When I was preparing for middle school, the big questions in my mind were:

  • "The girls from the other elementaries seem so old and big, and a few of them look like they have boobs. Will I have boobs? Do I right now? Can you see these?"
  • "Does this mean no more Barbies?"
  • "Do I have to shave my legs?"
  • "I heard they have a salad bar and a hamburger bar and then a regular lunch line. How does it work? How will I choose?"

As Lu is preparing for middle school, she is sorting through her own form of the above, but also having to make choices about where she will go. With questions like the ones I had about college:

  • Should I go someplace artsy and interesting (and expensive)?
  • Should I go to the big public school where all my friends are going and will be easy and cheap and good enough?
  • Should I aim for the hard nerdy school where I see my tribe, but also see challenges (and have the toughest chance of getting in)?

She has now done more to get into middle school than I did to get into the University of Texas. Granted, the UT bar was low at the time, but this is a hell of a lot of work and consideration for middle school.

“Yes” to Dinosaurs and Magic

One day last week, Milo’s lunchbox got left at school: a source of great angst. The next day, Jason sent him with lunch in a brown paper sack, on which he didn’t merely write Milo’s name, but drew this great smiling dinosaur. So every day since, despite the fact that the lunchbox has been located, Milo has insisted on a sack lunch, which Jason has illustrated in some new, fantastical way. Aliens. Ninja Turtles. BATLUNCH. Jason isn’t concerned that the now-located lunchbox sits unused, or that we waste paper sacks. He wants to delight Milo. The disaster of a lost lunchbox is now a daily dose of joy.

When Lucy was leaving for camp last week, she was deeply afraid of being homesick. While I was wringing my hands, coaching Lu through positive visualizations and affixing labels on shampoo bottles, Jason had the solution: talisman bracelets. He had Lu choose four matching beads — Jason and I would each wear one to represent her, and she’d wear two: like us on either side of her. And it worked: all she needed to manage was a little magic.

Delight? Magic? Who has time for that shit amid the schedules, the breakfasts, the dreaded car rides together, the daily injustice of who touched whose Legos?! [Please ask to see my treatment of a family drama loosely based on “The Wire.”]

Jason does. He instinctually says “yes." Every day.

Happy (belated) Father’s Day to the keeper of delight and joy in this joint.


Scene 1

Jason: Milo, every minute you spend asking to watch television is time you don't get to play before bed. You're wasting your time.


Scene 2

Milo: I miss Lucy so much. I don't care if she ever comes back.

Scene 3

Milo: This dinner is hot and I know it.

Kate: Milo, it's been sitting there for 10 minutes — it's not hot.

Milo: Well. It looks hot.

Kate: Then eat some watermelon.

Milo: Is it hot?

Kate: [stern look]: Eat. It.




Truth Fairy?

Lucy lost one of her very last baby teeth tonight — a chunky rear molar that twisted sickeningly in her mouth for a few days before having the grace to finally fall out.

And maybe a little of her innocence went with it. After she and I had our semi-usual nighttime pillow talk, she called Jason into her room (Jason being the keeper of magic in this family).

Lu: Dad, is the Tooth Fairy real? Because Annie says he's not real.

Jason: What do you think?

Lu: I think the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny and Santa are all real, they just get help from parents. [Elaborates on the logistics of getting presents from Austin to El Paso and Waxahachie, etc.]

Jason: Do you believe in magic?

Lu: Yes.

Jason: Well, there you go.

Under her pillow tonight, this diplomatic plea for proof:

Lucy tooth fairy note


Looks like having the Easter Bunny AND the Tooth Fairy come within a day of each other has stretched the frail fabric of her ten-year-old belief. But we're proud she's held onto the Easter Bunny a mere two teeth short of the whole baby set.

Milo, for his part, is an early cynic. Upon the news the Tooth Fairy would be visiting tonight, he asked Jason, "Does the Tooth Fairy check under every pillow when he comes?" Apparently Milo has a stash of guys under his pillow for nighttime excursions, and he feared discovery. Next time he asks, we're explaining the Tooth Fairy is an interim parole officer who fills in for Santa in the off season.

Don't Rain on Her Parade

Lucy is an exuberant creature: artistic, passionate, sensitive, wild. BIG in all her emotions and sounds. She has no inside voice.

This makes me immeasurably proud...but also really, really uncomfortable. Maybe because I was raised in the "children are to be seen and not heard" tradition of good manners and supplication? A few dozen other good reasons? So there are so many moments when I tell her to be quiet and polite, but I am trying hard — as a mother, feminist and recovering pleaser — to resist. My current parenting motto: Don't rain on her parade. Can't you see why?


How We Spent the Last of Summer Vacation

I know my last post was about how long it had been since I last wrote. And instead of a litany of excuses for my continued inattention to the only record of my children's existence, I offer simply a photo and brief overview of our end-of-summer trip to Northern California.


We made it up to Sonoma to see the fair-haired Ferris-Wayne clan and had a splendid time doing quaint things like picking pears, jumping on the trampoline next to the orchard and getting beaten at board games by the three-year-old Maud. Something about Sonoma...the very air up there is purer and prettier than you, but in a welcoming way. Sonoma feels bad you can't live there all the time, too. What made it especially sweet was the Ferris-Wayne family, beloved friends who live too far away.

We were pretty exhausted and off schedule by the time we headed back down to Muir Woods. To say we didn't enjoy it was an understatement. None of the people within a 50-foot vicinity of our tantruming foursome enjoyed it either. Good thing all those bosky layers of ferns and needles have great sound-dampening powers.

When we got to the hotel in SF, we rested, played in a nearby park, then tried to venture out for dinner only to surrender and have (very good, very hip) Chinese takeout. The rest of the trip went along those lines: insistence that we have a good time dammit,  then disappointment and frustration on being reminded that the kids' differences in age, interest and stamina level would make it hard to keep them both happy.

Lest I complain too much, we did have many fun moments: the new Exploratorium, a visit with sweet Kelly, Henry and Valletta, a long walk and dinner with Susan, cozy nights with the boys in one bed, girls in another. We had finally settled into a regular SF routine — and gotten the kids on West Coast time — by the time we had to come back to Austin to start school.