Browse and Seek
On the Nightstand
  • Your One-Year-Old: The Fun-Loving, Fussy 12-To 24-Month-Old
    Your One-Year-Old: The Fun-Loving, Fussy 12-To 24-Month-Old
    by Louise Bates Ames, Frances L. Ilg
  • Your Six-Year-Old: Loving and Defiant
    Your Six-Year-Old: Loving and Defiant
    by Louise Bates Ames, Frances L. Ilg
  • Ragnarok: The End of the Gods (Myths)
    Ragnarok: The End of the Gods (Myths)
    by A.S. Byatt
  • The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Revised and Updated Edition)
    The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Revised and Updated Edition)
    by Susan Wise Bauer, Jessie Wise
  • The Bay Area Forager: Your Guide to Edible Wild Plants of the San Francisco Bay Area
    The Bay Area Forager: Your Guide to Edible Wild Plants of the San Francisco Bay Area
    by Kevin Feinstein, Mia Andler

First in, first out

Seamus and I had a little surprise on Thursday night:

Man, he said he washed his face! Those lamps aren’t as bright as I thought.

He’s been wiggling that tooth for a while, and on Wednesday I mentioned to a friend that I should head on down to the bank and get a roll of Sacajawea or Susan B. Anthony dollars before it came out. I figured I had more time - he wasn’t dangling the tooth over his lip or anything that screamed “tooth loss imminent!”, and I figured if either of my kids would do that, it would be Seamus. I would have gone today, in fact.

Then we made spaghetti and meatballs on Thursday night, and sometime between the boys washing their hands before sitting down and getting out of the bathtub, the tooth vanished. I’ve swept the floor several times in both the bathroom and kitchen, and I suspect he lost it while biting down on a meatball. 

He bummed out at the thought of not being able to wish on his tooth and slip it under his pillow. I asked him to hang on while I put Tristan to bed. While Tristan nursed down, I came up with a plan that I hoped meant I could avoid sifting Seamus’ poop while still honoring his now quite lost tooth. When Tris fell asleep, I went into my room and unearthed a two-dollar bill I’d been saving for a rainy day.

I gave the bill to Seamus before we read Robin Hood

“I thought you could wish on this,” I said, holding out the bill. “They aren’t very common. I’m sorry your tooth is gone. I’ll keep looking after you go to bed.”

I read to him and we snuggled for a bit afterward while I told him the story of his tooth. How it had been the very first one he cut, how he’d drooled endlessly, how I worried about giving him too much Tylenol. He kept calm until I told him that we should say goodbye to his tooth, and thank it for all its work in teaching him to eat hard things, then the tears came.

“I don’t want to say goodbye to my tooth.”

“Because it got lost, or because it’s no longer a part of your body?”

“Because it’s not a part of my body. I want it back.”

We talked a bit about how this was part of growing up, and how he’d soon have a new tooth that he’d get to keep forever. After he fell asleep I tried to remember what it felt like to lose a tooth. What did I feel that first time?

I started losing my teeth sometime after we moved out of the Alamo Square apartment we shared with my dad, but before he vanished. I remember being excited about getting money from the tooth fairy, but I can’t remember feeling anything about losing my teeth. Maybe losing bits of myself made sense at the time, since so many things and people had fallen away already. 

Before he fell asleep, he mentioned that another tooth felt loose. I’ll have to get to the bank for those dollar coins, and start preparing another tooth story. I wish he didn’t feel sad about losing his teeth, but I’m ready to help him mourn the end of his early childhood. I hope 35 years from now he can remember the sadness and how he was allowed to feel sad while we worked to make things okay in the end. And how the day after he cried about that lost incisor, he began trying to whistle through the gap in his teeth.


One year out and I'm still in

It’s been almost a year since I watched Tristan smoosh his birthday cupcake and thought about how I couldn’t see myself in my sons’ adult lives, and wasn’t sure I wanted to make it that far, anyway. 

I still have a hard time seeing myself at 60, but I can see 40-45. Like our commitment to Seamus’ school, I’m taking things in small chunks of time. I have amazing days and dark days, with lots of in between. I’m slowly applying myself to the things that I know will help me come out of The Compleat Fucking Sad. Saving my own life is hard work, and doing so sometimes clashes with my other responsibilities. I layer my needs with those on my family members in order to squeeze in the exercise and quiet time, but the dietary changes are hard when I’m trying to trim our food budget. Why haven’t I gotten some outside help, be it therapy, medication, santeria? Mostly because Patrick’s work switched the insurance around so often that I’m not sure if the old non-Kaiser practice takes our current provider. And. Well. I don’t have extra childcare for therapy appointments. It’s not a question of money; my sitters are not available during the week. So I’m doing my best to get a goddamn grip by getting more structure into our days and dragging my hapless family along for the ride. If Tristan gets more time to nap and the dog gets more walkies and Seamus eats less sugar, I can live with that.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on the house and making it our home base; as you can see from the pictures I’ve posted, it’s coming along. My goal for this year is to paint the boys’ room and decorate so it will age well as they grow. We’ve begun entertaining again by holding a potluck every six weeks, and we’ve begun planning the back yard and front garden. Planting trees and bushes that won’t bloom and bear for a few years yet is my declaration of hope; I will witness the results of my work. It beats hanging a bikini on my closet door in hopes that I will run, anyway.


The boys

They’re almost two and six and a half now, funny, strong boys who slip through the various stages of play when together, from careening through the house and backyard to each sitting with a book. Tristan’s features are still soft and call up echoes of Seamus, whose chin and brows and limbs are now firmly Kid, not Baby. 

Their rhythms don’t quite sync. Tristan wants to wake early, nap late, and stay up later still, making it hard to give him the same attention I gave Seamus, as his awake time is jammed with the logistics of preparing for the day and transporting Seamus to and from school. I watch one of Shay’s classmates on Monday afternoons; the occasional triangulation is hard on Tristan as he gets left out. Tristan’s protracted bedtimes are hard on Seamus, as Patrick is often home late, making my big boy’s evenings lonely while I nurse down his brother. The trick seems to be for me to get to bed by nine-thirty every night, and scheduling our days with some rigidity - Mondays for x, Tuesdays for y, etc. This only works provided we’re all hale and hearty; the cold season leaves me improvising and relaxing my already lax standards for housekeeping. Especially right now. I’m home alone today with a cold that’s given me episodes of vertigo while Patrick takes the boys to a museum and to Seamus’ appointment with the orthopedist.

Did I tell you all that Seamus broke his arm three weeks ago? It was a clean break in his humerus, just below the growth plate. Three weeks in a sling and then we’ll check it again (today!), the doctor said. We hosted a potluck that weekend and he led the other kids in climbing in and around Patrick’s truck, making footholds of the tires and leaping off of the tailgate. In the dark. To prove that he can keep up, Tristan already has racked up three black eyes this new year, and can now climb into Seamus’ loft bed unassisted. They are children of action, mostly allies who drive each other up the wall about twice a week, usually right before dinnertime.

They have their differences. Tristan’s fine motor skills outstrip his brother’s, but Seamus had greater reserves of energy at Tristan’s age. Tristan loves music and sang before he spoke, and Seamus is very visual. They complement each other while remaining temperamentally similar, and Tristan mimics Seamus as much as possible. Since Seamus is learning to get some of his emotions under better control, this gives me hope for the years ahead. And they work together to help clean up the toys, musical instruments, books, and art supplies that litter the house at the end of the week. Not perfectly, not without some resistance, but they try to help.

We’re so glad they’re here.



Better living by being boring

If you have read here for a while, then you know (and, perhaps, have long since tired of) the cycle of improvement and chaos. Me too. I don’t think it’s particularly good for any of us, and it exacerbates the highs and lows of the boys’ developmental cycles. In order to build a better path, I’m working on a few key steps:


  1. Non-negotiable housework day. Every Sunday, our excellent baby sitter comes and spends the day with the boys, so I can clean. If I keep up with the laundry and dishes during the week, this makes everything works out well, even if, like yesterday, I spend most of my cleaning day at one of the library sites at Shay’s school. Monday remains “chores and errands day”, so I have some make up time as needed. My goal is to get the inside of the house along enough that by the time our sitter graduates this May and moves home, I can knock out the house in a few hours, and add tasks for the boys as they grow.
  2. Fixed menus. Everyone will eat a meal twice in a row. The drought is going to make food very expensive this year, so I want to get us onto a fixed menu plan for all of our meals, pronto.
  3. Figuring out the projects I can do by myself, and then do them. I think at this point, any interior project that does not involve painting or building is pretty much on me, as Patrick’s dance card is crazy full. I want his buy-in, but sometimes that won’t happen on the timetable I have, so I’ll need to forge ahead and not get irked about it. This will come more easily when the first two steps are better established. Routines help me get creative elsewhere.


More later, as the boys will wake soon.


First glimpses of the new year

Trainspotting in Emeryville. Tristan can do a spotted pull-up.


Avoiding getting bounced from IKEA.


Breaking up concrete in preparation for a drainage trench. Plus, more yard!


Making turmeric tea to combat colds. And I thought bee pollen was gritty.


Taking the architectural component that cannot yet be installed, and using it to hold the books which could not fit into the house. Call it the porch library.