Tuesday, June 30, 2009

297: being home, hay creek

There's nothing that says home more than taking the dogs to Hay Creek on a hot summer day. We went last Sunday, burning our scalps pink, and I am grateful for the quiet beauty of this place. The dogs, as you can see, were thrilled as well.

Ryan calls that photo of Penny slinging herself into the water "Pennyfish." He took one with his camera phone while I was in New Jersey and emailed the blurry image to me, making me long for home, and now I see what he means. She does this in kiddie pools too.

My favorite, I think, is the one of Zephyr leaping from the bank into the creek. It was amazing to watch; you can see where he gets the nickname "Mountain Goat." When we beckon him onto the sofa with us, he does this ridiculous sideways leap, and I'm always impressed at the air he gets.

I miss Megan and Jimmy and Jack and even Sean, but it is good to be home. I bring back many memories, a definite shift in my heart, and I bring it back here, to the family we have, to our pets and to each other. I bring home even more love for Ryan than I had before, and an appreciation for everything that is good about him and us.

Monday, June 29, 2009

296: to michael

I will admit bleary-eyed-ness at this video. (More.) And.

Oh, who am I kidding? Yes, I cried.

And for my own memories, I * loved* The Wiz, which I hope every little one can grow up with, right alongside The Wizard of Oz. And The Wiz, seeing little bits again, makes my heart grow--oh, oh!

Who can forget that fabulous Simpsons episode? And Thriller... And Billie Jean... I had such a crush on him when he danced.

And Black or White... which maybe, I loved the most, for that video.

And so much else. Oh, oh.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

295: Christian's First Birthday

Here are some of my favorite images from Christian's birthday party, held yesterday with many special guests: Kelly's Granny (and her grandmother's sister and her grandmother's best friend) drove up from Tennessee, Kelly's parents drove in from Green Bay, Michelle and Chris came, and various neighbors dropping by to play four-square and offer up a slip and slide. For the adults.

It was as I might imagine a baby birthday might go: the adults ate grilled food, passed the baby about, the presents came out with car-shapes and tinkling toys preferred over clothing and books, the individual cake was demolished and rubbed into an ear cavity, the sugar high was followed by a nap.

I marvel at this little being, how he's changed, how red his hair has gotten, how blue his eyes, how his voice forms word-shapes, something close to communication, how he grins, revealing little teeth thrust through gums, the sugar dots stuck to his cheeks. He's a sweet boy, and he's a year old now, standing up on his own, nearly walking. Oh, and this video makes me so happy! Happy birthday, sweet Iago. I'm so glad that you are here.

And if you want to take a peek at the day itself, here it is in images and words. And, of course, here is where I keep my album of Christian images.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


These have been my days: cutting away apple peelings, warming bottles in old college cups, sneaking chapters during nap-time, despising the character Moose A Moose who narrates between shows on Noggin, celebrating the blessing of that wide-open smile coming from two sweet boys.
I feel a little bit like the character from a young adult novel or a feel-good movie. You see, here's the thing: I came here because I love my husband. And because I have this pay-it-forward notion to life. OK, and the most selfish of all is the fact that I did not want to find some awful summer job where a former student of mine was a co-worker (or worse, a boss), and if I spent two weeks in the middle of July in New Jersey, I just might not have to. And when Ryan dropped me off at the airport, I tried not to cry, tried to keep the but-I-don't-want-to-leave-you's to a minimum, and truly believed I would fly back to Minneapolis not wanting children of my own.
And that first day alone with the boys, I thought things were going according to prediction. Jimmy's energy level was, well, where Jimmy's energy level tends to be, and Jack would wail and spit milky saliva up and down my arm, and I had gotten up earlier than I tend to do, and I couldn't read freely, and I had to juggle bottle with sippy cup with plate of chicken nuggets with following everyone around having a sodden towel slung over my shoulder. How am I going to do this for two weeks?! I watched the clock plod, listened at the window for Mommy and Daddy, and I wanted them to come home just as much as Jimmy might.
I had been told no one would blame me if I wanted to come home early.
But I stuck it out, and Jimmy told me stories and asked me questions and Jack laughed every time I swung him into the air and at night Jimmy would tell me good-night, Aunt Molly, I love you and Jack would nestle against shoulders and my heart got all melty. I realize, now, that when I leave tomorrow, I will very much so get bleary eyed once again, will think but-I-don't-want-to-leave-you, and when Jimmy asked me today if he could come back with me to 'sota (not realizing Mommy and Daddy wouldn't come along) I said yes, that he could ride in my carry-on and we'd sneak him back to Uncle Ryan and he could ride the dogs and help me weed the garden.
Indeed, I am returning home knowing that when our time comes, not only can I be a parent (without losing my mind) but I just might be a fairly un-shabby parent and maybe, just maybe, I will actually enjoy the parenting, might not mind the parasitic relationship of mother-and-baby, not mind the grubby neediness of small children. Somehow, they have charm all over and it comes out precisely when you least expect it.
It helps, of course, that I was able to read five books while I was here. It can be done.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Tonight I fall asleep to the words of Sei Shonagon, to the sounds of crickets after rain.
Some things to tell:
+ One of my images of Martin Espada has been used in an article on a reading in this news magazine.
+ My review of Sleeping With Houdini by Nin Andrews has been published by ColdFront Magazine.
+ I have an image of Thomas Lux and a review of Still to Mow by Maxine Kumin coming out next month at Cerise Press.
+ My husband has revamped my homepage. I designed it, wanting something hugely simple, and he did all the confusing coding.

Friday, June 19, 2009

292: the jersey shore

Tonight: eating Italian sausages from wax paper with onions and peppers dripping onto our fingers, seagulls hedging closer, bare-bellied men with stretch marks shouting into cell phones, hawkers coaxing us to burst balloons or squirt water at targets, the smell of salt air, sticky taffy, the throb of colored bulbs, cigarette ash and bare feet, the wail of children and shrieks of teenagers, the soft shove, the quick kiss, the held hands.
Perhaps I was a bit overstimulated, particularly with all the colors, the lights blinking on and off, the hamster wheel rides spinning again and again. My days here have fallen into some semblance of a routine--waking just before Megan leaves for work, feeding Jack, watching Jimmy "mow" or listen to the slap of his feet as he runs in circles around the staircase and laundry closet that center the house, writing letters, preparing lunch, naps, afternoon energy burn, parents returning from work, relieving the diaper work to them, dinner, talking to Ryan, reading myself to sleep. There's a unique sort of grounding in routine (until tonight I hadn't left the property since I arrived), but there's a loneliness in it too, especially when the drifting of the days settles into those four and I am this extra someone who clings to her novel and reaches out in her sleep for the husband halfway across the country.
Halfway: I'm somewhere in that murky halfway point, straddling the two weeks I'm spending here. I have to say, there's a cozy kind of happiness here, an endearing love for these two boys, an admiration for this family that works, that love one another truly, but I can't help it, there's that word too: a loneliness while being surrounded by the bustle. A longing for the family I have built back home.

291: the one with making poopie in the potty

It's all about balance, I'm finding. More:

If Monday and Tuesday were about dodging urine, then Wednesday and today are about the other sort of waste-making. I'm beginning to understand how parents become obsessed with bodily fluids, how conversation is reduced to Honey, do you smell that? and just who will change the diaper this time.

To whit: Jimmy is officially petrified of going #2. So much so that he will keep it inside as long as he can, and recently, Sean had to give him an enema. Wednesday was all about tantrum throwing, this time precariously balanced on the big boy potty, absolutely refusing in a wailing tone to push it out--because it gave him a boo-boo.

Get-out! he yelled, his chubby legs swinging. Get-out, poopie! Get-out now!

It did, eventually, though it took two rounds of Sean facing off with his three-year-old son, wheedling and cajoling, promising Chuck E. Cheese's and toy trucks and wrestling matches upstairs. And I tell you, that poopie was just about the size of our dear Jimmy himself, and I have never heard such pride as he squealed and ran, bare-bottomed, completely oblivious to his nudity, announcing to everyone, I made poop-ie in the pot-ty! Indeed, we were all very proud.

Unfortunately, the pride hath turned; when Jimmy woke from his nap today, we discovered he had also made poopie in his Spiderman underwear. Not quite the applause-worthy event that Wednesday night was.

I'm about halfway through my New Jersey "nannying" adventure, and I'm surviving. There are moments when I swear I am too selfish, to ensconced in being who I am, that I think I cannot possibly have children of my own, and then there are these endearing moments, when Jimmy looks at you in just that way, says, I love you, Aunt Molly, or Jack presses his sweaty face against your shoulder and you sigh and think, Yes, this is how it should be.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

290: the one with all the peeing

Things I have learned thus far:

- When a three-year-old's pants and underwear are pulled down, ready to "make pee-pee," you also need to check that the shirt is pulled up. Said three-year-old is perfectly willing to pee through the shirt, which generally will result in pee on your shirt too.
- And not to be shown up, Jack peed on me this afternoon while changing his diaper. That sucker has arc.
- While we're on the subject of pee, "I'm peeing!" does not literally translate. This is how the three-year-old announces that he must pee, so hie, hence to the bathroom, missy!
- No, his parents are not cruelly emo: Jack's hair is naturally like that.
- A household with two kids and a broken washing machine is a sad household indeed. Especially when "Aunt Molly" has been peed on. Twice. It's not doing that violent dance any more, so laundry is the music of New Jersey just now.
- I appreciate Jimmy's desire for "I'm helping!", but when Jack is wailing, it's easier for just me to feed him. Of course, I'm perfectly willing to be helping the helping, as you can see, as Jack probably doesn't want to swallow the entire bottle. Just the contents.
- Somehow, Jack loves his brother, and this can be used as a tactic to calm him down. Jimmy also enjoys to show you how fast he is, so running in circles is a favorite play-time activity (and a good one to run him down before nap-time). Jack just watches, fascinated, giggling; Megan thinks this is a defense mechanism. Awareness is key when your older brother believes he is a freight train.
- Having a good heart with high energy beats out a nasty streak with low energy any day (this, also, was how I approached teaching freshmen). Jimmy may drive me to afternoon napping, but he is a sweetheart, and of course Jack is too.
- Day two on my own: survived.
PS: In exactly one month, Ryan and I will have been together for ten years. A decade of luck and love. My heart feels so full.

Monday, June 15, 2009

289: meet the nephews

These are the two who will occupy most of my waking hours for the next two weeks, give or take: Jimmy (top) and Jack (bottom). They've already charmed me.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

288: summer reading

I love this article from The Washington Post: [they] asked authors which character from literature they'd like to spend the day at the beach with. Here's what they said.

I'm flying out shortly for New Jersey for twelve days, so it's likely to be a bit spotty here, at best. Ryan is staying behind, and my purpose is to watch my sister-in-law's two sons while she and her husband are at work; there's a three week overlap after she's returned to work and he finishes the school year and daycare is ridiculously expensive, so I figured we could relieve a little of that.

I did not get enough sleep last night, which is good, because I should fall immediately to sleep tonight, preparing me for what might be a very long week. My mother-in-law described Jimmy, the three year old, as "greased lightning." Eep.

Reading on the plane: The Pillow Book. I plan to post over here, some of my thoughts. I've also brought along a few poetry books I owe reviews to to various literary magazines and a few fiction books that I hope to read before falling asleep. I don't know what to expect, but it will be a nice change to my routine.

Oh, and who would I spend the day at the beach with? I am thinking Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar, mainly because that was the first book that made me fascinated with its author. Lynn Cox, author of Grayson, would also be lovely company on the beach--I loved her brief memoir, the specificity, and I think someone who could identify our surroundings would be inspiring.

What about you?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

287: declutter bug + sale in shop

I leave for New Jersey in three days, and suddenly, I'm trying to finish up all sorts of tasks before I go: preparing the garden for Ryan's care, stocking up on cat litter, writing a review for my friend, getting packages in the mail, finishing up library books.

One such book is Throw Out Fifty Things!, a book my friend Angie spotted on the shelves at the bookstore while we waited to have our books signed by Michael Pollan last month. "Ha, I could start with that book," I joked.

That night I requested it at the library.

Everyone who knows me at all, especially if they have been cursed with my fretting before a visit, knows that I am one who ... clings? collects? clutters? Send me to a library book sale or a book fair at AWP, and I'll come home laden. I subscribe to The New Yorker and insist on finishing each issue, then cannot simply recycle them when I am done--I want to mail articles to my friends and family so they too can enjoy the better articles and pieces. I love letterpress stationary, and I send letters to my widowed grandmother and my best friend each day--one might think I'd churn through the supply with this sort of steady output, but I spend more time using up Steno notebooks and the backs of extra handouts; I don't want the paper to be recycled until it has been used to its fullest. The Epilepsy Foundation comes around once a month, or every other month, so we have bags of things collecting on the porch, and when I remember, I put them out (this last time, I remembered on a rainy day, which resulted in much of the donation being rejected, but the next day I discovered my neighbor having a garage sale, and I donated some of the better items to her).

My friend Emily has a good rule--which I can't remember precisely--but it has to do with the length of time (one year?) of use. If you haven't worn / used it in the past 365 days, it goes, with the exception of sentimental items (and books, which is my greatest accumulation, but also something I try to maintain with reason as well--if I don't suspect I'll re-read it, I send it on--even if I really enjoyed the book).

My mother-in-law reminded me that people who visit are there to visit us and not judge the state of my home.

My friend Chris once called an apartment of mine "lived-in." Homey and comfortable. I hadn't quite gotten so out-of-control with the clutter then, but the bookcases lined an entire wall, my computer desk shared space with the dining room table, and the walls were full of posters.

This book, Throw Out Fifty Things, is written in a participatory tone--get into that bedroom and tell me what you see! I've thrown out three mis-matched socks, and how are you doing? One feels she ought to read the book one chapter at a time, moving on to a new chapter when the room is done. I thought I might, and after finishing the bedroom chapter, I went to sleep, thinking I'd tackle it in the morning. But I couldn't sleep. My brain did that whirling thing it does sometimes: I need to start with the clutter around the closets before I get to the closet, I need to figure out what to do with all those extra books in there, I need to write that review for Karen's lit mag, I need to figure out what textbook to use for the comp class I'm teaching in the fall, I need to really start using up that looseleaf paper in those letters to Kelly and Grandma, I need to live a more interesting life in order to have something to write about, I think you missed your chance to send Carolyn your chapbook draft, I can't believe you haven't sent out a poem in months, and how could you let those reviews go for so long?, and tell me, are you ever going to feel like your home could accommodate children, and don't forget you have to .... It wouldn't stop. I rolled out of bed and sat on the futon in the second bedroom, looking around at what might be the worst room in the house, the catching ground for all of my useless things. I found a birthday card I'd meant to mail to some guy friend and wrote Kelly a letter on it, letting my brain do its whirly hamster thing, reaching into the basement and my boxes of high school English teacher things (will I need them again? will I teach high school again?) and up to the attic with my bins of fabric and yarn (maybe Chelsea will take them, I haven't sent a package to Project Linus in a long while...).

It's disastrous to think like this, especially when it's four in the morning and your husband has to get up for work and what can you do anyway when so much of your clutter has a task attached to it? Put into boxes for mailing, write letters, read and send away.

Halfway through the book now, reading quickly and storing away bits for when I can do this room-by-room and not face the giant to-do-before-New-Jersey, I came upon something that can be added to Emily and Sue's tips: so much that we cling to and won't let go is about the past and isn't letting us move on. She cites a warm up comedian for one of those late night shows who doesn't even keep the tapes to his best performances--if he keeps them, he might not be able to grow, change according to the time and the audience. And her best advice is that if some item has any negative connotation, if it makes us feel bad in any way, it is the easiest target for throwing.

She also lists plenty of resources for green options. For me, it's the Epilepsy Foundation, for the most part, unless there's something I think a good friend or family member might appreciate. I don't want to bother with tag sales or trying to sell books online. I like that when I'm reading a book I know I probably won't keep, I'm running through my reading friends in my mind, trying to place that book with the right reader. It doesn't always work out, but I like trying. And I hope my dad enjoys that Shakespeare tissue holder (where the tissue comes out of Shakespeare's nose); I know my grandma loves the ranuncula bulbs I sent her; I'm glad to fill these boxes and move on.

Oh, and in light of that, I've relisted the postcards I've had in my shop for some time at half price. So you can get the Alaska set (12 different cards) or Michigan set (2 each of 5 different cards) for $5.00 plus shipping or a set of the cup fungus Alaska postcards (10 of the same image) for $3.00 plus shipping. You know, to help clear out that clutter! :) (I won't be able to ship from June 14-26 though as I'll be in NJ.)

Does anyone else have this clutter problem? So many of my friends are so good at keeping their homes neat. I'm wondering if there are any other tips to add to my cache. You know, besides keeping me away from library dollar-a-bag book sales.

Edit to add: Also, here's a nice article about keeping your counters clutter-free.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

286: Nerstrand Big Woods

Indeed, the flu has not fully left my body, but I / we did survive the weekend, and after a full day of rain, that is no small accomplishment. On the drive home from our camping trip, Ryan and I were speculating as to whether or not any of us would have remained if it weren't for the group--for us, anyway, it was the commitment to the weekend (third annual: first year was Frontenac and second year was Jay Cooke) and the company.

Friday was a typical camping night: the set up, the gathering around a fire, the falling asleep to the rustling sound of dogs settling and birds twittering. Saturday the sun rose and the rain began to fall--and did not stop fully until, perhaps, when we went to sleep again. We listened to the pock-pock-pock of water against nylon ceiling, and for me, much of the afternoon, for me, spent huddled against the ice fishing heater, my copy of The Pillow Book wrinkled from a night beneath the drip in the tent, my writing notebook splayed open for random thoughts. We managed a fire that night, despite the mist and slight spattering, and the next morning, we woke, having survived rain-camping, and went on a walk to spot the hidden falls. Our company continued on, but my digestive system had been acting up, and, upon nearing the campsite, proved good reason for not seeking out more miles in the park.

It was a wet trip, and I admit to moments of misery, protesting the cold (I wore strange layers, mittens, cap and hoodies) and wet, my feet soaked, the dogs browned with mud and swiping us in every turn around, but I'm glad we kept our annual venturing date. It's good for us and important, and I had a lovely time with our friends.

Favorite bits: Ryan's small (and large) kindnesses, the robin's nest at the base of a tree on our site, the warmth of our little family at night, passing saki around the campfire, the pheasants along the side of the road as we drove home, reflections in pools of water, staying when so many others were leaving, giggling (especially over "short fork"--poor Angie continually breaking plasticware perhaps not manufactured for reuse).

More photos here. [will add link as soon as I upload to Flickr]