January 31, 2008

Sweet Potato Grows Up

My poetry professor at Chico State, Carol Simmons Oles, wrote a poem called "Post Partum II" about life newly empty-nested. She ends the poem by comparing her children to a hummingbird that flew in and out of the house in the time it took her to open and let go of the front door. That poem made me cry the first time I read it, but I think I was thinking of myself as the child then. Now I'm looking at the poem from the opposite side of the door, so to speak.

Sweet Potato is not ready to leave home-- in fact she swears she's never moving away from us. She may change her mind about that one day, but we've got another good eight years before she goes anywhere. Eight years. It doesn't seem long at all really, considering the last ten years were over in a blink. Where did they go?

I'm feeling nostalgic for my little girl because this week she announced, (well, it was more like a whisper) that she was having her first visit from Aunt Flow. It's hard not to imagine her as a crabby old aunt with a hunch back and a cane that she uses to jab, hard. Maybe that's not how I should think of it, though. I can't abide that turnip-headed Old Testament punishment stuff.

So, I'm trying to change my thinking about blood. It's not a monthly burden to be endured; it's a silky red ribbon that binds women to each other and makes us special. It's a sign that we are creators of life, the most incredible miracle. We are walking miracles, for crying out loud! Of course being a miracle isn't going to happen without a good dollop of pain, and not the metaphorical kind.

I can almost buy it. If only we ran around naked and didn't have to worry about the blood staining our undies, best pair of jeans (or our husband's best pair of jeans-- sorry honey!) and our sheets. What did they do back in the naked days? Must have done a week's worth of swimming.

This is Sweet Potato's big concern, too. "What if this happens while I'm at school?" she asked me last night at bedtime.

"We'll watch the calendar, we'll always be prepared, and always wear several layers, so you can wrap a sweatshirt around your waist if there's an emergency," I said.

Sweet Potato lamented that boys didn't have to worry about these messy details. I said, "That's true, but they do get those random erections, and that's why they all wear giant pants. That look isn't going out of fashion any time soon."

January 29, 2008

Just When I Thought It Was Safe to Make Cinnamon Rolls

Buckaroo has been wheat and dairy intolerant since day one. Of course we didn't figure this out until he got just about as colicky as any two parents could stand, and I cut everything out of my diet except rice, squash, and turkey. It was a miserable time. I gradually added foods back into my tummy (and breastmilk) and we realized that it was my love of pastries and hot chocolate that was doing us all in.

So, I cut out the wheat and dairy, and Buckaroo stopped his nightly screaming, and his rash went away, too. Hallalujah! Unfortunately, I am not a "food is just fuel" kind of person. I am a "food is love and comfort and family and joy" kind of person, so I keep falling off the wheat and dairy wagon. Partly, I keep thinking that he has to grow out of this allergy because no one else in our family has it. Dagnabit. So his rash comes and goes (on his cheeks and bum), but he doesn't cry anymore. Sure, there's a general fussiness, and he never sleeps for more that a two-hour stretch at night. That's just how babies are sometimes, right?

No, turns out I am a terrible mother as evidenced by the dark pink rings under my son's eyes yesterday morning-- caused by allergies, according to Dr. Sears. Buckaroo looks like a little albino raccoon. People have asked why I don't discontinue breastfeeding Buckaroo and just give him formula. According to my fearless La Leche League leaders, formula will probably make him break out in a rash all over his body-- not a better alternative than a wagonless mother, I think.

So, now I'm back on the wagon and super dedicated again. Last night I made wedding soup with quinoa (the food of the future) instead of pasta, and I've even been checking out the gluten- and dairy-free blogs. Looks like they've got some good recipes. I'm adding the links to my favorites.

But I'd already made the cinnamon rolls. They are just sitting on the kitchen table all plump and sugary and ready to be frosted. Bah!

January 28, 2008

Dad & the Sushi Grandma

Karen, my friendly neighborhood therapist, says that I should try to focus on the good memories I have of my dad because when the bulk of this deity-forsaken grieving has passed, I want to be left with the good stuff.

This isn't an easy task, digging up memories that don't have a dash (or a whole bucketful) of bitterness to them. I guess anyone who's been there knows that bitterness is mostly what comes of loving and addict-- even if he was a really funny addict. Last night, though, when I was battling my monkey brain once again, this is what I remembered:

My dad introduced me to sushi when I was thirteen. I knew just enough about it to be thoroughly horrified when he took me through the back door of a divey sushi spot in Sacramento. It would be a cold day in Kalamazoo before I'd ever eat raw fish, I thought to myself. Turns out there are many many cold days in Kalamazoo, and I have eaten a polar bear's share of the stuff (how I'm going to miss it when we move to The Woods! But that's another post).

The last time my dad came to visit, the last time I saw him, R and I took him out to our favorite sushi restaurant, Kai's. Just like India Palace, I've been going to Kai's since Sweet Potato was itty bitty, and all she did was squish the sticky rice from her California roll between her fingers. I went, I ordered, I ate, I paid the check. I never made conversation with the family-owners because I'm kind of a freak that way.

My dad is there for two minutes, and he's chatting up everyone in the room. It's hard not to see him for one thing. The restaurant is small; there are only about twelve tables, and my dad is huge-- over six feet, blond, and 300 pounds. We're sitting in the middle of the room, and my dad's head towers above everything.

We're there ten minutes, and this little old lady walks in the door with her family. She's about four feet tall and weighs as much as my right arm. Her black hair is in a bun, and she's wearing a long coat. She's toddling past our table, when my dad scoops her up in his giant reach and says in this booming voice, "Don't I know you?" He does not know her. "I do. I do. I know you."

The woman smiles big and pats him on the arm.

"I think we met at that place that time," he says. "Our friend introduced us."

If this woman knows he's full of bologna, she doesn't let on. I'm not sure that she speaks English, though, either. She just keeps smiling and patting. Dad invites her to sit and have some saki with us. He holds up the little ceramic bottle and waves it at her. She smiles some more, shakes her head, and finally scoots past him.

When our waitress comes back with our sushi rolls, Dad says, "You know that woman over there?" pointing at the tiny woman across the room, "She's my mom."

"That woman?" The waitress asks, nodding toward the tiny woman because her hands are full. The waitress is young, probably in her early twenties.

"Yep, yep, that's my mom," he says, so confidently.

"That's my grandma," the waitress says with an arched eyebrow.

"Your grandma is my mom?" my dad asks, with mock shock.

The waitress's hands are empty now, and she puts them on her hips while she squints at my dad with her head cocked. "I didn't know Grandma had any round-eyed children," she says, and then laughs as she's walking away.

We're laughing, too, and my dad is bent over laughing, and everyone in the restaurant is looking at our table as if he's a little bit crazy, and it's okay because he is.

January 27, 2008

The Thing I Love about Westerns

I love how much the men love each other. The same is true for football movies and cop movies. There's all that running around, killing people, getting laid or making touch downs, but underneath there's a current of pure man love.

Last night R and I watched "3:10 to Yuma", and what struck me most was how much Charlie Prince (right-hand-man of bad guy Ben Wade) loved Wade-- and possibly not in a platonic way-- which makes the ending that much sadder for everyone.

Also, I love that Wade and Dan Evans (the man hired to escort Wade to the prison train) keep switching allegiances for survival's sake. And here's another thing I think is interesting: Wade keeps talking about this green-eyed woman he knew back in the day and how he's looking for green-eyed love. He doesn't find it, but Evans has green eyes. Hm. Kinda makes ya think.

Wade is supposed to be a real charmer, and the director plays up his appeal. Unfortunately, I don't think Russel Crowe is attractive at all. Just not my type. Sorry Russell. Now, if they had put Johnny Depp in Wade's role, that woulda been somethin.
The movie is based on the book 3:10 to Yuma and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard. I'd almost like to read it and see how closely the movie parallels the story, but I'm not sure I love westerns that much. Besides, I've got several more Sharon Creech books on my list.

January 26, 2008

What's a Kneazle?

Sweet Potato and I were thinking about that crazy Crookshanks cat in Harry Potter and wondering why he was so darned clever, and we decided to look him up. Turns out he's half kneazle, which is a cat-like creature that's very good at spotting bad characters. I found this out on the JK Rowling website. Here's some other interesting tidbits I gleaned:

Rowling is pronounced row (like row your boat) ling. I always pronounced it row (like fighting).

Dean Thomas has a whole history we never learned because there wasn't room in the book.

Gilderoy Lockhart is based on an actual person who would never suspect.

Hermione is most like JK herself.

Nearly Headless Nick got that way because the executioner botched the job. Yuck.

Veritaserum only works on people who are magically weak or unsuspecting which is why the Ministry of Magic doesn't use it in court.
Originally Sirius was going to hide out with a crazy dog-loving woman, but she and her pets got in the way of the plot, so Rowling stuck Sirius in a cave.
There are all kinds of other juicy tidbits. I never wanted to peek before because I was afraid of spoilers, but, alas, those days are gone.
I have to admit that I spent far too much time perusing the site while Sweet Potato was studiously working on her Stonehenge essay.

January 24, 2008

The Wanderer

Just finished The Wanderer today. I didn't think I would like it much because it has that girl-against-the-elements kind of feel. I'm not big on the elements in literature, even if they are metaphorical. Also, I was scarred (water-logged?) for life by watching Jaws at too young an age. Dagnabbed shark.

I like Sophie, though, and her funky memory. She's on this big sailing trip with her uncles and cousins (all male), and she's trying to work out her personal history. The Wanderer is a combination of her and her cousin Cody's jounals. At first I was very dubious about the likelihood of a young girl ending up with an all-male crew, but then I remembered that when she was nine, Sweet Potato went on a camping trip to Mexico with her dad, his uncle Peter, and some cousins (all male). Here's the story she told me when she got back:

Uncle Peter locked dad's keys in the truck, but the little triangle window in the back was open, so we all took turns trying to get our hands in there to get the keys out. I had the best chance because I have the smallest hands, but I also had the shortest arms. Then Uncle Peter stuck his hand in there to give it a try, and he reached and reached and reached, and he was so close, and then the window broke.

And that's how I learned the F-word.

Sophie doesn't mention if she learns any new swear words on her trip, but she does learn a few things. I learned a few things, too. Mostly that I have a very feeble grasp of geography. If it were up to my brain, England and Ireland would be on one continent, Scotland above Ireland, and Wales would be where Ireland is. That's how I always picture it in my head no matter how many times I see it otherwise on a map, which makes me think I just need to go there and see it in real life, and then I'll get it.

January 23, 2008

The Death of Bees

Einstein didn't really say that when bees disappear, people will disappear four years later. According to Snopes.com, there's no evidence that Einstein had any interest in bees at all since he was not an entymologist.

That doesn't change the fact that the bees are disappearing, and it scares the holy bejeezus out of me, especially since every third bite of food we eat comes from the hard work of a bee, and I really love food. I really love my life, too, and I want to keep living it to a ripe old age-- like a peach that plummets from the tree when it's darned good and ready.

But there's this cabbageheaded colony collapse disorder (which sounds a lot like bee aids to me) that's killing off the bees by the thousands, and everybody's arguing about what's causing it. Now, I'm no scientist, or even a farmer, but I think it might be the new crops that are genetically engineered to be pest-resistant. Just seems to me that if you mess with nature, you get a whole unpredictable chain reaction . Huh. Then I have a whole cynical attitude about how there's a bunch of money swinging the argument this way and that-- because nobody wants to be responsible for the death of bees, but I always get bummed out when I start thinking like that, and here's what makes me feel better: R and I are going to keep bees in The Woods.

My friend Kate said, "But you can't just keep bee hives in your front yard."
"No, we'll keep them in the forest behind our house."
Then Kate started laughing uncontrollably. "You have a forest behind your house?"
We're such the city girls.

Then R said we can't keep bees because the bears will come and rip them apart for the honey, but as I was saying this to my friend Allyson, I had the good idea that we could keep the hives in the dog kennel because the chain link fence is really high. Allyson said, "Don't bears tear through cars, though? I don't think a fence is going to stop them."

R read that we might be able to keep the bears away with an electric fence (although my friend Pam says her horse ran right through its electrical fence). We didn't really like the idea of having an electric fence, but R realized we're going to need one anyway if we plan to have a garden, which we do, since Michael Pollan says everything we eat from a store is made of corn. So, now we're going to have bees and an electric fence-- or two.

Also, a big dog.

P.S. Burt's Bees has good suggestions for how to promote honeybees without getting stung.

Absolutely Normal Chaos

Another Creech. It's not the world's greatest title, I have to say, but it was a fun read. The main character is a bit slow-- I mean, she's a bright girl, Mary Lou, but it's one of those books where the reader feels like she knows more than the main character, and not in a good way like in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, where the main character is autistic and has difficulty understanding the relationships around him.

So in Walk Two Moons, Sal starts at a new school where all of the students have been required to keep a journal for the summer, and her the teacher reads excerpts from some of the journals in class, much to the students' chagrin. Absolutely Normal is one of the other students' summer journals. It's really cool because there are a couple of places where Mary Lou has written exactly what the teacher reads out loud in Walk Two Moons.

It makes me very curious about Creech's writing process, but I don't want to read her interviews until I've read all of the books because I detest the spoilers.

I like to do this thing when I get a new book where flip the book open to a random page, and I read a line, knowing when I read it that it doesn't mean anything to me. Then when I get to that line in the book later, I feel as if I'm having deja vu-- except this time I'm totally interested in the line. So, that's how reading Absolutely Normal felt a little bit.

Oh, and also, Mary Lou is reading The Odyssey for her summer reading, so she summarizes it and compares the characters to some of the people she knows. I think it's a great way to tantalize young readers into reading the classics, and now I feel that I really should read that book too, since I somehow managed to get through high school and two college degrees without it. I do know the gist of it. Sheesh.

January 22, 2008

Austen at the Movies

We don't watch TV. We have a tiny one in the basement, but it's cold down there, and we don't have cable so we never watch it. Sometimes Obo turns on "Judge Judy" when he's desperate for a fix. That's why I had no idea about the Masterpiece Theater series of Jane Austen movies until my friend Allyson told me about the made for tv novel adaptations. I just read and re-read all of the Jane Austen novels last year, so I was really wanting to watch these, and luckily, I've been invited to watch them at other people's houses!

I missed the first one, Persuasion, which Allyson said was awkwardly directed with the jolty camera and the heroine looking directly at the viewer at certain key moments. I do hope it comes out on dvd, though, because I just read that Anthony Stewart Head is in it, and I love love love him, despite his unfortunate name.

I watched Northanger Abbey at my friend Cynthia's house (in her tv room with surround sound and a ginormous flat screen tv). It was short, but good. I love the girl who plays Catherine, Felicity Jones. She's quite young, as she's supposed to be, and incredibly innocent and gullible. Perfect. The guy who plays Henry Tilney, JJ Feild, is easy on the eyes, looks a bit like Jude law. The scenes from Catherine's feverish dreams of Adolfo are hilarious, too. All in all, a good watch.

Oh, and something I didn't know: The title is pronounce North Anger (as in angry) Abbey-- which makes sense with all the vampirism, but I always pronounced Northanger with a soft 'a' and the 'g' as a 'j'. No one ever bothered to correct me, so either everyone else is pronouncing it the way I do, or else I have very polite friends.

Next week is Mansfield Park:

Omnivore's Dilemma

I tried for a whole day to read this book. I really want to read it. I just couldn't get past all that darned corn. He sure does have a lot to say about corn. I finally gave myself a break and read Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, which is a short little Creech book, and then I started Absolutely Normal Chaos, which I have not yet finished but am going to tackle right now as Buckaroo is sleeping and Sweet Potato is in art class. I have a break!

January 20, 2008

A Visit with Heidi

Here I am with my new highlights!

I whacked all my hair off when Buckaroo was tiny (tinier than he is now), and all of the blond was whacked off with it, so my hair was this boring non-color for a long time. I'm terrible about making appointments, so I usually just walk in any old place and have them chop chop, sometimes with horrifying results. I tried twice to highlight my hair myself, once with R's help, but both times my hair came out the same wet sand color. And I don't mean wet Hawaiian sand. So yesterday I finally went to see Heidi.

I met Heidi when I wrote a story about microderm abrasion for the newspaper. She also works on hair and waxing, so she insisted on trying to doll me up, and I called her my fairy god mother. Heidi has an accent like Zsa Zsa Gabore and calls me Baby and Sweetie and Darling. She lives near me, too, and I always feel guilty when I see her walking her little dogs, because I always look less than stellar, and Heidi always comments-- "Oh, Sweetie, you come see me, and I fix your eyebrows." Or, "Oh, Sweetie, why you wear that ugly hat and cover your hair?"

The first thing I told Heidi was that we were moving to The Woods. She was less than happy and promised me that it was a huge mistake, and we'd never be able to sell the house.
"But we don't want to sell the house," I said.
"Well, that's good because nobody gonna buy it. Nobody wants to live in the snow."

I was sitting in the salon chair, and she was whipping up the goop for my hair. The salon is a warm yellow inside, and the stylists all love dogs, so their friends and customers are forever bringing their dogs in to say hello. Somebody came in with a wolfy looking dog, so I told Heidi how we gave up Sam the Cat to save him from being eaten. It was maybe not the best conversational choice.
"Why you don't take him to The Woods?" she asked. She was wrapping my hair up in those little foil pieces.
"We don't want him to be eaten by the wild animals."
"You could just keep him inside," she argued.
"And we can't truck him across the country. He'll be happier here."
"No he won't. He's traumatized. Every time a cat goes to a new home, he's traumatized."

Ack. I know she just doesn't want me to leave. She loves me. When I was single she tried to set me up with her godson. I'd have to really like a gal to set her up with my godson, especially since he's only four.

And then I realize that Heidi is one of those people I'll probably never see again, like Casey the crossing guard and Smoking Tom-- our old neighbor who told kept us up on all the gossip-- and maybe even my Italian friend Renato because he's eighty-three, and every time we make a lunch date, he says, "OK, see you then, but you better check the obituaries in the morning to see if I am dead."

And I don't want to think about that anymore, so I say, "Heidi, Did you know that my dad died?" It's not my favorite topic of conversation, but I know this will make her forget about my cat.
"Oh, Baby, that's terrible," She says, "I'm sorry."

We talk about my dad for a while, and Heidi uses the word stupid a lot. Then (this is Obo's favorite part of the visit) she asks where Obo goes to school, and I tell her, and she says, "Oh, those kids so bad. They always walking past my house and dropping trash everywhere. So I run out there and tell them, 'You kids pick up your trash!' and they say 'F-You!' and I say, 'I'm going to call your principal!"

When I told the story to R and Obo, Obo asked, "Did she say F-You? Or did she really swear?"
"She really swore."
Then he had a fit of giggles. Now he runs around the house giggling and saying a very dramatic, "F-You!"* to nobody in general, with this big tilt of his head from side to side. We asked him if he was one of the littering kids, and he said, "No, and besides, I walk on the other side of the street."

*Obo would like me to add that he actually says "F-You," and not the actual swear word.

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More Crazy Dreams

We're all sicky here in the house of ill-health, and none of us slept well last night, especially Buckaroo. And when baby doesn't sleep, nobody sleeps.

Here's the one about my dad:
I was sitting at the dinner table with my dad, his wife, and my step-sister. My dad and his wife were asking me about R, I think. Drilling me. The ex-wife said something really rude, but it's all blurry. I got up from the table and said, "Kiss my a**," as I walked toward the bathroom. Then I was in the bathroom, and my dad was in there with me, and I was shout shout shouting at him. He was trying to get me to shut up, so he put his gigantic hand over my mouth and was suffocating me. Then I woke up.

I think that part of the dream was from a scene in Chasing Redbird.

In another dream I was shouting at my mom on the phone.
In another dream I was recycling aluminum cans while wearing a large orange hat.
In another dream I was helping the mother of Sweet Potato's friend sew a wedding dress out of scraps so she could marry my 8th-grade dreamboat. I have to admit, I was a bit jealous.

January 18, 2008

Standing Buckaroo

Today the Buckaroo pulled himself up to the standing position for the first time ever. According to our mothers, R and I both walked at 10 months, but we thought Buckaroo must have gotten some recessive genes because he just really started crawling seriously this week. Honestly, we're fine with him just sitting quietly in one spot, but now it looks like those days will soon be a thing of the past. This photo was taken just after Buckaroo pulled himself up on the chair. His sister held his hands so he wouldn't hit his head. Posted by Picasa

Chasing Redbird

Zinny found an overgrown trail that runs about twenty miles from her parents' farm in Bybanks to Choctoc Kentucky, and she spends the summer working to clear it, even though it means trespassing and stealing a horse to do it. She's also working through grief and family frustrations. I just love Creech's girls-- even though they sort of seem like the same girl, with the exception of Florida from Ruby Holler-- They're smart, they're different and don't feel like they fit in anywhere, they have wacky families, and they're trying to figure themselves out. And who doesn't feel like that at thirteen? or even at thirty-six? So, of course the books have got appeal. If you're gonna read 'em, definitely read Walk Two Moons before reading Chasing Redbird.

Plus, each time I read one, I really want to be where the characters are. I just finished Chasing Redbird, and I really want to go for a hike, but it's 10:30 at night, and everyone in my family is sleeping and sniffly.

I still have a whole list of Creech books left to read, and I checked a few out from the library today, but first I have to read some grown up books for my bookclubs.

January 17, 2008

Short Dream

Last night my friends Kate and Jaime threw me a party, so I could see my dad one last time before he died. Weird. My dad was there, and I knew he was going to die, and yet I couldn't bring myself to speak to him. Sweet Potato was sitting on his lap. At least I think it was Sweet Potato. It may have been my brother when he was little. I was videotaping the party, and I zoomed in on Sweet Potato's face, and then my dad's face, and I couldn't believe how much they looked alike.

On a sidenote, Kate and Jaime's exes both showed up at the party and wanted their divorce papers signed, which is just silly because Kate and Jaime don't have exes as they have been sweethearts since they were in utero.

There wasn't even cake.

The Test

R passed his big test yesterday! Hallelujah! I never did doubt that he'd pass, but it's good to have that little stress ended. We took the kids out for a celebration dinner at India Palace (Oh, how I'm going to miss India Palace when we move). I started taking Sweet Potato there when she was just tiny and liked to sit next to the shiny, hanging beads, so she could rattle and swing them, and make an all-around ruckus. Now she loves to hear that story over and over.

It was a quiet dinner because Obo had a terrible headache, which he thought would be much improved with a Coke, and he made big pouty lips when I wouldn't let him have one. We were all hungry and grumpy by the time we got there, except for Buckaroo who sat in his high chair happily clanging his spoon, and then chomping on spicy carrots and samosa stuffing.
R and I thought we'd liven up the conversation by announcing that we're planning a trip to Santa Cruz on a weekend when the weather is sunny. Santa Cruz is on my list (at least in my head) of places to see before leaving California, and we wanted to reward the kids for their hard school work. Unfortunately, when R said we had an announcement, Sweet Potato thought we were going to announce that we were putting them up for adoption, and Obo thought we were going to announce that we're going to Disneyland. It kind of took the umph out of it.

Obo said, "They can't put us up for adoption. We both have other parents."

And Sweet Potato said, "What about Buckaroo?"

We all looked down the table at Buckaroo clapping his samosa potatoes between his hands.

"Nobody is going up for adoption!" R said.

Meanwhile, I watched the waiter and waitress come and go, filling our glasses with water. They've been working at India Palace since my friend Toni first took me there for the lunch buffet. I'd never eaten Indian food before, and I couldn't get enough of it. For the last ten years, the wait staff have seen me in there with different hairstyles, different friends, dates. They explained to my dad, on one of his rare visits to California, what was in the tandoori chicken. They were there for my big birthday bash the year I promised myself would be the best yet, and it was. They've seen Sweet Potato growing up, and they've seen her come in separately with her dad. They've seen me pregapotamus, and now they've seen Obo and Buckaroo, too. I don't even know their names. But one day I was at the grocery store, and the waiter was behind me in line buying gallons and gallons of milk. The clerk asked him, "What are you buying all that milk for?" The waiter pointed at me, and said, "Ask her. She knows."

I'm going to find out their names before we leave for The Woods. That's on my list now, too.

January 16, 2008


Walk Two Moons is still my favorite of the Creech books I've read so far, and not just because it won the Newbery medal, but Bloomability made me laugh the hardest.

Dinnie is in Switzerland, near Lugano, with her aunt and uncle. Her family is poor, vagabond, and in trouble, so Dinnie's Aunt Sandy and Uncle Max take Dinnie away to the American school where Max is headmaster, but no one ever discussed it with Dinnie, so she feels a bit like she's been kidnapped.

When they arrive at their home in Switzerland, Dinnie posts a sign in her bedroom window that's supposed to read kidnapped in Italian, but her dictionary lists a few ways to say it, and Dinnie's not sure which to choose, so she chooses portare via a forza.

"Aunt Sandy said, 'I think that what you've written means take by force, like a command, as if you are asking someone to come into the house and kidnap you. Is that what you wanted to say?'

No I did not. But neither of us could figure out how to change take by force to taken by force.

Next I tried Help! but there were so many choices for that one word that I finally just aimed my pencil and stabbed at one. SERVITEVI! I wrote.

When Uncle Max came in to say goodnight, he looked at my sign and said, 'I think that what you've written means Help yourself! You know, as if you are inviting the burglars in to take all our belongings. Is that what you meant?'"

This section made me laugh so hard I was crying, and then I tried to read it out loud to R, and I couldn't even finish because I couldn't catch my breath. R didn't think it was nearly as funny, but there's just something about language mistakes that crack me up. I could barely get through David Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day because I was in such hysterics in his French class that I couldn't even hold on to the book.

Also, though, I just love the aunt and uncle here. They're so casual and helpful, even when it's clear that she's wrestling them, and it reminded me of a conversation I might have with Obo. Being a parent is the hardest work ever, but being a guardian . . . as my friend dee ann likes to say, Christ on a cracker.
Oh, and the thing I just realized! Sal and Dinnie and Zinny (from Chasing Redbird) all know each other -- or know people who know each other-- from Bybanks Kentucky. I love it when authors thread characters through different books like that. It's so cool.

January 15, 2008

Norah Jones Dream

I dreamed that R was having an affair with Norah Jones.

Well, who could blame him?

They were supposed to be working on her website in the basement,
but when I went down there to ask if they wanted snacks (because apparently I'd turned into June Cleaver) they were both nakey and spooning. I said, "I'm really not comfortable with this, Norah," and went back upstairs. Then I worried that I'd hurt Norah's feelings.

Three Big Steps

We're slowly working toward the big move. So, just to sum up: We leave in June. R told his work that we're leaving, and they're going to let him telecommute from The Woods until November, if it all works out. He's also taking his VMWare test tomorrow (he's quite nervous about it, but he always does just fine), so he'll be looking for a real life job in the virtual field, and he's very excited about that.

We traded in both of our cars and bought a newish car with four wheel drive-- although we can't figure out how to put it in four wheel drive yet-- and even though it wouldn't start on Saturday morning, we're giving it a second chance and loads of love and attention. Oh, and I think we should name it Pinot-- or Cab! R is planning to drive across country with Sweet Potato, but Obo says he's coming on the plane with Buckaroo and me.

We have possibly found a home for Sam the Cat. We'll know more by the end of the week. R says Sam knew something was up because he stopped waking R for his 6 a.m. breakfast.

Here's Sam reading a book with R and Buckaroo.

The next step is to sell all of our stuff, except for the goodies we can't part with -- I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition, and I'm going to leave it just like that. So here's my list of stuff I can't part with (did it again):

Nana Pat's sewing machine
My hope chest
Letters and photos and memoribilia -- of which there are about a dozen boxes in the basement
Buckaroo's crib
Our bed-- I know this is silly, but I bought it with my Pablo Neruda prize money, and Buckaroo was born in it. It's our marriage bed.
Can't decide about the books. They're heavy, but I love them.

R and the kids have their own lists, of course.

What's Eating the Cats?

We received an email from our friend who let us know that Sam is settling in his new home just fine so far. She said her 100 pound black lab -- whose name is Howard, not Harvey-- was frightened of Sam, but they're OK with each other.

Here's the thing. R said it was coyotes attacking the cats in The Woods, and I didn't know there were coyotes in the North East, so I learned two things new because R's dad said it isn't really coyotes eating the cats; it's fisher cats eating the cats. I'd never heard of such a thing, and R described it to me, but when I looked it up, that fisher cat didn't look anything like what he described, and it isn't really a cat at all, and it doesn't eat fish. It looks like a cross between a bear and a weasel.

Now R says he's never seen a fisher cat in The Woods, and it's probably the wolves eating the cats. I said I don't want to be eaten by wolves either, but R says I'm more likely to be chased by wild turkeys.

In any case, Sam is better off here with Howard. We miss his yowling ways, though.

January 14, 2008

Buckaroo Dream

I was trying to sign up for classes at the local junior college, but all of the forms had been filled out in Chinese. I was carrying Buckaroo in my arms and went to sit down at a lunch counter to have a snack while I was waiting for the receptionist to bring out new blank forms. I realized I was sitting next to Buckaroo's (dream) biological mom. We had an open adoption. She was young, and come to think of it, looked a lot like my mom when she was sixteen and pregapotamus with me-- long dark hair, olivey skin, and short.

She was eating a bowl of macaroni and cheese (not the Annie's bunny kind, I noticed), and she started feeding it to Buckaroo. I tried to tell her that he's allergic to wheat and dairy, and he couldn't have any of that stuff because he was going to swell up like an angry, pink, balloon. She wouldn't listen but looked over at her friend and rolled her eyes.

Then I think Buckaroo woke me up for real.


Last night when I couldn't sleep I decided to scatter the rest of my dad's ashes in the San Francisco Bay. There are two reasons I think this is a good idea. Half of my dad's ashes are buried with his mom, Nana Pat, in the Newcastle cemetery where he wanted to be. The other half wouldn't fit in the urn (he was a big guy) and are still inside the the box on the top shelf of the closet in Obo's room (our big boy). If he knew they were in there, he'd probably not go in that room again. Or maybe he's peeked.

I need to do something with the ashes before we move to The Woods because I certainly can't scatter them there. My dad had never seen Massachusetts, I don't think. He loved San Francisco, though. Once, when he visited me he went into the city for the day, while I worked, and hung out in a sushi restaurant where they were gambling illegally and smoking cuban cigars upstairs (well, this is what he told me, but he could have made it up). You had to know the secret code or something to get in there, but before my dad left, they'd given it to him. That's how it was with him. He had a knack for finding the seediest places to hang out, and he always had the secret code on his way out the door.

If I scatter his ashes in the bay, he'll be in one of his favorite places, instead of my closet. He was a traveler, so that seems right. Also, I can ask my brother and sister if they want to come down for the scattering, and it might be the last time I see them, but at least I'll get to say goodbye. I might keep a bit of his ashes with me, though. He couldn't begrudge me that.

January 13, 2008

Lazy Sunday

This morning R picked up a scrap of carpet from a Freecycler (love it!) and cut it to fit our dining room. I'm going to start calling it the common room because it's the only room where we can all hang out since our bedroom is in the living room. Now Buckaroo won't have to scrach his bitty knees on the splintery hard wood floor anymore!

The five of us walked down to Park Street and had breakfast at Jim's. Actually, Buckaroo didn't walk, he rode in the stroller, and he didn't eat much either, just few Cheerios. We stopped at the toy store where the big kids oggled the Playmobiles. Then we sauntered down to the market and bought a bag of groceries and smoothie fixings, so we can try out the new blender my mom gave me for Christmas. Thanks Mom!

I'm going to miss the walks down to Park Street, running into people we know, browsing Books Inc., grabbing a sundae and stopping in at the library for a book or two that we saw on the shelves at Books Inc.

I was getting really bummed out about not having a Park Street in The Woods, so on the way home I decided to think of things to which I am looking forward in MA:

1. Having a bedroom door-- having a bedroom, really.
2. The fine schools
3. Having a dishwasher
4. Fall
5. Summer
6. Spring
7. Christmastime snow

That's all I could come up with on the walk. When we got home a nice lady and her two boys came and took Sam away to try him out for a week. Their doggie, Harvey, likes to chase cats, so Sam may be coming home in a few days, and that's how I'm not sad about it. He may be coming back.

January 12, 2008

Yucky Day

Our car won't start. We just bought it two weeks ago, and this morning, kaput. We're supposed to pick up some carpet from a freecycler, and she's getting antsy. Obo was supposed to have his homework done ages ago, and he won't do it. He just sits and stares out the window, and longer he sits, the bigger the coils of steam coming out of R's ears. We were all supposed to go to a babysitting co-op party, but we're just stewing.

Something good must happen today.
Well, we have a possible cat adopter for Sam. She came to visit him and said she'll think it over. It would be so good to know that he's going to a happy home with people we know -- or sort of know. He's a sweet kitty, really. I don't want to drive across the country with him, though, or find him half-eaten by coyotes.

I Due Villaggi

I just finished reading my friend Renato's book. His title is Islands in the Wind, but his Italian publisher changed the title to I Due Villaggi (The Two Villages) which he is not all that crazy about. His publisher also cut off the end, and Renato feels that the book is incomplete without it. So far it's only available in Italian, in Italy, but he let me read the English manuscript-- which sounds so literary and famousish.
The story is about this Italian guy who is fighting in Albania when Italy surrenders and the guy is forced into shoveling snow for the Germans, and there's plenty of it. It's a very manly story. When the soldiers are not starving, they are starving for the tender touch of a woman. Then there's a lot of walking ragged and starving through snow storms, and there's love, of course. What kind of Italian story would it be without the love of a good woman?
Renato is looking for someone to edit his English manuscript. I told him that my writing style is too casual, and I don't think we'd be a good match, but I do hope he finds someone soon.

Here's the link if you read Italian: http://santiquaranta.dyndns.biz/pag/Content.aspx?vl=11&vd=141

Moving News

Big News. R found out today that he will be able to continue working for his company for at least three months once we move to The Woods. This means that we don't have to wait for R to find a job before we move. This means that the move is definitely happening, and it's only six months away. I get this tingly feeling in the back of my throat and eyeballs when I start to think about it. Everyone I love is here. In California. Right now. Except Papa Orman who happens to be in Oregon, but that's still West Coast. I'm making a list of all of the things I must do (ok, I would very much like to do) before leaving California. Here's the beginning:
Go to Yosemite (probably not going to happen because Buckaroo squeals in his carseat after an hour)
Go to the Gilroy Garlic Festival
Eat many Taco Tree burritos (extra cheese, no onions)
Go to the Buddhist Temple in Berkeley for Thai lunch on a Sunday
Visit Papa Orman in Oregon and see a play in Ashland
Pick ollalaberries in Half Moon Bay and make jam, or at least a pie
See a Shakespeare play in Orinda
Eat oysters in San Francisco . . . .

January 11, 2008

Ruby Holler

I've decided to read everything by Sharon Creech because I think she writes exactly how I would write children's stories if I made the effort-- except that I'm sure hers are better than mine would be. Last night I read Ruby Holler, and Poor R had to sleep with the light on until 2 a.m. because I couldn't put the book down.

This one's about Florida and Dallas, the Trouble Twins, orphans. Florida is cantankerous and likes to use the word putrid -- which is a very good word. Dallas is a bit more hopeful and dreamy. I didn't enjoy this one as much as Walk Two Moons because Creech left some of the plot just danglin' there. I won't give anything away, but I had a couple of major questions when I finished.

I think reading children's lit is a good break. It's comfort reading.

Here's Creech's website:

Walk Two Moons

I just finished reading Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. My friend Suzanne suggested that my daughter (aka Sweet Potato) read it because it's about a girl who drives across the country with her grandparents, and Sweet Potato is planning to drive across the country with R this summer when we move to The Woods. Suzanne is getting her PhD in children's lit and has possibly read everything ever written for children and talks about books with such enthusiasm and hand waving that I want to read everything she's read.
First, I have to say that I can't believe this book has been around since 1994, and no one has ever mentioned it until now. I couldn't stop reading it. Poor Buckaroo had to roll around on the bed and chew on his giraffe shoes all day because I had to know what happened to Sal and her friend Phoebe.
Sal is thirteen, her mom moved away and didn't come back, Sal's dad moves her to Ohio, she misses her Kentucky farm, and she's on a road trip with her grandparents to visit her mom, keeping them entertained by telling them a story about Phoebe. Her gramps says "gol-darn" a lot. Her gram calls her Chickabiddy, and Gramps calls Gram Gooseberry. Oh, and they both call Phoebe, Peeby. I love them. I want them to be my grandparents.
Tomorrow I'm going back to the library, and I'm going to check out all of the books they have by Sharon Creech. Suzanne has read them all and couldn't come up with one she didn't like. Oh, and Sweet Potato is reading Ink Heart, so she'll have to meet Sal another time.

January 10, 2008

Dream in Spanish

I had a dream about my dad last night, except that like most dreams about my dad, he wasn't in it. Instead, I was with his new family (a dream family). He had remarried and was living with his new wife, her father and her son. I was visiting them, but my dad was away on work. They were Mexican. His wife was teaching her son and me how to cook something with chiles, and we were speaking Spanish. I was speaking very slowly, though, and she was laughing at my poor grammar. I really liked her. She was warm and comfortable, and I was thinking how happy I was that my dad finally found someone who was good for him. Now that I think of it, she looked a lot like the waitress at the sushi place down the street.
Then, the way dreams are, I was holding buckaroo. My dad's new wife asked me in Spanish, "What is the baby going to call me?" It took me a few seconds to figure out what she had asked. Finally, when I put it together, I said, "He'll call you Abuela."
I don't know why this makes me cry.
Then my doorbell rang, and I woke up.

* I have to add that Sweet Potato read and critiqued this post. She said the new wife sounded mean when she laughed at my Spanish, and I should change that part to make it clearer. I said maybe "giggled" would be a more appropriate word.

January 9, 2008

The Big Move

So, my in-laws are giving us a house. Well, we're not sure if it's a gift or just a deep discount at this point, but it's a house, it's on a lake, and it's on the other side of the country. We don't own a house now. We live in California, and we've been waiting so so patiently for the housing market to get a bit less crazy, but it's never going to happen here. Even if it did, I'd still have to put the buckaroo in child-care and work full-time, and we still wouldn't be able to afford enough bedrooms for all of us. So, that's that. I should be happy. I love a lake.
The thing is, I don't love snow. I know this is because I grew up in Auburn, CA, and it got fairly cold there in the winter, and I was never never never dressed appropriately, so my tushie turned into a popsicle. But it only snowed every other winter in Auburn, and in the Massachusetts woods it snows every other day. I've been watching the weather channel like never before. I don't even know how to ski. I am planning to learn how to snow shoe, though. R says there's probably not much learning to it, just strap 'em on and go.
Also, though, I don't know anyone in MA, with the exception of my in-laws, and they're going to be almost two hours away. So, every day the big kids are going to hop on the school bus, R is going to commute (to where? How far? We don't know yet), and the buckaroo and I are going to be alone in the snowy woods. Could be rough on a mama.
This is the lake where we will be living. It's the farther one. No snow in the picture, though.
R says it's time for bed now. He can't sleep without me. It's very sweet and, yet, somewhat annoying.

January 8, 2008

Eat Pray Love

I just finished reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which, I know, everyone in the universe is reading right now-- or at least every woman. As I was reading it I kept having to push past the jealousy (envy?) I was feeling because Gilbert is the same age as me and is able to take off for a year and sort out her life. Sure, if we could all just ditch our lives for a while, eat pasta, drink wine, meditate, and pray, the world would be a happier place for everyone. It's not going to happen for me any time soon, though. I don't know about you.

My husband just read what I wrote and was upset because he thought I was trying to say that I wasn't happy with my life and wanted to run away. That's not how I feel at all.

I've been thinking a lot about grief lately because six months ago my dad, while using drugs, caused a head-on collision, killed himself and the driver of the other car. I miss my dad in the few spare moments I have during the day to think about him. At night when everyone else is sleeping I think about the wife of the man who died, and I'm sick for her. I am horrified that I am the daughter of the person who caused her this incredible grief. I start to panic that I don't have enough free time to sort these feelings out, and they're all going to catch up with me and push me into crazyland. But then the baby wakes up and needs nursing, and it I have to put it all on the shelf again.

So, I really did like Gilbert's book. I especially like her medicine man and his ideas about heaven and hell. Not big on either place myself, kinda think this is it for all of us, but if heaven and hell exist, I'll take the medicine man's version.

Gilbert's trip to India dragged a bit for me, but I've never been big on meditation and prayer (maybe that's why I'm having such a hard time right now), but I really liked her night on the roof letting go of her divorce guilt. I've got a little guilt of my own I could stand to lose.
I was surprised to find myself excited about the sequel to Eat Pray Love (Weddings and Evictions).