The State of the Union – July 2016

I’ve been working on this clip show post for a while…a long enough while that my original plan was to post on July 1, as a halfway-through-the-year thing. Oh well!

2016 has been good to us so far!

IMG_8181Baby H has grown out of her colicky newborn phase, and into a brilliant, adorable baby (who still has quite the voice when she wants to submit her disapproval of something). She’s 10 months and change now, talkative, opinionated, hungry. She stands on her own and has taken a couple little tiny one-off steps, but we’re expecting that to escalate quickly any day now. She’s been into light switches for a few days but could only turn them off, but today she figured out on, and now that will keep her occupied for a while. I want to put her in dresses more often, but they hinder her movement and she gets mad, which is cute. The last few weeks, she has really sucked at naps, which is frustrating, but I’m hoping it’s a phase. It might be tooth #8 attempting to make an appearance. But we try to blame a lot of things on teething.

IMG_8220As B gets closer to his fourth year, we’re seeing a change in his personality. Like maybe there is a light at the end of this threes tunnel. He started preschool about a month ago and he seems to love it. The other day he brought home his first artwork: a painted fish and a drawing of seaweed. I think they’re doing an ocean unit. He’s a chatterbox and it’s funny (but enlightening) how often I hear my words coming out of his mouth. Today he kept telling me, “Uh oh Mommy, that car cut us off!” That happened days ago, but he’s apparently got some road rage left over. We put up some rainbow lights in his room (which we use as a nightlight now) and this morning when I took H in to get him up, he was trying to show them to her. He said “Look, Baby H, look at my lights! Uh oh, she’s lookin the wrong way. Look over here!” It was so adorable and so human. Or something. We’ve been going out to a lot of parks and playgrounds, trying to find new cool places. Last weekend we went to Frontierland near us, which wasn’t new, but we haven’t been there since B was much younger. This was the first time we’ve gone anywhere that we both felt more comfortable letting him out of our sight – going short periods of times not knowing exactly where he was. It was a new experience and, I think, a big milestone for us as much as for him. His birthday’s in a couple months and we’re trying to figure out what we should do this year.


B and H at 10.5 months

Drew started a new job as a social worker three weeks ago. He has a big caseload and I’m overwhelmed for him at the idea of tackling so much right off the bat, with very little training. He seems to be doing fine though. It’s actually his first office job, so he keeps asking me things like “Do you share your Outlook calendar with your coworkers?” which I think is funny. (The answer of course is NO! Haha, just kidding.) The new job means he’s not on 24/7 call anymore, which is nice, but he’s far less accessible to me during the day, which means fewer texts. My life is so hard.

I’m currently on my last regular class of my master’s program. After this I have two terms that will just be thesis writing, and then around the new year I’ll be done! I can’t believe it’s almost over – it’s kind of sad in a way. I’m intimidated by the idea of writing a thesis (and within, like, a 5 month period) but also really, really excited. I’m also hoping to parlay this experience into an online teaching position, since I know now that I have the time to devote to it.

IMG_7637We’ve been seeing a lot of whales near the Pacifica pier lately. It’s been really cool. Apparently there is actually a larger than usual number of them, and they are mostly humpback whales, which are extra acrobatic. We see them when we’re driving past the ocean, or even coming down the hill, from further away, or when we go for walks. I’ve never seen so many whales in the wild, and it’s really encouraging and awesome to see them. (I guess there are also extra blue whales, gray whales, and great white sharks out lately on this part of the coast, which all feels like good news to me. Yay nature!) Anyway, that’s been a fun thing so far this summer. B will now say, “Oh! Did you see that? It was a baby whale!” even if he probably didn’t see anything. It’s that mimicry thing coming out again.

So. Happy 2016 y’all.

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Let Me Google That For You

Let Me Google That For You is a fantastic passive aggressive tool if you know someone who asks you a lot of questions, and you’d like to alienate them. For example, let’s say your cousin keeps texting you and you want to end the conversation but then she asks, “Hey, what’s the order of operations again?” You pull up LMGTFY, and send her this link:

(Okay, but seriously, you have to click the link to get the full effect.)

(Did you do it?)


Now your cousin feels dumb and thinks you’re kind of a douche, but theoretically she lays off on asking you questions that she can literally just look up herself, maybe even easier than asking you. Great job.

I have LMGTFY anxiety. Sometimes I’ll be asking someone something, and then I’ll stop and be like, I should just look this up myself. I don’t need to bother them. I can find this answer on the internet in probably less than 10 seconds.

But here’s the thing: by deleting that half-typed text, there’s an element of social interaction that gets lost. I can look up facts about Survivor, or I can ask Jonathan and he can wax poetic about it and give me his analysis. I can google that movie with Brittany Murphy that I saw back in high school…or I can start up a conversation with Kirsten and we can try to figure out what the name of it was. And Drew…well, I don’t really have a filter with him, so I’m pretty much just asking questions 24/7, but he’s kind of developed a sort of verbal LMGTFY, or at least a tone that says the same thing, that he can bring out from time to time.

So while I approve the use of LMGTFY when it’s amusing, and I am constantly impressed by the wealth of information available at our fingertips any time of day or night…I don’t want to completely give up on asking questions of my friends. To do so would be killing off a certain amount of conversation and personal connection.

Okay. Ask me your best LMGTFY question. I’ll do my best to answer it without snark.

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It sings because it has a song

So here’s what happened.

Last spring, the USPS released a commemorative Maya Angelou stamp with her name, picture, and a quote popularly attributed to her: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Then, after they had done the entire print run, and had the unveiling ceremony, someone pointed out that that quote is actually from a poem by another, lesser-known writer, and probably just reminded people of Angelou because of the title of her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

The USPS handled it well. They basically shrugged and said, We’ve printed them all already, so we’ll just go ahead. It didn’t seem like anyone was too concerned. Apparently this gets misattributed to her all the time. Nbd.

I was fascinated by this story when I heard it, because that is a pretty huge screw-up by an organization that maybe should have known better. Someone should have checked that quote more than just googling it with Maya Angelou’s name and then ticking off that box. As someone who frequently has to answer for relatively innocuous errors in emails as well as in printed pieces, making a mistake this big would freak me out. So I also love that the USPS was just like, Eh. (Also because I find the USPS frustrating, and so of course they wouldn’t fact check or worry about this.)

I bought a sheet of these stamps, and then because I’m practical, used all of them – all but one. I’m saving that one. To remind myself that even if you set out to honor one of America’s unofficial poet laureates, but totally botch it, and even if you have printed EIGHTY MILLION stamps with a misattributed quote, you don’t have to retract the stamps, reprint with a correct quote, or even admit your mistake (most of the statements printed from the USPS higher ups have them insisting that the quote has been so long attributed to her that their fact checking was misled). You can just go ahead, sell your stamps, and then move on with your life. Nbd.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.” -Copernicus

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For the NPR version of the story, click here.


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Sleep Talking 34: Hurty Throat Sneeze

It’s not really talking, so much as it is an epiphany for me.

The other night, around 12:45, I was awakened by Drew sneezing (?) face down into his pillow (??) and then sitting straight up on the side of the bed. He sat there a while, until I finally said, “Are you okay?” He said, “I hurt my throat.”

Then he picked up his phone and was looking at something, and then he set it back down and he lay down* like he was going to go back to sleep. His phone was so bright and Baby H was starting to stir in her bed, and after a minute or two I thought, Actually, if that wakes her up I’ll be really bummed, so I sat up to see if it was going to go off.

He said, “What’s wrong?” and I said, “That is really bright,” and then it dimmed the way it does right before it turns off, but then he picked it up again and turned the screen back on, and then set it back down, bright again.

After a minute it turned off, and H didn’t wake up, and everyone went back to sleep. And, of course, he didn’t remember any of it in the morning.

So I think the moral is, if, in the middle of the night, I think something’s wrong with him (hurty throat sneeze) and he’s doing something for a reason (leaving his phone on and face up), he’s definitely not, and he definitely has no idea what he’s doing. Good to know.

*Grammar is not my strong suit, and I looked this up to make sure this was the correct lay/laid/lain/lie/lied word, and according to Grammarist it is, even if it looks weird.

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June Flash Fiction Challenge

I roped some friends into doing this flash fiction challenge with me. It’s one piece per day, for the entire month of June. (“One piece,” meaning 300-500 words that tell a complete, albeit miniature, story.)

There are four of us, and I just now realized that we each have two kids – except for one, who is currently pregnant with her second. I didn’t deliberately limit it to us four, except I feel close to each of them (which is weird when we’re scattered around the world), and I felt like each person would benefit, enjoy it, and actually participate, for the most part.

(The only thing is, unlike the 30-day ab challenge or 30-day squat challenge, I forgot to build in “rest” days. Oops.)

If you want to play along, here are the prompts we’re using, curated from various lists I’ve seen online. We’re just going through day by day.

Write a story…

  1. That takes place in a car.
  2. Where the weather changes, and this also changes the story.
  3. In the form of a monologue.
  4. Involving fire.
  5. In less than 100 words.
  6. About a romance.
  7. Based on something that happened to you yesterday.
  8. Involving an operation.
  9. Focusing around a particular scent.
  10. With the theme of “fault.”
  11. Featuring the color orange.
  12. About an animal.
  13. Composed entirely of dialogue.
  14. That takes place near water.
  15. Where someone suffers a bout of bad luck.
  16. That uses the device of repetition.
  17. Set in the summer.
  18. That begins with a death.
  19. Using the second person POV.
  20. That takes place while it’s snowing.
  21. Where the ending comes first.
  22. Where someone is hiding something.
  23. That’s scary.
  24. Where knots are a symbol.
  25. About a character who is giving up.
  26. With the theme “the day after.”
  27. That consists of just one long sentence.
  28. About someone losing one of their five senses.
  29. About a child.
  30. That ends with a song lyric.

I love flash fiction. And it’s only day 2 but so far I’ve loved every story I’ve read by these other writers. This game is the best idea I’ve ever had. =)

Here is my Day 2 story: “Where the weather changes, and this also changes the story.” (It doesn’t make any sense, I know that, but making sense isn’t really the point.)

There Goes The Neighborhood

Ahasbai couldn’t suffer a fool, and didn’t like being ignored, so when the neighbors started up with their hammering and crashing and banging around again early one morning, he heaved himself up out of bed and threw open the front door.

“What is your PROBLEM?” he shouted, but it seemed they could barely hear him over the racket they were making. Wooden beams were everywhere in their yard. Planks and tools were scattered around. The old man and his sons didn’t seem to believe in cleaning up after themselves while they were working. They had constructed a huge wooden structure in the part of their yard hidden from the general view by the house and a large copse of trees.

Even though he was dressed for sleep, Ahasbai quickly crossed his own yard to theirs. The entire family was out, it seemed, and they all seemed to notice him at the same time…all except for the old man.

“I have told you BEFORE,” he shouted. “LISTEN TO ME, old man!”

Noah looked up, and Ahasbai realized that Noah had known he was there the whole time. He had just chosen to ignore him and go on with his own work. This made him even angrier, so he snapped, “Just what in God’s name do you think you’re building?”

One of Noah’s sons started to speak, but Noah held his hand up. “You will see,” he said calmly, then went back to his sawing as if nothing was out of order and no one was furious with anyone else.

Ahasbai felt his blood boil. He stomped back to his home, waking up everyone sleeping within. He organized his large family into a recruitment team, sending everyone from his mother-in-law to his youngest daughter, just six years old, around the neighborhood to rouse their friends. Gradually his yard filled up with their neighbors, and he made it a point to speak to each one individually, ranting around what a disturbance Noah’s family was, and what an eyesore their latest outbuilding was.

Slyly, he suggested they take action to a couple of the most loud-mouthed men, and soon the crowd was chanting “Tear it DOWN! Tear it DOWN!” At this point, Ahasbai slunk away into the back, to watch the action without being at the forefront. He put an arm around his wife, who paused in her chanting to kiss his cheek and smile at him proudly.

The most agitated and aggressive members of the crowd had just started to cross over to Noah’s yard, when the first raindrops began to fall.


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Scandal at the Cloisters

I’ve been listening to this audiobook for the last couple weeks: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter. (I gave it 3 stars. It was engaging and I found myself eager to find out what happened next, but it was a little over the top and purple, and I felt like the performance was just adequate. The woman reading had kind of a nightly news intonation. Lots of sentences ended like she was saying, “More at 11.”)

When the audiobook ended, it immediately went into another story, called Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes. I figured it was a short story attached to the novel, and I had basically my entire commute left, so I listened to the first half of it.

When I got home, I looked up the story on Goodreads to see if it was a legit, published story. It is. Then I was looking through other users’ reviews. That’s where I found this vastly more interesting short story, unfolding in the comments section of one review. Enjoy!

(To protect the innocent, I color-coded them.) (I know it’s kind of hard to read, sorry about that – I couldn’t go smaller than this without the images becoming thumbnails.)


It just went right off the rails, right? Like, Blue has a weird sense of the social boundaries of the Goodreads review forum. And I think it’s weird to go back and forth between talking about some fluffy thriller novel and a beloved family member’s final resting place. And can it be legal to scatter ashes in the Cloisters? I think not.

Anyway, Pretty Girls was all right – if a bit graphic – for a commute audiobook.

Also, I didn’t finish Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes.

Oh also! The shade thrown at Gillian Flynn’s The Grownup is totally unwarranted.

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Saying mama

Baby H is about to turn seven months old. On the one hand, how can it be seven already? On the other hand…only seven? Really?

Parenting sometimes makes me exhibit split personality disorder-like symptoms.

She has been babbling and making more and more noises, but to my great chagrin, she will not make a mama sound. She loves dada, although I think she thinks it means dancing, and she says it to get us to dance.

So I’ve been thinking about the mama sound, and how it’s one of those words that’s so universal over different languages. I used google translate to check several different languages, and found maman (French), mama (Spanish, German, Russian), mamma (Italian, Swedish), and maminka (Czech). (I tried to check some Asian and Middle Eastern languages but since the alphabets are different, google translate was unhelpful, and honestly, I did minimal research on this in order to not dispute my own theory. #confirmationbias)

I read an article that suggested that babies first gravitate towards the m, p, and b sounds because they are the easiest to make. They come entirely from the lips, no teeth or tongue required. Why then would babies around the world naturally associate mama with mother, rather than papa or baba? This same article called the mama sound a “slight nasal murmur” that babies make while breastfeeding – meaning “mama” first signifies to them food, and it becomes associated with mother after that.

This seems like a good theory to me. I accept it.

My follow up question is then – why is the other word that comes to mind as being very similar across languages – “no”? (French non, Spanish/Italian no, German nein, Russian nyet, Swedish nej, Czech ne)

Does this mean that moms are somehow linked to “no”? Because it does feel like that.

Parenting does sometimes make me feel like I’m just saying “No” all day long.

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