundry. Challenge accepted!

8:00 a.m.:
Say good morning to friend Becky over work IM. Sometimes we meet up to refill coffee/waters at this time but she’s already done so. I walk to far cafeteria to fill water bottle and get second cup of coffee of the day (coffee is free—there is also a Caribou on the 4th floor, but I am not made of money). I get back and talk about work issues with my boss. Worky talk, worky talk.

8:33 a.m.:
Untouched coffee now lukewarm. Drink it anyway. Check state bill tracking websites. Scan subject matter listings for something amusing to read, settle on “An act relating to Bees.” Move on to Equine Education bill that mentions Horse Council, devote a few minutes to imagining proceedings of said council, which is obviously made up entirely of horses.

{Ed. Note: this image so enchants me that am still thinking about it nearly two weeks later, and when drawing with Simone yesterday, spent time sketching Council.}
Horse Council!
Am delighted to notice bill has emergency and immediate effectiveness language. It’s an Equine Emergency! Tear self away to work on other jurisdiction, in less amusing arena of Schedule Fretting.

9:20 a.m.:
Trek to far cafeteria for third and final cup of coffee. When I return, everyone is gathered around treats, which have multiplied. Cut an apple fritter into fourths and eat one of said fourths with coffee.

10:00 a.m.:
Am shocked to find it is not yet lunch time.

10:30 a.m.:
Email from one of the teachers at Simone’s morning daycare program. She feels badly about how difficult drop off has been for Simone—apparently not just today, but several days this week. Teacher assures me Simone recovers quickly with some one-on-one time and then goes on to play with other kids, but says staff was talking and is wondering if we have suggestions for helping Simone with the drop off transition. They’d also like to help her initiate play and make friends in daycare program.

Feel sad, befuddled. Daycare drop off had been fine, previously. Simone’s been going for a bit over a month and loving it. Is she just tired? Heaven knows I feel like sobbing “I DON’T LIKE MY SCHEDULE” some mornings. Begin what is now a familiar rumination on Simone’s anxiety. Is this developmental, temperamental, or sign of something more serious? Make mental note to bring this up with kindly child psychologist at next visit. Google “difficulty with transitions” on phone. Feel scandalized by own lack of qualifications for motherhood in general, motherhood of Simone in particular. Shouldn’t I have had to take a test, pass training course of some kind? Send work email. IM with Becky about Simone, lunch. Coworker comes by to brief me on project I will be helping with in afternoon.

11:00 a.m.:
Meet Becky to pick up lunch at near cafeteria (but take the stairs). I get soup to eat at my desk almost every day, and have often wondered whether people secretly refer to me as “Soup Lady” or “Soupy Sales” (latter would be more amusing if I worked in Sales department), but I love soup too much to change my habits. Today, though, I am still shaken up about Simone email and instead get a salmon burger with half a bun and a side of grilled zucchini. I take it back to my desk and eat while reading a few pages of my book (the new Flavia de Luce, it is just okay so far) on my phone. I am, as ever, shocked at the speed with which my lunch disappears. I use the last bit of my half hour to type up some of the post you are reading now.

11:30 a.m.:
Start checking data compare corrections for another jurisdiction. Sign out 150 pg section of large Title, pull up one document on each monitor, and begin slow, squinty process. Occasionally check my progress, the time, feel horrified by both.

2:20 p.m.:
Finished. Exhausted. Hand off corrections. Go to bathroom and see that my eyes are pink and shiny as a bunny’s.

2:40 p.m.:
Remember I need a quarter. IM Becky to see if she has one. She does; wants to know if there are still brownies. She is too busy and important to leave desk so I ferry brownie up to her on the fifth floor. She gives me two quarters in exchange. I return to desk, chat with boss, coworkers, wrap up business of day.

3:00 p.m.:
Turn off computer, put on coat, leave work. Temperature allegedly moderate, but wind is fierce, icy. Try not to slip on ice in heels on way to car.

3:25 p.m.:
Park across street from Simone’s school. Sometimes I run an errand on the way (tailoring, grocery, wine shop), but today I was too tired to consider such a thing and instead sit limply in car, wandering Internet and looking things up on phone.

3:59 p.m.:
Leave car and cross street to wait for Simone to come out. Am freezing. Each day, I try to time it so that I will not have to stand and shiver, and each day I fail. Stand and shiver. Make empty weather-related threats with other shivering parents.

4:06 p.m.:
Simone arrives, we wait for crossing guards and walk back across street to car. She tells me about Valentine she is making for Scott, tells me too that it was her turn to put Valentines in the Valentine bags of her classmates but she was one short. I promise we will make an extra as soon as we get home. Snow banks have made streets narrow, nearly impassable. Drive bumpily, carefully home on frozen clumps of ice and packed snow.

4:25 p.m.:
Home. Trudge up many flights of stairs, shed backpacks and bags and coats onto their  various hooks and carts. Scott and Twyla are already home. Twyla is eating Cheerios and watching Doc McStuffins, Scott is on laptop on couch. Simone joins them. Find extra Valentine Simone has already written her name upon, attach sticky frog Valentine favor with festive tape, put in pocket of Simone’s backpack and tell her it is there. Have forgotten to think of dinner. Lately have been eating carefully pre-portioned leftovers from freezer, making separate dinner for children, but am out of these and too tired to cope with challenge of coming up with something else. Order takeout. Not healthy takeout. Cheeseburger. Chat with Scott about day’s events.

4:45 p.m.:
Get out weight book, weights, do routine for Thursday.

5:05 p.m.:
Gather and empty lunch boxes, make lunches for next day for both girls. Scott comes into kitchen and we chat. We are out of peanut butter, he will pick some up. I tell him I got quarter so he can do laundry. It is all very romantic. Put lunches in fridge.

5:20 p.m.:
Food arrives. Change into jammies and eat in front of television. Wish I could say this was rare occurrence, but in fact dinner with Daily Show is fairly standard, though am perpetually assuring myself that this will change. In my defense, girls are eating at play table, not on couch with us. (Couch is new, you see.)

5:50 p.m.:
Simone and I curl up to read next chapters of Ivy and Bean while Scott changes Twyla and puts her in pajamas.

6:10 p.m.:
I sort out load of most urgently needed clothes for Scott to wash later, making sure to include requested “Valentine colors” for Simone and Twyla.

6:25 p.m.:
Scott and a very excited Simone (this is special treat for her, going out alone with father on a school night) leave for errands disguised as outing (used bookstore for old magazines to be used in project at Scott’s work, store for milk and peanut butter, gas station for self-evident reason). I make a gin and ginger, gather Twyla and her Kitty, and repair to bedroom, where I watch part of an episode of “Parenthood” on my laptop, cuddle with Twyla, and sing to her as requested (“Me” she says, signing “more”). She is alternately fractious and loving. I urge her to sleep, which suggestion she rejects. She climbs off the bed and cries, then back on to snuggle. I let her work it out with herself. She acts bereaved and calls for Scott, but I know from experience that if he were the one putting her to sleep she would be calling for me (her name for me is a kissing sound), so am unmoved. She crawls back up next to me eventually and settles down.

7:00 p.m.:
Show ends, I read my book on my phone.

7:15 p.m.:
Twyla is asleep.

7:36 p.m.:
I hear door open. Simone and Scott are home.

7:45 p.m.:
Simone slips into bed next to me in her pajamas, teeth brushed. I get up to pee and remember I forgot to wash my face. Wash face. Simone comes out of bedroom to talk to me, runs to get newly acquired yoyo to show off. She is extremely enthusiastic but terrible yoyoist. Back in bed I snuggle Simone and try to read again. Notice I only drank half of my gin and ginger, feel remorse. Simone asleep almost immediately.

8:00ish p.m.:
Set alarm. Begin nightly routine of lulling self to sleep by playing SpellTower until am too tired to continue. Reprimand self for terrible sleep hygiene.

8:32 p.m.:
Go to sleep.

{ 24 comments }

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

by Alexa on February 13, 2014

Birth Day

What?

DSC_0284

Three

Fourth

Five

{ 20 comments }

Impactfully Yours.

by Alexa on February 3, 2014

I saw an advertisement for a class offering to “improve your writing in one day,” and this advertisement included the phrase “make your writing more impactful.” This has inspired me to offer my own, FREE writing improvement instruction, right now. It won’t even take a day. Here:

1. NEVER USE THE WORD “IMPACTFUL”

There you go. Class dismissed!

I probably shouldn’t admit this online, but I am afraid of my phone at work. It has a screen and far too many buttons and one time I was trying to see who had called and pressed what I thought might be the button for that and the phone talked at me loudly in its Lady Robot voice until I snatched at the receiver and quickly hung it up again to make it stop. So far the phone hasn’t been an issue, because everything happens over email or intra-company IM, but probably I am going to have to figure out how it works at some point, right? Don’t get me wrong, I can make calls (it only took me a few tries—shhh!), but I haven’t set up my voicemail or anything. If I could just have a private moment to figure it out, I am sure I could, but the fact that it talks at you so very loudly when you press buttons make me disinclined to try. Who thought that was a good idea? Maybe I am old fashioned, but I believe inanimate objects should speak only when they are spoken to.

Parenthood has so much to offer, especially in the area of new ways to feel like an idiot. Simone asked me a while ago whether monkey tails have bones. This is the sort of thing children are always asking. In no other area of my life am I expected to have such a wide-ranging command of trivia. And perhaps this seems like an easy question, because yes, of course monkey tails have bones! Well, good for you. I was less certain, I guess because monkey tails are so…bendy? They curl them around branches and—I mean, this is why Simone asked in the first place. Monkey tails don’t LOOK like they have bones. But I figured they must, probably, so I looked it up discreetly on my phone and then was able to report with authority that yes, monkey tails have bones. I explained with ill-earned confidence to Simone that it was like the chain of my necklace, in that each individual link is made of a hard, inflexible substance, but when you put them all together they make something which can move as sinuously as string. Or as a snake, which also has bones (I am 99.9% sure on this), and which I probably should have thought of in the first place. The point is, I feel like parenthood has significantly undermined my faith in my own cleverness. There are so many things that I am certain I know, right up until Simone asks me about them—one example being the old classic, “Why is the sky blue?” For the record, I OBVIOUSLY know why the sky is blue. It is something about how the light…spectrum…and only the blue part is reflected, or wavelengths or something. For reasons you may be able to discern, Simone was unimpressed with my explanation, and I was made unpleasantly aware that maybe a little refresher course in All The Information I Thought I’d Already Learned is in order.

Sometimes I wish there were a market for my time-wasting skills, as they are prodigious. Do you have extra time and no way to waste it? I can help! I recently spent an embarrassingly lengthy period trying to remember a certain series of books I loved when I was about Simone’s age. In the days before the Internet, there would have been little hope of wasting a significant amount of time on this, unless I actually went out and combed used bookstores, and at least then I’d have gotten some exercise. But in this gilded (or chromed, anyway) age, I was able to spend hours of valuable leisure time on the project. I Googled the parts I could remember (“children’s book two girls grocery store,” and many similarly useless iterations), and then a few days later remembered in a flash that the girls had been maybe? possibly? been called “M& M,” and then I found the books online (“Meet M&M” and “M& M and the Big Bag” are the two I best recall) and then I spent further time locating the editions I remembered, with the correct illustrations. It was not unlike the DAYS I once devoted to searching out particularly nice copies of the various Ramona books with the original illustrations. The covers have changed rather a lot over time, which was bad enough, but at least they all contained the original illustrations by Louis Day. The newest version changed even this to make Ramona look more contemporary, which saddened me, as she no longer resembled Ramona. Ramona as illustrated by Louis Day was timelessly kid-like, and anyway, there are plenty of details in the books that place Ramona squarely in an earlier time, and also let’s give children a little bit of credit, please. This is a common peeve of mine, and has been since I was a child—a child who deeply resented being underestimated and pandered to (I was, truly, a delight).

Take Chuck E. Cheese: why did he need to be made over into a douchey, backwards-hat-wearing skater mouse? When I was a child, Chuck E. Cheese wore a vest and a small bowler hat with a flower stuck in the brim. This may surprise some of my more youthful readers, but in my time small bowler hats with flowers stuck in the brim were not actually de rigeur among the younger (or any) set. No one was confused by this, or assumed Chuck E. Cheese’s arcade was a venue only appropriate for olde-timey vaudevillian types. Also? He is a cartoon mouse. Why the concern with verisimilitude between fictional characters and the children they are marketed to?

(I do understand the reasons behind this, by the way, I just fail to find them compelling.)

Semi-relatedly, Simone is at last able to read. I was very determinedly hands-off about this–we’ve read together since she was a baby, and she’s been READY to read for a long while, but I didn’t want to push her because I want her to LOVE reading and books, not only because it was the source of around 85% of my childhood joy but also because genuinely loving reading and doing so much of it is, I firmly believe, why I am able to write, and I believe just as firmly that a general facility with language will make life easier and richer for anyone. But I won’t lie, I was a little unsure of whether she should have been reading already, I suppose because I was reading 300-page books by second grade and it just seemed unlikely that a person could go from not reading anything to reading practically everything in a couple of years–I mean, is that really how it happens? It is nearly as improbable as a sleeping lump of newborn turning into a small walking person in the that amount of time, but I am trying to have faith.

Simone has a truly extraordinary memory, which means a lot of reading, for her, is just memorizing words, which she then notices all over the place. It makes driving fun because I will be shepherding us carefully through a blizzard and suddenly she will shout “THIS!” because she sees it on a billboard, and I struggle to regain control of the vehicle. The most difficult part, though, of having a new reader is answering her questions about the inconsistencies of English pronunciation, because the English language is just terrible. Simone will learn a little rule, and proudly sound something out using said rule, and inevitably I will have to inform her that in this particular case it is pronounced entirely differently. Why? Well, because English is just LIKE that, that’s why. It drives me mad, so I can only imagine how annoying she finds it. When there IS a reason other than “English; preposterousness of,” it is usually related to etymology (I first typed entomology, but it is very seldom related to that), and explaining to Simone that some word is pronounced in an entirely unintuitive and patently ridiculous way because it is from GREEK or something is not helpful at all. In short, Simone is learning to read, which is a miracle.

{ 31 comments }

Apropos of Nothing.

by Alexa on January 23, 2014

Today when I left for work it was 15 degrees below zero, with a windchill of -36. Schools were closed. Scott’s practice was closed. I have a cold, and have developed a pronounced limp (my Dilettante’s Thigh seems to have worsened). I also had no clean work pants, my work wardrobe being still in the larval stages, and would be braving the elements in tights—sweater tights, but still. “Stay home,” said Scott, “Really. I don’t think you should go.” And yet, I sniffled and limped through my morning ablutions and by 6:05 a.m., I was off. Legal publishing, you see, marches on.

And also? There are no children in my office.

I know. I know! I am the WORST. Look, in my defense, I did have work to do, and I was out on Tuesday because there was no school, so going in was the responsible thing. Those cross reference queries aren’t going to resolve themselves! And I am trying to save my sick days because I know I will need them eventually, children being what they are (a-brim with pestilence), and I am trying to save my vacation days for actual vacations, which I fully intend to start taking now that I have paid vacation days.

I know the novelty of having my own little office out in the world will wear off, and I love my weekends and look forward to them as I haven’t in years and years, but it was with a shocking alacrity that I leapt out the door this morning (understanding that this is a figure of speech, because my Dilettante’s Thigh does not allow for leaping), and I feel guilty about it. Though it should be noted that by lunch time I was ready to be done for the day and heartily regretted choosing work when I could have spent the day at home playing with Simone’s Rainbow Loom and eating sleeve after sleeve of Ritz crackers. Morning Alexa is far more gung-ho about work, in general, than is Afternoon Alexa. Afternoon Alexa is not really gung-ho about anything except the prospect of removing her bra and making herself a champagne cocktail.

Speaking of exercise-related injuries (we were, briefly, in the middle of that last paragraph), every time I cough I clutch at my abdomen like I’ve been shot, so that shouldn’t attract any undue attention in meetings at all!

And as long as we are talking about my latest quest to be built less like an actual brick house, My Fitness Pal is high if it thinks it is sustainable for me to restrict my calories to 1240 per day. Look, “Pal,” I am doing my very best. You are going to have to work with me, here. It doesn’t seem fair that my brutally difficult, if also blessedly short, weight session only nets me an extra 50 or so calories. Does it seem right to you that exercise difficult enough to cause a person to make unfortunate cow noises should be so unrewarded? Do you know what I had for lunch? CHICKPEAS. (They were delicious, but this is hardly the point). Netting just under 1400 calories a day is the best I seem to be capable of, at the moment. I need some small measure of joy in my life, and if you were really my “Pal,” you would understand this.

Last night, apropos of nothing, Simone told us about Slavery. “A long time ago, before Martin Luther King was born, people did Slavery,” she began, solemnly, causing me to choke on a piece of chicken. Scott and I kept making wide eyes at each other over her head (Is this happening? I mouthed at him) as she continued to explain how it worked, more or less (FYI: a mom and dad could have to work for someone else—hmmm…as I type this out it does not sound terribly distinct from our current arrangement, a detail I should probably clarify with her), and then, before we’d gotten our bearings, she’d moved on. We did manage to stammer out a few lame questions and responses, and I think we made it clear that we are definitely NOT fans of slavery, but it was over so quickly! Another teaching moment squandered.

{ 22 comments }

Legitimate Owie.

by Alexa on January 22, 2014

Actual sentence I uttered the other day: “You can only have a Band-Aid if you have a Legitimate Owie.” LEGITIMATE OWIE. Am I talking to an adult or to a toddler? Half and half, I guess! Having children has rendered my speech patterns entirely nonsensical.

Simone is having her birthday party, as requested, at Hell On Earth! (I have taken some liberties with the name), a local inflatable play area/festival of civil liability. She is wildly excited. My enthusiasm is considerably more muted. I wasn’t going to throw her a non-family birthday party this year, but she is at a new school and the social waters in which elementary students swim are, as I recall, fairly treacherous, and so I am processing my own memories of being tormented by attempting to bribe the classmates of my sweet, social, strange little child into liking her. Which they do already! And yet I have only to call to mind any one of a hundred scenarios from my own youth and imagine Simone in my place to feel immediately and helplessly compelled to offer everyone cake in her name.

Here is a thing I am interested to see: which is worse, being sick at work, or being sick at home with small children? Will the soothing lack of offspring and their attendant requests for water/food/attention compensate for my inability to recuperate on the couch while clad in soft fabrics? I suspect that it will, and I’m about to find out, as I am rapidly developing a dreadful cold. It came upon me suddenly sometime between morning and lunch, so I have no Kleenex and have been alternating between sniffling and wiping my nose with bark-like cafeteria napkins, as befits the glamorous professional woman I am now.

Yesterday I started eine kleine weight training, and all day I have been using the handicapped stall in the bathrooms because I require the rails to lower myself onto the toilet. Lowering myself using my legs is out of the question, as I seem to have broken both of my front thigh muscles; the other option would be to fall backward from a standing position and hope that I land squarely on the seat rather than crumpled shamefully on the tile, and that seems risky. I was ten minutes late for work this morning because that is how long it took me to traverse the stairs from my apartment on the third floor to my car, which was cruelly at ground level. This happens every time I start working out after one of my customarily lengthy lazy dormant periods. I get overexcited and overexert, merrily doing weighted lunges for the equivalent of the Earth’s circumference with no thought to future staircase descending/toileting (these actions are performed separately, you understand). I have unilaterally decided to name this ailment Dilettante’s Thigh.

They should have a thing like coffee that is nice and hot to sip and keeps you wide awake and perky but which can be neutralized later by having a single glass of wine. Completely neutralized, so that you sleep like a baby, even if you had the last cup of Not-Coffee at, say, two o’clock in the afternoon. Please get right to work on this and keep me informed of your progress.

{ 22 comments }

Seven Things

by Alexa on January 15, 2014

Thanks to your very kind comments, I felt buoyed and supported all day yesterday. And as is so often the case, the anticipation was worse than the reality. It helped that after Simone’s appointment I didn’t have to go back to work and was instead able to spend a few hours at my mother’s playing with Simone and Twyla and luxuriating in how lucky I am to have the two of them, and thanks to that and all of you and also a great deal of pasta I came through the day just fine. I am sorry that so many of you have your own Dark Days, and if I were a more organized and reliable person, I would set up some sort of (terribly sad) calendar we could all refer to in order to send soothing thoughts or email messages or cheese deliveries on the appropriate occasions.

The roads were so awful yesterday morning that I spent the whole drive afraid I would die and that because of my last post people would think it was probably suicide. I decided I’d do everything in my power to stay conscious long enough to write IT WAS AN ACCIDENT in the snow with my blood. Happily, this turned out not to be necessary.

Can you tell how much I am enjoying having a lunch break? Post! Post! Post! It is so much easier to write when you aren’t having your attention diverted every 30 seconds that I find my one half hour at lunch about the equivalent to four hours of attempted work time with children. This is absolutely shocking to me and really it is a wonder I ever got anything done then at all. It also helps that when I am leave work for the day, now, I am DONE WITH WORK FOR THE DAY.

The phrase “work outside the home” is driving me mad. I don’t like saying I “went back to work,” because I have BEEN working this whole time, albeit in a different, braless context. But whenever I specify “work outside the home” it makes me sound like someone who has been institutionalized and now is being allowed to get a job outside The Home (for the criminally insane?), probably something simple like working in Hosiery at a local department store.

The one real disappointment about my job so far is that my very favorite bit no longer exists, or rather exists in a much less satisfying form. I loved having a stack of pages in front of me, looking through them, finding teensy tiny little errors, marking them decisively in green pen, and appending a page flag. And I liked going through marked up pages, making the corrections, and removing the flags as I went. It was wonderful. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? (Shut up.) I cannot express to you the joy I got from noticing that an em-dash had been used where an en-dash was indicated. It was an arena where a certain quality of mine—let’s call it Admirable attentioN to detAiL—a quality that has been pooh-poohed by certain friends and family members who contend it makes me a ruiner of books, movies, television shows, life, etc., could really shine.

Now, there are no physical pages. All of the page corrections are done via PDF, because of the stupid Earth. This shouldn’t bother me, because it is mostly my job now to tell OTHER people to review pages and make corrections, rather than to do so myself, but that doesn’t stop me from taking out a package of page flags every once in a while and gazing moonily at it.

In my department, there is a girl woman GIRL for whom I used to babysit. She works there! In clear violation of child labor laws! Also, she is approximately 100 feet tall, like a full-grown person, and when I mentioned my surprise at her full-grown-stature, she replied, amusingly, as a kind of obviously highly improbable joke, that it had after all been TWENTY YEARS. Oh, how I laughed!

{Ed. Note: Math/Counting reveals that it has in fact been 18 years.}

I am actually dreading the end of the work day today, because I am in trouble. When I began this job Simone began attending a morning daycare program from which she is bused to school. (It is mornings only because I start at 6:30 a.m. and thus can leave early enough to pick her up.) She adores it now, but was initially opposed to the change in routine on principle, and in particular was VERY apprehensive about the bus. My daughter is a creature of habit and likes to be prepared for every contingency (I cannot imagine where she acquired such a characteristic) and the bus presented a whole new set of school-related variables. What if the bus was late? What if she missed the bus or the bus driver didn’t stop at her stop? What if–oh God help us–what if she was LATE TO SCHOOL? You have to understand that in Simone’s world, this is one of the very worst things that could possibly happen to a person, right up there with not knowing the correct procedure for something.

I replied in my usual soothing, motherly way that she didn’t have to worry about any of that. Those were things for grown-ups to worry about, and we had them under control! The bus driver would not leave without her! Some days the bus might be a little later than others, but that was okay! It was very unlikely that the bus would be so late that she was then late to school.

So today, naturally, in accordance with the laws governing such matters, Simone’s bus broke down early on its route. When they had been waiting for some time (Simone, a daycare staff member and the other two-ish children who are bused to her elementary), someone called transportation, which told them about the breakdown and said they should go back inside, out of the cold, and wait there. Which they did. When they saw the bus coming they trooped back out…and the bus blew right past them. Back inside, they called transportation again, and transportation said they would send another bus and notify the school that the children would be late. Which they were. Very. Over an hour.

The face I will see at pick up this afternoon is already vividly present in my mind. It is a stern face. A forbidding face. Honestly, you wouldn’t think a five-year-old could make a face that manages to convey such a righteous and furious sense of betrayal, but I assure you that this one can.

{ 18 comments }

Dark Day.

by Alexa on January 13, 2014

I may still decide to bore you with my many, many words on how I decided to go back to work outside the home, but there is something more pressing I need to write about at the moment, and it is my dread of tomorrow.

My new job is at my old company, where I worked until Simone was born—or, more precisely, until my maternity leave ran out a bit over half way through her NICU stay. You probably remember that I didn’t go back because Simone’s pulmonologist was firm on the point of no day care for the first two years, but honestly I couldn’t have brought myself to leave Simone then anyway, especially when I had a choice. Before maternity leave I’d been on short-term disability thanks to bedrest, and before that was my actual last day in the office—a half-day, actually. Six years ago tomorrow, January 14th, 2008.

A lot of things are different now. For one thing, the company acquired another company and changed its name, and there has been some significant rebranding. I am in the same department I was in before, but that department has undergone dramatic changes itself. I am on the same floor I was on before but at the opposite end, and there’s been a remodel—the color scheme is different, as is the carpet; the offices are much, much smaller and everything looks a bit sleeker. It’s different now, it is, but it feels, in many ways and in many places, the same. I park within a spot or two of where I parked six years ago, I get coffee from the same machine in the same location as I did back then, I use the same bathrooms and climb the same stairs and I even eat the same thing for breakfast from the same cafeteria. Sometimes when I walk across the skyway to refill my cup I feel eerily unmoored in time, because I have walked across that same skyway so very many times in the past.

On my last day, six years ago tomorrow, I shut down my computer around lunch and left for a routine prenatal appointment, twenty-two weeks and two days pregnant with twins. I thought I would be back the next morning. Instead, I didn’t return for two months, and when I did it was on a Saturday, so that I wouldn’t have to see anyone, and Scott and I hurriedly deposited the contents of my office into garbage bags—hurriedly because afterwards we were going to the hospital, where our daughter lived, and where we’d spent most of our time since January, and would until mid-May.

Look, I don’t mean to be maudlin or overdramatic about this. I’m not going to kneel in front of the Xerox and keen. Being back doesn’t upset me, in general; if anything, familiarity has made the transition to working outside the home again much easier. There have been a few awkward moments—I saw someone I worked with before who inquired after my children, asking how many I had now. I said two, and he said “Oh, it was twins, right?” and then I had to say Well yes, a boy and a girl, but my son died. But my daughter is fine! I have another one now, too! Most people, though, who were here back when I was, remember what happened. They look visibly relieved when I show them a picture of Simone, or mention that she is in Kindergarten. Some have read my book, or saw articles about the book in the local papers, but mostly the subject doesn’t come up.

Still, when I found out that my start date was a week into January, I had a wild, stupid moment when I considered asking to start two weeks later, say around the 20th. January 14th, you see, is my Dark Day. The 11th isn’t so hot either—it’s probably the last time Ames was alive, and possibly the night he died—but except for the furious kicking the relevant events of the 11th are speculative, and all happened in the evening, after work, so there is no parallelism to contend with. And anyway the 14th is always the worst, because it was the worst. It was an unimaginably horrible day, a horror. I usually commemorate it now by ruminating on all the ways I am possibly to blame, and all the ways things could possibly have gone differently. And I wonder about him.

In an unexpected and late-breaking twist, tomorrow I will again shut down my computer around lunch and leave for an appointment–more specifically, to take Simone to the pediatrician, located exactly one floor above the perinatologist’s office where I had my appointment six years ago. I’ll even park in the same ramp. I suppose this is good, in a way: it underscores the fact that I have been lucky, that I have a lovely, healthy daughter, the same daughter whose future, six years ago, was so precarious.

Simone asked me this past week whether Ames was “an ‘Early Bird,’ too.” I don’t know where she heard that phrase—I think her teacher (also the mother of a preemie) may have used it. (“I was an Early Bird,” Simone will say confidingly.) Anyhow, she asked if Ames had been an Early Bird, and I told her not really, because he had died before he was born. She knows this, but something about the phrasing struck her, and she repeated it incredulously: He died before he was born?
“I didn’t know that could happen,” she said. I nodded.

And I suppose that is what I am dreading about tomorrow, in a nutshell. I did know that could happen. I did. But the way I knew it before January 14th of 2008 and the way I knew it after are a world apart. I am dreading sitting at my desk, remembering sitting at a desk some yards away, stupidly, luckily unaware of what had already happened, and I am dreading the walk to my car remembering that other, last walk to my car, before everything changed forever.

{ 28 comments }

A Merry Little Chambliss.

by Alexa on January 11, 2014

I’m late posting this holiday wrap up because I’ve been busy in the last few weeks. On Monday I started a new job, a JOB job, in an office, full time, the sort of job that requires you to wear things like pants with buttons and dresses and to wash your hair and everything. I have a lot more to say about this, unsurprisingly, but that will have to wait until tomorrow or Monday, because though I used one of my lunch breaks to write things out, the post ended up much longer and more tedious than even I had anticipated, and I have to decide what to do about that. I will say this: I kind of love work so far. For one thing, I get a lunch break! I also get to pee without a small person holding on to the front of my knees, which is extraordinarily luxurious.

Christmas was a success! Twyla came down with croup Christmas Eve and a cold systematically worked its way through the family, but no one was too sick to enjoy themselves and, more importantly, *I* was not sick, meaning that the crafts were crafted and the presents wrapped and the girls were clean and festively dressed. On Christmas Eve and we made our way to my mother’s where I let Scott wrangle Twyla while I sat and drank champagne with a healthy slap of sherry in it. I cannot recommend this last enough.

Craftily speaking, Simone and I made everyone snow globes. Well, waterless snow globes–we tried one with water first (water and glitter and a bit of glycerin) but the result was unwholesome-looking, so we changed course and went with glitter and craft snow and nothing else. The ratio of effort to effect was the most favorable I have ever encountered in a craft, so I feel I should share it with you. (I also feel…self conscious about how twee this craft seems, but please know that “twee” and “Pinterest-ready” were not among my Christmas craft criteria.) (Actual criteria were “easy,” “fun,” and “impressive-looking enough to count as a whole gift.”)


You will need:
-Half Pint Jelly Jars
-Styrofoam balls (we used 1.5 inch) (the balls are to raise the figures up a bit so they are more visible above the lid/through the glass)
-Craft Snow
-Glitter
-Strong glue/adhesive of some sort
-Assorted figures (we used several different kinds, but the very easiest were the little plastic trees you can buy in packages of twelve or so for decorating cakes.)

  
Steps:
1. Cut styrofoam balls in half
2a. If using cake decorating trees, stick tree into half ball so that trunk/spear just shows through bottom of half ball, then glue half ball to inside of jar lid
2b. If using other figures, glue half ball to inside of jar lid and glue figure to ball
3. Let dry
4. Add craft snow and various glitters to jar as desired
5. Screw on lid, turn over to check snow level and adjust as needed

Also under the general heading of “crafts,” Simone made us a gingerbread man ornament at school, and brought it home along with the recipe, should we want to make more on our own.

Recipe
I was a little alarmed by this at first, but it turns out the second ingredient is not semen after all, but CINNAMON, so.

Since Christmas, Simone has scarcely been heard from, being thoroughly absorbed in her gifts–most especially three: the Playmobil ambulance she got from us, and the Playmobil Take-Along Hospital and Christmas Carousel she got from my mother. I suggested the hospital to my mother as a present idea after Simone expressed concern over where she would take patients to be treated, should she be lucky enough to receive the ambulance for Christmas. (I suggested she take them to her Playmobil school, and she was horrified. She had a point–aside from scarring impressionable Playmobil pupils by exposing them to traumatic injuries, infection control would be an absolute nightmare.)

Luckily for the wee plastic schoolchildren, Simone got the hospital. Unluckily for them, she also received the aforementioned carousel, which seems to be something of a deathtrap.
Carousel/Hospital
I’d estimate upwards of 90% of the hospital’s patients are victims of carousel accidents. The classic carousel injury, as reported by Simone, is “a broken skull and two broken legs,” so these are not trifling mishaps. The carousel DOES have safety bars, but the operator is (criminally?) lax in making sure all children are secure before beginning the ride. What’s more, I’ve observed the carousel in action, and you’d almost suspect the operator was speeding it up for the express purpose of ejecting any children who’ve been careless about the restraints.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the whole sordid business is that these children often return to the carousel the moment their casts are removed. I mean, where are the parents? If my son or daughter was recently recovered from two broken legs and a broken skull, I certainly wouldn’t be allowing them back on the contraption that injured them in the first place, and frankly, I’d probably be considering legal action. (Is there a Playmobil Take-Along Courtroom? We could play “Lawsuit!”)

Late though it is, I wanted to be sure to wish you all a Happy New Year. I’m very lucky to have met so many lovely people through this Website in the past almost-nine(!) years, and I hope to be around much more in the year to come. I have a good feeling about 2014. Saxby Chambliss, everyone.
Chambliss Wishes

{ 12 comments }

¶ Simone is taking ballet this year, which she loves and which is every bit as adorable as you might suppose, but the best thing about it is that she got to be in The Nutcracker—not a makeshift recital but the real Nutcracker put on by Ballet Minnesota in a fancy auditorium with ballerinas. She and her classmates were mice (there was some confusion on this point, as when I said that she would be a mouse she crossly corrected me that in fact her role was that of MICE, and we talked about mice being the plural of mouse but…well). Each pre-ballet class appeared in one performance and was on stage for a whole two minutes, but it was still a little tense for them, because it was all very new, and for us because who could tell what would happen once they were out there? The mice are differentiated some, and technically Simone was one of the Cheese Friends, but would the mice remember their designations? Would they all chassé in the same direction around Clara or bump into one another in a tangle?

It went off splendidly, though one little mouse DID get confused and nearly ran off the front of the stage into the audience instead of back into the wings. Simone had a wonderful time, and has informed me that she wants to be in The Nutcracker “for all years!” They had some visiting artists for two of the main parts, but the rest were company dancers and students, and it is always so shocking to see everyone looking so grown up onstage and then get back to the green room and realize that the Fancy Lady Dancer you were just watching is actually about sixteen.

The one downside of the “real ballet” business is that no cameras are allowed during the performances, so I have no performance pictures for you. But here is rehearsal a few weeks ago (Simone is the Mice in front):

And Simone in costume backstage on performance day:

There was a professional photographer there taking shots of all the dancers, so I may end up with something better, but you know, it was actually lovely during the performance not to be thinking about getting a picture, to just be sitting in my seat, leaning forward and watching. It was over so fast, and yes, I DO wish I had a video or some way to see it again, but that’s pretty much par for child-raising in general, the I-just-blinked-did-that-really-happen? feeling.

¶ Now I am sharing what we’ve gotten the girls for Christmas, and if you do not particularly care about the Gifts of Other People’s Children, I certainly can’t blame you, (and I offer up two more useful and educational posts from holidays past, one on Schmutzli and the one on the Caga Tio), but people keep posting these lists and I find them fascinating, so I am adding my own. It is a bit late for any of these gift ideas to be of use to anyone, but oh well.

(I should note that the pictures below link back to the products but are not affiliate links of any kind. I suppose there is no mandate to disclose NON-affliate links, but I am disclosing my non-affiliation just to avoid confusion, not that it matters. No money was earned in the typing of this Web Log!)

SIMONE

Simone is desperately hoping for the “Playmobil Clambulance” (thanks to an episode of Bubble Guppies, she seems convinced that the words “clambulance” and “ambulance” are interchangeable). This is her main present from us.
Playmobil Ambulance

She also requested a Flashlight Friend, which is a moderately unattractive stuffed animal with a flashlight wedged into its midsection. We’re getting her that as well.
Flashlight "Friend"

In addition I generally like to give a game or activity and a book and something to wear. Simone’s getting Snap Circuits Jr., on the recommendation of A’dell, and it seems like something she’ll love. I confess I was given pause when the box came and it said “ages eight and up,” but if Simone doesn’t care for it *I* think it looks excellent, and am WELL over eight.

Snap Circuits Jr

I also got her The Betsy-Tacy Treasury for us to start working our way through at bedtimes (SO EXCITED SO EXCITED). I loved these books. I think I read the early ones when I was about a year older than Simone, and the later ones in late elementary/early junior high (my favorite was Betsy Abroad). I will note that I thought I was buying a set of the first four books, not the first four books bound as ONE book (it is the latter), but I have only my own lack of reading comprehension to blame for my surprise. I note it only in case your comprehension is similarly flawed.

Betsy-Tacy Treasury

She’s also getting  an Owl sweater from Old Navy.
Girls Animal-Graphic Sweaters - Heather Gray

Simone and I saw Frozen yesterday and loved it, so I found a small Frozen-themed early reader book for her stocking, too. I originally had new power toothbrushes for both girls as stocking stuffers, but I forgot to hide them, and they’ve had them for a week now. (Both are wild for tooth-brushing, I do not know why.)

That’s it from us. This year, Simone gave us a very short list and had a separate, SINGLE ITEM list for Santa, presumably to remove as much uncertainty from the process as possible, which I find hilarious, because it is SO VERY VERY SIMONE. Her one item on the Santa list was “Ukelele,” and I have it on good authority that Santa is getting her this one:

Ukelele

TWYLA

Twyla is obsessed with baby dolls and stuffed animals. Mostly feeding them, but she also likes to carry them around and cover them with blankets/paper towels or put them in boxes and carts. Of course, all of the dolls and most of the stuffed animals in the house belong, technically, to Simone, so there have been some…Teaching Moments. Anyhow, Twyla is getting a baby of her own for Christmas:

Doll

It is an odiously named Huggums, and looks exactly like that, though we got it quite cheaply somewhere Not-Amazon. Going by her reaction whenever she saw a picture of a baby doll on my computer as I shopped around, she is going to lose her mind with glee.

She also gets a set of enamel pots and pans. It is almost identical to the set Simone got for her second birthday (only those were blue). This will be a hit as well.
Enamel Pans

There’s a greatest-hits sort of Grover DVD as she adores Grover (there is a stuffed one at my mother’s house that belonged to my brother), and just like Simone at this age, Twyla could spend all day being read to (the same few books, OVER and OVER, god help me) so I picked up a few new board books on Black Friday or Cyber Monday or whatever Adjective DayofWeek it was when Amazon was having a sale on board books:

Grover DVDFirst 100 WordsAnimal SoundsSleepy Time

I also got her a nubbly purple cardigan with big buttons (now sold out from Old Navy, so no picture/link), and Simone got her a set of those toy baby bottles that appear to be filled with milk and orange juice, respectively.

Meanwhile, Santa is (allegedly) leaving Twyla a grey sherpa Mini Anywhere Chair, with her name on it in purple. Simone got the Land of Nod version for Christmas when she was about Twyla’s age and it was a BIG hit, as you may recall (BABY SIMONE WITH GLASSES!).
Anywhere Chair

The girls get pajamas for Christmas Eve (when we do the bulk of our present unwrapping and celebrating), and this year Simone decided she wanted Twyla to have the same pajamas as she does, and chose matching footed jammies (less than $10!) from Carter’s. Oh, and I get the girls (previously, girl) a Christmas book every year. This year is Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree:

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

Oh, and because the wind-up toys under my mother’s Christmas tree have become a beloved tradition but are becoming increasingly arthritic as they date back to my own childhood, I got this:

Elephant

It seems like a lot, all typed out like that, but I refuse to be sheepish. Hooray, capitalism! Really though, picking out gifts is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I can’t help it.

¶ Some of our best holiday bits so far, recorded for posterity:

-Santa Visit:

More specifically, looking at pictures from last year’s Santa Visit and then flipping quickly to this year’s and heaving a sigh.

SIGH.

This cheers me right up. though:

(Simone’s side-eye here is directed towards Twyla, who is out of frame holding her dress up over her head, trying to get extra presents, I suppose)

-Twyla in a ridiculous snowsuit during our subzero spell:

-Simone: “Does Santa say ‘YO Ho Ho’ or ‘HO ho ho?’ Which one is pirates?”

{ 17 comments }

Belated Halloween Post.

by Alexa on November 10, 2013

I have always had a soft spot for Halloween, the holiday celebrating the date of my birth, but now that I have costume-aged children I like it even more, and the fact that it is my birthday feels almost incidental, the cherry on top of an already delicious sundae. (I would really like a sundae now, incidentally. Note to self: choose less appealing metaphors.)

Simone talked about being a clown for Halloween for actual MONTHS, never wavering in her choice. Clowns depressed and embarrassed me terribly as a child, and I am glad Simone is a less whatever child than I was, and is able to find clowns simply funny, as their clown college no-doubt intended.

I think she turned out to be the best, clowniest clown ever.


My Halloween costume strategy (apparently I have a Halloween costume strategy), employed to great effect last year as well, is to buy a few cheap accessories and assemble the rest of the costume out of either a) clothes we already own OR, more usually, b) clothes that can be incorporated into a daily wardrobe. I have found this VERY satisfying: there is little or no costume construction time, yet it is gives a pleasing homemade/creative feel, also it is a way to combine two necessary tasks, i.e. Halloween costuming and buying new, warmer things. Last year, when Simone was a pirate, I bought a cheap hat and eyepatch at Target, along with a belt, boots, and a coat. The belt and hat were incorporated into general dress up play, while the boots became Simone’s winter boots (until the zipper broke). She wore pants and a striped shirt she already had. The coat was the one failure, as it was bought to serve double duty as pirate coat and general fall coat, but was later deemed unbearably itchy. Here she is last year, in case you have forgotten.

This year, I bought a wig, clown nose, clown shoes, and a package of cheap Halloween makeup–altogether less than $20 on Amazon (and the wig, like the pirate hat, will surely get plenty of play use–you will recall that Simone had requested one), and then added a cardigan, turtleneck, gloves, and tights that filled holes in Simone’s fall wardrobe and that she will now be able to wear to school, along with a dress that she will also be able to wear to school, though it was not really NEEDED in the way the other things were (but Hanna Andersson sale, you know how it is).

As I type this all out it is starting to sound faintly ridiculous, in that I could certainly spend much less money by simply buying a pre-made costume–or making one, for that matter. But my way is so much fun, and if it is not ACTUALLY thrifty it certainly gives a pleasant illusion of thrift. Similarly, if it is not ACTUALLY homemade I do still get to think up and plan the costume (no small feat, given Simone’s exceedingly demanding specifications). And there is something very annoying to me about buying a costume Simone will only wear once versus a turtleneck, etc. that she will probably wear a whole bunch of times and then pass down to Twyla.


Twyla, by the way, was a fox. Hers WAS a pre-made Halloween costume ($15 on sale at Carter’s!) but she has been wearing the fleecy pants as regular pants, and the fox hoodie will make a cozy fall/spring coat, so there you are.

The best part of the day pre-Trick-or-Treating was volunteering in Simone’s classroom. There were several centers set up for the children to rotate through, and I manned one of the math tables, leading small groups in a review of patterns. Amusingly, Simone had told seemingly everyone that it was my birthday, and each time I was introduced to a new child as Simone’s Mom, I got an excited “OH! TODAY IS YOUR BIRTHDAY!” (In fact, when I signed in at the office one of the assistants wished me a happy birthday as well, so Simone obviously spread the news quite generously throughout the school.)

Also exciting was the fact that Simone had lost her first tooth the day before.

When I say she lost it I mean this quite literally: the tooth had been hanging gruesomely by a thread for ages and then it must have fallen out at recess. Simone couldn’t find it and there was much sturm und drang until her lovely teacher assured her that such things happen all the time and helped write an explanatory note to the Tooth Fairy, which Simone dutifully put under her pillow that evening. Imagine my surprise when Simone woke in the morning to find money and return correspondence (actually, she woke at 1:15 a.m., waving the Tooth Fairy’s letter and whispering wildly at me, but I told her to go back to sleep and we’d read it later). She didn’t doubt the letter’s veracity (I disguised my handwriting, you see), but has had questions about what the Tooth Fairy does with all those teeth. I told her that nobody really knows, though some speculate that she makes them into jewelry, or perhaps uses them for tooth-related research, as they give her access to a vast and diverse population of pediatric teeth.

Lastly, here are two brief videos, included because I truly think it is necessary to see the tail (Twyla) and shoes (Simone) in action.

Embedly Powered

Embedly Powered

{ 19 comments }

I Have Nothing Against Tacos, Really.

by Alexa on October 10, 2013

¶ Various children’s entertainment failures

Simone has never been that into princesses, so I haven’t had occasion to really, well, CARE about her Princess Media Consumption, and I generally like sweet, bobble-headed Sofia the First with her ecstatically dilated pupils, but I think we may be done with her after the episode Simone just watched, the moral of which seems to have been “don’t get too excited when a good thing happens to you or at least don’t TALK about it too much or you might brag without realizing it, alienating your friends and bringing a curse upon yourself.” Worse, apologizing for unwittingly making your friends feel bad isn’t enough! No, it turns out that to remove the curse you must give up the good thing entirely, giving it to the friends you wronged by accidentally “bragging” about your good fortune.
Ick. ICK.
And look, it’s not like I am terribly reactionary about these things: there is plenty of sexist bullshit in children’s television most television practically everything, and I am comfortable letting much of it slide, partly because there is such a wide variety in what Simone watches and enjoys, and partly because one area where I am doing a pretty good job as a parent is talking about these issues with her, and smacking it right down whenever she comes home with the news that girls can’t like/do X, and the idea that a movie or television show is going to outweigh and undo all of my very explicit parenting on the subject is just silly. My favorite TV show as a kid was The Donna Reed Show, and I still grew up to read Backlash in Junior High and become temporarily insufferable about The Patriarchy, so there. I don’t need my entertainment to be morally above reproach. But you will have to believe me when I say this episode was bad, so bad it made me squirmingly uncomfortable to watch (I kept watching at first because I thought surely I was imagining things, and then because I was expecting the story to turn around somehow) and after it was over Simone and I had a stories-on-TV-aren’t-always-right-about-everything chat.

This came on the heels of the much more spectacular failure of one of our weekly Movie Nights. I instituted Movie Night when school started, and now every Friday we curl up on the couch in our pajamas and watch something while eating popcorn (well, Simone and I curl up on the couch, Scott sits in a chair and Twyla stands couchside with her arm elbow-deep in the popcorn bowl). The first movie was Cinderella (see–not reactionary!), which Simone had never seen and which she very much enjoyed. We decided to continue with Classic Disney a bit, as Simone has never seen most of them, and the animation is so pretty. And because she likes both Tinkerbell and pirates, Peter Pan seemed an obvious choice.

Okay, so have you seen Peter Pan recently? Because I had not. I mean I’d SEEN it, obviously, as a child, but apparently I’d forgotten quite a bit. For instance I did not remember, at all, the…Native American portions of the story, more especially a musical number called “What Makes the Red Man Red.” (We stopped the movie before discovering the answer.)

Movie ideas for 5-year-olds, anyone?

¶ Health Despond
My thyroid has been giving me trouble again, and I feel like I am sliding into a sort of Health Despond, in that this particular issue feels unending and unfixable and doomed to get worse as I age and age and eventually die. My very nice endocrinology NP is out on maternity leave until February(!), so later this month I am seeing some strange endocrinologist I have never met before, and I am not feeling terribly optimistic that he will be helpful, which is probably not fair, but IS solidly in line with previous experiences, so. And unlike infertility, thyroid issues seem to be an area where the Internet is not just unhelpful but actually, actively AWFUL. There are some nutty, strident folks out there, and lots of wildly conflicting information, and lots of people with very sad stories and it is all fairly terrifying and depressing and does not inspire confidence in really anything at all.

¶ I still haven’t finished the costume.
If anyone at the NSA is reading–which, come on, I think we can assume they are–I’d just like to say that while taken out of context some of my recent Google search activity may seem odd, even disturbing (“rainbow suspenders child” “child wig”), there is actually a perfectly innocent explanation, which is that Simone wants to be a clown for Halloween.

¶ Good Taco to you!
I mentioned this on Twitter, but it tickles me, so I am mentioning it here as well: Simone’s favorite part of school so far is Music, which they have once a day for a week-long block (the blocks rotate between Music, Enrichment, Science, and Gym). Anyway, they have been singing a bunch of new songs in Music, and one of them is basically “hello” in various languages: “Hello, Bonjour, Buenos Dias/Guten Tag, Konichiwa.”
Only Simone is CONVINCED that the last line contains the phrase “Guten Taco.” As in “Guten Taco, Nichiwa,” you see. I have tried to correct her, gently, but it makes her furious, so “Guten Taco” it remains.

{ 60 comments }

My mother moved back from Switzerland about a year ago now, but she still has mail forwarded from her Swiss address. In fact, she still has accounts at her Swiss bank, and a few nights ago she opened an envelope from said Swiss bank to find a letter and a small, beautifully illustrated copy of Der Wolf und die Sieben Jungen Geisslein, by everyone’s favorite, Bruder Grimm.
DerWolf1
She called to tell me about it right away, because the book has all kinds of adorable goats in it, and you know how I feel about goats. My first question, naturally, was “Why is your bank sending you children’s books?” I’ve had an account with my own bank for more than ten years, and I’ve never gotten a single children’s book from them. (“I don’t know,” my mother said. “There was a letter, but of course it’s in German.”)

Once my mother started texting me the pictures, the book began to seem a tad sinister, as a gift from one’s financial institution. Look! Here is a wolf, slit all asunder across the middle, being stitched up by a mother goat!
DerWolf6 (Is this a reference to the economy? The banking crisis? Is the wolf our global markets? Is the wolf our personal finances, sewn up by the kindly bank/goat?)

We tried to get the gist of the story by looking at the pictures. Here, I assumed, was the mother goat returning home and beginning to cry because her children have once again transformed her neat, cozy domicile into a chaotic, debris-strewn hellscape (Food and broken dishes on the floor! KIDS!):

DerWolf5 “WHY CAN’T I HAVE NICE THINGS?” she weeps. (I’d like a framed print of that one, actually.)

Whatever else was going on, it seemed clear that this goat was doing the wolf a favor by stitching him up. Probably some sort of parable about kindness even to wolves, or maybe they were already friends—after all, they’d been seen shopping together in a previous illustration:
DerWolf2

As it turns out, no. Nope. Not friends. The story is, in fact, rather a grisly one (“well, it IS Bruder Grimm,” my mother reminded me). A Google search came up with the following synopsis:

“A mother goat leaves her seven children at home while she ventures into the forest to find food. Before she leaves, she warns her young about the Big Bad Wolf who will try to sneak into the house and gobble them up. The Big Bad Wolf will pretend to be their mother and convince the kids to open the door. The young goats will be able to recognize their true mother by her white feet and sweet voice.
The mother goat leaves and the seven kids stay in the house. Before long, they hear a voice at the door that says “Let me in children, your mother has returned.” His gruff voice betrays him and the goats do not let him in. A little while later, they hear another voice at the door: “Let me in children, your mother has returned.” This time the voice is high and sweet like their mother’s. They are about to let him in when the youngest kid looks under the crack in the door and notices the Big Bad Wolf’s big, black feet. They refuse to open the door, and the Big Bad Wolf goes away again.

The Big Bad Wolf goes to the bakery and buys some flour, smearing it all over his coat, turning his black feet white. He returns to the goat’s house, and says “Let me in children, your mother has returned.” The kids see his white feet and hear his sweet voice, so they open the door. The Big Bad Wolf jumps into the house and gobbles up six of the kids. The youngest goat hides from the wolf and does not get eaten.

Later that day, the mother goat returns home from the forest. She is distraught to find the door wide open and all but one of her children missing. She looks around and sees the Big Bad Wolf, fast asleep under a tree. He had eaten so much, he could not move. The mother goat calls to her youngest child to quickly get her a pair of scissors, a needle and some thread. She cuts open the Big Bad Wolf’s belly and the six goat children spring out miraculously unharmed. They fill the Big Bad Wolf’s belly with rocks, and the mother sews it back up again. When the Big Bad Wolf wakes up, he is very thirsty. He goes to the river to drink, but falls in and drowns under the weight of the rocks. The Goat Family lived happily ever after.”

So! Thanks for banking with us!

(Incidentally, my children also recognize ME by my white feet and sweet voice.)

I confess that the moral of the story seems rather…opaque. Children are easily tricked? Always have a peephole? Keep a sturdy pair of scissors handy? Don’t be so greedy you can’t make a clean getaway? Revenge is sweet?

Maybe it was sent as a warning about identity theft?
DerWolf9(You are not our mother! Our mother’s voice is fine and lovely, but your voice is rough. DU BIST DER WOLF!)

Here is the wolf, having whitened his paw with flour before waving it in the window:
DerWolf3I hope my children would not be stupid enough to fall for this, but who can say?

It is a very pretty book, and a gift is a gift, so it has been added to the library.

Here is Mother Goat in her shawl (throughout, the most convincing representation of myself I have ever seen in print), returning home to find six of her children eaten:
DerWolf4She’s shocked, obviously.

There is no river in this version. Instead, the thirsty wolf goes to a well to drink:
DerWolf8See the goat family celebrating around the wolf’s watery grave! There is nothing like vigilante justice to bring a family together.

And here is the wolf full of rocks, lurching around and traumatizing an innocent pig family:
DerWolf7(There is obviously a Virginia Wolf/Woolf joke in there somewhere.)

When I think of Swiss banks I think of discretion and a high tolerance for moral ambiguity, but maybe the real draw is thoughtful little gestures like this. Step up your game, Wells Fargo.

{ 21 comments }

Parenthood: There Will Be a Quiz.

by Alexa on September 12, 2013

Lately, Simone has been waking me up in the mornings by coming to the side of the bed, putting her face close to mine, and whispering urgent questions. Here’s an example I shared on Twitter last weekend:

“So,” she recapped a little later, as I tried vainly to blink myself awake. “We have a lot of things I need. I need to take a bath, I need a wig, and…what are those instruments that go like this?” She moves her fists in and out.
“An…accordion?”
“Yes! An accordion! So, THREE THINGS.” Scrambling onto the foot of the bed she ticks them off on her fingers: “Bath, wig, and accordion*. Remember that.”

The next morning my slumber was disturbed by “Mom? I wish I could see my bones.” This closely followed by (surprise surprise) a request for an x-ray machine.

Yesterday I startled awake to her hot breath, wide eyes and a stage-whispered “Mom? What do snakes eat?”

Look, I’m as fascinated by snakes as the next girl, assuming the next girl isn’t a herpetologist, but do we really need to discuss their eating habits at six o’clock in the morning? I mumbled something about mice. It turns out that this is not a complete answer, but seeing as how we’re not actually in charge of feeding any snakes, I think it will probably do for now.

Kindergarten is going well. Our new routine has felt surprisingly hectic, but only, I suspect, because it is new. Today I realized it was time for me and Twyla to get Simone and I hadn’t changed or done anything to make myself presentable so I grabbed my keys and nonsensically dabbed a little Chergui on my wrists before I left, I guess to say to the other parents at pick-up “I may have peanut butter smeared upon my bodice, but I am still A LADY!”

*No idea what the big plan was there, by the way, but it sounds spectacular!

{ 17 comments }

The First Day.

by Alexa on September 9, 2013

Can you EVEN? There are lots more pictures here, for further marveling.

And if you really want to blow your mind sky high, here’s this: I started to call this entry “The First Day of the Rest of Her Life,” and WordPress informed me that I’d already used that title. It was on the entry I posted just a bit over five years ago, announcing that five months after she’d been intubated at birth, Simone was free of breathing assistance for the first time. She’d been home over a month by then, and I’d been lugging around an oxygen tank that seemed like an extension of my baby, and suddenly she was free of tubes and monitor wires, her face unobstructed as I’d only seen it for a few minutes, ever. I made a video of her newly de-cannula-ed self dancing to “No Strings” and posted it here, and it remains one of my favorite moments I’ve captured via Internet. When I watch the video I can still feel the elated swoop in my stomach I felt then, like a glee time-capsule.

Fancy Free from Alexa on Vimeo.

Coming off of supplementary oxygen isn’t really one of your standard kid milestones. Today, after dropping my ordinary kid off at her ordinary school, I spent a lot of the day thinking about how for so long, everything I hoped for, every milestone I coveted for Simone, was something generally accepted as a given for most—a hole-free heart, working kidneys, keeping all of her fingers and limbs, breathing on her own, coming home from the hospital, and, later, things like being able to hear and eat and jump. I’ve been joking lately about all the weeping I was going to do the day Simone started kindergarten—clutching an old onesie, maybe—but when the day came I was shocked to find my eyes entirely dry. The melancholy, the “my-baby’s-growing-up” sting, was there, but I couldn’t quite access it. It was buried, you see, under an awful lot of awe.

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To the Lake! Again!

by Alexa on September 4, 2013

There was a moment, on our first full day of vacation—I think it was post-boardwalking, post rock-throwing, post lunch and ice cream and toy store and swimming—when Scott and I were each flat upon one of the hotel room’s queen-sized beds, exhausted. Simone was pretending to be a dog: she’d fashioned a piece of Play-Doh into a ball and I was throwing it for her to fetch. She’d bring it back to me, and without sitting up, I’d toss it again with what little energy I had. Twyla was happy on the carpet, having discovered a miniature cereal box left over from the breakfast buffet. So there we were, no sounds except Simone’s fake-dog panting, the crinkling of an empty cereal bag, and the periodic WHUMP of the Play-Doh ball hitting the glass door to the balcony, and I started to laugh. “This is some A-1 parenting right here,” I said. Scott moaned in response.

We rallied, but really, the energy of children astonishes me, and vacationing with children is—well, my fingers want to type that it is the best of times, it is the worst of times, but that isn’t really true. Mostly it is the best, but I won’t deny that the addition of small moody people with unpredictable desires and predictably erratic sleep schedules complicates one’s leisure-taking.

Every August (this was year three) we go to Duluth, to the lake, for a summer send-off, something we look forward to all year long. And last year, I warned Scott that the next year, this year, 2013, would likely be the most difficult, what with the 14-month-y-ness of Twyla. And it WAS harder than last year, when Twyla was essentially an immobile, sleepy lump, but it was not nearly as hard as I’d imagined (one of the perks of having a very alarmist imagination, I suppose). I’d forgotten to account, too, for the probability that Twyla would be old enough not only to make restaurant meals exhausting, but also to interact with Simone in ways that warmed the cockles of my heart, whatever those are. One evening they spent close to an hour playing together in our room, Simone dashing to hide behind a heavy curtain while Twyla ran, lurching and shrieking, to reveal her. Over and over, back and forth, demonstrably (and loudly) enjoying one another. Sure, this was the year I got almost no reading done, the year I walked pensively along the shore in only the briefest of intervals, but it was also the year of all of this:

 

 

 

 

  

Somehow we also ended up with a large subset of photos of people looking inexplicably morose, even Twyla, who has never been morose a day in her life. I call this one “Ennui at the Seashore”:

Outtakes6

One particularly overcast morning combined with an empty rock beach to recreate Bergman’s neglected masterpiece “Ledsen Bebis”:

And Twyla kept grabbing up handfuls of rocks and trying to scoot into the sea, like a tiny Virginia Woolf:

Speaking of pictures, I’d decided I wanted more with me in them. I have thousands of the girls, and a fair number even of the girls with Scott, but I am not in many, partly because I am usually the one behind the camera but also, I admit, because I don’t particularly care for the way I look in photographs. The thing is, though, that the few pictures I DO have of Alexa en Famille have ended up being rather precious to me, and from the vantage point of the future, I always think I look less terrible than I thought I looked at the time, meaning that when I am old and crepey I will likely laugh bitterly at thirty-something Alexa’s insecurities, just as thirty-something Alexa would like to slap 17-year-old Alexa across the face for taking her youth so thoroughly for granted. I want the girls to have pictures of themselves with their mother, and there is simply no getting around the fact that I’m the mother in question. So I tried, this year, to hand the camera (well, phone) off to Scott.

Alas, the results mostly fell into one of several categories:

Poorly lit:

Outtakes4

Ruined by uncooperative children:

Outtakes1

Un(?)intentionally obscene:

Outtakes2

All of the above:

I got one passable picture of me with Twyla where the shadowy lighting was fixed by applying a certain weird pink vintage-y filter, but then…weird pink vintage-y filter:

Better luck next year (when Twyla will be two, and thus not difficult to wrangle at all). Maybe I’ll make Scott practice first, or better yet, press some unsuspecting stranger into service to take a picture of all FOUR of us next summer, when we return for more stone-skipping and gelato-eating and balcony-lounging.

Until then, to sharpen my sleep-deprived memories of our vacation, the second with both girls there, but the first with both girls present, I have the single most spectacular photograph ever, of my two lovely children, together:

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It’s a Post about Things!

by Alexa on August 14, 2013

Notable among my several July Goal failures was “Lose five pounds,” and it is not hard to see how I went astray, there. All month, I was uncommonly virtuous and healthful during the day, and methodically undid all that good work at night. You know that saying, “a lady on the streets, a freak in the sheets?” It is kind of like that, but with gluttony instead of uninhibited sexuality. Do you know what you will find in my sheets? Crumbs.

The good bit is that I have been cooking a lot. I love to cook, and because Scott can’t cook at all, he treats me like some French chef-y genius no matter how simple the meal I prepare, which is gratifying. My favorite things to make are recipes that are easy but SEEM fancy, and a good example of this would be Sole en Papillote, seen here before being all en Papillote-d:

In this particular instance we (Simone and I) put down some baby bok choy and some mushrooms (crimini? I can’t remember) and then salt and pepper, and then some sole (with long spindly fillets like sole I usually fold them in half so they fit and cook evenly) and then some thin slices of butter, a thin slice of lemon, and more salt and pepper. Then we crimped up the sides of the parchment paper and baked the packages at 425 for 10 minutes.

Now, the reason I like this sort of thing is that you can do exactly what I outlined above, or you can whisk together a little soy sauce, garlic, and ginger and drizzle that over and suddenly you have a sort of Asian version (switching out salmon for the sole and cooking a bit longer, if you like) or you can throw in some Dijon and a sprig of tarragon and put a little white wine, even, for a Burgundian version (maybe with asparagus instead of the bok choy), or you can mash up the butter with tandoori spice or curry powder before reforming/slicing it, and have an Indian version, or, or, or…you get the idea. Infinitely customizable, requiring no effort beyond “put things in stack on parchment, wrap up,” fun for children because of the “wee packages” element. Serve with rice or couscous or potatoes, voila!

The problem, alas, is that while my meals became much healthier in July, my snacking was unaffected. I go through snacking phases, you see. Some months I am fine, less dedicated to evening snacking, able to have a thimble-sized square or two of chocolate and call it a day, but what with finishing school and all, I’d been having a Stressful Time, and nothing soothes a person (assuming that person is me) during a Stressful Time like a snack. I don’t snack during the day (or if I do it is healthy and planned, usually cheese or almonds or something), but we eat dinner early, and I am up for a long time after that, and sometimes, once the children are finally asleep and I am able to relax for the first time all day I…go mad. I go mad, is what happens, and I want to eat everything that ever was—and I do, or at least everything that ever was in my cupboards. All the eating virtue I’d so easily practiced by day vaporizes in a cloud of, I don’t know, salt and cocoa powder. I know prevailing wisdom says to simply not keep unhealthy snacks in the house, but this underestimates my evening snack madness. If there is nothing in the house I will SEND SCOTT OUT at 8pm to buy me a bag of Spicy Thai potato chips, which I then proceed to consume in its entirety. I’m not proud of this, but there it is.

I tried having cheese and crackers, under the theory that, while not exactly low cal, it was better than an entire bushel basket of chips, and I ended up putting away a shocking amount of expensive bleu d’Affinois and about half a box of sea salt pita crisps (putting them away in my stomach, to be clear). I am not sure that a toddler’s-thigh-sized wedge of the sort of cheese that is juuust this side of butter was an improvement, frankly.

Now, snacking is mysteriously less appealing again, and I am not tempted by chips even when Scott texts me from the grocery store to see whether I want anything, which is really painting the devil on the wall. But this will not last forever, I know, and July made it clear that I need other ways to cope with stress/relax/reward myself. Or maybe I need some alternate snack plan, because it isn’t unreasonable that I might need to eat a little something post dinner, given what time we eat and how long after that I am awake. I like everyone eating all together, so I don’t really want to do the “kids eat first” thing, and Simone gets too hungry for dinner at eight six-thirty, and Twyla should really be in bed by seven anyway, and I usually end up sitting in bed WITH her while she falls asleep and after (a whole other story), so for now the early dinner/lots of sedentary evening leisure time situation is here to stay. Partly I really am hungry, and partly I am just idle handed and need something mindless to do while I sit with the sleeping baby and watch television/read, and partly the sudden relaxation has a sinister unmooring effect upon my brain. My neocortex slumps over, drooling with exhaustion, and the reptilian portion eagerly takes the reins, just drooling.

Any suggestions you have in this area much appreciated, unless they are of the “stop eating after a certain time!” or “snack on Healthful Fruit!” variety, in which case I will politely say Hello! Have we met?

(So far, all I have come up with is “popcorn.” Maybe that will work?)

We were listening to some oldies station the other day, and I would just like to ask: shouldn’t the fact that a girl is known as “Runaround Sue” be a red flag all on its own? Do you really NEED to be told to “keep away,” and that hey, guess what, she “goes out with other guys?” HER NAME IS RUNAROUND SUE. I’ll bet I can guess what the problem with Syphilis Sally is, as well.

Another of my Stress Relief Techniques is to watch Lifetime Movies, which I Tivo and save for my housework days—days when I have no help with Twyla and cannot do any writing work, and so instead focus on beating back the tides of household entropy. While I am folding laundry, or taking a break from some odious sorting task (culling/organizing Simone’s toys has been a particularly thankless job), I like to indulge in tales of stolen babies or teen prostitutes, tales I dole out in delicious 20-minute installments. Most recently, I watched Sexting in Suburbia, an especially fine example of the genre, the genre being “Lifetime Movies” but also, really, what I think of as “Maternal Consequence Cinema,” because let’s face it, the Lifetime Movie Network could just as easily be called DAUGHTERS IN PERIL! Surely no more complete cataloguing exists of the ways in which daughters might be imperiled: they become co-ed call girls! They get pregnant at fifteen! They sleep with danger!

Sexting in Suburbia opens with a despondent teen walking down a school hallway, despondent-like, cutting to shots of her working (obvs) single (obvs) mother dealing with a work emergency (taping up a leaking pipe before showing a house, as she is a spunky real estate agent). She is so busy, dealing with these work emergencies, that little does she realize there is another emergency afoot! Namely her daughter’s feet, dangling in the top of the shot when Mom returns home and opens the bedroom door.

After this chilling parable, we get backstory. It all started because of Cell Phones and the Internet (which is FOREVER! we are warned repeatedly). The now-dead girl sent a sext to her boyfriend and someone forwarded it to everyone else everywhere. Probably, we are shown, it was the Blonde Frenemy, who was overshadowed in all things by the dead girl, and who now suddenly is getting the dead girl’s field hockey scholarship.
But! It turns out that while the dead girl’s mom was too busy with her career (and too eager to be a cool, casual “friend” to her kid) to know that her daughter was suicidal, the Blonde Frenemy’s stay-at-home mom was so overinvested in her daughter’s life that, determined to thwart the girl overshadowing her daughter, SHE is the one who forwarded the “sext.” Of course as punishment, the fates take her daughter from her as well: after finding out what her mother did, the Blonde Frenemy storms off in the middle of a storm, and is sending an angry text to mom while driving when CRASH, coma, etc.

So be careful! Don’t be so selfish and work-y that you miss the Warning Signs and your daughter dies a horrible death, but also don’t be TOO wrapped up in your child, because then you’re basically deranged and something else horrible will surely happen. And all anyone will get out of any of it is some lame school-wide pledge to give up cell phones for the rest of the year. This message brought to you by DAUGHTERS IN PERIL! television for overwrought middle-class mothers.

You will remember that one of the July list items I did manage to check off was registering Simone for an activity: every morning for a week, my daughter attended Sports Camp at our local park. Simone loves Sports–she’d been clamoring for a “ball stand-upper” so we could play T-ball, and she and I frequently pass Sunday mornings at the park, when it is still cool and too early for other children to be out, giving us the place to ourselves. We play with our new ball stand-upper and shoot baskets and I hit whiffle balls over the fence for her to fetch and it is…fun. Really, really fun. When I was a child, “sports” and “camp” were probably the two things I hated most in the world, and the idea of combining them would have seemed diabolical, but as I get older I realize the thing I hated about sports was other people, and actually, I LIKE physical activity, even the sort that involves balls (oh HA HA) as long as there are no balls whizzing in my direction (For god’s sake, people) and no one is yelling at me, or watching me at all, or expecting me to be part of a team. I like solitary exercises of skill, basically, is what I am saying.

Simone, to my everlasting shock, takes things one step further and doesn’t seem to mind other people when it comes to Sports, and she did great at Sports Camp. We’d had only one other attempt at an organized activity for her, The 2011 Soccer Disaster, and in the day or two before Sports Camp was due to start she DID freak out and decide she didn’t want to go, and I–in a move that was very difficult for me–told her she had to, at least for the first day or so. A large part of me wanted to let her stay home, because SPORTS + CAMP, my god! Of course she didn’t want to go! Only a monster would make her! But I reminded myself that Simone isn’t me, she wasn’t nervous about the Sports part, she’d asked to sign up for this, and just because I have many terrible memories of mandatory anxiety-producing activities doesn’t mean that she will. And anyway, I wanted her to have the experience of being nervous about something and having it turn out to be fine, which I was 99% sure it would. So yes, I made her go. And sure enough, she ADORED it. Simone, I should mention, is basically the friendliest kid on earth, greeting any new group of people she runs across–on the street, say–with a cheerful “Hi, guys!”

So. Sports. Camp. My kid, who has my DNA in her. Will wonders never cease.

 

{ 34 comments }

JULY GOALS

1. Finish Simone’s room
SO CLOSE. In fact, “SO CLOSE” could have been July’s theme. I made progress on almost every list item, and finished almost nothing. It seems obvious that if I had managed to focus on one thing at a time, I would be ending the month with a few more things checked off, and a few fewer projects in various states of pile-creating limbo.
2. Finish essay
I am crossing this off because I finished a version of the essay, and it is fine for school purposes. However I am not just editing but rewriting it for book purposes, meaning that I essentially spent weeks and weeks writing something I have decided to more or less throw away, DO NOT EVEN TALK TO ME ABOUT THIS.
3. Submit proposal for second book to agent
We decided to submit later in the fall, because I have (ahem) some rewrites to do.
4. Vanquish Mt. Laundry
This is the one that annoys me, because YOU GUYS! It was almost gone! I had a couple of loads of blankets/comforter covers and such left, and that was it, and I bought our new divided hamper to get rid of the laundry baskets, and then we ran out of quarters and Twyla was sick and I couldn’t get to the bank and the month ended. But we are down to the last foothills, so this month for sure.
5. Lose five lbs
Gained two and a half. So…no.
6. Go to park five times
More than five, actually. Played T-ball, introduced Twyla to sand, enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. A good month on the frolicking front.
7. Register Simone for sport/camp/activity
8. Mail
9. Plan August festivities
Eh. This was one of those things that ended up not seeming important. We have a list of things to do, and as I was trying to assign them to dates I realized that I like just having a list of fun things to choose from bound to nothing save our whim.
10. Pedicure and dinner with Mother
11. Go through bank statement for things to cancel
12. Post ten times
Two. Two times. To be fair, I did write posts six or seven times, and as the “posting more” goal is really about getting me to take more time for myself, this at least constitutes progress.
13. Go to the Goat Show and write about it (notes/draft form is fine)
(It’s a good thing I had that “notes/draft form is fine” parenthetical, because notes are all I’ve had time for.)
14. Organize Simone’s toys
Again, SO CLOSE. It turned out that I needed one more little drawer thing, which I have now, will finish up this week.
15. Read five books
16. Clean out car, have washed

AUGUST GOALS

1. Finish Undergraduate Degree
There is a reason last month was frantic and full of unfinished things–I have been busy. A little over a week from now, I will be a college graduate. I have a paper to complete and a presentation to put together, and then I am done.
I’d been avoiding mentioning it because, honestly, I was afraid I would find some way to screw it up. That sounds insane, I realize, but the closer I got to the end of this last class, the more nervous I became. I mean, I have been working on my degree on and off for FIFTEEN YEARS. FIFTEEN! I’ve been within about a semester for a long time, and two times before was preparing to start said semester when something happened (Ames died and I went on bed rest; I got pregnant with Twyla and was too sick to walk from the couch to the bedroom). Neither of those things were my fault, obviously, but there have been so many other times I have screwed up, especially where school is involved (see, uh, high school), and I was worried that somehow saying “I am going to graduate” would ensure that I failed spectacularly and didn’t. But now it looks as if I am really going to pull this off, so I guess you’ll have to start referring to me as The Her Honorable Ms. Alexa Stevenson, BA, Esquire! (That’s right, right?) I’m not going to the ceremony or anything, so I still won’t ever have had a chance to wear one of those little tassel hats, but I can’t deny that I am proud-ish of myself.
2. Have a date night with Scott
3. Plan and enjoy our annual Lake Trip (and think of a way to memorialize these trips–photobook? wall display?)

4. (Finish) Vanquish(ing) Mt. Laundry
5. Lose five lbs
6. Finish organizing Simone’s toys
7. Finish Simone’s Room
8. Get Simone ready for Kindergarten (haircut, cull clothes, school supply shopping, etc.)
9. Post eight times
10. Clean out car, have washed
11. Read two books
12. Go through bank statement for things to cancel
13. Have last pre-kindergarten Mama and Simone Day
14. Do something fun for Simone every day between returning from the lake and the first day of school
15. Make progress on both essays for book
16. Apply to thing

{ 25 comments }

There’s No Business Like Show Business!

by Alexa on July 16, 2013

Well! Last week was a busy, goat-filled week! It was a week to remember, a week filled with goats! I am a little overexcited, as you can probably tell. You see, last week was the American Dairy Goat Association’s National Show, and this year it was held right here in St. Paul.

There was intense goat judging, there was amusingly recalcitrant kid-showing, there was petting of soft ears, and there was even someone giving a baby goat a bath under a spigot.


There was also a truly MASSIVE amount of goat shit (not pictured). I don’t think I can possibly overstate this: the amount of goat feces on the sidewalks and “floors” and everywhere is such that you cannot possibly hope to avoid stepping in any, and I settled for trying to step in as little as possible. I am also reasonably certain that I was the only actual “spectator,” as in “person who does not own/breed/show goats.” I’d expected crowds of eager goat see-ers, and when we went the first day it was basically a ghost town. I saw my first goat and squealed “LOOK! A GOAT!” which, in retrospect, probably blew my cover immediately. There was no specific show going on at the time (because I had very much misunderstood what a “milk out” was) and I was so disappointed that twenty minutes in, when Simone started complaining of frankly understandable boredom, we left, because staying two hours until the next show seemed impossible. On the way out we met a very nice woman who let us pet her Saanen, whose name was Joyful, and I thought to myself “well, at least I got to pet a goat.”

And that would have been that if Scott hadn’t encouraged me to get up early the next morning and go to a show on my own while he watched the girls. It was everything I had dreamed it would be, and after that I went back again, three days in a row. (I am still kicking myself for going home that first afternoon and missing the Saanen Junior Show–the BABY division of my favorite breed!–but I suppose I will know better next time.)

Now the show has ended, but I will always have my memories, and a picture of the baby goat I want desperately to adopt, and a bumper sticker (HAVE YOU HUGGED YOUR KIDS TODAY?) and some lovely glasses, and a mug. Also, a lot more information than I wanted about the importance of teat symmetry when viewed from the back, mammary system capacity, and goat semen.

I am writing about the experience in more organized, essay-ish form, and when/if it appears somewhere, I will let you know. I suppose it is possible that no editor will be interested in my inside look at the American Dairy Goat Association National Show (which I have it on good authority is “the Westminster of Goat Shows”) but I choose to believe.

(GOATS!)

{ 12 comments }

Mostly For My Own Benefit.

by Alexa on July 3, 2013

As of yesterday morning, Twyla could take two-ish unassisted steps. As of yesterday evening, Twyla could walk—as in, while I was in the kitchen cleaning up the dinner dishes, she just walked on in, scaring me half to death. I managed to get video of some of her very first lurching around lunchtime yesterday:

Before you get too carried away by her grown-up brilliance, let me show you how Twyla plays peekaboo:


In the above picture, she thinks she is covering her eyes, I guess, or otherwise hiding herself. Basically, whenever she is in the mood (or hears the word “peekaboo”), she coyly clasps her hands to her temples, and then YOU are supposed to say “Where’s the baby?” even though it is patently obvious that the baby is RIGHT THERE, holding her head as if hungover/mildly concussed, at which point she will grin and throw off her hands for the big reveal (your cue to say “PEEKABOO!”).

The combination of smart/stupid delights me, and is a real selling point for this age. Twyla knows, in a rudimentary sort of way, how things work, what they are for, but the execution is not quite there. For instance, she will grab a toy phone off its little toy hook and, grinning, hold it expectantly to…the back of her head. It’s close! So close! And she is SO pleased with herself. I’d say she is about at dog-level, intellect-wise.

I found this while cleaning under the couch:


This particular Playmobil woman came in a nursery set with her baby and no other adults. Still. Let she who is without sin, Simone.

It was reassuring to hear so many people found age five to be insupportably whiny. The reason it was bothering me is that several times recently I have had the thought “I don’t like the mother I have turned out to be” float through my head, unasked for. It’s only partially true, because sometimes I DO like the mother I have turned out to be, very much! But it is also true that I am…snappier than I had anticipated. Snappier, and sterner, at least lately. And look, someone has to be the responsible disciplinarian one, and somehow that person is me (I am pretty sure my mother finds this hysterical, and I am likewise sure that the girls’ teen years are going to involve a lot of me sobbing into a wine glass while my mother tries to suppress a chortle), and I guess that’s fine, but UGH. So I am trying to reframe the whole thing—i.e., it’s not that I am a different kind of mother than I want to be in GENERAL, but perhaps I am not, as a mother, a terribly good fit for Five, and this year (well, the half of it that’s left) will take some extra effort. There are parts I AM good at—I am good at explaining and reassuring, and I am good at general silliness, and reading aloud, and lots of unglamorous things like making dinner and packing lunches. I still wish I didn’t hear myself saying SIMONE! CUT IT OUT! quite so often, though.

Since May I have been making lists of monthly goals, ala Jennie. Jennie is full of good ideas, but the thing I like about her monthly goal lists is that a) the lists are practical, ambitious but very doable, neither “aspirational” nor twee, and b) she doesn’t usually cross every item off, because she is a human living in the world, but she doesn’t self-flagellate, she just posts the honest end-of-the-month accounting and moves on. Anyhow, I forgot to post my lists for May (which I CRUSHED) and June (uh…a less successful month), but here is July:

1. Finish Simone’s room
(There are a couple of bins that need to be moved/cleaned out, bookends that need buying, etc.)
2. Finish essay
3. Submit proposal for second book to agent
4. Vanquish Mt. Laundry
(I had it almost entirely vanquished at one point, but the fact that I cannot do laundry when I am home alone with children ruins everything. Our laundry room is four flights down a twisting set of rickety steps and when it was just preschool-aged Simone I felt comfortable leaving her to dart to the basement, but now, with a baby…no. Add camp (filthy) and a toddler (filthier) and the need for nine quarters per load, and you have a nightmare situation. The worst part is, I like doing laundry! If I had a washer and dryer in my apartment (that I could use for free, mind) I would do laundry ALL THE TIME! I’d be doing laundry RIGHT NOW! I can’t wait to be able to throw in a load without worrying about trips to the bank and how many stupid quarters we have left, and I dream of the day—later this year, with any luck—we have our very own laundry facilities, preferably less than four damn flights from our living area.)
5. Lose five lbs
6. Go to park five times
(Where did summer go? We are very behind in our frolicking.)
7. Register Simone for sport/camp/activity
(Camp proper ends the 19th, but she’s expressed interest in a one week, mornings-only camp at our local park.)
8. Mail
(You don’t want to see the stack of mail I have been studiously ignoring. The shame.)
9. Plan August festivities
(In anticipation of kindergarten starting in September, all of August is pretty much devoted to Fun With Simone. We made a big list of things we want to do, and I need to schedule them, etc.)
10. Pedicure and dinner with Mother
11. Go through bank statement for things to cancel
12. Post ten times
13. Go to the Goat Show and write about it (notes/draft form is fine)
14. Organize Simone’s toys
15. Read five books
16. Clean out car, have washed

It looks like a lot, but many of these things are very near completion. There is no reason I shouldn’t be able to accomplish all of this in July. I know it’s likely that other things will come up and time will slip away and I won’t manage every thing on the list, but it is a challenge on a reasonable scale. I’m not hauling a boat over a mountain or anything, after all. It’s definitely sub Fitzcarraldo. That is my preferred difficulty level in all things.

{ 24 comments }

New Things.

by Alexa on June 27, 2013

Twyla turned one, and there is something a little sad about knowing that I have seen my last days as the mother of an infant. Of course, there is a lot of good ahead: I am excited for the deeply weird magic of language acquisition, and for the way Simone and Twyla’s relationship is sure to blossom once Twyla can do more actual playing (though already they occasionally form a band together, as Twyla is more than capable of banging two things together while Simone strums her guitar or sings). I look forward to meeting the three-year-old Twyla will be in a couple of years. But while I know that many people don’t particularly like the baby stage, I do. I love furred, snuggly newborns, and smiling, clapping not-yet-toddlers, and I am all done with that, now, and it is vaguely wistful-making, no matter how content and delighted I am with our family and that family’s imagined future.

The actual first birthday celebration did not go quite as well as I might have hoped—Twyla wasn’t feeling well (cold, molars) and Simone had been at camp all day and was, frankly, a bit of a brat. I seem to hear nothing but what a golden, lovely age is five, but compared to four it is AWFULLY whiny. So much whining! So little listening! Am I the only one who finds this to be the case? I wonder often whether (or, more likely, HOW) I am doing this mother thing wrong. Parenting older children is so much harder than parenting younger ones, because the stakes seem so much higher—they will remember your decisions, your words, and underlying everything is the feeling that you may well be screwing up in deep, permanent ways. (Hey, childless folk! Come on in, the water’s fine!)

Twyla, who loves food more than is really seemly for a baby, was nevertheless entirely uninterested in her cupcake, flinging it on the floor and then staring at her crumb-covered fingers in disgust. It figured, I suppose, that this would be the one day my comically, exuberantly happy baby (she is basically the human infant version of Pinkie Pie, for you My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans out there) was in a foul temper. I suppose this is one of the saccharine but nevertheless useful lessons of parenthood, that these events we invest with such importance are just days like any other, and are ultimately both out of our control and meant to be so, because as easy as it is to get wrapped up in the milestones of our children’s early childhoods, these events are not really about us, and yet not half as meaningful to them.

Anyhow, I now have a one-year-old, and though poor Twyla has gotten short shrift on this site, it has been a wonderful year, and I feel preposterously lucky to have ended up with this goony, sweet girl, whom I love beyond reason.

On Sunday I took Simone to her first movie in a theater: “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls” (I keep typing “Girls of Equestria,” which sounds like a very specialized Playboy issue ). The theater was, surprisingly for a Sunday morning show, quite crowded, mostly with teenagers. (There was a pack of teenaged boys who came in together, causing the girls behind us to let out an excited squeal of “BRONIES!”)

Simone had been planning this movie trip for a while, and for some reason was intent on buying her own popcorn. She brought her wallet over to me one afternoon to have me count the coins to see if there were enough, and when there weren’t, proposed she pay for the popcorn with her library card. I assured her that it was my treat, but she was not having it, and finally got the cash together by selling some cheese to my mother at our last Happy Hour (50 cents a piece!) (the Happy Hour was at my mother’s, and my mother had, in fact, provided said cheese).

Popcorn sizes seem to have become grossly inflated, and we ended up with about four times as much popcorn as was actually required–which is saying something, as Simone and I can both eat the SHIT out of some popcorn. The movie was just the right length for a first movie, I think (1hr, 12 minutes), and Simone only said it was “too loud” once. I have sensory issues that can make movies in the theater unpleasant, and I swear to movies have gotten louder since I was a kid (Listen to me! Popcorn is to big! Movies are too loud! KIDS TODAY!) so we sat way in the back, which I think helped. As to whether Simone enjoyed herself, part of the way through, during one of the musical numbers, she turned to me and stage-whispered “I didn’t know it would be so awesome!” Also, she wants to see it again next weekend.

I’m not sure why we waited so long to take her to a movie, or were so sure she would be scared/wasn’t old enough to have fun. I was pretty terrified after seeing ET in the theater when I was young, so maybe that was part of it. But I remember going to see Splash when I was Simone’s age, and saying to my parents afterward that I wished it would never end, and I think I would have gone to that movie every day for a month if they’d let me. Splash wasn’t even a kids’ movie (though it did have a mermaid, obviously a selling point). At the risk of sounding crotchety yet AGAIN, I will say that there were more adult movies back then that were…slow. Shots have gotten so fast (a fact I remember my film teacher in college bemoaning at great length), and the visual pace so frenetic and music-video-like, and the expectations for effects so high, that it feels like movie storytelling is vastly different than it was twenty-five years ago. Which is fine! But a lot of movies are not great for the easily overstimulated, is what I am saying.

I’ve been writing again. Technically I’ve been working on Book Number Two almost since my first book came out, but only technically—in a forced, desultory sort of way, in tiny dribbles here and there, with occasional (brief) bursts of inspiration. In truth, I was spent and exhausted for a long while, and then there was my pregnancy, and the drain of constant financial worries, and though it pains me to admit it, working on my second book was something I was doing because I felt like I should, and unsurprisingly I made almost no progress at all. I don’t know what changed; maybe I just needed time to let my poor brain lie fallow, maybe the several months I had of relative financial calm this year settled me a little, but suddenly I have my writing energy back, and it has been lovely to walk around with my head buzzing again, to be absentmindedly putting things where they don’t belong because I am worrying a paragraph in my head while unloading the dishwasher. I am SO EXCITED about this book, and so full of ideas. I’d forgotten what this feels like, both the delicious flush of writing a great sentence, and the misery of rereading a day’s work to find it completely awful, and if I am spending a lot of time hand-wringing over the state of the essay I am working on, well, that’s okay, because it’s awfully invigorating to be this challenged and engaged. Writing, if I’m doing it right, is the hardest thing in the world for me, but on a good day it feels like we are evenly matched opponents, me and the nebulous whatever I am trying to pin down.

{ 19 comments }

0,1 (again).

by Alexa on June 13, 2013

Twyla

{ 22 comments }

Meanwhile.

by Alexa on May 10, 2013

I was going to post about my business trip, but now it has been so long that it seems silly. Why has it been so long, you ask? Well, as dictated by natural law, the children got ill just as I was leaving, and I came back sick and have more or less stayed that way until now—really, I don’t think any other cough I’ve ever had has lingered so long. I was starting to feel a little Camille-y.

My trip was not all business. I had a lovely dinner with @Amy_Rey (are we referring to people by their Twitter handles, now? It seems we are) at my hotel the first night. Alas, I began the meal by ordering what turned out to be the single most phallic dish in existence, with the exception of, say, an actual braised penis. Thankfully, my main course was both delicious and neuter. Amy is a professional crossword puzzler, and I’d been perversely afraid she’d…I don’t know, quiz me or something (LITTLE RICHARD, FOUR LETTERS) but she didn’t, and all was well.

The next afternoon, I took the El (Whee!) from Evanston back city-ward to drink wine with the incomparable Mimi Smartypants (her real name is Griselda!) (No) (OR IS IT?), whose Online Web Journal was the first I ever read, and whose writing I have been enjoying for about a decade. It turned out to be one of those pleasant occasions wherein you meet a new person and yet feel entirely at ease (a rarity for me under the best of circumstances) and as if you know each other quite well already. This isn’t wholly unheard of, but usually it is someone I’ve chatted with online in one form or another, and this was not that, as I’d previously been too shy to correspond with Ms. Smartypants, online or otherwise. But I knew she’d read my book because I’d seen as much on Goodreads, so when this trip was planned I gathered up my petticoats and sent an email proposing we get together. I wasn’t sure how the suggestion would be received (especially as I may have gone on about beheadings a smidge in my “come meet a stranger!” email, which could potentially have been off-putting), but it all worked out and the evening was so much fun that it made me think I should really look into making friends in my OWN town as well.

Now here, watch this video of my baby singing.

While Simone and I were out one day, Scott put on Kathleen Edwards, and Twyla made a beeline to the source of the music, revealing vocal stylings uniquely reminiscent of a drunken Muppet*. My husband, bless him, managed to capture a bit of it on film.

Twyla Sings from Alexa on Vimeo.

*The phrase “drunken Muppet” made me remember this video, which remains the only thing I like about St Patrick’s Day.

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Bacchanull.

by Alexa on April 9, 2013

I read the first Tana French, In The Woods, on the recommendation of you fine people, and you did not steer me wrong. I more or less lost two days of my life, however, because I was not capable of putting the damn thing down. I tried! I swear I tried. Actually, several times I picked up my phone and opened Twitter to make a comment about how absorbed I was by the book, and then instead I went back to reading. Too absorbed even to tweet! (It is a hard life I live.)

I found the book at first delicious (the writing is excellent, she creates a very complete world and clear voice to lose oneself in) and then later horribly sad. Part of me would have liked to prolong the first part indefinitely. I am feeling a little melancholy about it all still. Not about the crime itself, but—oh, if you have read it you know what I mean, and if you haven’t I don’t want to spoil things (though really, if you haven’t read it you might want to skip this whole section because I am bound to give something away without meaning to do so).

The Thing That Was Supposed To Be a Surprise seemed obvious from the start, but this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book much. Occasionally I found it a little annoying or got impatient, and the obviousness did affect my feelings about the main character some, and I did find myself a bit incredulous at the idea that we were supposed to find it surprising, but at least in this case I didn’t know how it was all going to work out. Actually, despite The Thing being obvious, most of the rest remained mysterious until later, which was unusual and kind of great. It seems unlikely that the other central mystery will be solved in a future book, and I respect that this is very true-to-life and kind of marvelous, in its way, but it is maddening because I want to know.

I do not tend to judge mysteries on whether I am surprised by the mystery part, because I never—or almost never—am, I suppose because I read so many of them and have had such a thorough Law & Order education. Usually I don’t mind the mystery not really being a mystery, as long as the rest of the book is compelling enough. A lack of subtlety seems inevitable, especially in a mystery author’s early books: it must be very tricky to trust your reader to pick up on clues—it is always tricky to trust your reader to pick up what you are putting down, so to speak, and I know in my own writing I am always having to go back and take out superfluous/heavy-handed bits that result from that.

Anyhow, I am not going to start the next one yet, because I have deadlines looming and I suspect I won’t be able to get any work done if I do. Also, I think I need something cheery as a palate cleanser first. (Have started it. I have no willpower at all. None.)

I ought to update you all on the books I’ve read this year so far and what I’ve thought of them, but that will have to be another day. (Though I will say The Fault in Our Stars was as good as everyone said it would be, though I kept wishing 17-year-old Alexa was reading it instead, for various reasons) (It was a wee bit precious, and I know that at 17 I would have read it less cynically and likely been besotted with it.) (Shades of Franny and Zooey, I suppose.)

Not all of my current anxious melancholy can be blamed upon my recent reading material. It is very grey here, and the mood-parts of my brain have always been dramatically solar-powered. It doesn’t take a very long stretch of cloud cover to start me brooding and feeling jittery and fragile and as if everything is DOOOOOMED. I guess it is a good thing I don’t live on one of those dreary English moors I was so fond of reading about as a child. (OR DO I?) It is supposed to rain and then SNOW this week, as much as five inches, so I’m predicting at least one weeping episode and two wild tantrums about the state of the apartment, with scattered panicking over my financial future. Happily, when the sunshine does finally break through—which it must do, eventually—it triggers something like euphoria, and I beam at tree buds and sigh at the sound of birds singing and am as frolicsome and insufferable as the star of a tampon/birth control/yogurt commercial. I look forward to skipping down sidewalks and chucking bewildered robins under the chin any time now.

I rarely have social engagements other than the very occasional dinner with my mother, even more rarely social engagements extending past 8pm, and yet last week I went out in the evening on TWO SEPARATE OCCASIONS, for Culture. I accompanied my mother to The Dakota (jazz club) on Tuesday to see Madeleine Peyroux, and a mere two days later I was out again, this time to the Walker (museum) with Scott to see Noah Baumbach’s new movie, Frances Ha. Both times I was away from my apartment until past ten o’clock. Next week on my trip I have plans for two evening outings with virtual acquaintances, and the Friday after I return Scott and I may attend a reading. Step back, Dionysus!

I am looking for some additional freelance work–editing, not writing–and so if you have any lying about, please feel free to send it my way. Most of my editing experience is in the legal and scientific fields, but I’ve done all sorts.
Relatedly, if any of you are writing things (fiction or non) and were thinking of having someone take a look at them with a professional eye—or even two—I am available for everything from line-edits to general “here’s where I think you ought to go with this” type consultations. I’m actually quite a bit better working with other people’s writing than my own, and while I often do this sort of thing for fun (just ask all of my roommates, ever–though I am still bitter about Lizzie’s refusal to let me title her linguistics thesis “Hmong Among Us”), I have decided that this is something I would like to do more of professionally. It makes me feel a tad soulless asking people for money to help them with their personal wordsmithery when that kind of editing is so fun for me anyway (*I* don’t have to do the writing, you see, so it is all reading and guiding and bossing) but there is no law that says you can’t enjoy your work, and I am very good at it, and Spicy Thai Kettle Chips don’t pay for themselves. I’ve written such a variety of things myself now–a memoir, magazine features, essays, etc., that I think I could be useful to almost anyone. (Anyone writing prose. You poets are on your own.)

As long as I am already blushing and feeling squeamish about self-promotion, our beloved NICU (Children’s) is hosting a 3k/fundraiser on June 1st, and Simone, Scott, Twyla and I have formed a team, “Team Simone!” (the exclamation point is part of the name, yes). If you are local and want to walk with us, you can sign up for our team here. There is a party afterward with a bouncy house and face painting and god knows what else, and I am sure it will be an excellent, and finally SNOW-FREE time. Simone has begun to show curiosity about her early/tiny birth, and we’ve been talking about it more and looking at pictures, and she has a Playmobil isolette and baby, of all things, and I thought Team Simone! would be a good idea, for her. (I have more to say about talking to Simone about all of this, enough for a whole fleet of posts, but that will have to wait.)

Frog and Toad are Friends is my favorite children’s book, and to my delight, Simone is enchanted with Frog and Toad as well. We read at least one of the Frog and Toad books every day lately, and the more time I spend with them, the more I think Toad really ought to have his thyroid checked.

{ 27 comments }

In Praise of False Industry.

by Alexa on March 28, 2013

Scott was trying to tell me about a book, but he couldn’t remember the title—all he could manage was that it was called “In Praise of [some word LIKE 'whipping,' but NOT 'whipping'].” I went to Amazon and did a search for “In Praise of,” and while I did not find the book he was talking about (chiefly because the book he was talking about was actually called “In Defense of Flogging” ), I did find evidence that beginning a book title with the phrase “In Praise of” is very popular indeed.

Naturally, I scrolled through the first 20 pages and compiled a list of the things authors have deemed sufficiently praiseworthy as to demand a book-length volume devoted to said praise. I included only the books whose titles followed a specific format: “In Praise of _____.” This excluded, for instance “Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women” (just as well, as I cannot abide Ms. Wurtzel) and similar constructions, of which there were also quite a few.

I’m not going to explain to you why I spent part of my afternoon scrolling through Amazon results to compile this list of Praiseworthy Subjects (though yes, now that you mention it, I WAS avoiding something more pressing, however did you guess?) because surely my hobbies are my own affair. I won’t judge your participation in an Ultimate Frisbee League, and in turn I’d appreciate you reserving comment on the two hours I recently spent with the Wikipedia entry for “List of People Who Were Beheaded.”

So!

A List of Things Authors Have Felt Compelled to Praise in Book Form:

Shadows
Messy Lives
Hangovers
Slowness
Stay-at-Home Moms
Love
Doubt
Reason
Idleness
Spies
Younger Men
Nepotism
Folly
Older Women
Dharmadhatu
Barbarians
Chickens
Athletic Beauty
Hard Industries
Black Women
Krishna
Reading and Fiction
Blandness
The Goddess
Copying
Indecency
The Needlewoman
Tomatoes
Mountain Waters
Prejudice
Commercial Culture
Slow
Imperfection
Jamaica
Plants
The Stepmother
Hiddenness
The Whip
Animals
Christian Origins
Science
The New Knighthood
Oxen
Olympus
Plan B
Women
Empires
The Free Market and Peace
Mother Earth
Nonsense
Speculation
Followers
Pecans
Poverty
Our Teachers
The Crone
Flattery
Antiheroes
Wine
Rumi
The Common
Deadlock
Philosophy
Virtue
The Irish
Nature
Education
The Cognitive Emotions
Plato’s Poetic Imagination
Wild Trout

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