can’t wait four

Tonight, you told me “I’m tired of being three.” Well, you are in luck! It feels as if you have been three for a very long time and we have both been ready for four, so ready. Maybe it’s the school year starting or your birthday being at the very end of summer, but in our minds, you’ve been rounded up to four for awhile now. Actually turning four, seems like a formality at this point. Maybe all ages are a formality.

But I really loved you being three. I know I have said this every year, but you make it so hard to choose a favorite. This year you learned to write and sound out words, play your violin, go to school, just get out of the car and not even wave “bye” and head on into your classroom like you have been doing it for years.

You still have this amazing memory, remembering stuff hours, days, months later that astonishes me. You still want everyone to play with you. You especially love to act out stories, either from films or books, or strange hybrid stories from various things you like. Spider-Man and Coraline go blueberry picking. Merida and Elsa are having tea. Your legos are frequently the cast, but sometimes we all have to dress up.

You prefer to stay home and play to many other things. Except maybe the Children’s Museum, you are crazy about that place. You want to dress up like a baby dinosaur and play with the kid sized eggs and nest.

Your favorite book (I asked) right now is “Selkie” but you just got it last week, so I’m not so sure it’s really your favorite. If I had to guess, probably “The Snow Queen” or “Weasels.” You quote “oops, somebody broke the machine” pretty often. You have a delightful sense of humor.

Some days you wake up whiney, so whiney, and there’s practically nothing anyone can do. I’m probably the same, so I try to understand.
You want arbitrary things exactly your way, and totally flip out sometimes when someone dares to open a thing or close a thing. It’s all normal stuff really, but you give it that little something extra that could really clinch your academy award someday.

This year, you fell in love with Frozen, Labryinth, Tangled, Cinderella, and How to Train Your Dragon. You bounced back and forth between a few houses, your gram-gram’s and ours mostly. You put up with major home renovations, running all over town for my and gram-gram’s “meetings.” You now take your own “meetings” with us. It’s all very important. Sometimes we meet by the pool.

I’m sure I will remember you as a perfect three year old. Even now, while your fourness is only hours old, I’m already pretty sure you couldn’t be more awesome, and my memory is only bound to warm with age. It’s nice to know it was all good things, all good things.

It’s been a great year. I can’t wait to see what four brings and we are so ready. Let’s go!

Harpers-style index of my life, July 20, 2014 ed.

Number of days I’ve been at my mom’s: 4
Trips to Wegmans so far: 2
Color of Birthday flip-flops from my sister this year: black, white, and pink
Major milestones achieved by 3 year old in last week: stung by first bee, sat through entire symphony concert without making noise or fidgeting too much
Reason I’m still up at 1:29am: photoshop work for social justice
Real reason I’m still up at 1:29am: Amazon
Temperature outside: a watery 61ºF
Things I’m avoiding doing: cutting fabric, sewing, sending emails, updating websites
Number of spam emails I had to delete yesterday: 28,569
How long I had to hold shift+UP to do that: like an hour
Are the blackberries ready to pick: No
Ratio of blueberries picked to spam emails deleted: 1:1
Vikings spotted: 5
Days until Pennsic: 6
Level of alarm at remaining stuff to do: Very Elevated, Blood Orange
What I’m going to do about it: Go to bed.

The Noble Dandelion

Dear people of the suburbs,

I would like you to consider the dandelions of the field, they are bright, bold, delicious in salad, can make tea with their roots, offer children entertaining seeds to blow, and they ask very little of us to proliferate.

They pretty much rule the short grass meadow, aka the lawns of temperate North America.

Unlike the rose or the tulip, they don’t require special dirt, timed planting cycles, or pruning. They don’t require pesticides or herbicides. They are just there, ready to go, in all their sunny, happy-to-see you glory.

So why then, do you wage war on them? I know they are really reaaaaaalllllly good at taking over your yard. But so? Maybe we should just let it go, celebrate and embrace their resilience. We could prize them and brag about who’s yard is more yellow. A big yellow carpet. You could mow green chevrons or something. It would be very trendy.

But alas, no one wants the poor dandelion. In my efforts to be a good suburban neighbor (shudder) I am trying to get rid of the dandelions in my yard so the people near me don’t give me side eye. Some of them are trying to sell their houses, so I am sympathetic to their situation.

But I refuse, Refuse, to spray to get rid of them. There is no point, to my mind, to dump questionable chemicals on my yard (let alone the horror show that is roundup) just to get rid of these yellow flowers. That’s all they are: yellow flowers, for free, from nature. We think fields of tulips are gorgeous. My aunt had a field of narcissus by her house that would make the angels weep (especially if they had allergies).

So I have been digging them up. All of them. It’s never-ending and I’m not even aiming for 100%, I’m just trying to get rid of the huge patches that seem to only be dandelions, so the grass has a chance. That’s what’s wanted in the suburbs: perfect green grass. Nevermind that you can eat dandelion or that it attracts bees if you wanted to make honey or something, we want grass! Which only grazing animals eat, animals that we don’t have in the suburbs. We chop our grass up and throw it away.

Do you see my point here?

I would love to stop rooting up these flowers. I would love to go back to thinking it’s adorable when my preschooler blows a million seeds into the air. I would love to not feel the chalky residue on the lawns of my neighbors, making my own dandelions inedible.

Let’s stop the madness and embrace our little yellow friends. In the meantime, I’d like to finish rooting all the remaining ones in my yard without any worms getting on me (you hear that, worms?! Stay! In! Your! Soil! Bad worm!) and without killing my back. Even after all this labor, I know that these little flowers will be waiting to come right back. They totally forgive us.

See, they are so nice!

My little girl

She demanded to get this book at Half Price Books the other day, it was a “princess secrets” book with a little lock on it. I think it was the little lock that sold her. It is full of questions to fill out about yourself. She got to make a thumbprint in it.

Anyway, in case you are wondering, her best friend is Queen Elsa of Arendelle. Her favorite classmate is Alexa Q. and she likes her because she’s good at “doing work.”

She is 37.5″ tall.

My Frozen-obsessed daughter is full of surprises. She love to act out stories, to play dress up, and to weed dandelions. She always wants peanut butter and jelly. She sounds so normal sometimes when I write these things out, but she’s really very unusual and particular. She wants to go to a specific Panera, she wants you top open her banana but not peel it any amount, she wants you to carry something down the stairs but let HER carry it to the car.

We are working on the idea that if you want something a certain way, you have to say so BEFORE you ask for it and if it doesn’t go your way, you inform us how you’d like to handle it in the future but under no circumstances are you allowed to flip out.

There is a lot of flipping out.

She walked into the living room one day in her t-shirt with nothing on her butt. I said “hello, nudie patoodie!” She replied “I’m not nudie patoodie, I’m HALF naked. Get it right.”

I love this kid.

Parties parties everywhere

I just finished doing the food and decor for an Art Auction for my daughter’s school. I bet you’ll never guess the theme!

They were studying the Bauhaus painter, Paul Klee, this year; each class was doing a reproduction of one of his paintings. I did a little research on Klee and discovered that his big artistic epiphany came when he visited Tunisia, changing how he saw color and he committed himself to being a painter. He had written technically about color and light but the painting he’s started producing after that point, in 1914, were the abstract and expressionist Klee we know and love.

The money quote:
“Color has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever. That is the significance of this blessed moment. Color and I are one. I am a painter.”

So the event was called “Color in the Evening: Paul Klee in Tunisia.”

It was Tunisian themed. I went with a ton of colorful glass lanterns (the invitations were a silver lantern shape where the “windows” were text with “Fire in the Evening” as the background). There was lots of Tunisian food (brik, stuffed dates, salads, tagines, etc.), music, and I made a small gallery of Klee’s life and important works. The program had a view of his “Fire at Full Moon” seen through a Tunisian doorway. I put colored cellophane up in the long rectangular windows of the atrium the event was in, so it was kind of like a Klee painting, lit from behind like a lantern…

I got loads of compliments on how it all turned out, so while there are a million things I would have liked to do, it was all good as is.

I ate too much baklava.

On to the next one…

Incidentally, I thought Klee’s epitaph was lovely. The words on his tombstone at Schosshaldenfriedhof in Bern, are something of his credo, and they say,

“I cannot be grasped in the here and now, For my dwelling place is as much among the dead, As the yet unborn, Slightly closer to the heart of creation than usual, But still not close enough.”

Homebuilding snob

You can add that to the list of other things of which I’m rather snobbish, like medieval dancing, tea, chocolate, dresses, cheese, schools, pizza, and bath products.

I’ve started to form pretty strong opinions on construction. I can’t actually do any of it, but I really think I could. I picked up this magazine called “The Best of Fine Homebuilding: Projects Step by Step” at the bookstore and was all “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE!”

It basically has every project I need to do in the house, in tutorial format. It’s brilliant. Yes! I want to build a kitchen island! Yes, I want a built-in kitchen dining nook with extra storage! Yes, I want to tile my shower right! Yes, I want an “old school path to a wide open bath” and of course it should have a linear drain!

If only I wasn’t deeply afraid of circular saws.

I hate two things about modern homebuilding so much: subfloors and drywall. I really hate them. I don’t know why the floors that support everything people put in their houses (and for some people, that’s a LOT of things) are made of this crappy, warping, expanding, stuff. Why no steel beams, people? Why no sealed floor boards under your floors? Why are we building walls out of paper and dust? It seems like a fire hazard. There has to be a better way. Doing things to save 10 cents a square foot is dumb when you risk water damage and then have to replace 300 sq feet of it. I guess no one expects things to last anymore.

Anyway, I never thought much about things like how to install windows, or leveling cabinets, but now that I’ve gone down this primrose path, I probably care too deeply about it for my skill level. I am pretty much like this with sewing too. You should have seen the zipper I put in a skirt a few days ago. Kicked off of Project Runway for sure.

The one thing I am starting to understand is how people can get obsessed with collecting tools. It seems like for every problem, there’s something I don’t have just waiting at Home Depot for me to buy it and then my problem is solved. And just like buying fabric at the fabric store for an amazing project idea you get in your head, you forget that you need all the other little things for finishing it, the huge time-suck it’s going to be, and how you are going to start cutting and go “I really have no idea what I’m doing” and want to give up.

Maybe I should just stick to painting walls. Too bad I don’t know how to give them a Level 5 drywall finish first!

Like Ikea on a weekend

Things have been busy lately, like too much to see/do, but I’m on a mission so I can’t really stop to do half the things I’d like to do. My project list is about a mile long and growing.

The projects that involve the house are dependent on job coordination, when the necessary professionals can be here, weather, how large the payments are, etc. We tried to do the things that made the most sense first, but it’s turning out that nothing really makes “sense” and certain things are just baffling. Why don’t the outlets in the bathrooms work? Who knows. But it’s so not a priority right now. Dude with a saw who showed up this morning can just use an extension cord from across the hall. Why doesn’t the front door stay closed? Something with the door plate, but door technology is apparently beyond me. Door technology. God, what is wrong with my brain?

Projects that involve my daughter’s school are pretty much done for the year. But oh wait, there’s an Art Auction this spring. And an International dinner. They all sound like lovely events and I totally have signed up for them, but I’m already mentally pinning ideas to their imaginary boards and pretending like I have all the time in the world. La la la….

Then, there are projects that involve my commitment to solving global climate change. Those should probably be at the top of the list, huh? I really should have taken a class on programing and web development, probably graphic design. I’m fairly certain that aside from material science and public speaking, we are going to solve our planet’s energy crisis with the internet. Or at least it feels like it most days. I go to a lot of events, with a lot of the same people, but at the end of the day most of what I need to do is on my laptop. I wish I was more awesome at the internet. Anyone wanna volunteer?

I have some projects that involve annoying the crap out of my state senator. Discrimination, farming practices, coal, education, transportation: my husband said I should have a standing appointment every week until March where I show up wearing a different pin. There is probably nothing I’m going to say to him that he will ever agree with; he told me his favorite Justice ever is Scalia. I think that’s legislator-ese for “go home, little girl, your progressive views are scoffed at here.”

Party planning projects are ongoing. I have the loose framework for my daughter’s fourth birthday in mind, I have an idea for a dinner party I’d like to do soon, and I promised someone I’d help them with a reception. I could go on…

Projects involving my sewing machine: omg kill me now. I have no idea. I can dream far bigger than my skill set. This is a problem.

The rest of my projects are totally boring: cleaning, sorting, organizing, things you all do and are probably just as tired of as me. I start cleaning a counter and my brain starts planning a party. This is how the trouble starts.

I know I know…

How COULD I? How could I do this to you. It’s been like 400 years since I posted and I have no excuse. It’s all my fault. I’m just not good at this.

And I’m sorry. I hope you will let me get on with it without being all “you left me here waiting for a post for 400 years. I died and was reincarnated 798 times and I don’t appreciate that during my few lives that afforded me the ability to view a website and read words, there was NO NEW CONTENT.”

Well hang on, I have content for you.

It’s been six weeks since I had a refrigerator or a bathtub. Am I camping? Nope. We moved into our temporary home and it’s a bit of a fixer-upper. We bought appliances that were lacking from a used appliance store and well the fridge did not work. So began the 6 week slog of phone calls and total radio silence over the holidays and during the “weather” before I even heard back that they were really going to exchange it. I heard that today. If they don’t fix this tomorrow, I’m taking all my wilting produce down there and stuffing into their dryers and running them on hot.

Anyway, the new place is huge to me (though not to the residents of Indiana with new homes which rival that of small hotels) and we are not really settling in because I don’t have the heart to start over packing whenever we find out where we are headed next. We are using plastic cups and utensils. And washing them. It’s quite pathetic.

The weather has mostly hovered near refrigerator temperatures except during the Polar Vortex, so we have used the shelf in the garage much like a refrigerator. This has the enormous plus of being super energy efficient and the minus of being like a giant sign that says “mice welcome!”

Our cat is retired.

But the produce does not care for the temperature fluctuations of day and night and our lettuces pretty much committed suicide when they heard about the Polar Vortex. I was giving the milk shifts inside and out a few nights.

Otherwise, the fixing is happening, new floors, new carpets, new walls, new garbage disposal (thanks mark!) etc… We managed to make enough progress that my family could come at Christmastime and feel almost like they were camping indoors: air mattresses, flashlights, and a fireplace, but with WiFi!

My daughter is dominating this school thing, learning new stuff, making friends, coming home with awesome paintings of sharks. She had her first violin recital and ballet recital and was terribly cute and only mostly distracted. It’s ok, she’ll get there. It’s all fun and participation right now.

She’s really into Legos right now. Legos and small figurines. She also asks for a costume of something daily. She pretty much has Halloween for the next 20 years nailed down. She asked me for a space suit yesterday, a “little space suit for me.” When do you have the “talk” about being an astronaut and how that’s totally awesome but you probably have to go into the navy or air force and then they still don’t let you take the space suit home? Is that like a 6 year old thing?

More stuff has happened that I can’t cram into one post, but I have a list and I’m going to get through it. Hang in there, kittens!

Three Little Years

It has been a whirlwind, we moved and settled, started school and decorated a new room, planned a party and put you, our little two year old, to bed for the last time. As I spend this first night of your fourth year, blearily frosting cakes, cooking lots of other things, trying to get through the long list I have to finish before your birthday party starts, you are sound asleep (despite me dropping things) in your bed, gradually growing up. You keep doing that, a little bit every day. It’s lovely and sad and fascinating to behold.

Last year I said that I didn’t ever think you could be a “terrible two” and I’m very happy to say you weren’t. If I had to keep you as a two year old forever, I would be totally fine with that. You started out the year quite silently, picking up new words here and there, and suddenly speaking in full sentences almost out of the blue about half way through the year. You have always had a great memory, but it’s just amazing how far back you can remember and how many new things you learn so quickly. There is very little you miss! You learned counting, letter sounds, and how to make bread dough. You can hop down the stairs. It makes me nervous. Your size 6.5 shoes have been replaced by 8s, your favorite story books are all a little longer, and your face is looking more and more like a little kid’s and not a baby’s.

I know you will have an amazing time being three, especially now that you’ve just stared preschool! You are such a big kid, walking up to school in the morning with your purple folder. You have started this whole new chapter, one of independence, of having your own thing that I’m not a part of. It’s really hard for me. Even if it’s only a half day, I still miss you. I am so very curious about what you do at school. I will always be curious about everything you do.

Thank you for continually surprising me, for always proving all those people who said “just wait, it gets worse” wrong, for being kind, patient, and imaginative. I will miss your two year old face forever. I wish I could keep a copy of you at every age, but then I’d wake up one day with 18 kids and that’s just crazy. But I know that we’re going to have so much fun this year, I can’t wait to see what is coming. When you wake up, we’ll get started.

Love and nosies,


Au revoir Montreal, Part Trois: Fin

I have counted a number of cities as home, very very big ones, and pretty small ones. Every city seems to have its own year-served requirement before you feel like you “know” it. And maybe some you never really REALLY know unless you’ve been there your whole life, but generally speaking, you know what I mean by “know.” I seem to stay everywhere just under that threshold. And it’s true for here as well. I certainly have learned a lot about the place, but we’re not really close. We don’t see eye to eye on many things. I’ve been busy. Montreal has been french (cold, inscrutable?). Okay, it’s not all bad. It drives me crazy on a regular basis, but it has its charms.

I have been here long enough to know I don’t want to live here, to be fed up and frustrated often enough with all the aspects of living here that seem designed only to make people feel fed up and frustrated. A friend of mine here once noted that Montreal’s biggest problem is that it’s a city in Quebec. And I think that’s true. I don’t know where Montreal ends and Quebec begins and I don’t mean to suggest that francophone culture is the sole problem. But there is something wrong with Quebec; I’m no doctor, but they should really have it looked at because they could lose this lovely city and many of the lovely people in it, francophone and anglophone. To be the english-speaking minority here is to feel something like judgement and hostility on a regular basis. The language politics problem is probably what I feel most acutely. It’s a shame because so much of city is made interesting and unique by it’s dual-language, multi-cultural identity. It’s not up to me to decide how things will develop here, it’s not my province, but I hope this Parti Quebecois nonsense stops and reasonable minds prevail. Seriously, you won’t let me see the Anthropologie website because of Bill 101? How can you expect me to survive?

I have enjoyed many parts of my time here. I can sing the praises of the clean and efficient STM (metro) system (it’s amazing how much you can tidy up if you stop running at 1am). The sandwiches here are really delicious. Really. I don’t know what it is, but so many places here just get sandwiches right. They don’t even have the fanciest ingredients, but they are usually pressed and warmed and practically perfect. I can’t say much for the pizza, Mexican, or Japanese food here (or even Thai, but I know some will disagree with me), but I stand by the sandwiches! The Quebecois apparently have never heard of real ice-cream, so I won’t miss standing in front of the freezer cases at the store and wanting to cry. I’m sad to say goodbye to the crepes and pastries. I don’t think anyone comes to Montreal for the fine fashion shopping, but I will miss the vast underground connected mall systems in the winter when no one wants to go outside and doesn’t want to hang out in just ONE mall but would like to select from at least 6 to wander around in. The fact that you can travel around almost all of downtown through a series of tunnels, escalators, shopping centers, and food courts is incredible. And by incredible, I mean both great and slightly unbelievable. I will miss the summer festivals and events. I will miss the random young misfits hanging out in front of Tim Hortons (the gay one) and the grad-students-gone-wild children’s educational programming at McGill, the surprising finds at the bookstore’s non-books section, and the wonderful parks and playgrounds and splash pools for children. I may even miss the random crazy people who make my neighborhood so colorful. Yeah, I mean you guy-with-yellow-dog-in-a-tank-top– it’s been real.

But more specifically, my home and neighborhood for the last three years, Sainte Catherine Est, has been wonderful. My street is a living, breathing animal in the summer months. The almost 1 mile stretch to the west of us is closed for a few months to traffic, cafes and restaurants build out onto the sidewalks and streets, and everything is busy and there are constantly people out. It’s a magical thing, even more so at night. Not many places in the world is there such a street that changes so dramatically from one hour to the next, one season to the next. It’s this leisurely lunch spot during summer afternoons, flower boxes and cafe umbrellas, and when the sun goes down, it’s this raucous bar with bachelorette parties and drag queens and lovers on dates. It’s desolate in the winter, but with little hidden gems behind window panes, a wonderful drink, a perfect pastry, a strange antique cookie jar, elaborate fetish gear, surprisingly memorable paintings in a restaurant. During the holidays, it dresses up with decorations, lights and, snow, feeling quite home-y and urban at the same time. It’s a village of so many gay men who have built themselves a lively community and some rather interesting bars. It’s a conduit between my corner and all the festivals at Place des Arts, which lies just beyond where the canopy of 150,000 pink balls strung over the street ends. It’s my long doorway to a celebration of French music, Jazz, Comedy, African music, and outdoor art. There is pretty much always something happening, always a new art installation or some event you stumble upon and go “huh, I didn’t know this was happening,” or a new restaurant opening. It has been a delightful gift to live on this street, watching it change and surprise.

It’s so much nicer in the summer, of course, I would probably not feel so affectionately in February, but even then something cool might pop up. If there is one part of Montreal that I could walk through a thousand times and still see something new, this would be it. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to walk through it a thousand times. The blocks from my apartment to Berri-UQAM have been my path to errands, my walk to lunch, my evening stroll, my baby-please-nap pacing, my I-just-need-to-get-out-of-this-apartment-with-this-newborn schlep, and my trip to the library, festivals, or downtown. You can mark my daughter’s first years of life by this street. Her early outings just to get outside were to the Belgian boulangerie or Starbucks, just a few blocks away. Going to look at all the interesting lights when she was a baby, that long first winter we were here, was a lot of trips back and forth to Rue Berri. She learned to walk almost as soon as the pink balls went up that following spring and practiced many of her early steps that summer up and down the center of the Ste Catherine. When she learned to climb and eat many kinds of solid food, we’d often pick up lunch at our various nearby cafes, sushi shop, bakery, and then we’d head over to the playground. As she got more interested in the actual things down the street, we’d stop and look at the SIDA (AIDS) memorial art installation at Amherst which she loved to wander around inside it’s tall red poles and practice the names of the letters on top. Now, she likes to go to that Starbucks herself and ask for stuff, she likes to pop into the small specialty market for their bulk-section goodies, she knows to stop at the cross streets to hold my hand, she thinks the overhead pink balls are just for her because they always magically appear when she returns to town from some trip we always seem to take in May, and she remembers the exact location of the dollar store AND that they have pooh stickers and kinder eggs. We’ve come a long way in just this one mile.

My husband, daughter and I are excited to be back in the US, near family, and starting a new chapter. But we’re grateful for all the wonderful things we’ve experienced here. We have met people from all over the world and made some friends who will be the hardest goodbyes. I can’t thank my friends enough for the extraordinary kindness they’ve shown to me and my daughter. She and I both will miss them and their children so much. I hope each of you knows that I mean it when I say that you should visit me! And I hope to be back now and then to check in on you and the city.

So, the boxes are packed, the truck is loaded, and I have to get on with it. I will say “Au revoir” to you Montreal.

Or as you prefer to say it “Bon journée.”