Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


Helpless Hoping

Hello, internets, from Amtrak train 171, currently somewhere is gloriously green Virginia.  There were some cows just now, and a heron in that tiny pond by the tracks where I often see a heron.  I am coming to see Starrhillgirl.  I have new sunglasses. It is a good day.

It is spring break now, and that means I have a glorious week of no classes and so does the Bean and, when I get back home after this blessed weekend away, we will go do some fun things with every other person in New York, since they will also be having spring break.  Ah, cities.  There are so many people in them.  

It also means that I can’t tour any schools, which is very frustrating, since I am back in touring schools mode.  Let me bring you up to date:

Offers went out some time ago for kindergarten in general education programs in the public schools.  We were offered a spot at our third choice, one choice higher than where we had put the school around the corner, where the Bean currently attends pre-k.  Sugar went with me to fill out the paperwork, and she liked the school, too.  It’s a bit of a schlep from our place and in the opposite direction from work, but the city would bus him.  The test scores are terrible, but the student population is exactly the sort the tests are meant to punish, and the work on the walls is good.  There is a uniform and there isn’t real arts programming, but there is a lot of science, the kids seem happy, and there are plenty of opportunities to work independently, which is what Beans do best.  Its open-classroom sort of model makes it perhaps a bit loud for our kiddo, who like his Mama, has difficulty with loud.

Meanwhile, we remain on the waiting lists at our first and second choice schools.  He’ll never get into the first choice one — wrong district, wrong demographics in various ways that I approve of in principle — but you can’t see a school like that and just not even mention that you’d like to go there.  Second choice, more of a shot. Progressive place, more established, a library, more arts.  A much better district to be in when it comes to applying to middle school, where your school address matters for placement, not just your home address.  Whiter, but still not bad on diversity — about a third each white/black/Hispanic, with some Asian. (Plurality white, but not by a huge amount.)  Our choosiest neighbor is happier there, the fourth school she’s tried.  No bus — not our district — but doable on the subway and on the way to work.   I tried to follow advice to drop in with the Bean and make nice with the parent coordinator, but that was one of those days when everything goes just wrong enough that nothing works, yet not enough that you sensibly give up the doomed effort.  We’ll try again.

Last week, we got the results of the test he took for eligibility in the city gifted and talented program.  Yes, it’s a terrible name and a retrogressive way to run a school district — to say nothing of the racist and classist elements involved — and testing four-year-olds is, as previously noted in this space, asinine.  But he’s my kid, and sometimes I have to admit that my principles don’t run the world.  Sometimes I have to choose my kid over my politics.  Anyway, he did well.  Very, very well.  (Can I note here how proud I am of him?  Not just for being good at puzzles and patterns and having patience, but in particular for this kid, for being nervous and going to a strange place and being led off by a stranger and not being thrown by all of that? So proud.) And so now we are, without giving up our gen ed plans noted above, also looking at other programs.

I know which one I want him to go to.  I was predisposed to like it before the visit, but at the visit, oh, Lord, I fell in love.  It’s clean and sunny and feels so full of life to me.  There is a library and art every week and music and science labs for different ages and a block room.  A block room! They have to practice, you see, for when they build a scale model Brooklynn Bridge in the yard every spring.  The second graders run a post office, so people write letters to each other.  The younger grades don’t have homework because they should be building with Legos and cooking after school, resting and learning things in other ways.  The children were happy and the science teacher just laughed when she got distracted and poured an entire watering can of water on the floor.  It’s a little far from us, but there is a private bus he could take.  There’s a middle school.  It hugely white and almost all the rest Asian.  I don’t love that — besides my precious principles, I think growing up in largely white school environments did leave me with a lot of things I had to learn as an adult.  We would have to think carefully about how to compensate.

The real problem is that there’s nothing we can do to make him more likely to get in.  It’s not impossible.  First come the high-scoring siblings of current students. The Bean is in the next group, priority-wise, with, and here’s the rub, many hundreds of other children across the city.  Some of them live far from here or will want other schools, but still: there are 50 kindergarten seats.  

And I gotta tell you, the whole thing puts me in mind of TTC: that state of helpless hoping.  Everyone who can do a thing to help is doing it.  The rest is just chance.
Meanwhile, there are other programs.  There is another citywide one we will likely rank.  It’s less my style but still clearly a good school.  Our neighbors like it.  It’s very…Mandarin in kindergarten. There are district level ones, much easier to get into, as the score range they accept is greater.  The one in our district is…not an option.  That school is nearby but gives me the howling fantods.  There’s one we could walk to, where we have a friend, that isn’t in our district but might let us in eventually.  I toured it this morning and did not fall in love, though I admit being riveted by the spectacle of one of the anole lizards in the fourth grade’s MEET OUR ANOLES tank being eaten, eyeball first, but an ambitious mealworm.  The people there are warm, the classrooms are small and cluttered, and there is acres of homework, starting in kindergarten.  There are arts but no foreign language, which is odd since the school has a dual language program.  It seems like a very rule-following place, rather than an exploring one.  But we could walk.  There are a couple other district ones I should look at, but there is only so much I could rearrange my life without notice for these tours, so there you are.

And I know, I know, the Bean “will be fine.” Everyone says so.  He’s bright and he follows rules and people like him.  And he’s gone this year from a kid who loved school to a kid who begs not to go.  He loves his teacher and he has friends; I think he’s bored. The school has an academic focus, but the work they do he’s been able to do for years, in almost all cases. I think he’s an anxious kid who ties himself in knots to follow rules at school and the strain sure shows at home. I think he needs to be somewhere that people can see that, not just that he obeys.  I think he needs to be somewhere the work is fun for him and challenging. And in the longer term, I think he needs to learn — as I never did — that it’s okay not to already know everything, that learning is about trying and failing and finding out.  I want him to be so much more than fine.


On Political Strategy

Here is a thing that happened:

I was involved in a political discussion on the ol’ FB, and someone I do not know (friend of a friend) commented that he certainly hoped, apropos of my refusal to loathe a candidate he loathes, that I don’t have a son or daughter who could be sent to die in an oil war.

I do, of course, and if he didn’t know that, I’m sure that had he found out, he would have been pleased with himself for giving me such a tangible reason to come around to his way of thinking.  I see the rationale of arguing in that way, uniting the desire I have to protect my children to a specific political preference he’d like me to share.  

(NB I’m not naming names here because I am not interested in having a traditional leftist circular firing squad in this space  — nor in the general election, which is how I found myself in this situation. I imagine you can read between the lines anyway.)

Here’s the curious thing, though: that gambit doesn’t work that way, at least not for me.  His comment did rouse my ursine protective qualities, but not such that I came rationally around to his point of view.  In fact, my unsubtle brain identified *him* as the threat to my children.  I was suprised at the intensity of the hostility I suddenly felt towards him, where before I had felt only a mild irritation.  Moreover, some of that feeling transferred itself, however unfairly, to the candidate he was supporting, despite the fact that I have no real beef with the candidate in question.

The experience reminded me of how I didn’t truly understand what lay behind that standard advice about not getting between an actual mother bear and her cub until the first time the Bean was old enough to walk without holding my hand (though still very small) and someone walked between us: we were in a park or somewhere similarly safe and I could see him just fine — there was no actual danger — and yet I wanted to launch myself at the person between us and rip at them with my claws.  How dare they!

I bring this up not to invite a debate on whose box I should check in the primary (or even whether I should vote in the primary, a position I find more morally defensible than usual in the case of the Democratic presidential candidates, if not lower offices) but rather as an observation on the complicated nature of brains and the care those of us who do feel deeply about our candidates would be wise to take when scoring rhetorical points.  This only matters if one likes winning, of course.  I’m not altogether sure my political allies do always prefer winning to being self-righteous — but that is a story for a different time.


Microblog Monday: On Doors

Specifically the door to my apartment.  The very heavy, metal, self-slamming door to my apartment.

No matter what shenanigans the kids are getting up to in the hall, no matter how badly you need to use your right hand, which was holding the door, to break up whatever the hell they are doing that is making one of them screech that much, do not, under any circumstances, move said right hand until you are good and sure that your left hand hasn’t found its way into the crevice between the door and its frame, over by the hinges.  Especially if you are the only parent at home.

On the plus side, checked out the new local ER, where everyone is very nice, and found out which neighbor will come to check if you really, really, really scream.  And I got some classy pics of my somehow not broken fingers.


Math for Parents: Probability

Yes, this is the same dang thing I just posted on FB, but some of y’all aren’t on there and might want to know I’m not dead.  Plus: posterity.


A bottle of 180 children’s vitamins is divided into three colors (orange, pink, and purple) and four animal shapes (cat, lion, hippo, elephant). Every day, 2 children are presented a selection of approximately 10 vitamins, poured from the top of the jar, from which each selects 2 vitamins, for a total of 4 eaten per day. (The unselected vitamins are returned to the jar.)
IF Child A only wants purple vitamins (without regard to shape) AND Child B only wants cat vitamins (without regard to color), what are the odds each will be pleased with the selection on
– Day 1?
– Day 60?
– Day 90?
For extra credit, at what point in the life of the bottle do the odds of direct conflict between the children over their choices (i.e., the only purple vitamins are cats or vice-versa) rise above 50%? Does it matter which child is allowed to choose first?
Additional discussion: If at least one of the parents of these children believes vitamins are a crock, how did she get into this mess?  (Hint: it involves iron vs. lead absorption.)


Saturday Songs

The trouble with me is that I don’t finish the posts I start writing, and then when I come back to them, they no longer feel so urgent.  For example, I began a nice, fretful rant about the NYC public schools G&T test, the asinine idea of testing four-year-olds in the first place, the way one feels, sitting in an auditorium of similarly waiting parents, that if one is going to engage in such an asinine, classist, generally racist (in its effects, anyway) system, then perhaps it is the height of naïveté not to have gone whole-hog on the project and done some real test prep, etc. — and then he emerged, life carried on, and here we are, weeks later.  

I did dream the other night that everyone we knew had gotten their children’s test results, which were all very high, and they all magically got in to the citywide school in Brooklyn and were deliriously happy.  I was still patiently waiting for our results, which eventually arrived, late because what does it matter how timely the results arrive if the score is 18th percentile?  One part of this dream is ridiculous — the citywide gifted schools technically take 97th%ile and above, but what with sibling priority, one recent year it was more like 1/4 of the 99th.  No way did they all get in.  I admit I think it unlikely that the Bean would score quite that low (thanks to selection bias and possibly other things, a huge percentage of the kids who take the test score in the 90s), but it’s hardly impossible: testing four-year-olds is asinine.  (Did I mention that it’s asinine?) A few days later I had some kind of nightmare involving excessive use of screens in a kindergarten classroom.  Moving to a cabin in the woods and homeschooling looks better all the time.
…And now it is tomorrow, and we are driving back east after a visit to Sugar’s parents.  (New York schools get a week off in February to save the cost of heating the buildings.)  Sugar prefers to drive (read: is convinced I will drive off the side of a mountain, because this is what happens when you are raised in a place with only the dinkiest of hills) while I snack on tepid McNuggets.  The Bean is playing Monument Valley and parcelling out single goldfish to Jackalope, while they both sing snatches of familiar and invented songs, most recently “Poopyhead, Poopyhead turn around” and “I’ve been working on the potty on the railroad.”  (“Poopy is a good song!” enthuses Jackalope.) 

Jackalope has been cycling through “ABC,” “Twinkle Twinkle,” and “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” in a way that suggests she’s onto their tune-sharing game, if not their precise lyrics.  “Baa, baa, black sheep, funny funny wool.”  The Bean has mashed up the two great songs of canid mysteries, “What a Does The Fox Say” and “Who Let The Dogs Out:” “WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? RUFF. RUFF. RUFF RUFF.” (“And the cat say meow,” adds Jackalope, helpfully.) 

Oh, hey, look, it’s Tuesday now, and we are back in Brooklyn. Thanks to a cascading series of plan failures, I am currently in the IKEA parking lot, in the rain (and a car, thank heavens). Jackalope is asleep in the back.  Insert arty rain picture. 

What I wanted to say before is that…actually I don’t remember.  Here is a video of Jackalope playing a ukulele and singing Elizabeth Cotton’s “Freight Train.”


Snow day updates

Hey, gang.  Yes, I am still here.  ETA Yes, I started this on the blizzard day and now things are melting and I still not editing it to any kind of a reasonable length.  You have been warned.

I wrote a most of a really long post titled “The Things Grief Teaches You,” or words to that effect, back in, whoa, November, but even I got worn out by it.  Tldr: nothing I wanted to know.

Then I kind of hit a wall, because as much as I’d love to talk to you all in person about, for instance, therapy, it does feel odd to put it on the Internet.  Maybe a password post at some point, at least for some of it.  The expurgated update is that I have been going, I think it is helping, and my therapist is not an idiot.  Also, I seem to have developed a Pavlovian response to his office, such that as soon as I sit down, I start crying.  I blame the carpet.   

Christmas was…you know, I really am going to have to do a password post.  More on that later, I guess.  We stayed in town. I spent an enormous amount of money on a prime rib that was frankly one of the better thing I have ever cooked.  Jackalope got her heart’s desire, a doll stroller.  I cannot believe I have a kid who loves dolls, which fall squarely into the valley of the uncanny as far as I am concerned.  We got the Bean a fairly indestructible camera.  

My choir spent the fall learning about half of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.  (It’s six cantatas. We did 1, 3, and 6.) I somehow got appointed alto section leader, which means I take notes and write everyone an email each week.  It’s a good gig: altos thrive with a little attention.  And dick jokes, it turns out.  They love dick jokes.  (Example: why did Bach have 20 children? He had no stops on his organ.) 

We performed the piece at a number of churches around town, which was a nifty sort of tour.  Brooklyn is, after all, the Borough of Churches.  I should learn some architectural terms so that I could describe them to you.  Sometimes we sang with an organ and sometimes with an orchestra.  I regret to say, dear readers, that the trumpets were terrible, a real shame with this piece.  But, ah, amateur music making.  It is what it is.  We paid soloists to sing in most of the concerts, but we did a tiny one in January for which we did not.  The director asked who wanted to throw their name in the hat, I imagined for auditions, and after a week of anxiety on the topic, I decided what the hell.  Turned out that was understood to mean that I positively could sing the recitative and aria I said I liked, and with essentially no rehearsal.  Um.  So I did.  Not perfectly, by any means, and in a state of real terror, but at least the mistakes I made in performance were different from the ones I made in rehearsal.  And my favorite dress, the one with the dragons, zips again*.  So there’s that.

*This is partly because Jackalope is nursing a lot less — I know the party line is that nursing makes you lose weight, but my experience is that no — and partly because I have essentially given up alcohol on account of nerves.  Plus other things for that famous password post.  Basically, file under “lower weight does not equal ‘healthy.'”  But dragon dress! It is my favorite.

Sugar gamely attempted to bring both kids to one of them December concerts, but while Jackalope loved it, her love was…vocal.  THEY SINGIN’ A MOOOSIC SONG!  Ship abandoned for park. The Bean came to the one where I sang alone and has been very sweet about it since.  

The big recent excitement has been applying to (public) kindergarten for the Bean.  And by excitement, I mean miserable anxiety-fest.  Allow me to tell you allllll about it. 

In NYC, there are districts (many per borough) and, for elementary school, zones within the district. Most of the time, you are all but guaranteed a spot at your zoned school (assuming you have one).  You can also apply to other schools; you have a higher priority within your district. You rank the schools you like, get admitted to one, and get wait-listed at every school you ranked higher.  Then there is all kinds of maneuvering over the waiting lists.
The Bean currently attends public pre-k at our zoned school.  There are good and bad aspects to that.  We like his teacher, a kindly man who is obsessed with fishing.  They are raising trout.  Really.  As in, they got a jar of eggs at the beginning of the year, and on Friday, Jackalope and I were guests at a party celebrating the fingerlings’ graduation from the small enclosure to the main tank.  At the end of the year, we will take them “upstate” (I am guessing this means Westchester) to release them, presumably so the teacher can catch them again.  The Bean has friends, the school is remarkably diverse, the PTA seems to have its heart in the right place.  (I attempted to join the diversity committee, but all their meetings have been during my classes.)  They have a lot of art and music and so on.  It’s also more academic than I would prefer, and simultaneously operating below the Bean’s academic level.  (Which is okay! He isn’t in pre-k for academics.  It’s just, I’d rather have less of that, and if I can’t have that, I’d like it to be interesting, you know?)  

I wanted to fall in love with the school when I finally got to go on a tour, but instead I was taken aback.  The kindergarteners were having a spelling bee.  There’s a lot of homework, even at kindergarten.  The music teacher seemed as  grumpy as the Bean had suggested.  There’s red light/green light discipline.  Blah.  Not awful, not the end of the world, just not what I was hoping for. I’m worried that a smart, rule-following kid who isn’t a big advocate for himself could get lost here.

Meanwhile, I also went on a tour of an unzoned  school in our district (good chance we’d get in). Enormous, two story classrooms.  All the kids in a given grade are in the same class, with four teachers who loop with them.  Great teacher development program.  No homework.  The classrooms felt to me like preschool — lots of interesting things to do.  All the STEM you could hope for, great social-emotional stuff.  Lots of opportunity for independent work, which is what the Bean loves best.  But low on arts — just residencies part of the year.  And not walkable.  The city would bus him, as it’s in our district.  

Then I toured a shiny new school, not in our district but an easy enough commute, close enough to walk home in good weather.  And I happened to run into a savvier friend, mother of a classmate from the magical preschool the Bean went to last year (why can’t all schools be like that?), who pointed out that, gorgeous light aside, this place was at least as rigid as our zoned school.  So I did not list it, even though it was so shiny. (So shiny! But also I secretly suspected the parents would drive me nuts.)

Impulsively, I did list another school in that district, one I never visited, on the grounds that it sounds progressive and our pickiest neighbor is happy with it. Plus that district has better middle school options.  I can’t believe I’m expected to be thinking about middle school for my four-year-old.

The school I ranked first we will never get into — four other districts have priority over us (plus siblings, yadda, yadda) — and I don’t know how we’d manage the commute if we did.  But I just look at that place and think, I can’t just not even try to get my kid into the one place I really think looks magical.  And then I beat myself up for not being able to afford to live in that neighborhood.

The application is in now, and all that remains is to second guess myself to no end.  Am I making the right choices? Are there any? And mostly, what would my mother say?

I changed schools often as a small child, and it stunk. But it wasn’t for no reason, and I wish I knew the full, adult versions of those reasons.  I know that my mother held her nose and violated her own principles more than once to get me in a place that was better for me.  I know that when I was in a place that actually challenged me, that my whole world changed.  I think these things matter, is what I’m saying.  I just still don’t know what the right thing is. 

So now we wait for March, when placements come out, except actually, that’s not all, because how could it be that simple? Instead, next week, the Bean sits an exam for gifted and talented placement, and believe me, you don’t need to tell me how fucked up it is to be testing four-year-olds in this way.  Believe me.  I get it.  But also: in sixth grade I was in an all-day gifted program of students pulled from the whole town.  And it changed my life.  So.  We hold our noses and take the test.  The Bean is really happy with the idea of getting to do lots of puzzles with an adult whose attention is all on him.  He hopes there are a whole lot of questions.

The test results come out in April — that’s right, after the kindergarten offers have gone out — at which point kids who score high enough can try to find a district-level program they like — there are two in our district, but maybe  we could try for the one not in our district that we could still walk to, where our friends’ daughter goes.  Kids who score super incredibly high can attempt to get a seat at one of the citywide schools, but what with sibling priority, we’re talking a quarter of the 99th percentile, so phhht. (Except OF COURSE I believe my magical genius child is…oh, just ignore me.) 

Also I am considering moving to the woods and homeschooling them and also growing my own saffron.  

I’d always heard how stressful NYC school stuff is, but I kind of thought that was for people who can afford private school.  (Which at one point we’d thought might be us, but the generous tuition reimbursement program at Sugar’s job has now become a “give already rich people a little bonus” level of reimbursement, so yeah.)  I didn’t expect to find myself lying on the floor in the middle of the night crying because I just really, really, really want to ask my mom what she thinks.  I want to ask her a lot of things, of course, but this one surprised me with its intensity.  I just always thought in the back of my mind that she’d help with this particular kind of decision making, probably because she was so very active in getting me my education, in finding a way to get me to better places when one place or another wasn’t working.  She had a plan, is what I’m saying, and she pushed and listened and made calls and made it happen.  And that sounds like a terrible, pushy thing to do, I realize, but the fact is that I was a smart, shy, melancholy kid who made it through relatively psychologically intact and able to get into and thrive at a tough college that was without question the best place for me.  And I don’t think that just happened by accident.

In Jackalope news, she is nearly two, smart and gigantically tall, into music and dinosaurs and her big brother.  She’s far more physically explosive than the Bean has ever been, and I suspect this version of two will be quite a ride.  As a family friend noted at four months, she remains an “Imma do it baby.”  I wanna do it MYSELF, Mama. She’s named or renamed all the stuffed animals, starting with “Baby Dog” and “Naked Baby Snake” and “Baby Fish” (a blue whale) and now “Eyebrows” (a monkey we’ve had for years, who does have a prominent brow, since you mention it), and the bear she got for Christmas, “Eyeballs.”  She’s charmed the cat into letting her pet him, and though we laughed, she really did chopstick this dumpling into her mouth at dim sum.   



You Are Beautiful

Sugar here.

Wow, I am not sure Facebook is at all good for me.  My FB friends seem to curate a lot of articles that are about parenting, NONE of which is a good idea to read (change it! fix it! make it better! you suck, btw!) and then there was that tear-jerker IKEA ad in Spanish today about how all kids want for Christmas is for you to spend more time with them.  Dude, Ikea, I know that, and I would love to, but I have this job thing.  Thanks for making me feel super guilty about not being rich enough to stay home.

Anyway, what I really wanted to write about is this other thing I saw today that pops up on Facebook on a regular basis.  It’s about how to talk to your daughter about her body.  You’ve probably seen it.  It goes a little like this:

“How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works. Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight. If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that…Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one….Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter…”

While I don’t want to troll well-meaning friends on Facebook, or to post an entire essay in FB comments, I want to say somewhere that I really disagree with this.  Really.  Very much disagree.

I do not find this to be an inspiring message, but rather one that erases joy. Get stylish with the best carbon fiber wallet!

Imagine how this would play out in real life.  Negative messages are pouring in from all sides.  Possibly the child herself is hearing from other actual people at school or on the street that she looks bad, wrong, or ugly.  Even if not, the whole world is telling her she isn’t good enough and doesn’t look perfect through the pervasive images and messages on every billboard, television program, and magazine ad. In this poisonous atmosphere, how is the silence of your closest family to be interpreted? As support?  Probably not.  More likely as disapproval, hesitance to voice the awful truth, shame, or disgust.

I think that much more to the point would be a countervaling and voiced opinion that the child is beautiful.  Period.

I am not saying that being beautiful should be the only thing or the main thing that a parent complements about a girl.  It would be best to mostly talk about other things — how strong, or smart, or fast, or whatever, that she is — but that sometimes, not too infrequently, it would also be nice to tell her that she is beautiful.  Beauty is something that our culture values a great deal.  One way to change everyone’s perception of what falls into that category would be to talk about a lot more kinds of people and bodies as beautiful.  With words.  Out loud.

I feel strongly about this issue because I don’t have to imagine how parental silence on this topic would play out in real life, I know.  I was “the ugly girl” starting in elementary school and continuing through high school.  To be jeered at in the halls, to be the butt of jokes, and to be certain myself of how completely awful I looked was a basic fact of my life.  I don’t know what my parents thought of my appearance. They never said.  I didn’t ask.  I assumed that compliments they gave me in other areas stemmed from their ideals (I was smart, I was good at art) but also covered up the big unmentionable dreadful thing, which was my completely unacceptable appearance.

As an adult I now realize that my parents probably had no idea of what I experienced in school.  But that is my point.  You don’t necessarily know what everyone else is saying to a kid, and silence is so vague, so hard to account for, and so easy to assign an unintended meaning to.

Now that I am nearly forty I usually feel that I am over the bullying I experienced in school.  I’ve been surprised to find that mentioning the whole “ugly girl” thing is fairly taboo.  Twice recently I mentioned (in a normal conversational context about high school, or whatever) that this happened to me, only to be met with horrified silence and a quick change of topic.  I don’t know what that is, but it feels related to the persistent assertion that if you are the right sort of person, then the best way to deal with the body and how it looks to NOT TO DISCUSS IT.  Why?  If it’s so important to the world that people be beautiful, and it seems to be, let’s try to take charge of the conversation by participating in it.  Otherwise the only voices out there are the wrong ones.


Tuesday Tidbits

I know it’s Wednesday, I KNOW, but it feels like Tuesday because I barely managed to sleep.  You know that thing where you have a tiring day and you know the next day will be SUPER tiring, so you can’t fall asleep and then you inexplicably wake up at four a.m. and that’s just it?  That.

Today I drive up to Westchester for my usual classes, plus the biweekly student meetings, plus all the biweekly student meetings I would normally come up for on Thursday.  There was an error on the schedule and by the time I realized that, I had no childcare options for Thursday anymore.

Then I RUN to the car and pray for light traffic as I drive to a part of the city one should not drive to (the train has no chance to getting me there in time — in the old days I would have just said I couldn’t make it, which is perhaps what I should have done this time) and pay through the nose for parking so that I can pay through the nose for therapy.  This one does EMDR and said actually insightful things on the phone and was willing to talk about his methods and so on.  He is a friend of a smart friend, so I figure it’s worth a shot.  Then I realized after getting off the phone that I recognized his voice because of a spot on This American Life about testosterone.  Life in New York, I tell you what.

I contacted three potential therapists this time around, and they all got back to me: the power of the end of summer, I guess.  One was busy and recommended someone else.  One was this guy.  One, recommended by two friends, called me right back but got prickly when I asked about her methods. (“Could you tell me about your philosophy and methods?” “I believe people are a combination of identity and experience. More stuff along this lines.” “So, what kinds of methods would you use for someone like me?” “I think I just answered that.”)  She was otherwise nice, though, and gave me the names of two hypnotists she thought I should try.  Digging into all this stuff while teaching the history of asylums and mental health sects in the US gives me more patience for wacky ideas (mostly because reading all this stuff brings up uncomfortable truths about how psychiatry has and hasn’t changed), but I’m going to try contemporary woo for now.

Post-woo, it’s off to Brooklyn Heights, another unparkable neighborhood, where I hope to be able to shelve the car long enough to go rehearse the Bach Christmas Oratorio with the choir I joined last fall.  Here’s hoping listening to the first part in the car counts as practice.  Then home, at the only time of day it’s ever truly hard to find parking.

I am tired already.

Yesterday, or Tuesday Part One, the kids and I almost finished making a cold frame for our garden bed.  (We would have finished, too, if I hadn’t forgotten the screwdriver.)  The Bean has been wild to have one since last winter; someone in our building had wood scraps for free and someone else threw away a poster in a huge, plexiglass frame.  Jackalope only smacked her hands down into the wet finish of the wood twice.

Everyone was exhausted when we got home.  The Bean was a certified pain in the rear about dinner.  We’ve been having more full family meals, but this time I hadn’t made one (see: carpentry), so Sugar and I were pottering about during the exhausted wailings about how he just wanted to eat, which took the place of actually eating.  I had my back turned when there was a tremendous bang, followed by screaming.  Jackalope, flat on her back, on the floor behind her chair.  Much holding.  Much crying.  Eventually, ice cream for everyone.  When she had recovered enough to pause in her lamentations:

“I jump out chair.”

You don’t say.

Jackalope talks a lot now, by the way.  Mostly English words, but also a lot of “CAMIMI,” a word of her own devising that the Bean says means “excuse me.”  She also jumps off of a lot of things and can use her scooter (“ma goot”), inherited from The Bean, shockingly well.  She’s 20 months old.  Sometimes she throws her arms around me and says, ala Daniel Tiger, “I yike you just way y’are.”  She gets away with a lot that way.

Okay.  Time to get dressed.  In closing, I leave you with this, from a friend’s new tumblr you should really check out:
Oh, hell, the embed code isn’t working right.  Click through, will you?  I’ve got to get dressed.



Hi readers, Sugar here.  I’ve taken down my last post for the time being.  It generated a bit more vitriol that Bionic and I were comfortable with, considering I was writing about someone we actually know.  I was pretty angry with that person, so possibly my tone was off.

More updates from Bionic coming soon, I hope.  Operation find a therapist who will return a message, make an appointment and then work on the right stuff is still underway.


Of children’s books and cognitive dissonance

Sugar here.  I haven’t posted in a while, but, hey, I’m still here, mostly reading along as Bionic writes.  I’ve been feeling a bit sad myself, these days.  I wouldn’t have thought of our library of children’s books as an emotional minefield, but it turns out that, yes, I can just start crying in the middle of say, Where Does the Garbage Go?  Because why?  Don’t ask kid, it’s too depressing.

Some favorites of the Bean that can really get me down while I try to read cheerfully along:

Bob and Otto: screw you, famous, successful friend

Oh the Places You’ll Go: or not. or we’re just all in the waiting place forever.

Giraffes Can’t Dance: but what if the music you love doesn’t pay enough to support you?

Frederick: isn’t this book about starving to death in winter?

Where does the garbage go? oh god, I don’t want to think about landfills.

Then there are the books that don’t push immediate emotional buttons, but I wonder about the wisdom of reading.  Sure, it’s great that the Bean loves books and loves cars and loves trains and wants to combine those loves. But. Danger at the Dieselworks, which keeps coming home from the library, has the worst subtext ever. (Don’t go hang out with those bad kids on the other side of the tracks. They are scary and mean because they are poor and have nasty stuff.  Also, they shouldn’t try to challenge authority either, because authority always means well…ahem) Does the Bean ever ask me questions about this set up? No!  Instead he wants to know why the Giraffe in Giraffe’s Can’t Dance learns to dance so quickly.  (Because he doesn’t.  He never learns to dance.  Now can we talk about systemic racism?)

I am also bothered by the fact that all books based on the Disney Cars franchise just make no actual sense.  They contain many sentences, but no sentence relates to any other.  Can it be good to read something that looks like a book, but acts like performance art?

Then there’s the work of changing the pronouns in Good Night Good Night Construction Site so that every other vehicle is a girl (come on, would it have been so hard to have even one girl in that book?).  I keep imagining a scenario where the Bean is old enough to read, catches me out, and tells Jackalope, who also loves trucks, that all the trucks in the book are really boys.  I hope he proves me wrong on this one.

Finally, there are books that fall into the category of questionable psychology.  For instance, Alexander and the No Good, Very Bad Day confuses me.  His day is bad.  It doesn’t get better.  Alexander was published in 1972.  I have this sense that in the 70s gritty, slightly depressing realism was thought to be good for a person, kind of like eating fiber but for the brain. But does this hold up? Do we still need to do this?

Perhaps the 80s were worse: In Gregory the Terrible Eater (published 1980) a goat’s parents encourage him to binge eat so that he will feel terrible and stop overeating.  Not only is this MESSED UP, but, as a former binge eater, I can tell you it won’t work.

It is not all horrors, of course. The Bean recently became enchanted with The Z was Zapped (the only difficult question — what is kidnapping, mommy?) so I am anticipating beginning to reread some books I really loved, like The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.  And the Bean made an awesome book for the Jackalope the other day, for when she needs to be cheered up, he said.  It is called Peekaboo Daniel, has two pages, and features a surprise picture of Daniel Tiger (Jackalope’s favorite) when you open it up.