Friday, September 19, 2014


I woke up to the fact that my so-called "parenting" is mostly yelling when my son, 9, said,  "Stop with the yelling, I am trying to find my shoes!" my reaction was to yell, "What are you talking about? I DON'T YELL ALL THE TIME."

He goggled at me like I was a train wreck, "Case in point." "That's just so sad, Mom."

I can imagine him calling me to the stand for failure to communicate. I would be found guilty. I am slipshod. Scattered. Addled. Ungraceful. There is just so much homework to be reviewed, socks to be matched, toast to be buttered and then diagonally cut into triangles, and active listening to be done about the multi-functionality of Legos, that I rarely think not only of my words but of how I say them. I've lost sight of the Big Picture. I just micromanage and blast, "You call that flossing?!?" Then I wonder why no one wants to play checkers with me.

I feel humbled and made meek, like when the dog is bad, she slinks herself to her crate.

Inspiring, kind, helpful, necessary, true. Perhaps I should get these words as a tattoo. Perhaps I should ink them on the insides of my fingers motorcycle-club-style so when I spread them to wave goodbye to the kids in the morning as they go off to school and later, into the rest of their lives, I can read what I had in mind when I started the whole process of having a family.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Library Volunteer

The children's room of the Squirrel Hill Branch of the Pittsburgh Public Library had a tank of hamsters.

There were also bean-bag chairs upholstered in mustard corduroy and the whole place was furnished in indoor/outdoor carpet. The children's librarian was a paisley bell-bottom. This was the early '70s. "Upgrade" was not a word. Every book I took out was dusty and yet somehow also greasy. They were water-marked, liberally used, fingerprinted. On the book jacket flaps invariably some artistic soul had scribbled.

How I loved it all. It was funky library funk, evidence of people's ambitions, losses, hopes. When you took a book out a library it was obvious you were throwing your lot in with the main, kind of like being born, you were joining an experimental collective.

I recently started volunteering at my kids' elementary school library. My first thought on my first day: We've come a long way baby, this carpeting is clean. This place has none of the feeling of being at the bottom of an exhibit at the Pittsburgh Aqua Zoo.

If you love books as I love books, flagrantly, stupid-with-love-ed-ly, I highly recommend volunteering at your kid's library. The new picture-books will pass through your hands first and then into those of the next generation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dreams and Hopes

Asked the question, "What are your hopes and dreams?" my kids answer with a thousand things. I have to tell them to put a lid on it.

It's like this, from my son, 9: Mom! My dream is to be a space car driver who has an underground pool that is part of an underground lair, and a group of trained cheetahs! Furthermore... it is my dream that I can fly, and cure all diseases, and  engineer a house made of Legos where I can live with all my friends calling each other bro all day, like hey bro, what's up bro, and the only thing to eat in our world is gum."

My daughter, 7, says: All of what my brother said. Except also cat ballerinas! AND UNICORNS WHO LET YOU BRAID THEIR HAIR.

As an adult, my hopes and dreams are pragmatic and -- compared to the optimistic unicorn candy magic of my kids' -- dull. For example, here's what I hoped this morning: Gee, I hope that the DOWNSTAIRS DRAIN UNCLOGGED OVERNIGHT.

Monday, September 15, 2014


According to a tantrum is "a violent demonstration of rage or frustration; a sudden outburst of ill temper."

Synonyms include: fit, outburst, paroxysm, frenzy, huff, scene and hissy fit. See also: my son, 9. My son, 9, is a freaking tantrum expert.

It's surprising because he was such a mellow baby.  He burbled and cooed and looked at me with vast affection. When he was a toddler,  I thought of him as Wilbur from Charlotte's Web, the innocent everyman and friend of all in the barnyard. In kindergarten, he had a wittle lisp.

I think testosterone has just kicked in, maybe, in third grade?

He's suddenly become like those young male elephants that dig up trees. He smells, a little. His shoe laces are a large knot. When he plays with other nine-year-old boys they make gun noises and bomb noises and the noises of jet planes losing altitude at a clip.

He gets sweaty and aggressive if his way is blocked.  Sometimes he gives me this blank-eyed stare --  like if I've told him we're having Swiss chard as a side dish for dinner -- he gives me this blank-eyed stare and it's snake-y.

This morning he didn't want the granola I made and he dropped to the floor flailing and screaming: "I could run away if I wanted; I could go right now."

Carefully stepping over him to pour milk into my coffee, I didn't follow the advice of the modern parenting guidebooks, I didn't say, "Oh, honey, you're showing me you don't like granola." "Instead of flailing and biting my leg, why don't you make a drawing for me of how angry you are we're not having Sweetums Sugar Blaster Sugar Coated Nibbles?"

Instead I said, "I could run away too."

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Not only has the N.F.L covered up petty misdemeanors and gross abuse in the name of the brand, issuing slaps on the back of the hand to players who mean a fortune to them, they're also simultaneously, grotesquely, marketing to women. Stand by your man, they're saying.

Ladies, you are being used. I implore you to rid yourself of "your team" jerseys cut to enhance your curves and bare your midriff.  Powderpuff is the word used to describe you when you play the game.

If you won't  -- if the Ravens, or the Steelers, or the Vikings are so important to your identity, if you come from a long line of Cheeseheads -- I then ask you simply to explain to me why? Why? You don't want to be one of the guys of this type. Spend any significant time abroad and you'll learn there are other ways to spend your fall Sundays than with a big platter of pigs in a blanket.

Not only did Ray Rice knock out his then fiancee and the N.F.L claim not to have seen the tape from inside the elevator, the science is in. Brain trauma affects one in three players. So when you're watching football you're watching unfolding hurt. That's fun? That's chips and dip? I'd argue that it's a livingroom couch kind of sadistic.

There are obviously major economic and social implications if football in America were to end. Think it's too big to fail? May I draw your attention to this civilization called Rome.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Light Box

When summer turns to fall, I turn toward my light box like a seasonally affected sunflower toward the   last remaining rays of the sun.

My light box is called The Happy Lite. The goofy bucktooth spelling of "lite" reminds me of ladies "nite" in my early 20s in the '90s when I drank the chocolatini. It was an interesting time, the revival of swing and the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy to which I toe-tapped.

But I digress from my topic, which as yet has no associated mixed drink. It's a shame really. It's Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It's a name that cries out for something gin-based.

It's a drag. I drag myself through, turning on the Happy Lite every morning at 6:30 am from September to March, each morning a blinding, pupil-decreasing moment like the sound of an enthusiastic 8-year-old playing a drum set and into this light I stare, unblinking, lizard-like.

Though its advertising says I will, I do not look like this.  First of all I'm non-blonde. And I never wear all-white ensembles, or bare my belly. I never look like I am about to take flight on the well-illuminated wings of joy.  Tra laaaaaa!

I look more like this. And boy, do I wish I had a similar plodding, British English voice-over. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cocktails for Teachers

The Lesson Plan

The Parent-Teacher Conference

The Back-To-School Night

The Dog Ate My Homework

The Honor Code

The School Uniform Code Infringement

The Lunch Duty

The Carpool

The Group Project

The Harkness Table

The STEM Grant

The Interdisciplinary Learning

The JV Coach

The Finnish Education System