Thursday, September 30, 2004

...Followed by a Swim in Lake Letdown

RW and I are going away for a long weekend! My mom's going to take care of Sarah, in all her 4-year-old obnoxious glory, and we're going to...guess where. Go ahead, guess.

Did you guess?

We're going to... Cape Disappointment!

I love this so much. Cape Disappointment! There's no way this trip can let us down with a setup like that. Talk about lowering expectations.

Maybe we'll stop along the way for a bite at The Salmonella Cafe. Or we could dip our toes into Anomie Beach, after we round Depression Bay. Or go shopping at that cute little store, Tschtchkes That Break The First Time you Use Them.

Think I'll go pack my Books That Probably Aren't As Good As They Look, and pick up some Overrated DVDs to watch while we're there.

See you on Sunday!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

109 Things

Because I don't know when to put the crayons down. Enjoy.

  1. I graduated from high school barefoot.
  2. It was an accident: my sandal strap broke as we were processing to the bleachers and all I could do was kick both of them off.
  3. No one believed it was an accident.
  4. I went to the “Alternative School” that was part of the regular high school.
  5. My friend who was behind me in the processional kicked her sandals off in solidarity.
  6. Both of us came out in college.
  7. But we never had a thing for each other.
  8. People often assume I’m a vegetarian.
  9. That friend who kicked her sandals off? She also suggested we go to the senior prom together, as a couple.
  10. At that time, students had to go to the prom in boy-girl pairs. That’s how the tickets were sold.
  11. I said I didn’t think we should.
  12. I’ve always regretted that.
  13. I have never been a vegetarian. Not even close.
  14. As a kid, I once got a second-degree steam burn because I was reading by the light of the night-light while the vaporizer was on (I had a cold, probably because I was always staying up too late reading) and stuck my elbow in the vaporizer.
  15. After that, my mom let me stay up as late as I wanted to read. With the light on.
  16. I am pretty good at imitating accents.
  17. Another thing I did once when I was a kid: gave myself a black eye.
  18. It wasn’t a self-mutilation thing. Or not the way you might think.
  19. I was lying in bed, bored, wondering how people actually got black eyes, and started punching myself in the eye, experimentally, to see what it felt like.
  20. Eventually it started to hurt and I stopped.
  21. In the morning, I had a black eye. No one could understand how it had happened.
  22. My parents split up when I was 7.
  23. I never thought it was my fault.
  24. Or wanted them to get back together.
  25. I was born in Manhattan and lived on the Upper West Side until I was 5.
  26. Then we moved to New Jersey.
  27. I didn’t want to move. Really, really didn’t want to.
  28. One good thing about my parents’ divorce was that my dad moved back to the Upper West Side and I got to visit him there most weekends.
  29. The Upper West Side was not fancy when we lived there, especially above 100th street, where we lived and where my dad moved to.
  30. The apartment my family left in 1971 is still rent-controlled.
  31. I have only recently forgiven my parents for moving to New Jersey.
  32. They were worried that the public school I would be sent to wasn’t safe, and it was cheaper to move to the suburbs than to pay for private school.
  33. My daughter starts kindergarten next year, and I am already obsessing about it.
  34. My mother lives in Israel now.
  35. The first car I owned was a blue 1971 Dodge Dart that used to belong to my grandfather.
  36. I bought it from my dad for $1.00.
  37. A friend and I drove it cross-country on our way to Alaska to can salmon for the summer.
  38. By the time we got to Seattle, we weren’t speaking.
  39. We are speaking again now, but it took a while.
  40. I have a freakishly good memory for song lyrics.
  41. I am a slob.
  42. I have a collection of old New Yorker magazines that I’ve been saving for years.
  43. I don’t do yard work.
  44. As far as I can remember, I’ve only successfully completed three craft projects in my life.
  45. Two of them were no-sew fleece throws that I did last year.
  46. The third was a sewing sampler from the Plimoth Plantation that my cousin gave me when I was about 10.
  47. I have a younger brother and a younger stepsister.
  48. My father, my brother, my (female) cousin, and I are all married to non-Jewish women; all four spouses have an interest in the Renaissance and are also only children.
  49. I don’t wear a watch because whenever I try to, I take them off and lose them.
  50. This means I am always frantically searching any room I am in for a clock.
  51. My mom sometime used to let me stay home from school to finish a big assignment the day it was due.
  52. I still have almost no self-discipline.
  53. But I got excellent grades all through high school.
  54. They were only okay in college, except in my major.
  55. My major was English Literature. I rocked at that.
  56. I have never belonged to a book group.
  57. I cut my own hair.
  58. I’ve been going gray since college.
  59. I have severe psoriasis, but not as bad as that guy in The Singing Detective.
  60. As a result of #59, I have overcome a lifelong fear of needles and learned to inject myself with an insanely expensive prescription drug which keeps the psoriasis down.
  61. It’s kind of a thrill.
  62. I have an early-summer birthday, which was great as a kid because there was no school but mostly people hadn’t left town yet.
  63. The first rock concert I went to was REO Speedwagon.
  64. My parents bought tickets for me and 3 friends as a 15th birthday present.
  65. I also saw The Who at Shea Stadium my junior year in high school.
  66. I took my little brother with me, and almost lost him in the crowd when I insisted on trying to sneak down for better seats and he didn’t want to.
  67. I had my first boyfriend when I was 14-going-on-15.
  68. He owned a moped.
  69. My mom told me not to ride on it with him, but I did anyway.
  70. I felt like a rebel and a bad girl.
  71. I was not a rebel or a bad girl; in fact, I was embarrassingly good, except for that moped thing.
  72. When I was about 17, I decided I wanted to try pot. I told my friend, who told the local dealer, who was a sweet, spacey boy who’d known me since 2nd grade.
  73. He told my friend that he wouldn’t sell her pot if it was for me.
  74. I was pissed off but also kind of touched.
  75. I went to a drama camp and was in the drama club in high school.
  76. But I kept getting cast as the maid.
  77. I decided I wasn’t really cut out for acting.
  78. I discovered Sylvia Plath when I was 13 and memorized several of her poems.
  79. I also wrote poetry.
  80. I don’t write poetry any more.
  81. Well, hardly any.
  82. I do have a residual fondness for Sylvia Plath’s poems, but I don’t think I would’ve liked her as a person.
  83. I kept a numbered series of journals, which I called “notebooks,” from 1973 until about 1995.
  84. I was originally inspired by Harriet the Spy.
  85. My spouse and I were friends for 6 years before we got together romantically.
  86. She was the first person I met in Seattle.
  87. I don’t like dogs.
  88. I got a cat for my 3rd birthday and named her Mary.
  89. We had to give Mary away when I was 7 because my brother was allergic.
  90. Growing up, I always thought I would move back to New York when I could, but after one miserable post-college year in Brooklyn I decided the city was too much for me and left, thinking I could always move back later.
  91. My spouse hates New York.
  92. My daughter likes New York.
  93. I nourish fond hopes that she’ll move there when she grows up.
  94. I spent a summer in Alaska in a tent city, working in a salmon cannery for 100 hours a week.
  95. I got carpal tunnel syndrome, which I still have.
  96. I also learned how to make a fire in a fire pit on one match. I can still do that, too.
  97. I learned how to cook from the Moosewood Cookbook.
  98. I hardly ever do real cooking any more.
  99. I voluntarily went to a Jewish supplementary (after-school) school for 2 years in high school.
  100. I flunked my driver’s test the first time for going through a stop sign.
  101. I might have flunked the second time too, but back then they didn’t test parallel parking in New Jersey.
  102. I have never been to Florida. I have now! [December 2004]
  103. But I’ve been to Hawaii. Once. For three days.
  104. I have rarely had a full night’s sleep on a school- or work-day.
  105. My job starts at 8:00 in the morning.
  106. I can’t believe I’ve been at this job for almost 7 years.
  107. My first job after college was writing the Oils, Fats, and Waxes column for a chemical marketing newsletter.
  108. I was rotten at it, partly because I knew nothing about chemistry or marketing and partly because I completely lacked the reporter’s instinct for timeliness and brevity.
  109. I had to edit this list even to get it down even to 108 109 items.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Other People's Lives, plus some Silly Angst

Hey there. I'm back. Didn't mean to be gone so long. Between my mom visiting and RW being sick (and sleeping in the computer room with her sniffles and stuffed nose and miserable headache, poor thing) there hasn't been much chance to indulge my addiction/habit/hobby.

I have been lurking around, though. Lots going on in Blogroll-land. People reading banned books. People cyber-chatting and and battling the forces of spam. People's kids getting sick and acting up. People experiencing unspecified bad things which I hope get better soon, and not just because I miss having new writing of theirs to read. People having fun and exercising at the same time. Never a dull moment out there.

Of course, O Reader, if you're reading this you've probably been reading most of those cited above, too. Or even writing one of them. If so, I hope anything yucky is getting better and anything hopeful is continuing to be so.

I've been working on a 100 Things list but then read Jilbur's and suffered a fit of self-consciousness: hers is so well-written! And she sounds so nice! Mine seems to have an unhealthy emphasis on weird and/or self-destructive things I did as a kid. And shouldn't I put in more about how I love RW and Sarah? But won't that make it boring to anyone who's not RW or Sarah? And what's a 100 Things list for, essentially? Is it things you want people to know about you that they wouldn't know otherwise? Or the most important things about you, whether or not the casual reader would glean them elsewhere?

Also, mine currently has 108 things on it and is only getting longer. That can't possibly be good.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Ultimate Excuse Note

Dear God:

Please excuse elswhere from the traditional obligation of mailing holiday cards, sending out those photos from last summer that are still sitting on the sideboard, and making peace with everyone she's wronged by the customary deadline of sunset at the end of Yom Kippur [Saturday evening this year, in case You don't have Your calendar handy].

She will be working until mid-afternoon on Friday, then cooking and attending Kol Nidre services Friday night, where she will be praising Your name in the traditional manner. She will be unable to complete any of these obligations during Yom Kippur itself [which is her usual time to catch up on some things even though strictly speaking she's not supposed to, because usually she has the day off and her daughter's in childcare], because this year Yom Kippur is on a Saturday, and not only will Sarah not be in childcare, but Sarah's other parent will be unable to provide support and backup as she will be in Vancouver from Saturday midday through Sunday afternoon at her oldest friend's 20th anniversary party.

Additionally, elswhere's mother is flying in for a visit starting at 2:30 PM on Sunday, which necessitates that at least some cleaning be accomplished by then. It is unclear when or how this is going to happen, as housecleaning and fasting are a generally undesirable combination, especially when the faster is also caring single-handedly for a small child.

And please don't assume that elswhere will be able to get some cleaning done on Sunday morning, because that's Sarah's first day of Hebrew school, which means that elswhere will spend the hours from 8:30-10 getting Sarah fed and dressed so that they can get there by the starting time of 10:30. It takes about half an hour to get to the synagogue and half an hour to get back, so it seems pointless to rush back home when she'd just have to turn around again in less than an hour to pick Sarah up by the end of class at 12:30. Don't You think?

While it's true that elswhere really should have been working on fulfilling her obligations in the past few weeks, rather than waiting for the last minute, she's been very busy working and sleeping and folding laundry.

Let's just leave her lifelong habit of procrastination out of this.

If You would be so kind as to grant elswhere an extension, say, until mid-October, she will make every effort to fulfil the above obligations by that time.

I appreciate Your consideration and flexibility, and hope that You will still consider inscribing elswhere in the Book of Life for the coming year.


elswhere's mother

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Things that (Apparently) Make Me Go "Um."

I zipped in to Sarah's preschool at 5:55 today, right before the $2-per-minute late fees start ticking up (rain, traffic, stupid bridge over stupid lake). She looked at me from the snack table and her lip quivered.

"MAMA was going to pick me up. She SAID so."

"No, hon, that was yesterday. Today Mama has yoga, and then singing. She won't be home till late. It's just you and me, our special evening, together, remember? We're going to go to the Magic Dragon? And then I thought maybe to Fred Meyers."

"No! I don't want to go to Fred Meyers! That will not make me feel better!" She loves Fred Meyers. There's a playroom there with a TV and a playroom lady who dotes on her, and then she gets a free cookie. I didn't think she could possibly mean that.

"I can see you're disappointed," said the Completely Unfamiliar Teacher-like Person sitting next to Sarah. "Your mama's not here, but it sounds like you'll have a fun time with your special friend, huh?"

"Um," I said. "She's, um, my daughter."

"Mmm." She looked so unfazed I thought she hadn't quite heard.

"I'm her mom. Her mommy." Then, just in case she had totally missed the train to Clueville, I elaborated further. "Um. She has two." I actually held up two fingers as a visual aid. Like a little peace sign. Like a lesbian-mom Richard Nixon.

"Got it." To her credit, she didn't make a big deal or fall all over herself with embarrassment that she'd gotten it wrong in the first place. She kept her focus on Sarah, who was by now done snivelling into her oyster crackers and was demanding a story from the teacher-person [who turned out to be a sub, a nice one, I hope she stays around] while I went downstairs to gether her stuff together.

This kind of moment happens less often than you might think. For one thing, this is Seattle, Home of Tolerance [and of lots of queers, not coincidentally]. Also, I have a completely boring life and hardly ever go anyplace where people don't know us already. Home, work, Sarah's childcare, synagogue, Fred Meyers... that about covers it. There was that slightly unnerving border guard incident a few months ago, but that's pretty rare.

Oh, and there was the ER doc at the children's hospital the night Sarah almost put her eye out on the one un-childproofed item in her room [an uncovered screw sticking out of her toddler bed; she was wandering around in the dark and tried to climb back into bed and missed]. After he checked her out he started asking us questions about our household: Who was her mom, oh, both of us, okay; was the biological father involved in her life at all; how often does she see him? We answered because we figured he was trying to suss out whether there might have been any abuse behind Sarah's cut, but when he asked RW how she'd become pregnant, there was a pause and then she asked, "And how is this relevant to Sarah's injury?"

"Oh," he said, not even blushing, "it's not. I'm just curious." We continued our rather cool silence, so he elaborated. "It's just that, well, this is a very unusual family situation, and I was interested." He must have liked the sound of that, because he repeated it. "It's a very unusual situation."

"Not around here," I said, more amused by then than pissed. He excused himself and we never saw him again. He must have said something, though, because the nurse who came in later apologized on his behalf. That was kind of nice.

The best take on that whole episode came from a straight, married teacher at my job. I was telling the story at lunch in the staff room, and hypothesizing that the guy must have been a new intern who'd probably just moved here from somewhere where there was less awareness of lesbian families. "Like where?" she asked. "Under a rock?"

More often, we all just forget I'm not actually biologically related to Sarah. I find myself reading about adoption with no sense of connection; it slips my mind that I'm an adoptive parent myself. It's weird, epecially considering that she and I look absolutely nothing alike, but then she only sort-of looks like RW or her bio-dad, either.

About a year ago, we went out to dinner with my third cousin and his wife, who live across town [hereafter to be referred to somewhat unimaginatively as Daddoc and Momdoc, since both are both high-powered doctors who work all the time]. Their daughters are a few years older than Sarah; she adores them and they dote on her. Us grownups all had a fair bit of wine. Afterwards, the three girls were romping about outside the restaurant. Momdoc--who's a geneticist, in case you were wondering--gazed at them sentimentally and mused, "It's amazing how you can see the family resemblance, even at this remove. Sarah and our girls are, what, fourth cousins?"

"By adoption," I pointed out.

"Adoption!" She looked alarmed. "Who's adopted?"

"Um. Sarah?" I said gently. "By me?"

All of which is by way of explaining why, when Sarah had a meltdown at the end of our Fred Meyers expedition this evening because I wouldn't lift her up into the shopping cart for the third time, and screamed that she hated me and I wasn't her mommy, I felt a pang, but not too much. Just the tiniest suggestion of a fourth cousin of one. Then I marched her to the car on foot like the meanest of mean mommies, and it slunk away into the night.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Ssh! I'm at work.

But it's okay! It's after 4:00!

See, I thought Curriculum Night was tonight, so RW worked early mornings for a couple of days so she could get off early and pick up the Boo so I could stay here on the other side of the bridge and meet & greet parents: introduce them to the glories of the library, reassure them that it's okay if their kid checks out books on nothing but baseball, field questions about the Dewey Decimal System, that kind of thing.

But... surprise! It was moved to next Monday! As everyone but me apparently knew.

So: now I don't have to rush home, and RW and Sarah are off getting fish and chips. Probably I should work more but didn't I just do that for 8 or 9 hours?

Hey, anyone want to go to a movie?

I can see that posting at work is not the most conducive to, um, wit and articulateness. (Articulation?) The least I can do is offer you a fun literature-related link.

P.S. My own favorite first line: "This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it."

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Sea of Stuff

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I became a parent. I'd babysat since I was a kid myself, had worked in childcare, and had friends with kids. But nothing could prepare me for the sheer volume of STUFF. I had no idea there was so much inventory control involved in having a child.

We have a small house. Sarah has a small room. We don't buy her much stuff, and don't encourage acquisitiveness. We are packrats ourselves, though most of our own clutter takes the form of books and papers.

But with the advent of parenthood, suddenly we were swamped with stuff, and a tide of it has washed up on our shores every few months, cresting in December and August but never entirely receding.

And Sarah loves her stuff. All of it. Every measly plastic car. Every raggedy pair of underpants. We've given up on involving her in any kind of toy-rotation system because invitably she insists that she needs everything, in her room, right now. She will then proceed to play with stuff that she's been ignoring for six months or so.

So we sneak in when she's not paying attention and move whole bags of clothes and toys down to the basement. Then, if a year goes by without her noticing that they were missing, we ship them off to babies and toddlers, thereby ensuring that our friends and relations will also have inventory-control issues for the next ten years or so.

Last night, while Sarah was in the bathtub, we did a commando raid on her wardrobe, pulling out most of the summer clothes and everything she's outgrown or will likely never wear, and rushing it out of the room in plain brown Trader Joe's bags before she could notice and sound the alarm. (RW tackled the toy situation right before Sarah's birthday, so we're set in that area till the Chanukah/Christmas feeding frenzy.) Finally, she had empty hangers! Space in her dresser drawers! A reasonable amount of clothing!

After she went to bed, we commenced Part Two of the operation: sorting through the replacement clothes. RW brought up the "Fall/Winter 04" bags from the basement and we started going through the hand-me downs from her fourth (fourth!) cousins and from Big Lilly, and the too-big-at-the-time-but-she'll-grow-into-it presents from her numerous relatives. (Have I mentioned that this child has ten grandparents? One of whom works as a greeter at Wal-Mart?) By the time we finished, an hour later, she had more clothes than ever, including several pairs of jeans that may or may not see the light of day (since she only wears dresses), enough tights to clothe every child in Miss Clavel's academy, and one particularly fancy black velvet dress, with crinoline, which I suppose might get worn if she's invited to a coronation before she grows out of size 5.

Meanwhile, RW and I are reduced to borrowing each other's clothes in order to scrape together enough professional-looking outfits to get us through the week. But then, as Sarah notes scornfully, "Librarians are not fancy."

Jealousy of my child's wardrobe: another thing I wasn't prepared for.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

At least we don't have gym class

RW weighs in after I describe the social structure of the blogosphere:

"Just what I always wanted: a high school the size of the cosmos. That never closes."

Friday, September 17, 2004

Or is the moral, Don't Dress Your Kid in Tights for a Checkup?

After that love note about Sarah's preschool yesterday, I went and kept her home today, for services in the morning and her 4-year checkup in the afternoon. Because of RW's new job, she and Sarah both have new health insurance which doesn't cover the pediatric clinic Sarah's been going to since she was born, so this was her last visit there.

I got all misty and sentimental, even though Sarah's regular doctor is on vacation and the place has been totally renovated since last time we were there so almost nothing was familiar anyway. It was all new and fancy and clean, with a big fishtank in the waiting room. I was happy to see that they kept the old busted typewriters for the kids to play with, though.

The first time we were there, Sarah was about a week old. It took both of us just to get her out of the house. She peed in her diaper during the checkup and we didn't have a spare. We didn't have a diaper bag set up yet, and hadn't brought anything but our wallets and keys. It's hard to remember back to that time, before we had adopted any of the routines of parenthood, when we were so tired and discombobulated and easily thrown. Now we're all such old hands- RW and me at being parents, and Sarah at being a person.

The checkup today was surprisingly like a grown-up checkup. Sarah was very demure and composed in her going-to-synagogue dress as she stood on the scale and against the ruler and behind the line for the eyesight test, identifying the pictures in the preschool eye chart: "Ship. Heart. Teapot. Banana moon." The substitute doctor was a sweetie, charmed her right away while she checked her heart and lungs and asked her to draw a picture of herself, draw letters, hop on one foot, shrug her shoulders. She asked Sarah directly whether she was having any problems with her health, before she asked me. Everything was going great. I felt almost superfluous, the aged chaperone.

Then came the Vaccinations.

There were two, and there will be another two next year before Sarah can start kindergarten. The doctor and I had a little coded surreptitious discussion while Sarah hopped around the examining room, and then she went to get the nurse. I sat Sarah on my lap and broke the news to her, explaining about how the shots will keep her from getting sick and how she needs them so she can go to kindergarten next year and how she already had some back when she was a baby and blah blah blah blah blah. But I felt like I was saying, "And really the electric chair is no big deal, it hardly hurts at all, and all big girls do it, you'll be fine!"

She sat on my lap and nodded, keeping her composure with the greatest effort. She was okay while the nurse got everything ready, chattering inanely [the nurse, that is] about the same things I'd just covered [more inanely than I'd been chattering? Maybe. Though it doesn't seem possible] and then jabbing that needle into Sarah's leg and we didn't have time for any of the coping techniques I'd recommended because "OWWWW! Waaaaaaaaaaaah!" It was a tetanus shot, which really hurts, I remember from last time I had one. She curled into herself, totally betrayed, wailing "I want MAMAAAAA!"

But there was more! Because for some reason they had to give the vaccinations in two separate shots, one in each leg, so we had to convince Sarah to turn around on my lap and let the nurse do the same thing again. She pulled her tights all the way up and pushed her legs down between mine and wailed and shook her head and cried for Mama. But I kept holding her and the nurse kept yammering blah blah stickers blah blah Kindergarten blah blah irrelevant cheerful blather Kindergarten and after a minute she pulled her own tights partway down again, still crying, and let the nurse give her the shot and stick the band-aid on.

She cried while she slid down from my lap, shying away from my hug. She cried while she pulled her tights back up. She cried while she grabbed my purse and shoved it at me and hightailed it alone out of the examining room. She cried as the nurse called "Open the drawer by the door for your lollipop and stickers!" She cried fishing around in the treat drawer. Then, just as I was about to cry myself, she held up her stickers and announced "Princesses!" and immediately stopped crying.

What am I to take from this? Pick all that apply:

  • a) Parenting involves the never-ending realization that you can't protect your child from pain and may even be the agent of that pain
  • b) Sarah wants to go to Kindergarten *a lot*
  • c) We should sign ourselves up as conscientious vaccination objectors, tetanus be damned
  • d) Never underestimate the curative powers of a Disney cartoon printed on a piece of sticky paper
  • d2) Said curative powers are intensified if one's parents harbor an irrational hatred of Disney princesses.

Okay, Everybody: Say "Arrrrrr!"

A little "Fortunately, Unfortunately" story:

Fortunately, International Talk Like a Pirate Day is coming up!

Unfortunately, it's on a Sunday, so school librarians everywhere will miss the opportunity to read pirate books to impressionable youngsters.

Fortunately, Kate is having another Flash Fiction contest. And fortunately, it's in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day! And so, fortunately, we all get a chance to read and write terrrrrrific 55-word stories about pirates. And other things.

Unfortunately, I've been a blogging slacker and neglected to publicize it [or enter it] until now.

Fortunately, there are still 2 days left! So get writing, all 3 or 4 of you. All hands on deck and that kind of stuff.

Oh yeah, and me too.

Thanks, Kate!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Reason #541 to Love Sarah's Preschool

S [apropos of nothing, this morning]: You should never tell a dragon your true name.

me: That's very true. Where'd you learn that?

S: Mikey-baby [her teacher and the preschool's director] told me.

RW: He's right. It's very dangerous to tell a dragon your true name.

S: If I met a dragon, I would tell him my name is Bananaface.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

In which I go all meta

Hi. Sorry to disappear for a couple of days. I wasn't just being coy, honest-- I had an evening work thing last night and then actually came home and went to sleep! without cruising the web for hours and hours! I can see that if this bloglife is going to be part of my regular life there are going to have to be some Rules. Some Boundaries. As they keep saying is good for kids. Apparently it's good for me too, especially if I don't want to be found one day staring bugeyed and slack-jawed at the computer, surrounded by piles of dirty dishes [if I even remember to eat], having long since lost my job, my spouse and child oblivious because they're used to me disappearing into the blogosphere for days at a time. "Oh," RW will say when they interview her at the inquest, "It's true, she hadn't moved or spoken for a while, but she's always like that when she's blogging. I thought she was just reading a really long post."

But it's so much fun! There's so much good writing! I'm making friends! And it's writing, you know, I'm writing, that's a good thing, right? And, anyway, [grasping at the wispiest of straws,] it's sort of professional reading, I mean I do glance at a library site every once in a while...oh, wait, this one looks really good, I have to look at this one. Oh, and I've seen this person comment on other blogs! No, wait just a minute, I'll be there soon, I want to see what her site's like. Hee, this is really funny! I'll read you this one post.


Right. So. In honor of the Jewish New Year, I hereby make a few resolutions. I'm posting them here because, well, as I think I've mentioned, I actually have no self-discipline and this way I'll be embarrassed into keeping them. Because other people, at least those with site meters, will know.
  1. No blogging or checking blogs during work hours. That's 8 AM-4PM Pacific time. If I get in early I can browse around a little till 8.
  2. No blogging or surfing between dinner and Sarah's bedtime.
  3. No blogging after that till I at least do some dishes.
  4. No computer use on Friday night.
  5. Lights out by 1 AM. Midnight would be better, but say 1 if I actually have something to write.
Okay. I think I should be able to do all that for at least a week.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Our Own Little Bob Hope. Or is it Tristan Tzara?

When Sarah was a baby, maybe only three or four months old, she used to do this scary little thing where it sounded like she was gasping for air. RW and I would flutter around her, watching for her to turn blue or show other signs of distress, but the weird thing was that she always seemed to be smiling while she did the scary wheezy indrawn breath. Finally it dawned on us: she was laughing. That gasping was her little baby laugh. Ha, ha. Joke's on you, silly parents!

She's had a healthy, if occasionally mystifying, sense of humor ever since. Lately, though, she's been obsessed with being funny, even kind of jittery about it. She wanders around the house practicing her routines and chuckling nervously at herself. It's like being backstage at Catch a Rising Star. She's also taken to questioning us sharply whenever we say something vaguely sarcastic or teasing: "Are you kidding?" she barks, looking anxious. I get the feeling she's trying to get a handle on what humor is.

Last night she was over by her play table moving stuff around (her primary occupation of an evening) while doing her yammering/laughing routine with greater and greater intensity. Finally it was just too much for her not to share, and she came over to me, bursting with hilarity.

"Mommy!" she gasped between snorts of laughter. "Mommy! I have to tell you something funny!" She was laughing so hard she could barely get the words out. "Mommy...Mosquito bite Pope!" She doubled over in hysterics. "Mosquito bite Pope!" she repeated, for good measure. "Isn't that funny!?!" More hearty guffaws, which slowly faded as she checked me out; apparently my response was less than satisfactory. " that funny?"

I had to admit I guessed it was funny. (In an absurdist kind of way. But I left that part out.)

Relieved, she cranked up the laughter again, and exited as she had entered, chortling and mumbling. "Mosquito bite Pope! Mosquito bite Pope! I have to tell Mama! Ha, ha, ha! Mosquito bite Pope!"

What I can't figure out is where she ever heard the word "Pope." Not around here, that's for sure.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

On the Nerdy Librarian Front

A few links from Library Land:

This post from Michael McGrorty pretty much nails all us Literature Addicts. Someone e-mailed me a version of it a few years ago, but I never knew who wrote it. Now all is revealed.

A play that could have been written just for me, via Jessamyn at And it's coming to Seattle this fall! When my mom will be staying with us and can babysit!

And on the homefront, someone has at last blogrolled me! O joy, o rapture unforseen! Thanks Suzanne, I'm honored. I'd like to thank the Academy, etc. etc.

I do worry, though: is life (mine, anyway) only an endless search for validation via popularity? Will I never get over having been a nerd girl in junior high? is "checking blog stats" merely the grownup version of "counting little paper valentines in my mailbox?" Except I only got to do that once a year. I can check my stats any time! Hey, I think I'll go check them now...

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Yeah. Me too.

Hate to be obvious, but what else can I post about this morning? It's the elephant in the living room.

It was the second week of school and I had a nasty cold. There weren't any library classes until the afternoon, so the night before I'd called in sick for the morning. I would've called in for the whole day, but that afternoon was the kindergarteners' first library class and it didn't seem right to leave them with a sub.

So I was asleep at 7:30 Pacific time when my oldest friend M. called from St. Louis.

"I can't get to work," she said.

I thought she meant she was stuck in traffic.

"No, I'm at work, I just can't work. I can't do anything. Didn't you hear the news? A plane crashed into the World Trade Center this morning."

It was then that I uttered what was possibly the stupidest sentence ever to come out of my mouth. "Oh, my God! Was anyone hurt?"

In my defense: somehow I'd gotten the impression that the plane had hit early in the morning, before most people were at work. And I didn't know it had happened, as Sarah likes to say, on purpose. But still. I cringe every time I think of it.

M. filled me in on some of the facts, expressed her fervent hopes that this didn't mean we'd be going to war against Afghanistan [whereupon I continued my "idiot" motif by asking what Afghanistan had to do with anything], and we said goodbye.

RW came down from the attic loft, where she'd been sleeping for a while. (The idea was that she would catch up on sleep if she couldn't hear Sarah's crying, and Sarah would go back to sleep more easily if I went in to her at night instead of RW, but also we weren't getting along too well right then and were at the beginning of what turned out to be a very rough year.) She had a cold too, and was exhausted from just over a year of nursing, primary-parenting, and working.

"M. just called. A plane crashed into the World Trade Center this morning. It's all over the news."

"Ooeeerrrnnnhh," she groaned. "I feel rotten. Will you take Sarah when she wakes up?" She turned around and climbed back up the stairs.

The rest of the day is snippets: Playing with Sarah while she babbled and smiled and Bob Edwards talked urgently from the radio. Saying goodbye to RW and Sarah before I left for work that afternoon, then realizing as I closed the car door that I had no idea whether there were going to be any more attacks. Waving to my co-worker S. through the window between our desks, and her meaningful sigh and shrug.

The kindergarten library class was a mess. I was still sick; my head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. Everyone was trying not to let on about anything to the younger kids, but they must have felt the vibes because they were extra-wiggly and distractable. I couldn't find the book I'd been planning to read to them and went to my desk to look for it.

While I was rummaging in the piles of papers, and the kids were trying to wait quietly, I heard a plane. One single plane. All flights had been grounded, I'd heard on the radio. I looked out the windows that face south from the library, and saw it in the air over the playground.

I ducked. My knees just bent of their own accord and I hunched over net to my desk, like someone in a duck-and-cover drill from the 50's. The kids stared at me, wondering what kind of weirdo they had for a librarian. I looked back at them and couldn't think of a thing to say.

After a few seconds the plane passed and I stood up and went back to the story rug, trying like a dope to act like I hadn't done anything strange. I hadn't been able to find the book I wanted so I read a backup book. They listened okay. I showed them how to pick out books to borrow.

The kindergarteners got older and calmed down. They're in 3rd grade now and read like fiends. Sarah eventually weaned, and RW and I got more sleep and went to therapy and stopped fighting so much.

So, all things come to an end. Even this war, even this disastrous administration, will come to an end sometime. And our kids will feel about this day the way I feel about November 22, the day Kennedy was shot: oh, yeah, something happened today, didn't it? Something in history?

But right then, I didn't know that plane was going to just pass by. And for so many people three years ago, and for so many since then, it didn't.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Blogging for Books

Another contest! For details, click below right on the permanent "Blogging for Books" button, or follow this link for the current contest, which runs through September 13th. The theme is "Adaptation." And who hasn't had to adapt to something?

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Try this one at your next Scrabble Game

Hot on the heels of Proppiness [Reported by RW, who put Sarah to bed last night]:

RW: Here's some water for you.

S: Y-E-M. Yum!

RW: No, sweetie, Yum is Y-U-M. Y-E-M is, um, "Yem." That's not a word in English. [Side note: is it maybe a word in Yemenite? We don't know.]

S: Y-E-O. What's that?

RW: Yeo. Also not a word in English [She thought about "yeoman," but decided not to go there. There's only so much etymology you can do with a 4-year-old on your first school day back to work.]

S [Working hard for a stumper]: M-E-O-S-I-D-Y. What's that?

RW: Meosidy. Wow. That's a really good word. I don't think it's a real word, but it should be. What do you think it should mean?

S: What?

RW: It's sort of a cross between melody and prosody. [Then, snapping out of music-major reverie,] It also sounds like "meow." How about, the sound of your own cat's voice, and how you can tell your cat's voice from any other cat's voice? [RW glosses: "from the Greek root, meos, meaning 'to complain at the door.'" Thank you, RW.]

S: yeah. Meosidy. Meosidy. Meosidy.

She was so busy with her new word, she barely even said goodnight.

In other news: Yesterday was a triple-red-letter day. Not only was it my first day back with the kids, and RW's first day at her job with the students there, but it was Sarah's first day as a Dragonfly [picture this word written in shimmery golden letters]. Of the three of us, Sarah is generally agreed to have had the most momentous day. She's been waiting for this since she turned 2-- that's half her life. Dragonflies are the oldest group; they'd be the pre-K in a less hippy-dippy preschool. As it is, they get to go on special field trips and walks, do special projects, and their teacher is Mikey-baby, who is the boss of the whole school.

Sarah seems taller all of a sudden. It really is astonishing.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells

Do you ever get the feeling you are raising your kid in an alternate reality?

Reading Mir's post about singing "Hey Teetee" to the tune of "Hey Mickey" while she waved her son's blanket around [can't explain, go read it, come to think of it go read everything she writes [then give her a job, but not one with so much overtime she stops blogging; I don't think I could stand that]] got me thinking about how we do that all the time with Sarah. She's gotten so she can pick it up, and will demand "How does that really go?" whenever we adapt a song to fit something that's going on, even if she's never heard the original.

I'm starting to wonder if she will be forever twisted by this. She'll be hanging out with her new college friends, watching, say, a rerun of "Secret Agent" in college on whatever futuristic version of DVD exists in 2019: when she hears the theme song she'll immediately be transported in Proustian manner back to her infancy and without even having time to think about it she'll be singing along to the theme song, only with the words of that old favorite, "Diaper Action Girl," which starts out "There's a girl who lives a life of danger/every half an hour we have to change her," and goes downhill from there. And poof! So much for any semblance of a social life for our girl.

Not all of them are so, um, scatalogical. I'm particularly fond of The Carpool Lane Song:

We, are the carpool, my friends
Weeee'll, keep on driiiiving, to the end
Weee are the caaaaarpoool, weeee are the caaaaarpoool,
No time for traaaffic, for we are the caaarpool,
Of the worrrrrrrrrld.

Not exactly Gilbert & Sullivan, but very satisfying to bellow as you pass all the poor sods in the single-occupancy lanes.

(This free and easy attitude towards songs is a family tradition: when my brother and I were kids, my dad composed a barely-tuneful, barely-rhyming anthem entitled "Hail to Thee, Hunter College School of Social Work" which we chorused on cue every time we passed his alma mater.)

I know we're not alone in this. What songs are you warping your kids' minds with?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

If I start writing now, when I'm not really rested, it could upset my thinking, which is not good at all

Title courtesy of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which brought us the only song I know of about a book report.

I have to write a review tonight, and deliver it orally to my librarians' review group [of which I am the chair-elect] tomorrow morning. It's 11:30 PM now. I remember this feeling: it's the lovely Homework Procrastination Panic I thought I'd seen the last of when I finished school. Hah!

Why did I ever pick up this book with its little "oral review" slip and fill the slip out? Why did I agree to be chair-elect? [I ran unopposed, I was recruited by the current chair, no one else wanted the job.] And why, oh why, did I not jot down my thoughts on this somewhat difficult book right after I read it? I always mean to. I hardly ever do. I don't know how those other people do it, the ones who show up month after month with a dozen or more completed reviews. Maybe they don't have children? Maybe they don't have a blogging addiction? [I'd be willing to bet on that one.] Maybe they have a tiny smidgen more self-discipline than I do? Yeah, that's probably it.

And this book is the hardest kind to review: it's not terrible, it's not great, it's not even mediocre, it's just... off. I started out thinking I was going to like it, and then it went on too long and was too rambly, and there were some cringe-inducing elements that overshadowed the rest of it for me. But it's not exactly bad. When I think about the author and publishers reading it, I want to be kind: it's well-written, in a working-hard-at-my-craft kind of way; it's on an important subject; some kids will probably like it. And goddess knows it is a book, and I notice I haven't written any of those myself, so who am I to throw stones at this author's painstakingly constructed glass edifice?

But of course that line of thinking is bad bad news when you're reviewing a book: when I think of my fellow-librarians depending on me for advice on whether to buy it, I want to say: don't! It's long; it's got a flat tone that put me off; and the author doesn't seem to know what age group she's writing for. Also, the cover is drab and no kid will willingly pick it up.

On the other hand, what if it wins some big award after I've panned it? I'll be embarrassed forever, like those publishers who rejected Hemingway or whoever. [Not that anyone aside from these few dozen librarians and the publisher will ever read my review. But still.]

And, even worse, what if it is really good, and I was just in a bad mood when I read it and so couldn't see its inherent quality? What if I'm a shallow, bitter person, and can't appreciate great literature when it kicks me in the face? What if [horrors] I have to read it again, all 172 pages, just to make sure?

Can't do that. Nope. Can't read it again.

I am steadfastly resisting the temptation to pop over to Amazon and see what other people think about it. Amazon: the book reviewer's Cliff Notes. No: I will prevail! I will be brutally honest on paper, while still acknowledging the book's good points! And I will go