Bob did not know it was a nonprofit job.

Hawaii won her school’s Veteran’s Day poetry contest!


Thanks to You

Our flag must mean a lot to you,
For you fought for us through and through.
It’s thanks to you that we are here
If not we might just be cowering in fear.

It’s thanks to you that we are safe
Because of your bravery and faith
That now it all just comes down to
Two more words and those are Thank You.

The ceremony was bizarre at times – four (ROTC?) soldiers in formal gear, standing around a table, placing an empty cup, a rose, a lemon, (I found the whole thing here), and so on, somberly reciting. Holding up different colored square in front of their faces. I guess it’s a POW/MIA thing. Sure, have a POW/MIA thing at an elementary school, why not.  They also brought in the high school drumline, which was totally awesome.

At any rate, ceremonial jingoism aside, I love her poem and I think it was far and above the best of the 1st-6th place poems which were read.

Version 2

One of those Egyptian Goose guys again.

Pokey, ugh, my heart is breaking.  To test for a belt in karate, you send in a form to the kid’s teacher who has to verify that the kid is, essentially, an obedient little chipper with a tidy desk. Pokey’s teacher returned the form and instead of signing it, wrote a note explaining how his behavior is incorrigible and no way could she sign such a thing. (She went into similar detail in the ADHD form.)

She is completely correct. He is going to be crushed. He’s insanely competitive and this is going to blindside him.

Update: I told him, and he was disappointed but took it squarely. I asked him if he were upset, and he said, “I’m not surprised. Ms. R barely signed it last year. She said ‘Well, I guess you had a good day today, so I’ll sign it…'”

He is fairly philosophical and realistic about the consequences of his problems at school.

Version 2

I failed to get any action shots of Pokey playing soccer this season. It was so fun to watch him play. First, he’s a goddamn scoring machine.  He just gets how to finish the ball. He scores three goals in a game with no problem.

(When I played, I was scared of being right in front of the goal, because it’s so scrappy and easy to get hurt there. So I used to take the ball wide and shoot these beautiful, floppy arcing long shots. They looked so pretty. Then they’d either go wide, or high, or the goalie would leisurely catch them. I never scored.)


Sometimes he played sweeper.  He was so good there, too. He reads the situation, positions himself between the attacker and the goal, doesn’t commit too early but not too late either. It’s so much fun to watch him.

Back to the school issues: Along with the karate form, his teacher also filled out the ADHD form. I thought about posting her comments here from both forms, but they’re just plain demoralizing.

Instead, I emailed the assistant principal and basically said, “Pokey is having a really terrible year. His teacher is very patient but seems to be at capacity. Is there any help?” (I don’t actually think his teacher seems very patient, but I phrased it nicely.)

The principal wrote back and said, “Let me know if you’d like to transfer him to the other dual language class, or out of the dual language program altogether.”

I was taken aback. Maybe? But wouldn’t Pokey’s difficulties just follow him to a new teacher? These things aren’t going away. I and asked my friend’s advice, and she asked how that would fit into Pokey’s RTI and ARD and all these other acronyms I’ve never heard of.

I’m supremely frustrated to just now be learning all this.

So: there’s all these interventions that someone in the schools should have alerted us to, over the past three years.  Instead of me sitting through hour-long rants by multiple teachers vomiting all their pent-up anger on me, they could have fucking asked for help and followed protocol. The principals who have seen him could have initiated something. All these specials teachers (ie PE, art, music) who get into these fights with him could have mentioned something to someone in the administration.

And the nature of the RTI (response-to-intervention?) appears to be exactly the kind of thing that we’ve been struggling with – how do you set small achievable goals for your kid when you’re not there to carry it out during the day? How do you get the teacher to stay on the same page when you seem to drift to different pages so damn quickly? Etc. The answer is that there’s a designated person who coordinates all this. ‘

(I’d thought that none of this stuff was available unless he had a diagnosis and it was interfering with his learning. Since he’s fine academically and this is all behavioral, I honestly thought we were on our own.)

ADHD is highly over-diagnosed in marginalized populations – poor kids dealing with trauma and PTSD. Then the flip side is that a privileged white kid displays all these symptoms, and no one flags it. (I am not saying these experiences are equivalent. Pokey’s situation is frustrating, not horrifying.)


More things Pokey smuggles out of the cafeteria:


Better than a syrup packet, I suppose, insofar as it didn’t burst.

Pokey spent today doing long division without really knowing the standard algorithm:


He was verifying the batting averages on his baseball cards by dividing the number of at bats by the number of hits, and taking it out to the thousandths column. (There are several pages like this.)

Jammies and I spent lots of brain cells trying to track Pokey’s monologues about remainders and rounding and tenths and hundredths column digits, confusion about percents and decimals, and so on.


It is morbidly hilarious that Pokey got an award for being on time to school, because it’s an obsession of his that we’d like him to loosen his grip on. He fixates on a 7:27 arrival. Any earlier and they have to go to the cafeteria. Any later and he’s not right there at 7:30 when they open the front doors.

Sometimes in the drive over, he’ll simultaneously be berating you for being too early and too late. Pokey! If I’m both too early and too late, I’m doing great! Get off my case, kiddo.


A crane or a heron?

Ace and her dawdling. I know I’m harping on this. It’s someone holding up a mirror to my inner soul, and the dawning realization of what I’m like, who I am. Gentle Reader, I am an incorrigible dawdler.

It’s putting on the shoes, it’s buckling the seat belt, it’s taking ten minutes chatting while sitting on the toilet.  “STAY ON TASK!” I bark constantly, because I know instinctively that’s the hardest part.


Favorite stuffie wearing favorite (outgrown) t-shirt.


“C’monnnnn,” I coax, trying to get Ace to wrap up using the bathroom so that she will brush her teeth.”

Ace closes the toilet seat lid, and tells me: “It’s hard not to blink when you’re shutting the toilet seat lid,”

She says, “Watch this!”  And she assumed a bug-eyed stoic, face-jutting expression, and then reached out her arm and let the toilet lid drop.

Sure enough, she blinked as the lid banged on the base.  I burst out laughing, and we got distracted together, making more and more ridiculous faces that broke upon the bang of the toilet seat closing.

We’re soooo slooo000ooow.


I particularly like this outfit.


Version 2

Maybe a red-shouldered hawk? Some kind of hawk.


Rascal is at the age where there are lots of skirts and pink in Pokey’s old hand-me-downs. “Rascal, would you like to have a dress or two in your closet with your other clothes?”

“NOOOOOO” he says resoundingly, like he’s bored of everyone asking him this. Okay then!


Jammies put chocolate chips in the pancakes this morning.


Don’t you dare touch anything.

At one point today, Jammies was sitting on the edge of the couch, watching soccer, and I stretched out behind him on my stomach. Enjoying the tired laziness of a Sunday for a moment. Rascal climbed on me and cuddled. Then got on his knees and started climbing around. Eventually he stood up, wobbled, and collapsed. Whooped and did it again.

None of it really hurt, although it wasn’t exactly relaxing. He kept standing on me in different places, wobbling around and hamming it up – “whoa, whoo-aoo-oo…!”  –  and then collapsing in a big pile.

Finally he just hung on to the back of the couch and jumped up and down on my butt.  This hurt, and that struck me as impossibly absurd, and I got the giggles. I finally rolled over and saw that he was naked from the waist down, as well. Then he fell into me and we cracked skulls, and I had a pounding headache for the next hour. The end.


Ever since Rascal was a baby, he’s been the most head-butting, happily violent kid. I have a hard time conveying it in words.


Hawaii’s friend B put this on her homework, for Silly Sentences:


I love that so much.

The kids noticed tonight that we put them to bed by 7:45. We didn’t mean to –  we ate dinner, it got dark, we brushed teeth and read stories, and put them to bed. Hawaii went to set her alarm and called shenanigans on us when she saw the current time.

We shrugged and told them to read in bed (which we always let them do anyway.) After all, they woke up at 5:30 this morning. I don’t actually feel too bad for them. Plus I might get to bed at a sane hour tonight.


I think this big sucker is a great heron, or at least a pretty good heron.

I took a personal day on Thursday. This semester has just been completely awful.  Finally the election is over, the student conference trip is over, the visiting mathematician is over, the blockwalking is over, everything is done except running out the clock on the actual semester. Good fucking riddance.


I like the little bulbs at the base of each stem. They must be filled with air to help it float? They looked very smooth and appealing, texturally.




Suction experiments, diffusion models

Here is a thing my uncle wrote about his bone marrow transplant:

The bone marrow stem cells are being harvested not as stem cells from the donor’s peripheral blood, but through bone marrow extractions. Because of the quantity of bone marrow needed, this requires general anesthesia and a two-hour surgical procedure. Most bone marrow stem cell donors only give stem cell from their peripheral blood, but the clinical trial required actual bone marrow.  This requires a much much higher level of commitment from the donor. I feel so deeply, profoundly grateful. I have several times referred to human beings as star dust from the infernos of supernovas that gets organized in incredibly complex ways that we call “alive” and then somehow becomes conscious of the fact that it is alive and then conscious that it is conscious.  So here we have two beings made of stardust, one of which is trying to keep the other alive. In this grand and amazing universe, what could be more beautiful: compassionate stardust bound together through universal love.

He has written a lot of things, in his blog of his cancer journey that he keeps. This captures the generosity and beauty through which he sees the world.

In the middle of the night on Sunday night, Jammies had a panic attack when he realized that we hadn’t carved pumpkins. He stayed awake half the night hyperventilating.


Finally he settled on a plan to purchase four pumpkins on his own, scrape out the guts himself, and take the pumpkins to piano lessons, and have the kids carve them at our piano teacher’s house on Wednesday, out of the back of his truck.

(Rascal didn’t get to carve a pumpkin, but we don’t think he noticed.)


As you can see, his plan’s bonkers but it worked.

On Tuesday night, I woke up in a lather at 3 am, fretting about how much I dislike our Trick or Treating situation.  Our very close friends live next to the busy trick-or-treating street in town. Our friends throw a party every year and we all operate out of their house.


Hawaii’s kitty cat pumpkin.

I loathe this particular busy trick-or-treating street. I hate the river of people. I hate that we wait until it’s just about dark, instead of going in the twilight.  I hate that there’s no ringing of the doorbells, because everyone just sits on their front porch as the waves of trick or treaters break over them.


Pokey’s cyclops pumpkin.

In my rumination, I convinced myself that typically, some emotional connection occurs between residents and children, with the doorbell and opening the door. That kids need the pause on the porch, while the resident gets up, grabs the candy bowl, and opens the door. That there’s a necessary ritual there and my kids would never associate Halloween with all the best sentimental parts of Halloween.


Ace’s geometric pumpkin.

In the morning, I realized I’m an idiot and that I don’t actually care very much what we do.  Sure, I dislike the busy street, but that pales compared to my dominant emotion, which is indifference.  Who cares how we trick or treat.

Morning is wiser than night, and all that.


Jammies took the drill to Rascal’s pumpkin on his behalf.

In the end, it poured cats and dogs on Halloween.  We went to our friend’s house and we were all trapped indoors. It felt enormously liberating to me – after all our crazed balancing act, to just be forced to shrug and say fuck it.


More of a mirror than a window to the torrential rain, but hey, that’s how light works.


Jammies made little spider eggs. (Little spiders out of eggs. Not spider eggs.)  Or maybe Betty Davis eyeballs.

Long after dark – around 8:00 pm – the rain stopped, and we crawled out and did go trick or treating, and it was totally fine.

Hawaii rests on a bed of nails!


Rascal looks on.

We went to Family Physics night. There were rockets and explosions, particle accelerator models and suction experiments and diffusion models.

Ace rests on a bed of nails!


Rascal looks on.

They held it the night after Halloween, which is just the worst logistically, but we went to support colleagues.  The event was great, though.

Pokey rests on a bed of nails!


Saturday, I was in Nacogdoches, Texas, which is in the middle of the pine trees separating Houston and Dallas. A colleague and I took five math majors there, to attend a math conference. Our students presented our summer research, and I was very pleased with how good a job they did.

The conference paid for student hotel costs. They put them four to a room.  Two of our students registered late, and so our students were spread across four different rooms.  Four of them ended up sharing a bed with a stranger; one student got a bed to himself.


In hindsight, it’s a pretty bizarre logistical situation where you put four young adults who don’t know each other in a hotel room. Sharing a room with a complete stranger is at best very awkward. They ought to stay in a youth hostel kind of situation – a dozen twin bunkbeds in a big room – but such things don’t really exist here, of course.

One of our guys is gay and gender-fluid – I was concerned for him, worried in case he was paired with someone homophobic. But he ended up being in a room with only two others, and the other two already knew each other, so he ended up with a bed to himself, and it was a non-issue.

I think next time I’d advise our students to bring sleeping bags, just to take the issue off the table. I think I could sleep in a sleeping bag, on a bed, next to a stranger, more easily than I could share covers with them.

The river is so steamy on cold days:


because it’s always 72 degrees, regardless of the time of year.


The steam has such a hypnotic drift to it – always shifting and breezing along on top of the water, to its own current.


These photos are so much more static.  You’ll just have to trust me.

It was a five hour drive on Friday, and then another five hour drive home again on Saturday, and I was pretty cranky and done by the end of it all.

My colleague is fine. He’s a good colleague. Ten hours in a car is a LOT over two days.

At one point, he told me a long monologue about how his family makes a lot of jokes. Every second or third sentence they say to each other is a joke. They’ve got their own style of jokes that they like.  In the entire description, he never once said something funny.  Or unfunny. He didn’t share anything resembling humor – just talked about the fact of humor. It made me strongly suspect that they aren’t very funny after all.

First off, “Sabre” was the name of the company that bought Dunder-Mifflin on The Office, and they couldn’t tell if it was pronounced Saber or Sah-bray.


Second of all, that is a gasoline pump handle. I suppose it’s missing the trigger.


Jammies is giving these shoes away, and I love them so I’m documenting them for memory’s sake. He loves them too, and has worn them a lot over the years, but they hurt his toes.

Pokey and Ace both love the Secret Coders books. Pokey recently tried his hand coding some Logo, from the Secret Coders website.  This led to some conversations about the severe frustration of debugging code.  I’m pretty sure Jammies is going to be debugging Pokey’s code for the next ten years.

We got Hawaii a flip phone, so she texts us now.


Wait what?


I laughed and laughed.




But also: Hawaii was home alone and bored, so she wanted to wrap presents that she bought for Pokey and Rascal’s upcoming birthdays. Honestly, what a thoughtful kid.

This is how Rascal always talks:

– “That doesn’t even make sense, you mom!”

– telling a joke: “Everybody has bones, except for a crab with shells. GET IT???”

Ace’s first karate tournament!


All day today I’ve been stewing over whether or not we should quit karate. I like it, and Jammies likes it a lot, and the kids all like it.



But there are too many things objectively worth doing, and you can’t do them all, and I want us to cut back. Today it seemed urgent to declare karate to be the thing that gets axed.

Ace, mad at me: “What I want to do – and also what I don’t want to do – is punch you in the face.”

Like, she started to say that she wanted to punch me, but had to concede part way through that she had mixed feelings.

Ace, wandering out of bed after bedtime: “I just counted ninety-eight, ninety-nine, and then instead of saying a hundred, I said ten-dy, ten-dy-one, ten-dy-two… Now I’m on fourteen-ty-one, fourteen-ty-two…”

Ace, on the way home from Family Physics night: “I’m wearing four socks. These are my old socks and these are my new socks. Because when you gave me clean socks this morning, I didn’t want to put them on, so I put them on, on top of my old socks.”

Observe, wearing socks on socks:


Dear posterity,

Every right-thinking person in the country is climbing the walls this weekend with anxiety about the upcoming election on Tuesday.  In Geebie County, the early vote total exceeded the early vote total in 2016, which is pretty goddamn amazing.

I very much hope that the next twenty years proved to be a period of increasing stability and redistribution of wealth, and that racism and sexism and discrimination continued to be fought and chipped away at.  But from where you are standing, you may know perfectly well that that’s not what ended up happening, and I’m dreadfully sorry that we handed you this mess.

The future is bright when we wear orange shirts and sunglasses.

I followed these poor goats in the rain for a while, on my commute:


They must have been kids – they were soft and floppy like puppies. In fact, I was really confused for awhile if they were puppies or goats.  Or guppies.

I talked about Pokey to my new therapist. (Did I mention I had a new therapist? No I did not. She’s great!) She was basically nodding vigorously, anticipating my point, while I meandered through the story of the parent-teacher conference and subsequent ADHD-musing and googling.

She definitely advised that we should get Pokey checked out for ADHD. She said things like:

  • “Usually I’m not in favor of medicating kids, but with ADHD, it’s the opposite. The therapy won’t do any good without it, or it will move at a snail’s pace. The kids can’t slow down and pause and think to do the things from therapy, without the medication,” and
  • “The thing about medication is that it tells you for sure if you’ve got the right diagnosis. If it doesn’t help, he doesn’t have ADHD,” and
  • “The other therapists might not have caught it if they weren’t looking for it. Also, age 7 or 8 is prime age for it to really show up, and also, oppositional defiant disorder is sort of a bullshit diagnosis, especially at age 5,” and
  • “The thing I look for when making a diagnosis is how well they play by themselves. Do they get immersed? Or do they get agitated and frustrated, in play?” She said that kids with oppositional defiant disorder, or depression, or whatever, can play just fine, but ADHD kids just rush through it and get easily frustrated. That’s often Pokey, but not always.

The next step is to have three adults from three different contexts – parents, teacher, coach, or whatever – fill out the Vanderbilt Assessment Thing and then take it to his pediatrician. We shall see!


Pokey discovers ASCII codes.

At the gym, I told the owner that if he voted by Friday, I’d come to the gym Halloween party. He did, and so I was on the hook to attend.

I think I’m so funny: I showed up to the party and only stayed for 10 minutes. My costume is that I ghosted.

Tuesday was picture day for Rascal:


This is what the photo people send home when your kid refuses to sit for school portraits.  Ah well, saves us some money.

TV zombies on a couch, Saturday morning edition:


part zillion.

Jammies has so much more to say about subbing than about his old job! I’m enjoying it a lot.

On middle school kids: “They want to touch everything and knock all the papers onto the floor, and say every bad word they can think of all in a row.”

On high school kids: “They just want to be left alone with their phones.”



Hawaii made marvelous macaroons to celebrate Charlotte – her little stuffed unicorn – ‘s 4th birthday. We all sang happy birthday and enjoyed them.

Hawaii found them a bit too sweet, but I loved mine. Like a homemade Girl Scout samoa.


Bon mots from Ace:

“I already know the worst day of my life… the day I die! I wonder what will be the best day of my life?”

Wearing velvet pants:


Stroking her velvet pants.

After karate, Pokey and Hawaii and I waited while Ace went into the women’s restroom. We waited and waited.

Finally I went in, and asked, “Everything okay?”

“Oh!” she said, surprised, “Yes! I just got stuck looking at the pattern in the floor!”

I can’t tell you how many times that kind of thing happened to me growing up. Good lord.  So many different friends and family have independently wearily complained about how long it takes me to put on my shoes, when everyone else is ready to go.

Back at karate, I went back out, and we waited and waited some more, while Ace leisurely washed her hand and gradually made it outside.

I swear, she and I have the same internal metronome. It’s just slow. It’s a little hard to get off the couch, to stop doing one thing, or to start doing a new thing. It’s real easy to daydream and gab and be silly.  Attention surplus disorder, hypo-activity edition.


At Ace’s parent-teacher conference, the teacher showed me Ace’s progress, and that while she can sound out words and is beginning to read, she still missed two letter-sounds – k and q – on the progress test. I dryly asked if Ace had answered ttt when shown each letter, because of course she did – she still says “otay” and “titty tat” – and it’s the best and I’ll be very sad when it disappears.

(The teacher looked unsure and clearly that’s what happened.)

Inadavertently dirty:

Ace was sounding the words “The dog jumps” with me one night, and mixed up Spanish J and English J to say “The dog humps”.  The other kids laughed and began echoing it, just in the innocence of hump being a funny bumpy word.  The dog humps! The dog humps!

This is currently what’s leftover of Nancy Reagan:


Sock it to drugs! Wear crazy socks!  Pair up against drugs! Twin day!

Cool cats don’t do drugs! No catnip! It’s give yourself a tongue bath day!

Houseplants hang against drugs! It’s be a spider plant day! Soil yourself against drugs!

It’s string together words against drugs! Wear word salad out your mouth!

Ace sings and dances for Dia de los Muertos:

Version 2

Pokey does as well:

Version 2

I think he’s the skeleton on the bottom row, second from left, but who can really say.


The new therapist: I am cautiously optimistic. I’ve been wondering for the past year or two if my old therapist was terrible, or if it was just me.  I only saw him once or twice a year. He’d give advice, but I never felt any growth or insight from talking to him. He’d answer a question, and the discussion would end. I thought maybe I just wasn’t a good candidate for therapy anymore.

The new one, besides seeming insightful, asks me questions to help unpack issues! She gets me talking. It’s great. In broad strokes, she’s similar to my beloved Chaunda, which makes me happy. So far so good.

At one point, when I was discussing the imbalance of labor between Jammies and I, she asked me rhetorically, “If you move everything over to one side of an equation, is it still balanced?”

I stared at her, confused. Yes? It’s still balanced! That’s how equations work! (After a beat, I realized she was thinking of scales, not equations – ie things that get unbalanced if you move everything over to one side – and we resumed. I was amused.)

(Because when you move something like a “4” in an equation, you apply the inverse “subtract 4” to both sides in a balanced way. On a scale when you move something like “4 lbs”, you apply the inverse “subtract 4” only to the side where it was, and apply the element itself “add 4” to the other side, and so it’s not balanced anymore.)


Rascal goes Trunk or Treating!


The kind of thing that’s held in a parking lot, out of people’s cars.

Ace goes Trunk or Treating!


Mostly just to give them another chance to enjoy their costumes.

Pokey goes Trunk or Treating!


as Senor Piggy Pants. Here’s the back view:


He cracked me up. I love it.

Hawaii goes Trunk or Treating!


It was very hot out there. Only in the 80s, but after one cold week, we lost all perspective and sweltered like fools.


Eating melted candy.


This photo is the best.  It’s beautiful and nostalgic and funny, all in real time.

The end of breadsticks

The cold weather swept in. It has been delicious to wear sweaters and jackets and boots. The kids’ teachers were in a tizzy – Ace’s teacher told them their ears would get infected if they didn’t have a hood or earmuffs.

(It was about 50° out. No one’s ears are infected.)


Jammies had his first day of school!


On Tuesday, he was kind of a floating assistant for a halfday at the middle school – in two math classes, over at PE, and then another math class.

On Wednesday, he signed up to be a kindergarten sub. About five minutes into class, Jammies thought “these are big kindergartners! And this material seems really hard!” …and realized they were actually second graders.  (this is hilarious.)

It sounds like the day was…reasonable! The kids were manic and disruptive but within maybe what you’d expect for 7-8 year olds? The regular teacher’s sub plans were pretty good, the day was pretty structured.


This coming week he’s going to sub for a co-teacher in middle school special ed. So far, so good!

The kids made up a song, to the tune of “One Little, Two Little, Three Little [Witches/Pilgrims/Not Indians]”:

How to draw a pig

Two little circles and one big circle
Two little circles and one big circle
Two little circles and one big circle
Double u, double u, eee.

IMG_4980 (1)

The first line refers to the nostrils and snout.
The second is the eyes and face.
The third is the ears and the body.
The Ws are the hooves, and the E is the spiral tail.



Rascal came to the gym with me and asked, “Why is that clock there?!” and pointed to this:


He also said, “When I say meow, it means I have to go potty. Okay?”
“Okay!” I said.
“MEOW!!” he said.

Let’s go!


My mom seems so bleak. A friend of hers is 95, nearing the end of her life, and has no kids, and the end-of-life care has fallen to my mom and two other women. My mom is sorting through the friend’s possessions. The friend is probably very, very depressed, does not quite have enough money for this stage of life, and the whole situation is bleak and sad and there are an intense amount of physical chores to boot.

In addition, both my mom’s brothers are extremely sick. The one uncle will get his bone marrow transplant this Tuesday. My dad quietly calls it a hail mary, and my mom tells me that whenever he says so, a cold chill comes over her.

I miss my mom finding pleasure in life. She’s always mostly Eeyore, but these past few months have been especially hard for her.

Early in the week I got a call from Pokey’s GT teacher. I tensed up, but all she wanted to ask was, “Would it be okay if I gave Pokey some problems from the 3rd grade math STAAR exam?” Of course! I was tickled. (It seems a wee bit bizarre to reach for standardized test questions for a kid who wants to learn more, but who cares. You want a challenge? Enjoy some monotonous busy work!)


Pokey lists all the different types of pitches he can conceive of.

Later in the week, I met Pokey’s regular teacher for his parent-teacher conference.  It was a 75-minute monologue at me.  She’s complicated. She is spending a lot of time and energy on Pokey, which I appreciate. On the other hand, she is hard to track: she’ll say two contradictory things within five minutes, and if you try to clarify, she’ll give a third statement which is neither of the previous two.

(Example: “Because of his behavior, Pokey is no longer allowed to be at stations with other children any more.” And then a few minutes later, “…today, when Pokey was with two other children at stations,…” and so I asked, “Today was the day when he lost being at stations with other children? Or he got those privileges back today?” and she said, “Well, there’s an odd number of children, and so there’s either a group of three, or a student by themself, and Pokey really likes to be by himself, but I’ve explained to him that he can’t always be the one alone. Sometimes other kids get a turn.”

Ok, any of those are fine, but they’re all three incompatible with each other and I have no idea, but the last sounds likely.)

So the teacher is hard to track, but she’s also dealing with 16 second-graders, so I can’t be anything but indebted to her. She said, “Pokey is a different child than he was at the beginning of the year. He’s come so far. He’s a work-in-progress,” and also, “He’s the rudest child I’ve had in 19 years.”  (I’m definitely not claiming that those are contradictory.)  He’s not rude in the sense of insulting other children (mostly) but more in the “you can’t make me/I don’t want to/you’re not the boss of me/I do it a different way” strain of rudeness.


She also described, at length, his constant rushing. “He barrels over all the other children to get where he’s going. At the beginning of the school year, he’d say, ‘They’re in my way!’ Now I’ve got him where he says, ‘Sorry!’ as he barrels over them. And just today, he made eye-contact with the girl he knocked over, while he said ‘sorry’ to her. See? He’s improving!”

He likes to be dropped off at precisely 7:27 – any earlier, and the teachers will make him go to the cafeteria before class. But at 7:27, they’ll let him sit on the bench next to the front door, and then he can be first to his classroom, at then he can be first to start the daily math problem that the teacher sets out, and then he can be first to finish it before anyone else notices there was a race. “It’s not a competition!” she said to me, perplexed. “It’s just a math problem! He’s always going as fast as he can, to do what?!”

On Unfogged, it was proposed that he might have ADHD. I googled symptoms. First, there’s the Inattentive Subtype. These are forgetful, flaky kids who daydream and get easily distracted and can’t keep track of their possessions. This is not Pokey. He is not as organized as Hawaii, but he’s perfectly reasonable for a 2nd grader. He knows where his stuff is, and he’s not forgetful or careless about his possessions.

Second, though, is the Hyperactive-Impulsive type:

    • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet or squirms in seat.
    • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
    • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate.
    • Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly.
    • Is often “on the go,” acting as if “driven by a motor” (e.g., is unable to be or uncomfortable being still for extended time, as in restaurants, meetings; may be experienced by others as being restless or difficult to keep up with).
    • Often talks excessively.
    • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed (e.g., completes people’s sentences; cannot wait for turn in conversation).
    • Often has difficulty waiting his or her turn (e.g., while waiting in line).
    • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission; for adolescents and adults, may intrude into or take over what others are doing).

    At soccer practice, when everyone takes a knee, Pokey circles around and around the team, and the coach has decided it’s not worth arguing about. At home, Pokey is perpetually throwing a ball against the wall. If he’s at the front of the house, where he can’t throw a ball, he repetitively mimes pitching a ball over and over and over again while talking to you. There are a lot of monologues. Everything in that list resonates.


    A composition by Pokey.

    I don’t know exactly what we’d do with a diagnosis, though. And there have been several therapists who have not identified this, for what it’s worth.

    Who knows, all of this requires more talking and thought.

    On a lighter note, Pokey grabbed a packet of syrup from the cafeteria and smuggled it out in his jacket pocket. Then it popped (probably from being manipulated nonstop) and so he shoved his jacket in his backpack, and that’s how you get everything in your backpack sticky with syrup.


    Ace spars!

    I wrote this early in the week, before Pokey’s parent-teacher conference:

    Hawaii, Pokey, and Ace each play piano according to their personality. Hawaii has an impeccable internal metronome, and she naturally emotes and conveys emotion while playing. Even when sightreading, she just slows way down. It’s beautiful.

    Pokey rushes along, stumbling over his fingers, always trying to get through and to the next piece as quickly as possible. It’s not that he’s more eager to finish practicing than anyone else so much as that he’s playing like he’s leaning forward on a segue, trying to get it to go as fast as he can.

    Lastly, Ace plays lazily. She cannot make it through a song without stopping to chat. She plays a few measures, and then tells you a funny thing she thought of while playing the measures, or tells you about what it was like to play those measures, or that she thinks the next part is hard. Or whatever. Anything but playing it straight through.

    Somehow, post-conference, it no longer seems quite as light-hearted and cute.

    On the plus side, almost everyone loved the bottom-of-the-barrel casserole I fed them tonight.  It was rice, spinach, ground turkey, cream of mushroom soup, and topped with cheese.  There were no leftovers.



    What’s the opposite of sadness? The endless breadsticks at Olive Garden? Or so asserts my student. (Debatable.)

    I delivered all my homemade fliers this week. It started off fine – I enjoyed passing them out, the weather was crisp and cool, and I didn’t have to talk to anyone.


    Windowsill kitty.

    This afternoon, one woman and her mother stopped me. They thought that part of my flier was tasteless. Specifically, they did not like the pukey emoticon that I put next to Ted Cruz’s name.


    Sidewalk kitty.

    They’re totally right:  the rest of the flier is nonpartisan, and it’s a bit dishonest to sneak in a puking emoticon next to Cruz in an otherwise nonpartisan flier.


    Tarantula kitty.

    On the other hand, Cruz is a despicable shithead who is complicit in separating families at the border and shutting down the government in order to prevent people from getting health care. If anyone still likes him, perhaps they could go fuck themselves?


    Pumpkin kitty.

    I hate confrontations, however, and groveled and apologized, and felt disproportionately guilty.


    Skittish kitty.

    The second incident was much worse, and happened when I was just wrapping up. There was a house that seemed conservative-ish, but I dropped a flier off there, anyway. The parents of the family got in their truck, tracked me down, and took my photo. I am very spooked by that. There are violent rightwingers in the larger region – I would not want to become the focus of any of that.


    Not a kitty.

    I am very glad to be done with all of this.

    Maybe it should have been a straight GOTV flier, completely nonpartisan, but the truth is that I’m not nonpartisan and that’s not the message I felt like sending. I don’t believe in the GOTV message in a pure sense; I just want to get my side out to the polls.


    Nestled kitty.

    Lastly: I think 90% of the houses in this neighborhood have dogs. So many goddamn barking dogs, every time you approach a door.


    That black one is the one I photographed a few weeks ago, with the bloody nose. His nose still looked awful.  Poor sweeties.

They don’t say your name.


This week was grueling and anachronistic. I felt like I was cramming for Quals in graduate school (which we actually called Prelims, not Quals, but Quals seems more universal.) Except cramming for Quals in a world where every time you squeeze a spare hour of studying in, you’re imposing extra childcare on your spouse.


(I realize that parents do in fact attend graduate school. But in my case, I had that nice bright clean dividing line between having full sovereignty of my time while in school, and then afterwards ceding control to the demands of rearing children.)

Everything transported me back to my 25 year old self – old math building, old advisor’s office, parking on streets near my old apartment, so that I walked my old route into campus.  But now, with the time warp knowledge of knowing how it all turns out.  All my ruminating 20-something preoccupations – what will become of me and how will life go? The broad strokes are now known.  It all turned out good.

This week when I walked back to my car, I’d feel intense waves of familiarity, and then easily slip across 15 years back to my current life. Back and forth, all week long, across the 15 year divide. It was very weird.

It’s true that I also returned during my sabbatical four years ago. So this isn’t my first time warp. Still, it felt warpy.


Last week I mentioned the first meeting with my advisor and the Chilean collaborator. They were both tired and absentminded, and it seemed that I passed. (On Monday I taught my regular classes.) On Tuesday, however, the Chilean gently explained to me lots of things I didn’t know, and I nodded and realized how very badly I was in way over my head.  I nodded at a lot of gibberish, because the alternative was too humiliating.

I cancelled all my classes for Wednesday and feigned a sick kid. (I could have told the truth but I needed to simplify and it felt simpler.) I headed to a coffee shop at 6:00 am and took the material apart into itty-bitty pieces, and laboriously built it back up again. I broke for lunch and resumed for a few hours in the afternoon at the library, and then a few more that evening, and then again 6 am the following morning, until it was time to meet on Thursday.  I managed to squeeze in an actual 16 full hours of studying between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon.

Thursday and Friday were much less embarrassing than Tuesday.  I participated in conversations, to some degree. I asked a mixture of good questions and dumb questions. Thursday night and Friday morning I studied some more, in between meeting with them. (Thursday and Friday, Heebie U was closed for fall break.)


Each time we met, I surreptitiously recorded everything, and took photographs of the board, so that I could slowly comb through it and meticulously understand, afterwards. I really did enjoy the actual math, but the schedule and brain drain was grueling.

I really did enjoy the math! I feel the need to underline that part, since I’m complaining so much. It wasn’t bad exactly, just intimidating and tiring.

On Friday afternoon, the Chilean collaborator caught his flight home, and I collapsed in a pile of euphoria, the post-final exams feeling that I haven’t felt since 2003, in grad school. I rewarded myself with these shoes from Ebay:


Shoes, you guys are just so cute. I can’t wait to meet you.

Two moments stick out in particular: Between Tuesday and Thursday, I was mostly reading a paper written by the Chilean guy, which we are trying to generalize.  I thought there was a small part that wouldn’t generalize, and that I could come up with some interesting examples. Let’s call these examples having Property X. I thought there was a outside chance I might be able to contribute something new to the conversation, around Property X.

Literally, as I was walking up to my advisor’s office door, out of sight and futzing with the voice recorder, I heard my advisor say, “Well of course. That’s why we have to re-define Property X for this new context. Obviously now it needs to be the [cohomological class blah blah map induced by F blah blah no longer intuitive at all].”  In other words, my advisor took the one property that I had some intuition and insight on, and obliterated it before I even walked in the door. I bet if they had tried, they could’ve hear the hiss of the air as all my pep deflated out of me. Poop.


The bathroom in my coffee shop has green lightbulbs.

The other moment was on Thursday evening. I offered to give our collaborator a ride to his hotel. In the elevator, I bumped into an old acquaintance from graduate school who exclaimed, “Good to see you! Still doing math?”  I replied, “More like these guys are doing math, and I’m watching them!” and we went on our merry way.

Afterwards, our collaborator said, “That was insulting, no?” and I hemmed and hawed. It would have been insulting if my acquaintance had said “still doing math?” to any number of  women from our grad program who went on to have impressive careers in research. But addressed to me? It seems kind of spot on. I’m barely doing research!

The collaborator kindly lectured me for the next ten minutes about how everyone feels insecure, and the point of a problem is to enjoy the math process, and that he didn’t want to hear anything like that out of my mouth again.

He’s both right and wrong, but it was a very generous way for him to frame our week together. Prior to that, I had been planning on emailing him and my advisor after the week ended, in order to explain that I felt obliged to withdraw my name from the forthcoming paper. After the lecture, I decided that that would not be received warmly.

Hawaii left this package outside our door for us to find:


(We got mad at her for ringing the doorbell and running, without seeing the package, and it turned into a big screaming misunderstanding before we actually realized she was doing something wonderful.)

Finally I opened it:


A paper bag in a box, you say?

And in the paper bag…


An egg solitaire! And in the egg…


See, this is really legitimately funny – this was all to nudge me to email the acting director about the acting class that Hawaii wants to take. I did in fact email the acting director.


The fourth graders get to run the school store. Hawaii made a promotional poster:


“Ahhh man! I wish I could go to the store!!!!”

For an elaborate pokemon tournament:


I missed everything this week. I missed dinner and bedtime every night. I missed my exercise class on those mornings, and the morning routine with the kids on the other mornings.  I missed the kids. I didn’t teach after the very beginning of the week. It was a weird, intense week.    (I missed Hawaii’s teacher-parent conference, which is inevitably the most unconcerning, anticlimactic conference possible – “She’s doing great! She’s my helper!”)

I took Pokey to the river for a couple hours today:


He swam around. Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to be about 40 degrees colder, but it was around 90 today.


Pokey and the Giant Peach.


I finished it for him.

One morning, at the coffee shop, I heard some loudmouth bark, “YA KNOW! In THAILAND, if they sing HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, they don’t say your name!” He was dazzled by the novelty of this fact. Then he sung it to demonstrate, in his Texan twang: Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to yooooo-uuuuuu, happy birthday to you!

I don’t mean to sound so mean about the guy – I was tickled by his amazement. It was just funny.

Concentrating on production.


Assorted fruit.


Later she added a bowl to contain all the fruit.


Car play in the morning.


I had to include photo twice so that I can look at it twice as often, because ❤ so much. Those absurdly broad shoulders, those wee legs.

The Dual Language program that Pokey and Ace are in has these awful parent meetings a couple times a year. They run from 8:30-12:30 on a Saturday morning. (They do provide breakfast and childcare.) I go to them in part because they are so terrible, and I feel guilty whenever something is so awful that nobody shows up.

Listen: they made a bunch of grown-ass adults do a scavenger hunt, the kind where you take a photo and email your answer in. These are the items we had to find:

56113720771__77CF31DB-67F1-44D1-94F1-5E20AC86A140 (1)

That’s right. Take a photo of “A collective spirit” and “Learning is happening” and “hope”. Take ten different photos, because “a welcoming environment” is discernible” from “children and families are welcome” and I was not rude but I did not take a single photo, either.


And OMG! Voter registration is over! It’s done, for better or worse!

I made a homemade flier about our neighborhood – where our precinct votes, when the polling place hours are. It’s all very in-house and not polished or flashy, but communicates the important information clearly, which is the combination I was gunning for: your neighbor made it.  Between now and the 22nd, I’m sticking them in everyone’s front door. I’m not ringing anyone’s doorbell. I rather enjoy this part – walking the neighborhood without having to talk to anyone.


The remains of a spontaneously crashing light fixture.  BLAMMO.


I didn’t like it, but I grabbed the rope, took two steps back, ran forward, and jumped.

Picture 60 5th graders chanting this, to the tune of Kiki, Do You Love Me:

Do you trust me?
Are you honest?
Say you’ll never tell a lie,
Or a half-truth
Cause I need you
To be trustworthy
And I’m down for you always…

I dunno, I thought it was pretty wonderful.

Ace was awarded a Hero award for the first quarter of kindergarten. Jammies and I went to the assembly.


It was more like a pep rally than an assembly.  Music blasting. Each class has a pop song and has a class dance, and they all danced up to the front in turn, performed for 30 seconds and got their class spirit stick.  Each class has matching class shirts with a mascot. Pokey’s class is the Pandas, and their song was “(Everybody Was) Kung-Fu Fighting”. Ace’s class did a Spanish version of Baby Shark doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo, which brought down the house.

(When 8 year olds dance in 2018, it means they floss as hard and fast as humanly possible. Manically fast vibration of their hips back and forth, like a humming cicada or jiminy cricket or something.)

There were lots of awards. Any time a class got recognized, their song blasted again and they all did their dance again.  Kids in other classes are encouraged to pop up and dance in place, and then sit back down.

Baby shark, at the beginning:


(I know it looks like people in this photo are heiling, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo, but of course they’re chomping, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo.) By the end, when all the kids were going bonkers:


The music really was loud.

There were lots of awards. Our friend’s kid got a citizenship award.  Later in the day, the sticker slipped off his award to reveal “Perfect Attendance”:


which is pretty hilarious.

The whole scene was raucous and kind of touching – teachers taking their students by the hand and dancing with them, almost like a camp counselor encouraging a shy kid to join in the cabin chants.  (Hawaii’s elementary school is more in the “stay quiet and don’t wiggle” manner of assemblies. It’s a teeny bit dreary and disheartening.)

Back to School Night, Hawaii Edition:


Hawaii must be learning the Preamble to the Constitution.


Here’s her mermaid!


Contributing to the whole sea.


That’s the spirit!

On my way to work this past week, I listened to my Advisorcast, ie the recordings I’ve secretly made of meetings I’ve had with my former advisor from graduate school, so that later I can pore over them and understand the math that I’m supposed to have mastered. Each afternoon I tried desperately to squeeze in bits of definitions and key results, around class prep and regular teaching duties.

We are collaborating with a guy from Chile, who is visiting this week.  I will embarrass myself unless I prepare very very thoroughly and have the good fortune of both of them not preparing whatsoever.

(My impression from today: neither of them prepared whatsoever, thank fucking god. Maybe I’ll pass this week, undetected.)

Back to School Night, Pokey Edition:


Science is in English, however:


I like this illustration:


It’s the monarch butterfly migration time of year, when driving home from work is traumatizing because of all the beautiful butterflies filling the air, and I’ve got this big monstrous minivan plowing right through them, and I don’t know how to tell them to move please for the love of god, out of my way, so that I don’t smush you all, I love you so.

Back to School Night, Ace Edition:




They have lockers, because it used to be a middle school.


Wes para Ace.

Hawaii wants to be an actress when she grows up. She has been hounding me daily to email the director of a local theater troupe, which offers acting lessons. (To Jammies’ chagrin, however, she refuses to sign up for the school choir. We can’t figure out why.) I’ve demurred because come on – it’s October. We’re not going to sign up yet for January classes.

On a different note, we got Hawaii a flip phone, for when she’s home alone, so that she can text us. It’s got the old 0-9 text system – press the number until the right letter appears.  She tested it out. My phone beeped. Hawaii had written me: “can you email the classes” (by which she meant the acting director from the local theater troupe) which made me laugh out loud. (And finally prompted me just to email the goddamn guy, which resulted in a short email conversation culminating in “wait until December”.)

A guy in our neighborhood organized a block party:


there was facepainting,


and some live music, and free hot dogs and sodas, and a raffle.

I sat in a booth for registering people to vote, which made me happy because I could just sit and people-watch.  The band played as it grew dark, and I had a deep feeling of well-being, just soaking up the scene.

Rascal, enjoying vanilla cookie dough ice cream. Wants to be Darth Vader for Halloween.


Hawaii: Circus Animal Cookie ice cream.  Wants to be Hermione Granger.


Ace, Big Red ice cream. Wants to be a Bumble Bee.


Pokey, mint chocolate chip ice cream. Wants to be Señor Piggy Pants, wearing a pineapple costume, sunglasses, a unicorn horn and carrying a lightsaber.


I don’t think I’d mentioned it to him, but I love costumes-wearing-costumes, c/f a pig wearing a pineapple costume. High five, Pokey.


I don’t know what ice cream flavor my beloved is eating, but I do know that he doesn’t want to be anything for Halloween, but that he’d rally to humor me if I got excited about something.

The conflicted family

Hawaii has a little gold tea set that is left over from my childhood:


Apparently I left some tea in the teapot, so to speak:


awwww. My old chomper.

Gross! Into the trash can with you!


I’ve felt very down-in-the-dumps this week.  My elbow hurts.  This Kavanaugh hearing has forced me to revisit some notions that I didn’t even know I’d had, namely that the elite early 80s scene that Blasely Ford and Kavanaugh were steeped in was even more toxic and rapey than I would have guessed. That raping passed out high school girls was a casual good time for male-bonding. Good times!


(Scenes from blockwalking. That poor kitty schnoz.)

For the first time in my life, I wondered, “Could anything have happened to me when I’ve been drunk, and I’ve never known?”  A friend on FB described her college rape, which she only found out about because the rapist leered at her a week later and asked if she was up for doing it again the following weekend.

For me, I still think the answer is “no”, that I’ve never been raped, but at least now I realize that perhaps you don’t ever know.


(Dusty tchotkes by someone’s door.)

I’m worried that too many Texas Democrats are enjoying Beto-mania without actually doing the stuff that translates into sufficient voter turnout.  (Not YOU. More like my Heebieville friends who have yard signs and feel good about stopping with that.) Are enough of us are knocking on doors down in the Valley?  How does anyone really ever convince someone else to carve out time to go vote?


(That’s an impressively ratty doorbell!)

This semester is no fun. There’s always too much to do and I can’t catch up. I find myself daydreaming about how I’ll go make a grand declaration about how I can’t ever do this again, there’s a line in the sand, etc, but to whom? With what mechanism? There’s not a hotline where you get to go declare that you’d like less work.

I just have to be better about watching how many commitments I get saddled with. (Next semester looks much, much better, for what it’s worth.)


(If you feed one feral refrigerator, they’ll all flock to your driveway.)

At least September is ending. It’s always the worst. Sometimes, mid-September, I forget that September is the worst and I start to think that everything is the worst, but no: it’s September.  October is inevitably better.

Today I finished knocking on every door in my neighborhood. For this, I do feel exceptionally puffed up and pleased with myself.  (In fact, it broke me out of the doldrums I was feeling when I wrote the bit above.)

By the numbers:

  • Total doors: 231
  • Number that answered the door: 110
  • Number that registered to vote: 30
  • Number that said I could return with a voter guide: 41

So there you have it. In Texas, turnout for the midterms is historically around 34%. So maybe this will add an additional ten votes.

Eyeballs, by Rascal, age 3 1/2:


Rascal’s real name is the most fun to rhyme, of course.  I recited to him:

[Rascal] supposies his toesies are rosies,
but [Rascal] supposies erroneously.
For [Rascal], he knowsies his toesies aren’t rosies,
As [Rascal] supposies his toesies to be!

Rascal bellowed, “Where do you get those words from?!?” in astonishment which is just the best response.

I kept rhyming his name with more Osy words – flowsy, goesy, wearing clothesy, whatcha knowsy – and he kept being flabbergasted. “Where did you get that word from?!” he kept responding.

Sweetie, you’re allowed to just make them up!

Here I go, being artsy!


Doesn’t that look like a horse head, in the reflection of the glass window?

It’s actually a reflection of this:


…a horse-head looking banana leaf from an indoor plantscape.

From Ace’s school notebook:


This is a nice poke-em-in-the-eye to right-wingers, isn’t it?

There’s a billboard I pass that says “Texans trusting Texans”,  as why you should patronize their business. The nearby phrase “Texans frustrating Texans” has infiltrated my brain now, and I think it all the time, in part because being frustrated by other Texans is a way of life.  I tch my tongue and shake my head, “Texans frustrating Texans. AGAIN.”

Water’s gonna wet, frogs gonna croak, Texans gonna frustrate.

Our friend’s kid drew this:


“This is the Geebies,” he told his dad. “Jammies is swearing, and that made the kids and the mom swear too.”

The mad family. I feel conflicted. (We’re really more grumbly than mad, I’d say.)

I sent my parents this very sweet story about how, when Alan Bean landed on the moon, the intense, blinding space dust actually cleaned the dust off a nearby space craft and turned it a lighter brown. The author called Alan Bean on the phone and talked to him about it, and Bean tells him about seeing colors and being an artist now.

My dad wrote back one single line, referring to my mom: “Mom could have done that – landed blind and seen color….”

This is so loving and sweet that I teared up a bit.

Ace writes a book!


Ace’s Book, The Ants


At my birthday, there was an ant on my cake. And I screamed.


My mom didn’t believe me.


My dad didn’t hear me. 

(Dad is mowing the lawn.)


My little sister didn’t respond to me.

Ace instinctively understands that, rhythmically, things need to happen in threes.


I was stuck with the ants!

I particularly like the hand-to-forehead exasperated pose.


….and then we reach the black-ink-on-black-paper pages. Gah.


Who knows!

The end!!

And then from a separate occasion:


Just you and me, punk rock girl.

As a mom, you smirk and feel special when your kid recites that Drake line, “I only love my bed and my momma, I’m sorry”, right?



Fluffy only tolerates this toy kitchen shelf and me.