Jan 20 2015

Much Mulch

Yesterday our Scout group participated in an MLK Day of Service event organized by the East Bay Regional Park District—the 23rd Oaklanders, along with lots of other volunteers, helped spread mulch and pick up trash at the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Park here in Oakland. Here’s a pic I snapped of Robin and Davy attacking the mulch pile:

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Two hours later we had that whole pile spread out, along with two others just like it, and the kids got to walk around a bit and enjoy the shoreline. Several of the Scouts were disappointed that there wasn’t enough trash for them to find!


Jan 9 2015

I Have Three Kids

So the other day, walking to pick up Davy from preschool, I had this exchange with a nice clipboard-carrying young person:

Nice Clipboard-Carrying Young Person: “Excuse me ma’am, do you have a moment to talk about…”

Me: “I HAVE THREE KIDS.”

Nice Clipboard-Carrying Young Person (with evident confusion): “Oh! Um, have a good day.”

Now, what I meant to convey was: “No, I’m sorry, I do not have a moment to talk about solar energy, the humpback whales, or Local Bond Measure 42Q, because I have three children, only one of which you see me pushing in this baby stroller right this second. I also have a four year old who is waiting for me to come pick him up from preschool, so I can’t be late. And in addition to that, I have a seven-and-a-half-year-old who managed to convince me just twelve minutes ago that he is now old enough to stay home by himself while I dash out to pick up the preschooler, but now I’m second-guessing that decision and imagining all the terrible things that can happen to a seven-and-a-half-year-old left alone for twelve minutes—which will of course actually be half an hour by the time I get back home with the preschooler and the baby in tow. So you see, I’m fretting and I’m stressed and I’m rushing, all because I have an extra two children that you don’t see here.”

But what came out was: “I HAVE THREE KIDS.”

And the beautiful thing is that the apparent non-sequitur actually somehow conveyed everything I really needed to communicate in that moment, which probably boils down to “I am dangerously unstable and you should not attempt any further interactions with me.” So now I’m thinking about all the other situations in which I HAVE THREE KIDS would constitute a quick and irrefutable way to end the conversation.

“Hi, I’m calling on behalf of a market research company–”
“I HAVE THREE KIDS.”

“Have you heard the good news about our Lord and–”
“I HAVE THREE KIDS.”

“Excuse me, lady, but you’re standing on my–”
“I HAVE THREE KIDS.”

“Ma’am, you really can’t go wandering down the freeway wearing your bathrobe and swigging from a bottle of gin.”
“I HAVE THREE KIDS.”

See? It’s pretty much foolproof!


Dec 31 2014

New Year’s Eve

Usually I kind of try to block out the knowledge of how lucky I am, because in the moments when I’m fully aware, I’m just paralyzed by it. I have a warm and cozy home. I have three loving boys. I have a handsome, kind, devastatingly intelligent husband who has somehow been bespelled into thinking that I’m Venus risen from the foam. I did nothing to deserve everything that’s come to me, and there’s no way I can ever truly be worthy of it. And some part of my brain is always aware that my happy life is built on a foundation of fragile ice—one car accident, one malignant tumor, and we’d all be plunged into the dark and frigid fathomless depths.

I look at what at I have, and I’m grateful. I look at what could be, and I’m afraid. I light candles, I speak words of thanks, because fundamentally I know that I don’t deserve what I have, and at any moment it could all be taken away.

Maybe this is a darker New Year’s benediction than is customary, but it’s how I always feel as the year balances on its finest point. I understand the Aztec urge to sacrifice. The next face of the sun, the extension of blessing, how can it possibly come for free? But it does, or does not, regardless of what we offer up.

I’ll hold my breath. I’ll wish for life and light to continue. I’ll kiss the ones I love.

Happy New Year. I have been blessed, and I give you all what blessing I can.


Dec 30 2014

Happy New Year!

I hope all of you are enjoying the holidays—we spent Christmas Day traveling, as the kids hadn’t been back to see Pops and Mo in Arkansas for several years, and the only remotely affordable plane tickets we could find were those that had us flying on Xmas. Plane travel with three small children is never fun, but I will say that it could have been much worse. And seeing the family was delightful! The boys love their uncles, and of course they love their Pops and Mo.

And I liked seeing Fayetteville again! Every time I get back for a visit it’s changed enormously, but some things are always the same.

I snapped this pic of my kids exploring one of my favorite sites in Fayetteville: the “Point 7″ art installation in Wilson Park. (You can juuuuust see Robin and Davy poking their heads up over the wall.) I loved this little play area when I was a kid: it’s like a Maurice Sendak book brought to life. A castle with a moat and bridge, gargoyle faces, mosaic decorations—and everything twisted or mis-proportioned in a goblinish sort of way. If I ever have the kind of money that would allow me to become a great patroness of the arts, I’d like to bring the sculptor (Frank Williams) to Oakland and have him make something similar here.


Dec 22 2014

Important Facts About the Food Pyramid

Davy: “Are oranges healthy?”
Me: “You shouldn’t JUST eat oranges. But yes, they are good for you.”
Davy: “Is orange juice healthy?”
Me: “Not really! If you just squeeze the juice out, you get a lot of sugar and not as much of the stuff your body needs. Eating fruit keeps you healthy but too much juice is not good for your body.”
Robin: “Vegetables are healthy! And so is soup! And cookies are…?”
Davy: “VEGETABLES.”


Dec 6 2014

Leading Questions

Robin: “Dad sometimes says bad words.”
Me: “Yes, sometimes.”
Robin: “Like…?”
Me: “Hmm, I don’t know. Shoot?”
Robin: “No, not that one!”
Me: “Darn?”
Robin: “No!”
Me: “Dangnabbit?”
Robin: “No!”
Me: “Jiminy Christmas?”
Robin: “No!”
Me: “Oh, then I don’t know which bad words you mean.”
Robin: “The bad word for poop!”
Me: “Oh, THAT one.”
Robin: “Which is…?”
Me: “I’m not going to say THAT! It’s a bad word!”


Dec 1 2014

Subjective vs. Objective

Davy: “Four is not a lot.”

Me: “Well, it depends on context. Like, in the context we’re talking about right now—which is the number of oranges you have already eaten, and whether I should give you another orange—four is kind of a lot.”

Davy: “No. One hundred million is a lot.”


Nov 28 2014

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Copious leftovers, and nothing to do but lounge around all day and nibble. Yesterday, today, and every day, I am thankful for the amazing gifts this world has given me–most of all for Sam, the boys, and each and every one of you reading this message: my far-flung family and friends.


Nov 12 2014

Hallowe’en 2014: An Historical Re-enactment

Soooo…I didn’t get any good pictures from Hallowe’en. This led to a highly unfortunate state of affairs where some of the grandparents whose anonymity we shall here preserve (*cough* Nanita *cough*) were speaking with their friend Cricket, and Cricket had soooooo many adorable pictures of her grandchildren in costume, and Nanita our hypothetical grandparent didn’t have any pictures to show in return.

I have been informed that this situation is unacceptable, and I do humbly apologize to all those affected by the mis-steps of The Management. In partial recompense for your pain and suffering, here is a belated picture of Robin as “Godzilla,” Davy as “King Ghidorah” (a three-headed dragon and sometime frenemy to Godzilla), and Sol as “The Pirate of Monster Island.” (Big shout-out to Biz who actually sewed the pirate costume, complete with adorable stuffed parrot on the shoulder, for her son Silas—we were lucky enough to inherit it as a hand-me-down!)

You can click the picture for a bigger version:

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And as a bonus I also give you this candid snap, titled “Mama, I Picked These For You.”

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Oct 28 2014

Flash Fiction: The Gay Bulgur

All right, Sam sent me this, and I couldn’t resist:

Neil Gaiman is a beloved and best-selling author and an upcoming guest on Wits. Neil’s tremendous imagination can be found in novels, short stories, graphic novels, theater, and film. There is no one like Neil Gaiman.

Or is there?

No, probably not. Still, we invite you to try and fail to be like Neil. Wits proudly presents …Submit your worst Neil Gaiman knock-off story. It needs to be very short, no more than 30 seconds read out loud, because Neil himself(!) will be reading the best/worst entries live on stage at our Wits taping on November 8th. Use all the Sandmen, gods, monsters, angels, and oceans at the ends of lanes that you wish, just make sure it’s very very bad. The deadline is November 5th at 9pm, enter as often as you wish. There are no prizes beyond the deep satisfaction that comes with knowing you’re the author of the worst Neil Gaiman-esque short fiction in the world.

So here’s my entry:

“The Gáe Bolg,” the girl said, enunciating very clearly, as if she thought I was rather dim. “It’s the legendary weapon of the Irish warrior Cú Chulainn, except hardly anybody knows what it actually WAS. Supposedly it was made from the bones of a sea monster, and he threw it with his toes–and if you got hit with it, the barbs went all through your body and killed you.”

“I don’t care about any gay bulgur,” I said, struggling feebly against my bonds. “Or gay farro, or gay wheatberries, or anything. I just wanted to sell you a fine set of knives at a subscription price.”

“But that’s just it, I have my own already,” said the girl. And then she took off her shoes.