Grumpy on the road: I hate packing

Since I’m the default parent, I do all the packing whenever we travel. I make sure everyone has everything they need, soup to nuts, head to toe, alpha to omega.

No one does that for me. They just ask me questions and distract me. So when I was packing yesterday, I ping-pinged around the house as usual. 

Tonight as I was getting ready to jump in the shower at our hotel, I suffered the miserable realization that I failed to pack any underwear or socks for myself (all other clan members are fully stocked). I had those drawers open and was ready to pull items. But something obviously distracted me. I don’t even remember what. 

I have no clean underwear or socks. That is all. 

Grumpy on the road: airport

We’re at Chicago O’Hare waiting for our flight to California. A week in warmer climes, so I can’t complain.  But I can still be grumpy, because I had to get up at 5 am and I’ll be on an airplane for 5 hours with two kids. 

Too many grown ups at airports, especially the business travel set,  don’t respect children. It’s like they think kids aren’t actual human beings. Some guy just walked up behind Nick as we walked to our gate and got right up in his personal space, practically ramming Nick with his roller luggage and pushing Nick out of the way. I hustled Nick to the side just to keep him from being hurt. An “excuse me” would have been appropriate. Or better yet, some ordinary patience, because all this fellow was doing was walking to a chair to sit his pushy ass down and wait for the same plane as us. 

Well. I’ll take some deep breaths. Maybe not-thoughtful man will be seated in the row ahead of us. I’ll put Nick in the seat right behind him and give him a few hours to remember. Nick’s volume control button already appears to be broken. 

grumpy about the stupid URL

I don’t understand the internet and blogging. I haven’t bothered to work it out. But I did manage to purchase a URL from WordPress when I started this aimless blog. I hate URLs because the words get all bunched together, just like hashtags. I hate hashtags. Words aren’t supposed to be mooshed together.

But I bought the “grumpy for no reason” URL for twenty bucks. Because it’s my brand, maaaan. But after a few months I realized that when I entered my web address in that line at the top of my browser window, the ghost in the machine couldn’t find my website. It was like the address didn’t actually exist. Well that sucks, WordPress, what are you doing wrong here? Helloooo.

And anyway, “” just looks so funny and stupid. It’s all mooshy and makes no sense. So I did nothing about it. I had laundry to do.

One year and two months later, late last night, I suddenly noticed something. The domain I purchased is “”

Aaaaw come ON. With all the words mooshed together how was I supposed to spot the extra R?? Damn you, user error, damn you!!

I tried to rectify this dismal situation this morning. But someone somewhere already owns the URL “” Why? Why? There’s no website to visit. Whoever did it probably just wanted to give me a shitty day. I hate people. Maybe the URL was already taken when I started this blog 14 months ago. Who knows.

But I’m a problem solver. I’m a solution maker. I get things done. I’m can do. I think outside the box. I live in an emotional box, built by the excruciating and constant needs of my kids, but I think outside the box.

The first time I heard the phrase think-outside-the-box  —

NO! Shut up Carla, stop blathering NOW. I have a better idea. I’ll enter the URL “” Let’s see what happens.

WHOA! It took me to a different site,, which consists entirely of a blank white page with these words in the middle:

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 3.12.42 PM

I am very suspicious indeed. Maybe futurespark stole my URL, or maybe something bad is happening to my computer now. I’ll just close that window.

So this morning I bought myself a proper URL. grumpyfornoreason isn’t available (anymore?), nor is (I can apparently buy that from some unidentified entity for any value greater than $10,000). Why can’t I just do “grumpy for no reason” with proper spacing? Why hasn’t anyone updated the modern keyboard to include an invisible character? Split the space bar in half. Left half, old-fashioned space; right half, invisible character. Label it “INV.” If we can make emoticons and hand signals and other shit appear with a keystroke, why not an invisible character? Then you’d be able to have a proper URL that peeps can read.

Anyway, here’s GFNR’s new web address (though you can still also find me at the misspelled site): “” It feels a little emphatic, but maybe that works for me. When tech geeks finally establish a proper invisible character, I’ll fix it.

Grumpy about separation anxiety

My kids were born with terrible cases of separation anxiety. All they wanted to do as babies was hang onto Anthony or me 24-7 like little monkeys. What’s up with that? I read everywhere that my babies would sleep through the night for 14 hours by the time they were three months old, and also they’d enjoy hanging out by themselves in bassinets and face down on carpets, staring blankly at bright red-and-black plastic toys that make analog noises. Obviously, my children have some significant disorder that caused their reality to veer hard from the life of ease that’s allegedly available to all other parents and babies. Or I have a parenting disorder.

Jesse used to have terrible, terrible separation issues when she was a really wee one, and of course eventually we learned that she does have a disorder in the form of general anxiety. So it’s a good thing we ignored all the books and refused to make her scream her way alone through the nights. Even Grand Sleep Master Ferber acknowledged that a child with anxiety and separation issues shouldn’t be subjected to cry-it-out sleep-training, but he never offered a lick of advice on how a parent goes about determining if a 6-month-old infant has such issues. I found Ferber’s omission outrageous and irresponsible. What was I supposed to do — ask the baby? “Hi sweet pea, woo-joo-boo-jooooo. Do you feel abnormal anxiety about things, my little peanut? Tell me about your deepest fears and nightmares. Woo-joo-boo-jooo.”

Jesse used to cling to me desperately when I dropped her off at school. Sometimes she still does. The only time she consistently didn’t turn back to reach for me was during the 7 months she spent in a Montessori prison, at the tender age of 5. She would get out of the car and never look back as she walked away, her body set, her step resigned as she prepared to face 3.5 hours of emotional abuse from the nasty piece of work who called herself a teacher and pretended to care about Jesse. I still look back on all that with shame, and I’m grateful the memories finally seem to be fading from Jesse’s mind. Why did it take me so long to see that Jesse’s behavior was an indictment of my failure to protect her from something terrible? I suppose I could look back on it with pride. At least I didn’t mistake her depressed walk-away as something positive, hey-look-at-how-independent-she-is-now!

Hm. Nah. Better to feel guilty about it.

Anyway, on the rare occasions when Jesse still needs to cling to me at the schoolhouse doors, I let her cling. I’d rather fill her cup than put another crack in it. Plus it leaves me less grumpy.

Nick also has a lot of separation anxiety, but the last couple months it’s gotten all wacky. He can be sitting in a room with me, not five feet away, wrapped up in some form of play or staring into his iPad. Suddenly he’ll cry out in terror. “MOMMY?? WHERE ARE YOU???”

Every time he screams out like this, I feel goosed. He does it when I’m on the can. He does it when I walk out of the room to get a kleenex. He does it when I go downstairs to do some laundry. Frequently when I head out with a bag of garbage, he’ll race out the kitchen door after me. “MOMMY?? WHERE ARE YOU GOING???” Sometimes he’ll let me walk the dog down the street by myself while he stays in the house. I have to promise to stay without eye-shot of the driveway. Even so, at least half the time he’ll come out to the street in his bare feet to hunt me down. Announcing where I’m going and what I’m about to do makes no difference, because he apparently has the short-term memory of a small-brained dog.

One day he did it while I was playing the piano loudly and badly. Nick was sitting on the floor just a few feet away while I generated some serious decibels. A Chopin ballade, I think. “MOMMY??? WHERE ARE YOU????” I was irate, and I chewed him out. “WHY ARE YOU SCREAMING?? I’M RIGHT HERE! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU???”

He was visibly relieved as he answered sheepishly, shrugging his shoulders. “Oh. I forgot.”

My kids follow me around the house like little comet trails. Last week we were snuggling in bed in the morning, and then I decided to get up. I made the mistake of announcing my intent. Suddenly Nick and Jesse were on top of me. I struggled for a full five minutes, in a quiet and desperate battle to get them off me without hurting them or myself. It was like having two tiny zombies after me. They were relentless and unbelievably strong. They wanted a piece of me. I suppose one could argue it was sweet and loving and all that, and I confess it was… but on a demented level. I was exhausted when I finally broke free, and thankful to make a break for the bathroom. I need some space from my kids’ separation issues.

* * * * *

Today we did something new. Jesse is nine now. Notwithstanding social norms that appear to require that I not leave my kids alone until they’re 19 or 20, I feel that she’s old enough and responsible enough to be home alone for short periods of time, like if I have to run out for 15 minutes. With the doors locked and a phone and the dog by her side, she’s fine until I return. I’ve proposed this to her on many occasions to no avail. Her separation anxiety kicks in, and she always follows me out the door. But today she was home sick (again), and I needed to pick Nick up from school, and she was tired out from running errands with me. She decided to stay home for the 15 minutes it took me to retrieve Nick.

I wasn’t sure how it would go. I showed her again how to call my cell phone. We practiced. She said she was fine. I headed out the door. Sure enough, her anxiety acted right up. I was still in the garage when the first telephone call came through.

Oh wait, that was me calling her. I just wanted to make sure she was okay and wasn’t going to run out behind the car as I backed out so that I could run her over.

Jesse was fine. So I drove off. My stomach was feeling kind of funny so I thought I might need to run back home to go to the bathroom and check in on Jesse, but I decided to wait it out. The second call came as I pulled into the school parking lot. Now I was really worried I would have to run back home to grab Jesse.

Wait. I actually think I made that call too.

After I got Nick, we hustled back to the car. He was in a real hurry to get back to Jesse, I tell you, probably because he wanted to make sure she wasn’t losing her mind to fear. In fact, he almost fell over from rushing back to the car so fast, so it was a good thing I had him by the shoulder of his coat to help drag him in the right direction.

Okay okay, I’ll just go ahead and admit that I placed the third call too, as Nick and I drove back home. By then, Jesse was completely exasperated with me. I was obviously interrupting something.

I started to worry on a whole different level. Would the house still be standing when I got home? Would Jesse still be inside? Was she planning to take the dog on a walk without me? What if she got lost?

Meanwhile, my stomach kept churning. It was probably from all the pickles I ate at lunch. Also I was feeling a little short of breath. Sometimes that happens when the days are really, really cold like today.

When Nick and I got home, Jesse was running around the living room taking photos of Madeline with her iPad. There was a kitchen chair next to the fridge. Huh. Jesse explained that she had gotten some treats for Madeline. I think she might have also snuck some treats for herself. Jesse was relaxed and cheerful, completely at ease, and a little disappointed we got back so quickly.

I was so happy for her. It’s a good thing I don’t have separation anxiety. I’m obviously helping Jesse get over her own anxiety by being a great role model.

Grumpy about non-stick cooking

Non-stick cookware is one of those modern amenities I really can’t live without. But I’m wondering if I should learn to do just that.

I like to have really high-quality (aka expensive) non-stick surfaces. They ought to last longer, according to all the reviews, which means their toxic coatings are leaching ever-so-gently into the foods I feed my kids, which is much better than a fat poisonous dump.

I’m gentle with my non-stick pans. I use special sponges. I use low heat. I have special coated tools. But somehow my nonstick devices always, always, always gather scratches quickly, and they disintegrate quicker than anticipated every time. I noticed a new gouge just today in my fry pan. Why? Whence cometh the gouge?


He is an obstinate man. He answers my dramatic incredulity with quiet and peaceful indifference.

“Oh my god Anthony why is the empty pan on the burner and it’s set on high???”

Eyebrows up. “Oh. Is that a problem?”

* * *

“Why are you using a KNIFE in the non-stick pan, Anthony??”

“I’m being careful.”

* * *

“Anthony!! Are you scraping the rice out of the rice pot with a METAL SPOON??”

Silence and a “caught me” sidewise glance. “Yeees, but I’m being gentle. See?” (Waves spoon cheerfully in air)

* * *

A victim pan:


See those horrible scrapes and dents? Shaking my head unhappily.

As for the new gouge I noticed today. Hmp. Anthony used the pan this weekend. I don’t know how he does it but he’s a non-stick brute.

Well. Nick’s grilled cheese sandwich will just have some extra bits of plastic coating in it, right? It’s the new normal. Meanwhile, I should start boning up on properly seasoning my cast iron pans.

Grumpy about pool pee

Jesse has a swim meet tomorrow. She’s been having an anxiety attack about it for about a week. Yesterday and today she woke up making noises that were somewhere between yodeling, whining and keening.

This morning she flopped into bed with me and Nick, and as she wheedled I finally remembered an old lesson from therapy: the unknown danger is more debilitating than the one you can see and understand. That’s what makes an anxiety disorder so disruptive sometimes. Your body says something terrible is going to happen, but you just don’t know what — it’s a shadow lurking around every bend, and you can never really name it. Accepting that it’s only in your imagination sometimes just makes it worse, because then you feel bat-shit crazy.

I asked Jesse, “What exactly is making you so anxious about the swim meet?”

“I dunnooooo.”

So we set about putting a face on the monster in the closet.

Jesse has the ordinary fears — I’ll suck at the meet, I’ll let the team down, I’ll swim the wrong stroke. And also one more. She worries she’ll pee in the pool while she’s competing because when she’s nervous she feels like she needs to pee. This is what she’s most afraid of today.

I said aloud what none of us really wants to think about: every competitive swimmer pees in the pool at some point. I guarantee it. It’s the dirty secret. Pool pee. It’s not something Jesse needs to worry about. If she pees, she pees. No one ever has to know.

Jesse’s swim coach went there with me today. “I see maybe 400 people in this pool every day. I PROMISE you, at least a hundred of them pee in the pool.”

Uuuugh. Head. Spinning.

Jesse is having trouble finding a balance between her anxiety about the swim meet and her OCD reaction to pool pee.

As for me, I find that knowing the face of this particular monster has made things worse. I was fine before. Now all I’ll be thinking about at the swim meet tomorrow is pool pee.

grumpy about dihydrogen monoxide

I’ve been thinking hard the past few years about reducing the chemicals in my life — especially dangerous and toxic ones, but really, chemicals seem like a bad thing. Chemicals. I want them out.

I started hunting the web for some good chemicals to get rid of, and I spied a really useful site about dihydrogen monoxide — a chemical compound that is way, way too common in my life, like phytates. There’s a whole website devoted to addressing the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide, operated by a non-profit organization (I know this because the website URL ends in “org”).  Check it out. This is serious stuff and it’s for real. Because a whole website has been devoted to it. You can even buy t-shirts.

I don’t want to be misleading here, so I’ll just tell you up front in case you don’t already know. Dihydrogen monoxide hides under a lot of different names. Agua. Mul. Ocean. River. Lake. Rain. Steam.


Don’t let the names fool you. We’ve been lulled into a false sense of security about water, no doubt by large corporations working in tandem with government agencies, as well as the uncontrolled forces of biology. You may have heard that water is good for you. Water will clean you. Water is fun. You must drink water to live a healthy life.

Don’t believe the hype. Water is a chemical compound.

I can only speak to my own experiences and the stuff I’ve read while I’m surfing the web, and also stuff other people tell me. So I guess I’m no expert, but believe me, I know a LOT about water, even though none of it has been proven by any so-called “scientific method” or “double-blind study” or any shit like that. But sometimes, you just know what you know. And I know water. Let me just give you a few things to think about, and then I’d like to reach some conclusions for you and suggest you make some changes in your life based on my personal experiences.

Water is extremely dangerous to manufacture. It is made from two separate elements, named “OXYGEN” and “HYDROGEN.” If you put them near each other and add a little spark, they combine to make water. But the explosion is MASSIVE. Remember the Hindenburg? Revisionist story books — sorry, history books might say that it was just a poorly-designed blimp, but I have been reviewing many sources to learn about this. I will provide you with links when I find the time to do that. Meanwhile, just trust me: I have come to believe that the Hindenburg was actually a water experiment conducted by the German government. Its explosion created a huge amount of WATER, when the hydrogen in the blimp combined with oxygen in the air. We do NOT WANT governments and corporations creating water! They say they’re not, but why should we believe them? They lie to us ALL THE TIME, and look at what happened to the Hindenburg. We need to stop the secret manufacturing of this chemical compound!

Drinking too much water can poison you. Thus, it is POISON. Why are nutritionists and health experts telling us to drink POISON every day? Think about it.

Inhaling water can make you very sick and even kill you. But when you drink water, it goes in the same mouth hole as air when you inhale. Why is that? If water really is as good for you as the so-called experts and government officials say, then why haven’t they come up with a safer way to deliver it? Why haven’t they put labels on canisters of water to at least warn us of these dangers or to state the limits on how much water you can safely drink without poisoning yourself? It’s because THEY DON’T KNOW THE ANSWERS. And I don’t see what’s wrong with asking these questions, or demanding that they be studied.

I’ll tell you what, when I used to golf a lot I learned about the dangers of over-drinking water. I would wander around beautiful green lawns absolutely devoid of bugs and weeds, enjoying the views of algae-filled reservoir ponds and chewing on my painted tees. it was a lovely sport, and I had a low handicap. But on the hottest and most humid days, I would hydrate during a round of golf, following the advice of the so-called water experts. Usually by a couple hours into the round, I would have consumed between 2 and 3 quarts of dihydrogen monoxide. I would bloat. And feel kind of sick. And also very hot and sweaty. Sometimes I would even imagine that I was surrounded by a sort of chemical stench. I would wipe my brow and a salty crust would come off on the back of my hand. The only thing I had been taking in was water. So the cause of my malaise was obvious. Water. I eventually resolved the symptoms by eating a bunch of potato chips or other salty food as I hydrated. Also we tried to avoid golf courses that had just sprayed safe biological toxins designed to remove weeds and bugs. But this just shows you how blind I was. I bought into the water thing, and then I just added on another layer of food crap to offset the damage done by the water, and also I stupidly limited my activities by thinking the problem was something other than water. I should have just stopped drinking water at all during hot rounds of golf. No more sweating or bloating, no more strange smells.

Water is bad news. It is capable of BOTH burning and freezing us. In large mobile quantities, it destroys entire cities and can kill thousands of people at one time. It has been found to be a significant component of all major storms on earth. In certain frozen forms that fall from the sky (but ask yourself: who put the water in the clouds up there?), it can cause entire regions to be shut down for days. It causes mudslides and all manner of erosion.

Dihydrogen monoxide is present in every single patient who was hospitalized in America last year, as well as every single child who was diagnosed with a developmental disability or mental illness. But no one is asking why. Just because some people can tolerate H2O without observable side effects doesn’t mean it’s safe. Just because humanity is generally thriving and over-populating the world despite the ubiquitous presence of water doesn’t mean we should stop asking questions.

Now this is really, really disturbing: the surface of DNA in your body is covered in water molecules. In fact, the water molecules may actually influence the DNA’s structure. WHAAA?? (If you’re one of those wackos who thinks DNA is something bad, you are seriously ignorant. Please educate yourself on some basic science. Jeez.) Who put the water molecules around our DNA? Why? What are they trying to change in our DNA? And why would anyone be suspicious of me for asking these questions? They’re just questions.

When my daughter was born, the very first thing the doctor did was take her away from me and give her a bath. The doctor made some excuse about the cord being wrapped and poop in the amniotic fluid. Jesse seemed fine as I stared down between my stirrup’ed legs at her. But when she came back 20 minutes later, I could already tell there was something challenging about her. And it just got worse and worse as the months passed. If only I had known better in those early years, I would have stopped giving her baths and making her drink water.

In case you are about to conclude that I’m the wacko, let me give you something to think about that will completely change your mind. Governments provide so-called potable water to our homes. Why? Why do they want us to have all this water? So they can charge us for it and make a profit? So they can coat our DNA in it? Not only that, but governments sell water to corporations. Where do you think that bottled water you’re buying comes from? You think Aquafina is the good stuff? Think again. It probably comes out of the sewage treatment plants of Detroit. Either that, or someone is manufacturing it and covering up the explosions. There is growing evidence (links to follow) that fracking is actually a fictional cover for underground water-manufacturing operations that are causing massive explosions that in turn cause those little earthquakes everyone is worried about. Anyway, it’s just another example of how governments and large corporations are in league together, conspiring to lie to us, cheat us, and extract dollars from us.

I know some people will say I’m crazy, I’m not making healthy choices, I’m endangering my children. But I’m done with water. At least, until some proper studies are done by someone other than government or large corporations or anyone who receives any money from them, including any large academic institutions that are part of the broken and corrupted structure of our society and any scientists who work for them. And I don’t want to hear about causality and data sets and what not. I want to see the EVIDENCE that water isn’t bad for me. I have had enough of scientists telling me things like, “there’s no evidence that normal use of water is bad for you.” I’m done with water until someone I’m willing to trust can say categorically that “under all circumstances, regardless of mis-use, water is safe and good for you.”

[Disclaimer for anyone too whack to figure it out: this post is total nonsense. Please don’t pay any attention to it. But if you’re submitting a statement to Congress, it’s probably a passable source.]

grumpy about tax returns (it was easy after all, aka I’m not that bright)

Remember me grumbling and whining about how getting a new computer messed with my TurboTax juju by making it impossible for TurboTax to import information from last year’s returns into this year’s returns?  (see my post from yesterday)

When I finally got a chance to chat with Anthony last night (“chat with Anthony” is my euphemistic phrase for “blather to him about all the shit that’s making me grumpy today”), I grumbled about the problem with TurboTax, and how the 2014 program was unable to extract information from the PDF version of our 2013 returns I had saved to the external hard drive when we moved over to our new computer.

Mr. SmartyPants Professor stared at me blankly for a second. He might have been making sure he heard me right. He might have been thinking of something else (e.g., “I should remember to tell Carla about what the Tigers’ starting line-up has been doing in the off-season”). He might have been counting to 10 or something like that, to avoid blurting something mean. Then he said, “Why don’t you just turn on the laptop and see if you can find the right version on it. You can copy it onto a flash drive and get it onto the new computer.”

[dreadful silence.]



Yeeeaaah. The crappy, broke-down laptop is in the basement, where I put it on the off chance we might need to find something on it that I failed to move over to the hard drive successfully. Like, say, prior years’ tax returns.

Well then. The laptop turned on (it only took 30 minutes for it to download and install 3 months’ worth of Vista updates, which it had to do before it would start up), and I managed to jimmy the power cord so that it would stay in the socket without getting loose (else the ancient chargeable battery fails in 3 to 4 minutes), and I found the correct file. And so on.

Abracadabra, shalamazoo. It took me less than an hour to complete and e-file our not-especially-complicated tax returns, thanks to TurboTax and its magic ability to import information from last years’ tax returns when it can find them in the correct not-PDF format.

Remember Jesse head-butting me yesterday and  telling me I’m not smart enough to help her with her third-grade homework?  Today I’m thinking that she’s probably right. Especially because JUST NOW, I remembered that almost an hour ago I was supposed to get my rising bread dough shaped and into the oven, but now it’s too late for me to do it before I go pick up the kids, and the dough’s probably wrecked now anyway, and SHIT SHIT SHIT. I just got so excited about getting the taxes done easily.

Jesse is definitely right about me.

grumpy about tax returns

Had I known that getting a new computer meant TurboTax stopped being easy to use, I would have stuck with the crappy, broke-down laptop we used for way too many years. Had I know that buying TurboTax in disk form from Costco for the past two years would mess with my day so much, I would have paid the extra 10 bucks each year to download it directly from TurboTax’s website like I used to do, and also I would have felt virtuous and green.

TurboTax 2014 (which I just downloaded to our new computer) can’t import information from the PDF file I saved for our 2013 returns, 81 pages of forms and worksheets saved on our external drive for posterity and the love of god. I can’t re-download the 2013 software to create an importable source, because I lost the disk and I don’t want to pay for it a second time. I would have been able to do it just fine if I had purchased it as a download. Bah.

I need to get the taxes done early because we’re planning a fairly substantial renovation on our home (shhh, don’t ask about it, don’t talk about it, pretend I didn’t say that; I don’t want to jinx it) and we need to finance some of the costs into a mortgage (rates are so low right now!), and the bank wants two years’ tax returns. I’m guessing that 2012 and 2013 won’t cut it, and we need to get them our financials by the end of February if we want to stay on-track for a spring demolition schedule. Our hope is to get this whole business wrapped up before mortgage rates go up too much, as they inevitably must unless Putin does something super stupid to help me out on this front. So I really can’t put this off.

Here I sit with 81 pages of incomprehensible returns and worksheets, which jammed the printer twice, hoping against hope that I will be able to enter the necessary data into 2014 TurboTax manually, without too many mistakes. I have no idea how that’ll go down on things like “IRA tax basis.” What IS my IRA tax basis? I never bothered to know or even comprehend, because TurboTax held my hand and made me feel safe and fuzzy about it all. Now I just hope I can find an IRA tax basis worksheet in this massive PDF document.

Maybe I’ll look for it later on today. Right now I think I might go work out instead, or maybe just skip the workout and go straight to the shower. Actually, I have less than an hour before I have to pick the kids up from school. Hm. Maybe I’ll just take a look at that logic game I downloaded onto Nick’s iPad when he wasn’t looking. I need to get my atrophied brain in fighting shape for doing these taxes. I know this because last night Jesse head-butted me at least three times while I was trying to help her with her homework. She’s struggling with reading time, for some reason. After the third blow, a back-of-the-head to my cheekbone, I got pissed off and told her (surprisingly calmly) that I’m not helping her with her homework for one week. She retorted in fine style. That’s just fine, because you’re not smart anyway. Daddy’s the teacher and you’re just a mom. You’re good at taking care of us and keeping us safe and things like that, but you’re not smart like a teacher. I’m better off with Daddy helping me.


She didn’t know what a low blow it was. I didn’t defend myself. I just got huffy and told her she’s right, I’m just a stupid housewife. It pained me to hear my daughter ideate like this about the limited scope of a house-mom’s intelligence. If she only knew what a smarty-pants I am. Seriously. I was the top of my class in third grade.

Grumpy about Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a pain in my ass. The kids have to take Valentine’s cards to school for each of their classmates, and historically it’s just been a messy and painful proposition in my world. What a shameful waste of resources in a resource-depleted world. Can’t a class full of kids just all stand in a circle and hug each other? I bet that would do more for them than a mess of cards with illegible handwriting.

But this year Nick is old enough to participate in making his cards, and Jesse is sometimes Little Miss Pulled-Together, so I felt less apprehensive as I stepped into the Valentine cycle. I got materials together for cards — card stock, heart doilies, ribbon, some stickers, tiny cupcake papers which we mashed out and pasted onto the cards, organic lollipops. I felt so Martha Stewart. Both kids were home sick today, and everything was laid out on the dining table, so we got down to business this morning. And in one of those magical interludes that sometimes happens in a life, Jesse, Nick and I spent a FULL HOUR peacefully making Valentines. No fighting. No whining.

Frankly, it was bizarre.

Nick’s K4 teacher sent home sheets with little photos of each of his wee mates, so we cut those out and glued one onto each card. Nick took a look through the pictures and focused on one kid. He shook his head disapprovingly. “That dude behaves real bad in class, mommy.”

“You still have to make a Valentine card for him.”


“Because it’s the right thing to do. You can’t leave him out.”

Nick looked at me sidelong. I was making no sense to him. Jesse stepped in with the profound wisdom of a kindly nine-year-old who’s spent a LOT of time in therapy, and who remembers well how her own strange behaviors alienated her as a wee lass. She spoke in a blunt, matter-of-fact tone. “Nick. Sometimes when a kid is acting bad in class, he just needs someone to say, ‘do you want to play with me? I think you’re nice. I like you. I’ll be your friend.'”

She paused in her card-making to look at Nick for a second. “You should do that.”

My corporeal form disappeared and I melted into a soulful puddle on the floor. No no no, that’s not right. My body felt like it was filling with a joyful anthem, somewhere beyond the words and music of this world. It blared inside me like Gandalf’s staff set alight, healing the dark and grumpy and cynical corners of my being for a moment.

Then I thought things like, wow. Jesse’s pretty amazing. It’s like stardust is glittering out her eyes, and rainbows are coming out her ass. Which isn’t as obnoxious as it sounds. I was just feeling a little overwhelmed, and I didn’t think the kids would understand why I was crying, and thinking something silly like that made me laugh a little instead of tearing up.

Right. So Nick was sold. He went ahead and made a card for his bad little mate. A few minutes later, Jesse looked down the list of her classmates and spied “Amy.” (pseudonym, right?) Amy isn’t very nice to Jesse. Amy tries to put Jesse down in art class and seems to make fun of her a lot. Jesse tolerates it and pushes back well, but she is not fond of Amy. She didn’t want to give Amy a Valentine’s card.

I reminded her of what she had just told Nick. Jesse jumped on it without hesitation. “You’re right, Mommy!” She pondered for a moment as she rummaged on the table. “I heard her talking with Mrs. Gember a while ago and I heard Mrs. Gember say, ‘your family is going through a lot right now.'”

Why does my Jesse hear and remember all these things?

Jesse decided to make Amy a beautiful card.


Not bad. I like the composition. I suggested Jesse not say anything she didn’t mean — no reason to be fake. She could just say “from Jesse.” But she chose love. Her gift to her own self-worth was not to write a special message to Amy. She nodded confidently as she made that decision.

For other friends, Jesse wrote very personal messages, one-liners. To a buddy who worked hard on a backflip off the balance beam in gym: “You do awesome backflips.” To a friend who’s shy about her freckles: “You have such beautiful freckles.” To a  friend who’s obsessed with a hat: “I love the meow hat that you wear.” To a friend who gets her in trouble for laughing in class: “I like it when you bother me.”

Then there were the ones that were strangely sad in their honesty. To a boy who used to run and play wildly with her in first grade: “I remember when we used to race together.” To a girl who was a dear friend in kindergarten and first grade: “Me and you loved to play together.” These are kids Jesse has lost touch with, hasn’t connected with this year. Should a nine-year-old be feeling nostalgia and longing? Maybe Jesse understands love better than a lot of adults.

Jesse secretly made a card for us as well. We didn’t wait for Valentine’s Day to read it:


I think this little girl may heal me yet.