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Somnambulism Seems Easier

Emile sitting in a pumpkin patchMy weekday schedule is something of a failed attempt at ye olde work/home life balance:

7AM — wake, shower, dress

7:30AM—head to office (stopping at post office M&Th)

7:45AM–10AM—work

10:20AM–1PM—childcare for Emile/work out/run errands/housekeeping

1PM–3:30PM—work

3:45PM–4:50PM—write (a.k.a. suck down a latte and try to think)

4:55PM—pick up Susanne

5PM—home/make supper/childcare for Emile/pick up 17,238 small toys/crash on couch to a stupid show like House Hunters

If it’s swim class night, spend one full hour packing a diaper bag, wrestling Emile into a swim diaper, heading to gym pool, splashing for 30 minutes with Emile, wrestling Emile out of a wet bathing suit, driving home, getting Emile to bed. If it’s not swim class night, trying to make and eat dinner and clean up while Emile plays, gets a bath, and asks to read 3,844 different books that you’ve already read more than 98,000 times so far (plus or minus 100). Read More…

Breaking Point

I hope it’s fair to say that I’ve never used this blog as an outright rant before. I’ve posted food reviews, my adventures in publishing and writing, popular culture analysis, critiques of American culture, trans and queer civil rights, general progressive stuff, funny family stories, and promotion for my own work. And while I try to look at things with a critical eye, I actively try to write, even when from direct experience, with an eye toward connecting with other people. I know I’m not an island, and my experiences are not unique (although some of them are certainly uncommon). When I’m feeling particularly pressured or overwhelmed I try to do my processing offline, whatever privacy is afforded me who spends so much time either online or in a small town where everybody knows everybody else.

But I am going to break from whatever form I’ve cobbled here and register a few complaints. If you’re not interested in reading that, I understand completely. I still believe that other folks out there in my universe will have felt similarly and so for whatever that’s worth, you all have my unending empathy.

I am really exhausted. Seriously. I know I preach that I have a great work-home balance, and I do, but I feel like every minute of my day is scheduled, except the hours from Emile’s bedtime until my bedtime. And most of that is spent staring at the television in a zombie trance. The pressure to keep grant money flowing at work, to stay on top of my household’s entropy manufacturer, keep my connections to friends and acquaintances, be there as a mentor whenever it’s requested of me, take care of myself, support Susanne and Emile, and oh, yes, find time for writing, is all a heavy set of objects to juggle. I said this was a complaint, and it is, but I’m genuinely okay with my schedule and responsibilities, even if it is breakneck and a ton of work. Read More…

Whooping It Up

tree on our carMy flight down to Los Angeles at the end of July was nice, because I’d upgraded to first class, enjoying three or four drinks and a lovely nap in the oversized seat. I’d never flown first class before, but for $50, and after my fatphobic encounter the segment before (from Walla Walla to Seattle), I was content to pay a little more. I may have spoiled myself forever.

Flying back to the Pacific Northwest was not as luxurious. Sure, I had an aisle seat, so I could stretch out my wonky legs, but right behind me some white dude coughed the entire 2-hour flight. Every sixteen seconds, cough. Reading a book, consuming the seven tiny pretzels handed out mid-flight, nodding into a microsleep, these were all interrupted with coughing and hacking. I craned my head around but didn’t see so much as a phlegm-moistened tissue in his hand. Middle-aged cough machine there was just spewing his whatever all over the plane.

Turns out, on August 4, flying from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, I got coughed on by someone who had whooping cough. In all likelihood, anyway. Giving him the stink eye, as I and many of the passengers around me did, failed to silence him or motivate him to request a mask or barrier for his illness. By the next morning I had a tickle in my throat. Two days later I had a fever, and three days later, so did Susanne and Emile. We presumed we’d picked up a head cold or mild flu, and as we’d all been running around far from home, Susanne and I figured we were simply run down a bit. That first weekend back together we settled in and got as much respite as possible for a busy family of three. Read More…

Fair Thee Well: A Trip to Walla Walla’s Frontier Days

Every Labor Day weekend, Walla Walla hosts “Frontier Days,” a combination of agricultural fair and a sanctioned rodeo. While the fairgrounds are mostly empty most of the year, in late August they begin filling up with hundreds of horse trailers, pickups filled with crafts and food, and truck after truck of carnival ride equipment. White fences are cleaned, exhibit halls swept out and dusted, food stalls prepped with supplies, and power cords dragged every which way to light up the evening hours with seasonal entertainment. Living here since the late summer of 2008, Susanne and I have never gone to Frontier Days, usually because that’s also when the national political science association’s conference is held, far from Walla Walla. But this year I stayed behind with Emile, and bought some passes for us to the see fair and the rodeo.

Walla Walla Frontier Days 2013 US flag and horsesNow then, before people balk at the idea of the city boy and his offspring venturing into such a rural experience, I am no noob to the rodeo. I went to Girl Scout horse camp in South Jersey twice, sleeping in two-week stints in an overgrown tent, and I’ve gone to at least a dozen rodeos in the Northeast—though truth be told, my favorite is the Atlantic Gay Rodeo, in which, among other events, cowboys and cowgirls chase goats around the arena to get pink underwear on their butts. Read More…

Conversations with Emile

Emile in cowboy hatThe following are excerpts from actual conversations with my kid.

EMILE: I having a baby.

ME: You are? You’ll be a big brother and a daddy?

EMILE: No dad, I be a big brudder, a daddy AND a mommy.

#

“Daddy?”
“Yeah, buddy?”
“I saw a horse.”
“You saw a horse today? What else did you see?”
“Tennis. And a horse.”
“You did, yes. Did you see a cow?”
“Uhh, no.”
“You didn’t see a cow? Did you see a sheep?”
“Uhh, no. No sheep.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah.”
“I’m pretty sure we saw horses, and cows, and sheep, and goats. What sound did the sheep make?”
“Oink.”
“Come on, the sheep said ‘oink’?”
“No. Emile funny.”

#

EMILE: (after waking up an hour beyond bedtime and looking outside) It’s dark outside.

ME: Yes, the sun went down.

EMILE: Is bedtime outside.

ME: Yes. And it’s bedtime inside, too.

EMILE: Daddy, why so dark outside?

ME: (I grab a piece of cereal and hold it up close to the dining room overhead light) We are on a planet out in space, and we move around the sun, but we also rotate, so sometimes the bright light is on the other side of us. (I move the cereal around deftly, rotating and revolving at the same time) When it’s on the other side, we are in nighttime and it is dark outside.

EMILE: That’s a Cheerio.

ME: Yes. It’s a Cheerio. It’s a metaphor.

EMILE: Emile have it?

ME: It’s stale.

EMILE: Emile want it, daddy. Daddy please.

#

[LATER THAT EVENING]

ME: Okay, it’s time for bed.

EMILE: I want some milk and cracker. I want some milk and cracker, Daddy.

ME: Okay, I’ll get some for you.

EMILE: Daddy be right back.

ME: Yes. (exits to kitchen, returns with a fresh bottle of milk and one round cracker. hands them to EMILE.)

EMILE: Thank you, Daddy.

ME: You’re welcome, buddy.

EMILE: I eat in crib.

ME: Okay.

EMILE: Daddy sit in chair.

ME: You want me to sit in the chair?

EMILE: Daddy rock.

ME: You want me to rock myself in the chair?

EMILE: Yes.

ME: Okay. (starts rocking)

EMILE: I lost the binky.

ME: It’s right next to you.

EMILE: Where binky go? Where binky at?

ME: (stands up, goes to crib) Emile, it’s right here. (picks up binky and hands it to EMILE.)

EMILE: Thank you, Daddy.

ME: (sitting back down) Okay, buddy. Drink your milk.

EMILE: I lost the cracker. Where cracker go?

ME: You cannot have lost the cracker. You just had the cracker.

EMILE: Where cracker go?

ME: Emile, I am not going to hunt for things all night.

EMILE: It’s a game, Daddy.

ME: Oh (laughs)

Susanne tells me I have made a very cute monster.

Pool of Leaves

susanne and emile in poolIn two weeks, Emile will turn 2. He and I have been enjoying parent/child swim class at the Walla Walla YMCA since he was a scant six months, so if I do the math (fine, it’s easy math), Emile has been in a twice-a-week swim class for about 18 months now. When we first started out, I had a bit of anxiety about a few swim class-related issues, including

  • If people would notice my chest scars (they don’t because they’re too busy staring at how cute Emile is)
  • If I would slip and fall on the wet floor while holding the baby
  • If the baby would drown or contract some horrible, chlorine-resistent bacteria that started the next zombie apocalypse
  • If the baby would take a dump in the pool in front of everyone

I grant that some of these are less probable than others, and that nearly all of them are ridiculous. But hey, they were my fears, don’t judge. Read More…

Instructions to Our House Sitter

model house on lots of dollar billsAs Emile keeps telling us, we are “flying plane Michigan” tomorrow to see “Grandma AND Papa.” (Can’t leave Papa out, after all.) Usually leaving for two weeks in the summer means that we’ll return to a brown lawn, shriveled annuals, and a stack of cobwebby newspapers. But not this year! Thanks to a helpful and intrepid recent college graduate, we will for the first time be employing a bonafide house sitter. So of course I had to give her a few instructions.

1. The key to the house works all the outside locks.
2. We stopped the mail while we’re on vacation, but the newspaper will keep coming. Feel free to read it/recycle it/line a bird cage with it.
3. You can eat whatever you find in the fridge or the house. (Don’t like, eat THE house.) Things with nuts in them: the package of walnuts in the pantry, the jar of peanut butter, the granola bars in the pantry, the granola cereal and the panda bear cereal in the basement storage. Otherwise we’re nut less. [sic] We’ve left you a few cookies on the counter—those are chocolate chips and cherries.
4. There are two plants by the sink, one tree in the room behind the kitchen, and an African violet in that same back room, that need watering, maybe 2-3 times a week. The hanging pots on the porch need to be watered every day, and the two little pots out front need a splash every day. Those other two containers only need to be watered 1-2 times a week, depending on how hot it gets. Read More…

Father’s Day, 2013

Emile in a swingLike many people, I have mixed feelings about Father’s Day. Sure, there are lots of tweets and Facebook posts that go something like “to all the Dad’s [sic] out there,” obliterating that actually, there are better and worse examples of those who parent from the masculine zones of gender. A few years ago I joked with at least four other individuals in the room that we should start a “I Had a Shitty Father” club. We could emboss t-shirts and stamp out buttons and make zines. Why not turn personal trauma and angst into fun? Misery loves a good zine. But there are definitely moments I shared with my father that I carry with me today, like the Sundays after church when he and I would feed the ducks at the local pond (we didn’t know in the 1970s that it was bad for the ecology of it all), or his love of bygone music, or the thoughtful way he’d lay out my cereal choices in the morning before school, with the newspaper opened up to the comics section. I think I got a better dad than he shared with his older kids, and I do appreciate that.

These days I chase after a little boy reminding him to be careful when climbing on the tippy ottoman. Or the big steps that lead to our front door. Or the strangely busy residential road where we live. I was picking smashed raisins out of the one tiny carpet we own at some point last week when a wave of giggles hit me. This is full circle. I’m sure my mother had to pull all kinds of detritus out of the flooring when I stamped it on the linoleum, or shag-covered stairwell, and so on.  Read More…

After 42 Years, I Still Don’t Have the Answer to the Universe

The older I get, the less I realize I know. Let’s face it, it would be challenging to find me more self sure than when I was 9 years old, during which age I’d insist it was not only possible to have all of the knowledge in the world in one human brain, but also that I would accomplish the feat. Such precociousness! Turns out that knowledge gathering is onerous, filled with all this foundational base stuff before anything really fascinating comes up. Want to master painting? Here’s a lesson on perspective. Love to know French? First you have to learn elementary vocabulary and grammar rules. Nobody jumps to particle physics without first hearing about that Sir Newton dude and the apple on his head.

So perhaps patience has been an issue of mine, in that like, I have little of it. At least my expectations for most everything else have drifted toward the realistic. I can’t know everything. I can in fact only know the tiniest shavings of a thing, and my ability to understand those droplets is fallible, mutable, susceptible to the flaws of memory and time and that foundational perspective. Yet in this knowing about knowing I can at least scrape together a little honesty. It is something of a conduit to my own humility, and in great contrast to my previous certainly about my intellectual prowess. So thank you, meta-knowing. Read More…

Everett Versus Bird

At first I wasn’t sure that what I was hearing existed in the outside world. It could have been an echo of a dream, or a misinterpretation of a real sound by a sleepy, 5AM brain.

And then it happened again. And again. I strained to figure out the identity of the sound. My mind compared it, I suppose, to every other sound that came in striking distance of this one. It was a rap. No. It was a wham. No. The sound, skipping like a record player but slower, was somehow tamped down. It had multiple parts that chimed at once–it was like a sharp thud. What the hell is a sharp thud? How could anything sound like that?

When deconstructing a sound, there is complexity. The start of the sound, the middle (this is optional) and the finish. Every sound pushes against air, creates something from nothing and then travels out in all available directions until a fraction of that creation reaches our ears, where it is funneled down to our eardrums. And then when our tiniest bones rattle our experienced brains quickly sort through our dendrite-supported memory and label those sound waves. A dog barking. Glass shattering. A soda can opening. There may be individual differences among those canines, windows, and pops, but they’re similar enough that it doesn’t take us very long to assess and categorize what we hear. All things being equal, of course.

But here I was, the clock relaying the early hour to me, and the sound. The sound. The sound.

It’s unusual for someone in their 40s to hear a completely brand new wave. (Ha. I wrote new wave.) And yet, I couldn’t place this on listening alone. So I got up–clad in boxers and a faded t-shirt. My hair was pillow-conformed. I forgot my eyeglasses on the bedside table, so I wasn’t great at seeing anything in front of me, either. (Rookie mistake.) I stood in the dining room, swaying a little, waiting for the next eruption. Read More…

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