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November 27th, 2007 by Joyce · 1 Comment

More on Rody later. For now, watch Carmen and David get acquainted with their Rody yesterday. He’s our new best friend. My biggest regret? I didn’t meet Rody earlier.

In the above clip: David is saying the horse can eat hay, and oat groats, our name for the crunchy feed the horses at the George Ranch eat. Meanwhile Carmen is bouncing on the couch in anticipation of her own Rody. It’s not easy to inflate and plug up . . . definitely a two-person job.

In the above clip: Carmen bouncing, “riding on the horsey like the cowboy.” David is afraid she’ll break her Rody. She doesn’t, and won’t–it’s good to four hundred pounds (sort of like a real pony?). She has relaxed her riding style since then, though.

IMG_4402 Left: Carmen playing veterinarian, checking Rody’s teeth. (She doesn’t know you’re not supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth.)

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November 20th, 2007 by Joyce

But not in the musical way; we’re still fiddling with the blog whenever we get our little bits of free time and pretend to overlook the mess in the kitchen. Expect a few more changes here and there, especially if you look through the archives.

While I’ve got your attention, please listen or watch this talk by Sir Ken Robinson. (Give yourself twenty minutes to hear the talk from beginning to end.) I’ll post the link to the transcript when I find it.

What he says isn’t entirely new; I think we all know the value of creativity. Are we brave enough, though, to love and live it?

Edit, 24 November: The friend who pointed me toward the speech above unexpectedly passed away this week. Thank you for inspiring us, Laura.

→ No CommentsTags: Bigger Pictures · Dynamic Duo · Go Joyce Go · Parenthood


November 18th, 2007 by Joyce

C&D love to make loud sounds, like rooster crows, train whistles, and reed-squeaky squeaks. They especially like to sing loudly whenever the mood strikes, whether it be in the bathroom, in bed, at the dinner table, or in the car.

Last night, after the sun had set and while we pushed she and David to UST in the stroller, Carmen felt the urge to belt out “All Around the Kitchen” as sung by Dan Zanes. Unfortunately Carmen doesn’t know all the words to this catchy song, quite, so from The Menil Collection to UST she just sang her favorite part:


(Sing this out as loudly as you possible can on a dark residential street for about five minutes, if you’d like to get the basic idea. And no, when she sings the song she does pronounce it “kicken.”) Dan Zanes I’m sure would be proud.

If you live on Branard and suddenly your cat got scared, your dog got to barking, and you were interrupted in that important phone call to your mother at around 6:30 yesterday evening . . . that wasn’t us.

And by the way, I think the sickies have officially left the house. We’re all feeling quite good and ready to start a sparkly new week.

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The Crazy Cat Lady Doesn’t Have Cats

November 17th, 2007 by Joyce

A close re-encounter with the woman who stole my rocks:

A few months ago, Matt started digging up our yard.

Technically, it’s not a yard, but an easement owned by the city and cared for us.  I think a water main runs beneath the easement, and since it belongs to the city we are not allowed to install fences or otherwise block it, even though a sidewalk will never be built there.

This is fine, except that after we moved in we realized the pretty stone path in our easement-yard was used by people on their way to the busy street a block away.  This was a bit of a problem because the pretty stone path was installed by a previous owner and the rocks wobbled and slid.  At night we could hear the clunk-clunk-trip of tentative steps right outside our bedroom window as people cut the corner and walked  home.  We were bothered by the noise, and worried what might happen if someone fell over the rocks and got hurt.  (Just because it was a path, it wasn’t meant to be a public path; those are to be approved by the city and meet certain standards.)  As people walked they threw trash in the ground cover.  Wanna-be-tough kid types wrote love notes on the wall, painted marks on our walls and windows, and wrote on our rocks with the child’s chalk from the house next door.  "You are dirty," someone wrote.  And then he wrote "you have SEX."  People who parked at the curb had little space to open their passenger doors because the grass mounded upward, and we watched people slid and trip getting in and out of their cars.

And in the fall someone let their dog leave a big pile of dog poo right outside our front door, like a package from UPS.

Our easement-yard was not intended as a trash can, shortcut, site for self-expression, or Old Yeller’s lavatory.  It was time to change the landscaping.  I called the city the week after Christmas and asked what I might and might not be permitted to do.

The woman on the other end of the phone sounded like she was from San Antonio, too.  "M’ija, you can landscape it however you want." 

"But I can’t put a fence around it?" 

"No, I’m sorry." 

"But I can put rocks there?"


"And some spiky plants so people’s dogs don’t poop by my door and leave it?"

"Absolutely, m’ija, and if you see somebody let their dogs go toilet by your house, you call the city and they can get a ticket."

Funny for not picking up after a dog, really?  I hadn’t known that.  How could anyone enforce it?  I imagined trying to follow my neighbors home so I could report them to some kind of pooper-scooper hotline.

So Matt and I made a plan.  We would terrace the sloped space, leaving a flat, level bit on the bottom for people to park their cars on the street.  We would eliminate the path, and make it harder for dogs and their owners to use my green space as a toilet.  We would install native plants, and turn the sterile, urban green space into something dynamic, interesting, and a little bit wild.  The easement would be safer and prettier for everyone.

But then I had the AVM.  We spent thousands on childcare.  More thousands on new windows.  More thousands on a roof and leaky siding.  There was no money left for rocks and lots of plants.  This was unfortunate, because we had torn up the path, and between Matt’s sporadic projects and the remodeling crews, our slope resembled a mud slide in Malibu. 

I felt bad that we had in the span of a few months created an eye sore on our busy street, and I felt frustrated that the mud and weeds laughed at me right outside my window.

Matt decided that since we didn’t have the money for rocks, he would install a much cheaper, simpler wall three feet from the curb.  The wall would allow visitors to park on the street, while discouraging dogs to hop onto the grass and stink up the place.  We imagined a green oasis in the middle of urban drab.

That was it.  The pretty little pathway and landscaping was coming up.  He dug and dug in the heat, moving our gumbo soil with a shovel.  When he installed the walls he put down landscaping fabric and gravel, then took our pavestones and pieced them together to make a level surface.  Then somebody started taking the stones.  Discouraged, we picked them all up, and concentrated on other things around the house and in my recovery.

Then, last evening, walking back from the grocery store, a woman walking a deranged-looking mutt passes us on the street and says, "Cute kids."  I held my breath.  In the soft orange glow of the streetlights, she hadn’t recognized me.  The Crazy Cat/Rock Lady wasn’t a cat lady, she was a dog lady.  She wore jeans but still looked ragged and tired.  I edged close to Matt.  "That’s the lady who took our rocks.  Let’s follow her and see if we can find them."  The corners of his mouth made a small smile.

We pushed the stroller casually behind her, stopping on frequent occasions to offer C&D a granola bar from our groceries, or to stop and point out the stars in the sky, no mind it was almost bedtime and we needed to go home.  The woman walked slowly, staggering occasionally from the pull of her zig-zagging dog.  When the dog dallied at a bush, she yanked his leather strap and pulled him ahead. 

Only a couple of blocks from the house, the woman walked up a sidewalk and into a run-down fourplex.  The streetlight was on the other corner, but as we craned our necks we saw a small path between the building and the street.  In the path we spotted our rocks, someone else’s rocks, and a few pieces of broken concrete.  She took the rocks to make a path.

I felt silly and excited.  I whispered to Matt that on Thanksgiving night, while my parents were here with C&D, we should steal the rocks back.  We could load them on the jogging stroller and run.  We could leave a note, I said, "We took our rocks back."  It would have been mean and unnecessary, but I enjoyed visualizing the whole affair. 

By the next block, Matt was shaking his head.  "She looks crazy," he said. 

"Or something," I said.  "She doesn’t seem well."

"If she was crazy enough to steal our rocks, what else is she capable of?" he asked.  "What if she remembers where the rocks came from and decides she knows we took them?  She could throw a rock through our window."

We pulled into the garage.  After one quick look behind us, we closed the garage door and walked upstairs.

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Sick and Tired

November 8th, 2007 by Joyce · 4 Comments

I’m sick and tired.  Really.  I have a cold and I can tell it’s going to get ugly.  It’s strange; we weren’t sick much at all until the bleed, and now this is, what, my third cold this year?  For a while I hadn’t any at all.  What’s different, and how do I fix whatever is wrong? 

I’m so tired.  I wish for the next week I could just stay downstairs and watch bad network television on mute and sniffle and sleep whenever I do.   I don’t feel good for much else.   But I’ve got kids to chase and tomorrow morning we’re supposed to glue the cottonball clouds on the blue skies we painted today.  That’s important.

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"Mommy’s mouth is broken."

November 8th, 2007 by Joyce

With C&D I try to distill every thing to its simplest components.  Especially when a toilet seat is involved.

So, after a morning where I had switched key words with disastrous results,  resorted to clapping to get the attention of my two busy-bodies (busybodies and busy bodies) when words failed me at key times (like when David was just about to lick the toilet seat), then resorted to clapping and stamping before I figured out how to verbalize "we don’t throw our peas, Carmen," David looked at me with sad, concerned eyes.  I responded with the only thing I could think to say:  "Mommy’s mouth is broken.  I am clapping so I can get your attention."

He mouthed the words.  "Mommy’s mouth is broken."  He repeated them louder, his eyes a little wider.   "Mommy’s mouth is broken.  Like the bobo on Mommy’s head."

I nodded.  He nodded back, smiled, and turned back to his lunch.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with my mouth.  But I think for now, that’s the best explanation I could give him, and I’m glad he took it.

Still fiddling with the site, and still trying to edit posts that have yet to be published.  The sickies are at our house, so our priorities this past week have been food, sleep, and laundry.

→ No CommentsTags: Dynamic Duo · My Brain (& the AVM)


November 1st, 2007 by Joyce



A paper airplane, with Grandma riding it.


A paper airplane, with Grandma riding it, and pulling "mail," like this one that flies up and down during afternoon rush hour:





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