Room for Cream?

I should be celebrating: one week! One week of daily blogging! Woohoo!

Instead I am tired.

It’s just the tired that everyone gets. The tired that wants to lie down, maybe on a beach, for a week. In this fantasy, I do not even have to get up to go to the bathroom.

But if I weren’t tired, it would mean I didn’t have a job, and if I didn’t have a job, I wouldn’t have a place to go every day. No matter that the place is right here,  as I roll out of bed, keeping midgets who do not know better from self-destructing.

Long ago, in 2001, I worked, for five weeks, as a barista at a locally owned coffee shop in central Idaho. A gorgeous woman came in each morning, ordered green tea, sat at a table in the slanting morning light, drinking it, sometimes with a friend. Maybe it was her ptkm (pat-the-kitty moment. see post #1, 9/13/11). A man came in each morning, sat at the counter, swiveling his head toward women like her. One morning, they happened to be there at the same time. He struck up a conversation. He was a dot com millionaire of a particularly useless kind. Had bought up a few domain names he’d predicted would become popular. He’d been right. Now in his early thirties, he had all the  money in the world and nowhere to go. He wasn’t needed, it seemed, in any way. He sat in the coffee shop every morning waiting to be noticed. Waiting for someone to make him feel important. Waiting for some human contact. Waiting to feel real.

The gorgeous woman was polite but it went nowhere. Mr. Shrewd was there again the next morning, alone and trying not to be.

It is easy, as a mother of young children, to forget the human longing for physical contact, for the warmth of skin on skin, for the pressure of body on body, when every day is a dance of the toddlers, lifting, cleaning, hugging, kissing, swatting. It is easy to forget that yawning absence that occurs when we are not needed. It is easy to forget lots of things. I left my coffee on top of the car today, along with the keys. My phone dropped onto the bathroom floor and I didn’t notice it was missing for an hour. We made it to music class, five minutes late, and no one was there–class is tomorrow.

What have you forgotten lately, and why?


*coffee picture from



Driving Through Life in a Monkey Head

A short one today.

Don’t you just love evening shadows? Legs up to your chin and thin, thin, thin. Even a dust-filled field between plantings and the thighs you got from your mom, magic.

Last week, nearly a year after I took this photo, same time of year, I’m driving to my mother-in-law’s on Camelback Road at the south edge of this stretch of dirt, heading east, the shadow of my car steady on the arrow-straight road ahead. And the shadow looks like….a monkey head. Maybe because I’d just been drawing, repeatedly, at Gbot’s request, pictures of “mong-ee,” his stuffed chimp, on the Magnadoodle. But my small SUV with its bulbous side mirrors as ears, elongated in the evening light and transferred to two dimensions on the macadam of Camelback Road, looks exactly like a monkey’s head.

“I am driving through life in a monkey ‘s head,” I thought.  “I am looking out a big tinted pair of monkey eyes. I just never knew it.”

What do I look like, to the outside world? It is easy not to put on lipstick. To skip the five-minute blow-dry session. Surely, everyone knows I am beautiful on the inside?

It’s Plato’sAllegory of the Cave” all over again, where people chained in a cave knowing nothing but shadows cast on the cave walls wouldn’t recognize reality–the forms that cast the shadows–if they saw it. But what percentage of reality is the form that casts the shadow? What’s inside, photon-permeable, is no less real.

Every once in a while you get a reminder that the world sees a projection of you–not what you feel you are, not what you know you are, not what your mother tells you you are. My sister told me a few years back that she caught sight of her reflection in a store window and was horrified by her own slouch. She has made a point to sit up straight ever since.

In her ridiculously insightful guide to the nonfiction writing, The Situation and the Story, Vivian Gornick reiterates the necessity of memoirists to know their “persona.” “These writers might not “know” themselves–that is, have no more self-knowledge than the rest of us–but in each case–and this is crucial–they know who they are at the moment of writing. They know they are there to clarify in relation to the subject in hand–and on this obligation they deliver….”1

Maybe that is what I am looking for, from five to six. Someone who knows who she is, someone who isn’t an inexpert mother, a slacker housekeeper, a whiny daughter, an exasperated daughter-in-law, a completely cowardly murderer of spiders and sewer bugs. The me who doesn’t slouch. I am racing away from the sun in a giant monkey head, looking out unblinking monkey eyes, both limited and empowered by the restrictions imposed by my carapace. Catch me if you can.

Are you, on the inside, who you are on the outside?

1 Gornick, Vivian. The Situation and the Story, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, NY 2001, p. 30.

Progress Report

The blog is not going as planned.

It wasn’t, almost right from the start. The plan was for an hour of meditation at the keyboard. Every morning. Type, Publish, End of Story. Literally.

Maybe I started the blog when I did in part because last week I found Diane Ackerman’s well-worn A Natural History of the Senses  in a box of baby clothes I was trying to organize (hand-down, goodwill, save until I’m at least seventy, for possible grandchildren), and never one to not procrastinate when the opportunity presents itself, I flipped open the book and read again of how some famous writers through the ages each had a routine they performed before writing every day. Notable examples Ackerman sites includes George Sands, who copulated wildly before moving directly to her writing table. Colette began each day by picking fleas off her cat. Ackerman herself power-walks every day. She emphasized that: every day. I hadn’t thought I’d noticed it at the time. But maybe the idea behind the blog was: This will be the grounding routine I perform before Mommying every day. At least it does not involve fleas.

The every day thing has happened. What I hadn’t counted on was that I don’t stop thinking about it, not really. Everything that occurs during the day is possible fodder for the blog. Like it’s a monster I need to feed. In a way, it is. And isn’t that what I wanted, really, when I began? Something to make me pay attention to the small things, in the hope of getting something back? Dredging the mud for clams. (We’re reading One Morning in Maine. When I grow up, I want to be Robert McCloskey. I want to be Sal.)

I didn’t want or need a monster. I wanted something small and low-maintenance that does not need to be walked much, a turtle or a goldfish. Something that absorbs my anxieties like factis absorbs graphite. A stress eraser. Like my antique (and flea-free) cat. Something whose company I can enjoy easily, something I can pet and it will purr. The accompanying litterbox I can deal with—its contents are the smallest poops in my life right now. (*”Poops” used literally; beside diapers and Superhero underpants, a few kitty nuggets are nothing.)

But those of you who’ve read a post or two will notice that either I am an efficient writer, or that I am a liar, about conjuring whole posts between five and six a.m. A kind soul might just figure I am being loose in my interpretation of when exactly five to six is or how long it lasts. But the world of nonfiction does not currently embrace loose interpretations unless otherwise stated. So here is my otherwise statement:

My goal is to write from five to six every morning. It’s a noble goal, like not using my cell phone while driving, and world peace. But an adaptation has proven necessary, one that takes actual reality into consideration. Yesterday, for example, I was on field triage all morning, always one and a half steps behind. (Prevention is so much easier, but so far, cages that hang from the ceiling have not yet been approved for children.*) This is why Robert McCloskey did not write One Morning in Arizona. Here is a synopsis of that nonCaldecott winner: out on the patio, Mbot picked up what might be a (poisonous) spider; Gbot toppled off his globe (note to globe owners: do not stand on globe) while I checked the spider (not poisonous—not even a spider, but some part of a blossom that looked uncannily spider-like, even to the point of wiggling in the breeze). I raced to comfort Gbot, Mbot raced to the bathroom, but not quite fast enough. I raced back to the patio to make sure Tesserwell hadn’t escaped through the door left open in the event of an emergency; meanwhile, Mbot decided to wipe himself midpoop and climb off the toilet. I found Tesserwell under a table but by then, Gbot was inspecting the toilet seat. A bath was drawn. A bath is more fun than a cage hanging from the ceiling, and it’s legal.

After nine hours of consciousness, the Midgets fell prey to their own diabolical energy, and lay comatose with their respective bears. And instead of preparing dinner, I fell into a chair to write. Because I had to post my blog. The Midgets slept on. I did not wake them. At 5:15 I hit “Publish,” and left a message on my sister’s phone. “I’ve blogged five days in a row! Can you believe it? We won’t be having dinner tonight, but I posted a thousand words!” (I had wanted to post 500 words, but editing is hell.)

Needless to say, this scenario is not conducive to the calm that is still a chief goal. It makes me feel more like an addict than a controlled user. But it is making me write. And it has been fun. And I tell you, after six weeks spent drafting query letters, manuscript synopses, and pretend flap copy, I just want to enjoy writing again.

I scrounged up a dinner that did not involve preservatives or artificial flavors. Everyone actually ate it. Full stomachs all round? Check. A little introspection? Check.

It’s a start.

Do you control your passions, or do they control you?

*Disclaimer: The author of this blog does not in any way condone or suggest the use of such cages.

It’s a Good Time to Buy

I have never owned a home.

This doesn’t mean I haven’t tried.

I have been trying, in fact, since May of 2007, just before my husband (Husbot) and I were married. For various unlikely reasons which included having been on the road for many years as a professional bass fisherman (yes, I know, it’s ridiculous, people actually do that), he had never owned a home either. So we started looking, in the final months of what we all now know was the bulbous methane-filled balloon that was the real estate bubble. Husbot, who did not work in real estate or finance but had been, in fact, a rose farmer for thirteen years (I know, as unlikely as a bass fisherman, but more lucrative), kept saying, “There’s something wrong. Everything’s too expensive.”

My answer, of course was, “Let’s look for something smaller. They’ll be cheaper.”

“They’re too expensive, too,” he complained.

“They’ll be more expensive tomorrow,” said every grinning real estate agent we met. “It’s a great time to buy.”

So we looked. And looked. We wrote one embarrassingly low offer after another. “No one’s going to take these,” I said.

“Nothing’s worth more,” my husband replied.

“It’s a great time to buy,” chorused the grinning real estate agents.

Then, of course, October 2007 occurred. Maricopa County, which encompasses the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area, became the nation’s fifth biggest loser in real estate values.

Fortunately, Husbot is not one to gloat. And fortunately, I’ve got strong legs, and climbing the twenty-one steps to our one-bedroom rented condo while pregnant and then with an infant (car seat: 10 pounds, empty, and when is it ever empty?) and then pregnant AND with an infant, didn’t make my varicose veins any worse than they were and actually maybe helped me ditch the postpartum pastry butt. And Safeway delivers. And Safeway sells wine. We managed.

“Why don’t you buy?” asked everyone from my mother-in-law to my best friends. “It’s a great time to buy,” they said. So did every newspaper and TV channel. Prices had plunged 30% . I personally did not know why it wasn’t a great time to buy. Husbot said no. I was too busy and tired to argue.

Eventually, we moved into a unit on the ground floor. This did not end well, as the owner, a little old lady in California who’d been talked into buying retirement home/investment property by her son, one Thiogest Deon Rosemond, of Rose & Fields Real Estate (I am not lying, I was suspicious from the beginning because of the cheesy name), called me to ask me to lie to the bank on her behalf, and stopped paying her mortgage the month after we moved in. (I did not do the first, and did not know the latter.) One year later, we received a letter from an attorney (whose assistant proved unbearably rude on the phone–who are these people?) notifying us that we needed to vacate the premises ASAP, as it was now held by the bank. In fact, the bank would give us $3,000 if we vacated by the month’s end. Husbot explained that this was the tactic banks were using so that tenants wouldn’t have time to gut the place before they handed over the keys.

A week later, we were visited by Mr. Rosemond himself, an unsmiling black man built like a bulldog, who proceeded to literally snatch the offer of $3,000 out of my hands. While my husband was discussing the issue with him (Husbot has endless patience for “discussing” without raising his voice, which can be enormously irritating), I grabbed it back. He turned and lunged at me. I fled with my children and called the police. I’ve always admired my husband’s tall, lithe physique, but that day (seen through Rose-colored glasses), he looked downright spindly.

We vacated the premises. We did not collect $3,000. There were contingencies, and there was grumpy, muscly old Dion barking out there somewhere.

“Why don’t you buy?” asked everyone from my sister to my dog. (Maybe I was just imagining that.) “It’s a great to buy.” Everyone said so. Prices had fallen 50%.

“No,” said my husband. “They’re still falling.”

We moved again. This time to quite a lovely little townhouse a few miles west. Still no yard, but a patio where a sandbox fits, in a nice, quiet community (the builders went bankrupt a quarter of the way through, so there is lots of nice open ground). There’s a pool behind a gate, a slide/mini-climbing wall/jungle-gym surrounded by dust (grass must be part of Phase II), and two nice men who take care of the palo verdes and the verbena. I looked into nonpermanent alternatives to painting a mural on the boys’ bedroom wall.

We have been renting month-to-month, due to eventual plans to follow my husband’s work to Durango, Colorado, where we both want to be for the long-term. Three weeks ago, one of the nice men who takes care of the palo verdes and the verbena knocked on the door. Handed me an envelope. Said with embarrassment, “It’s an eviction notice, actually. The bank’s making a push to sell.”

After looking forward to relocating, now I was reluctant. Mbot had just started in Montessori and the waitlist in Durango was a year. Gbot had a faithful if aging sitter in my mother-in-law. I had even finally started to make friends. We had made it through another scorching summer. I found I wanted to stay through the winter.

“What are they trying to sell this place for?” mused my husband. It turns out that in the past twelve months, the house has lost another hundred thousand dollars in value. Prices had dropped almost 70%.

He said, “It’s a good time to buy.”

The real estate agents grinned, and agreed. Today we signed papers to start the deal. I have no idea if it’ll go through. Both we and the house have yet to pass inspection. But I’m already looking forward to painting a mural on the boys’ bedroom walls. Even if it’s just for nine months. The walls will be mine.

Has patience paid off for you lately?

*Image of the Brooklyn Bridge from

Passengers in Zone 4, Please Board While Doing the Charleston

My mother called the other day. We no longer live in the same house, or even the same time zone, but we talk several times a week. “I have to tell you about the dream I had,” she says.

Now, when most people start a conversation that way, you check your pockets for a cyanide tablet. When Mom starts a conversation that way, you clamp the phone tighter between your shoulder and your ear and wish you weren’t also helping someone use the potty, so you could give her your full attention.

“Do you have time?” she asks.

“Yes,” I fib.

She began. “We were standing side-by-side, about to get onto the plane, because everyone had to board two-by-two, and everyone had to do something different as they boarded. The stewardesses ahead of us had their blouses all bunched into their skirts, for whatever they were doing, and when it came our turn, we had to do the Charleston. Side by side. As we boarded the plane. I remember my main worry was that I was going to lose my purse off my shoulder, because we had to swing our arms, and so I put it over my head, too, you know, around my neck AND my arm. And I remember thinking, thank goodness we don’t have the boys, too. I mean, with your hands on your knees, and the kicking….”

“Don’t tell the TSA,” I warn her. “They just haven’t thought of it yet.”

She had subconsciously regenerated my experience of flying a month ago from Idaho to Arizona, accompanied only by a twenty-two month-old, a thirty-eight month-old, an antique, diabetic carry-on cat, and a stroller provided by my mother, that hadn’t been in service since it had carried my younger brother’s diapered ass in 1971. Diabetes of course means that a lot of peeing can be expected. A collapsible metal stroller thirty-five years old means that, in spite of extensive testing in the garage, where it actually seemed cool, it might collapse with your twenty-two month-old in it, in front of a long line of strangers at the security gate. Whoops.

I have flown fourteen times since Mbot was born: twice with him alone, twice with him and Gbot at T minus two months (literally under my belt. This would be a good time to emphasize not to wear a belt when traveling with small children. Because who will keep them from disappearing while you’re struggling to remove it, and then to put it back on, and in the interim, who will hold your pants up, while your hands are otherwise occupied with mutinous midgets? But then there was that time when it came in handy as a leash.)

I have flown alone with both of them six times. TSA and I have gotten to know each other well. Our most intimate moments occur in that high-stress zone immediately beyond the security gate, where I unscrew bottles of breast milk for them to hold scraps of paper over to ensure that one bottle isn’t nitrogen tetroxide and the other monomethyl hydrazine, while replacing the laptop and re-constructing the stroller and shoving three boarding passes and the cell phone back into my bra (see The Girl Pocket) and replacing the shoes of a toddler and an infant while holding their hands.

I also enjoy the part where you are removing  not only your own shoes but the monster slippers of the two-year old and the dragon slippers of the one-year old, while the single woman behind you with the briefcase and headset tightens her lips impatiently. Am I really misinformed here, or was Al Queda and the Taliban known for its recruitment and inclusion of women? Especially middle-aged white women lugging teddy bears?

I have a list over thirty items long of how to make it through security with infants, toddlers, strollers, and hormonal imbalance, but, having recently flown, I don’t have the energy to write it down.

The only good thing about traveling with small children is that you eventually get where you are going, and you do not have to spend fourteen hours wishing you had a glass divider between the front seats and the back. The only other good thing is that strangers, reminded of how grateful they are not to be you, often offer to help. They carry bags. They attempt to re-construct the stroller. Except when it was built before the first Arab oil embargo and collapses with your child in it. Then they cease making eye contact, no doubt fearing potential liability and also suspecting that you are actually, really, in fact, insane. I pushed over the boundary last time around, with the stroller and the cat. Don’t do. it. I repeat: Do not do it.

Eight hundred words and I haven’t even gotten around to describing the joys of being on board. Even with midgets who are generally quite well-behaved. Even with bags of Goldfish and raisins. Even with two portable DVD players and two magnadoodles and pipe cleaners and crayons and Play Doh and Woody and Buzz Lightyear.

It’s not really flying. It’s falling, with style.

Or without.

Does the end justify the means?

As the World Learns

Thanks to this blog, I am learning so much already. I have discovered that extract of rapeseed milk called factis is the stuff in a natural eraser that actually absorbs the graphite (according to, no less). In plastic erasers, like our Chubby, it’s a harmless synthetic polymer similar to Silly Putty. I also found out that Zhejiang Province, where Chubby was born, is really lovely, at least according to this photo by Louisa Salazar. I’m still trying to contact Eileen Zhu, because I know who buys them and cries over them, but who designs these things, who makes them, who sells them? I want to read Chubby’s memoir. Except the part about ending badly in Arizona.)

But the learning list goes on. Did you know about styluses? With a stylus, I could sketch quick pictures onto an electronic pad and not have to bother with graphite or erasers at all, or the scanners and cameras then used to convert them into binary code. My friend Solveig, the Open Office guru  (, put me on to the stylus. She has introduced me to other magical appliances, too, like the $34 espresso maker that I threw down my ideals for and purchased at WalMart. So my confidence in her gadget instinct is infinite.

Another thing I have learned: Either the tapping of the keyboard from the next room over awakens Gbot, or he just somehow senses consciousness and ventures forth to investigate. For the last two mornings, five to six turned into five to five-fifteen. Not conducive to calm, which was, of course, a blogging goal. Not conducive to calm, either, I learned within twenty-four hours, is having a deadline—even a self-imposed one—every day. It is gratifying to have sent a little capsule of thought out into the world. But the act of sending it raises my stress level instead of lowering it. Let’s not even go near comparisons to bodily functions.

So I’m changing my plan. Writing from five to six is still a good idea. Blogging from five to six is not. But because I’ve learned so much in just three days, I’m going to keep blogging. In fact, I’m even getting used to the word. Blogging. Rhymes with jogging. There was a time I scoffed at the thought of jogging. Back in the eighties, when my mother did it, just before she bought a leotard and signed up for an aerobics class. Now, I would kill* for just a forty minute run. Because that’s what it’s called these days—no one jogs anymore. I mean, we’re doing the same thing, maybe not wearing velour, but still. I know in my heart that I’m not going any faster than my mom was in 1982.

So there, I got my moment of blog-induced levity, thinking about my mom in her leotard. I wonder if, in twenty-five years, blogging will be an embarrassing word? And if my sons will giggle, thinking of me doing it?

What did you learn today?

*term used euphamistically

Fall Apart Chubby

This is Chubby the Turtle. He is roughly the size of a falafel, and  available, with a minimum order of 20,000 of his brothers and sisters, from Ms. Eileen Zhu (who is offline at the moment), the supplier at Ningbo Yinzhou Headway Stationery Co., Ltd., in Zhejiang, China. Chubby (not his original name) is an eraser. According to the company website, Chubby can be recycled. And contains no toxins. I am of course suspicious. I am going to call Ms. Zhu today to ask about Chubby’s molecular makeup.

As I was getting ready for bed last night, Chubby fell out of my bra. His shell had long since detached from his body (as it had been designed to do) and he was missing all four feet (nt in the design specs). Where they once had been, only ragged stumps remained. Ah, Chubby! I thought, picking the pieces off the floor and dropping them in the trash can (not knowing then that he could be recycled). I buried him, more sneakily than ceremonially, under a few square of toilet paper. I had completely forgotten, even though it had happened only twelve hour before: our shocking virgin Peter Piper Pizza experience, our encounter with Chubby, and the ensuing tearful drive to preschool.

Who knew Peter Piper Pizza was a dinging, flashing blitzkrieg of an arcade attached to a $4.99 pizza buffet? After thirty minutes of sensory assault, we had earned twelve tickets, exchangeable for a chintzy toy. Mbot was fixated on a plastic gun available for 300 tickets. The only thing our measly dozen could nab us was either two mini tootsie rolls or a turtle. We actually couldn’t even afford the turtle, but the sugar option was a no go,  as my previously sensory deprived children (raised by wolves, with books) were already so amped. The guy behind the counter felt sorry for us and handed over a turtle. “It’s an eraser,” he said after I’d already taken possession of it. I almost handed it back but I couldn’t without triggering major wailing. Did he not see that I was in possession also of two midgets of the model that try to digest such objects? At least it made Mbot forget the gun. He proudly carried the turtle, who I christened Tubby and who Mbot rechristened Chubby, to the car, talking about how he would draw lines and then erase them, and wondering if his teacher, Miss Pursell, would let him do that.

We’d just hit the road when major wailing erupted in the back seat; Gbot was almost asleep, but Mbot’s face was distorted and wet with tears. Disaster had struck: Chubby was broken. Not only broken but, in an astonishingly rapid feat of decline, he’d lost all his feet. Of course he’d been helped out of them, but still. I silently cursed the makers of fragile turtle erasers with protruding appendages. It was more satisfying than cursing myself for not foreseeing the obvious outcome. There was no way I’d be able to fix Chubby with anything short of a toxic glue, which was not a possibility. It was an eraser for god’s sake, squeezed out of an eraser machine for nano-pennies. I would chuck it. But right now, I had to talk Mbot down before we got to school.

A quick aside here to explain that he goes to a Montessori program, It’s been in the family (on my husband’s side)—or that the family’s been in—for decades, but until a few months ago, I knew nothing about the curriculum. The first week, when Miss Pursell reported that my 38-month-old was doing “cutting work, shape work, and screwdriver work,” I admit I giggled like the unindoctrinated philistine I was. Then I noticed Mbot himelf referring to his “work:” necklace work and star work (learning about the solar system, I found). Countering his stubbornness in dressing himself, I started urging him to do pants work and shoe work .

So now in the car I heard myself saying, “Honey, Chubby’s just doing his work. He had falling apart work to do, and you helped him do it!”

I said it again, in the most convincing voice I could muster.

It worked.

I felt clever and slightly guilty.

But here’s the thing: What if it were true? And how do I know it’s not?

We pulled up to the school. I unstrapped the boys and made Chubby and two of his feet disappear into the nearest receptacle, which happened to be my bra.

I’m not a fatalistic, your-extreme-misfortune-was-meant-to-be type, but Fall Apart Chubby made me wonder what work I have to do, that the Midgets are helping me with, that I’m not even aware of. Sometimes (but less, lately, as they grow older and I get more sleep), it feels like I’m doing falling apart work, too, except it’s my psyche that’s crumbling. I’ve got optimistic work to do, for sure. It has never been a strength. And contentedness work. It doesn’t come easy. Mommy’s doing her contentedness work, I will think, sitting on the floor piecing a giant dinosaur puzzle together almost as fast as they tear it apart. You’re helping her do it!

What work do you have to do, and who is helping you?

Hello, world!

I see that WordPress has already started my text for me, and it’s this: “Hello, world!” Which seems optimistic or delusory. Maybe just irritatingly cheerful, and maybe just irritatingly cheerful since I am, as my title suggests, writing at five o’clock. A.M., ante meridiem as the Romans used to say, before they succumbed to overextension on foreign soil and lead poisoning, the latter due to their state-of-the-art plumbing. It’s so early that even yesterday’s underwear on the floor seems irritatingly cheerful.

My idea is to add to this thing every morning between five and six, at which point my youngest son, having vaulted in slow motion out of the crib that he is still sleeping in–due to my optimistic and delusory belief that if at 22 months he is still sleeping behind bars, I retain more control than if he were free to roam the zoo–staggers into the bedroom, spots the cat on the bed where it is not supposed to be, smiles beatifically, and announces his first desire of the day in halting toddlerese reminiscent of a beer-soaked frat boy: “Pat…kitty!”

I wrap my arms around him, feel his wispy blonde curls (not from me–never wispy, never blonde, never curls) against my cheek, raise him to cat level, and watch as his pudgy fingers descend ont0 Tesserwell’s raccoon-colored head, the caress reminiscent of a beer-soaked frat boy’s caress, with full intent but like the wiring systems for steering and speed control have been destroyed by carpenter ants. Once he’s made contact, he strokes, tentatively, gazing at the cat with single-minded adoration. In that moment he is completely sated. I’d like to think that because he got his tactile and psychological furry fix, his day will go more smoothly; that every rough element will be filtered through that moment of calm. But I’m projecting. That’s just me I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about writing. When it’s going well.

I stand and gather him against me and explain that it’s still nighttime. I pour milk into a bottle, knowing the pediatric dentists would frown on me, buying time with tooth enamel, and lower bottle and boy over the crib rails onto his bear, the large and still-natty Spuce Bear. I maybe buy thirty minutes of silence before my oldest son, who turned three not long ago, strolls into the bedroom as though he’s been awake since the fall of the Roman Empire, holding his own bear, the large and ratty Joomp Bear, and begins a monologue, one that mainly features stories beginning with, “When I was a big boy,…” or questions beginning with “Why,” or complaints about breakfast, dinner, or his brother (“I only want a mouse for a brudder”–the cat might agree), that will not end until he is in bed at seven o’clock this evening. At which point my to-do list is no shorter, but blurrier, and my desire to shorten it with military effectiveness becomes a desire to do it tomorrow.

With two toddlers and a to-do list longer than a mop handle (move in three weeks, finish the essay, find an agent, a job, and my lingerie), seven P.M. seems too close but at the same time very far away. There is a good chance I will have only one hour in the next fourteen that does not involve standing and interacting with other human beings, like a double shift waiting tables at a ski resort between Christmas and New Year’s (ask me about it sometime), only with shorter customers who spill their drinks and tip poorly and occasionally play in the toilet.

I do not have time to blog. I am too old to even feel completely comfortable using that word as a verb. It feels like I am slipping on a Wonder Bra or Spanx. Like I am an imposter in a hipper world, looking younger and perter than I really am. But imagine: an hour at the keyboard each morning! Every day! And not with the novel, Lily and Tyler McNutt and the beer can potato gun that set off the avalanche in the darkness of my hard drive while agents review my queries. A whole hour. Five to six. At which point emerges a complete little work. Done, finished, and sent out on its own. Hello, world! It’ll be my pat-the-kitty moment.

What are your ptkm’s?