Archive for October, 2008

up up up up

It’s been a while since I blogged about The Girls And Their Awesome, which is odd and lame of me, because Their Awesome is Very.

Julia is experimenting with language. “I missed Daddy,” she said the other night, in an emo moment, clearly meaning the present tense. It’s a direct search-and-replace from what I always say when I see her after work: “Julia! I missed you!” Other idioms of hers are translations from the Spanish. “I want much milk!” she says. “Mucher and mucher!” Jeremy pointed out that this was a literal rendition of “mas” and “mucho.”

My relationship with Claire is a little stormy at the moment, Claire’s experiments being in the area of defiance. “No!” said Julia to me last night during one heated exchange: “no shout at my sister!” She’s right, of course. She’s also extremely well-mannered. If I photically sneeze, she and I will volley: “Bless you.” “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” “I love you.” “I love you too, mommy.”

Ah, Claire, my volatile, stubborn, brilliant, fabulous rock star. She and I butt heads continually. I would take a bullet for her in a heartbeat and I believe she’d make an excellent president, but does she have to be SO IMMATURE? The other night she went into full meltdown because I had given her ice cream in a blue bowl, AT HER REQUEST, and ignored her followup request to disregard the earlier request, take the orange bowl away from Julia and give it to her, Claire. She went to bed without ice cream, rather than back down! I HAVE NEVER WITNESSED SUCH SELF-DEFEATING FOOLISHNESS except, of course, obviously, my own.

Did I mention brilliant? May I brag? No? I will anyway. She had a catch-up piano lesson one Friday, in which she learned a new melody; by her regular lesson on Sunday, 36 hours later, she was playing the duet with Renee. She lazily corrects my awful Spanish and instructs me in Important Facts. (Actually Julia has picked up this habit as well: last night I made the obviously unfounded claim that we live on planet Earth. Julia pointed out that we live in our house, while planet Earth is in space, and can only be reached by going UP UP UP UP.)

God, they crack me up. Claire picked up Arthur and the Comet Crisis at the library. There’s a passage in it in which a computer notes that the comet will destroy the earth, and adds: “Have a nice day!” Claire thought this was beyond hilarious, and has been reading it to anyone who will stand still long enough to hear it. She has inherited my bleak sense of humour and taste for apocalyptic science fiction! Good times, good times.

When the alarm goes off before sunrise every morning, groan, they jump into the big bed with me and the cat and I hug them as tight as I can, looking down at their dear heads, one strawberry-blonde bob, one puff of white silk. My daughters, my daughters, my daughters; I never dreamed I could possibly love anyone so much. Mucher and mucher.

dalai lama

dalai lama

Originally uploaded by yatima

Note to self.

pony ride

Claire on a pony

Originally uploaded by yatima

pony ride

Hero lighting for Julia

Originally uploaded by yatima

infrequently asked questions

Hey Miss Rach: Why do you and others like you think Obama is the Messiah? Are you NUTS or what?
Dear querent: speaking only for myself and others like me, WE DON’T. Nor do we think he is the Son of Man, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, or any other deity, religious leader, prophet, revelatory presence, allegorical farm or zoo animal or personification of an abstract principle, um, have I left anything out?

That’s because me and others like me are atheists and agnostics. You, revered figment of my Socratic dialogue, may want a Messiah, but I don’t want a Messiah. I don’t like Messiahs. I don’t like Chosen Ones, Those Who Were Foretold, prophecies, Sons of Adam, Daughters of Eve, Boys Who Lived or magical swords or rings. That shit’s undemocratic, yo.

I and others like me don’t want to be saved. We’re busy trying to bootstrap our way to grace. Keep your spiritual venture capital with its onerous term sheet attached! We’re not signing anything! That’s why we’re atheists and agnostics.

Obama’s Christlike to the extent that both he and Jesus were (gasp!) community organizers. Faith moves mountains, but only if you bring a shovel. Other than that, Senator My Boyfriend is just an intelligent and competent good-government liberal. He won’t walk on water, but he just might do something to address the titanic mess bequeathed to the next President by the current administration, to wit: unwinnable wars on two fronts, a massive deficit and a catastrophic global financial crisis, all traceable directly to the recklessness and bankrupt ideology of Bush and his cronies. (Blame any of this on the Democratic Congress of ’06 and I swear I will spit in your eye, bipartisanship be damned.)

Hey Miss Rach: Antichrist much?
Dear seeker after truth: oh, please.
Hey Miss Rach: Who the hell are you, a citizen of Australia and Great Britain, to speak for any part of the American people, the Democratic party machine, progressive voters, women or San Franciscan residents named Rach? Did you get your green card on April Fool’s?
Dear imaginary interlocutor: I did indeed, good sir or ma’am. I did indeed.

midnight at the fitzhardingehaus

J: Jules is so much in the family tradition. I put her to bed. I go back later to find her surrounded by books.

nerdcore marriage: don’t try this at home!

“It’s what I was saying the other day – being with you is like solitude, only better -”

“Loneliness: now with more people!”

“You know a sensitive husband would totally understand what I am saying, and be touched by it -”

“I’m like nobody, only more so!”

“You’re just digging a hole for yourelf.”

“The Well of Loneliness?”

“The well of loneliness-only-better.”

big difference

Monroe Fall Fun Festival: games, prizes, decorating sugar skulls and cupcakes, mini golf, bowling, a haunted house. When it was described to me I thought “okay, fine,” and I turned up mostly because I’d volunteered on the lollipop tree.

It was astoundingly good fun. The weather was shiny and beautiful, and the girls ran from booth to booth with cries of delight. All the other children were doing the same. Halloween came early: Principal Jen Steiner was a purple butterfly, Claire was a green fairy and Julia was a ballerina. It wasn’t even as sugary as you’d think. I am pretty lenient with respect to cookies and cupcakes, and the sugar skulls weren’t for eating.

I have girl-crushes on all the women in the PTA. They’re all Barbara Pym characters, practical and kind, and will be played in the movie by Judi Dench. The whole day had the feeling of a church fete except that instead of loading up the children with guilt and shame, we’re trying to get them to college.

all shall love her and despair!


Originally uploaded by Kathy_Ramsey

One day Martha will rule the world. Remember, you heard it here.

always coming home

The best thing about leaving San Francisco is always coming home. Today we ventured as far as Mountain View! The horror! But we zoomed back up 280 into a perfect golden evening over the Sunset District. Everything was bright and clear-edged as it is in southern France.

After I dropped Karin off and turned Hedwig for home I realized that I would see Jeremy and the girls soon. It was a great warm wave of joy.

puppy update


the new frugality

Toe news: vast improvement.

We had a very ordinary, in other words perfect, weekend. Wushu for Claire and Spanish class for Julia on Saturday morning, after which Jules and I walked through sunny autumnal Noe Valley all fragrant with jasmine down to the Mission Library to meet Jeremy and Claire and Salome and Milo. Tacos for lunch and then home for naps. Sunday morning was Claire’s piano class so we walked up the hill in bright sun but against an icy wind, the first glimmer of winter. This may be my favourite time of year in San Francisco, with the wind’s raw edge promising cognac-laced pumpkin soup and Halloween and Oz apples and Lemos Farm and Thanksgiving turkey and pie and everyone’s birthday and Christmas. Harvest food is the best.

Jeremy and I went over our position with respect to, you know, the global collapse of capitalism and the impending apocalypse and so forth. We’re about as okay as a middle-class techie nuclear family could hope to be; we have savings and a reasonable fixed-rate mortgage and no other debt. We’re especially lucky that our green cards just came through, so if the company or companies tank, which merciful Zeus forfend, we can get jobs elsewhere. We’ve already been eating out less and buying clothes second hand and going to the library, see above. I could afford to knock it off with the Internet shopping, but the number one flashing red light of a way to cut our costs is to get rid of my beloved car Hedwig and her $50-a-tank dead dinosaur habit. And I think we were both half-investigating the possibility by spending the weekend on foot or on public transport.

May I point out here, though, how royally it pisses me off that we are having to economize? I am so tired of selfish people running the country that I have given into the temptation to brainwash my daughters. “John McCain has thirteen houses, which means there are twelve houses other people can’t live in,” I tell Claire. “That’s because John McCain’s momma never taught him to share his toys. Do you know how many houses Barack Obama has?” “Just one,” says Claire.

“And Barack Obama will end the war,” Claire adds. “Which is good, momma, because then you won’t have to cry about it any more.”

This must have become a fairly routine conversation around our place, because when Julia overhears what we are saying she cries: “Barack Obama? NOT AGAIN.”

ETA: Right now in the bath, Claire pretending to be on the phone.

“What? McCain’s winning? YUCK, YUCK, YUCK!”

“No he’s not!”

“Now the war will go on forever.”

“Oh no!”

“Obama’s got the mumps.”


Claire and Julia have a money box that is a tin with a coin slot in the lid. It is stuffed full of coins of various currencies. I had watched without necessarily registering that this money box joined mama and baby polar bear, green snake, rainbow monkey, kangaroo and the rest as they travelled on a sled made of a throw rug into the bedroom. When I went to clean the toys out of the bedroom just now, I picked up the throw rug and tossed the animals into the toy corner.

The money box, of course, fell out and landed on its edge on my left big toe.

Wow! Pain! It is so large when it comes at you like that with no warning. I bit my hands trying not to scream. It was so big and sparkly and painful! Like a fire that grew and grew. Most shamingly, there’s not a mark on me. It didn’t break the skin and no bruise has come up yet. Jeremy thinks I may have broken the bone. I doubt it, because I can move the toe, but dear God it really hurt.

Julia was most anxious. She looked into my face trying to understand what I was feeling, and then she started to cry and hold her own big toe. The origins of empathy; mirroring my body with her own. Which of course makes me wonder where the mommas of McCain and Palin’s most rabid supporters went wrong. I’m not a particularly nice woman, and I am lazy, but if my not-yet-three-year-old can already grasp theory of mind, why can’t the Republicans knock it off with the death threats?

Do they really not care about other people?

The election has been excruciating, of course, with occasional glimmers of exhilaration. One of the most frustrating aspects is that I feel I can’t fully revel in the professionalism and elegance and grace and style of the Obama campaign while I am still so deeply afraid that Obama might lose. If you’re overseas I am not sure I can convey just how gut-wrenching and painful and terrifying the last eight years have been in the USA; how impossible it is to forget the dust and ash of the terror attacks, and how unbearable it is to read about Americans torturing their prisoners.

Right now everyone’s obsessed with the economy, including me, and I can talk at lucid and informed length about the ways in which Bush and McCain and Gramm are directly responsible for the banking disaster. But the issue for me is always the war. It was the war in 2004 and it is the war today. Stockbrokers may be losing their shirts but soldiers and civilians are losing their limbs, and their sight, and their sanity. And their lives.

I hoped but did not really believe that Kerry could win in 04, and I hope much more fiercely that Obama will win this year, because while Kerry would have been a decent president I think Obama can be a fine one, a great one. Empathy again: I look at him with his fantastic wife; I look at how tender he is with his own children and those of other people; I admire his cool strategy and steely nerve; and I want so badly for other people to see in him what America is capable of, what people here can be.

He is from my America, my California liberal arts colleges and East Coast Ivy Leagues, the Chicago I love, the community organizers I’d like to be when I grow up, my whole mixed-up muddled-up shook-up world. I know that in Australia and England and elsewhere you all look at what goes on here with horror. I completely understand. I am horrified myself.

But Cheney shooting a man in the face, and making the victim apologize – rich men whining about selling their private jets, when poor people have no health insurance – when cancer spells bankruptcy for even affluent families – that’s not all America is. It’s also a nation of Sanctuary Cities and the Winter of Love and eighteen million cracks in the glass ceiling. It is a moneybox stuffed with coins, and it is an unprotected toe.

claire also adored the puppy


Originally uploaded by Goop on the lens

That dog is eight weeks and three days old. He was beset by adoring children for about two hours. All he did was kiss them and wag his little knuckle of a tail. Chouchou, you rock.

kat brought her dog over. in a handbag


Originally uploaded by Goop on the lens

World’s sweetest toddler meets world’s sweetest puppy. Everyone in range dies of teh cute.

rainy weekend in the domes at oz


Originally uploaded by Goop on the lens

I feel almost human again.

the dream

We walked along the beach again as we have done a thousand, ten thousand times. The grey sky glowered. Sand scrunched between my toes. Cold waves pushed up and over our feet, all salt and foam. Wave succeeded wave like shaken-out bolts of silk. We wandered back to the car, teasing and jeering, lost in the parking lot.

“Where is Claire?” he said. I looked up, startled. And suddenly it wasn’t Alain, my childhood’s constant companion. It was Jeremy, and I had forgotten the girls, and I was racing back to the rough water’s edge and praying “Please please please…”

My distress woke me up. I lay, heart hammering, in my quiet room beside my sleeping husband. The sky over Noe Valley was blushing indigo and orange.

The girls, I knew, were safe in their own beds.

I have made myself a responsible adult because I love my daughters as I love sunrise and the sea.

But some small part of my soul is still twelve, with my brother, on a beach.