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a possibly gratuitous explanation of why my blog is called "nonBlog"
and my site is titled "Ceci n'est pas un blog."
The Back Seat Sage—Saturday, May 29, 2006
I’ve decided that if we all
just listened to my six-year-old daughter Greta, the world would
be a better place. We were riding in the car—the kids and
me—and listening to that treacly Michael Bublé (that
can’t possibly be his real name) plaintively singing “Home”
on the radio. It goes:.
I wanna go home
Let me go hoooome
I’m just too far from where you are
I wanna come home . . .
I was thinking what an utterly inane tune it is and wondering
what might be on KFOG when Greta shouted angrily, “If
you wanna go home, just go home!” Olivia and I erupted
in laughter and I considered pulling over. But Greta wasn’t
through speculating. She ventured: “He can’t go home
because he’s a rock star.” By now I was wiping my
eyes. “He’s onstage,” Greta continued, “and
Rules, Rules, Everywhere—Thursday, May 25, 2006
Every time I tell someone the ages
of my three daughters, it starts a conversation about their age
differences—regardless of whatever topic we were on at the
time. Eleven, six, and one, I say,
and the recipient of this information furrows their brow and lets
out an ohhh. There’s an uncomfortable silence while
judgments and questions about infertility cross their faces as
I watch. They notice me watching and then they feel compelled
to say something: The oldest one must be very helpful with
the baby, they offer, or Do they get along? Invariably
the chat ends with the person expressing their amazement at our
household’s unusual array of ages and stages.
As many years as I have been getting this reaction, I’m
still baffled by people’s bafflement. Am I really the only
woman out there to have chosen to have her kids several years
apart? Because I did choose it; after each baby I didn’t
feel ready to even think about having another one for about four
years. The first time it was because I felt so overmatched by
my “spirited” oldest daughter, and the second time
it was because I couldn’t decide if I should take the plunge
and go for a third as a working, urban mom.
I keep noticing a theme in my life: things that feel normal to
me don’t feel normal to other people. This is just one example
of it. To me having three kids who are each five years apart is
a little thing, even a consequence-free thing. I have come to
think that there are rules everywhere, some written, most not,
that other people know and I don’t. They are on invisible
billboards that surround us every day, and I am blind to them.
Anticlimate—Friday, May 19, 2006
The thing that nobody tells you
about living in a place that’s always a little bit warm
is that, paradoxically, it makes you always feel a little bit
cold. Not at first. You move to San Francisco in, say, December,
and for about a month you appreciate your constant little-bit-warmness
by contrast to whatever storm-battered area you fled. And then
you notice that you’re shivering and go to REI and buy a
carload of fleece.
The reason is the mass of cold air above the Pacific, which smacks
bang into the mass of warm air above the Bay Area’s inland
towns and creates a sinister layer of fog over, well, our house.
But just before the warm air gets too warm, long about now, San
Francisco has the climate it would have had without its contrary
weather system. It’s sunny, it’s warm, the temperatures
start climbing and don’t stop at 67 like they do on “nice”
days the rest of the year. We have actual t-shirt days. You try
to remember if you still own any t-shirts. You put them on. They’ve
Often our respite lasts four or five weeks, and then the coldest
winter Mark Twain described ever spending in his life—a
summer in San Francisco—
descends upon us in a bank of gray. This year our four weeks seems
to have lasted four days. I am bitter. Cold.
Greta’s Unique Perspective on Things, Part I—Tuesday,
May 15, 2006
The five of us were at the San Francisco
Zoo on Saturday. After walking around for a while we wanted to
find a place where the perpetually non-walking Ava could crawl
because Tom and I were getting tired of carrying her. So we asked
Greta if she would like to go to the Insect House. She said, “No
thanks. I don’t like insects—they’re too much
Greta’s Unique Perspective on Things, Part Deux
For some reason Greta resists showing
her teacher that she understands graphing. She does it perfectly
at home, but I don’t think her teacher believes me. She
sent home a graph Greta did last week of fish. There were five
rows—clown fish, sea horses, crabs, sea stars, and sharks.
She was supposed to graph how many of each were in a color-coded
picture above. I was perplexed by it because four of the rows
were correct, one was wrong and had an X through it, and then
there was a column of four boxes filled in to the right that I
couldn’t decipher at all. But I hadn’t asked Greta
about it. Today she came home from school and saw the graph and
her face fell. She said, "Oh, you have my graph with the
crab mistake on it."
And I said, "What crab mistake?"
"Well,” she said, “I graphed three clown fish
and then two seahorses, but when I was graphing the next one I
got distracted and graphed the six sea stars in the space where
I was supposed to graph the four crabs." She said all of
this in a big rush and I looked and saw that all of the numbers
were right. "So," she continued, "I put an X over
the six boxes with the crabs and I wrote a four so the teacher
would know I knew there were four"—and indeed, there
was a backwards "4" next to the crab row—"and
then I filled in four boxes over to the side so she could see
that I knew how many crabs there were."
At this point I was trying really hard not to laugh. So I said,
"Did you tell the teacher all of this?"
And she said, "I don't remember. I don't think so."
Absent the above explanation, I can only imagine what the teacher
thinks of Greta’s skill set. What I think is that when Greta
grows up she’s going to be the CEO of a multinational corporation.
Or a master criminal.
Id Run Amok—Friday, May 12, 2006
A friend warned me that once I turned
40 I would lose all capacity to censor myself, but I have to say
I had no idea. I am dangerous. I feel like I could say anything
at any time. It’s like I’m the cockroach alien in
“Men In Black,” masquerading as a human by borrowing
a dead man’s skin, and my cockroach arms and my cockroach
legs are starting to bust out of the decomposing flesh and reveal
my true identity.
For a while there I was pretending to be a mild-mannered blonde,
volunteering at the Opera Guild and doing mommy things at my daughters’
school and wearing Escada and having a mostly former writing career.
Now all bets are off. I used the “F” word in front
of the president of the Opera Guild and she thought it was so
uproarious she repeated the story to the entire Executive Committee,
who were no doubt scandalized. Then Tom and I signed contracts
to move the girls from their Pacific Heights ivory mansion to
an edgy co-ed school across town that caters to mini iconoclasts.
As if in search of my third strike, I proceeded to write a sympathetic
story for the SF
Chronicle Magazine about writers in the SF County
Jail that got wolf-whistles from an audience of extremely tattooed
people at a reading of ex-inmate work last week. Somebody stop
me before I’m rejected by all of polite society and Dartmouth
refuses to consider Olivia a legacy when she applies in 2012.
Bush Junior Atop His Empire—Wednesday, May 10, 2006
In the introduction to my nonBlog
I promised that I wouldn’t indulge myself with little diary
tidbits or rants about Dubya, but I really must tell you what
I discovered on a walk near the Panhandle yesterday. I was multitasking
as usual, making a phonecall while attempting to get a bit of
exercise, when I spied a large, steaming pile of dog poo with
a toothpick flag sticking out of it. On the flag was a picture
of Bushie’s smiling mug. And that’s what I love about
Thank Heaven for Little Boys—Tuesday, May 3, 2006
Tom and I have decided that what
this family needs is a co-ed school.
To understand what a relatively radical decision
this is, you have to know that our two older daughters are at
an all-girls’ private school that is the grade-school equivalent
of Harvard. Or perhaps I should say Radcliffe. But here’s
the thing that nobody tells you about an all-girls school, however
exalted: it can have a way of narrowing, rather than broadening,
certain girls’ options. Why? Well, girls generally do certain
things a certain way at a certain time. They read early, for example,
and they’re good at sitting still for long periods. Generally.
But some early-reading girls are jangly, and need to run around
every once in a while, kind of like boys. And some good-at-sitting
girls read at the end of their fifth year rather than at the beginning.
Kind of like boys.
So if you take the high-energy girl and put her
in a co-ed school, suddenly she doesn’t look so high-energy.
And if you take the six-year-old who just learned to read and
put her in a co-ed school, suddenly she looks precocious. So we’re
switching. We told Harvard, I mean Radcliffe, that we’re
going across town. To Brown.