Saturday, September 7, 2013


Given that Kindergarten begins on Monday and brains are important, I give you two informative dramatizations of zombie behavior. So you will know what to look for.

I expect calls if displays of this kind spill out into the classroom.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hive Mind

Sometimes it's no fun to feel like you have to hold everything together; that you can't allow yourself a break-down. Because you have decided that everyone else around you is too busy, and you can just take care of it--all of it--yourself, and don't be a bother, and you're strong. Because all it takes is one time for someone to tell you that they "need your support" or "can't deal with someone else's insecurities right now," and you shut down. But you sometimes feel like you are built around a core of tears, and you've sunk that core so deep that you don't think you will ever get it out. Plus, asking for help is a weakness, not to mention that it allows others to control you on some level.

Anyone else ever feel like that? No?


Back in early May, we noticed red spots on FJ's arm. They looked like hives, but having never seen one in real life, I wasn't sure. They seemed to respond to topical Benadryl, but they also could have faded on their own overnight.

They kept coming back. They didn't seem to be related to anything in his environment, and we had not introduced any new foods, activities, or products. The first thought is, of course, allergies, and allergies piss me off. I asked his pediatrician about it at his 5-year appointment, and she said that some kids can get hives from being jostled or bumped. The bump causes mast cells to release histamine, and hives form. He's pretty active, so this seemed plausible. Like Ross Geller, I bruise like a peach.*

Finally last week, I decided to take him back to the doctor. The spots had become chronic and didn't seem to be responding to the Benadryl as well, if they ever were. I was floating uneasily on a sea of unspoken misgivings: we had been too lucky with his health, and now he had some kind of underlying auto-immune condition.

Turns out, this condition is relatively common, though it can be auto-immune. Or TB. Or hepatitis. (Sea of Misgivings sloshing.) It's called chronic urticaria, and our pediatrician does not like it because we really don't know what causes it. 99% of the time, there's nothing. It could have been a virus that sets off a of histamine loop, and after the virus goes away, the histamine loop can continue for awhile (She has one kid who has been going through this for 6-8 months). She does think FJ's spots are "weird" (thanks, kid), and it's odd that they don't itch. Being cautious and covering all the bases, she ordered a blood test.

At FJ's 5-year appointment, he had two shots covering 7 diseases: Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis, Measles, Rubella, and Chicken Pox. It was quite upsetting for him; he screamed and cried. A kid doesn't care that this is going to be quick and it will keep him healthy. Heck, all you have to do is look at the front page of the paper to see how good even grown-ups are at long-term and cause/effect thinking.

On our way to the clinic, he asked if he had to get a shot, and I said, "No, but you might have to have a blood test." He was scared. He kept whispering in my ear to ask the nurse and ask the doctor about it.  How about now? Now? NOW? When he heard that he was having one for sure, he started crying, and he cried pretty much the whole way up to the lab and then while we were waiting. (Skies darkening, sea of misgivings churning.) He then asked me to make up a funny story about a raccoon, which I did (raccoon lives in an apartment building with a bunch of squirrels who think he has stolen their nuts), and he listened to that until they called his name.
And he started crying again. (I don't like the sea. I'm not crazy about boats, you know. I'd rather be in the water. It's a control thing.)

Once we decided which arm to use (both arms looked good), a second tech had to come in and help pry that arm from my chest. He's quite strong, and he was wailing and sobbing. I felt so bad for him. It's one of the many times that we can't help our kids. This thing has to happen, there's nothing I can do about it. So you take in all their stress and fear along with your own stress and fear; there was a pressure around my heart. Constriction.

He wailed, "Is this going to hurt?" and they said not as much as a shot, and had me affirm that this is true (I do happen to agree. Shots are worse). He was still crying right through the poke, and they said, "That's it, now we just get the blood." As blood flowed from his little arm into the first of many vials, a bright red worm, he stopped crying and started charming. Telling stories, talking about the dead squirrel in the back yard, the raccoon in the apartment building... He finished with all three lab techs listening to him as he held court and left with a Kit Kat Bar.

We went to the beach.

The blood tests are numerous, and so far all have come back (mostly) normal or negative, with a few variations that a certain nurse I know thinks are probably not a problem. I have not heard from the doctor yet, but she may be waiting for the last test to come in. Oh, and also the poop.

Did I mention the poop?

I get to bring in poop. Three samples total. One every other day. I have little vials with a fixative and spoons built into the lid and a pot for him to poop in. He's not looking forward to this either, and I suspect he might be holding out on me as I have yet to get a sample. The one time he pooped, we were in a huge hurry, and I could not set up the whole system.

In the evening, we went to a music/movie festival at which daddywhumpus' band was playing. It's kid-friendly and really fun, and I had no chance to wind down, breathe, stop the uneasy sea from roiling. When Pete was done playing, I stepped into the pub for a glass of wine. Then, while texting my mother about the appointment on the way home, I started crying. By the time we were getting ready for bed, I was barely holding it together. Then Pete said, "Why are you having a break down?" and I snapped it all back into control as best as I could and left the bathroom.

Sometimes it's no fun to feel like you have to hold everything together.

*I recently played "Friends" trivia with two girlfriends, and I really thought that this game would know nothing I did not. Actually, I simultaneously feared this and was proud of it, you know, like when you say something you do is nerdy and you are such a geek, but you really think it's cool? In any case, one question asked about Ross's middle name, and we could not guess it. The game (and Wikipedia) says it's "Eustace," and I call bullshit. Someone, help me out here. Which episode revealed that?

Thursday, May 30, 2013


People often ask me how "all this" is going, meaning my continued unemployment leading to becoming a stay-at-home mom, and the short answer is, "OK. And I know that I will look back at this and be thankful that I had this time with my son."

(I tell myself this now as I look up, and he is dragging a ribbon of string cheese across the dashboard of the car*... Remember, you will LOOK BACK and be thankful. You don't have to be thankful every bloody minute of the day, and it was smart of me to put a package of baby wipes in the car.**)

The long answer is long and I rarely have time when I can sort out my thoughts. And it's long.*** 

But I think people only have to start worrying about me if I show up with those dreadful stick figure families stuck onto my car window. Then help is needed.

*what the hell are kids thinking? Oh, and we are parked. My brain has not disintegrated that much yet.

**you never outgrow your need for baby wipes. They are useful not only for humans but for the interiors of automobiles.

***did I mention the longness?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


babywhumpus turned five years old today. It's the first year he has been majorly aware of the event beforehand and majorly excited about it. For an entire week.

It's an interesting day for us. We are so thankful for him; for his health and vitality and his continued interesting behavior. But we can't say it was a great day. Both May 28 and May 29 were fraught with fear and worry. Our son was born at 25 and one-half weeks gestation, and when we were on the way to the hospital, I really didn't think we would ever come home with a baby.

As we hit this milestone, I'm looking back to those two days.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finn just asked me to buy two fruits that he subsequently refused to eat, so I sold him to the circus.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Frailty, thy name is Minnesotan

It snowed last night. While we were sleeping, a soft blanket of fresh, white flakes covered the brown dreck of early spring. Over the dog poop, string cheese wrappers, cigarette packs, and other accumulated refuse of a season of neglect.

At 5:00 this morning, I heard the plows go by, but I didn't need that scraping sound to know that we would wake up to the solid form of precipitation most bemoaned by Minnesotans. I could tell from the quality of the light coming in through the curtains in Finn's room, where I had retired after one too many kicks to the back by himself.

In a few hours, I would wake to wailing and gnashing of teeth on various social media platforms as Midwesterners prove how not-resilient we are. We talk a good talk, but when it comes down to it, we don't cope very well with winter. Or summer. Or weather.

To be fair, it's most likely a condition of humanity in general. It's easy to complain about the weather, and most people are going to agree with you; then you can wallow in common misery. Fun!

But it's truly bizarre, in some ways. There is nothing we can do about it, so crying to the heavens about the cold or the snow is about as useful as, well, crying to the heavens about anything. Weather is truly, madly out of our hands. We have tools to cope with it, such as outerwear, sunblock, and indoor climate control, but the weather will be what it will be.

As I sit on my livingroom floor playing pretend kitten with my son, I can look out the windows at a grey sky and rooftops still striped with white, and I know that it is spring. We are not at the start of a long haul, nor are we trapped in the middle of what seems like endless cold. It is spring. The lilies and irises are poking up next to the garage. The ice that choked the driveway is almost gone. The earth has a smell of darkness and possibility to it.

This is spring. And it has snowed. The snow does not make it winter; we do. Indeed, it will snow more this evening and into the night.

This is my song of Shut the Fuck Up. Minnesotans, this is Minnesota. I think you have met before.

Just think. In a few short months, you can be bitching endlessly about how hot you are.

Won't that be fun?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Get Dressed

Sometimes it’s important to force yourself to get dressed. Say, if you are going to the bank or the grocery store which, O Brave New World, we can do in one place in America. But what I really mean is, if you are mothering full-time, it can be all-too-easy to stay braless in your PJs the entire day while you lurch around your house, feeling schlumpier and lazier as the day goes by.

Today, for instance.

I just got dressed.

It’s 11:00 a.m.

I spent the morning working on things for daddywhumpus’ band, and once I finished, I was feeling disorganized and fractured. I realized that I needed to exert whatever control I could over my immediate environment to restore order. The best place to start is with the immediate environment of Me, which means change out of my extra large Jameson tee shirt and yoga pants and put on actual clothes. Sure, they are yesterday’s clothes, but I didn’t toss fish or frack for oil yesterday, so I figure it’s fine if the people at the post office see me in yesterday’s ensemble. They will never have to know.

The next environment, which is much less within my control, is babywhumpus. Time to get him dressed, which involves containing the whirlwind and focusing. The easiest thing to do when I am feeling frazzled is to get distracted from one task while I am trying to accomplish another, and this is when I wind up talking to myself. daddywhumpus does it the more often, but he tends to do it when other people are around, so I hear muttering and say, “What?” when it was really meant for his brain only. For me, the monologue is usually internal:

"OK, go get clothes for Finn. Oh, look, there are a couple of dirty socks. I should put them into the laundry and I have not made his bed yet so I should do that, too. No, wait, you ridiculous bitch, just get the clothes and get him dressed. That’s what you are doing. Those other things can wait. All right, I have the clothes, I’ll just take these dirty clothes over to the laundry basket; it will only take a minute. FINE! Go ahead! You never listen to me."

And here I am. He’s still not dressed.

But I’m working a new approach where I don’t do every little thing for him. He pretty much treats me like a servant, handing me his trash and ordering me around. This isn’t Downton Abbey, you little fucker, so take your trash to the bin yourself. I try to handle it a little more diplomatically, of course, saying, “You know where the trash is, you can take it there yourself.”

Consequently, I brought out his clothes and laid them at his feet with a, “Can you get dressed, please, honey?”

“First I have to do this thing with the keys.” (There’s always something First.)

He did the thing with his keys, and started on something with a ball and Hot Wheels track before I even noticed. I gave him a gentle nudge, told him he did the thing with the keys, so now it’s time to get dressed. He stopped, put the track down, got his clothes, and went into the kitchen, I presume to get dressed.

“Hey mama, you forgot to put the apricot and peaches in the basement.”

“I didn’t forget, I just didn’t do it.”

“Yeah, but you forgot.”

Just get dressed, Junior.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How Rock Starts

Not with a bang, but in the kitchen.


I told him he couldn't watch "Casper the Friendly Ghost" while I was packing lunch, he could only watch it while I cleaned the catbox. He stomped to his room from whence came the sounds of crying. Within minutes, this:

That's it, boy. Pour all your despair, pain, and disappointment into your craft. It will serve you well.


February, 2013

Our house is small. 840 square feet. And this is one reason we never had a baby monitor. We served as living, breathing baby monitors, and our son is not an independent sleeper.

In all likelihood, he is a monster of our own creation, assembled from the criminal wreckage of our psyches, but in the end it doesn't matter how we arrived here. We are here, and we are awake. And likely to remain so for quite some time.

Oh, it's definitely improved. Sometimes he makes it until 6 a.m. Every once and a while he makes it even farther: I awaken before he does and assume he has suffered late-onset SIDS. But mostly, it's between 12:30 and 3:30 a.m. when we hear the bed creak. Those bare feet hit the floor, and he climbs into bed with us.

Tonight, I was in the kitchen, resisting all attempts to post snark and vague allusions to my mental state on Facebook*, when I heard babywhumpus crying in his room at the farthest corner of the house (see above: 840 square feet). That’s usually “bad dream” territory and is not common when considered in the panoply of his awakenings, so I went to him. As I am by myself while daddywhumpus is out of town tending to his Big Fat Life, I picked up my sweaty, sad boy and placed him directly into my bed, moving my base of operations there for the night. He went back to sleep easily. Indeed, I doubt he will remember it in the morning; and I found myself wondering what he dreamed about.

What are the scary dreams of children? Monsters, abandonment, darkness? Are they much different, in essence, than the scary dreams of grown-ups? He never can tell us, neither at the time nor in the morning. Though in the cold light of day, he will often make something up, using bits from his surroundings and videos he has seen. Aliens, zombies, brains...

I am guessing the themes are the same, as I don’t believe he is a sociopath, and his worries are universal human ones. The main difference being that as adults we have accumulated experiences that make our nightmares more vivid. Our brain hones the ability to target itself at its most vulnerable and goes in for the kill. We have the details to really, super scare ourselves.

When we wake up in a sweat, and in our unconscious, our partner has left us, we remember the scathing words, the recrimination, the self doubt, the smell of toast in the room, and we tell our partner, who has not left, all about it as they sit in front of us buttering toast and wondering if he or she should feel bad that they dream-left us. We know that it’s all crazy, but we still need them to say, “Oh, honey, I would never do that,” and pat us on the shoulder as they hand us our coffee.

*Thank Hades there was no social media when I was in my twenties. Or early thirties.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I told him not to do it, and I told him that if he did do it, he had to clean it all up afterwards, and it was going to make a big mess. So he did it, a few times, and then he wanted to move on to something else. I told him that first, he had to clean up all the stuff he did, and he commenced whining. I explained that I had warned him of the consequences prior to his actions, he said, "I know," and did it anyway, so now he had to deal with the mess. He grudgingly started picking it up. Eventually, he complained that it was taking too long. I repeated my small speech on the consequences of his actions and agreed to help him. Soon, he said, "This is making me tired." I told him that if he was tired, he could go and take a nap. He stomped off to his bed. After a few minutes, he came out into the hallway and looked at the floor, where the mess remained. He looked at me. I said that he still had to clean up his mess, I wasn't going to do it for him. He whined and flopped onto the wall. I said he should just go and lay down if he wanted to act that way. He is now in his room where he is fake crying with brief bursts of quiet to see if I have relented and am approaching his room.

This is the first time I have had to write in weeks.

And I will still have to clean up most of the mess.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Time Minion

It's winter 2009 and I am typing on my iPod touch while watching sitcom reruns on DVD and my infant sleeps on me.

Oh wait. It's winter 2013 and I am typing on my iPhone while streaming sitcom reruns on Netflix and my preschooler sleeps on me.

Four years later, and here I am. Pinned to the couch.

I am going to start a club called Underachievers Anonymous.*

*Fortunately, I am an underachiever, so I don't have to worry about capitalizing on this idea.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Go Poop

The following is a transcript of an actual event.

I have to go poop!

Privacy please.

You’d better get to the couch fast.

Mama, why don’t you shave?

Mama, what is that you’re putting on your hands?

Hey Mama, day care got an R2D2 toy. Jandro’s got an R2D2 costume.

Mama, Jandro also got a little R2D2 things for Halloween.

sings "Take me out to the ballgame."

whisper sings "I sing a song while I poop."

sings "Take me out to the ballgame."

squeak sings "Take me out to the ballgame."

Hey mama, mama! sings in silly voice ranging from low to high in tune of "Take me out to the ball game"  Take me out to the ballgame, if you give me some jelly I’ll throw down on somebody’s face on the stinky team of football stinky football team not my favorite buy me some peanuts and cracker jack one two three four five one two three four five six, six seven eight nine ten eleven I say (unintelligible)

sings “Deep in the hundred acre wood,” intentionally mixing up the words.

transfers into "Take me out to the ballgame"

Done, mama!

Mama, I’m done!

Friday, January 4, 2013

In Which I Set Impossibly High Standards for Myself Thereby Insuring the Necessity for Repeating this Process Same Time, Next Year

New Year's Resolutions blow. So I'm keeping it simple. And a month late.

1. Complete 2012. I'm not kidding. This includes books, essays, knitting, art, house projects, and any other random thing I started in the year previous to 2013. As this will consume the better part of a year, this is my only resolution aside from #2.

2. Buy new socks and underwear and throw the old ones away*. Seriously, what is wrong with me?

*with a few exceptions. Ladies, you know what I am talking about.