Can’t stand the grandstand.

TUESDAY

At the local city committee meeting, one of the other commissioners proposed an amendment which required the developer to follow all best practices.  This is one of the newest commissioners. Everyone enthusiastically voted in favor, and the chair, who usually has excellent judgment, fawned over the motion a little bit. The amendment passed unanimously.

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(It rained off and on all week. Everything is very muddy.)

We went back to discussing the main motion.

When it was my turn to speak, I turned to the city lawyer and asked, “What exactly did we just pass? What are best practices? Is it just following city ordinances and the land development code?” The lawyer smiled kindly and confirmed that best practices could only legally be required to mean following the law.

It was kind of a bitchy move of me, but I can’t stand grandstanding up there, and so I like to deflate such moves quickly, so that it won’t escalate over time. If I think you are bullshitting, I will ask you what you mean, bub.

ALSO ON TUESDAY

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Ace’s first karate lesson! Pokey and Hawaii are the two greenbelts in the photo.

WEDNESDAY

I zipped home from work so that I could change before the film crew was scheduled to show up, and found them swarming all over our driveway:

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They’d arrived early. That was a bit disorienting.  They were all very, very nice. I went inside and changed clothes.

First, they filmed me walking up our stairs, pausing at the top to look out across the street pensively, and then I was to push off the railing and head into the house. We filmed that single scene from four different angles. Pause, look into the distance, wait a beat, ….and go! Into the house! Again.

Then I was interviewed in the back of the house for about an hour. They turned off the air-conditioning and the fans because of the noise, and it got quite hot. There was a big fuzzy microphone inches above my head. I sat on this stool:

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I was supposed to look at the interviewer’s eyes as much as possible – that guy on the white chair, Andre – but I found it very disconcerting to talk into his eyes and I kept losing my train of thought.  Eye contact is deeply weird.

I was supposed to incorporate his question into my answers, and speak in complete sentences. I was good at remembering to include the question in my answer, but then my sentences tended to go on for days. Like my legs. (no. Not at all like my legs.)

It was very hot with the AC off. I was very aware of all my fidgeting – touching my face and clearing my throat, beads of sweat on my upper lip, and so on. It was tiring.  (Jammies was eaves-dropping at times over the spycam, and sent me supportive outraged text messages in real time about how my answer was great and they should have kept it as it was.)

It was fun to be fawned over and treated like I was spouting brilliant bullshit, which of course probably means that I’ll look like an idiot.

They got a little bit of footage of the kids, too.  They directed the kids to run down the hall in that phony kid exuberance of commercials – arms akimbo, sort of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. Hawaii was too self-conscious to join in, which I could understand, but I felt bad that those were the terms of inclusion that had been foisted upon her.

The whole 90 minutes of footage will be whittled down to 90 seconds of FEMA video, so I suppose most everything will be on the cutting room floor. Good thing, because I looked like this:

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which I wasn’t very thrilled about.  I nearly hopped up before we started to make sure my hair looked okay, but I wanted to be cooperative and agreeable, so I let it go, and so I’m stuck looking like that. Meh, it’s only 90 seconds.

Later that night, this was in my FB feed:

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That’s me and my hair! I felt understood and laughed for a long time.

THURSDAY

Two years ago, there was a proposed development which everyone hated, and the friendly city commission on which I serve gave it a big thumbs down.  Now they’re back, and the development hasn’t particularly changed, and the friendly city commission has only become even more hostile to dickhead developers, so it’s hard to see how this could work out for them.

On Thursday there was a special joint session for both the planning commission and the city council, to hear a presentation by the developers.

“There are three paths we could take,” said the senior developer as he began his presentation. “One of these is more costly, and much harder, and requires more dedication than the rest. But it is the best for Heebieville.  It will elevate the town and blah blah blah. That is this proposal.”  I jotted down in my notes, what are the other two paths?  He never returned to his opening framework.

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(That is quite an ominous lean to that tree.)

During the Q&A, councilmembers asked about price points and traffic, parking and number of stories. I raised my hand and asked, “You said up front that there were three paths. What were the other two paths?”

He said, cheerfully and forcefully, “There’s only one path! This is it! This is what we’re proposing!”

I decided it was a dumb question and I should have stuck to technical questions.

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(That’s a lotta moths around that light.)

After our Q&A, the public was allowed to ask questions, and then eventually the mayor banged the gavel that the whole show was over. I started collecting my papers.

The senior developer streaked around the edge of the room and sat down next to me and started talking very fast and earnestly, his face very close to mine. I put on a blank smile.

It was hard to follow what he was saying, because he used so many vague niceties and generalizations, but basically he didn’t want to say the other two options because he didn’t want to spook the public, because their proposal is really best for the city and why cloud the issue?

I let him ramble for a while, and then I was just too curious and asked, “But then why did you open with three paths? Why was that how you started your whole presentation, if you never intended to wrap around to the other two?” From his answer, I gathered that it had been an ill-conceived veiled threat: if we turn this proposal down, their Plan B is to develop something everyone hates, but allowed under the current zoning. (He’s bluffing. I asked him what he meant and he was not very familiar with his options under the land use code.)

Basically, he was deeply rattled him by my question, and I really hadn’t intended to shake him up like that, but I can’t say that I’m not mildly pleased.

ALSO THURSDAY

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Four children watching TV, #58 of a 300 part series. The artist compiled these photos over 23 years, from 2009 to 2032, to illustrate the spectacular TV watching exhibited by the progeny.

FRIDAY

I drove to a small town in west Texas for a very short overnight conference. It was a relief to have a day off from work.  As I’ve mentioned, I hate this semester.

This company is really ethereal and philosophical:

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If only there were a concrete company next door.

The town takes a lot of pride in being extremely west Texas-ish.  This was at the hotel:

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It was pouring in that photo. It rained hard off and on all week long.

Hotel room art:

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I don’t hate it? I like how beat and flummoxed the cowboy is. “Fuck this job and this horse. This is not working out.” I think the colors are pretty and the shading well done.

In contrast, I do hate this:

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I mean, gross.  I know you’re trying to be innocuous, hallway carpet, but you look like  henna’d crap.

Better:

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Kind of has a city-scape smear look to it.  I can work with it.

Mimi also arrived on Friday. She’ll be here for about ten days. Jammies flew out today to go on a weeklong bike-and-camp trip with his friend.  Did I mention that Mimi is the best mother-in-law anyone has ever had?

 

Hop along, lil frogster.  The rain has been really intense this week. Poor Pokey – his class had recess indoors for a day or two after some of the other second grade teachers decided they’d take their class back outside for recess. He was going a little nuts.

Separating out the Neapolitan Ice Cream

The hardest thing this week was certainly the memorial service for the student who died at the beginning of the semester.  Tyrell had been my student in Precalculus a few years ago.  He worked for campus mail, so I saw him regularly. Then in the spring semester, Tyrell showed up to my Calculus class a few times, to keep his friend company.

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The calculus student, the friend, was the first one I thought of when I heard he had died.  She was a total anxiety-ridden mess last semester, and self-effacing about it, but also very funny, and also Latino-goth – think sugar skulls and roses on leather and combat boots – and I totally loved her from head to toe.  She’s the one, when I called on her in class to supply some coordinates on a function, answered in a wry drawl: “(4,20). Blaaaaaaaze it,” and I could not stop laughing. “Yes, of course,” I think I said pseudo-primly, “We do blaze this value of the parabola.”

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My calculus student was one of the speakers at the memorial.  They’d been extremely close.  Tyrell called her little brother ‘son’ and her little brother called Tyrell ‘daddy’. Her little brother is 6’2″, and Tyrell was maybe all of 5’5″, if you can see the adorableness in all of that.

The slideshow was heartbreaking. It was all these 3 second videos of Tyrell – maybe snapchat? – the kind with the caption crossing the bottom third of the video.  Clearly just the silly stuff he shared on Instagram or wherever the kids live online.  Lots of hamming it up for the camera, with a beautiful grin.  Riding a tiny tricycle down the aisle of Target, sneaking up and hugging his boss at Campus Mail in a big bear hug, etc.

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They gave his mother and grandmother a graduation stole, a fancy one with embroidery, and they both sobbed in a way that filled the campus church, and my stomach turned into a rock. I thought, maybe, the two of them live together in the house where they’d raised Tyrell together, and how (maybe) it had been just the three of them, and how quiet and heartbreaking the walls of the house must seem without him. How maybe it was a small blessing that he’d already moved out to go to college, so that they’d gotten used to the quietness in a happier context.

But of course, I’m just deflecting to avoid the full brunt of what they must be going through.  (Of course I cried a lot – I have no composure  in emotional situations.)

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My experience is that during religious memorials, the slideshow is emotionally devastating, as well as any comments from loved ones. Whereas the sermon is emotionally detached – a chance to catch my breath, find my footing and get some emotional distance from the intensity of the grief of those feeling the biggest loss.  (I mean, there but for the grace of God go I: I’ve never yet been in the inner circle of intense loss.)

Is this one of the explicit functions of the sermon, to help you get a breather from the intensity of the situation? I know it’s also supposed to lift you up and give you insight and Jesus and etc, but: it’s also just a time-out water break, I think.  Smoke break.

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GUESS WHO’S GONNA BE FAMOUS?  We’re being featured in the 3rd episode of an eight part FEMA series on community response and mitigation to floods!  They’re filming us on Wednesday.  I’ve been told to wear grays or off-whites, but not white, black, warm colors, or geometric patterns or big sports mascots. I don’t know if plaid counts as a geometric pattern or not.

I sometimes think all these rules for what looks good on camera are bullshit.  When I see someone on TV violating all the rules, wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt or orange, I just think they look like a regular person.  Nevertheless, I’m not going to risk it for my big five Andy Warhol minutes.

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OJ looks fine in orange and geometric stripes.

Jammies is worried they’re going to make us look like assholes.  The problem is that this video is to help community officials design policies that help their at-risk citizens, and we were not helped by our city officials whatsoever. We just paid for our house elevation ourselves. “Step one: have enough wealth to lift your house. Step two: profit!”  It’s not exactly the most reproducible model.

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A joke from Ace:

Q: What’s a bunny’s favorite macaroni?
A: Hopparoni!

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A joke from Rascal:

Q: What did the man say to the truck?
A: Hurry up!

Version 2

I suppose this is a slow-news cycle.  This semester is the worst. I keep saying, “Well, I suppose I’ll wake up at 4:30 am to finish my work.” About 2-3 times each week I’m waking up at 4:30 am to get caught up. I’m in way over my head and not happy about it.  (It’s all very mundane: in the spring, I decided to rework two of my four courses this fall. Over the semester, my schedule got changed, and now three of my four courses are reworking-preps. Plus a heavy committee load.)

Boy, I sure am a complain-o-saurus this week. Sorry for the cranky dump.

In addition, I got tasked with running a 5 part discussion series with staff and faculty members,  and I totally loathe this topic and everything associated with it. I only agreed because I felt really flattered. Don’t fall for that, folks.  Flattery is the devil.

Here is a non-complaining item: I keep having to drive Jammies’ goddamn truck, which I hate driving, because he is helping out some friends and needs the minivan. (Sure sounds like a complaint, Heebie!)

The eve of each vehicle-swap, Jammies takes both sets of car keys. He transfers my parking pass and gets out my booster seat (because the stupid truck lacks meaningfully adjustable seats), and sets up the special phone holder and longer cable for my phone, so that I can listen to my podcasts.  He slips out and does all this without a word, and then places his truck key near my purse, so that I won’t forget that we’re swapping in the morning, all without fuss or thinking twice.  Because he’s the absolute best.

This is the Chamber of Commerce building in SadTown:

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(I screenshotted that off Google.)  I love that roof and the whole thing so much. It’s like the public highway rest-stop of chambers of commerce. I’ll be sad when someone decides it’s time to update.

Our kids are still a mess. Rascal is so relentlessly aggressive when he’s tired. He punches everyone in the gut, rams toys into your eyes, holds your face in a tight, pinching grip while yelling at you.

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But other times, so dang sweet.

They’re all a mess, but Pokey is the one acting out, and he is the one who seems to exhibit the most stress, but I’m a firm believer that families are a system and when one person acts out, they’re saving everyone else the effort of expressing the frustration part of the system.

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He had a better second week at school than first week, but that’s gotta be regression to the mean. It’s hard to see how it could have been worse.

Remember when he looked like this?

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Argh, my sweet baby.  This is our beloved teacher who has Rascal now.  She’s gay and would never ever wear a skirt, to work or otherwise, but she rummaged one up and wore it to have Special Skirt Day with Pokey.

Blockwalking is still awful. I’ve started having nightmares  (no, that’s overstating it – they’re anxiety-dreams) about finding piles of yellow voter registration forms that I failed to turn in. Piles of disorganized forms that I can’t make sense of – what are these green forms? Was I supposed to turn these in? What’s the deadline and who is counting on me?!

However, the street I’m chipping away at currently has been full of rather nice people. That helps.

For Rosh Hashanah, we walked down and threw bread in the river at sunset, with some friends:

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Afterwards we had apples and honey and pomegranate, as well as ice cream.  I had it in my head that I just had to buy Neapolitan ice cream, but for the life of me I couldn’t find any at the store.

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I made do. Happy New Year.

Clothes billowing out

Hawaii had a great first day of school! She absolutely raved about the new art class teacher and wants to bake banana bread for her, but will not see her for two weeks due to Labor Day weekend.

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Pokey had a great first day of school! He was one of the first students to return his paperwork to his teacher, and won a glow in the dark fidget spinner!

Pokey had a terrible third day of school! He threw a ball at his teacher’s head and then grew belligerent at the assistant principal, out at recess, who then took him back to her office. She called me on the phone.

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The first week is real soon to be in major trouble. Jammies and I have resumed our Code Red Alert stances with respect to parenting.

On Friday, Jammies and I met with the assistant principal and Pokey’s teacher.  It turns out that he’d had a rough first and second day as well  – the teacher had to take him outside the classroom twice the second morning – but she’d wanted to establish her own rapport with him before bringing us in, and so she hadn’t said anything to us. I can understand that.  I’m also glad to know what actually happened, though.

The assistant principal was great – she was very intuitive about Pokey’s strength’s and weaknesses.  The teacher: we’ll see how it goes. I’m rooting for her. Sigh. (Pokey’s going to see the school counselor as well, and hopefully learn some skills.)

Pokey took lunch to school:

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…and came home with a corndog from the cafeteria.  Good job investing your portfolio, Pokey!

Ace had a great first day of school! And a second. Each day she proclaimed to be better than the previous.

“Did you learn any spanish word today?” I asked.
“Sunbrella!” she said, “It means hat!”
(Get it? Sombrero?)  Let’s take a moment to observe that sunbrella is a logical answer, because what is a hat, if not a sun-umbrella?  (As the people from SunBrellaTM would surely agree.) (There are a lot of literal words already in this vicinity, like parasol – which in Spanish is sombrillo – which brings us nearly full circle to Sunbrella.  And umbrella, in Spanish, is paraguas. Literally “for the water”.)

She has never been so exhausted.  During our meeting with the principal, she sat in the lobby and we came out to find her like so:

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asleep, slumped over in the chair.

We spent Labor Day weekend with four other families, in some houses on a lake.

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It was oppressively hot, and we logged hours and hours sitting on the porches, looking yonder.

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There was a little creek on one side of the property:

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which bubbled up from tiny springs dotting along it. (The kids are playing Lost Kids in that photo.)

There was an inlet coming in from the very large lake, on the other side of the property:

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In less-drought-stricken times, the creek is probably more of a brook, and feeds into the inlet, which would be three feet higher.  Instead they were disconnected by about two hundred yards of barren, cracking earth, dotted with vertical straw-like reeds and fishbones.

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The low, low water level and lack of connection made the inlet very marshy – a sink to your ankles in mud kind of lake.  On Sunday everyone hiked a bit further towards the big lake and swam further along the inlet, but on the whole it was not ideal.  The kids entertained themselves in the water for long stretches, but the adults only enjoyed it under duress.

Right when we first arrived, Rascal stood over this air-conditioning grate in the kitchen.  His shorts billowed out, and he giggled and said delightedly: “This wind is so cold on my penis!”

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Over the weekend, every next person would sort of angle themselves right over the vent, and their clothes would billow out, and we’d all know.

“This is a savanna!” Rascal told me, “Where lions live! And zebras.”

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Ace in the very back, Rascal by the railing:

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The upstairs loft was a blast.

Pokey with the twins:

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The stairs to get there were a blast.

Why do we need to take this home?

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There’s no good answer.

Attn: Pokey and Hawaii.
Each of you, individually called me into the bathroom to read this sign, because it cracked both of you up so hard. I found that endearing.

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This is what happens to your bag of Lucky Charms when the kids go feral:

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Hey, what’s that near your shoe, Heebie?

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Oh hell no.

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It’s very dead. But still.

Beautiful cedar trees:

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…making everyone’s faces swell into snot balloons.

It really was a wonderful weekend. The setting had its hardships, but it’s still three days of living with really great friends, sprawled on the porch, feeling like jelly.  This is where I’m weakest at blogging – it doesn’t seem worth it to recount jokes or hilarity here, and the friends aren’t sketched out whatsoever, and so the substance of the weekend is just lost to the mists of time (as it should be) and I just sort of declare matter-of-factly: it’s a really wonderful group of people.  Tell not show.

This is how Rascal fell asleep, during dinner:

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Ace had slightly more decorum about it:

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Conversations with Ace:

“Good night, mommy!” Ace said.
“Good night, my love,” I returned.
“I hope you dream about me!” Ace said
“Okay! If you dream about me, too, maybe we can meet in our dreams and play together,” I said.
“And in the morning, we’ll have a baby!!” said Ace.
“WHAT!?!!” I exclaimed.
“Just kidding!” Ace chirped, “Love you mommy! Good night, this time for real.”

(It’s possible she has some confusion around ‘sleeping together’ and ‘dreaming together’? But I’m pretty sure she was mostly being a goof.)

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Another conversation with Ace:

“Where’s mommy going?” Ace asked Jammies.
“Blockwalking,” answered Jammies.
“Did she wear her fake boobs?” Ace asked.
“No,” said Jammies.
“But she wears them to work?” asked Ace.
“Yes,” said Jammies.
“Do people think it’s a different person if they see her with her fake boobs and then not wearing them?” asked Ace.
“No, they don’t,” said Jammies.

(This cracks me up, to think of people puzzling over breasts to figure out if they were talking to the same person. Use the face! Use the face! It’s right there and so unique!)

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This is one of the silliest jokes I’ve ever made. This was during precalculus.
I drew a picture on the board, and one of the students called, “That makes me want to eat a plain bagel!”
I called out “Plain, no! You mean an everything bagel?”
He said, “Ma’am! Bagels come plain!”
I whirled around with my hands on my hips, and turned around to face him and said sternly, “What on earth are bagels complaining about?!”

and everyone chuckled indulgently, which is pretty much what I want from a class. From a life.

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That little cicada dude was shockingly loud, on our porch.

Hawaii baked some banana bread to sell and accompanied me block-walking today.  I was really not sure at all about the combination of voter registration and peddling baked goods.

At the very first house, both residents filled out forms to update their addresses, and also they bought the entire seven slices of banana bread that Hawaii had brought. And yet again, they overpaid and told her to keep the change.  This streak of hers is really making Jammies’ and my eyes bug out of our heads.

In addition, people were friendlier to me and more likely to open the door, with Hawaii there. I can’t really force her to come along, but it sure was helpful.

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This is an exquisitely prototypical view of Heebieville: pretty sky, stuck at a train.

Rules of Mazoko

This is Rascal’s current favorite book:

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It’s the story of rabies.

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There’s Louis Pasteur, being such a nerd. I see you huffing potions from your Erlenmeyer, Louis.

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The dog is incredibly scary. You can see the rabies inside him.

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I remember finding this page upsetting when I read it as a child. Poor Joey, who admittedly had been poking the dog with a stick, still didn’t deserve this fate.

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These magical soldiers form the vaccine, and they’ll fight the rabies inside Joey.

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This is by far Rascal’s favorite page. I think the invisible enemy looks like a thumbprint.

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Joey lives, Louis Pasteur gets to dance a jig, and the sun smiles broadly.

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Pokey likes to invite you to play games which he has made up, which have labyrinthian rules accurately reflecting the underlying structure of his brain. I agreed to play Mazoko, and I don’t know if he cribbed this game from somewhere else or not, but I decided to write down the rules.

RULES OF MAZOKO
Ten cards in a hand
First to go out wins

Cards #2, 3, 4: these are chickens. You can play whenever, they do nothing.

Cards #5, 6, 7: goats. If you play a goat on a sheep, the other player has to take both cards.

Cards #8, 9, 10: sheep: If you play two sheep or if you put a second sheep on top of a sheep, then the next player can’t play a goat on it.

Triple sheep: The next player has to draw five cards.

Jacks and Queens: snakes. If you play a snake, you also draw a card.

Kings and Aces: dolphins. If you play a dolphin on a snake, the other person has to draw two extra cards in addition to the card drawn from the snake.

The Plain Joker: Next person draws three cards
The Black and white Joker: Next person draws three cards
The Color Joker: Next person draws five cards

Winning: Your last card has to be a snake, a dolphin, or a goat. If your last card is a snake and the other person plays a dolphin on it, you draw three cards and keep going.

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I feel weird that we’re not having any sort of memorial for my grandmother. The thinking goes that her 100th birthday party sufficed, and it’s true: all the family flew in from all over, we celebrated her life properly, and Grandma got to enjoy it.  Furthermore: both uncles are now sick, especially the one who would be tasked with organizing a memorial.

It’s not that I lack closure – I feel like I said goodbye to her over the last couple visits, when she was fading and I reasonably thought it might be my last visit.  I feel closed!

The problem is thus: Grandma herself would be appalled to be put aside like this. She would not see it in context of twenties years of living near my uncle and aunt, or the substantial time and energy she required during the last five to ten years.  She would not be deterred by my uncle’s own illness.  She would not think her 100th birthday party substituted. Her greatest fear was always being forgotten, of not impacting those around her, and I think this would have upset her.

That said, we’re a long line of atheist Jews, and none of us actually think that Grandma has a spirit somewhere that is actually upset.  It seems disrespectful not to acknowledge, publicly and ritualistically, her death, and, simultaneously, the toll on her children clearly outweighs the benefit of having a memorial. So we’re not.

So she slipped away, in life – basically just slowed to a stop, outliving all her peers – and she slips away in memory, without a formal commemoration, because she outlived all the lifetime commemorations that have already taken place. (And there were plenty, because she was good at cultivating the kind of thing that gets commemorated, because she feared not impacting those around her.)

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We met Ace, Pokey, and Hawaii’s new teachers on Back to School Night, aka Drop Off Supplies Night.  School starts tomorrow! Ace is so, so excited. I’m excited for her.

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(I remember Hawaii being mostly nervous and stone-faced. I believe Pokey was equal parts nervous and excited, but we were nervous about him, because he’d had a rough last year of preschool under a rather authoritarian teacher.)

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Pokey’s teacher is clearly an overachiever.

Rascal is now the last kid in daycare. He has our beloved Ms. Jennifer, who had a special skirt-day with Pokey when he was four.  Ms. Jennifer is the only teacher who has had all four of our kids. I love her so much.

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Rascal picked up this impressive shiner on his first day in his new classroom.

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Rascal: We’re going to the catpool!
Me: To the what?
Ace: He means the kiddie pool!

We all laugh with new understanding.

Me: Rascal, it’s kid-die, like kid.
Rascal: Right! Cats like kids.
Me: …
(I genuinely can’t tell if he’s pulling my leg or not.)

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Ace wanted to know what the other name we were considering for her, when I was pregnant. For months I haven’t been able to remember, and then this week it came to me: it was “Muriel”.

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My classes have already started. On the first day of class I got a teaching award, with a tidy $1000 to call my very own. That was quite a nice way to kick things off.

I’ve met all my students and I feel so much less frazzled now that I remember that students are nice, regular people who don’t mind if you’re building the ship mid-flight. Honestly, all they want is to know that you genuinely like them, individually.  Once you establish that, they’ll eat out of your hand. And I do like them.

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I started blockwalking this week. I got deputized to be a Voting Deputy Registrar, so I’m attempting to register voters. It’s complicated:

1. I am trying to hit 15-20 houses every day.  I feel guilty about skipping out on parenting. Jammies already stayed home with the kids all week. Each night, I get home from work, eat dinner, and head back out. I feel absentee.

2. I strongly dislike doing it. I don’t like bothering people. I don’t like feeling annoying. I don’t like it when some of the saltier characters look at me like I must surely be judging them, like I’m out of my mind for offering to register them to vote – there’s a short bitter laugh that says, “Can’t you see that this is the least of my problems?”   Or sometimes, someone will eye me like I’m their high school teacher, nagging them to turn in their test.  I know I look like an uptight white lady, ok? I don’t know how not to.

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I do like peeking in backyards and seeing crazy houses.

3. Some people are nice.

4. Some people are nice and they register to vote.

5. Why am I even doing this.

6. Here’s why: I’ve grabbed onto the idea that the only way out of this mess is to convert nonvoters to voters. Ignore Republicans altogether. The most effective thing I can do is to dominate my own neighborhood. Knock on all 500 doors. Hit ten houses a day between now and October 9th, when voter registration is over.

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I loved this little kitten so much and wanted to take it home, but I’m not deputized to  take their kitties.

7. The real reason is harder to say, at least diplomatically, because it implies that I’m judging everyone else, but I’m really not. The honest-to-god reason I’m doing this is to hedge my bets for the November election, where the stakes are my emotional well-being. If no blue wave materializes, if this is the beginning of the new fascist state, if things are unraveling and unrecoverable, if all turns out to be lost: I want to know that at least I went down fighting.  I want to know that I did the shitty unpleasant parts and didn’t just complain a lot, and this is the shitty unpleasant part that I’ve taken on as my hill to die on.

8. I can also complain a lot. I don’t have to give that up or anything.

My system is to knock on every door, and record the following in my spreadsheet:

  • Street address and whether or not they’re home.
  • Whether they’re already registered, would like to register, or do not want to register.  (I’ve got a print-out from the Democrats, but it’s inaccurate.)
  • If they’d like me to come back closer to election day with polling places, days, times, and a slate of candidates, all specific to our neighborhood.

My plan is to make fliers customized to our precinct and only revisit those houses who are friendly to being revisited.

Version 2

This house has two towers from the demolished children’s park around the corner. That made me happy. (Plus a Beto sign.)

I’ve hit 81 houses so far, and another volunteer who walked with me hit another 6 houses. There are about 500 total in this neighborhood. (The other volunteer and I met some Beto blockwalkers right out of the gate, in from a nearby town. It’s true that I’m too white-and-uptight to blockwalk effectively in this neighborhood, but these guys were even worse.  Enthusiastic NPR types in their 50s. Perky and bright-eyed and practical. I know, I know, we’re all on the same team.)(There was a weird interaction where we negotiated turf to avoid ringing the same doorbells. They won the preferred street due to the inflexibility of an app they were using. My co-volunteer preferred that street because she lives on it and knows a lot of the neighbors on it.)

I hate even talking about my plan. It feels unseemly, like I’m crowing about how virtuous I am. (I have not mentioned this plan to anyone outside this neighborhood, besides the Democrat official who gave me their voter registration list.)  I’m really, seriously only doing this to hedge my mental health against a negative outcome in November.

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I will be so glad when this is over.

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Also I haven’t been taking my morning walks, on account of blockwalking, and so I’m missing that dappled zen time.

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Black witch moth.

Ashworth Socks

Things Jammies organizes during his time off:

Art cabinet.

I went back to work and I feel overwhelmed.

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The color scheme of this bathroom at work helps.

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Pink and green is one of my most favorite combinations.  Classes begin this Tuesday.

Ace, nice socks. Where’d you get them?

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Answer: from Papa Jim, as we left Montana. Being his, they’re oversized and floppy on her five year old feet.

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I associate this plant, with its little pink berries, intensely with childhood. I think they were especially prominent in the yard at the Montessori school I went to for K-2. I remember mashing the berries into a pulp.

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Herons are the worst litterers, and this is intended to shame them into thinking twice before they throw away their single-use bottles. Better yet: try a reusable water bottle, you bad birds.

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Rascal had a skin reaction to his nighttime pull-up, which dragged on for a few days:

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…and, so we decided it’s time to night-time potty- train him. The thing is: he crawls into bed with Jammies and I nearly every night.  So the stakes are really high.  I am not super stoked for our bed to be the pee-bed.  (So far, so good.)

Rascal is the persistent one to crawl in our bed, night after night. My guess is that  it’s because he’s the only one never displaced by a younger baby sibling. Pokey used to crawl into our bed for a while, but I think he mostly sleeps like a rock throughout the night now. Ace occasionally joins us. Hawaii never.

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I too have skin reactions. This is from the plastic post-tattoo wrap.  I took it off immediately upon getting home, but this redness is still there the next day, revealing the outline of the plastic wrap.

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The webworms seem particularly bad this year.  Apparently all you have to do is take a broom handle and knock a hold in the webbing, and then the birds will eat the worms.  It still looks gross.

Hawaii made cornbread for her counselors for the last day of camp:

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The idea was that they’d slice pieces off like a loaf.  It was wrapped in this:

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She also made another plate of brownies to sell, out front in our yard. She had one customer, a neighbor from across the street, who bought all 14 brownies in one fell swoop.

The big kids now have a week off with Jammies, before school starts. We all went tubing today with some other families, and then the kids destroyed the house while we grilled burgers and sat around, happily ignoring the kids.

Pokey had his last day in his Poppy classroom:

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The teacher gave out these framed photos and I cannot express how much I fucking love this photo.

Ace had her last day in preschool! They took a photo wearing little graduation hats made by the teacher out of black construction paper, but nothing overly gratuitous.

I can’t believe she starts kindergarten!  Not this week, but next. And I can, actually, believe she is starting kinder. It’s very easy to believe – Ace has always acted older than her age.  But still: my darling.

Fluffykins, being luscious:

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Presumably also off for a week, before she resumes kitty school.

Pokey brings home art:

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Hi, I am M.F. Now go away. 

I mean, it’s rude but I can’t fault the basic message.

Hawaii wanted to throw hers away:

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but the counselors saved it for us.  The panda bear in the middle was not supposed to be there, and the colors turned out differently than she’d expected. But I’m glad to have it anyway.

Here’s the living room, with more plants:

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That rug has been annoying me for years. I bought it as a grad student from an import rug store that was going out of business.  It’s well-made and high quality, but the beige with the burgundy drives me nuts.

Here’s our new rug:

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It’s a much cheaper Turkish rug – flimsy and wrinkles easily – but it’s so much better.  Pinks, grays, and blacks, and like I said earlier, pinks with greens is my bag.

I found that dangly plant on a garbage can, next to the parking lot at work.  It smelled like excrement, unfortunately. I brought it home and left it outside a couple days and it the smell disappeared, but it’s still the poop-plant to me, in my heart.  A very pretty, dangly pooplint, to be sure.

One long continuous run

We got home on Tuesday.  After four days on the road, the house always feels like a goddamn palace.  In theory, all six of us could find spots within the house so that no one is within eyesight of anyone else.

(In practice, the kids are started playing within two feet of each other and keep right on fighting, without missing a beat.)

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That thistle is Montana, not Texas. Residual passing interest photos from walks and whatnot.

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Cherry orchard. Still not Texas.

School workshops start this week, so my summer is officially over. The kids have two more weeks until school resumes.

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Longevity is a funny thing. My other grandmother died at age 42. She left behind insanely charming writings, which made it to me, and not much else.  I would have loved to have known her. (That grandfather remarried a rather bitchy, shallow woman, who lived to be 90.)

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(Let’s just assume all these photos are Montana until I say otherwise.)

Longevity is this trait that gets randomly bestowed on people, like height or good looks, except you don’t find out who’s going to get it until the very end.  My main grandmother had this amazing life, but by process of elimination, all the other amazing lives of her peers have been gone awhile.  (Let’s omit the insufferable peers.) Longevity is good, but also sad, and also random.  Somewhat random, at least.

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I successfully hemmed some pants! It’s amazing how much less scared I am of my sewing machine once I realized the internet existed.

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Plucky little plant busting right through the street asphalt.

I had my final tattoo appointment today. We added some browns to the kittens.  So begins my mandatory three day waiting period before I can panic or feel glad. I’ll let you know.

Total: two planning sessions, ten inking sessions.

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I keep wondering if I should find a therapist. I wish I could find a therapist I love the way I loved Chaunda. I don’t really have any crises, but sometimes my thinking feels very disorganized and I miss having the insights and growth you get from therapy.

(I do have an occasional therapist in town, but somehow he doesn’t peddle in insights. He gives advice, but we don’t unpack anything. It’s annoying.)

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But maybe disorganized thinking is just growing old. Maybe I should want an established meditation practice instead.  But I’m not complaining about MonkeyBrain – it’s not unpleasant, or something that I can’t turn off, or tinged with anxiety.  Just scatterbrained, disorganized. Maybe it’s just growing older.

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In some ways I feel calcified into routines – we drive this way to Montana every year, I wake up at that-a.m. and drink this-coffee from that-mug.  Disruptions to my routine increase the disorganization in my thinking.  Don’t I sound like I’m 70 fucking years old already? I need a shrink.

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In other ways I feel like I’m emerging from that cocoon of my 30s – the pregnancy and young children years – and resuming contact with pop culture. I’m growing! I’m watching TV again! Did you know what everyone else has been raving about with the X-Ray feature on Amazon Prime Video? Now I do. Or: I downloaded Spotify today. And: I saw a movie in the theater this summer. It’s nice!

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Why would I need a therapist, when everything is lovely? Why wouldn’t I need a therapist, when the broader world is going all to hell?

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What an awful slide! (Yes, I’m sure they move it to let out over the water. It just looks funny.)

Pokey, in one long continuous run.

Version 2

Just a small boy and his pet plastic hawk.

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Just a couple of kids glowing from within.

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Wiffle ball, Rascal edition.

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Wiffle ball, Ace edition.

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Jammies water skiing. G’bye, summer! At least, that kind of summer, the pleasant kind.

Hello, the deadening burnt up 100+ degrees kind of summer. Welcome home.  It’s the moisture-wicking underwear and thin loose clothing kind of return-to-work kind of end of summer, with two more oppressive months left of summer, easy.  The next six weeks are my least favorite of the entire year.

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Hawaii made $6.75 selling brownies in our front yard today.  She sold out all her brownies in about 20 minutes.  We had told her not to bother, which is why you shouldn’t listen to your parents.

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Here’s her little brownie mascot, the first thing she made.

This was a test run of her bigger plan: to sell brownies and other baked goods at Pokey’s soccer practices.  She is trying to raise money to attend sleepaway summer camp next year.

Doesn’t that sound wholesome? It sort of is. Doesn’t she already go to sleepaway summer camp? Yes, she’s gone to the local YMCA summer camp for the past two summers.

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She then attached the brownie mascot to the brim of this hat.

What’s going on is that she saw Bug Juice, the Disney kiddie reality show about summer camp, and fell in love with the insta-nostalgia perpetuated by the camera.  (Listen, I also loved sleepaway summer camp hard, and I also watch Bug Juice with a wistful tinge.)

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The hat is to be worn along with this sign.

The camp in the show seemed nearly identical to Hawaii’s YMCA camp – talent shows, mess halls – except a bit fancier.  The cabins looked like nice substantial log cabins, instead of thin barracks. They offered water skiing, not just a giant water slide. The ropes course looked fancier. There was a camp-wide Poker Night which isn’t exactly fancy, but felt somehow more worldly. 

I don’t actually think the fanciness is what appealed to Hawaii – it’s the footage of kids spliced together to make them more charming, having more fun, and feeling bigger emotions with their better friends, than kids do in regular life.

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Hanging out in the front yard, waiting for pedestrian traffic.

For funsies, I looked up the cost of Camp Waziyatah‘s rates – the camp from the show – and it’s $5k for a two week rookie session.  (Our dinky camp is about $750/week.) When I stop and think about it, $5000 isn’t particularly shocking. It doesn’t require you to be a millionaire.  But it also made me snort rudely.

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Here she is, making another quick sale.

So: Hawaii is raising money to chase this dream.  We’ve talked with her about how even if she fails in raising $5000, she might still find success in other parts of the project.  We have been braced for this to be a lot of frustration and tears until it fizzles out. And then she went and sold out of her first batch of brownies, in the first twenty minutes.

The descent, the ends

Got this text on Tuesday:

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I felt very emotional, but not exactly sad.

I don’t think I have the wherewithal to do a proper tribute at the moment.  The first eight years or so of this blog, 2005-2013ish, I wrote down lots of Grandma stories here.  I took trips with her, she came to visit me, she was smart and interesting in one breath and then exasperating and lacking any self-awareness in the next. She was mentally alert at her 95th birthday, in 2012, but by the time we discovered all the delicious mysterious backstory of my grandfather, in 2014, she was no longer with it enough to engage, to tell us anything about what happened.

I suppose stories will just trickle out, over time. At one point, at my earlier blog location, a reader was kind enough to collect a lot of the grandma stories together under a single comment.  I’d like to locate that again.

It’s not exactly sad – she lived to be 100 with no major illnesses. She died by just slowing down and slowing down until she came to a stop. The only tragedy of her life was that she survived her beloved, my grandfather, by 35 years, which is a long time to grieve.  Aside from that, she had a rich, amazing career, a warm family, and devoted 40 year marriage.  (This is all rather bland generalities, and I should really fill in some stories.) Anyway: not exactly sad, but I still find it emotional, as the era ends.

Part of the reason I don’t have it in me to do the proper tribute is that we’re at the end of Day 2 of our four day drive home. It’s late, we’re in Denver, and I’m not all there here.

Listen, we’re about to have an abrupt change of tone. I wrote this entry over several different sittings – the sequiturs are pretty non.

Pokey’s chipped tooth:

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The center left tooth, on the bottom.  He did that playing on this thing:

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with his cousin. Pokey asked Jammies if he could text the parents of his three best friends with the news that Pokey’d chipped a tooth. (That floating pad is a blast. Kids can scamper all over the place, but grown ups make it sag dramatically when they try to stand up, and we lose our balance immediately. It’s fun and tiring.)

Pokey’s smile had this dramatic wonkiness for a day or so:

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as that right-top eye tooth suddenly tried to dive out of his mouth. And then it did:

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so I’ll fully document his craggy transitional mouth. The kids all have dentist appointments coming up.

Here’s some giant, fragile dice that we’re taking home:

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Flick your guy, without knocking off a block.  

They are gently resting in the front console all the way from Montana to Texas. They’re from a game Pokey is making.

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Say the ABCs backwards with no mistakes. If fail, go to red square.

High standards. The dice are maybe 4″ square.

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Wall Sit for 20 s. If succeed, go to blue square. If fail, go to red square.

He tried to explain the larger game to me. It involves quadrants on a board and stacks of blocks.

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The other die is more traditional – numbers on four sides, and colors on the remaining two sides.

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I’d kind of like to hang these two dice up, like dice from a rearview mirror, but I don’t think I’m allowed to have them.

These guys showed up while we were there.

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Papa Jim and Jammies’ youngest brother shot them last winter, on a hunting trip.

I just think it’s great that we were standing around, eating elk jerky and pepper sticks from the bodies of those exact heads, while we explained to the kids where those elk heads came from.  The heads must have been surprised to see their bodies again, after eight months separation, a bit transformed and saltier.

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“Hey guys! Guys! I had the weirdest dream! Whatcha eating?”

There were terrible hornets at the beginning of the week:

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Don’t worry, you hippy, those aren’t bees.  We know, bees are good.

Here’s what that is: a tray of water and dish liquid. The wooden plank has cat food smeared on the underside. The wasps go to eat the cat food and their wings brush the soapy water and they get stuck.

Out of all the different kinds of traps they tried, this was by far the most effective.  I don’t know the difference between wasps and bees and I’m not bothering to google. Like an outlaw.

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My mom has two brothers, my uncles who I adore dearly. One of them was diagnosed with multiple myeloma back in 2006. The other was diagnosed with leukemia this May.

The first uncle, the 2006-diagnosee, entered an experimental procedure that had been successful on some childhood cancers, and was the first adult patient to try it. He survived and beat the cancer, although it was a brutal treatment. This was in 2015, I think.  Several of the next adult patients did not survive the treatment, and the therapy is not yet fully available. So he has been recovering for the past few years.

My mom told me today that the myeloma has come back. Technically it’s a slightly different variation.  (The brutal treatment is still staving off the original variation, for what that’s worth.)

When my mom had esophogeal cancer, when Hawaii was a newborn, I visited my parents and saw little trinkets all over the place. Cheesy optical illusions, gimmicks, the kind of thing you get at toy shops and gift shops. “Where’d all these come from?” I asked.

My mom told me that my uncle (the recently-diagnosed one) was sending presents every week while my mom was in treatment. The justification was that my mom should have something to feel sad about when her treatment ended.  (I’ve told this story here before.) I was very touched by this. (Neither my uncle nor my mom remember this but they both agree that it’s plausible.)

When this uncle was diagnosed back in May, I decided to reinstate the weekly-gift practice.  So we’re three months deep in weekly gifts.  It’s been more meaningful to me than I expected. I thought it’d be light and mechanical to put a little trinket in the mail each week. It’s dumb things – novelty dish towels, stickers, candy, sparkly goop – but it actually makes me feel connected and somehow proactive, in a “do something, anything!” kind of taking action way.

To tie this all together: I never sent presents to the first uncle, the one who was diagnosed in 2006.  He was sick for ten years, and it never occurred to me, and besides, that would have been 520 presents, which is quite a lot.

The point of all this is starting now, my plan is to send presents to both uncles. I’m worried they’re both going to die in the next year.  This will either superstitiously stave it off, or it won’t, but at least I’ll feel like I gave it my all, trying to stave it off.

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Awwwww.

Hey, Rascal, did you find the markers?

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Oh yes. Were you by yourself?

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Oh no.

….

Here’s Jammies’ senior pictures:

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INNIT HE CUUUTE.  (It took me a long time to recognize Jammies in those photos.) I think Pokey and Ace have his face-shape.

I asked the new fiance if she wanted to take the stand up paddle boards out with me. We headed out, not saying much due to the language barrier and my general inability to make small talk.

Out in the middle of the lake, I was struck with glee at the idea that I’d set up a scene where I was supposed to threaten her when we reached our furthest point. “Don’t you dare hurt my brother in law” I could have growled, with full stink-eye.  (I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than defending Jammies’ brother’s honor to this very nice woman who I just met. I don’t know why that struck me as hilarious.)

(I didn’t do anything of the sort. I jumped in the lake to cool off, got back on my paddle board, and we quietly paddled in for dinner.)

Just two faces on a wall:

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and a Nature Taco:

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Super heroes, unite!

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Do your splits, hero!

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Super heroes, fall asleep to the warm, roaring lull of the boat:

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Superheroes, go get pedicures!

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Hawaii got lilac toes.

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Ace got turquoise toes, with pink hearts on the big toes.  Jammies’ sister and the new fiance got pedicures, too.  I went downtown with them, but opted not to have a stranger touch my feet.

Instead I wandered around thrift stores:

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For Jammies, for his birthday. It was an impulse buy.  I’d already gotten him a hometown mug, so Mr. Lucky got two presents for his big 41st.

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I got this for Jammies’ dad.  I have no idea whether he liked it, but he was polite enough about it.

(In case you were worried, I did get a better price than those stickers imply.  “Is there any wiggle room on the price if I get both of these?” I asked. That’s my go-to line – “Is there any wiggle room?”  It’s nice to have a script. There was wiggle room.)

We left on Jammies birthday, on Saturday morning, stopping by E. Messily ‘s house for breakfast on the way.  We met her Big, her dog, and saw her house, which is a study in curiosities and oddities and is fascinating to the kids.  Lots of tiny odd-shaped drawers with neat, curious labels like “eyes” and “dry ink”. Lots of tiny details – boxes, art on the wall, strange sheds and studios – with all these tiny worlds hidden within.   It was good to see E.

We stayed the night with Jammies’ cousins in Billings,  drove down through Wyoming, saw my college friends in Denver, last night.

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Listen to this rough ten minutes we spent in Raton, NM:

First we saw a family glumly hitchhiking – two parents, two kids – with a mountain of possessions piled up next to them.  It was one of the saddest vignettes I’ve ever seen.  (Questions burble up like: who will be able to pick them up, with all those possessions? Will they have to make instant gut-wrenching decisions about what to leave behind? How long have they been waiting, and what happens if no one ever stops? Do they have a destination in mind, a person with a modicum of resources who is waiting for them, or are they really winging it in full desperation? What happens to itinerant families in 2018? They’re not okay, are they, but can they somehow get okay?)

A minute later, we pulled into a gas station, and saw what I first thought was a maybe 10 year old girl in a bikini, splashing in the water from a spigot, on the edge of the gas station, by the road.

It was actually a very petite woman. After frolicking for a few minutes, as if she were having fun, she went into a backpack, pulled out some shampoo, and started lathering up her hair.  We drove off while she was full on suds. I think the frolicking was to keep people from immediately running her off, an attempt to look casual and light instead of desperate for a shower. It was the second-saddest vignette I’d seen in five minutes.

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The Helium Time Columns. That’s a helium atom in the middle of that tetra-stick-thing. I told you Amarillo was the helium capital of the world. (After CharleyCarp told me, years ago.)

Tonight we’re in Lubbock.   Jammies is certain we’ve stayed in this exact hotel before, and honestly, looking at this carpet, I think he’s right.

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What would I have called this last time, the Venn Diagram of earth and sea bubbles?

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Hatch marks in complementary color scheme? I bet that toothpaste stain wasn’t there two years ago, or maybe it’s from a bird.  I like this better than the bubbles.

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And parochial window panes in the actual rooms.  I like this one most of all.