Wordless: Lightning Strike




Eagle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, Holden, Massachusetts, September 2015


To Hell With Date Night

I have a confession:

I hate Date Night.

Seriously. Hate.

I love my spouse, but really, Date Night is just too much pressure, especially because we live in such a lame city with no live music or theater or decent restaurants. No improv or stand-up places. There’s candlepin bowling, but then you have to put up with the other bowlers. And we’ve done that already anyway.

We’ve gone hiking, but we do that with the kids and it’s getting dark so early now, I’m worried we’ll surprise a skunk, which would make for a memorable Date Night, but not a terribly fun one.

Last time we had a Date Night, we went to the lawyer’s office and signed our wills and then went grocery shopping. Read More

Bookends: September 2015

We’ve had an oddly hot September here in southern New England, which seems to be confusing the trees. The maples in our yard are dropping their leaves without even changing colors. With as many years as I spent in California, I’m accustomed to this kind of fall, but if I’m going to have a California autumn, I’d prefer to have a California winter, which I think is unrealistic to expect (at least for a few more decades).

But we’re coming into some cooler, rainier weather that promises to feel more like apple-picking weather, so maybe the leaves will get the hint before the snow falls.

In any event, here are September’s books…

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Wordless: Miracle

“Quick, Mom! Come out to the backyard! It’s a miracle!” said my six-year-old.


September 2015

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a person susceptible to both anxiety and to pessimistic feelings about my species, I should probably be more selective about what I read.

At the end of the chapter about bats, I took a dusk walk through our New England neighborhood. I walked the paved sidewalks beside the green lawns, listening to the crickets and watching the bats against the darkening sky, and I wondered if these bats would survive the winter, or would they succumb to white-nose syndrome before spring as thousands and thousands of bats have already?

This thought pulled a depressing veil over an otherwise pleasant autumn walk, and I found myself wanting to find a way out of this mood and this reality. Then I spent a night of restless sleep dreaming of trying to find an escape route to save my family as we were being pursued by people wearing coveralls and police uniforms (though they were clearly neither peace officers nor home repair professionals).

I see the appeal of denial, of just shrugging my shoulders and buying a second car which I’ll idle at the street corner while my kids wait for the school bus without a thought for the long-term effects of the fossil fuels I’m burning or the manner in which they must be procured or what will happen to my vehicle when I decide I want a new one. It’s tiring to think of all of these things all of the time, especially when any of my personal choices amount to a fraction of a drop in an enormous bucket. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about them. And then I pick up a book that just reiterates all of these thoughts. Read More

Bonus Photo Post: Grid


Getting artsy for the Weekly Photo Challenge. I kind of feel like I’m in a cage when I look at this photo.

September 2015

Wordless: Garden


August 2015.

Guess Who


Lincoln MemorialMe: Do you know who that statue is?

6yo: Oh! I know him! I’ll give you a hint. His first name starts with “Z” and his second name starts with “M.”

Me: Um. Well, the name I know him by doesn’t start with those letters.

6yo: No, my friend told me all about him. His name has “Z” and “M.” He’s from DC Comics.

Me: No, this statue is of someone who was president of the United States.

6yo: Oh, well maybe he isn’t from DC Comics. His name is Zombie Man!

Me: Well, I know him as Abraham Lincoln.

6yo: Oh, yes! Abraham Lincoln! From the penny!

Me: Yes. Abraham Lincoln. From the penny.


I suppose I should feel grateful that he remembered that Lincoln is on the penny and that somewhere in his head is a connection to DC. It’s a decent start for a six-year-old.


Morning Routine

My alarm vibrates at 5:30 a.m., working its way into my dream as a bug or a weird dance beat or something wrong with my car. I wake up long enough to turn it off and think, “I’ll just sleep until my spouse wakes up. I need more sleep anyway.”

At about 6:00 a.m., I get out of bed and head to the bathroom where I weigh myself, put on my workout clothes, and re-braid my hair if it’s too loose to stay up while I exercise.

In the kitchen I fill my water glass, leaving some drips in the bottom of the sink for the cat. I take my thyroid meds and then walk blearily downstairs.

While the computer boots up, I scoop the litter boxes, sweep the floor, empty the dehumidifier reservoir, refill the cat’s water dish, and wash my hands. On mornings when I sleep in later, my spouse has done everything but refill the water dish (and wash my hands).

I type in my password and put on my shoes while everything’s loading up.

I click the links in my Fitness Blender plan to bring up the day’s workouts, record my weight on the FitBit dashboard, then check e-mail and Facebook until I get so disgusted with my laziness that I make myself actually get up and exercise.

After forty to eighty minutes of jumping around the basement, I take off my shoes, log my workout, then hobble back upstairs.

I interrupt the children’s play to instruct them to start eating breakfast, then I go take a shower and get dressed for the day, making beds and stowing dirty clothes along the way.

Back in the kitchen, I once again tell the children to eat breakfast, then I put fruit in a bowl, a grain-free muffin on a plate, and decaf on to percolate. When everything is ready, I sit down at the table and eat my breakfast and drink my coffee while I do a NY Times crossword puzzle on the laptop. The kids know it’s time to do homeschool when they hear the little song that means I’ve finished the puzzle. (They get much more time to play on Fridays than they do on Mondays.)

Then we all brush our teeth and start our studies.

This is what I’ve done nearly every morning since October 2014, except Sundays, which is my exercise day off. On Sundays, I try to take a walk before breakfast in the time I otherwise do exercise videos, but that doesn’t always happen.

I don’t know how exactly this routine started. Ever since I started taking thyroid meds, I’ve had to do something for at least thirty minutes before breakfast, so things just naturally sneak into that space. For a while it was writing, then neighborhood walks. Now it’s exercise videos. Over the years, the ritual has just become more and more elaborate around this thirty-minute wait.

If I don’t do this routine, I end up in a very irritable mood. Even on vacation, I try to maintain some variation of the routine, for my sanity and for the benefit of everyone with whom I’m likely to come into contact. I’m kind of like David Banner in the late-1970’s Hulk TV show—“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”—except that I take more personal responsibility for my moods.

And sometimes I don’t do the routine because I’ve woken up in a very irritable mood. Last week, the routine got derailed because I got pissed off at the Fitness Blender workout I was doing. I shut off the thing with twenty minutes to spare and stomped upstairs swearing about Daniel and Kelli.

My spouse stared wide-eyed and tried not to make any sudden movements. The kids just ignored me.

Although this routine’s been working well-ish for almost a year, lately I’ve found myself wanting to change things up a little. I have no idea what kind of change to make, so I’ll probably just flail about for a few weeks until I either fall into a new routine or become happy with the old one again.

How do you start your day? Do you have a morning ritual? If so, can I borrow some of it for myself?

Is That Me Yelling? by Rona Renner

Is That Me Yelling?: A Parent's Guide to Getting Your Kids to Cooperate Without Losing Your Cool
Is That Me Yelling?: A Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids to Cooperate Without Losing Your Cool by Rona Renner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another book that called to me from the parenting shelves of the library, which are conveniently located for browsing with one eye while with the other eye I try to make sure my six-year-old doesn’t boss around the toddlers at the train table too much.

When we got it home, my ten-year-old began reading it first, as she does with most parenting books. And also as she does with most parenting books, she gave me advice based one what she’d read. Read More