January 2009

Photohunt: Furry

For more Photohunt, visit tnchick.

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Will, and all his parts.

The kids stood in the crowded elevator enjoying the bounce at each stop up to the 6th floor. “It feels funny, doesn’t it?” Paul asked them.

“It makes my penis feel funny!” Will exclaimed to half of New Orleans.*

And with that, we entered the pediatrician’s office.

What we know: there does not seem to be fluid in his ear, an access of ear wax interfering with “membrane movement,” or anything else in there that would displace enough air to make anyone concerned. He is scheduled for additional testing at Children’s on Wednesday. Damn. I was really hoping for a slam duck on this one… and now I’m thinking that he’s physically fine and instead has some larger, big picture issue. Like, he’s just being five. And five can just be weird. No drug treatment for this.

But while we’re on the subject of Will, I thought I’d share what I know will be his most favorite picture of all time. One that he posed for purposely and requested photographic capture:

Well, this one could be a close second.

* We’ve had some practice with this before.

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What makes tubby time the very best time of the whole day?

Kate: “I look silly!”

Kate: “I love it!”

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On Being Heard, or Not Heard, and what lies between.

One of the best lessons I learned during my social work internship at Michigan hospital system was from a Mother of a sick child.  She described how she used to think that families with sick kids were stronger people, that she would never be able to handle it if one of her kids got sick.  “But now,” and I’m paraphrasing her here, “I know the truth.  We’re not stronger than anyone, we are just doing what we have to do.”

Her words have stuck with me all through my parenting.  That there is no immunity from illness and, as a parent, anything can happen.

Being a parent of two healthy children, I am so selfishly ignorant of thinking about their health.  I don’t worry about them because I know that they are healthy kids.   And when I see kids without the same opportunities for health: whether it is because they are limited in access to quality food and water, or to adequate medicines, or do not have the right identification to be allowed medical care — and I feel anger and shame and sadness for the screwed up ways of the world, my thoughts go to the parents.  Who are, more often than not, just regular people trying to do what they have to do.

So it’s not that I don’t believe that my kids can be sick.  It’s just that, unless they are bleeding or turning blue, I have a hard time believing that what is happening is any other than completely normal.  They are healthy kids who have everything they need.  Besides, I’m the Mom.  I’d notice if something were really, really wrong.  Right?

Um, well, maybe not.

And then.

We had the kids’ second parent-teacher conferences last night.  Will, the child who a few months ago was proclaimed “amazing,” had a mixed report card.  He is very quiet.  He is often in his own little world.  When he speaks French, it’s often difficult to understand.  To ‘test’ them for their reports this week, the teacher played a tape of a story they had heard many times before.  Then they were asked to repeat back parts of the story with cards that they organized in the stages of that story.  Will knew the story, could describe it, but was unable to repeat back the phrases from the tape.  Instead, he gave mumbled responses that were difficult to hear and understand, or, he repeated back phrases that had similar sounds but totally different meanings — like similarly sounding phrases from other songs or stories.  The bottom line:

“Do you think that maybe he is having trouble hearing?”

If you heard the giant GONG sound that rung through New Orleans late yesterday afternoon, it was the sound of the mammoth cymbal in my head, calling my attention to the obvious.  Oh my goodness.  Weren’t Paul and I just wondering about Will’s hearing a few days ago?

I explored it when we were alone, driving to Kate’s appointment.  “Will, do things ever sound funny to you?”

“Yeah, a lot of times, I hear two things.”

“Two things?”

“Yeah, like two voices.”

GONG.  Um, maybe like an echo, Mom?

And then, Kate’s teacher, whose son has had chronic ear problems for almost a decade, “we didn’t realize my son was having problems because he was reading lips.”


A list formed in my head….Couldn’t repeat back lines from a tape.  Can’t understand my directions unless I make him look at my face.  Irritable for no reason.  Complains that there is too much wax in his ear.  History of fluid build up with no fever.

Head, *desk*.

And still, I hesitate.  Am I being alarmist to think that there is a hearing loss issue here?  Sometimes, kids don’t listen. That is normal. Maybe he’s just over school or listening or whatever. Maybe he’s just being surly. Surely, I couldn’t miss something like hearing loss in my child FOR MONTHS?  Could I…?

Well, I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.  He’s being seen by the pediatrician for a hearing test… during the same appointment Kate has for getting her ears checked.  Am I the least observant Mother on the planet?  Or the most hardened?  Or am I just clueless?

Stay tuned.


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Off to the Market!

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Photohunt: Chipped

The word “chipped” makes me think of three things: ham, china, and attitude.

Chipped ham is what we get in Pittsburgh when visiting my extended family.  No one else does it quite the same, in little pieces so fine that they clump together — little ‘chipped’ pieces of meat.

Everyone’s got some sort of chipped china-ware in their house.  Or if they don’t, they are stressing about where and when it will inevitably come.

Attitude?  It comes from the phrase “chip on the shoulder,” meaning you’ve got some attitude.  Granted, you can’t really have a “chipped” on your shoulder, but I can’t really stop my brain from making word associations, can I?   That is why you must be very careful when talking to me about that round, juicy, sweet produce you picked up at yesterday’s market.

When I thought of attitude, I thought of this picture.

It was taken in the dusty young town of Pachacutec, in the extreme end of the Northern Cone of Lima, Peru.  Lima is a huge city of over 8 million clinging to the strip of desert between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean.  Fresh water is extremely limited; in this community, water is literally trucked in a few times a week, filled by hose into outdoor barrels.  More than half of the city’s population has less water per day than the UNHCR standard allowance of 20 liters.  In this type of environment, “clean” is a relative term: “clean” is when a dirt floor is swept, and the grime on children’s faces is rearranged by a dry, dusty cloth.  Our concept of “hygiene” is not possible, nor can it even be conceptualized, in a place where water is so scarce and poverty so pressing.

There was a big, brightly painted bus outside of one of the health clinics my friend Barbara took the health class to last summer.  The bus was the local government’s response to the paucity of health care facilities in the community (e.g.: 1 pediatrician working 2-3 times a week in for a community of over 200,000).  It boldly sat outside a worn health post, fading into the surrounding buildings in muted grays and browns.  The huge faces of children smiling with toothy grins seemed to make all sorts of unbelievable promises… along side the name of the local mayor.  I took a few pictures of the bus and a makeshift market outside of it, selling decorations for a celebration at one of the schools.  Then, two boys approached me directly and asked to have their pictures taken.  “Por supuesto,” I said.  Then they wiped grins off their faces and posed.  I paused and laughed, “estan seguros?” I wanted to be sure that this was what they wanted.  “SI!”

And I love the picture.  I love it because it’s in front of that damn bus, that although helpful to a few will have no chance of reaching the many.  I love it because the message is to me and all the other immeasurably privileged people that will see it, people with opportunities that they could not dream to have.  I love it because it says to me, ‘what? you want to see how rough it is to live here? well, screw you.  If you want to do something about it, then do it.  But don’t expect me to be all pitiful and thankful to whatever you throw my way.’

Finally, I love it because, underneath it all, they are just kids with senses of humor and pride and love and goodness — savvy enough to understand their perceived place in the world and throw out a little statement about it.

And they are exactly right.

In my view, no one deserves to have more of a chip than these kids.

For more takes on “Chipped” — please check out the rest of the Photohunt at tnchick.

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He is 5 years going on 15, Mother is unprepared.

Kids these days are just growing up so young. At least, this is what I’d heard. But I had no idea that it was the actual truth. Remember that kid of mine? The five year old? Yeah, well, he is now fifteen.

And he is SO OVER us.

It feels like it was just yesterday that I was forcing him into his clothes. Or video-taping him in a school dance. Or passing by the bathroom to find him happily sitting on the can, reading a book about ducks.

Now?  Well, NOW, his once colorful vocabulary has been replaced by the following phrases: “I don’t know” “No” and “This is SO BORING.”  That once bright and cheery disposition has been replaced with eye rolling, deadpan stares, and dragging feet.  In an instant, I have become the annoying after-school special parent.  The perky one whose very existence is such an unbelievable burden that it is nearly impossible to get out bed each morning, put on the clothes she washed, walk down to eat the breakfast she’s made, off of the plates that she’ll clean and put away.

Because Moms are, like, SO LAME.

On the days I pick him up from school, this is the typical exchange:

“Hi, Will!”  I’ll say much too perkily, “What did you do at school today?”

Will is silent.  He cannot speak while within viewing distance of the school. He melts into his seat, clearly pained to be seen. Did you know how difficult it is to like, breathe and stuff??

“Will? Will? WILL? Are you there?” I hate to be ignored.

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT I DID AT SCHOOL TODAY.”  He’s working hard to end the conversation before it starts.  I’m not yet convinced.  I mean, he used to just need a little help remembering...

“You don’t remember?”


I wait.  Maybe he needs some time?  Five minutes later…

“Hey Will, did you have art today?”   pause.  “Or English with Ms. Roxanna?”  These are his favorites, maybe he’ll talk about this?

“I.  don’t.  know.”

“Did you…”  Okay.  Now I’m just being silly.  I’m about to ask him if he went skydiving or visited Pluto or watched Dangerous Liaisons or learned about existential philosophy.  Sometimes, it makes him laugh?

“Mommy, do we have to talk? It’s SO BORING.”  That’s it.  He’s made it clear.  He’s not interested in playing my reindeer games.

Then, this morning, as he jumped out of his seat to run into school, he made the teacher pause just a second as he climbed to the front to plant a big kiss, square on my lips.  In front of the school, teachers, friends, and everyone.  If I look a little frazzled today, it’s because I’m still recovering from the shock.

Maybe I’m not so bad after all?  At least, not yet…


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Wii Oui!

Our household had a big surprise a few days before Christmas, when a Wii game console suddenly showed up at our front door.

Turns out, friends of ours read that we had no plans to get one for the holidays, what with cash tight and yadda yadda.  They thought about how much they loved theirs, phoned up a friend who runs a Game Store, and sent us a Wii.  Just like that.

The generosity of it still has us in shock.  All we really can say about it is that it goes to what we’ve known for years: people from Pittsburgh are simply GOOD PEOPLE.

We’ve been slowly trying it out over the past few weeks.  It is very, very cool.

Then, yesterday, I scored a Wii Fit board for $89.  And OH. MY. GOODNESS.

Here is some video of the kids… golf, yoga, and our personal favorite, Kate skiing.

Kids Wii… Yoga, Golf, Skiing from Cold Spaghetti on Vimeo.

The Fit is a household HIT.  And inspired the following Facebook discussion by Paul:

Paul’s Facebook Update, 6:08am, January 21: Paul can’t help idly speculating about Wii Kama Sutra now that he’s tried the Wii Fit.

A friend at 6:19am
That’s just wrong. Interesting, but wrong.

Another friend at 7:07am
Have you seen the Wii Pee? I think it is only in Japan, but damm that is funny.

Yet another at 7:25am
Sounds hilarious!

Still another at 7:38am
“Daddy, why does the Wii-mote smell like potty?”

Me at 8:49am
NOW I know what you’re spending all that time coding over…

Different friend at 11:23am
That is soooooo funny! LMAO! You know I could imagine it, I was called to a domestic dispute that turned out to be a husband and wife playing Wii Boxing!! The neighbors could see them through the window and called 911! Imagine the calls for the new Kama Sutra!

Back to Paul at 10:19pm
Well, given that iPod Touches, Wii Fit, and MySpace are all hot items right now, I have decided to seek venture capital to fund me to develop an iPod Touch application that can be used to publish your Wii Fit progress to your MySpace Page. I figure I can call it “iTouch myWii”.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it.  My darling husband, the future creator of “iTouch myWii.”

And Ed and Brenda: THANK YOU!!!


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Two Nights of Women. Out on the town.

First, it was the Nuovo Anno Art Show.  Actually, it turns out I didn’t photograph much of the art.  Huh.

In my defense, I was drunk off the giddy high of being out past 8pm.  Granted, Will was with me, eating a vat of peanut butter and chocolate chip gelato big enough to bathe in, happily playing on the computer with his friends in the back office.  But for most of the evening, it was adult conversation.

Emmy and I owe great thanks to Paul, who stayed in with Kate and Elliot.  We came back at 10pm to find Paul hoarse, having read 12 stories to the two sleeping buddies cuddled together on the couch.

Here are some things I picked up from this (big) Night Out:

– PlayhouseDisney.com is a good place to go for internet games for kids.  The “sandwich game” is recommended.

– Spanish speaking parents keeping their kids in French school is a good plan: you can cover more of Europe that way.

– Maternity leave can help you refocus on the good points of your job.

– Third babies are way chill.

Then, the following night was girls’ night.  It was pretty low-key, mostly because I volunteered my house  with the (almost) sleeping kids in the back.  This was my first real girls night in a long, long time, so I kept my eyes open for rules.

The first rule is to arrive.  This is actually more of a challenge than it seems: one of the assembly fell asleep while putting her child to bed and didn’t make it.

The second rule is that women should protect the fantasy that girls nights are big tickle parties between women wearing white panties.  In the future, we will do a better job of taking pictures of our underwear on the ceiling fan just to keep hope alive.

The third rule is married women with children are fascinated by the stories of what other adults do when they don’t have to worry about cleaning macaroni off the floor each night.  Sex clubs.  Tribute bands.  The knowledge of how to pay for a round of drinks.

That’s two nights out of the house, back to back.  I’ve officially met my quota of personal time for the next 3 years.

Family Life in NOLA

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A plea.

We’re shopping for a new host provider.

Need: ability to self-administer sites, good network capacity and storage, decent affordability, good communication when there is a problem.

And to Dreamhost… it’s one thing to have repeated outages for long spans of time (24 hours+).  It’s something else all together to report that ‘the problem will resolve in 5 minutes’ for the entire outtage.


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