Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Better in 2015

That is my goal and my resolution.  I've already done the kind of resolution-y things I would always resolve to do at the new year and then not do.  I see people I enjoy on the regular and I get regular exercise.  Those are big ones.  I made the doctor's appointments I've needed for years.  I think I'm hitting the balance between working hard at my job and not too hard.  I'm enjoying the company of my daughter and she is enjoying my company.  I know 4 is hard for many kids, but 4 is treating LB great.

2015 will be a year of resolution.  By 2016, I should be living in my own place with LB.  I will be divorced.  Hopefully I will still be running and writing.  Hopefully I will be dating and I will feel like I have a good community.

Where this blog fits in I'm not quite sure.  I'm writing very little here because I've been working on off-line writing projects that are more satisfying for me right now, and also because with everything I write here I need to think about what a family court judge would think.  B and I are both committed to joint custody and co-parenting, but it would be stupid to pretend that I'm not parenting in public on this blog.

(As I write this LB is singing a song she made up about "LB and mommy and mama have family time," what a cuteapuss!)

Monday, December 8, 2014

PW: Goofus and Gallant

I am actually planning a post on life with an awesome four year old, but for now click on over for unending marital crisis.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Now we are four

I think I'll always have that little baby in my mind when I think of how amazing she is now.  At four, LB had a friends party and loved giving out Hello Kitty plates.  Her favorite animal is the giraffe.  She loves puzzles and suddenly gone from struggling with a four piece interlocking puzzle to being able to do a big puzzle on her own.  She likes to wear sundresses, shorts, and t-shirts even as winter closes in.  When she excited she does a little running skip and jump and looks like a tiny blond fairy.  She needs mamma and mommy and her blanket "bit,"and wants to be held and hugged and kissed.  She plays babysitter, which requires a mom, baby, and babysitter: the mom goes to work, and the baby tells her not to be long, and the babysitter says mom with be home soon.  She likes daycare as long as she doesn't have to stay to late in the afternoon.  The other parents say she is always sunny and happy.  She likes to watch Frozen and Babe.  She's memorized Richard Scarry's Bunny book, and it is the cutest thing ever to hear her say "Angora rabbits have soft cuddly fur."

Monday, November 3, 2014

Preemie Memories

November is Prematurity Awareness month, for what it's worth.  In my writing class, I did an exercise describing an object with sentimental meaning, and describe it for five days without looking back to see what I had written previously:

It fits in the palm of her hand.  A perfect impression, the plaster only crumbling along one edge.  How could feet that small belong to a person?  The tiny lines and creases preserved.  The plaster is grey, but the memory is pink feet.  Tiny human pink feet already scarred with needle holes.  Pink feet against a background of florescent lights, machines beeping, digital numbers rising and falling on monitors. the footprints sit in plaster, in a box, in tissue paper.

Wrapped in pink tissue paper in a closet on a shelf in a crate in another box, in another box.  “It must be in here.” Something so important must be here where it should be.  She digs past the vacuum cleaner with the canister that crashes off, past the wrapping paper, past the weights.  It’s not in the torn cardboard box, not in the shopping bag, but in the orange crate.  She digs, unpacks, and lifts.  Uncovered.  A tiny plaster cast of two feet. Perfect feet with lines and creases.  Like human feet, in tissue, in a box, in a box, in plaster

The footprints fit in her hand.  Gray plaster in the shape of a scallop shell, the impression of the feet creased and veined.  She imagines what she did not see.  The nurse, name forgotten, releases the side panel on the isolette.  She strokes the baby's head and moves the wires to the side.  Her gloved hands lift the baby's feet.  Deftly into the plaster and back out.  Did the nurse sing or coo? Did she rock a startled baby?  The footprints don’t remember.

Tiny footprints preserved in plaster—gray toes and lines and creases like real feet.  The real feet attached to the baby were pink and in motion, scarred by needles, taped down, glowing with a pulse ox, kicking and pushing.  The plaster feet stay still and silent.

Footprints in a scallop shell.  Tiny feet preserved in gray, toes and lines and creases, perfect and silent.  “Mama, mama, mama” four years later she doesn’t sleep at bedtime.  Dirty feet in purple butterfly flipflops as the leaves fall.  Chipped nail polish feet in motion kicking and crunching leaves.  Dirty feet thump and run overhead long past bedtime. Plaster feet stay wrapped in tissue paper in a box in a box in a closet.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The giraffe doesn't fall far from the tree

LB was a giraffe in a sea of Elsas and it was good. We went trick or treating on historic Benefit street, more for the adults than the tired child, but she was still charming, and said all the things she was supposed to say to strangers who gave her candy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"The cold never bothered me anyway": a post brought to you by Wonderful Wednesday

LB has declared herself for Team Frozen and she also has decided that she only wears sundresses despite it being October in New England.  I can't say I've been very gracious about the situation, but I'll admit she's cute.

I bought these Dr. Marten's chelsea boots and I think I'm in love.  These are by far the butchest item of clothing I own, and since I was wearing a pink coat and red shoes and coming dangerously close to twee, that's probably a good thing.  Also I walked three miles while wearing these and suffered only a vaguely worrisome numbness in one foot, no bleeding blisters like back in the day.

Today was blustery, but LB and I got to school and back home okay with only some light rain and strong wind.  Now it's raining like crazy with thunder and lightening and it's very cozy to be in here and not out there.

Sometimes I feel happy, sometimes I feel sad.  This past weekend was great.  I had a friend in town and Providence appointed herself very well.  The weather was lovely, the city was charming, the food was good, and the conversation was excellent.  One of the best things about my current situation, has been checking back into friendships, rediscovering what kind and interesting people I know and how much I enjoy their company.

Thanks for the prompt Amanda

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fun with Children

Just to keep it real, LB is intermittently shrieking as I write this post.

It was a good LB weekend.  It didn't start that well when B rolled in at 11:30am from where evs'* after planning that we would have family breakfast and get an early start for the pumpkin patch.  But we saw it through and did our duty to our child, and ate some New York System hot wieners for our troubles.

We went to PRONK, which was great!  I think last year, LB wouldn't have been into it-too loud and weird.  But this year she didn't want to leave and we even got to march for a bit.  Next year we'll follow the parade downtown and watch some of the performances.

LB has been playing a game I call in my head "Ebola Clinic." It involves patients with tummy aches who are moved by cart to a hospital made from a converted shed and then locked inside.  When Fisher Price comes out with their own Ebola Clinic, don't say I didn't warn you.

And of course there was the obligatory pumpkin patch.  Amazingly we have pumpkin patch pictures for every year beginning when LB was in utero.  This year's trip was a good one.  LB ran around like a real child.  She scavenged animal feed off the ground, and had strangers sharing with her, and then tried to convince the strangers to feed the llamas.  We bought her an ice cream cone filled with animal feed and she actually fed it to a goat, and it was amazing.

LB still has her shrieking, screaming, annoying times, but we've been getting along so well.  Maybe I can only handle one source of angst in my life at a time, and right now it's not LB.  It's also easier now that she can talk more and tell me what's wrong (even if it's totally irrational).  Good times.

*In this phase of our separation she is free to spend her nights as she pleases....not going to rant....about anything...

Monday, September 29, 2014

That Time I Unfollowed My Wife on Facebook

Like Jr. High-aged couples everywhere, social media has been a point of contention between me and B since she told me she no longer wants to be married.  The low point came when I was on vacation with B and child.  B's soulmate commented on a thread in which B had checked in with me at a bar and posted a picture of me (although in B's defense, I think the beer was supposed to be the main point-not me).

I reflected on the time I punched a girl in the face on a street in Boston because she slept with my boyfriend (in the Biblical sense).  And then I didn't know what to do, so I punched her again and called her various names (don't worry I also made sure he got his).  Now, some number of decades later, I did not take a redeye back to Providence to punch someone in the face.  I did not curse someone out on virtual Main Street.  I didn't even make any acerbic comments.  I just backed away and felt embarrassed and angry.  I assured myself that the Other Woman was likely not a scary stalker who would break into our house and cut up all our sheets while we were away, but just another insecure and jealous soul like the rest of us-albeit one with less self-control. And I drew this diagram and gave it to B to give to her.

I am bitter.  I'll own that, but I'll keep it here in my space.  My street fighting days are over.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"I tried my best just to be a man"

This is the official jam of my separation from B.  I love this song and you should definitely check it out, even if your man or lady isn't stepping out on you:

Slimkid3 & DJ Nu-Mark "I Know, Didn't I" featuring Darondo

The universe keeps chattering at me.  I feel like I notice background music more than other people.  Walking through Target aisles listening to "City of New Orleans" or waiting at line at the bank listening to "Blurred Lines," songs seem to hold an overwhelming meaning.  Now it's "Don't Think Twice" playing at the grocery store, or "Say My Name" blaring on the speakers outside the gas station.  LB, B, and I were in Savers last week ostensibly looking for a dresser for our 2nd rental (June will be nesting in the cozy house while B and I swap out time at the other place), and what should come over the PA system as we tried to wrest a hideous unicorn costume away from LB?  Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good,"which made me think: "Who the hell picked this out? And will you please stop rattling around in my brain>"

Monday, September 22, 2014

A post-modern woman's daybook

What I don't want to be doing right now: ghostwriting a letter of recommendation from a famous public intellectual

What I've listened to five times today: the exceptional September 19th edition of On the Media

Number hours I've spent wondering if Earth, Wind, and Fire's "September" could be reworked to include the lyrics "in November we remember": 1 hour

Number of times I've said, "Please act like you have respect for me.": 2

Hours I spent doing data entry: not quite sure, enough that it sucked

Best songs on my running mix: Billy Bragg, "All you fascists born to lose," and The Coup, "Ride the Fence"

What I'm watching right now: 19 Kids and Counting (Jill and her man are choosing wedding cakes)

What I want to be reading: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Place

What I am reading: I can't seem to settle on anything

Best place I went in Providence this weekend: Faust-pleasantly hip with German food

Sunday, August 31, 2014

"We will sing and play and have a good day!"

  • That's the new morning song in the preschool 2 class.  LB is moving on up on Tuesday, thankfully with her classmates.  And her new teacher is warm and kind and sensible like her old teacher.  And she has already learned the new morning circle song (see title).  But she's still struggling with the transition back to school after vacation weeks ago.  It's so hard to hear her say "is it stay home day. I want stay home day."
  • LB: eating huge amounts, lots of screaming and whining, and has at least three big falls in the last week-we are thinking growth spurt.  I went and got LB early on Friday so we could get an ice cream treat and go to the library and go to the park.  All was well.  We stopped to watch some kids swimming in the fountain, and then as LB ran toward the park she took an unintentional flying leap and landed on her head and knees.  I was afraid she was bleeding from her mouth, but it was just remnants of strawberry ice cream.  But her knees were really bad.  We left a Baltimore style blood trail before a nice stranger ran and got us some bandaids from his first aid kit.  
  • I love Labor Day.  Who can object to someone who says "Have a great Labor Day!"
  • Yesterday we went on a family heritage food tour of Fall River, MA.  We hit Hartley's Pork Pies and Patty's Pierogis.  Both were great, but next time we will eat in at Patty's and then get pies to go at Hartley's (we ate Hartley's in our car because they have not seating and then go some cold pierogis to fry at home).  Patti's seemed cute and friendly, and definitely worth eating in.  We also looked longingly at the several Coney Island hotdog purveyors on Main Street.  Next time we'll have to research the best one and stop there.
  • I've become such a downtown (downcity) Providence booster.  Providence is a great little city.  Amazing Gilded Era architecture (just don't look at City Hall for too long-you might go blind because it is the ugliest 2nd Empire building ever built).  Good coffee shops, good restaurants, good hotels (I so want to stay at the Dean), good bars, some real live book stores, parks, pop-up shops, and a mall with a movie theatre right downtown if you need a break from all the hipness.  Everyone should spend a weekend here.  And all super walkable.  
  • We signed up for service with Munroe Dairy and now I can have not only local milk, but both Hoodsie Cups and Autocrat syrup delivered to my door.  That's Rhode Island.  Sadly the HCs don't come with the little wooden spoon, which is an essential element to full experience.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

If you look at one thing today...

Check out the #iftheygunnedmedown tumblr:

As someone who works with young people and studies young people, it's intense to see the reality that I know, that young people are complicated, they're immature, they're self aware, they're kind, they're hardworking, they like to party and act crazy-to see all of that summed up by young people themselves.

Down with respectability, up with respect for lives.

Monday, August 4, 2014

PW Protected: "Things aren't very good around here anymore"

At my wordpress blog I've joined the other posters sharing the other side of the of the happy summer list posts.  Comment below or email me at if you want the password.  This post contains content appropriate only for those who like a little drama.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Then the lights go out and it's just the three of us / You me and all that stuff we're so scared of"

What haven't we done in Portland?  This city deserves a summer list all it's own.  Highlights include:

Oregon Brewers' Fest (you can tell the non-douchebags in the crowd because they're taking notes)

our first post-NICU night away from LB (in a hotel!)

food carts: we had Brunch Box, and need to go back for poached chicken at Nong's

swimming in the pool: a lot, LB has begged to spend hours in the pool, but is in one of her tentative phases where she just wants to cling to us like a limpet

dinners cooked by my FIL (shrimp, salmon, and tonight we're having smoked brisket)

a variety of non-Fest beers at a variety of places

Barista coffee (the nice young man gave us coffee even though they weren't open yet)

Courier coffee (love: they have a turn table on the bar and were playing the breeders while we drank our coffee.  I wanted to take a selfie, but couldn't bear to in front of the hip barista.)

Powell's (of course, I got some nice picture books for LB, which are actually book for children that are for me.  I love being able to actually browse the physical books.)

Blue Collar Bakery (we started sharing a scone as we walked out, and by the time we got down the block we turned around for another)

A trip to the coast

pic by B

A swim in the Pacific (me only, and it was more flinging myself under the water and dashing back out so that I could say I swam in the Pacific)

Lunch at Mo's with lots of shrimp

A trip to Bushwacker's Cider Bar (1st all cider bar in the US)

LB got to go to the zoo (highlights: rainbow dippin' dots)

And I've gone running every day, which is pretty strange for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"All you fascists bound to lose: I said all you fascists bound to lose"

The women of the internet are tired, and I'm tired too.

Tired of the judgement and action of bystanders (which is to say, people who don't know shit about us and our lives).  Here, "The day I was almost arrested for having an autistic son," by Marie Myung-Ok Lee.

Tired of advice that does not fit our situations: here, from Black Girl in Maine.

Tired of wondering how it could possibly still be true that so many people reduce the worth of women to our physical bodies.  Here, Rebecca Traister's "I don't care if you like it."

Tired of having to worry that we are feeding the problems of judgement and disrespect when we celebrate our own lives.  Here, "Inside" from Breaking into Blossom.

Tired of the institutional and structural failures that allow women's bodies to be brutalized and are then unable to offer comfort to the victims or sanction to the victimizers.  Here: (a warning that if you have not read this article, it is devastating), "Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn't" by Walt Bogdanich.

In all these discontents, I hope I sense a new wave of women's activism coming on strong.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Let's forget about the tongue-tied lightning/Let's undress just like cross-eyed strangers"

This summer has proven surprisingly complicated.  And those complications have shifted my vision of a good summer.

Family stuff done
more Maine
beach time
visit with friends
go to the local splash park

Nothing says summer fun like cowering on a bench at the splash park!
 go swimming
lots of time on our back porch
lots of music
fireworks at home!
ice cream for dinner
sparklers (with only one injury)

signed up for milk delivery

family time at a hipster wine bar downtown

LB's first dentist appointment in on Monday

My stuff done
swimming in the ocean
a fitness class (and if you know me, you know how much it sucks)
regular jogging and stretching
3 pairs of shoes

a lot of clothes
a haircut
my first time getting my eyebrows threaded
appointments scheduled for all of the dental work I need
weekly dinner at Ken's Ramen
lots of music
a significant amount of alcohol


Saturday, July 19, 2014

One parent, one child, a ferry, two taxis, and two regional buses

My job gives us two extra weeks of set vacation every year, one at 4th of July and one at Christmas.  Since B had to work, I decided to take LB up to visit my parents in Maine for part of the week.  It was a gorgeous trip with beautiful weather, visits with friends, and doting grandparents.

The most terrifying part of the trip was the going home part, which involved me, a three year old, and five transportations.  Leg one on the ferry was fine because my parents were with me to help me with all our stuff, and it's a short trip, and ferries just seem more festive than buses.

For leg two, a taxi, I had a slightly bootleg booster seat situation for LB.  I am kind of an undercover safety maven (ask B), but that doesn't extend to hauling a Radian across three states for an <10 minute taxi ride.  Our driver appeared to take it as a personal affront that we used seatbelts at all.  Such is life.

Then the bus:

LB spent our wait in the bus terminal tying a scarf on Gertie the gosling and running back and for in an empty aisle of the terminal.  As an aside, Concord Trailways, which runs between Maine and points south, is the best regional bus carrier ever.  They are so good that they almost make me not bitter than you can't take Amtrak from Portland, ME to Providence, RI unless you are will to shlep yourself, a child, a backpack, a messenger bag, a booster seat, and several stuffed friends from North Station to South station on your own (no thank you).

Bus 1 was full but not packed.  We sat near the front because we had a quick connection in Boston.  The hit toy of the trip was a bag of lacing beads, although rather than use the beads for their intended purpose, LB spent a large portion of the trip counting her "monies."  And also eating the tiny bag of pretzels that they give out for free on the bus.  They she decided she was "the bus driver, the GIRL bus driver."  That was fun until she started abusing her authority and telling the other riders that they were talking in loud voices and were in time out.  Thankfully they were talking in loud voices and could not even here LB's tiny chirps.

everything's better with sparkle kitty stickers

Real bus drivers definitely don't sit like this

LB wishes this calculator was an iphone

After two quick hours we were in Boston, and I was nervous because we had five minutes schedule for our transfer, which is not a good cushion when you are traveling through Boston at rush hour.  Luckily since I'd done the trip before, I knew that we just need to walk to the other side of the terminal.

We made it with minutes to spare, and since we were reverse commuting at that point we were able to sit in the way back of an empty Peter Pan bus.  That ride was a little rougher since LB was a little louder and tireder, and I tried to force her to use the bathroom on the bus.  Thankfully there was no one to hear her scream and give me the evil eye.  LB totally started to lose it during the last 10 minutes, but the bus driver did not turn the bus around and we made it to Providence.

Even though the bus terminal in only about a 1/2 mile from our house, it's a half mile that includes a bad-for-pedestrians intersection that I didn't think I could manage with LB and all our gear.  So we got a cab, and I gave the driver a ridiculous tip for not giving me a hard time about the 1/2 mile fare.

So much better than last year, which involved a projectile vomiting LB standing clad only in a diaper in the aisle of the bus, while I tried to fix the damage.  Things that I changed this year: no dramamine, because it doesn't really seem to help her motion sickness, but it does make her very angry; only boring snacks-see motion sickness; no games with little fiddly pieces.  I did, once again, bring lots of plastic grocery bags, some paper towels, and a huge pack of wipes, and thankfully they were not needed.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Real Life With a W-Sitter

Advice on the internet: it's always worth the money.  Just because I need to periodically revisit issues I've decided not to worry about, I recently read the post about the evils of W-sitting here.

If you're not familiar with the W-sit (be thankful) here's a picture of LB in a half-W, with leg and foot pointed back and away from her body:

For LB, and many other kids, W-sitting is a symptom of low tone and low core strength.  Where kids with typical tone use their core muscles to stabilize themselves while sitting, kids like LB compensate for core weakness by making themselves as wide as possible while sitting.  In our journey through the world of PT, we've encountered a couple schools of thought related to W-sitting.

One, like the author of the linked article, says that as kids W-sit they further weaken their core, and that W-sitting is a bad habit that should be corrected until kids no longer do it-and strengthen their cores so by sitting properly.

An alternate view expressed by two of our PTs is that the benefits of reinforcing correct posture are outweighed by the developmental harm of constantly correcting a child who is trying to concentrate and learn through play.    Between ages 1 and 2, LB W-sat a lot and it was clearly her most comfortable sitting position.  Her PT encouraged us to allow her to continue her activity while quietly pulling one of her legs straight so she was in a half-W.  She also told us that she didn't consider it necessary to constantly correct a busy bee like LB, who was often in motion and shifting positions.  So a kid who W-sits for short periods interspersed with other positions may not need the same level of intervention as a kid who is sitting in a W for a half hour while working on a  project.

At LB's most recent PT evaluation, the therapist was even more emphatic that W-sitting is the symptom, not the problem.  He recommended as much walking, running, jumping, swimming, etc. as LB can manage in order to strengthen her core.  Encouraging LB to be active can be hard, sometimes she will absolutely refuse to walk, sometimes she wants to go to the park but only wants to go on the swings.  And modeling physical activity and engaging her in games really helps, but B and I are also human beings who don't always want to play chase with a young child, so sometimes challenging LB to get stronger means challenging ourselves.

According to that PT, the goal is overall strength, and if you build strength W-sitting will decrease without a lot of intervention.  I like that a lot more than viewing W-sitting as a "bad habit."  Doing what feels comfortable for your body because your body is atypical is not a bad habit nor is it lazy (I also don't like the "droopy snowman" thing).

If we we're to get to a place where we felt LB needed more intervention with her sitting, I would much rather present it as a positive, "sitting this way helps your body get stronger," and get her some low blocks to sit on than present W-sitting as a character flaw.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Now with Vague Blogging!

Being a semi-confessional blogger has its drawbacks.  I share more than some and less than others, but mostly I share about me.  So it is very inconvenient for my writing when someone else's stuff is taking up my mental space.  It's not mine to write about, but writing about something else while my mind is occupied feels fake.  But I need to write they way some people need to run or pray or eat candy.

I think I need to write, even if I can't write about the thing that's on my mind.

So, what else:

I'm reading: Divergent and I like it

Kindness of the week: I took LB to open swim on Sunday, and after power walking in the blazing sun for a mile plus, it turned out the session was cancelled (always call ahead) and we had two hours to wait until the next one, but the very kind woman at the front desk let us hang out in the officially closed kids space.

Transportation woes: Providence is overhauling various parts of the bus system and it sucks.  At my new stop they placed the sign for the stop a half block away from the much celebrated new bench and shelter, and I got a stern talking to for waiting at the bench rather than the sign.

What I'm giving young radicals to read:  Negroes with Guns by Robert F. Williams, and Timothy Tyson's biography of Williams, Radio Free Dixie.  After than we'll get some ladies in the mix.

What I'm drinking: I had a really nice berliner weisse while I was in Maine, and B kindly got me some more when I got home.  We've also been enjoying some gose.  Nice and light and tart.  The one I had in Maine was also only 3% abv, which was perfect.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

5 unexpected things I saw in Maine

See how I did that?  Aren't you excited to read stuff in list form?  Don't you wish I was including gifs?

1.  My first "open carry" event: I'll start with this one because it was the most shocking.  There I was walking down a mostly empty side street in Portland on a mostly dead Sunday evening, and I came up upon a grill, a table of condiments, and a crew of burly men in jungle fatigues with no military insignia holding very, very large guns.  And I kept my head down and walked quickly by, because that's what a couple decade of city living has taught me to do when confronted with men with weapons.  In the scheme of unsettling things, this event was less unsettling that participating in a small anti-War on Terror protest in Chicago while surrounded by five times our number of police in full riot gear, but more unsettling than seeing a lone guy with a gun running down the street in Chicago.

2.  A street preacher with a small cadre of supporters who looked like they were straight out of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (I would say The Hills Have Eyes if I was being snarky).  White guy, black suit, leather Bible, small speaker: I have certainly never seen anything like it in Maine.

3.  LB frolicking on the beach and in the ocean.  I had hoped this day would come, but I was trying to practice radical detachment.  With the help of a slightly older young role model, LB did amazing and had a great time.  And I went swimming in the ocean (temp: somewhere around 60 degrees F) and it was glorious.

4.  Extreme and annoying crowds: I know this is the summer story in some parts of Maine, but my Maine just off Portland has always been pretty sleepy.  Now it seems to be all rampaging golf carts, drunken daytrippers, and just about everyone ever if you happen to walk down Commercial Ave. in Portland.  It made me cranky.  Even though those people pay the bills and I'm mostly a summer person, I've seen my Maine in hurricanes, during the Storm of the Century, on the 6:15am ferry, and I want some GD peace and quiet.

5. A young black man (of Kenyan heritage) on our bus headed back to University of Maine at Machias (in far northern Maine).  He had an ass-long trip ahead of him.  Some 25 years ago, my boss was dating "the only black plumber in Maine," and a respected regional children's author told me "Well dear, at least the white people still have Maine." Things have changed for the better, I think, although often slowly and painfully.  And, I suppose, better isn't much of a measure against that latter comment.  But, Machias.  I cannot imagine what it's like to be a black man in Machias (in 2013 there were about 7,000 white undergrads at the school and 173 black undergrads or .5% by my calculation.  In Maine as a whole, 1.3% of the pop identified as black or African American in 2012).

And while I'm on the topic of being black in Maine, Black Girl in Maine is a great blog.

Monday, June 30, 2014


There's a small child in that last one. Today: I swam in the ocean, lb splashed and shrieked, good friends visited, ice cream store after dinner. Vacation.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kid Lit Review: This Day in June

It's a picture book about Pride: something I hadn't realized we needed, but now know that we do.  This Day in June is a winner, and I'm glad that I bought a copy (a hardcover, no less).  I am not going to complain about gay kid-lit, because I'm glad it exists, but I will say that this book is so lively and energetic and refreshing, and it's also SO GAY and even SO QUEER.

The narrative part of the book is a series of couplets, for example: "Clad in Leather/Perfect weather" and "Artists painting/Sisters sainting".  So, clearly, this is not "my family is like yours, but a tiny bit different, but really alike."  This book celebrates not just gay families, but gay culture.  And the illustrations are fabulous, and very detailed.  LB was drawn to the "pink page," and B and I spend a long time looking at all the drawings.

There is also a reading guide in the back that provides background and history for all the themes explored in the book.  Someone in an online group I'm part of recently asked, "what does wearing leather and showing your butt have to do with being gay?"  Well, this book can give you the beginner's explanation.  And then we can all hang out and read Gay New York together.  [There is also a separate guide for talking to children about LGBT issues.]

As the LGBTQ tent gets bigger, and as it become more possible to both be gay and remain in the "normal" club, our shared history becomes less clear.  Almost everything I've read this year from the sort of progressive queer folk, with whom I share some political perspectives, has been wistful-thankful for a world where many of us (more so the LG&Bs) are not so marginalized, but wistful for past of shared politics and culture in the face of a seemingly ever growing contingent that wants to JUST BE NORMAL.  As an adult reader, This Day in June is appealing in part because it's Pride as I would love Pride to be.  It all the fabulous and quirkiness, with a mix of radicalness and staidness, without the cigarettes, cheap vodka shooters, and corporate sponsorships that make me shake my head.

Dana at Mombian has a nice review of This Day in June that puts it in LGBT kid-lit historical perspective.  Dana compares This Day in June to Gloria Goes to Gay Pride, a kid's book published in 1991 by the author of Heather Has Two Mommies that, like me, you may not have heard of before now.  GGGP is no longer in print, a key problem for kids "diversity lit."  Many titles are published through small or non-profit publishers, and if they aren't picked up by a major publisher they are out of print (gone) within a few years.  This Day in June is published my Magination Press, a division of the APA Press which is the press of the American Psychological Association (how far we've come).  Magination publishes books like Full Mouse, Empty Mouse: A Tale of Food and Feelings and The Boy Who Didn't Want to Be Sad.

I read a lot of kids books, and a lot of out of print kids books.  I think This Day in June could be a classic in some ten or twenty years, I just hope it stays in print long enough to have a chance (so you should buy a copy or three).

Short version: thumbs up (and let it be noted that I bought this book with my own money, although if someone wanted to send me some copies to share I would gladly accept).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Live Through This

This list has been making the rounds on the internets, re: dangers faced by children of the 1970s.  Aside from the Jarts, yeah, this was pretty much my childhood.  Except that goat would have been inside a VW bus (true story).  And once my parents stuck me in the back of a VW bug with a burlap sack containing two full grown, and very angry, geese.  Thus, one of my earliest memories is standing of the bag seat of that bug, pressed up against the window, screaming, while the geese thrashed and hissed at me.  Also, my mom read an article in a ladies magazine about a family that died in a fiery car crash, all accept one small child who had not been belted in and was thrown free of the car landing safely in a field. Due to that article, we were strongly discouraged from wearing seatbelts.

My mom tells another story about a time when I was a baby and had a very bad cold.  The doctor prescribed a cough medicine with codeine, so my mom drove with me to the pharmacy, left me in the car, and went to fill the prescription.  But the pharmacist thought she looked like a drug-seeking hippie and refused to give her the medicine.  My mom was furious that her character was being attacked, and she was correct that even though she and my dad looked like hippies they were really total straight arrows.  So she spent so amount of time arguing and explaining that the medicine was for her SICK BABY WHO WAS WAITING IN THE CAR.  In my mother's telling, the point of this story is that some people are judgmental jerks, and the baby alone in the car is a non-issue.

I thought about that story the other day as I was getting ready to take LB to daycare.  I had her in the stroller on our front walk, strapped in and ready to go.  Then she realized she didn't have her special blanket and it needed to be gotten before we left.  I briefly considered leaving her there on the front walk.  We live on a very quiet street that meets up with a very busy street, but LB can't undo the big clip on the stroller harness, so she wouldn't be going anywhere.  And it would likely take me less than a minute to grab the blanket.  But I didn't leave her.  I unclipped her, and hoisted some close-to-30lbs, and brought her into the house, found the blanket, back out the door, and then she climbed slowly, slowly back into the stroller and slowly, slowly clipped herself in, and we left.

I didn't leave her partly because I live in a world of paranoia, where the 1 minute in which you leave your child outside one block from a busy street is the 1 minute in which she magically learns to unclip the sticky clip on the stroller harness, partly because years of urban living have taught me that ne're-do-wells probably won't harm your small child but they might steal your expensive stroller (which is not to say that city people steal more than rural or suburban people, but that city people are more aware that they may be stolen from), and largely because I didn't want to end up like this woman or this woman.

The 1970s, when I swam alone on empty beaches without life guards, I can't imagine that I will ever experience that again.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer List

Thanks to Little Monsters and Mommies for the inspiration.  It's summer for real after the long cold spring.  Summer in Providence feels so crisp.  Baltimore would be like a warm damp sleeping bag, but here it's all puffy clouds and cool breezes, and only occasionally a moist, salty breeze that makes me remember we are the Ocean State.

LB and I were on our way back from the park when we ran into a neighbor who asked me to water his garden for a week in exchange for an produce we can harvest.  I said yes.  I don't know his name and I don't think he knows mine.  That's New England.

The List

Strawberry Shortcake Cake
Maine again
plant window boxes
swim at least once a week  (in progress)
Go to Pride [fail]
grill (in progress)
eat dinner in the mud room (porch) (in progress)
have a picnic dinner
4th of July parade in Bristol?
go to the beach and swim
go to the beach on a bad weather day
have dinner on the beach
Portland Oregon trip
get passports so we can actually go to Montreal
go car camping
overnight in a hotel (LB not invited)
babysitter/regular date nights
set up sprinkler
go to PawSocks game
go to Mista Lemon
have ice cream for dinner
make ice cream
go the RISD museum
go to an historic house museum
see friends!
walk in local cemetery we've never visited
figure out something fun LB wants to do and do it!
whitewater rafting (B only)

Intended Summer Reading

Fear of Flying
Moby Dick
The Burglary
Radical Relations
The Color of Success

Currently I'm following the doctrinal/cultural conflict within the LDS Church.  This thread on FMH is very sad.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Modest Preschoolers (or, My Daughter Wears Jeggings)

It's almost summer, and the issue of what toddler/preschooler girls should wear in the summer has been popping up all over my social media.  I'm having one of those moments where I feel like I was raised by (inappropriately dressed) wolves, and I have no idea what these rules are that other people are talking about.  It's like when I found out that a significant segment of society feel that babies should never appear in public wearing only a onesie, because it's like an adult walking around in her underwear.

These are the rules I have heard:

-No tight clothes
-No short shorts
-No big arm holes
-No faux-sexy styling
-No bikinis

LB is breaking a few of these rules right now: tight stretch shorts, with a tucked-in tank-top with big arm holes (worn backwards to maximize exposure).  And I have some questions:

Do people really think it's wrong for a preschooler to wear bike shorts as shorts?  I had no idea.  I feel like there should be a compendium of these rules just so I can know when my daughter's sartorial choices are offending the world.

LB's outfit of choice: Elmo and jeggings and to make it even better, her pants always ride down

LB used to wear such cute clothes: cotton rompers, bonnets, handmade sweaters.  Hanna dresses from Grammy.  And then she learned how to undress herself.  Now any clothing considered too soft, to scratchy, too big, or just NO is immediately ripped off.

The last outfit I ever forced LB to wear-doesn't she look happy (and I'm still not sure how the school picture company came up with such a glamour shot)

What I want LB to wear:

I'm still holding out hope for next fall!

She will never wear this before she outgrows it

And LB's choice:

She styles this shirt (I'm pretty sure this is the exact big-arm-hold shirt that the other mom returned) with tight pink stretch shorts.  Shirt tucked into shorts. Shorts pulled up high.  Socks pulled up high, with sneakers.  I call this her "Fire Island called and wants 1985 back" Collection.

As I write this post, Motherlode has published the post, "Whose Dress Code Is It and Why?"  This column gets at some of what I'm feeling.  If people look at LB and judge me because she's not modest enough, I will judge them to be prudish jerks.  If they judge me for dressing my daughter in pants that slide down her butt whenever she engages in strenuous exercise, and wonder why people start training their children to participate in the horrors of the femininity industrial complex at such a young age-well, then I will just hang my head in shame because I agree.

But it's LB's body and it's the clothes that grandmas bought her.  I am a feminist mom.  I want to be a feminist mom, but I'm not sure that means I need to be an authoritarian feminist mom.

In the Motherlode piece, KJ Dell'Antonia reminds readers that dress codes aren't simply about sexuality, they are also about learning a variety of other social rules that may serve us well in life.  The word that she doesn't mention specifically is class.  And that's where I get even more uncomfortable with the rules and hierarchies of clothing.

My parents were passing into the middle class as I grew up in the 1970s-not so much by money, but by practice.  That meant that while other kids wore new clothes from KMart, I wore second-hand smocked dresses and fair isle sweaters. Classy.

I loved polyester and bright colors and plastic headbands and shiny shoes.  One day when I was eight my dad brought home a pair of Timberland boots for me (way before they became Tims) and I cried and hid them in the back of the closet.

As a teenager in the '80s, I was one of those girls putting together outfits in thrift shops and trying to make t-shirts into skirts like they showed in Sassy Magazine.

Now I wear a deliberately boring and hopefully clean, mix and match, business very casual.  I like people who wear outfits.  I want LB to have the joy of expressing herself through clothing.  I never want to see her in short shorts with writing on the butt, but I don't want her to judge girls in short shorts with writing on the butt to be cheap whores, and I certainly don't want her to think that clothes make her person-for better or worse.

Dear LB, It's the content of your character not the clothes on your back.  And if you want to be a peacock, if you want your pants to sag, if your skirts too short, I will love you for it.  And I will also replace songs on your ipod with lectures on feminist theory.