Monday, September 16, 2013


May begin posting again, but many years have passed and it all looks SO DIFFERENT. Giving it a try.... Let's see how it all looks.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Duet of my heart

There are more than a few things I dislike about my house, but most have to do with the crappy white trash neighborhood and not the glorious 1920s structure itself (though I may rue the day I professed this as our ceilings are betraying some insidious leaks here and there). Sure, it's dusty and cluttered and we have to keep a plunger in our shower because sometimes the drain gets slow, and sure we still have lots of work to do, but it's really the perfect place for us and I'm willing to tolerate a lot in order to have a space I like so much. But (and you knew there was a BUT, didn't you?) it drives me absolutely batty that we don't have (and can't accommodate) a dishwasher. One of the things that sold me on the house initially is that the kitchen is all basically original, right down to the great big old cabinets and the ice box (and I'm not talking one with electricity). It's that same charm--and the the super-low and narrow counters that go with it--that prevents us from finding any dishwasher that can be easily installed.

I know I sound lazy, but I think we're all allowed to have our quirks. I HATE manually washing dishes and feel there are about a thousand better things I can be doing with my time than scrubbing each precious little dish and spoon, each rubber stopper for the sippy cup lids, all my pots and pans. I can't get into the zen-like state Nate professes to fall into each time he's up to his elbows in suds (he'd have you believe he enjoys the dishes), and I honestly never do such a good job because ultimately I think I'd rather eat off of somewhat clean plates or cook in almost clean pans than sit with a scouring pad to try to get a little goo off a hidden little corner.

That said, I'm no slacker. As Clementine and I are leaving for Chicago tomorrow, I decided it was my turn to handle the dinner dishes and leave her to play with her dad. I have a method that makes me feel like it's not so bad, so I got started and listened to C's little prattling as she and her dad rolled toy cars down the ramp of her garaged and rifled through her musical instruments. I faded in and out of the conversation but heard that she decided to play the piano and instructed her dad to play the guitar. "OK," he said, "we'll play a duet. A duet it when two people play a song together." Clementine began banging on the keys of her little piano, Nate began strumming and then she began to sing the sweetest little song she's made up this week: "Dooo-ET, dooo-ET, doooooooo-EHHHHHHT! I sing duet, duet." And somehow that's all I needed. It all felt so normal, bucolic even: my small labor in the kitchen, their conversation and music, the cricket chirping through the windows. The moment was all mine, and I wanted to wrap it up in a bit of colored tissue paper to pull out now and then when I need warming: the sound of the two of them together and the feeling of being included even though neither could know for sure I was listening. I stopped and recognized moments like this all the time when Clementine was younger, and I really must remember to stop the rushing and the adventure every now and then and live the moments. They are so sweet.

The summer is really fleeing after these last few weeks, and, case in point, I haven't taken time to stop and reflect on how much Clementine has changed. Hell, I haven't even managed to look at any of the pictures we took up north a week ago or even those from around town this past weekend. It's perfect summer suspended animation, and I haven't answered an email or talked to many people at all in almost 10 days between the travel and the coming home, trips to the pool, nights on the porch. C and I are off to Chicago for a few days with my mom, my sister and all the regulars, and we will wait patiently for Nate to come and fetch us home again this weekend. I think it will be the last official trip of summer, though we'll squeeze in some local adventures before the school year kicks into high gear. How will we ever get back on a schedule after all this lazy fun?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Post-vacation blahs

I've been cranky since returning from vacation, and it's not solely because we had car trouble on the way home and had to ride in the 90+ degree heat without air conditioning. In fact, the car trouble was kind of a blessing because it landed us in a nice hotel with a pool; we extended the vacation and had a luxurious swim to boot. I'm cranky because it's hot here in Detroit, I am supposed to report to work through Friday although I have NOTHING to do (and there's no way I'm coming back tomorrow or Friday) and I really really want to be back on vacation. We're good at it, and I think Clementine is a good traveler too, which was a very pleasant surprise.

I wasn't quite articulate enough about how much we enjoyed our trip to Virginia because I still can't quite put my finger on it myself. It has been a long time since we've taken a trip outside of the state of Michigan that wasn't to visit family or meet other obligations, and the complete freedom that comes with a half-planned road trip really suits how we do things--go where we want, stop when we want, change routes, be open to what we encounter. Sometimes when I look at the adult life I've built for myself I wonder where all this freedom has gone; how have I given up my gypsy ways to own a house, keep to a schedule, live without much risk? Part of the enchantment of our southern sojourn must come from giving that regularity up, if only temporarily, to feel less like automatons and more like members of a wide and mysterious world waiting for us to discover it.

I have talked before about some of the recklessness and freedom I want to engender in Clementine as she grows up, and certainly this kind of footloose travel has to be a part of it. It's difficult for us to fit it in as a family, though, because our extended family is scattered across the country and has a lot of demands on our travel and free time (though we get few visitors apart from my mom and sister, which gets my ire up more than I can say). We also postpone for convenience and lack of funds, and I think I've just got to put a stop to all that right now and hit the road like we never have before. Nate recently bought a VW bus (yes, FIVE cars--we now have FIVE cars, so please let me know immediately if you are in the market for any kind of vehicle, especially an eco-conscious Mercedes that runs on used veggie oil), and once it's running (did I forget to mention that it barely runs? yeah.) I intend to make good use of it, Little Miss Sunshine allusions be damned.

Some family trips I want to take include hiking some of the Appalachian Trail, floating down the Mississippi, driving out to the west coast over a few weeks and wandering through Canada. I'm also working on a trip to England next spring and a camping trip around Iowa for next summer. I want us to take surfing lessons together some year, go to a yoga retreat and a dude ranch, hang out in upstate New York at a funky hotel we've been eyeing and spend more time in DC and Baltimore. I want to go to Marfa, Texas and see if it's really all that, and I want to get back to New Mexico. We'll do cities: more Chicago but also New York, Toronto, San Francisco, Boston.... I want Clementine to know eastern Pennsylvania, though she'll never have the experiences I did every summer with my grandma, and I want her to be able to pick out her own destinations, even if they are Disneyland. And I think I want to move, too. More than once, put down roots all over the damn place and let her know that "home" is more than the place you grow up--it's the people and experiences that fill your youth, not just where you happened to spend it.

I'm getting excited just thinking about it. And man if that didn't help me spend a good chunk of my last day of work.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Southern Exposure

Long before there were many performers booked or details available, I bought us some tickets to go to this summer's FloydFest, an annual music festival held along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Floyd, Virginia. When, years ago, Nate and I took our honeymoon road trip across country, driving all the historic and scenic routes we could find, we loved the Blue Ridge Parkway and vowed to come back again and again. I guess that, combined with the fact that we haven't had a vacation just the three of us AND the incredible stationary feeling that comes with December in Michigan, is why it seemed like a good idea to lock in the tickets (besides, they were incredibly cheap back then, and I'm nothing if not a sucker for a good bargain). It didn't matter what the music was--I just liked the idea.

Last week as we were getting to leave, though, we were on the fence. Nate has almost no time off left, and I'm grudgingly going through my last days of work, showing up in body if not in spirit. Besides that, it's easy sometimes to get in a rut and stick with that which seems easy. And don't even get me started on Clementine's unpredictability in the car. We almost called it off, but now almost a week later I'm so very grateful we didn't. Nate and I spent the entire drive home trying to articulate just what it was about FloydFest that was so magical and wonderful. Time alone as a family to be sure, but also the community, the setting, the vibe--things were just so different in a truly significant way. It was just what we wanted from a vacation. In some ways I feel like I've been to a foreign country and am coming back dazzled by the new customs and people, but it's not that it was a foreign experience at all.

At first I was thinking it was the difference between the north and the south that marked this as unusual, and then I was wondering if it was an urban/rural difference. Maybe it was just the vibe of the festival, which attracted such a broad range of people I hardly know how to categorize, from hippies to cowboys, southern belles to punks, all sorts of parents you can't imagine wanting to pitch a tent in the woods and listen to the pounding drums and relentless bass until 3 AM while the smell of pot wafted about the tent. But even that is simplifying the experience.

Clementine had a blast, as pictures will prove when I sort through them tonight. She met all kinds of kids whose parents were just as open and enthusiastic as they were, sharing food, asking about us and where we were from, giving us the inside scoop on the festival and surrounding area. It was such a change from the kid scene in Detroit, which isn't nearly as open and friendly.

C's schedule is all mixed up, so I'm going to go drag her lazy ass out of bed and haul her to daycare so I can put in a few last company hours. UGH.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Meet Chewta

I do things on a daily basis as a parent that I thought I never would, including things I said I'd never do, things I used to be annoyed by when other people did them and things that are gross. Today I took my daughter to get ice cream with some friends of ours and allowed her to carry with her AT ALL TIMES a potentially dangerous bit of chain which she has proclaimed is the leash for her dog Chewta. People looked at me, and I could see in their minds that they thought I was either totally negligent to allow the darling to play with a rusty "I'm gonna beat your ass at the playground" kind of toy or too poor to buy her something more appropriate like those charming pull-along telephones or wooden animals with flappy feet. I wanted to explain to them that I had begged her to take along her special rocks purse or monkey backpack, her stuffed pony-in-a-purse, her little plastic car, all to no avail. She grabbed hold of one end of the chain that sits coiled beside our back door (because, after all, there are SOME limits), and lovingly dragged the other end behind her, telling me "Chewta get ice cream, too."

walking the dog

It's not that I am embarrassed by our new invisible friend: on the contrary, I LOVE Clementine's little imagination. She does get a little excited with Chewta, however, and that usually involves running around in circles with him until the chain whips her legs into little red welts, the likes of which she shares with anyone in Chewta's path. At an ice cream stand or in the park, I do tend to be a little sensitive to the damage she can do to other children (and, let's be honest, I hate the holier-than-thou glances from parents who were probably wondering what she could catch from being in such close proximity to something not made of primary color plastic). Chewta is welcome anywhere in my world; I just wish his chain would stay at home.

But it is the chain that is the very essence of Chewta. I suspect he was born not solely out of Clementine's obsession with dogs or hidden desire to depose our family cat and install a little puppy, but also of a crafty desire to avoid my wrath when she wouldn't put that damn length of chain down after the 20th time I asked her to the other day. At first it was a necklace and then a hat and then a swing and then a bracelet and then a little star and then "Clementine, if you don't put that down right now you're going to go inside!" followed by "But Mama it is for my tiny little puppy." I had never heard of the tiny little puppy before, so of course I had to know more. And that's how Chewta came to be.

Here's what we know so far (and it's surprising how little the details change): Chewta is a boy, he is green, he likes to travel by leash (damn chain) and also in Clementine's back pocket (I can't even begin to express how difficult it is to dress the child these days for at least ONE article of clothing on her person MUST have a pocket, even if Chewta isn't in the foreground of her mind). At night he sleeps in Daddy's shoe, and he can magically appear in Clementine's hand. He eats only peas, cherries and ice cream and he says only "Woof, woof," not "Bark, bark." He is an interesting specimen to say the least.

I'm at odds to day what the best part of Chewta is for me. I am not a dog lover and can't stand to think of there being one more thing in our house that needs attention and care (plants are long dead, and the laundry is dying a slow death). I like that we can walk the dog when we want but not have its cold nose snuffling at our feet while we eat dinner. We can pet him and roll around with him but still pack ourselves off for a weekend of camping without worrying about who will feed and walk him three times a day. Indeed, he can come with and I don't have to carry his poop around in little plastic bags or worry about whether or not he's allowed in restaurants. But none of this is why I love Chewta so much.

I love Chewta for the way he sprung from Clementine's imagination (or ingenuity) and continues to grow and change based on her understanding of the world. She calls all the shots with him, and I like the little glimpse this provides into what is important to her, what she's noticing about the things that go on around her. It reminds me a little of when my niece would talk to me on the phone about a new toy or short and say "Wanna see it?" holding the phone away from her ear without bothering to think of how that little piece of technology really worked. Chewta is what Clementine wants him to be, chain and all. I don't think he'll be something that stays with us long, but for now I'm happy to walk him and buy him ice cream, pet him and ask questions about what he likes to drink.

have you seen my dog?

Friday, July 20, 2007

I’ve been working on a long post about all the ways in which we have been enjoying the summer—a million festivals, weekend trips, pools and fountains and music (oh my!), but I’ve had a hard time finishing it. Part of it is because I’ve never ever been so busy just experiencing a summer, trying to fit everything in and taking every single opportunity to get out and do something. Part of it is because work is sucking every last bit of energy out of me as we countdown to my last day in this job. And part of it, today anyway, is because I can’t stop thinking of Clementine and her new vociferous objections to being left at daycare.

In many ways, I feel like I’ve regressed to my first months back to work, when I noted every minute Clementine wasn’t in my care, took note of every small thing that bothered me about the daycare and Julie. I felt guilty at every turn and wondered how anyone manages to feel good about working and leaving his or her child in the care of someone else. Of course that all evened out eventually, and over the last school year I did nothing but beam when I thought of how great daycare was for all of us—I got to go to work everyday (mixed blessing, but it was time on my own, for me) and she got the benefit of even more loving adults in her life, not to mention a group of kids to hang with. And now when we talk about going to Julie’s, Clementine begs to “Stay in my house,” and when I drop her off she clings to me and screams “I need my mama!”

There’s a part of me that knows this is kind of normal kid stuff—along the same lines as wanting one parent when the other has her. But I hate the idea of not listening to her, of not believing that something has changed. A woman I work with reminds me that kids are manipulative and know how to “push your buttons to get anything their hearts desire,” but I’ve always wanted to reject that to some degree. Do I think kids should get everything they want? Of course not—just because Clementine says she needs ice cream doesn’t mean I want to honor her request. But I feel like the rules change a bit when she’s expressing something as complicated as this: a desire not to be somewhere, not to go to Julie’s. And it’s not that I think something is wrong or untoward there. Maybe she’s not getting something she needs. Hell, I can be so neurotic. But this is what’s taking up my time.

Also, cleaning five years’ worth of crap off my desk, resisting the urge to shop on the Internet and trying to look busy. It’s a wonder I can blog at all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Instead of selling her to gypsies

I have a new threat for when Clementine gets all whiny or unreasonable: I can feed her to the bears. Too bad she isn't too afraid of them. When we walked into the visitor center at the park where we camped, she was instantly interested in dentistry, which is good since I've been disturbed by recent proclamations of things being scary (especially when she says Mama scary). While it tickled her to meet something she had only read about in books up close and personal, I wondered a little but about what it would like to come across a real bear...or real poison ivy, for that matter. The same visitor center had a display that allowed you to fondle fake poison ivy plants so to better be able to identify them. I think the concept of both was lost on her, but she sure did have fun:

That's right! I finally got my camping pictures off the camera after my mom mentioned for the tenth time that my sister's pictures sure were nice.

Clementine was very excited about a few things while we were camping, all of which you can see in abundance in the whole group of photos (click any photo to see more): Crocs, her cousins, Laura, her hoodie, the beach, the sand and being naked. Oh, and Macaroni and Cheese, which she pronounces "mock-ee cheese" every six or seven seconds whenever anyone is eating in her vicinity. Even after the first few days of blissfully warm water faded to days with cool breezes from the north and even cooler water, Clementine couldn't stay away from the lake:

We biked out the lighthouse, which didn't make much of an impression at the time--after she realized they weren't going to let her go to the top she was much more interested in dancing on the boardwalk and swapping Crocs with cousin Nora. But a few days later as we packed the car up to head home, we asked her where she thought we were going (thinking that of course she'd say "home" since she had been demanding "baby go home" all morning). Nope, she said lighthouse and then cried a good portion of the way out of town that she wanted to go the lighthouse, not home.

Since we hadn't thought to bring along her toy kitchen (or the myriad other outrageous toys she demanded at various points during the trip), we let her use the cook stove to make--you guessed it--Mac-y Cheese. She did such an excellent job that now Nate and I are developing a way for her to safely prepare all our meals while we sit on the couch and watch movies:

On the last day she demanded three ponies (her name for pony tails), gingerbread and pizza. We kept her in the wilderness with the bears too long: the kid has no manners and is very messy.

Somehow we managed to squeeze all the stuff from our luxury camping experience back into Nate's car and get home. Beneath it all, you can just make out the child: