Saturday, June 30, 2012

Things I Hate, Part 2

You might want to warm up on Part I, here, that got a surprising amount of comments which leads me to believe that in a general culture of constantly striving for happiness, there's room for a bit of the curmudgeonly. I only have a few to start and hope you'll join in, if you feel the need. Otherwise, go on with your cheerful outlook.

  1. The expression "necessary evil"
  2. Deflated balloons -- the ones that slowly drift around the house as they lose air are cool, but I just can't stand the ones that lie on the floor, sometimes for days and days (at least in our house) until someone, always me, brings them to the garbage. Then I usually wonder, with a small bit of agitation, whether I should shove them into the garbage bin, slightly blown up, or pop them and then put them away, which leads me to:
  3. Popping balloons and balloons that pop. I hate the tension that precedes the one and the startle reflex that comes at the other.
  4. Hearing about miracles, particularly present-day ones that involve brain surgery or anti-epileptic drugs and children who have been miraculously saved and/or whose seizures have miraculously stopped due to having 1/2 of their brains removed or three doses of the new med. Humor me here, but I've had this fortune cookie fortune in my wallet for twelve years:
I wonder if the Chinese word for "never" was accidentally translated to "soon."

     5.     When people use the word cynical improperly, as in calling me cynical for the above hatred

     6.     My own curmudgeon-liness when faced with others' kind intentions and overtures. 

     7.     Weird formatting issues like the one above -- this happens when I cut and paste -- the highlighting 
              behind the words. How do I get rid of that?

Reader, what do you hate these days?

Moved to grateful tears, again, by Ian Brown and changing the world

I wrote about Ian Brown's amazing book The Boy in the Moon nearly a year ago. Today, I came upon a  snippet of video on Louise's blog from a presentation he gave at Holland Bloorview.

Please watch this:

Did you listen to Mr. Brown's dream? The one about L'Arche and living and working, creating, doing what you do, in these homes between where these people live? For one month? Did you hear him describe his dream of you eating your meals, three times a day and then bathing one person once a week? Did you hear him imagine how that would change the world?

I believe it to be so.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Information and More Nurses

I found this outline of what the Affordable Care Act does and what it will do very helpful. It came from my House representative, Karen Bass. 

Currently Available Provisions (since 2010)
Changes Available starting in 2012
Changes in 2013
Changes in 2014
Changes in 2015 and Beyond

And now, for your amusement:

I'm concerned about the ring on his finger -- and who is that lady with the red nails?

This would definitely be me, if I were a nurse.

Looks like Little Red Riding Hood grew up to be a nurse and The Big Bad Wolf
is eating her up!

And finally, this is for all my fellow care-givers:

I could never resist a doctor who smokes.

Did you think I wouldn't write anything?

Well, I was as surprised as the next person yesterday, when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (I refuse to call it Obamacare). I'd spent most of the week tamping down my fury at what I thought would happen: they'd overturn certain provisions or even overturn it entirely and we'd have to sit around until November listening to the chortles of the Republicans and the smug strict "constitutionalists," followed by more insane wrangling by both parties and lots of ugly rhetoric and I'd still be paying exorbitant amounts of money for health insurance with no end in sight. Well, I'll still be paying insane amounts of money for health insurance with no end in sight (at least until we really get universal health coverage), but at least there's something in the monolithic act -- a small step, but one forward that directly impacts my daughter and tens of thousands, if not millions of other disabled and sick people like her.

In the end, I'm not going to thank the Supreme Court, an institution that I perhaps cynically don't trust one whit, but I am going to thank President Obama and those who came before him, as well as those who hammered out the actual act and those who voted for it. You won't find me yakking about the constitution and all the shit that I know absolutely nothing about, but I will say that certain provisions of the act and the overall attempt to rectify what is surely one of the most abysmal healthcare systems in the western industrialized world are going to improve the lives of the disabled and their families, among others. And I do know something about that.

In the meantime, when I googled "vintage nurse photo," to decorate this post, I came upon a treasure trove of books. I'll share a few of them here, so instead of being all smug-like or erroneously jubilant about the Supreme Court's decision -- hell, even if you think like some of my Facebook friends that Obama is the Pied Piper, playing his malevolent flute while we all descend to hell -- you can just politely sigh and feel relieved or start drinking heavily before the descent and then be diverted and snicker and laugh at how fantastic these are:

Evidently there were ways to cure depression before Prozac

A particularly awesome storyline, I imagine -- icy cold to flaming hot

I can't imagine who is so hateful in that beautiful town by the sea.
And probably my personal favorite:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why I Love Los Angeles, Reason #4,567,324

Last Saturday night I took the boys to a new outdoor movie venue in the middle of Hollywood called Oscar Outdoors. We sat in low chairs and on blankets, munching popcorn and warm doughnuts, with a couple hundred people in a new park space. They showed an early Little Rascals episode and then we settled down to watch Ferris Beuller's Day Off. Because it's Los Angeles, we listened to some of the cast members' memories of making the film, including the secretary to the principal, and then one of the editors and the producer of the movie. Because it's Los Angeles, when the sun went down, it got very chilly, but we had brought sweatshirts and blankets and bought some hot chocolate to warm our hands. Henry and Oliver laughed and loved the movie, and when we gathered up our stuff and walked back to our car, they asked me why the girls wore shoulder pads under their clothes and styled their hair so weirdly -- to which I replied that it looked no worse than skinny jeans and buzz cuts.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's really quiet around here

Oliver went to camp for two weeks on Sunday. I can't say I like the quiet.

On a Tuesday afternoon in Beverly Hills,

 Henry couldn't feel his mouth because he'd just been to the dentist, so I promised him some ice-cream next to the cupcake store, and we walked through a gauntlet of paparazzi with their big cameras, slouched on parking meters and sprawled on benches, their laptops open and talk of Beeeeeeely Bob Thornton being in the building across the street, and the sky was blue and I pushed Sophie in her wheelchair and I felt contempt for the paparazzi and felt bad about that, my mood, my mood. But we walked and then Henry waited on line at the Sprinkles ATM where cupcakes come out in a box, a brown little box with a sticker on top. Henry waited behind two girls that looked as if they might be bringing cupcakes back to Hugh Hefner in his Holmby Hills mansion just up the road. A large man with shorts and shoes wrapped in masking tape stood with his sign, asking for food.  A large group of fully veiled Muslim women had moved from the cupcake machine to the ice-cream store and were wrangling their sons, and the dapper man sitting at the table next to me and Sophie spoke in quick Hebrew to his own children grabbing at his pockets for money. My mind wandered toward the Middle East, the Gaza Strip, a wandering I hadn't had in a while, and I imagined my eyebrows raised and I imagined a bomb going off  but things don't happen like that in Beverly Hills. A little girl with a pale drawn face walked by Sophie and stared so completely that her head nearly turned round backwards, and when it almost did, I glared at her and thought ugly thoughts and then wondered why I couldn't be the sort of person whose mind didn't travel toward contempt of a a Beeeeeeely Bob Thornton shot, toward bits of people who hate one another flying around a cupcake store, toward hatred of a tiny child staring at my daughter as if she were a strange and exotic animal in a zoo.

I did notice the sun glinting off the palm tree in the blue sky in the shiny brown of my table-top, when I ducked my head.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Our young friend Gus died early this morning, struck down by cancer. We're sad and will take a break from blogging for a few days. It's weird and terrible to go about one's life when things like this happen.

Highway 30

At two in the morning, when the moon
has driven away,
leaving the faint taillight of one star
at the horizon, a light like moonlight leaks
from broken crates that lie fallen 
along the highway, becoming
motels, all-night cafes, and bus stations
with greenhouse windows,
where lone women sit like overturned flowerpots,
crushing the soft, gray petals of old coats.

Ted Kooser

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Poetry Oracle

Grace catches you out like a hook,
you're pulled out of yourself, a moment,
and that's the ache: peculiar blow,
reminded you aren't who you think you are.

Mark Doty, from "The Pink Poppy" in School of the Arts

Summer Afternoon

Maybe she'll stop humming if I give her a taste of my chocolate shake.

Henry, Hamburger Hamlet

Friday, June 22, 2012

Izzy and Erika

I drove about an hour south today from Los Angeles to visit my dear friend Erika and her beautiful little girl Izzy who has been hospitalized for over two weeks. Izzy has Angelman Syndrome and was in status (seizures not stopping) so had to be put into a chemical-induced coma to allow her brain to rest. As if that's not enough to deal with, when they weaned her from the coma, she got into a little trouble with her breathing and adjusting to life outside of intubation, so she's still in the PICU, struggling. The amazing thing about Erika is that despite a hellish few weeks, she not only looks adorable but continues to laugh uproariously at all the absurdities of this life -- like the sign above that welcomes one to Fountain Valley, a city basically off a huge Southland highway that's one of the plainest and most nondescript places you could ever imagine. That motto A Nice Place to Live was written for the likes of Erika and me who survive this bizarre world we live in by reveling in the absurdity quite literally. When Phil, Erika's very adorable husband arrived, I took Erika away from the little hospital to a nearby strip mall where we enjoyed delicious Greek food and exchanged horror stories. Erika shared a bit of her reading with me (dark tales of dissociation and split personality), I told her about my own dissociation during a visit to a brain surgeon years earlier, and we agreed that hard-core brain surgery for our girls was a line we'd probably never cross. We were actually shrieking together at one point, over the voices of the Vietnamese who have evidently settled in vast numbers in Fountain Valley because fountains are blessed? While my own horror stories pale in comparison to Erika's, the camaraderie between us is something that I just feel profoundly blessed by and another reason why these internets are just a powerful place to connect to others.

I'm sending all my love and healing thoughts to little Miss Izzy, who, while currently hospitalized in a nice place to live, must get better soon and go back to her little house by the sea. As for Erika, I'm hoping she'll get to wash and style her hair at some point soon.


They might have said, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rampage on the Summer Solstice

Nope, this isn't going to be a rant or an angry post. I read a bunch of daily words and inspirationals this morning, Buddhist thoughts and mantras. I even meditated. But as Sophie's humming wore on this morning, and I stripped her bed for perhaps the millionth time (she'd wet through, again) and I looked at the detritus of a school year lying everywhere, just everywhere, the adrenaline kicked in and I told Sophie to be quiet while I fix your breakfast. I got a white piece of paper and used a Sharpie to create the above sign and I threw out the Lego salt and pepper shakers that have been sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen for years, never used, and I didn't look behind me. I had a Kurtzian the crap, the crap moment and moved on. The Brothers sleep on, oblivious to the jungle that surrounds them, the Summer Solstice secure.

Laughing Song

When the green woods laugh, with the voice of joy
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by,
When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it.

When the meadows laugh with lively green
And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene,
When Mary and Susan and Emily,
With their sweet round mouths sing Ha, Ha, He.

When the painted birds laugh in the shade
Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread
Come live & be merry and join with me,
To sing the sweet chorus of Ha, Ha, He.

William Blake

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


So, June 14th came and went, the seventeenth anniversary of Sophie's diagnosis of infantile spasms. Sophie was three months old, and I was thirty-one. I used to believe in a sort of muscle memory, a growing dread that was nameless until the day came and I realized that that was what it was, oh, yes, and no.

I wrote a book about it all, a book that I found tiresome and put on a shelf a couple of years ago. I've pulled it down, though, and might even do something with it. Here's an excerpt, a piece from the end of the first chapter, titled Diagnosis.

Within a half hour of arrival, our 12-pound baby had what appeared to be dozens of electrodes attached to her head and to a small monitor that showed an alarming screen of black squiggles and waves. Told this was an EEG, a machine to register brain-wave activity, I stood beside Sophie and feebly patted her.

"How does it look?" I ventured. 

The technician kept her eyes on the screen, twiddling with some dials.

"Oh, I'm not reading it. Your doctor will let you know."

She said nothing else for the next forty-five minutes. After that, I was led back to the original room, where I sat on a beige metal chair and nursed Sophie. In what seemed like hours, the two chipper Fellows returned, their earnest faces poking around the doorway. It didn't seem right that they were my age or younger.

"May we speak with you now, Mrs. Aquino?" They drew up chairs and cornered me. They each had clipboards and pens. I had Sophie. The Fellow spoke up first, abruptly and efficiently.

"All right. Your daughter appears to have what is called hypssarhythmia, indicated by sharp spikes and slow waves on her EEG. This is usually indicative of a rare type of seizure disorder called infantile spasms. We'll need to admit her to the hospital and start her on a course of high dose steroids. These will be administered by intra-muscular injection. We will, of course, train you so that when you take her home after a week, you'll feel confident giving her the shots yourself. We have some information here, and unless you have any question, we can begin the process of admitting your daughter, Dr. S. will see you up..."

"What are you talking about?" I hear myself say. 

The Fellow's last few sentences were coming at me from the other end of a tunnel, an incomprehensible drone. The younger resident leaned forward and spoke firmly. 

"Mrs. Aquino, your daughter will need further tests so that we can find out..."

"I don't know what you're talking about," I said, this time a little louder and I began to stand up, clutching Sophie. The two women stood up, also, simultaneously scraping their metal chairs along the beige floor.

"GET OUT OF HERE. I DON'T WANT YOU IN HERE." My voice, just below a shout, seemed to be emanating from somewhere different than my own mouth.

Who were these two women, bowing out the door, excusing themselves? Ten years later, I remember that day and that room and those women with a painful clarity. That they were quickly replaced by our new neurologist, a slightly daffy, bird-like woman with a head of wild, wiry gray hair, didn't erase them from my memory. Their attention to personal fashion and relative cheerfulness, even professionalism was an obscene contrast to the diagnosis they had loosed into that room. I’m not sure what could have made the situation better at that time, but I do know that those two women who diagnosed Sophie that afternoon became emblems for me of the medical world. I would meet them again and again over the next several years, their bland faces peering out at me in the guise of twenty-four year old hospital social workers, residents and interns.  I would feel most comfortable, later, with their opposites: Dr. S, who flitted into and out of the examining room with an almost Tourette-like intensity and who stopped me one day as I strolled Sophie down the street outside of the hospital, “Pretty in pink, she is, she is, pretty in pink.”  Dr. T, who carried a beat-up Thomas the Tank Engine briefcase had noticeable hygiene problems, rips in her hose, and tea-colored stains on her white blouse, yet she carried far more authority for me than the impeccably bow-tied senior physician who held Sophie up like a specimen and rotated her for his student’s inquisitive eyes.            

I wonder if those first two women should have entered that beige room, wailing and cursing at the news they would have to deliver. They might have dropped their clipboards and notes and ripped their expensive clothing and tore at their glossy hair. They might have wrapped me in their arms and then we could have all held Sophie and wept for her.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rachel Jackson, wife of Andrew Jackson**

Just the other day, I stated here that I think it's disingenuous to constantly bemoan the state of political affairs between the two parties. I'm a leftist, basically, and I find the "middle of the road" desire for reasoned, temperate individuals to debate serious issues and find commonality by virtue of one's citizenship to be a farce, to tell you the truth. I'm not going to find common ground with anyone who believes the country should be run like a corporation, or that women shouldn't have the right to make choices about their fertility. I'm not going to shake the hand of anyone who believes homosexuality is evil or even that one must love the sinner and not the sin. I'm not sure I can be friends with someone who believes government is the root of all evil and we should be living like that grotesque character in Ayn Rand's libertarian The Fountainhead. If you're certain that God founded the United States of America and because of that, we're the greatest nation on earth, well, then, I'm going to fight you -- in words, that is, not with the mighty military or drones, but the only ability I have, as Faulkner said,  in that tiny, inexhaustible voice. That's what I'm grateful for as an American citizen -- that I can fight like that, my rights assured -- at least for now.

The president, any president, should go negative early, often, and without apology if the goal is victory. The notion that negative campaigning is some toxic modern aberration in American democracy is bogus. No campaign may ever top the Andrew Jackson–John Quincy Adams race of 1828, in which Jackson was accused of murder, drunkenness, cockfighting, slave-trading, and, most delicious of all, cannibalism. His wife and his mother, for good measure, were branded a bigamist and a whore, respectively. (Jackson won nonetheless.)  

Frank Rich, Nuke 'Em, in New York Magazine

** During the 1828 campaign for the Presidency, the attacks aimed at Rachel became even more vicious than before. Jackson successfully shielded her from all assaults until after his election, when she traveled alone to Nashville for a shopping trip in December of 1828. There she discovered a pamphlet brutally attacking her morals and ethics. She was so distressed by the accusations that she suffered a severe heart attack. Several days of illness later, she had another heart attack, which killed her. Read more about President Jackson's beloved Rachel here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hanging on my bulletin board

In the spirit of Ms. Moon posting a hilarious New Yorker cartoon, I pulled down this one, which has been hanging on my bulletin board for years. My favorite is the Cinema Abbey. I think if you click on it, you'll be able to read it more clearly.

Another favorite is this:

That's it tonight, folks, unless you want me to get up off my bed and do a dance.

Two days left of school,

and a bit of fore-shadow for the summer:

I had no part in these shenanigans, except actually giving birth to their creators. The rather large one in the too-small ski jacket and helmet with baseball catcher kneepads was the egg parent, if you remember -- further reason that the French need to do all the teenage parenting.

And there's no point to this post other than to show you a glimpse of what boys do when they're happy and not fighting for real. They asked me to film them tackling each other. Then they climbed on their bikes to have a joust with bats, but I had to go inside for that one as I didn't want to see any heads roll.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Culmination Cupcakes, Vile Comments and Pablum

Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes with Fondant Checkers

This blog appears to be turning into a superficial baseball and baking fest with a bit of eggsex education thrown in. Where are the grim reports of disability, shitty government and seizures? Where's the poetry? Where's the politics and parenting? Over the last week, I've not only gone to four baseball games, but I've also baked and decorated nearly ten dozen cupcakes and three cakes. I've got four dozen more to go, so anything pithy or angst-driven will have to wait. I'll hope you'll hang around if you're more of the mind for the serious. If you're in to that sort of thing, I was recently baited by a vile commenter who calls himself skunkfeather on a reactionary conservative blog that I visit every week or so to see what the crazies are up to. He uses the word libtard regularly and sort of drives home or confirms my perhaps cynical belief that all the talk of needing more civil discourse and we have more in common as Americans than not is pablum at best and bullshit at worst. I didn't take the bait -- except for here, of course, because I doubt he comes around and seeing my name in his comment made me throw up a little in my mouth (an expression that I usually despise) and want to purge.


Here's a photo of a cake I made for someone for Father's Day. It's chocolate with dark chocolate ganache filling and white buttercream.

And here's a quote from one of the world's greatest satirists, Jonathan Swift:

It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.

And this:

I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed. 

Reader, how was your weekend?

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Championships and One Home Run!

Angels 3
Yankees 1

That's Henry, third from the right, bottom row!

Yankees 18
Tigers 17
Oliver, center bottom row with no hat!

I'm still the same size -- never made it to Henry's game. Since he played in two leagues, and I made it to nearly every single game in both, I chose to stay at Oliver's. It was a real nail biter, though -- they played an extra tie-breaking inning, and Oliver scored his first HOME RUN! leading the inning to a one-point win and the league championship. Oliver also shared a Golden Globe (MVPish) award with two of his team-mates, and despite losing his cool a number of times in the game (he's a passionate catcher, I was told), he was very, very happy. As was his brother, who finished up a wonderful baseball season.

Baseball Championships and a Skinny Me

Both my boys are playing in their respective league championships this morning -- at exactly the same time in two different locations. The Husband is working, so I'm going to split myself in half and cheer on both. Not only will I look thinner, but neither son will be able to say that I love the other more.

Reader, I will post final scores and tallies a bit later.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Special Needs Home Improvement

This is one panel of Sophie's closet. For some reason, she likes to stand in front of it, gaze at it and then tip toward it and hit her forehead. Over and over again. Sometimes she knocks it in, and it comes off the runner, and we hear a godawful bang. Those of you who have older children with seizures know what the sound of a bang does to your body and psyche. Those of you who have PTSD from fighting in wars or spending a lot of time in NICUs or PICUs do, too.


A really wonderful man named Elvis and another really wonderful man named Nelson took those doors down.

They cut and sanded and worked for nearly two days to create two sliding doors. I bought some fabric online, and Elvis and Nelson bought some mattress pads and attached them to the doors. Then they basically upholstered the doors and put them on new and sturdier runners. This is what it looks like now:

Sophie stood in front of the doors and gazed at them, silently. Then she tipped over and bopped her head on them. I can't tell you what peace of mind this is going to bring us -- and it took over ten years!

Mulan: An Epitaph and Addendum***

Yeah, I know. How perfect is this French postcard?

Mulan didn't make it home yesterday afternoon, but Brooklyn did, cracked-up, to be sure, but nestled securely in his box and held by Noah.

We threw Mulan out, Mom, Henry told me when I asked where she was. It was the end of the project, he added and turned on the radio. Geez, I said, just like that, she's gone? Yesterday, when I tried to take the picture of a beautiful young classmate of Henry's who was wearing her egg in a lovely box around her neck, he stopped me, embarrassed. Thinking of Mulan lying at the bottom of a school trash can made me wonder how some of the girls might have dealt with the end of the project. But the radio played one of the six songs it rotates through, and the three boys talked over one another like they generally do. They told me in their already-deep voices about an egg fight that broke out between two other boys. Evidently, when the project was declared finished, a few of the boys started throwing eggs back and forth, and since this is Los Angeles and the 21st century, another boy filmed it. Before long, one boy threw an egg a bit too hard at another boy who then put the egg-thrower in a choke-hold and then punches started flying. The guy with the camera phone kept filming.

It was a real fight, Mom, Henry said, laughing, and when I asked who broke it up and what the consequences were, he admitted that he didn't know and that he'd just watched the video.

Reader, go where you'd like with that.

So, guys, I said, when they'd calmed down relating the fight to me,  you each have to tell me what you learned with this egg baby project in two sentences or less. Henry?

Henry said, I learned that it's really hard and stressful to take care of a baby, even if it is for a week and it's an egg.

Noah said, Yeah, I'd basically say the same thing as Henry. And I learned that I'd do anything to get enough money to get out of debt.

I nodded my head and decided to no longer be smug and satisfied. You know, there's a lot of joy, too, in a baby -- way more joy than anxiety and stress, anyway. 

But only if you're ancient in years and experience, I added, and the boys rolled their eyes.

***The comments provoked my memory, and I completely forgot to tell ya'll that Oliver was sitting in the car during the discussion about Mulan's demise, and do you know what he said?

You know what, Mom? When I do the egg project, I'm going to have TWO eggs, TWINS!

 Like one of my old writing mentors said about memoir, "you really can't make this sh#$@ up"

Stay tuned. I'll probably have twin grandeggs in two years.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mornings with Mulan

Mornings here are a careful orchestration of and restrained hysteria over coffee, breakfast, the packing of lunches, the feeding of Sophie, the dressing of Sophie, the arguing over who feeds the dog and today over whether the Taliban were in Cuba (Oliver and The Husband, two peas in a pod). I'm the one who keeps things moving along at a fairly rapid clip. Mornings now include:

Don't forget the egg!

If you're French and reading this, take note: apparently, if you're the grandmother to your thirteen year old's egg, you're still the one in charge. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Treading Softly

I nearly missed my favorite poet, W.B. Yeats' birthday (June 13, 1865), but as the night gets darker, I'll pull down my collected poetry and dip in.

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light.

I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats

You can listen to Anthony Hopkins read it:

And if you're a real Yeats aficionado, check out this site.

My grandegg Mulan - an update

This is where Mulan spends most of her day, nestled in a soft bed made of a cigar box, cotton material and an upside-down strawberry crate. Henry got into the car yesterday in a grumpy mood, tired and unwilling to share what had happened that day. Henry is almost never in a bad mood, so when I gently probed, I learned that not only was he tired of dealing with his egg, but the whole project was getting boring and hard.

Tell me about it, I said, trying not to sound smug. Henry slumped further down in his seat, clutching Mulan's box. The money thing is just hard, he said, I'm tired of it. I just raised my eyebrows and murmured

The other night, at the school's fundraiser, I had commiserated with Henry's in-laws about the project. The father thought it was too negative as did a haughty French woman I'd met earlier in the day who I rather ineffectively argued with about being a thirteen year old parent. She was impossibly French, inferring confidently in the usual never-disappearing-French-accent-despite-years-and-years-of-living-in-the-United-States that with the proper amour, a baby can be a beautiful thing. She disapproved of making the whole baby thing so negative. When I pointed out that I was the loving mother of three and the only mother in the room, actually, and that I would of course, support, a baby if Henry were to have one, but that it would be an unequivocal disaster, as far as I'm concerned. Frankly, I wanted to say that if Henry were to have a baby, I would be hard put to not say Your life is fucked.

Oh la la.

So, the ride home in the car was pretty silent. Moods were grumpy enough that Oliver's pleas to play music from the station that rotates about six songs were ignored, and when we pulled up to Noah's house to drop him off, I cheerfully asked whether I could take a photo of Baby Brooklyn. Noah, who is a quiet guy and probably the sweetest kid on the planet, cheerfully uncovered Baby Brooklyn for his first photo:

Noah, I might remind you, is a single parent, and while I'm a little bit in debt, he told me, everything is pretty good.

Reader, I'll let you take that where you will.

Mulan, Part One
Mulan, Part Two

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Loud Vernacular Horn

While my kids are still in school until next week, summer has hit elsewhere, and already the updates from friends on Facebook include descriptions of trips to Paris and Italy and Mexico. Note the word include but don't think I'm feeling resentful or anything. I have other friends who will spend their summers working or freaking out that summer school hours have been cut once again by the school system. Still others are spending weeks in the PICU at nearby hospitals, whiling away the hours playing Words with Friends while their children are hooked up to respirators and waiting for induced comas to end and seizures, hopefully, to stop.

We won't be doing much this summer other than the usual harrowing trip to Hilton Head Island in July (more on that later) and various day camps for my strapping boys. Since Sophie's seizure activity has stepped up of late, I'm resigned to do a series of doctor visits with her, holding my breath. We'll do a lot of hanging out in our pajamas which is actually one of the best parts of summer. We'll work on a list of stuff we'd like to do and post about that later, but given the amount of fabulousness I'm witnessing in other's lives, I think it's time to pull out the Billy Collins and let him speak for me, once again.


How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café, ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in my journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

Billy Collins

Monday, June 11, 2012

Grandegg Mulan Update

For those of you wondering how the weekend went for Mulan, my grandegg, evidently all went well until this afternoon when, Henry told me, S and I got up for a minute, Mom, ONE MINUTE, and she was cracked.

I refrained from expressing the fact that well, it only takes a minute, but I did initially gasp and say what do you mean, you left Mulan alone? and was immediately reassured by Henry that they are given the chance to boil another egg to take care of for the rest of the week but that they can't get any higher than a 92% on their final grade for the project. When Oliver and I expressed wonder that this would be allowed, because, after all, you can't really replace a baby so easily, Henry stated that it's about taking care of the egg, Mom, and it wouldn't be fair to not let us finish. We get penalized but we still have to finish. 

This late in the game of school, I'm deflecting any arguing, so I let it go, but Oliver kept at it pretty much the entire ride home until I raised my voice and shouted Enough about Mulan! Both of you be quiet and not another word! Evidently, my son-in-law S is responsible for Mulan's resurrection tonight and he's decorating her as well, because not only is he a hairdresser but moonlights as a pretty incredible artist. Noah's egg remained peaceful in his little box on Noah's lap and stayed there the entire ride home despite Oliver's pleas to hold him for a just a little while. The thought crossed my mind that single parenting might be easier in some respects -- well -- let's not go into marriage right now.

Before long, I imagine I'll have one of those fold-out wallets with pictures, so Reader, stay tuned.

I'm working on it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Two or three things

Good posters:

and my life has come to this: spending all day Sunday afternoon in Rancho Cucamonga at a minor league (The Quakes) baseball game with my sons and various members of Henry's baseball team and their parents, and I actually LOVED it!

What did you do this weekend?

Mulan, the Egg Baby

We've been waiting all trimester for sex education to begin at my sons' school. When I say waiting, I don't mean in some kind of suspended titillation. I mean that both boys have been aware that it's coming up -- Oliver, who is in fifth grade has had a sort of excited dread about it, and Henry, who is in seventh grade, an affected nonchalance. So, now that we're about a week and a half away from the end of school, it begins, and this is how it goes when you're two boys attending a progressive public school in Los Angeles, California.

Oliver came home yesterday afternoon requesting deodorant.

You have deodorant, I said, patiently.

Does it have aluminum in it, Mom?

Uh, no. That's why you have the Tom's stuff, Oliver.

Oh, so you know about the aluminum?

Yes, Oliver. I know about the aluminum.

I refrained from adding that I know everything, and then the conversation veered toward the various things that were going to happen to Oliver's body as he grew into an older boy and then man.

Easy peasy.

Henry came home on Thursday and told me that he needed a boiled egg to bring to school on Friday for their health and sex education project. Evidently, the egg was going to represent a baby and would be squired around school for the week, a centerpiece of a larger project that included budgeting for a child, health insurance, negotiating childcare contracts and a myriad of responsibilities pertaining to having a baby. The project is worth 500 points, a significant part of one's final science grade, and rules include a "O" if you break your egg. If a caregiver breaks your egg and hasn't signed a liability contract before said sitting, you get 150 points deducted. Don't quote me on that, though, as parenting an egg makes my head spin. Henry asked me to boil an egg for him, and I told him to boil it yourself. When the timer went off, he asked me to remove it from the heat, and I said You're going to have to take that egg off the heat yourself.

And so on.

Now, you might roll your eyes (I did) because, honestly, an egg doesn't come close to representing a baby when you're thirteen and fourteen years old. On one level, it reminds me of  a disability awareness project that I heard about where the kids are asked to walk around blindfolded to get a sense of what it's like to be blind. Right, I thought, caustically, being blind for a day is a real hardship. But I digress. I've heard that areas with better school budgets -- ahem -- have real baby dolls that poop and pee and cry for these projects, but keeping an egg safe, dry and clothed is evidently a substitute, and Henry was pretty excited about the whole thing. Maybe too excited.

In the morning we placed the little brown egg in a tiny shopping bag that we lined with paper shreds, while Oliver chattered nervously about his upcoming health and hygiene class. I said good-bye to my two sons and my grandegg and tended to Sophie who in a weird twist of fate wears deodorant (non-aluminum), a bra and diapers, which made me wonder about a disability project that might include caring for an ostrich egg, perhaps? -- caring for an ostrich egg for more than a week, though, and maybe the ostrich egg would be barely shattered and dripping protein and points would be taken off if you missed therapy or threatened to kill someone at your insurance company or spoke rudely to the little girl staring at your over-large egg in its stroller -- But I digress, again.

Henry got into the car with his friend Noah (also an egg father) on Friday afternoon and enthusiastically told me what had happened that day. Evidently, each student was required to pick a partner for the egg-rearing and was also given a random job or career. Noah had decided to be a single father and carried his egg in a neatly designed box. When he got into the car, he placed it carefully in his lap. Henry and his friend S decided to co-egg.

S and I are gay parents, Mom, Henry said.

We went to China to adopt an egg and named her Mulan. I'm a veterinarian with health insurance, and S is a hairdresser with none. Right now we're a little bit in debt which we have to get out of to earn back points. 

Evidently, other occupations included McDonald's cashier, doctor, movie producer, unemployed, and Noah is a salesman. Each egg parent was given a salary, commensurate with their experience, and had to budget accordingly.  Oliver listened to all of this avidly, shaken out of his former foul humor (he'd lost a file on his lap-top for a science project and had gotten into the car completely enveloped in a cloud of Oliver rage that I've learned to endure, if not ignore completely).

Henry was not in possession of his egg because his partner had volunteered to watch and take care of Mulan over the weekend, so we're egg-free today.

That's what's going down out here in La-La Land. My son is the proud gay father of a little brown Chinese egg named Mulan, and I'm a grandmother. And everyone smells nice and is aluminum-free.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Favorite Jokes

via The Chuckle Book by Mel Crawford

I'm no joke teller, but there are a few that I've heard that keep me laughing. One is my favorite of all time, from a book I had as a child, and the other two were told to me by a fellow blogger. Here they are:

1. What goes HA HA PLOP? (Answer below)

2. A guy is sitting at home when he hears a knock at the door. He opens the door and sees a snail on the porch. He picks up the snail and throws it as far as he can. Three years later, there’s a knock on the door. He opens it and sees the same snail. The snail says "What the hell was that all about?"

3. Jesus and Saint Peter are golfing. St. Peter steps up to the tee on a par three and hits one long and straight. It reaches the green. Jesus is up next. He slices it. It heads over the fence into traffic on an adjacent street. Bounces off a truck, onto the roof of a nearby shack and into the rain gutter, down the drain spout and onto a lilly pad at the edge of a lake. A frog jumps up and snatches the ball in his mouth. An eagle swoops down, grabs the frog. As the eagle flies over the green, the frog croaks and drops the ball. It’s in the hole. Saint Peter looks at Jesus, exasperated. "Are you gonna play golf?" he asks "Or are you just gonna fuck around?"

Answer to Number 1: A man laughing his head off.

Special Needs Ryan Gosling Friday

Make your own Special Needs Ryan Gosling by going to Sunday's blog Adventures in Extreme Parenting and linking up.


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