Fall 2022, California and Alabama

Sep1: Ayla’s Twilight Sparkle bandage. Unfortunate incident with the hinge end of a bathroom door

The finger was flattened like taffy but somehow not broken. It re-inflated by the time we got to the doctor. I didn’t know kids were literally made of rubber.

Sep1: Ali was watching a Youtube video, and at the end the guy said, “Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t yet, and give us a thumbs up.”

Ali cheerfully and dutifully gave a literal thumbs up to the video with his actual hand.

Sep3: The sum total of my pumpkin harvest this year. I finally euthanized my last vine (and murdered 4 last big fat squash vine borer larvae). I killed off my squash a while ago. Just got tired of messing with it.

Sep3: Ayla this evening is a roaring, stomping unicorn who is going to eat someone.

Aylacorn Rex.

Sep4: Ali found a new cousin! (My cousin’s daughter Alex.)

Sep4: Sweet smiles. Grandma’s only granddaughter (out of 8 grandkids)

Sep5: Fun trip to Grandma’s house with The Cheesemaster and Princess Goofball

Guess who got a new rainbow unicorn? (My old toy.)

Sep5: I found a song both kids like me to sing before bed: Colors of the Wind.

Ali once asked me if all parents sing the same song to their kids. I said, “No, people sing all kinds of songs. Some people don’t sing a song to their kids before bed at all.”

He said, surprised, “Well, they’re doing it wrong.”

Sep7: That feeling when you have all kinds of resolutions and things to do and think about now that the kids are finally back in school, and your HVAC unit goes out, it’s all hands on deck, and you’re literally sweating a multi-thousand-dollar problem that needs to be fixed like NOW

I wish I knew diddly squat about this subject (3 different companies have given 3 wildly different answers about various things), and I wish I had more time to learn.

At least this didn’t happen during the 103 degree heat wave!

Sep7: Ever since Ayla’s car seat turned front-facing, she has started commentating on the traffic lights.

“Uh oh, wed wight.”

“Iss geen, Mama! Go! Fasser!”

This leads to much consternation when I try to turn right on red, or I can’t turn left on green (not a green arrow) because it’s not safe. Or she sees the red light over the next lane while I have a green arrow. Poor kiddos learning all these arbitrary rules!

She has started trying to learn the proper L sound, but she only uses it when she really thinks about it, and she sticks her tongue all the way out to make the sound. She sounds kind of drunk when she does it.

She also calls her injured finger “my Broken Arrow”

Sep9: Ayla’s version of “because” is currently “Puhkuzz,” emphasis on first syllable. It’s vewy cute.

Sep9: We’ll be the proud owners of a new Trane HVAC system on Monday. Just gotta sweat a bit through Saturday (high of 90). Sunday and Monday have highs of only about 80. Whew!

Gonna go get my COVID booster and flu shot tonight, now that all that fun is behind us. #adulting2022

Sep10: We are earth, we are stars.

“You are comprised of 84 minerals, 23 Elements, and 8 gallons of water spread across 38 trillion cells.

You have been built up from nothing by the spare parts of the Earth you have consumed, according to a set of instructions hidden in a double helix and small enough to be carried by a sperm. You are recycled butterflies, plants, rocks, streams, firewood, wolf fur, and shark teeth, broken down to their smallest parts and rebuilt into our planet’s most complex living thing.
You are not living on Earth. You are Earth.”

~ Aubrey Marcus

Sep11: Pilot Ali ready to fly.

He asked me where I wanted to fly. I said, “Namibia.”

He said, “That’s really far away. This isn’t a RV plane.”

He asked for my phone number in case he needed to call me while we were in the air.

I started to give him my 10-digit real number.

He stopped me and said, “You need to get a different number. I can’t remember all that.”

“Oh, uh, OK. My number is 512.”

Sep11: Ali: “Where were you married?”

Me: “Stigler.”

Ali: “Were Grandma and Grandpa born then?”

Me: “Yes. They were there.”

Ali: “And you just thought, Hmm, this will be a good Grandma and Grandpa for Ali?”

Sep11: LASIK update: It’s been almost 6 months since I got LASIK.

So far it’s been a great success. My eyes are a bit dry sometimes, but not enough for me to ever remember to put drops in them. There’s still a slight halo around the moon, but I don’t know if it’s my eyes or just Oklahoma haze. (The moon is much clearer in the Middle East.) Lights at night seem a little fuzzier than before maybe? But not distressingly so, and since I don’t remember exactly how it was before, it’s hard to say much about it.

Sometimes the moisture in my eyes is just right and things have an almost jewel-like clarity. (It’s always very clear, but this is like super HD.) Hopefully as the months go on and healing continues, the jewel-like times will be more frequent as the moisture balances out.

Sep11: Today I accidentally broke Ali’s little MagnaTile house when I was moving things to vacuum. He started crying, and Ayla came to him and patted his back and said, “Iss OK, Ali.”

Ali wasn’t really having it — he wasn’t ready to be consoled — but it was super sweet.

Later Ayla fell and scraped her shin. Ali went over to her, patted her back, and said, “It’s OK, Ayla.”

❤ ❤ ❤

Sep12: Solemn little Ayla. Who knew what a goofball dinosaur unicorn she would be?

And oh yeah, it’s 12 years since Ahmed and I met on a soccer pitch in NYC

Sep12: When Ayla talks about volcanoes (boltanos), she pronounces “Lava” as “Waba.” And it’s also the cutest thing ever. (She does a lot of cutest things ever. IMHO.)

She has a best friend named Malachi who has as big a personality as she does (and huge blond curls), and I catch them sitting really close together and patting each other or holding hands at the end of the day.

The other day, after disengaging from Malachi, she patted other kids as she left, like she was giving them a little affectionate good-bye.

Today she was looking away when I came in, and Malachi nudged her and said, “Your mama’s here.” It was so cute. These little tiny kids that are so big!

Sep12: Whoah. We are no longer Sauna Force One. The new HVAC cooled us down so fast it took our breath away, and Ahmed’s office and the master bedroom are no longer the warmest rooms in the house. It actually cools the house evenly!

Sep13: Lots of glory in our mornings

Sep13: Morning glory with flowers in the background

Sep14: There’s a little kid joke where you make a cylinder with one hand and cover it with the other and tell someone:

“Open the lid…
Put your finger in [the middle of the cylinder]…
Wiggle it around…
Take it out…
Close the lid…
THANK YOU FOR CLEANING MY TOILET BOWL!”

Ali put his hands in the proper position and walked up to Ahmed and said, “Open the toilet… I mean, open the lid!” And he went on delightedly as if nothing went amiss

And now Ayla loves putting her hands together flat and coming up to you with the most mischievous grin and saying:

“Open my wid… Wiggle awound… TANK YOU FOR KEENING MY TOILET!”

Sep14: Ali named a bunch of people he loved, all family, and said he didn’t know anyone else he loved.

I said, “You know, love never runs out. You can love everyone in the whole world if you want to.”

He said matter-of-factly, “I know. It’s always there. Every time I sleep, I just get more and more and more love.”

Sep16: Purple tower = Ayla’s latest attempt at “paper towel”

She still keeps asking us to “Make me Siwight Farkle” [Twilight Sparkle], which means putting a bandage on her somewhere and drawing blue and pink and purple stripes and a cutie mark on it.

Sep16: Ali to our TV remote: “Search for Minecraft blimps on fire on Youtube.”

It’s just an example. He’s constantly asking for the impossible (or highly, highly improbable).

This boy’s tastes are so specific, he’s looking at a lifetime of either disappointment or prolific creativity

Sep16: I’ve always wanted a little tea and meditation corner

Sep17: Siblings from other mothers

Sep17: We’re playing zoo. Baby turtle wanted me to take a pic and send it to his grandma in Stigler.

Sep18: You have to appreciate those rare moments when kids are easy to please (for a few minutes). And I admit a blush of pride when she stopped after she had 10 stickers on the paper and correctly counted them.

Ali’s project (below) didn’t keep him busy quite as long…

Sep18: I was teaching Ali a little about clocks today as I changed the batteries. He pointed to each number and counted up to 12.

He said, “You know what my favorite number is?”

“What?”

“Ten. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because when you have ten dollars, you have a lot of dollars. It can buy, like ten sixteen things. Ten sixteen lawnmowers. Ten sixteen trailers. Ten sixteen of anything.”

Ali, at the starting line of a bike race in the house: “On your market set, go!”

Sep18: Cozy enough?

Sep18: Ali in the car just now: “Christmas is when you get candy canes, Halloween is when you get siiiiick.”

(Ali did not get sick on Halloween last year, even though I told him that this one day a year, he was allowed to keep eating candy until he got sick if he wanted. I did that a couple times as a kid, and I learned! But Ali stopped before that point, on his own. We’ll see how it goes this year.)

He also decided to give the cats full names. So now our older cat is Mateo Trees Fur and our younger cat is Isabela Sister Family.

Sep21: Ayla turned to Ali while they were having snacks at the table after school yesterday and said, “I miss[ed] you today, Ali.”

It was super sweet. He didn’t say it back. Which is fine. He loves school, and I love that.

(She also misses him at Tippi Toes class. Ali begged off for a while but said he misses it now and wants to start again after Christmas. For now, Ayla always begs me to join the class and dance with her.)

By coincidence, I park in the same spot in the neighborhood around the same time as Ali’s best friend’s dad, so we always bid each other good morning, or just share a smile of solidarity. They are a Lebanese family, and it’s so nice to hear Shami Arabic in the morning. (Shami = “from the Levant” — Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon.) Especially cute affectionate Shami Arabic from parent to child. All of Ali’s friends seem to be girls.

Meanwhile we always catch Ayla being affectionate with her best friend Malachi when we pick her up. Playing with his arm or hair or whatever. It’s so wonderful to see how happy and confident these kids are. Who knows what the next generation will bring to the world?

Sep21: Life is beautiful

Sep23: It’s fascinating to me the extent to which we are basically cavemen of the psyche. We don’t even have the equivalent of a heliocentric model of the solar system. Everything orbits around the wrong place — shoring up and protecting the ego (our small and insecure selves).

Sep27: Ali: “Righty tighty, lefty loosey.”

Ayla: “I’m not Lucy!”

(He was pointing right and left and happened to be pointing at Ayla when he said “loosey.”)

Sep28: Spider fairy

Sep28: Fun Night and fish day

Sep28: Baby got a haircut, a pumpkin, and a sucker

Sep29: You cannot look around at the Gathering Place without seeing a monarch butterfly!

Sep29: I didn’t get a picture (my phone died), but we stumbled upon another monarch butterfly tagger at the Gathering Place, and she caught one and showed us how she tagged it and then placed it on Ayla’s hand. It flew away immediately, and Ayla laughed and wanted to do it again. We probably saw 100 monarchs in total.

The kids also found a dead painted lady butterfly, which has peacock-like markings on the underside of its wings.

Sep29: Ayla calls cantaloupe “cantawoop,” and I think we should all follow her lead.

Ali calls it Scooper Diving. He wants to do it in the pool. Now.

Ayla calls the elevator an “excavator.” She often feels a need to remind us, “I’m growing up.”

We know, Baby. We know.

Sep30: Parenthood is finding boogers on your shoulder and thinking, “Well, at least they’re out of my kid’s nose and in a place I’m not likely to touch before I put it in the laundry at the end of the day.”

Didn’t even occur to me to change shirts.

Sep30: Ali: “When is everyone gonna die and start over again?”

Me: “What? Who?”

Ali: “The world. Do people just die and then grow up again?”

Me: “I don’t know. Maybe? Some people think so. It’s called reincarnation.”

Ali: “I just think it happens over and over again.”

Oct1: Ali’s latest ask for a toy/gift: A grass baler that you can push behind a lawnmower that will gather the grass and poop out tiny grass bales.

These kids want the world, man. They want things no one has even thought to want before

Oct1: I took Ali along with me to get myself a haircut. He brought his Lego street sweeper to play with. Spent the whole time corralling hair with it.

He’s covered in hair and so is his toy. Oh well! Gotta keep ’em occupied somehow

Oct3: Ali: I want to play Christmas.

Ahmed: How do you play Christmas?

Ali: Just like real Christmas!

Oct3: This floor was perfectly clear three hours ago. I was gonna sweep when I had a minute #Sisyphus


Oct3: Ali made a mess or broke something, I don’t remember the exact scenario. I said, “Don’t worry, it’s not a big deal.”

He said with a mix of relief and confidence, “Yeah. It’s a little deal.”

Now Ayla has started saying it, too, when I say something is not a big deal

Oct4: Ali’s wee marigold sprouts from Bethany school turned into a whole flower bush entwined with my cherry tomatoes. (The other marigolds died long ago.)

(You can see the little wooden sign that says “Ali’s Marigold” in the center of the last photo)

Oct4: Ali’s favorite night time song these days:

Soft kitty, warm kitty,
little ball of fur.
Happy kitty, sleepy kitty,
purr purr purr!

He makes a loose lip horse sound when I say “Purr purr purr.” I have to quickly and discreetly move out of the splash zone.

Oct5: Ayla calls jack-o-lanterns “scary pumpkins”

Oct5: End of an era. Disaster of an old stumpy crepe cut down. Should grow back better than ever. But we also lost most of the morning glories climbing around in it. So it goes.

Oct5: “I just saw a RV boat with tons and tons and tons of apartments!”

~ Ali, on catching sight of a cruise ship on TV

Oct5: Parent teacher conferences were tonight, and my proudest moment was when the teacher said they put the kid who was having the hardest time at Ali’s table (“because Ali is so sweet”), hoping Ali would be kind to him, and they’ve become fast friends

He’s quite advanced in math. Average at letters. They asked if we talk to him or read to him a lot, because “He talks like a much older kid.”

That’s just Ali. Can’t take much credit. Youtube probably taught him as much as anything

Oct6: Little Miss Sassy with her Holly Golightly bangs having breakfast with Grandma.

Oct7: Ali reached all the way over his Baba to grab a silverware bundle at a Mexican restaurant tonight.

Ahmed said, “You know, instead of reaching over someone like that, you can just say, ‘Baba, can you please give me some silverware?'”

Ali said, “OK,” and reached all the way over his Baba to put the silverware back, then sat back down. “Baba, can you please give me some silverware?” he asked.

His Baba looked at me and we shared a smile. Then Ali got up again and reached over his Baba a third time to get the other two silverware bundles and lined them up in front of himself.

“Now you ask for them,” he said cheerfully.

Oct7: I love this little photo of Ayla kicking a ball around at preschool. And painting, playing, and Play-Doh

Oct8: Ayla had a 2.5-year-old check up on October 3, at 2 years 8 months. It was delayed for some reason I don’t remember.

She’s 37 inches tall (68th percentile), 29.8 pounds (56th percentile), with a head circumference of 49.7cm (82nd percentile). She was cooperative and talkative. Hated the flu shot, but I was honest that it was coming, and it would hurt a bit for a while, and I let her cry and sulk afterwards. It was only when we got to the car that she realized we’d forgotten to get her well-earned Dum Dum. She found her favorite flavor, bubble gum, and settled down in her car seat like a coal miner after a hard day’s work.

Oct9: Ayla said today, “I go to Tippi Toes. Will I go to Tippi Toes again after… Canifoniwa?”

Not a bad approximation of California for a two-year-old. It was from memory, too.

Oct10: When we got to the LA airport, Ali said matter-of-factly, but maybe a little sadly, “I don’t have any of my toys or videos here.”

I said, “Well, they have Youtube in California.”

“Hm,” he said. “Well, I won’t have any of my Youtube channels.”

“Buddy, Youtube was made in California.”

Oct10: It was supposed to be a lazy day to recover from a red-eye with two little kids, but we walked a mile along the beach to the Santa Monica Pier, Ali rode his first roller coaster, we drove through Topanga State Park and stopped at a gorgeous overlook, did some grocery and diaper shopping, and enjoyed a lovely sunset drive to our hotel in Thousand Oaks. (The kids alternately enjoyed themselves, tantrummed, and napped. As totally expected.)

Now we sleeeeeeeep.

Oct10: We already blew through LA, but I’m in search of good dim sum along the California coast. Recommendations welcome!

Oct10: Beach walk to Santa Monica Pier. Followed by an unglamorous but lovely dinner with improvised utensils.

Oct11: In Solvang, a little Danish-village-inspired tourist trap. Dang the food is pricy. But it’s cute.

Tomorrow: Pismo Beach and possibly San Luis Obispo. Recommendations welcome, as always!

Oct12: Visited Ventura and Nojuqui waterfall yesterday. So many chittering hummingbirds up by Serra Cross overlook. Ayla insisted on doing yoga next to a drop-off. (Only a few feet, but we still had to watch her like a hawk.) The waterfall was more like a trickle but still beautiful up in the woods.

The kids are being sleep terrorists, and Ali is super oppositional with all the changes and sleep deprivation. We are managing to have a pretty good time anyway.

The kids love watching videos and playing around in the hotel rooms as much as anything, and egging each other on in the car when they’re supposed to be napping.

It’s sweet how they’ve kind of ganged up against us, but also… yeah

Oct12: This is our view in Pismo Beach. Ali was just glad to find a patch of grass to mow

Oct13: Walking on Pismo Beach. Also, Ali found a tiny rubber fox at a boba tea place, and Ayla claimed it and has been playing with it non-stop ever since. They named it Runny because it likes to run and run and run. You may be able to see a rabbit in the background.

Oct14: Day 4, Thursday, San Luis Obispo Children’s museum and Morro Bay Beach. You never know what’s going to be a highlight. The beach was cold and windy, but an older couple gave the kids their last peanuts to feed to the world’s chunkiest squirrels, and it was a laugh riot. Then the kids found a miraculous box of beach toys behind a big rock. Treasure. They had so much fun and then put them back for the next kids.

Oct14: Ragged Point Thursday and Big Sur Friday. Our views have been foggy and decapitated but still pretty.

Oct15: Things have finally settled down a bit on this trip. The kids wake up around 7:30 and watch cartoons while we snooze and/or get ready. We have breakfast then head out and do some kind of morning thing — playground, hike, beach, children’s museum or attraction. We usually drive from one place to the next in the afternoon. The kids refuse to nap (or if one is tired, the other is bonkers) and are chronically underslept. We just have to understand they’re going to have moments of acting like sociopaths at some points during the day. (Eating in restaurants is super dicey. Sometimes videos are involved.)

Eat when we’re hungry — either a snack for lunch and then a bigger dinner, or a big afternoon dinner and maybe a snack before bed.

Some afternoon activity — a butterfly grove, a series of overlooks, a beach with corgi squirrels, walking around gorgeous hotel grounds, overlooks, and gardens at Ragged Point, watching hummingbirds feast on a flower bush.

Make it to the hotel later than expected (always), get the kids bathed, watch videos, play, and get to bed by around 8:30.

Wake up and do it all again.

The kids whine sometimes and say they just want to go home, or they just want to watch videos. All part of it. They’ll be talking about this trip for years.

Oct15: Ali ordered me to take this pic and send it to Grandma. Apparently he wants this sculpture for Christmas

Oct15: Monterey Bay Aquarium and Asilomar beach, day 6

(They were playing some kind of chasing game that always started with them squaring off with their hands on their hips. And giggling.)

Oct16: Day 7. Portola Redwoods. Little kids, big trees, banana slugs. Visiting a dear friend in El Granada now with gorgeous stairs and a beautiful view

Oct17: Ali and Ayla on vacation

Oct17: Day 8. Finally found a blue sky sunny day. Hit up the pumpkin patch and a lovely beach where a seal popped his head up every now and then. We also walked through a cypress grove

Oct18: Urgent care or just steri strip? Daredevil Ayla strikes again

Oct18: Day 9 was a humdinger. Started off saying good-bye to my dear friends Patricia and Ron, whom the kids bonded with so fast they barely looked at us the whole time we were there. Ayla fell in love with “Miss Tricia” as she called her, and Ali adored Ron (and his central vacuum system). Those kids wore my friends out, but a good time was had by all!
Then I girded my loins for a day on foot with two kids in the big city all on my own. I could have taken the car, but instead I took Ali on his first real passenger train ride — the Caltrain from South San Francisco to 4th St San Francisco. He loved all of it.

We took the light rail from there to the Exploratorium. But at the first light rail station, the kids started a chasing game the moment I looked at my phone to double check we were at the right place. They stayed close to the center (away from the tracks) and safe, and it was apparently a sneak-attack hug game. It took like one second for Ali to step behind a frosted glass divider thing and into a huge oozing puddle of barbecue sauce. WTF, right? It was like someone took the thickest BBQ sauce they could find, dumped it in a pile, and ran off with the bottle. I welcome theories as to how on earth this came about.

It took another half second for Ayla to scoot her little feet into the BBQ puddle and hug Ali. I frantically pulled them out and spent the rest of our public transit time trying not to let their feet touch their other feet, their legs, any chairs, or each other, with mixed success. (I had wipes, but there were no trash cans anywhere or any place to put used BBQ mess wipes in my backpack.) When we finally got to the Exploratorium, I spent about 25 minute cleaning up the kids and their socks and shoes, which had congealed BBQ sauce crammed into every crevice.

The museum was fun but not age-appropriate. The only way for Ayla to access any of the exhibits was for her to stand on the rickety wooden stools they had all over the place. After a while, at one exhibit, she reached too far, lost her footing, and smacked her mouth on the table as she went down. First aid medics were called, and they put on a steri strip that Ayla immediately drooled off. We went and got a snacky lunch, and everyone seemed to feel better, although Ayla’s lip opened up again every time she smiled.

Somehow the non-age-appropriate kid’s museum kept us entertained all day. And the gift shop had an Art-o-Mat, some of which feature art work by my mom! Not in this case, but I bought her a piece by another artist.

Ahmed picked us up a bit after 5 and we went to an Ethiopian restaurant at my request. The one I picked seemed to be a pizza joint when we arrived. And, well, it was. A pizza joint that also had Ethiopian food. And chicken nuggets and fries for the kids. And an NBA game on TV. It was perfect, actually. And excellent food.

We. Are. Worn. Plumb. Out.

Oct19: A couple of wins from this trip: the kids have really bonded, largely from ganging up on us. And today we tried to feed the kids at a pizza joint, and both said no thanks, they wanted sushi

Oct20: Day 10 — We rode the Caltrain from South SF to Palo Alto to visit some dear friends and got Boba tea and lunch on California Avenue along the way. (It’s the second time we’ve gotten boba tea while in California, and neither was as good as our Tulsa boba tea.) It was just me with the kids because Ahmed was working in his (super cool, Google-like) office again. Ayla started the day already over-tired. (We try to go to bed early every night, and we fail every night — the kids are just too excited and want to play and play in the hotel rooms.)

Ali took the first two portraits on the train (one of me, one of Ayla). My friends were savvy in the way of small kids and directed us to a local park and playground, where we caught up while the kids played and played. I forgot to take pics.

We then went back to my friends’ place to try to let Ayla nap while Ali played on his tablet, but Ayla stubbornly refused to play along and just got more and more alternately manic and zombie-like. Sigh.

Ali had been disappointed in how slow our local Caltrain was, so we caught an express Caltrain back up to SF to meet Ahmed (who had a fun work event until 6). Ali called the express train the “compressed train” and the local the “locomotive.” At the SF station, we watched the trains leave and the kids chased each other around until Ahmed could get there.

(Ali’s been asking insightful engineering questions lately, like how turning the wheels of an airplane makes it turn in the sky, and how bridges stay up. That’s fun.)

We tried to go to a Mediterranean restaurant for dinner but couldn’t find parking. Just went to the hotel and walked across the street to a pizza joint, but the kids weren’t interested. I said half-jokingly, “There’s sushi next door,” and the kids said, “Yeah, let’s get sushi.” So we dined on deep-fried California rolls, octopus balls, chicken gyoza, and Japanese-style chicken nuggets. The kids ate really well.

Then they wanted to play train games ad infinitum in the hotel. They have really bonded on this trip, banding together against us evil narcs who force them to leave fun places when they close and won’t let them destroy public property, run wild and free on train platforms and busy city streets, or shriek and yell and scream as much as they want on trains or in restaurants or hotels. How dare we. (Oh my god, give me a THOUSAND jobs before the job of constantly disappointing small sleep-deprived maniacs trying to run loose in these dangerous wonderlands.) And then we try to get them to SLEEP at night when a hotel room is RIGHT THERE begging to be played in all night long. What abject killjoys we are!

I am so relieved it’s the last day of just me with the kids during the day. (There were lots of meltdowns today. I’m usually OK with them, they aren’t emergencies, you use tried and true methods or, if necessary, improvise, and they pass. But all day long, sometimes in enclosed spaces, wore me down a bit. I had to deploy the ear plugs several times to help me regulate.) Should be downhill from here.

Oh, and Ali found a stuffed unicorn at the last hotel that looks like Rainbow Dash and suggested we get it for Ayla. So sweet we couldn’t refuse, and she hasn’t parted from it since. Ayla recently learned the word avenue and decided today to name her unicorn Avenue.

(Nap? No, Mama. Not today. Not ever.)

(A “short walk” with kids is never a short walk. Any insect or flowering bush could mean a ten-minute delay.)

(Post-bath stomp dance. Of course.)

(“I wanna see [the picture of] Ayla [that you just took].”)

Oct20: Day 11, San Francisco. Didn’t have a whole lot of time, but hit some highlights!

Oct23: Day 12-13. Friends, friends, friends! Friday morning we went to the Baylands Nature Reserve in the morning (it was a complete disaster — the kids were insanely wild) then met up for dim sum with two dear friends: Karen, my roommate at the Oklahoma School of Science and Math, and Amy, my roommate when I worked in China for a summer. They both went to MIT and had friends in common. Such a small world!

Then I met up with my Stanford roommate Liz and after catching up over a meal, we went to El Palo Alto Park, home of the original Tall (redwood) Tree that Palo Alto was named after. Liz played hide and seek with the kids, who were thrilled every time a Caltrain rolled by.

Next we had dinner with my friends at Magic, an intentional community near Stanford, including a neuroscientist who’s working on truly fascinating stuff. I told them it was fun to use my brain for something other than wiping yogurt off the floor.

Next morning was the informal reunion of my freshman dorm at the Coffee House. It was so awesome to see everyone. I don’t have pics on hand, but we got lots! Then I had a chance (finally) to wander the campus a bit, alone with my thoughts. I love walking around there.


Then we got Izzy’s bagels and headed toward Bakersfield. Long drive through a drought-stricken Central Valley. Fairly post-apocalyptic. The kids crashed.

Flying home today from LA. So excited to be home! But all in all a great trip. Not super easy by any means, but we made it through with good memories and without killing anyone!

(Notice the socks on her hands. She says she does it to “be a snake.”)

Oct23: Back in Tulsa. Pleasant flight. No children or unicorns lost

Oct23: Ayla still says “I wuz you” for “I love you.”

So if she says, “I was dat ‘pider,” it doesn’t necessarily mean she was a spider in a former life

Her totally random phrase that she says totally randomly these days is: “My birthday is going to be a cow.”

OK, kid. Um… OK.

Oct23: So, I think Ali wants to be a vacuum cleaner for Halloween. (It changes occasionally, but usually goes back to vacuum cleaner.) If you have any good DIY tips (or ideas) for that, please share!

Oct25: Someone wanted to try out being a butterfly unicorn pumpkin early

Oct25: OK. Turns out Ali wants to go as a REAL vacuum so he can suck candy up.

Man, this kid comes up with twenty impossible things before breakfast…

Oct25: Ali’s getting used to school again. The cats are getting used to us again. Meanwhile Ayla jumped right back in, “her Malachi” (of the giant blond curls and big personality) waiting at the door and reaching around the teacher and petting her hair as she greeted the teacher. They have the most adorable mutual affection.

Oct27: Children of the Corn. And pumpkins. And the dance. And my dead zinnias make pretty good Halloween decorations

Oct28: What is it with McDonald’s? What is their magic sauce? Some weeks my kids will refuse perfectly good food all week, then when we go to McDonald’s, they’ll eat like we’ve been starving them.

Oct28: When there was turbulence on the plane, Ayla would laugh and say, “This plane is silly!”

Ali was forever telling us on this trip, “Look at that plane! It’s liftoffing!”

Oct29: Shark shop vac in progress. (Say that five times fast.) Why couldn’t he just be a cat? Haha

Oct29: The principal of Ali’s school usually directs traffic at the crosswalk after school. He wasn’t there the other day, and Ali said, “Hey, where’s the prince?”

Oct29: Everything is magical

Oct30: Ali’s latest train contraption, staffed by two kitties and a red panda

Oct30: When my kids kept coming up to me and saying, “You are trash, Mama,” it took me a minute to realize they were playing a dumpster / garbage truck game.

Oct30: The kids had a great time making play doh and painting pumpkins with Tulsa Area Forest School

Oct31: “I has Siwight Sparkle hair”

Oct31: “I love it!”

Oct31: Halloween 2022. Ali was a trooper dragging that costume around for more than an hour and Ayla was a trooper dragging her two-year-old self around with barely a word. They were motivated, I guess!

ETA: Oh, by the way, Ali also drew a cat face on himself “so everyone can see that it’s a cat running the vacuum.”

Oct31: There was one house that gave out toys instead of candy in our neighborhood, and my two kids were VERY confused. They just kept hanging around waiting for the candy to appear. It simply did not register that they were trick-or-treating at this house on Halloween and not getting candy out of it

(I’m all for diverse Halloween treats. It was just fun watching my kids’ brains break the first time they encountered it.)

Oct31: Ali was so funny. At about half the houses, he said something like, “See if you can guess what my costume is.” Most got it immediately. Ali didn’t let others give up easily. It was amazing watching how easygoing and confident he was with all these strangers.

Ayla was more serious. She was on a mission. Cover the ground. Find the houses with lights on. Fill the bucket. Tirelessly, even as bed time approached, darkness fell, and little legs had been going for more than an hour.

But she wasn’t shy to gleefully shout, “I’m a unicorn!” at anyone who would listen.

One mom fail: I thought it would be a good idea to go to the scariest, most ostentatiously decorated house first when it was brightest out. Ali made it through the gauntlet of shaking spider bushes and jump scares. Ayla didn’t make it past a bloody skull jump scare. And she spent the rest of the night occasionally bringing up how “The first house was scary.”

Sorry, hon. I didn’t realize quite how scary it would be.

We technically didn’t limit their candy intake, but because it was past bath time by the time they got in, then quickly past bed time, they only got 5 or 6 pieces of candy each. Tomorrow will be “Eat ’til you’re sick if you want” day, I guess. (It’s how I learned how truly disgusting too much candy could make me feel.)

Nov1: Something about Palestine/Israel came on NPR, and Ali asked about it. I told him it was really complicated, but basically some people got kicked out of where they lived and then came and kicked someone else out from where they lived, and now they won’t let those people come back.

I said, “Like, imagine if someone came and stole your house and kicked you out. They’d probably think you were mad at them, so they probably wouldn’t invite you back in, right? They’d be too afraid that you’d do to them what they did to you.”

“I would just wait until the night and then throw them out.”

“Well, but imagine if they’ve been there for years and years, and they have kids and grandkids who live in the house. You’d think their kids and grandkids, plus the kids and grandkids of the people who were kicked out, could all share it. But the people there now don’t want to share it. They’re too scared. And a lot of them feel like if they do get kicked back out, they won’t have anywhere else to go.”

Ali said, “Huh. Well, let me tell you something. They should really go to those people [they kicked out] and say I’m sorry.”

I chuckled sadly. It’s really the least they can do. Alas.

Nov2: This little sprite right here

Nov7: Fist bump!

Nov7: Bless her heart. Ayla kept talking about “Ali’s cousins,” and I said, “Honey girl, they’re your cousins, too!”

I guess she just keeps hearing Ali talking about his cousins and didn’t realize she had the same claim…

Nov8: Tried to take a video of Ayla being a shark while swinging. Didn’t really work. Then Ali wanted me to record him swinging as well.

Nov10: All during the California road trip, Ayla had little figurines and plush toys to play with in her car seat, and she would make them talk, usually the child one saying “No!” to something, and the adult one saying, “Munna munna munna munna,” like the adults in the Peanut cartoons saying, “Wa wa wa wa wa.”

One of them frequently said, “Listen to me!” (I don’t know which one), and sometimes the adult one said, “No, I’m busy.”

It was funny and humbling.

Nov10: Ali asked some simple question, like why do tomato plants grow tomatoes while corn plants grow corn.

I started trying to explain DNA to him, and the more I tried to explain, the more I was like, “Whoah, holy hell, how have I forgotten the felt sense of how freaking unbelievable life is? All life, even a single cell is just… God damn. It can’t even really be possible, can it? It’s so unimaginably complex, so intricate, so colossal and so tiny at the same time. Yet here I am, thinking this thought, my hands doing the bidding of electrical signals from a brain magicked into being by chains of nucleotides (and cellular machinery billions of years in the making) that somehow know how to make a mind-blowing array of proteins and also know how to put the trillions of parts together to make a reasonably coherent whole, and then keep it in homeostasis for decades…”

So talking to a 4-year-old can be kind of like getting high, is what I’m saying.

Nov11: It’s incredible how much breathing space opens in the day when kids can finally:

  • Ask for what they want instead of screaming until you guess
  • Eat without making a huge mess every single meal, sometimes necessitating a wardrobe change or even a bath and wiping down half a dozen surfaces
  • Put their own clothes on
  • Get themselves in their car seats
  • Buckle themselves in
  • Get out of the car without you having to lift them out
  • Find their own videos on Youtube instead of bugging me every 3 minutes to find a new one or skip an ad (and no, I don’t apologize for allowing Youtube to occupy my kids sometimes and give me a breather to do something fun like laundry)

Skills I’m looking forward to in the future:

  • Eating healthy home-cooked food reliably
  • Getting through the day without naps or (too many) meltdowns
  • Both taking care of their own toileting needs
  • Hiking more than a mile or so
  • Sleepovers with friends
  • Card games!

Nov11: Ali tonight:

“Hey, you know the animal called a chicken? They make the real chicken that we eat.”

Later:

“How do chickens make chicken?”

Ahmed tried to explain how chickens hatch out of eggs.

Ali said, “No, how do they make real chicken food? Chicken food for humans?”

He accepted my explanation that chicken meat is chicken muscle, and we have to kill chickens to eat them, like lions kill antelopes, with apparently equanimity. Then asked how they cut the meat off the bones. I told him I’d show him an example next time I got a rotisserie chicken.

Ayla tonight:

“If somebody has a Broken Arrow, they have to go to the doctor?”

(She called her injured finger her Broken Arrow for ages. We didn’t correct her. Now apparently it means injury.)

Nov12: Ali: “Santa must make a looooooot of money to buy all these presents and give away all these presents.”

Nov12: Why is Ali coughing non-stop at night for weeks? We’ve tried allergy pills, honey and lemon, honey and milk, etc. Doctors usually just say to try what we’ve already tried.

I wish I knew what caused it and how to fix it. It really destroys his sleep

Nov13: Ayla: “Ali has a peanut and Baba has a peanut and Mama has a boba and Ayla has a boba.”

(If you can decipher that, you get a PhD in toddler communication.)

Nov15: You can meditate and read and write in your journal and do yoga all day, trying to find your center, and it’s amazing how fast taking two little kids to Walmart after school will frazzle you right back up in no time flat. A not-nearly-exhaustive sampling:

Ayla cried for several minutes on the way begging for a “drayde”? I still don’t know what she wanted. She settled for a gummy bear.

It was cold and drizzly, and I suggested we go quickly into the store instead of dragging our feet. I meant “together,” but Ali took it as an invitation to go running into the parking lot by himself. I had to yell to get him to stop.

When looking at greeting cards, Ali grabbed every card that caught his eye and then couldn’t remember where he got them. When I asked him to stop taking cards out, he started rubbing his fingers hard over the surface of every card instead. (I put a stop to that, too.)

Ayla asked for a unicorn card for herself, and it was cheap, so I gave it to her. She bent it in half and then decided she’d rather have a tiger unicorn card instead.

Ali was always dancing around in the aisles, which was fine, but he would frequently pause his forward motion and continue dancing right in front of someone trying to get by, and I’d have to pull him out of the way, breaking his reverie and spoiling his fun.

Ali always wants the world and a half, and finding creative ways to disappoint him over and over and over again really taxes my heart and brain.

Ayla begged for an $8 Spiderman ornament, and we do need ornaments for the tree we’re eventually going to get. When I gave it to her, she ripped it out of the package. Two minutes later she handed it to me, saying, “I don’t want this one.” (Fool me once…)

When Ali was picking out an ornament (since Ayla got one), we both bent down to look at them, and after a while Ali stood up quickly and hit my cheekbone so hard with his dense little skull that my eyesight blacked out for a second. It’s not so easy to go cheerfully about your day after you’ve been punched in the face with a rock, however unintentional.

I know I shouldn’t even attempt it, but about once a month I forget and think, “Eh, I just have a couple things to pick up. How bad could it be?”

Oh well!

Nov15: My kids have the same curse I do: They hit their stride for the day right at bed time.

Nov20: Is anyone offended that in Tolkien movies, Elves always speak in a proper English accent, Dwarves speak in a Scottish accent, and Hobbits are basically Irish?

Or is it more like:

“Eh, fair play to ye.”

“Aye, pre”ay mooch.”

(Not my place to have feelings about it one way or another. Just curious.)

Nov21: With cousins and grandparents to play with, I’m officially chopped liver for the duration of the Thanksgiving holiday. And I’m OK with it!

Nov22: Legos are a huge hit around here. Ali built the Titanic. Ayla built a unicorn.

He also says “peach other” instead of “each other.” Totally straight-faced. Not as a joke. I can’t bear to “correct” him. His way is cuter.

Mom captioned this photo: Last night Ali spent a LOT of time building a lego Titanic. He turned around and said to Bill, “I’m building the Titanic but it keeps coming apart. IT’S A DISASTER!”

Nov24: Anyone know what this is? It stung the heck out of Ali unprovoked in south Alabama

Nov24: Fun doings in Mississippi and Alabama

Nov24: They didn’t grow up on a farm…

My mom wrote:

When we came up from the beach the kids were cold and sandy so I ran a tub of warm water and plopped them in to warm up. I’m always clowning around with them, so I started singing She’ll Be Coming Around The Mountain. They were delighted and so of course I went on with She’ll Be Driving Six White Horses, and they loved it and Ayla said, Is there more?

Without giving it a thought, I belted out WE WILL KILL THE OLD RED ROOSTER… The look on their faces was pure HORROR!

Ayla said OH NO!

Ali said.. YOU HAD TO KILL HIM?

And he was OLD!

I’m telling you I never know what they’ll say!

Nov24: In the whole day, Ali ate 4 rolls and 1 popsicle. Ayla ate some crackers. Oh well.

Nov25: Hotdoggin’

Nov27: Home after a 12+ hour rainy drive from Orange Beach, AL. Loads of fun with the extended family! (Nothing better than grandparents and cousins.)

A funny exchange today:

Ahmed: I’m just getting appetizers
Ali: What’s apple tizers?
Ayla: No, apple CIDER.
Ali [ignoring Ayla]: Is apple tizer a grown up drink?

Ayla’s favorite joke lately, which is really just a call-and-response re-enactment of a conversation we had the other day:

Ayla: What do unicorns make?
Me: Rainbows and sparkles.
Ayla: What do horses make?
Me: Horse poop.
Ayla: laughs maniacally sometimes adds: And horse pee pee!

Nov27: Oops. I missed all the Black Friday emails / deals. I was jumping my tail off at the trampoline park with my kids and their cousins

Definitely got my “run” in for the day! Super sore today, but my back held up, yay

Nov27: Just a friendly book recommendation, if you haven’t read it yet: The Untethered Soul. Michael Singer is not infallible guru or anything, but he packages timeless wisdom in a way that really clicked for me.

It took so many thing I’ve been learning, feeling like I was hacking my way through a dense jungle, and tied them together into a kind of Grand Unified Theory. It’s amazing how many things fit neatly into this basic framework.

It also offered a nice clearing in the woods ahead. It changed my life pretty quickly.

I’m sure it’ll hit everyone differently, but it hit me harder than any book in a long time. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you do read it (or have read it).
Nov27: It’s funny how, with your first kid, every new phase is like, “OMG, is this normal? Is going be this way forever???”

With the second kid, it’s like, “Oh yeah, this phase again.”

looks at watch

Nov27: Still sore from the trampoline park. Turns out I’m… 42 years old? Oh well! So much fun

Nov28: Welp. Ayla gave herself bangs this morning. Don’t blame her. She doesn’t like hair ties or hair in her eyes. It’s actually really cute. I’ll get it cleaned up at a hair salon after school and post a pic.

Nov28: What a frustrating day. One thing after another.

The kicker: Ayla’s hair looked much cuter after she cut it, before I took her to a salon to “clean it up a bit.” I should have let her keep her little style

Nov29: I had a really bad day yesterday. I couldn’t hide it or swallow it, not even for the kids. They got some of the brunt of it.

At bed time, Ali apologized for any part he played in my hard day, and I just melted and told him thank you, but he was always more important than whatever happened in a given day, and I would always love him no matter what, and tomorrow would be a better day.

He said, “I think tomorrow after school we should go to Sonic and then drink our cherry Cokes and watch a movie and pet the cats.”

I am such a lucky mama. Kids show us that, given a chance, people are fundamentally good.

Nov29: Ali: “Have you ever seen a Easter bunny chop down a tree with a teeny tiny egg?”

Me: “Uh… no.”

Ali: “Whyyyy?”

Me [chuckling]: “Why would I?”

Ali: “If you’re ever watching a movie and you see it, come tell me how funny it was. Because that would be so funny.”

Nov29: I’m doing a gentler Couch to 5k type program (None to Run), and I did Week 2 on an Alabama beach (and at a trampoline park, informally).

I feel like a super hero running on concrete now. It’s so freaking easy, LOL.

Nov30: Recent Ali-isms:

“Before liftoff the plane gets a check just like going to the doctor.”

After getting cherry Cokes at Sonic today, I asked him not to tell Ayla we got them, because I didn’t plan on getting her one.

He said, “Well, I was planning on sharing yours with her.”

Fair enough. A better idea, actually.

Later I told him again that I wasn’t mad at him on Monday, I was just having a hard time. I said, “I should have just asked for a hug.”

He said, “Yeah. Or you could have gone to your room and just took a minute to calm your body down. Take a reset.”

May my kids always be more emotionally mature than I am!

Summer 2022

Jun2: Behold the Unicorn Train. Guess who got to push it?

I know the horses can go forward if you go up and down on them, but the kids weren’t interested. Ayla just sat there expectantly and Ali used it like a scooter.

I got tired of bending down to push Ayla, so I found a skate helper thing, which wedged right in between the back legs and worked perfectly. Then Ali got jealous that I was pushing Ayla around and not him. Here is his solution, haha. (He held onto the skate helper with his feet.)

Ayla would not part with her rainbow sunglasses or her red panda.

(This is Tiny Tots at Wheels & Thrills in Owasso. So much fun it was a nightmare getting them out the door when it was time to leave!)

Before we went, Ali asked if they had “fun stuff. Like, do they have vacuums?”

Just before we left, he gasped and said, “I see a purple vacuum!” Sure enough, there was one hanging next to a door behind the concession stand.

Meanwhile Ayla gasped when she saw “diney-doors” (dinosaurs) on the side of a video game. These kids know what they like.

Jun3: Nothing makes a two-year-old want to play with a toy like trying to put it away. (I’m trying to put approximately 875,000 toys away right now, and she suddenly can’t live without any of them, or even with them being anywhere but on the floor being played with. She’s busy.)

Jun3: Ahmed: “Hey! No running in socks.”

Ali: “We’re not running. We’re just… jump walking.”

This kid is seriously going to be a lawyer. He can pick apart anything or find any loophole with his own 4-year-old version of semantics, any time.

Jun3: Overheard in the backseat:

Ali: “Say ‘Why?’, Ayla.”

Ayla: “Why Ayla.”

Ali: “No, say ‘Why?’ to me.”

Ayla: “Why to me?”

Ali: “No, ‘Why?’ to me.”

Ayla: “Why to me?”

Ali: “No, ‘Why?’ to me.”

Ayla: “Why to me, why to me, why to me!”

Jun6: I love these babies

Jun6: “I want to jump on the trampoline outside right now.”

Ayla’s longest sentence to date!

Jun8: The kids are so happy to be back in Tippi Toes!

Jun9: Great place to get some zoomies out! (click for video)

Also, I’m glad there’s a place where they have access to these riding horses. They look super fun (you make them go by bouncing up and down in the saddle, and you can steer them), and I did not want to be asked to buy one (or two)!

Ali even tried roller skating a little, but he didn’t last long. I remember it took me a long time to figure out how to go without just kind of rolling my feet back and forth and going nowhere. He’ll get it when he’s ready. He did great for a first time.

Jun9: Automatic flushers are seriously Satan for people with skittish newly-potty-trained kids.

They’re Satan anyway, but like super double Satan now.

Jun11: Happy as pigs in mud (click for video)

Jun12: Middle aged mom summer. Wish I had taken my camera into Big Splash. The kids had a blast. Ayla bellowed her anger all the way home that we had to leave when it closed. Ali was disappointed too but handled it very maturely

Jun13: Went to the Jenks Planetarium with Ali, where we got a cosmic perspective, from our home planet all the way through to the large-scale galactic superstructure of the known cosmos.

Afterwards I asked Ali, “Do you have any questions?”

“Mmm, yeah,” he said.

“What is it?” I asked, on the edge of my seat, wondering what query a full-scale overview of known reality had sparked in my son.

“How does a Zamboni suck up the ice?”

Jun14: “You know those dinosaurs with the really long necks? Those are called long-neck-a-sauruses.”

~ Ali

(Ayla would know better)

Jun16: We were talking about getting a kitten, and I asked Ali what he would name one if we got one.

He said, “Um… Grass… Clippings.”

“Grass Clippings?” I said.

“Yeah.”

“You want to name a cat Grass Clippings?”

“Yeah!”

“Okay,” I said slowly trying to think of a diplomatic response. “Tell you what. If we find a green kitten, we can name it that.”

Learning to say no without saying no is such a #ParentSkill

Jun18: Whimsical cucumber beauty

Jun18: There are times I catch a glimpse of Ayla and it is, very simply, a living baby photo of me. It is so strange. (She thinks it’s the funniest thing in the world to hide in my closet.)

I’m glad I know she is very much her own person, though. Even literal clones (like identical twins) are totally different people. It is all so fascinating.

Jun19: Happy Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful Babas out there! We see you being amazing and doing so much for the next generation (and often having a good time doing it!)

Jun19: I love that she’s just touching my arm while she watches cartoons (after a long napless afternoon at a little pool party)

Jun19: Father’s Day fun!

Jun22: Ayla and Ali playing ponies in the morning

Jun22: First cucumber from our garden!

ETA: It was almost as thick and sweet as an apple, and Ali ate way more than his share — and we let him!

Jun22: I got so jealous of watching my kids have fun at Tippi Toes, I signed up for an adult ballet class. It’s so funny how they’ll introduce a move (like a jumping arabesque, or sauté) in the kids’ class and then I’ll do it in mine.

Ali asked me, “Will there be turtles?”

They dance around with stuffed turtles in part of their class.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

But it turns out we do dance around with masks for one number…

Jun23: It felt like an actual vacation today going to the dealership ALONE to get the car serviced.

What inestimable luxury to just get up and pee when I wanted to instead of waiting for the right moment, herding two small kids into a tiny stall, trying to keep them both from putting their hands on the floor or the toilet, acquiescing to Ayla’s insistence on getting toilet paper for me (even though her hands were all over the floor despite my best efforts) (ew), then washing everyone’s hands (which is a whole-ass production even if there is a stool for the kids to stand on, which there almost never is).

What a wonderful thing it was to just get myself a complimentary cup of decaf without two munchkins insisting on hot chocolate for themselves, which will be a bitter disappointment for quite a while due to it being way too hot to drink, and thereafter a clear and present danger of a sticky mess explosion.

How sweet it is, in a moment of lull, to just take out my phone and read a book and even have time and space now and then to look up and sigh and think a complete thought about life, the world, humanity, instead of constantly being fully in charge of the safety and entertainment of two beings who are forever on the brink of some need or desire or meltdown or climbing on something or jumping off something or…

Watching after two small kids is many things. One of those things is draining. So. Very. Draining. Some days / weeks more than others.

Jun24: I am crying laughing listening to Ali do voice searches on our TV for highly-specific (non-existent) YouTube videos like:

“Search for golf course zero-turn Toro Lego Grasshopper lawnmower for kids on YouTube.”

Sometimes the search engine will interrupt him before he can finish, saying, “Here are some videos…” I think I can sense some exasperation in her voice…

Jun26: Ali: “I want a kitty shirt.”

Ahmed: “You have a [Mickey] mouse shirt.”

Ali: “Yeah. Kitties like to chase mouses.”

Ahmed: “How do you know that? You’ve never watched Tom and Jerry.”

Ali: “Did you say Connie and Jerry?” [Family friends]

Ahmed, laughing: “No.”

Ali: “Did you mean Jerry the Shrubber?” [A Monty Python-inspired nickname for Jerry, a landscape artist]

Ahmed, laughing: “No…”

Jun27: New kitten. Ali wants to name her Kitty Kitty Kitty. Ayla just calls her Mateo. Still working on it.

Another skittish street rescue, but not quite as bad (or in as bad of health) as Mateo was when we got him. Hopefully growing up with kids, she’ll actually want to have something to do with them!

Update: She actually came out of her bathroom / temporary headquarters today and explored a little. Mateo would never have done that on his second day here!

Mateo accidentally met her last night when I was stepping out of the bathroom, which I kept closed yesterday to keep them separate. They actually seemed just curious for a minute, then one made a one-millimeter move, and both started hissing. But while they are both hissers, neither is aggressive. We’ll see how it goes!

Jun27: “Fish pee and poop in the ocean and then they drink the ocean… They shouldn’t do that.”

~ Ali suddenly realizing the deep, dark secret of aquatic life on the way to swim class

“You guys look like Legos.”

~ Ali to his grandparents, talking over Facebook chat, as their car went through a dead zone and they started to pixellate

Jun28: Looks like a salad to me

Jun28: Name? Isabela? Liana? Grass Clippings?

Jun29: Ali has been bugging me for days to make “gingerbread mans.” Finally did it. He asked at the store if we could make “alive” ones. I said, “How would we do that? Sounds intense.” He mumbled to himself for a while and all I could make out was, “They don’t have blood vessels.”

(And some days you and your kids pretty much have Pirate’s Booty and gingerbread cookies for lunch. And that’s OK. Not looking forward to the soul-sucking clean-up job — whole kitchen is a disaster — but oh well.)

ETA: He’s licking a kiddie knife. There’s no sharp edge and no serration. It was just for spreading frosting, since I realized too late I don’t have any frosting tips to make nice designs.

Jun29: Garden post

Jun29: Isabela (?) and Mateo are not hissing at each other anymore. Not snuggling or anything, but not hissing. We also realized real quick that she wasn’t having being shut up in the bathroom at night. The whole house is hers. But so far she orbits around her bathroom headquarters.

Jun30: Ali: “Are you out of your mind?”

Ahmed: “Yes.”

Ali: “Well, get in your mind!”

Jul2: The new kitty, Isabela, keeps trying to play with Mateo, generally by running straight at him. He runs off like he’s being persecuted by the paparazzi.

But he likes to watch her play with things that aren’t him. It’s fun to watch their relationship develop. Meanwhile she lets Ali pet her, even if I’m still not allowed. He’s giddy with kitty love.

Jul3: Ayla: “I want to check your heart.”

Me: “OK.”

[She checks my heart with her stethoscope]

Me: “How’s my heart, doctor?”

Ayla: “I don’t know.”

Jul3: This little fluffer nutter is all over the house and all over her parents on the couch and playful as heck madly chasing Ayla’s Indiana Jones whip around. Very lovey dovey and purr-y when she wants to be, and kitten-wild but (so far) not destructive. Ali continues to be madly in love.

Ayla in her cute Moana bathing suit just because. She is one fearless swimmer and relentless jump-in-the-pool-er. She barely surfaces before sputtering, “Do it a-denn!” (again) and flailing back toward the side of the pool for me to lift her out again.

Jul4: 4th fun with all tha grandkidz!

Jul4: Pool fun with the cousins on the 4th! At my half-brother’s step-brother’s place. We’re all family!

Jul5: I won’t do it, it’s just for us, but sometimes I wish I could record the songs I improvise for Ali when something’s on his mind.

Some nights he lets me off easy and just asks for his special version of Silent Night.

Tonight I sang the “My Lawnmower’s On Fire Blues”

Jul8: Gargoyles

Jul10: Having to use a PIN to re-open devices has no doubt accelerated Ali’s numeracy.

Jul10: The day has finally come! Ayla flits around the house in frenetic dances like I used to do as a kid. And I’m not gonna tell her to quit or she’ll break a toe. She can break however many toes she wants. Some things are worth the risk

Jul11: We got the baby swallows off to college. Godspeed, kids!

Jul11: Tiny dancer (click for video)

Jul12: I was listening to the Jan 6 hearing and got a question from Ali that no parent wants to hear from their child:

“Who’s Donald Trump?”

Ugh, kid. Where do I start?

Jul12: Farm visit this cloudy morning

Jul13: Bounty

Jul14: When Ayla called our new cat “Mateo,” I said to her, “She’s Isabela, honey.”

Ayla said, “Oh. Tapowa! Tapowa!” She started yelling and chasing the kitty, who zoomed around, always ahead of her.

I said, “Honey, if you yell, she won’t like that.” I knelt down close to Isabela and said quietly, “Isabela, it’s me. It’s OK.”

Ayla plopped down and said more loudly, “Tapowa, it’s me!” The cat fled, and Ayla chased her under a bed. Ayla peered under the bed yelling, “Tapowa, it’s me! Tapowa! It’s me!”

(Sometimes she says something more like “Eesabewwa,” but when she gets excited, it’s “Tapowa.” Or Mateo.)

Jul17: Cason Christmas in July was a success!

Jul18: No pic, we ate it too fast, but dinner tonight was:

  • Squash casserole with squash from the garden (take THAT, squash vine borers!), butter, eggs, cornbread mix, and a bit of brown sugar, topped with seasoned breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese
  • Tomato cucumber salad (from garden) with lemon, olive oil, and feta
  • Bean soup with garden herbs, scallions, and garlic
  • Hot dog circles cooked like sujuk

Jul19: I am learning so much botany and entomology as a home owner. Who ever heard of cicada killers? But I kinda like them. (I like cicadas just fine, too. Their discarded exoskeletons are everywhere.)

Jul19: The kitty has started coming into Ali’s bed every night when I’m singing him to sleep to play and cuddle a bit. Ali is in heaven. Absolute kitten bliss.

Ali was surprised, by the way, almost affronted, when I told him not every mom sings their son a song before bed. He said, “Well, they’re doing it wrong then.”

Jul21: Ahmed: “Pamela, are you ready?”

“Pretty much.”

“Ali, are you ready?”

“Pretty much.”

“Ayla, are you ready?”

“I’m a little pony!”

Jul23: Lake day

Jul23: She loves the plunge. Gets mad if you don’t let her jump in deep and swim a bit (click for video)

Jul24: It has been a good summer. A good year. Unhealthy mental patterns have been unraveling bit by bit. (Following years of work, breakthroughs, etc.) Reading about some of my frustrations, habits, and actions of just a few months ago seem alien to me now. A sure sign of change.

I’m enjoying parenting more and more, too. These kids are compelling me more than anything in my life to finally grow up! To truly learn to let go of so much that can be let go of, to enjoy what’s right in front of me, to accept things as they are. (Some things can be changed or improved, of course, but accepting things as they are is the first step toward that anyway.)

I have a long ways to go, but it’s been a good year. 42 isn’t bad. Maybe by my next birthday, I will have figured out the question to the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything…

Jul25: Ayla, after giving me a headband: “It’s a cutie mark?”

Me: “Aren’t cutie marks on your butt?”

Ayla: “Uhhh… Yeah.”

Me: “Do you have a cutie mark?”

Ayla: “Yeah.”

Me: “What is it?”

Ayla: “Umm… My… my… my… my diaper!” Cue hysterical laughter

Jul25: Timeless

Jul26: Welp, that’s the third time Ayla has made a child cry by yelling at them. She is fiercely territorial.

No child has made her cry, even by tackling or hitting her. (Well, other than Ali, of course, usually by annoying her. Big brothers figure out the buttons to push.)

I’m not praising or blaming her. Just the facts. (She’s 2.)

ETA: She has also taken lately to scream-singing long operas, and often the only thing I can understand is “NEVER NEVER NEVER” and “IN THE MOOOORNING!”

Just now she said something I didn’t understand. I said, “What, my love?”

She said, “You heard me.”

Ooh the sass on that one…

Jul26: Found a stuffed kitten that looks like our kitty. I think Ali likes it. He named her Fuzzy. [ETA: Later renamed Isabela.]

Jul26: Our morning plans fell through so we went to the mall and got cookies and watched the ponies (carousel). Also rode it a few times.

Jul27: Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?

Ali wants to ask Elmo if he’s the same kind of monster as Cookie Monster.

Jul27: Just 3 more weeks of summer? How did that happen?

It’s starting to drag, though, haha. Especially with this weather. The kids don’t want to do anything but screens. I keep having to drag them out into a hot car. We swim at the neighborhood pool most evenings. It’s been fun. But yeah, we’re ready for a change, I think.

Jul28: Ayla came up to me carrying a stick she found and said, “Wanna pight, Mama?” (fight)

I said, “Sure, but not with a stick. Let’s fight with the [foam] rainbow swords.”

So Ayla sword fought with her Baba and me while Ali played Minecraft, which he taught himself to play by watching Youtube videos.

We got the brain and the brawn right here

Jul28: I really just can’t with this little half pint of sweet cider half drunk up. Currently in her Elton John phase

Jul29: Ayla Fierce

Jul29: Hey, Maw! I got on the TeeVee! (click for article and video)

(Ran into a reporter from News on 6 while hiking in the rain at Turkey Mountain.)

Jul31: Sunflower in the rain, moonflower at its feet. First hummingbird at our feeder today.

Jul31: Mama’s little hooligans

Aug1: One of these things is not like the other. Dang sneaky hiding cukes…

Aug1: Meanwhile, Ali and I grew a real live cantaloupe! Just the one. Had to pick it early because some critter mauled it a bit. But still has that ambrosial taste.

I’ll open the watermelon with Ali tomorrow and see what we get.

Our pumpkin is still hanging on. Waiting for the stalk to get fully woody.

(Yes, out of six big ol’ vines, we have exactly 3 modest fruits. No others are even starting. I didn’t trellis them. They’re just sprawling on the ground. Pollination seems to be fine with the cucumbers, so maybe that’s not the issue here. Who knows?)

Aug3: I just realized Ali thinks “vomit” is two words: the verb “vom” and the direct object “it.”

Our cat was spayed, and the vet said she may vomit in the first 24 hours. Ali said, “I don’t want her to vom. I don’t want her to vom it up.”

After we checked on her and saw no vomit, he said, “She’s not vomming!”

Also, today I gave him some gummy worms and M&Ms in a little bowl. He said with radiant delight, “I love candy salad.”

ETA: Ayla grabbed a ribbon stick at Discovery Lab (she still calls it Da Stawbewwy — The Strawberry) and sang, “Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to Rainbow Dash!”

Aug4: Sunflower with a bee visitor and crescent moon. And our moonflower twig is all grown up! (With a cosmo right in the middle of it.)

Aug4: This girl who loves to “dink balls” (drink boba tea) is two and a half today. Last six months of babyhood. Soon to be a little girl. (By my reckoning. The transition from 2 to 3 is astonishing.)

Aug5: I’ve been watching a few episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series for the first time. I was blown away by how awesome Nichelle Nichols / Uhura is, in every way.

Just before I learned of her passing (after a long, legendary life), I saw the episode The Naked Time and that line when Sulu is under the influence of a virus that makes him act drunk.

He brandishes a sword, grabs her, and says, “I’ll protect you, fair maiden!”

She deadpans, “Sorry, neither.”

OMG. Dead. Super spicy for the 1960s. Hilarious. And apparently ad libbed!

Hats off forever, Ms. Nichelle.

Aug6: I tell my kids I love them all the time but don’t prompt them to say it back. Today I said it to Ayla, and she said, “I love you too, Mama.”

The other day I said it to Ali, and he said, “I love you so freaking much.”

Better honor than a Nobel Prize, that is

Aug8: Me to Ali: “Do you know what adoption means?”

Ali: “Yes.”

Me: “What does it mean?”

Ali: “It means adopting… something.”

Me: “What does ‘adopting something’ mean?”

Ali: “It means if you want to adopt something, you just… adopt it.”

Me: “What does ‘adopt it’ mean?”

Ali: “It means… something I don’t know.”

I’m glad I won’t be grading this kid’s college college papers

Aug8: Ayla’s obsession right now is putting band-aids all over her little ponies (mostly larger plastic knock-off ponies).

Art supplies. It’s just art supplies. Not “waste,” and no ponies are harmed in the making of this art…

Aug9: Lately Ayla asks me to sing the “Rainbow Unicorn” song to her every night, which she gently directed me to make up (i.e., looked more satisfied the closer I got to these lyrics, and completely satisfied once the song was fully saturated with her two favorite things). It goes like this:

Rainbow rainbow unicorn
Unicorn!
Rainbow rainbow unicorn
Unicorn!
Rainbow rainbow unicorn
Rainbow unicorn!

[Repeat, repeatedly]

I guess for her, life is (literally) all rainbows and unicorns…

Aug9: Hello Mr. Moon

Heya Sunny

Aug9: When the clay dough keeps getting in the pony’s hair, obvious solution: pony hair cut

Aug9: At Grandma’s request

Aug10: Found a use for the giant hiding cucumbers. Apparently they are dragon eggs.

Aug10: Isabela, who was not impressed when I tried the cucumber trick. She looked down and sniffed it. Mateo just stepped over it.

Aug11: That’s a wrap on Wheels & Thrills for the summer! Ayla’s riding the bigger kid horses now… sniff And she’s forward facing in the car now. And Ali starts pre-k in a week…

Aug11: Right now Mateo is moving his tail a lot (more than normal) and Isabela can’t resist playing with it, and Mateo keeps growling at her to get her to stop, but then moving his tail around again until she plays with it again.

My two cats are just like my kids, is what I’m saying.

Aug13: I can’t bear to tell my kids not to run at the pool. I still remember the pure, unbridled, transcendent joy of running at the pool and the stultifying feeling of it being forbidden, my joy quashed, with no appeal. I was more than willing to risk an occasional scrape and bruise as I gradually improved my “running at the pool” skills.

My kids are awesome at it.

Aug13: Ali and I went to the first annual Broken Arrow Pride Fest, and there were protesters with posters of Biblical verses lined up along one side. But they weren’t doing much.

Some guy without a shirt or shoes on was wandering around, however, trying to proselytize on the sly. He asked why I brought a child here, and I said, “My son is going to grow up in a beautiful diverse society, and I’m so glad.”

He gestured toward the festival and said, “So you support pedophilia?”

Well that escalated fast.

Look, son. Priests and preachers have engaged in a lot more pedophilia than drag queens have. It’s not even a contest.

I said, “Of course I don’t. And I’d appreciate it if you’d get away from me and my son.”

He said, “You should get away from me. The light shall not shine on you today. You are too blind, you don’t know and you don’t see.”

I said sadly, “You are too blind, you don’t know and you don’t see.

As we were walking away, he said, “I put a curse on you.”

I turned back in amusement. “That’s your loving God?”

He said, “I tried to put a blessing on you. But then God gave me a message to brush you away.” He mimed brushing dirt off his shoulder.

We kept walking away and Ali said, “That guy is bothering me. I don’t like him. He’s a bad guy. He’s bugging me. He’s a bugger.”

I almost choked on my popsicle laughing. Out of the mouths of babes.

I promise you: That kind of nonsense is a lot harder to explain to a 4-year-old than the fact that some kids have two moms or two dads.

Aug14: Ali has gotten so brave at Big Splash. He swam all the way to the biggest waves in the deep end of the wave pool (with his backpack floaty on) on his own initiative, and he did the big winding water slide all by himself (after a lifeguard said we could go together, but then the lifeguard that actually had veto power said no at the last minute — which didn’t throw him at all). He had a blast!

Aug14: About once a day, apropos of nothing, Ayla gets our attention and asks:

“Hey, Mama? Why did the dinosaur go to the volcano?”

(In her two-year-old accent, it sounds like: Why didda dinodaur doe to da boltano?)

We say we don’t know, and she says, “Oh.”

I wonder if she’s trying to tell a joke, or if she has a recurring dream about a dinosaur voyaging to a volcano, or what.

Aug14: My Persian cucumbers are supposed to be the size of hot dogs (see one correctly sized cuke at left). I obviously suck at getting them in time, haha.

One plant has too much room to grow. It goes up the poles, into the tree, into my cherry tomatoes, under a bush, into a bush, over a bush, intertwined with a random pumpkin vine…
The other has too little room to grow and has become a dense bush.

In both cases, it’s all too easy for cucumbers to hide.

Next year I’ll know better. Though I still have to figure out a system, maybe along the fence with some wire trellises? The fence is a bit old, though, and I don’t want to end up over-burdening it. Or spending a fortune on trellises. We’ll see! Hashtag learnding

Aug15: Ali is slowly, painstakingly putting together a Lego build meant for 8+. Watching his spatial reasoning skills is a treat.

Aug16: Ali met his new teacher for pre-K at Grissom Elementary’s new public Montessori program. So excited to set this guy off on a new adventure with new friends and so much to learn!

He was happy and excited afterwards. Partly because we promised donuts, but I think he also liked it

I talked with the teacher and assistant for a while, and they were new to Montessori but had just done basically a Master’s degree in it and will continue to learn throughout the year and beyond. It’s so wonderful to see people learning new methods and applying them to our precious little ones.

Aug16: Handsome boy ready for school!

Aug16: Ali insisted on a selfie

Aug16: Nothing sweeter

Aug17: Happy happy birthday to a wonderful dad, grandpa, and all around human! (click for video)

Aug18: Off he goes…

Aug18: Ali’s teacher’s report on his first day:

“Oh, what a wonderful young man!”

Ali’s report:

“It was great!”

Whew. That’s Day One done and dusted! He directed us to Sonic after school for a First Day of School cherry limeade and then came home and ate the donut holes with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles I picked up for him this morning. All is well. He’s like a different kid from the beginning of summer. So chill and confident.

Aug19: Consignment for the win! We got Ali a light hoodie, a warm hoodie, two regulation pairs of shorts (there’s a limited list of things a kid can wear to his school), a winter jacket, and three new toys, plus a bonus rainbow skirt for Ayla… all for less than $50

Aug19: She is a performer. Whole rock operas in the morning.

Way too awesome not to share (click for video)

Aug19: I love so much how these two cats love each other. She melted his fearful old heart. He even groomed her just now

Aug20: Little Miss Rainbow Unicorn

Aug20: Ayla all day (click for video)

Aug20: Brunch family photo

Aug20: I asked them to smile and look happy so I could get a photo. Got about 2 minutes of this (click for video)

Aug20: Best of the lot

Aug20: Today Ayla wanted to watch a “unicorn video on Youtube” (her constant refrain these days) before her nap, and I said no. Ali came in the room with a magnetic sketch pad and suggested I draw her a unicorn on the sketch pad and she could watch that.

OK. Why not? I drew a unicorn and gave it to her. She settled in and watched it like it was a video on a tablet for quite some time. I later had to go back and take it away from her so she would actually sleep.

When she woke up, the first thing she said was, “Where’s my unicorn picture?”

These kids are funny little ducks.

Aug24: Ali’s doing great in school, but I got in trouble four times in one day. First I walked him all the way to his classroom instead of handing him over at the outside door. Then when picking him up, I forgot to bring my little colored sign that tells the kid-sorters which class the kids are in as they bring them to the parents.

Then, deep in a conversation with Ali after school (in which he informed me that he didn’t get to eat the lunch I packed because it had peanut butter in it — d’oh! I’ve packed him PBJs so many times, I literally didn’t even think about it, much less remember there’s a peanut allergy in his class — strike 3), we walked across some lady’s lawn (well, there’s no sidewalk), and she scolded me for that.

Meanwhile, Ali says his day was “great” most days after class (and he has a new friend named Aurora), but in the mornings he does not want to get up early (7 instead of 7:30) and does not want to go to school. He also thinks of his friends at Bethany sometimes. And he just started complaining that they play with the same toys over and over, and he doesn’t like it.

It’s so hard to know if we’re doing the right thing, or if he’s just being a contrarian 4-year-old. We have a bigger, non-Montessori school we could have sent him to here in Broken Arrow (5 minutes away instead of 15), or we could have paid for another year of Bethany. I feel like this is a better option in the longer-term (BA schools are just overwhelmingly big and don’t seem like a great fit for our boy, and if he stays in Bethany this year, he may not be admitted to Grissom for kindergarten next year), but it’s a little rough to put a 4-year-old in a new program that still doesn’t have all the kinks worked out.

Aug24: Aylasaurus

Aug24: Ahmed: What did you do at school today?

Ali: Played with power lines.

Ahmed and me: [surprise emoji]

Still not sure what he’s talking about…

Aug26: I don’t enforce politeness with my kids. I just try to model the behavior I want to see with faith that humans are generally pro-social, especially when they have security, dignity, and autonomy, and they’ll pick it up when they’re ready.

I also don’t enforce sharing except with communal property.

Yesterday it swelled my heart so much when Ali had goldfish snacks from school that Ayla didn’t have. She said to him from the car seat next to him, “Are you going to share, Ali?”

He said, “Yes,” and handed her a goldfish.

She said, “Thank you, Ali.”

He said, “You’re welcome,” and he kept handing her goldfish and eating them himself until the snacks were gone.

All on their own initiative

Today we went to Ayla’s school that she’ll start on Monday, which she and Ali were both at last year. She said rather plaintively as we were leaving, but also with resignation in her voice, “I want Ali to be here.”

At the beginning, and for many months, Ali wanted absolutely nothing to do with a younger sibling. It’s been so fun to watch their relationship grow. I know he wishes Ayla was at Grissom, too. Hopefully in two years, she will be.

Aug26: Surprise visitor

Ali singing Peace Like a River for Grandpa

Aug26: I was reminded today of when Ali was 2 years old and walked up behind me in the kitchen and said, “Where’s the women? Squeeze the women?”

I turned around, eyes wide, and said, “Excuse me?”

He was holding a lemon squeezer.

Aug28: Silly me. Thought I’d sing “American Pie” to Ali tonight before bed. We didn’t get very far.

Me: “Bad news on the doorstep…”

Ali: “Why bad news? What’s the bad news?”

My brain: “Abandon ship! Abandon ship!”

My mouth: “Uhhhh, it’s not absolutely certain, really. It’s just a song that’s kind of sad and kind of happy sometimes.”

Ali: “Why?”

Me: “That’s just how this song is. Anyway…”

I somehow muddled through “The day the music flies” and “This’ll be the day that I fly” (Ali asked if they were going to take a plane ride to Texas), and I’m never making that mistake again.

I asked him after the song if he wanted some water.

He said, “No, but hug.”

I said, “Butt hug? OK,” and backed my butt toward him. That got him giggling so much I had to sing Silent Night (with my own lyrics — no reference to a virgin, and “sleepy Ali” instead of “holy infant”) to calm him down again.

Aug29: Ali’s past tense of “drink” right now is “droke.”

Ayla the other day said to me, “Hey, guys?” She paused a moment. “I mean, Hey, guy?”

Aug30: I am now officially a Cougar. At least that’s what my new over 40 women’s soccer team is called

Aug30: End of summer, start of school year. Whew!

It’s been a fun and lovely summer, but I’m also a little psychotic from being all things to two people for 3 solid months with a back injury that’s been hurting since late June, haha. (It’s finally starting to feel a bit better. I may even start playing soccer again soon.) Sitting at the lovely Lodge at the Gathering Place reading a novel and letting some sanity filter back in!

(I was actually on top of the world most of the summer. But the past couple of weeks have started to get to me. I need to refill my cup like I need oxygen.)

Spring 2022

Feb12: Valentine cupcake fun! Ali’s idea and he picked out the cupcakes, frosting, and toppings and helped a lot with the making. Also pictured: his frosting art from after we made Ayla’s cake and had lots of frosting and glitter sugar left over.

And Ali with his new jeweled crown. He’s been eyeing it at Walmart for a while. We do call him Prince Ali a lot. My mom got me a tiara around this age, and it was the coolest thing ever. Magical. Hopefully they can use it for royalty dress up for many years to come!

And we got matching $10 sunglasses after we went ice skating. Ali did amazing again, achieving occasional forward motion on his own (with the walker) and later giving up the walker to hold onto my hand and the wall, then just my hand. We only fell once. I think we’ll both start taking weekend classes soon. The little kid classes are right before the adult classes. Who knows, I may end up a hockey mom.

A good day 🙂

Feb13: Grandma and Grandpa stopped by bearing gifts — flowers, chocolate, muffins, and cookies. But they waited to late to take a photo — by now Ali knew they were leaving soon, and he was NOT happy. But he survived. Always good to see y’all! (I borrowed Ali’s crown for a minute.)

Feb13: SkepticAyla and flowers from Grandma and Grandpa ❤

Feb14: Grandma coloring with Princess Ayla and Crown Prince Ali

Feb17: After seeing Moana (a million times), Ali wants so badly to visit the South Pacific.
Me, too, kid. Me, too.

Feb19: “Those things [breath mints] give you breath like the wind. You can get breath from the wind and you can get breath from breath mints.”

~ Ali, age 3

Feb19: One of Ayla’s most impressive (and adorable) full sentences lately:

“Hey, Mama, give me more Cheetos, right now!”

(She says “Teetos” for Cheetos. She says “dimmy” for give me. And she learned the “right now!” part from her brother, even though it’s never gotten him very far… Babies experimenting with language is one of the most entertaining and amazing things ever.)

Feb20: This is Ali looking in a mirror saying, “I’m a little cat!”

Feb21: The kids had so much fun at Turkey Mountain today with some Forest School kids. We hiked down to a pond, then up to a place where beavers had been very busy. They were fearless and cheerful. It’s wonderful to witness.

Feb22: Ali won $1.75 from his parents’ swearing (all quarters mine except one) plus a 75 cent gift from his dad and another dollar from his Grandma. So he went to Dollar Tree to pick 3 things out (even though it’s the $1.25 tree now). He got some gummy rabbits, his very first gun toy (pictured, orange), and a ceramic egg to paint. I needed to come up with a way to hold the egg while he painted it, and after wandering the house a bit looking for ideas, I stuck a thick crayon in PlayDoh and the egg on the crayon. Worked perfectly.

And now I have to think about the fact that he got his first gun. I wasn’t sure he knew what a gun was. But I remember the thrill of projectiles as a kid. Sigh.

Still, a pretty good survivalist haul: Food, a weapon, and art. Civilization right there.

Feb22: Ugh, another week without school. They were already off Monday for the holiday and Tuesday for conferences. Now Wednesday is canceled and Thursday looks bad. Go away, winter! I cannot get anything done these days at all.

Well, I do get things done, of course. The list just keeps growing much faster. Kids demand all your attention all day and more. And there’s no magic fairy who cooks or cleans (or plans or does household admin work), either.

Oh well. Lots of cozy play time with the kids anyway.

Feb23: OK, it was a good call not going to school today. We had snow, then little hail pellets, and now… sneet? Like halfway between snow and sleet?

We probably won’t leave the house for 3 days. Good thing our Blue Apron came yesterday.

Feb23: I made the mistake of telling Ali that as a little kid, I hated going to the bathroom and leaving whatever I was doing. I dreamed of having a toilet in the living room.

Guess what? We now have a potty in the living room.

It’s one of those days where I just need to keep everyone happy while Baba does Important Things. But I will fix this

Feb24: A stomach virus (mine) and an hour-long tantrum (not mine) during an important meeting (not mine) is a heck of a way to start a snow day.

But later Ali was his old self again and said something that melted my heart: “I don’t want to watch a video. I want you to read me a book.”

Of course it was the one time I wanted him to watch a video and give my sick butt a break, but…

Feb26: Ali asked for a vacuum to use in his blanket fort, and he said, “Where can I find one?”
I said, “Well, the one you got as a Christmas present is in that closet [aka the quiet one].”

He said, “No, I want a different one.”

“There are a few by Ayla’s door.”

“There’s only one.”

“The yellow one [toy Dyson with minimal suction]?”

“No, the pretend one [Muppet-themed baby vac]. I want a different one.”

“I think the popcorn vacuum is in the guest room.”

“No, not the popcorn vacuum.”

“Where’s the wooden one?”

“No, not that one.”

“Which one do you want?”

“The blue one.”

“The quiet one is blue, isn’t it?”

“Not that one. The blue one that really has suction.”

“Oooooh. Yeah, that one is next to our room.”

Jeez. How many vacuums do we have to go through to find the right one?

Feb26: We still can’t safely leave our house. (Haven’t left it since Tuesday.) The driveway is covered in solid ice. A snow shovel wouldn’t help even if we had one. Just gotta wait, I guess. Good thing our Blue Apron came just before the bad weather, and our freezer and pantry are well-stocked.

Feb27: I tried to get a pic of Ayla in her “Ona an’ Osa” (Anna and Elsa) shirt, but she always rushes over to look at the phone, and all I can get is a selfie. Oh well!

Feb28: Happy Happy Birthday to such a fantastic husband and father. We love you so much — and need to take more pictures of you! This old random one was the first I could find

Mar1: That feeling when you’ve planned a day to relax and do less house work than usual and go to bed early after doing some reading… and then on the way home from getting dinner, your son hands your two-year-old daughter his Boba tea on the sly in the back seat (after his mom specifically reminded him she is not allowed to have drinks in the back seat) and she dumps it out. On arriving home, exhausted from a crazy couple hours wrangling kids on errands and starving for dinner, you find the sticky, milky mess and realize you need to clean the baby, the car seat cover, the plastic car seat, the straps and buckles, and the car upholstery, and it involves YouTubing and mixing and scrubbing and baking soda and laundry and more errands tomorrow to get enzyme-based upholstery cleaner so the car won’t end up stinking like puke, and just when you’re at a stopping place and come into the kitchen to finally have your dinner, you see your son has made another huge mess with a glitter craft project thing he wasn’t supposed to open yet…

So yeah, it’s 11pm. Instead of being done at 8 and reading ’til 9 and going to bed for some much-needed catching up on sleep, here I am. There’s no such thing as “planning a relaxed day” when little kids are involved. Oh well. The kicker is, without the giant mess(es), we could have done the craft project together and then played together after the bath. I’d so much rather play with my son that clean up pointless messes. And tomorrow is going to be a bust because I’m going to wake up already exhausted. Again.

No more drinks in the back seat at all for the foreseeable future. It’ll be a few days until I can use our car again. The baking soda is working now. Enzymes will start working tomorrow. I don’t know how long it’ll take to dry. I hope it doesn’t still end up smelling like treacly taro puke.

Mar2: Just put in my last ever pair of contact lenses, inshallah. Starting in April, my eyes will be able to both see and breathe for the next, let’s say, 70 years

Mar3: Ayla calls Discovery Lab “Da Stawbewwy” (The Strawberry).

The other day in Ali’s tent, he was making static electricity sparks with his hands and said delightedly, “I can make light with my fingers!”

(I was terrified of those sparks as a kid. I was afraid I’d die of the shock or set the house on fire or something. Love his happy enthusiasm.)

Mar4: We went to the JBF second-hand sale, and Ali got a Raya and the Last Dragon light-up sword with sound effects and a funny-looking gun that makes fart sounds when you pull the trigger.

It is life. Both. Baba and Ali are sword fighting in the back yard (Ahmed with a stick). I’m jealous. I always wanted a light saber as a kid, and this sword is even cooler. He’s living my dream! And the fart gun is basically the best thing ever.

I also finally got myself a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for three bucks.

Mar5: Meanwhile, in the heart attack files…

Picture this: Ahmed is out shopping. I turn around to attend to making breakfast, and when I turn back around, there are no kids. Anywhere. I know they didn’t go with Ahmed. I call their names. I yell their names. Nothing.

I turn off the burner and sprint out the front door because this is the most dangerous route they could have taken. I look up the block and down the block. Nothing.

I go back inside and look upstairs, then all the way around downstairs, calling their names increasingly frantically. I check the back yard. No kids. No sound. Heart stopped.

Finally I force myself to stop panicking and start thinking. Given all the current evidence, what’s the most likely scenario? They are hiding from me for fun. Please, God, that it is so.

I check their favorite spots: Under my bed. In my closet.

Aha. My closet door is closed (it almost never is) and the light is on. I open the door and look in. Under my hung-up shirts, I see two little chunky knees in pale blue sweat pants and a fart gun poking out.

“We were just playing hide and seek!” Ali announces once I tell them I see them and they come out giggling.

I’m honestly impressed they hatched and executed the plan together so well. But I’m pretty sure my blood pressure will be elevated for a while yet.

ETA: The kids wanted to play the game over and over, and I left them in the closet longer and longer (because hey, it’s a little “break” to do laundry and other chores), and finally it was Ayla’s nap time, so I took her upstairs (under intense protest, for the record).

Ali is remarkably quiet and content in my closet for a suspiciously long time, so I go in and check on him. He has his little ukulele in front of him and immediately puts his hands behind his back and says, “I’m not doing anything.”

He’s clearly doing something.

“What’s in your hands, Bud?”

“Nothing.”

“Show me.”

He brings his empty hands out. “What’s behind your back?”

“Nothing.”

I reach back and find an empty tube of toothpaste.

Uh oh.

I notice his hands are all white. I notice the ukulele is half white. And there are gobs of toothpaste inside the ukulele. And probably subtle smears of toothpaste all over the carpet.

I have an outsized reaction (Ali has been pushing a loooot of buttons lately) and then ask Ahmed if we should just throw it away. “If you can clean it, that would be better,” he says. I tell the boys to figure out how to clean the ukulele or throw it away. I’m out. (I do clean my closet carpet, though. Sigh.)

Mar5: Ali’s Rainbow Fish project, completed (his idea, I just drew the fish and cut it out).

Tough gal Ayla with a chainsaw in one hand and the head of her enemy in the other (or maybe it’s a Widda Boony — Little Pony).

Ayla coming after US with her chainsaw.

Family tableau featuring Ali’s new soccer duds. He’s joining a little class soon.

ETA: Ali took his rainbow fish to school, and I have a feeling it’ll come back with most of its scales missing

Mar5: We want to do stuff with our backyard now that we have a little patch of ground. Butterfly-friendly bushes for sure. A redbud and/or dogwood, if possible. A raised bed for veggies and herbs.

But I have no idea what I’m doing, what time of year to plant things, what plants are most suitable for our area, where to put a raised bed for the best sun/shade ratio, etc. Where does one even get started?

Mar6: My old flip phone is finally kaput. What should I get next? The smaller, the better!

Mar6: It’s funny looking back on “Facebook memories” and subconsciously checking if they’re before or after July 2017, when I got pregnant with Ali. I just realized I do it. If it’s after June 2013 and before July 2017, I think, “Oh, I was still in the Big Sad then.” That was four long-ass years.

Mar8: Today (when the kids have dance after school) was supposed to be my big day to work on my novel. Nope. I went to Home Depot to get caulk-scraping tools and caulk to fix the shower. Ahmed and I spent more than an hour just scraping caulk.

When we were about to take a break, the toilet overflowed, creating another hour-and-a-half job that had me sweating in a small smelly space with my hair in my face and my nose running and dirty hands that couldn’t do anything about my hair or nose. Sensory hell, basically. I still have to do the laundry resulting from the mess and scrub the bathroom floor that my dirty feet walked on. (I already did the area around the toilet, although it is not caulked where it meets the floor, and some water went under it — gross. And I took a bath and then skated on clean wash cloths to get out of the bathroom.)

By the time I finish my lunch and the bathroom floor, it’ll be time to get the kids.

I never wanted to be Bob Vila. I wanted to be… a lumberjack! Leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia…

Mar8: Ali kept saying this word “Axolotl,” and I thought he was making something up or mispronouncing something.

Nope. He just knows more about endangered Mexican salamanders than I do.

Mar9: Welp, I am about to enter the smartphone age. I’ll pick it up tomorrow.
I have resisted so far because I don’t want to be one of those people who’s always on their phone even out in the world. I’m on my computer plenty when I’m at home! I want to smell the air, hear the birds, maybe even smile at people when I leave the house.

I hope I can keep it to bare utilities (and a sweet camera).

Mar9: Me: clearing my throat loudly

Ali: Are you puking?

Me: No, my throat is just filled with mucus.

Ali: Oh. Are you muking?

New word. You heard it here first. Better than “hawking a loogie,” right?

Mar10: Small sweet thing: Ayla found a little doll at the mall and put it in a little doll bed and brushed its hair out of its face the same way I brush her hair out of her face when I put her down to sleep.

Mar11: Holy crap. I expected my iPhone translate to understand my Russian. But my very old, very limited Chinese? Impressive.

Mar11: Finished the caulking. I’m caulk of the walk. Walking around with big caulk energy

Mar15: We planted 11 twig-looking saplings today, courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation. 2 Eastern Redbuds, 2 Sargent Crabapples, 2 Washington Hawthorns, 3 White Flowering Dogwoods, and 2 Crape myrtles.

We didn’t really know what we were doing, and I’ll be surprised if like 2 of them survive. But I am glad I clipped everyone’s fingernails before we started digging in that moist loamy clay-ful dirt!

Mar15: Bam! Bam!

(She was hitting me with the hammer and thought it was hilarious. I redirected her to pound on the bed)

Mar17: Ayla is ready for St Patty’s. Kinda

Mar17: Grandma and Grandpa came by with a new dump truck and Lifesavers! Can’t beat that!

Mar17: Ayla was so glad to see them, but has resting skeptical face

Mar17: So yard work is in my life now. (Picking bagworm bags out of our mystery tree.)

Can’t wait to start planting herbs, berries, and veggies! After clearing out a bunch of bushes way past their prime, volunteer trees, and Bermuda grass growing where it shouldn’t. (The owners before us apparently weren’t into yard work. They kind of “set it and forgot it” like 20 years ago.)

Mar18: Fun day in the forest yesterday

Mar18: First soccer game of the spring season after a long soccerless winter. Man it was fun. These are the good old days.

Mar19: Ayla found some paper towels and said, “That’s a baby tower.”

She also found the insert for her My Little Pony she got at Christmas, and she sits down and “reads” it like a newspaper.

(Her “everything phrase” these days is Doppita. Kind of rhymes with Boppity, but with an A on the end. Sometimes she uses it as an actual word, as in “I doppita cheep!” (I dropped the chip.) But mostly it’s just a word she uses when she doesn’t know what other word to use.)

Oh, and when she says Red Bull, she means rainbow.

Another edit: Ahmed and I had a silly misunderstanding and laughed about it while Ahmed was holding Ayla. She looked very seriously at him and then me and said, “Dass funny.” She didn’t get the joke, but she understood what was going on!

Mar20: Ali mentioned flamingos yesterday, and I said, “What are flamingos?” just to see what he’d say.

He said, “They live in the water.”

“Oh. What are they?”

“They have big noses.”

“Oh. Are they animals?”

“Yes.”

“What kind of animals?”

“They stand with… one foot, or one leg… They passé.”

Passé is a move in ballet where you touch your toes to your opposite knee. That boy is really learning his dance moves!

Mar20: Baby’s first (very slow) 4 wheeler ride at Uncle Doug’s

Mar21: How much fun can kids have?

Mar21: Oh what a glorious morning. Spring “Break” is over (it was fun, but no break for me), the kids are back in school, and I’m writing while it thunders in my soon-to-be-fruitful yard.

On the way into school today, the kids went on ahead as I held the door for some parents even more heavily-laden than I was.

Ayla always holds my hand on the way in. “Hand, hand, hand!” she insists if I forget or am too slow.

When I finally got inside, Ali had taken over and was holding Ayla’s hand

Mar22: Tuesday is the Tippi Toes dance class day for the kids, and every week I have to choose between taking the extra 45 minutes for myself and my work or going and watching the kids be adorable and delightful.

I’m usually a distraction for them, though (Ayla always runs right up to me and says, “Whatcha doin’ here, Mama?” and there’s another little boy who tries to hug me), so I usually just show up for the last few minutes. I wish there was a video feed!

Mar26: Picnic at Zink Park with Tulsa Area Forest School

Mar27: Ayla found this dress in her closet and grabbed it. As soon as it was on she started to passé. Ali got in on the action too!

Mar27: Ayla trundled up into Ali’s tent bed to watch a little video before bed, then Ali wouldn’t let her leave. She decided it was a good idea to stay, too, and sleep in Ali’s bed. We decided to let them give it a try, telling them we’d listen in and see if they could actually sleep.

Ten minutes later, Ayla was still goofing off and Ali was still shushing her. They’re in separate beds now.

But man, how cute was it to have them both bunking up in the tent! (Ali’s twin bed has a tent cover over it.)

Mar28: Our playroom: lived in version

Mar29: Ayla says, “I’m Doctor Ayla”

Apr1: Wild skies over St Crispins

Apr2: Isn’t Ayla getting big? They have so much fun

Grandma wrote: These two were doing a dance about fish (GOLDFISH) and they were just adorable. The fish would get on the rug, then jump up and SWIM and we were amazed by it. So cute!

Apr2: Ali just before his second soccer class. Grandpa got to watch (along with Baba) while I was gone.

Apr2: Ali scored his first goal! And I missed it! Probably lots more to come, though…

Apr3: Homecoming (after a 3 day yoga/meditation retreat)

Apr5: My new fave photo ever

Apr6: I love weeds. So many little flowering weeds have come up in our yard and attracted butterflies, before I even went and got fancy weeds like milkweed to plant.
I took the kids to Woodward Park today and showed Ali how to pull the little pinky-purple things off henbit and suck on the end. He called it Drink Flower. He asked if he could pick some, and I said, “Sure. Those flowers are free.” He was amazed and carried one around reverently the whole time we were there. Even took some in the car with him in case he wanted a drink along the way.

Hooray for the weeds that come unbidden.

Apr6: My motto lately is “All Good Things.”

I get frustrated and overwhelmed sometimes by all the things I want to do (plus all the things I need to do, plus all the things I should do). There is never time for one-third of them.

It’s good to take a breath and remind myself that my “problem” is that I have too many good options. (Cooking and cleaning aren’t always my favorite options, but we do have a home to clean and good food to eat, and I am able-bodied to do the things.)

All good things.

I am a very lucky human.

Apr6: I. Am. So. Happy. 4 kinds of tomatoes, poblano and Serrano peppers, rosemary, spearmint, parsley, lavender, lemon basil, chives, and so many flowers! Will it grow and bloom and fruit? One way to find out!

Apr7: Ayla, wearing a blue examination glove:

“I’m the doctor, and I’m gonna put you in jail!”

She may be just a wee bit mixed up…

Apr8: Ayla is kinda weird lately. She screamed until we let her take a bike helmet to bed, then fell asleep like this.

Apr9: Watermelon Zamboni gummy bear cake with shark candles. Asked and delivered. Currently hiding in the laundry room.

Apr9: And the coconut cake Ali won by scoring a goal last weekend. Really just another cake we needed to feed the cousin crowd.

Apr9: Ayla always comes prepared.

Apr9: “This is the best birthday ever.”

Yesssss

And no surprise, the kids all went straight for Ali’s gummy bear cake… Now we’ve all tried everything. Lots of full bellies.

Apr9: The best birthday present is a visit from the cousins!

Apr9: Ali got his big gift and is tearing around the house on it

Apr11: Saw this little dress and had no defense against it. None.

Apr11: Ali got jealous of me taking pics of Ayla and said, “Take a picture of me! Cheese!”

Ayla said, “No, that’s my cheese!”

Apr13: It’s not until you have a 4-year-old asking you 4,000 questions per day that you realize:

  1. How little you, personally, know and
  2. How little humanity in general knows

Apr15: Sweet pic. Everyone smiling! (I may have been doing a little peek-a-boo action behind Grandpa)

Apr17: My grandma, my brother, my daughter, and me. Happy Easter!

Apr17: Doug: The many faces of Ali (trying not to smile for me) 🙂

Apr17: My grandma and my daughter. 90+ years apart.

Apr17: I’m sad that I basically don’t listen to music anymore because I hate fiddling with iTunes and an external speaker and my computer asking me 20 times if I want to log in with my Apple ID and crap. Also, shuffling through 1000 songs is pretty disjointed. You can’t really decide on or set a mood unless you scroll to the right place and put it on the right setting, or take the time to make a playlist. Blah.

I found an old boombox that plays tapes and CDs at my parents’ house (I think it was mine) and found a bunch of excellent old tapes and CDs. I am SO EXCITED. Music is back!

Apr18: Since there’s no way in hell I’m paying $42 for 4 small pics (all of the same pose), much less $95 for one digital pose (and it goes up from there), here are Ali’s adorable school pics with the shirt he picked out special for it

His shirt says LOVE IS ALL AROUND. His favorite color is rainbow

(LOL why is everything for kids such a racket?)

Apr18: And our little princess…

Apr18: My poor tomato and pepper plants have been living in their original plastic containers in my kitchen for 10 days because it’s been cold, rainy, and/or windy the past 10 days and there’s just never a good time to plant them. (I know, I know, I should have waited. I got excited and jumped the gun.)

I guess I’ll plant them tomorrow, even though the dirt is mud and it’s going to rain AGAIN on Wednesday. At least it’ll finally be warmer. (As in, not getting into the 30s at night.)

Godspeed, plant babies.

Apr19: I did about 8 hours of yard work today. Planted 10 plants (including my beautiful raspberry bush). Dug out dozens of volunteer trees / plants that are getting out of hand. Pruned the heck out of volunteer trees and shrubs too big to dig out without professional help. Weeded and weeded and weeded. Then gathered the weeds into big garbage bags. Several of them. I still see weeds when I close my eyes.

It’s nice to have dirt under my fingernails. It’s nice to have a little piece of earth, teeming with life. (So many worms, grubs, crickets, ants… a whole subterranean world. Sorry to disturb you.)

Apr19: My pretty little grandma with her own personal small town stylist!

Mom wrote: Thank you Darlene! It was “hair day” for Mama only. She has her own stylist!

Apr24: I said, “You want to say cheese?”

She said, “No.”

I said, “You want to say cheeseburger?”

She smiled real big and said, “Yeah! Cheeseburger!”

Apr24: All hail…

Apr25: I caught Ayla roaring in her sleep last night. (She’s in a big dinosaur phase.) It was pretty much the cutest little tiny fierce thing ever.

Apr27: Wonderful visit from Aunt Emily!

Apr27: TFW a perfect little row of seedlings comes up and you haven’t the foggiest idea what you planted there. (I know most of what I’ve planted. This row? 100% forgot. Lettuce maybe?)
I need to get some popsicle sticks and mark what I plant.

Meanwhile I have dozens of flower seeds planted in my front beds, which only get about 4 hours of morning sun. Morning glories, zinnias, and cosmos. Good luck, kiddos.

In back, my friend Emily bought me a couple of butterfly-friendly li’l flowering bushes. I can see them out my bedroom window next to the milkweed I planted. Can’t wait ’til it all blooms into a butterfly haven!

The little redbud and dogwood twigs I planted are leafing out. I planted too many too close to each other. Gonna have to make some Sophie’s Choices down the line. But for now it’s fun watching them grow. I didn’t have huge expectations in the poorly-draining clay I planted them in before knowing anything about soil amendment.

Next step: digging out many poison ivy and poison oak vines, clearing the fences of the little volunteer trees I couldn’t uproot by hand, and hacking back and digging out some ugly pointless bushes so I can replace them with food and/or pollinator-friendly beauties.

Thinking of planting my super shady front bed (by the garage, shaded by trees in the morning and the house in the afternoon) with azaleas and some small dogwoods in the fall, after I clear the current crap out (grizzled old bushes and dead crape myrtles) and improve the soil a bit.
But I’d be glad to hear about any other plants that are happy in shady clay.

Apr27: Ayla: “I da wobot montey”

Apr28: Ali the other day called gummy worms “worm gummy bears.”

He also said passionately, “I love them so bad.”

Apr28: My poison ivy gloves and my Klingon dagger digger. Wish me luck.

Apr29: This is what I call our Wild Corner. I wish I had taken a “before” pic. This is after clearing out 90% of the poison ivy. There are also mulberry trees, a grape vine, Virginia creeper, and more. I still need to clear out 90% of the thick matted roots. So far so good on not getting got by the ivy oil.

Apr30: Every now and then I come in from the yard covered in sweat, holding an implement covered in dirt, and Ali says, “You’re like a farmer, Mama.”

Apr30: Someone got a haircut. Two someones ate Nutella for dinner and ignored the lovely meal I prepared. Oh well!

May1: Ali found this beautiful rainbow bracelet and wanted it so bad. How could I say no? And he puts wipes in the zamboni blade place so it makes a wet trail on our wood floors like a real zamboni. He also came up to me today and presented me with a “wax booger” from his ear.

Thanks, Bud.

Meanwhile Ayla saw me putting drops in my eyes and asked, “Whatcha doin’, Mama?”

I said, “Putting drops in my eyes to make them more wet.”

“Why make more wet, uh, octopus?”

I just laughed. Was she trying to hit a word count? LOL

May1: I love that Ali loves lawnmowers and weed eaters and zambonis and flowers and rainbows and tiaras and dancing and make-up.

I love that Ayla loves dresses and tiaras and hair bows and twirling and baby dolls and dinosaurs and mud and Spider Man.

We all contain multitudes — so many more than any box society may try to fit us into

May1: That feeling when there are dozens of tiny sprouts coming up in the flower beds out front and you don’t know if they’re flowers or just weeds saying, “Thank you very much for the bare soil!”

May2: Yep. That’s my girl-a-mole

May2: Ali wrote me some notes. He said they were shopping lists.

When I asked what were on the lists, he said, “Whatever you need.”

Pretty good trick!

May2: Welp, there is absolutely no point trying to get the kids to bed right now. That’s the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard — and felt. It feels sometimes like an earthquake.

Ayla is pretty chill. She just says, “Boom!” when a big thunder hits. Ali is wary like a cat who senses you’re about to give him a bath.

May2: The gardening rabbit hole is deep and wide. From flowers to fruits and vegetables, native plants and cultivars, pollinators and pests, soil types and amendments, painstakingly getting rid of invasive (and itch-inducing) species (and trying not to add new ones), wondering what poisons may have been sprayed in the past and therefore where it’s safe to plant edible crops, taking care of an ailing tree, when and how much to water (not a problem lately: the sky says “always”), when and how much and how to fertilize, drainage, mulch (there are different types that do different things), getting rid of ugly old hedge stumps and digging up foundation-endangering mulberry trees (much as I’d love to keep them all)…
It’s taking over my life.

I think I see a relative stopping point for the year after a couple more weeks of lots of work. Well, not stopping. Slowing down and not learning obsessively so much. Then in the fall, a whole other vista opens up…

May3: Today when I went to Southwood Nursery to get more dirt and compost (or “poop dirt,” as Ali calls it), Ali found cantaloupe and corn seeds. So I guess I’m planting those, too. Somewhere.

And I found some deep red nasturtium seeds. I immediately took 7 of the seeds and planted them in random places among my other plants. This is fun!

Tonight was an epic battle with the Bermuda grass creeping toward my tiny leafing twigs that may someday become ornamental trees.

Funny story: I made a modest donation to the Arbor Day Foundation and they promised me a dozen trees in the mail. I was kinda like, “Yeah, right. OK.” Sure enough one day, 12 twigs came in the mail with a note to PLANT THESE IMMEDIATELY. Ahmed and I went into panic mode. We didn’t know where to put 12 trees or how to plant them or… anything. It consumed the next 3 days the way the baby rats ruined Phoebe’s life on Friends until Mike’s sanity prevailed.

Finally we got them in the ground in more or less acceptable places, but kind of sunken instead of mounded, without any kind of soil amendment… Just generally pretty badly done. Also surrounded by Bermuda grass, which is taking over every part of Sun Island — the sunnier raised-ish bed in our back yard — that I haven’t yet fully turned over and hand-weeded. It’s stayed away from the trees pretty well due to pine needle mulch, but an epic battle was coming sooner or later. My hands and back are super sore. And there’s much more Bermuda to go.

A nice way to spend time until a pretty crescent moon materializes in the sky.

Oh, I also fixed a bunch of downspouts that were busted and discharging water way too close to the foundation. And I got some splashguards for our outdoor faucets so that water is diverted from the foundation if the faucet is turned on without a hose, or just dripping. And I felled a few volunteer trees that have gotten too big for their britches.

Next up: Digging out as many old roots as I can from the South Bed and filling it in with dirt and plants, finishing the Bermuda War on Sun Island and planting that with melons and pumpkins, pole beans and cucumbers, clearing as many trees as I can from the fence line, waging all-out war on the poison ivy roots in Swamp Corner and Wild Corner [I got a hazmat suit for that], figuring out ground cover / pollinator-friendly stuff for Wild Corner, planting bee-friendly annuals in Swamp Corner [just to see what they do, I don’t have big hopes] along with the swamp milkweed and swallowtail fennel, making a puddler for butterflies on Shade Island — hopefully maybe soon to be named Butterfly Island? — and carting off our giant and growing pile of yard waste.

That’s my list for spring anyway.

Oh, I also want a passionflower vine, catmint, salvia…

You know, I’m going to stop there, because otherwise I’ll never stop.

May4: Future cirque du soleil

May4: I said, “Say cheese!”

She said, “Rawrrrrrr”

May5: Ali made some Mother’s Day gifts at school. When he got home, he took them and ran into his Baba’s office and said, “Happy Birthday, Daddy!”

I swear, he just likes messing with us

May5: Tonight was the night, after so many days of rain, for an epic three-hour battle with poison ivy roots, wearing a plastic super-apron (that covered my neck and arms), plastic booties over my feet and ankles, and sunglasses for eye protection.

It was a mucky mess, but prime root-pulling conditions. Still took tremendous effort. I couldn’t quite get everything, but I got about 95%. I know it’ll just grow back, but it’ll take a few years for it to get back to where it was, and I’ll be snipping and pulling all the while.

I’ve already had a few more spots of itch pop up, but nothing terrible so far. Tomorrow I need to try to get some of the ivy on the neighbor’s side of the fence (if he’ll allow) and bag everything up. I’ll be glad to have this hazmat nonsense behind me, without having to poison anything but myself a little, LOL. Then I can throw some quality dirt on top of Swamp Corner and Wild Corner and plant cool stuff like butterfly fennel, milkweed, salvia, and passionflower vines. My yard will be a free VRBO for pollinators.

Swamp Corner may take a while to figure out — the drainage is terrible — but we’ll get there. So far a swamp milkweed (that I could resist planting in a small turned-over area far from the poison ivy) is thriving. Maybe it’ll just be Swamp Milkweed Corner.

May6: Ayla found the knockoff My Little Pony that I had put on her birthday cake. She said, “My widda boony.”

I said, “That’s right. You got a pony on your birthday cake.”

Ali piped up, “And I got a ‘boni on my birthday cake!”

[Zamboni, that is.]

Already a wordsmith!

ETA: Earlier he saw a fire truck without its lights on and said, “Maybe it’s on its way from the fire back to the fire station.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe it’s just going to get gas.”

“They must need a LOT of gas. I bet they use a hundred of gas!”

Oh for the days when “a hundred” was the biggest number I could think of…

May6: Well, the Poison Ivy War is over, for now.

Poison Ivy: A couple dozen small chemical burns

Pamela: ALL THE POISON IVY ROOTS

(As far as I know. Please don’t tell me if you know otherwise.)

I hit a snag when I realized how many different random roots and vines and even small trees were entwined with a stupid wire thing the previous owners zip-tied up against the fence many years ago. I removed pointless junky-looking wire panels from several places around the property, and this was the most difficult. I needed to remove the wire thing to even be able to identify the last of the poison ivy roots and extract them, and that necessitated clipping wire all around the trees that were snagged (and ruining my nippers) and snipping plenty of vines I didn’t know what they were (RIP a whole lotta Virginia creeper), then pulling with all my might and trying not to get scratched all to hell by cut wire in the process (and failing — I am quite scratched up).

When that was FINALLY done, I also needed to nip back a whole lot of winter creeper vine to get to the last of the poison ivy vines that were entwined with them. What a mess! It was like a million wires going in all directions with no identifying features until you came upon a group of 3 leaves popping out. (Gosh that stuff grows fast.)

That done, I went to the neighbor, an older gentleman who lives alone, and offered to clear out the poison ivy on his side of the fence, since I was already suited up for it. And I didn’t want it sneaking under the fence again.

He said, “I’ll get right on that, don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”

I was like, “Oh, no, I’m not that worried about it.” I wasn’t trying to get him to do it. Didn’t even cross my mind. “I was just offering.”

“That’s all right. I’ll get on it.”

This went back and forth a few times until I said, “I’m really not worried about it. I was just offering.” And we left it at that. I don’t know if he doesn’t want me digging around on his property or just didn’t want me putting myself in harm’s way to get his ivy. Either way, I left feeling bad for bringing it up at all.

Next I bagged up all the ivy roots and threw it in our garbage can. So glad to have that nightmare behind me. No more wearing a hazmat suit, then scrubbing myself with Dawn dish soap (to tackle the oily part of the poison ivy oil, urushiol) and dousing myself in isopropyl alcohol (to try to dissolve any lingering urushiol via the alcohol group) at the end of the day. (Organic chemistry is fun!) No bets on how bad I’ll look tomorrow despite my precautions, but it will be with a warrior’s pride

After that I tried cutting through the roots around one of the old bush stumps in the South Bed. I cut a dozen roots around it and it still doesn’t budge. Not even a little. I was definitely defeated by the bush stump, especially after exhausting myself in Wild Corner. I guess I’ll try to find a chainsaw and at least cut it flush with the ground so it’s not so ugly. And hopefully the roots I cut will die and rot, and so, eventually, will the stump.

It has me feeling pretty hopeless about all the other old holly bushes that need to be gone so I can do pretty stuff in other places. And the rangy old crape myrtles that need to be mercy killed. Even hiring someone to kill those things is not fool-proof.

Meanwhile my flying saucer morning glories (see pic) sprouted on one side of the front steps but not the other. The other side was completely drowned in the rain. I may try one more time to plant them, then just give up and put a potted plant there this year.

My cosmos, zinnias, and bee-friendly flower combo pack are sprouting beautifully in the Front Bed, although some of those were pretty bedraggled by the rain, too.

The mystery sprouts next to my heliotrope turned out to be lettuce. I’ll have myself a baby lettuce salad in another week.

I was so absorbed in my battles, I completely forgot that my last soccer game of the season was tonight

I think I kind of assumed it would be canceled because of how soggy everything is, and I never checked. When I did check (too late), there was no notification it was canceled. Oops.
Hopefully this is the busiest I’ll ever be with the lawn and garden. The previous owners left us with plenty to deal with! Once a lot of that is done, we can just have fun. Or at least fewer hazmat suits, wire scratches, and chemical burns.

May7: “I dot my dinodaur. It’sh a BID dinodaur!”

(I got my dinosaur. It’s a BIG dinosaur!)

Ten bucks at a garage sale. I saw it and knew Ayla would love it! Ali said it was too scary for her. I said, “Naw, she’s a pretty brave girl.”

May7: Ali and I had some adventures today. After his soccer practice (he scored another goal!), we went to The Bubble Museum (The Philbrook, which had a Giant Bubbles and Box Forts fun day), where Ali made the coolest little cardboard house. Then precisely at 2pm, the Powers that Be began systematically dismantling all the box forts, and Ali was horrified and furious.

Next we went to see the roses at Woodward Park, and Ali was saying passionately, “I like rainbow colors, but I love red and white roses. They smell so good. I want to EAT them all!”

I said, “Well, you can eat roses. You can make rose syrup.”

So guess what we’re doing now?

(It’s from our own roses — we didn’t steal them from Woodward Park!)

May8: Enjoying my rose (decaf) coffee on Mother’s Day. Ali had such a nice idea making rose syrup from the roses in our yard

May9: Well, that was a long day spading up and hand-sifting fifty pounds of weeds (mainly Bermuda grass) out of my Sun Island bed. But tomorrow is the fun part: Planting watermelons, pumpkins, cantaloupe, corn (Ali’s idea, he loves corn), pole beans, and cucumbers (all seeds).

And more flower seeds in various places, because why not? Including a (hopefully eventually) tall one outside the dining room window that’s a favorite of hummingbirds.

May10: Big day at the ol’ homestead. I mixed raised bed soil, Bio-Tone, and compost on Sun Island and in the South Bed (by the house) and Breakfast Bed (the one outside our dining room). Laid out all the plantings with little wooden garden labels Ahmed got me for Mother’s Day. (No more planting things and then forgetting what the heck I planted.)

When Ali got home, he lovingly planted his little marigold seedlings from school next to the big marigold in the garden. And we managed to plant all the planned flowers in the Breakfast Bed (seeds) as well as corn and cantaloupe on Sun Island. Then it was bath time.

I don’t think Ali understands how long it’s going to be before we have any chance of actually seeing corn or a cantaloupe, if we ever do at all. I hope he doesn’t end up hating gardening due to this!

In the course of mixing soil in Sun Island, I unearthed a root about 18 inches by 4 inches. There was more to it, but I had to hack and saw around it to get it out and clear space for my lettuce, arugula, kale, and green onion section. The tomatoes, peppers, heliotrope, lavender, milkweed, raspberries, blackberries, hyssop, penstemon, and herbs are doing great.

Still to plant: Watermelon, pumpkins, giant sunflowers (why not?), catnip, cucumbers, and pole beans.

Next year I’ll try to figure out root vegetables. Don’t have any more space in my head right now. Or time to overturn any more dirt. Every space is spoken for. (Although I may throw some radish and carrot seeds somewhere, just for kicks. They didn’t do much at all when I tried to grow them indoors in a clear plastic pot to try to watch the roots grow. Got nothing close to a radish or a carrot. Just some spindly leaves.)

May11: OK, it’s official. I am not going to finish writing my book before the kids are out of school next week. Gardening took over my life this month (happily), and it’s just not going to happen. Once the kids are out of school, my life gets that much busier.

Which is fine. It’s easy to be wise on paper. Much harder to live it. I’m going to focus this summer on living the wisdom in the book, which should help it ripen and help me finish it more authentically in the fall, without feeling rushed or resentful. Method writing, basically

May11: Ali brought home a red Solo cup of grass that he grew at school. I said, “Oh, what kind of grass is it?”

He said, “Window grass.”

Meanwhile, Ayla expresses her excitement about “Milkshake Day” (the day we go get boba tea) by saying, “I wanna drink balls!”

She also demolished some seaweed salad and edamame the last time we got sushi takeout. A far more sophisticated palate than I had at that age.

Ali still lives on bread, milk, and sweets. (Pretty much.)

May17: I kind of painted myself into a corner (again) doing a garden tour and buying 8 cool native pollinator-friendly plants. That meant I had to figure out and prepare suitable places for them ASAP.

Three solid days of work later, I only have 2 more to plant, and I know where I’m going to plant them. One will be pretty straightforward. The other involves a whole lot more Bermuda grass mass murder. (I did so much of that in the past 3 days, my hands are weak with fatigue.)

After that, there’s only one other (large) infestation of Bermuda grass to get rid of and replace with pine bark mulch (gosh that stuff smells good — like an Alpine vista), and I can pretty much coast for the rest of the season. Sit back and watch things grow!

Just in time, too. The kids’ last day of school is tomorrow.

May17: When I close my eyes, I still see Bermuda roots.

I have rarely experienced this phenomenon since Tetris came out. Oh, I did keep seeing coral reefs when I closed my eyes when I was spending lots of time diving in the Sinai. That was sweet. Better than Bermuda roots

May18: Can’t believe it. I’m finally at a (relative) stopping point with my gardening work. I have a few more seeds to plant, some mulch to throw down, but it’s kinda chill. I was able to be done at 7pm today instead of full dark. Whew.

My back is glad the worst of the clearing and pulling and digging and forking and lifting and hauling and pouring and mixing is over. And my sincerest apology to the millions of worms I disturbed. I hope you’ll enjoy the compost.

May20: Robert Earl Keen! Been years since I’ve been to a concert. 20 years since I saw Mr. Earl Keen

Thanks for the tickets, Mom and Bill! Thanks for hanging out with the kids, Ahmed!

May21: First dance recital. Ayla did great but refused to wear all accessories for some reason. Ali… eventually got his costume on and was carried on stage, and froze until it was over. Oh well. Otherwise fun to watch

Honestly, though, they should at least have a dress rehearsal before these things. A lot of adults would have a hard time walking up on a stage they’ve never been on wearing weird new clothes and performing.

May21: A rather large friend from Stigler

Ali was in hog heaven…

Ali’s joy face

May21: “You know yesterday? It’s still that day. Yesterday is still… going.”

~ Ali, after a long and apparently confusing nap

May24: Ayla kept bugging me to get her an orange. I was busy and asked her to wait. When I got to the kitchen, she was still loading more on her tray

Edit: She’s eaten 4 so far. Still going…

Edit 2: She finally stopped at either 8 or 9, I lost count.

May24: Ayla’s getting big for her toddler bed, so we put Ali’s old queen mattress on the floor in her room and Ali’s pink and green house-looking tent on top of it for her to feel snug in.

She saw it all and exclaimed, “It’s a nice bed!”

Hard to explain, but it was extremely precious.

May26: I took the kids to Adventure Avenue today, a fun little place with a mini town of shops and a doctor’s office and a vet, etc, plus a million cool toys.

(We’ve been house-bound for days with the cold rain, plus this is some kind of holiday week where everything fun indoors is either closed or booked up.)

Ali was mad because the wooden vacuum that had been there last time was not there this time. Ruined everything. (He still had fun. But he always reports on whatever went wrong and claimed it wasn’t fun today because of that. Similarly, he’ll declare it “a bad day” at school if anything went slightly wrong. But he loves school and his friends. I digress.)

Ayla found a set of about 40 realistic dinosaur figures in various species and sizes and delighted in setting them all up in various configurations on a bench in the snack area. Another little dinosaur enthusiast, a boy on the older end of 2, walked up and tried to play with one of “her” big T-rexes. She screamed “NOOOOO!” at him so loud and insistently, he ran away sobbing and couldn’t calm down. His mom had to take him home. I felt awful, and I apologized.

But two-year-olds gonna two-year-old, I guess. Ayla’s used to defending her territory from a 4-year-old. And she’s pretty dang fierce.

But that sweet little boy definitely didn’t deserve it.

He told me excitedly, before the incident, that he was going to see dinosaurs tomorrow at the zoo. I hope he doesn’t end up associating dinosaurs with Ayla and get scared of them.

May28: Ali has a knack for coming up with Youtube video ideas no one has ever done before.

“I want to see a dinosaur using a leaf blower.”

“Um… Yeah, I can look for that, but I don’t think we’ll have much luck…”

May28: I am not injured in the slightest, but I was hit by a very slow-moving car as I was perusing plants at a native plant sale in a parking lot. She was pulling out of her parking spot. Slowly, since there were lots of people around. Thankfully.

As soon as I yelled, “Jesus f***ing Christ!” she slammed on her brakes and got out, apologized, and said she hadn’t seen me. I was just glad I’d had an eye on Ali, if not on my own 4 o’clock.

Being body-checked by a mini-van, no matter how gently, will sure wake you up in the morning.

May29: “Hey, the videos that we watch, do they watch us?”

Excellent question, Ali

Christmas ’21, Ayla turns 2

Dec17: Ali has an “OK to wake” clock that turns from orange to blue at 7:30, which is the wake-up time we’re all aiming for since that’s about when Ayla wakes up and it works for our morning routine and gives us adults a bit more sleep.

When Ali wakes up, no matter the time, he unplugs the clock and comes right down.

Dec19: I am in no way qualified to do this. Skills-wise or temperamentally. But cookies were made today, and they were decorated, with homemade hand-colored buttercream frosting.

I do admit to using a cookie-cutter approach when it came to cutting the cookies.

Dec20: Ali is an engineer. Not will be. Is. He has his Cozy Coup tricked out with a rearview mirror, windshield wipers, and a trunk, among other things. There are new additions every day.
As things fall off or whatever, new ones are added. He’s been trying all day to figure out how to put a super heavy padlock on the door. So he can lock and unlock it.

He’s also a goofball. (He wanted to be a present, and Ahmed had the quick thinking to use a blanket instead of paper.)

Dec20: Fever-y baby wasn’t having mom anywhere but here. All day long. To Do list? For another day.

Dec22: Had fun wandering all around Tulsa Botanic Gardens and millions of colorful sparkling lights. I’m glad Ali picked out that hat — it makes him much easier to spot!

Dec24: Ali went on a treasure hunt today with clues all over the house. He liked the chocolate (cho-law-co-late) coins best.

Dec24: Ayla is such a barefoot bushwhacking goofball. She would have been right at home on my Grandma and Grandpa’s little farm/ranch, tramping around the creek and gathering eggs. Feeling her little feet turn into hobbit feet as they acclimated to the gravel. Playing in the cow’s water trough. Climbing on hay bales, watching for snakes. Delighting in the latest crop of wild kittens. Feeding apples to the horses. Playing dodgeball with rotten plums on the ground. Climbing trees, trying to pick mulberries and put them in buckets and bring them back but just eating them all instead.

Those were such good times.

Dec24: Tonight we made chocolate chip cookies for Santa and opened a Christmas Eve Box from the grandparents. Ali went through it like a Tasmanian devil, throwing things behind him. Ayla laughed a deep-throated, almost evil villain laugh when she saw the candy canes. She was super excited. I opened one of the ‘canes for her, thinking she’d suck it for a while and then put it down and wander off. Nope. She crunched the whole thing right down in record speed.

Dec25: Well, so much for Christmas morning. Ayla woke up early, unhappy about something, and cried for more than an hour. Wasn’t interested in her presents or stocking.

Ali finally woke up at like 8:30 (two hours later) with a fever and apparently had a crap night of sleep, along with his father. (Ahmed slept in the room with Ali to keep him from getting up 80 times in the night, after the second time he got up.)

Ali was excited about presents, though it was muted by feeling bad. He ripped through them fast. The watch was the most wanted gift, and it was opened last, but it was too big. He seemed to like it, though.

Ali then opened his big box gifts, and a little ways into trying to build the new play kitchen, he begged off and now he’s resting on Baba, all pitiful.

Ayla still yells any time I try to give her a gift or her stocking, but she’s playing with Ali’s stuff and the new little Fisher Price play house.

Ho ho ho!

ETA: Ali puked and started to feel a bit better then. He hates the watch. I don’t blame him. I couldn’t find what he asked for and thought I got something “better.” But it’s kinda futzy and complicated. I’ll just go find what he wants when I can. It’s $5.

Ali putting on a brave face and getting started

The aftermath

Ayla feeling a little better. Ali feeling worse.

Just before he puked

Ayla on the warpath again

Ayla opening her mini diapers, finally. She loved stacking them and giving them to Aunt Val and taking them back again. Hasn’t used them as diapers yet. (She normally loves trying to diaper her dolls with normal diapers that are way too big.)

Ayla saying “cheese!”

Found a good deal on a cool play kitchen. They were outgrowing the Facebook freebie I got. But it definitely gave us a lot of fun! And I’ll pass it on

Dec26: The kids are much happier today and playing with all the loot. Ayla has carrying her two ponies around by the manes (oops, I stand corrected, one is a “unitorn”) and Ali is circumnavigating the house pushing his new ferry boat bath toy, making tug boat noises. It has his mini gum ball machine on it.

For my own records:

Both kids got a play kitchen, downhill racetrack, and Fisher Price doll house
Ayla got mini diapers, silly squirt soap, bath toys, ribbon streamers, My Little Pony, talking puppy toy, and small plush unicorn

Ali got a card match game, silly squirt soap, ferry bath toy, ribbon streamers, wooden trapeze to hang somewhere, tea set, and watch (which was the wrong one and he hates it — oops. The one he wants is $5. We’ll find it when we can. Stupid Santa! 😛 )

Dec26: I’m glad my 93-year-old grandma still has cat-like reflexes. Somehow she got sat next to the trash can, and I threw some cardboard toy-packaging innards that caught some air, sailed the wrong way, and would have hit her in the face if she hadn’t punch-blocked it!

Sorry, Grandma.

Otherwise we had a great time in Stigler

Dec26: This photo is called OH NO LEVI IS ON FIRE!!!

Dec28: It’s a “Do 6 loads of laundry and try to put the house back together while the kids run around, eat McDonald’s, and/or watch movies” kind of day.

It still cracks me up how much it cracks Ayla up when the “baby dinodaurs” hatch in the Good Dinosaur movie. She also gets insanely excited and laughs and laughs when the T-rexes lope across the plains. “Dinodaurs running! Dinodaurs running!”

And tomorrow will be another day a lot like today, but with only one load of laundry. Houses (and kids) are demanding beasts.

Dec28: So today was kinda lame, with endless housework and Ali extra sassy with a holiday hangover, especially after staying up late at Grandma’s. Ayla’s been skipping naps for the past week and being a bit friable, too.

A trip to a nature reserve, and a hike in the woods, helped end the day on a good note. Ayla adored playing in the sand and gravel, picking it up and giving it to us or just sifting it through her fingers and cackling like it was the greatest thing ever.

At one point Ayla found a great stick and Ali took it and ran away. Ayla protested loudly.

I said to Ali, “That’s not very nice. Taking a stick from a baby.”

“She’s not a baby,” he said.

I sighed. “Semantics.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “It’s a man stick.”

I legit would have done a spit take if I’d been drinking something

ETA: Pic of two little kids running off into the woods together. We expected them to come back pretty soon. Who knows how far they would have gone if we hadn’t gone chasing after them! (It was a safe area, a nature reserve. We wouldn’t have let them get lost for real.)

Dec29: Ali just now: “I’m hiccuping. I’m hiccuping. I hicked up.”

Dec30: My kids will have almost nothing to do with non-CGI animation. Old pen-and-ink animation must look like black and white to them.

Dec30: Ayla being cute in her special dress from Grandma. She was captivated by the heavy bocce balls. I let her play, even though I feared for her toes!

Dec30: Little baby Ayla (almost 2) finally moved from the Pack n Play into a toddler bed. She took to it like a champ. Loved playing on it, then when I asked if she wanted to sleep in her Pack n Play or in her new bed, she emphatically said, “New bed!”

She didn’t even want me to rock her to sleep. She wanted to be in bed while I sang her song.

Sweet little moppet! With her (usual) stuffed animals and new pillow and blankets. Sleeping like a queen.

ETA: I couldn’t sleep (still can’t) and checked the monitor around midnight. She was nowhere to be found. I went up to her room. Not there. I was about to consider panicking when I noticed her little fleece nightgown with stars on the floor. She had apparently pushed against the Pack n Play that I pushed against her bed to keep her from falling off, and fallen off. And then just went with it and fell asleep (or stayed asleep) on the floor, half under the bed, wedged against the Pack n Play.

I put her back in bed and wedged something very heavy against the Pack n Play so hopefully now it can actually serve its intended purpose as a bed rail.

P.S. Ali was 22 months when he transitioned from the Pack n Play to a queen mattress. After Ayla came home, he simply refused to set foot in the Pack n Play ever again.

Dec31: Aunt Emily got Ali a VACUUM BLANKET for Christmas. How cool is that?

Dec31: Ahmed is putting together Ali’s new Hot Wheels downhill race track thing.

Ali said encouragingly, “You’re doing it, Baba! You’re the future!”

Dec31: Ayla’s favorite phrase right now: “DIDDA BATUMEE!!!”

(Give it back to me.)

Dec31: It’s been a beautiful and hectic year. We have a new house and a “baby” who narrates the most fascinating stories that no human can understand, sometimes illustrating with interpretive dance. A sweet son who thinks fart jokes are the funniest thing in the world and hide and seek is a kind of heaven, who’s smart enough to give us heck sometimes. (He doesn’t miss anything.)

We had pizza, red wine, and sparkling cider for dinner. The kids had chicken nuggets. So it goes. (Cinnamon rolls for breakfast tomorrow.)

I think the biggest breakthrough I’ve had this year is really getting it through my head that there’s no benefit to beating myself up, even if I’ve screwed up in the same way for the 400th time and feel hopeless. The 401st time (or 447th) is always an opportunity for change and growth, and shame will just make that growth harder. My inner critic is (finally) rather quiet these days, and I’m doing better in a lot of ways than I have in years. I have quiet hope. I am quietly striving. I am doing my best. It is enough.

I’ve been blazing through my year-end To Do list, clearing the deck as well as I can, and I’m hopeful 2022 will be the year I finally finish writing my novel and begin looking for a home for it. I’m grateful I can easily publish it myself if it comes to it. The book wanted to be written. I’m writing it. Its fate will not be simply to sit in a desk drawer, as it may have been in the past if a traditional publisher couldn’t be found. These are wonderful times in many ways.

I wrote a morning mantra of sorts to read every morning when I wake up. (I plan to start waking up an hour before the kids to have time for stuff like this.)

May my morning rituals connect me to higher wisdom so I may embody it through the day.

May my list be tasks to tackle & enjoy, not an excuse to be absent or separate from my life.

May my love radiate from a spirit not preoccupied with getting my own needs met.

May my feet tread in beauty every day on this good earth.

May I make time for and see the value in my heart work.

I originally included these two as well, but they feel internalized enough to leave out for now:

May I not waste energy castigating myself when old stories take over, but gently aim back toward a better path.

May I accept with grace when there genuinely aren’t enough hours in the day. Life is full!

Oh, and I got a Bullet Journal so that my daily To Do list this year will be finite and I’ll have things crossed off at the end of the day instead of deleted into oblivion, making me wonder what the heck I did all day. This year I’ll know.

Give yourself some grace. You would not be here if the universe hadn’t conspired — wildly improbably — to bring you here, including by exploding stars violently to distribute the iron that made its way into your blood.

Every new year starts with such hope. Every new generation brings new hope and carries it forwards. Even if we all screw up in the same way for the 400th time and feel hopeless. The 401st time (or 447th) is always an opportunity for change and growth. Always.

Jan1: Such a fun night of play this evening in the play room. Ali has his new trapeze with yellow grab handles underneath, and he was swinging on it over a Nugget cushion. He was this close to doing his first backflip while holding onto the rings but didn’t quite let himself go all the way over. He did monkey around upside-down for a while.

Ayla is in a phase of loving to carry big and heavy things, and she had fun jumping on the other Nugget cushion, jumping off it, and folding and unfolding it. She also put our big foam blocks in a row and tried to walk across them like a tightrope. It was super difficult and wobbly and she kept falling off (usually falling onto a big foam block) and laughing.

We were having too much fun to get pictures, but I did get a video last night of Ayla narrating — orating? — some huge story about the cars on their new ramp race track. I didn’t get this part on film, but one time she made her point so forcefully she fell backwards onto her butt. After a brief pause, she got straight back up, without even using her hands, and continued without missing a beat. Orating baby ninja.

I love these kids.

Happy New Year ❤

ETA: Here’s 10 seconds of Ayla narrating / orating about her new car ramp. Ten seconds out of several minutes. I’m treated to lots of this (sometimes with interpretive dance), and she’s started orating at strangers as well. Love it

I’m sure she knows exactly what she’s saying. I can’t wait until I can know, too!

Jan3: Ali, bless his heart. He was doing gymnastics on my bed and a flailing foot kicked my computer and cut / bruised my thumb. He felt bad and filled a drawer in my room with bandaids and “blood lotion” (Neosporin) in case I needed it.

Jan3: I think this will help me tremendously with meal planning: A template, instead of an overwhelming blank slate every week.

Monday: crock pot chicken
Tuesday: Monday’s leftovers
Wednesday: Vegetarian
Thursday: pasta
Friday: fish or red meat

Jan4: I’m a bit of a pack horse on school days. I have to simultaneously bring in two kids, two bags with extra clothes and winter apparel, two nap rolls (sleeping bags), two lunches, two water cups, and two loveys (stuffed animals).

More and more Ali will carry his own backpack and Ayla will even carry her nap roll. Other days I’m carrying all the stuff plus Ayla.

Ali’s class announced the phasing out of naps over the holidays. Unable to comprehend the scope of my liberation, I brought his nap roll this morning out of habit, only for it to come back unopened.

Tomorrow and every day thereafter? One less sleeping bag to carry in and out every day. Woo hoo!

Jan4: With both kids dropping their last nap at the same time (yeah, pray for me), I really hate this new earlier bed time. We have dinner, do baths, and just start revving up the fun when it’s time to brush teeth and go to bed, and the kids protest mightily. But any later and they don’t function the next day.

And they won’t nap, period. It’s just not a thing anymore.

Jan9: Any guesses what “dop me now” means in Ayla-speak?

Chocolate milk.

Jan11: Today was/is a good day.

Jan11: I’ve been Home Alone the past couple of nights while Ahmed “drove to Houston real quick” to do some urgent paperwork at the Turkish consulate. (All is well, just workaday stuff.) It’s been hectic, but the kids were kind enough to make it non-miserable.

Ayla tonight was literally eating guacamole with a spoon. That’s. My. Girl.

Last night Ayla tore the last two bells off a jingle bell ornament Ali got somewhere, and I randomly put them down the back of Ayla’s footie pajamas for no reason, and she started running around with her butt jingling.

This inspired Ali and me to sing, “Jingle butt! Jingle butt! Jingle all the way! Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open butt!” over and over and over while Ayla ran around and around, her butt jingling all the way.

Oh what fun.

Jan11: Ten year challenge. In 2012, my only baby was a book called Fast Times in Palestine. Now I have two more babies and another book (perpetually) almost done!

Jan12: Someone in a parenting group asked how to explain to her baffled 5-year-old why he can’t take his penis out in public.

It was a good question. I replied:

“Honestly, it’s healthy for a kid to question why some parts are private.

At the end of the day, it’s simply a cultural norm. One of many kids have to learn to “fit in” in the society they were born into.

Other cultures, and nudist colonies, have different norms.

My son asked me today if dinosaurs were put in boxes when they died. I told him no, that’s just a cultural norm in our society. Honestly, I question that cultural norm. There’s no real reason for dead bodies to be put into giant expensive boxes, etc.

But as for taking penises out in public, that’s one kids just have to accept for now. Because it’s a cultural norm, because it makes people deeply uncomfortable, because grown-ups can be arrested for doing it, etc.

Isn’t it wonderful how kids inspire us to question things we take completely for granted?”

Jan13: Ali wants to learn all about “electishutty” and the building where it’s made (power plant).
He’s fascinated by the wires (and agreed the cat bus on Totoro must be magic since he didn’t get shocked when he walked on them).

So. How can I find out where our electricity comes from (as in which building generate’s our area’s power I guess?) and then arrange a tour? Is that a thing?

Last week he wanted to see the building where radio comes from, and we walked into an I Heart Radio office building and up to the 5th floor. Unfortunately all was dark, as apparently everyone’s working from home. He did get a Dum Dum from another random office in the building.

Hoping for a more inspiring field trip next time. (And I’m sure he’d still like to tour a radio station some time!)

Meanwhile Ali’s dreams are haunted by a “bad camel” that keeps trying to eat him. It apparently thinks he is a carrot. (We fed carrots to camels at Pumpkin Town in October. Oops.) It is haunting my nights, too. It takes a long time to fall back asleep after your son wakes up screaming.

Jan14: If Ayla points at the sky and says, “Apple doctor!” she means ‘helicopter’ and she’s probably pointing at an airplane.

Close enough, kid. I get you.

Meanwhile Ali wants his own house where he’s the Baba and Ayla is the Mama and I make babies for them.

Reality TV here we come!

Jan16: My little artists, and my goofball snow bunny with her new duds from Grandma!

Jan17: Feeling a bit sad and frustrated. I’ve been trying all month to work on my novel, and it never makes it to the top of the To Do list. Everything else comes first. Sigh.

Jan17: It’s so unfortunate and one-sided that older people remember being younger, but younger people don’t remember being older.

Jan18: Good news: I was able to work on my novel today.

Bad news: It took up most of the time just to figure out what I need to do next. That’s OK. Part of the process. But dang I wish I had like 10 uninterrupted hours per day. I could blaze through this.

Jan18: Grogu and me

Jan18: Tonight I made for dinner: baked salmon, roasted asparagus, and jasmine rice.

The kids ate: Jello.

I tried.

Jan21: Thank you, everyone, for the birthday wishes. I had a chill day reading old journals, finishing up some projects, and enjoying myself, then picking up the kids and bringing them back to see their visiting grandparents. They all had a great time while Ahmed and I went out to Juniper and had a lovely dinner + drinks.

I’m a very lucky woman and life is good

ETA: My birthday cake was a frozen coconut cream pie perfectly thawed. Easiest thing ever, and so delicious

Jan21: Happy kids on Grandpa’s lap. Happy parents dining downtown!

Jan23: Ali just now: “They letted me into the front seat of the plane when we went to Texas. They just letted me do that. But I didn’t know how to drive the plane yet.”

It was more than two months ago. He remembers everything.

Jan23: Ali has been wanting to ice skate for a long time, and I took him today. I was impressed how well he was able to stay upright, with straight ankles. After a while we found a “walker” thing, a metal frame that he could hold onto while skating. I held it while hovering over him and skated him pretty fast, and he just held his legs and feet straight and enjoyed the ride.

Finally after a while I gave him some space to try on his own and showed him how to put one skate sideways a little bit and push off. He achieved forward motion, which was awesome enough.

“How do you go fast?” he asked.

“Well, that takes some time and practice.”

But he had a need for speed, so he let me skate him around the rest of the time and kept asking me to go faster. I’m going to have a butt of steel if I keep this up.

After public skating was over, Ali was treated to his first Zamboni experience, and afterwards he found the Zamboni guy (a teenager with a mullet) and asked him a few questions. Or at least prompted me to ask the questions, haha.

Then two local hockey teams took to the ice and started playing hockey.

“I want to skate with them,” Ali said.

“We can’t.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Well, we didn’t join a team, pay our dues, get the equipment, and get a uniform.”

”I want you to do that next time,” he said.

Sure thing, kid. I’m sure they’ll take a 42-year-old woman and a 4-year-old kid and put them on the team next week.

Now he’s in the car crying because he wants to go back.

Jan25: I made crock pot chicken and dumplings last night with cut Italian green beans.

The kids ate yogurt.

I really thought the recipe would be kid-friendly, but the biscuits turned weird and the chicken had no flavor, even though the “gravy” (more like soup) around the chicken was delicious.

I don’t seem to be very good at crock pot chicken. It was similar last time. The sauce was good, the chicken was boring. (Whole breasts.) Sigh. It sucks to not really want to do something anyway and then be bad at it.

Jan27: Ayla had so much fun at the new Discovery Lab she completely exhausted herself, cried hysterically when we had to leave, fell asleep in the car on the way home, refused lunch, and is also refusing her nap, haha. I guess we’re going to have to get an annual pass so that she doesn’t feel like she has to fit everything in in one or two visits!

I wish I had a video of her playing with the giant scarves in the wind tunnel — a large area surrounded by powerful fans that created an updraft vortex. Pure joy on her face. She picked everything up so quickly. And she loved the tube that vacuumed up ball pit balls, and I’m sure Ali will, too! (The whole ball area is loads of fun.) We also played with some parachutes, some giant foam blocks, and tunnels and a slide made out of plastic tape.

Her next year, going from age 2 to 3, is an in between time, when the “baby” era fades away for good and the “little kid” era starts. I’m so excited to see her say and do more and more.

ETA: I took Ali after school, and he loved it, too! Especially the ball vacuum. He loved the flying scarves as well. He fought me all the way out the door and to the car wanting to go back.

Jan27: I dreamed last night that I was roller skating (I think) and Neil Gorsuch was in the middle of the rink, and I kept trying to talk to him, to tell him Brett Kavanaugh was an unqualified, entitled joke, to get him to come around and help get him out of SCOTUS. (Yeah, right. I know. Shows how powerless I feel.)

All three of Trump’s picks are problematic. Gorsuch came after Republicans delayed for MONTHS and wouldn’t confirm anyone under Obama. Kavanaugh is an unqualified, entitled joke who repeatedly lied under oath. Amy Coney Barrett was rushed through DAYS before an election after a legendary justice finally lost her life, exhausted to her last breath by trying to outlast a shamelessly antidemocratic political party’s hold on power.

I am sad and angry about that. Even in my dreams.

Jan29: There was a little construction paper animal picture on a construction paper package. Ayla pointed to it, and I said, “What is that? Is it a hedgehog? A porcupine?”

“Mouse,” she said.

“Oh, it’s a mouse?” I said.

“No, it’s not,” Ali said authoritatively. “It’s a head chalk.” [hedgehog]

Jan30: We don’t stress manners in this house, assuming the kids will pick it up authentically when they are ready.

Today Ayla asked me for apple juice, and I filled a straw cup for her (about 15% juice, the rest water) and handed it to her.

For the first time, she looked me in the eye and said sweetly, “You’re welcome.”

Jan30: I’m not the world’s craftiest person, but I saw curtain ties similar to this on Amazon and thought, “I can do better than that.” With Michael’s having so many beads on clearance, I can make them for all the curtains in the house with plenty left over for Ali to have fun with.

Jan31: Looks like Ayla is going to have another sleety day like when she was born, when she turns 2 on Friday.

Dead-of-winter birthdays are the worst. (Mine’s January 21.) Sorry, baby. I did not plan it this way, haha.

I’ve always wished I could have an honorary birthday in May or June or something, but the hope/idea never really went anywhere.

Jan31: Be still my heart

Jan31: They have little lists sometimes of what the kids said that day to a question at my son’s preschool. Everyone said something they learned about penguins, and Ali’s entry was, “They eat worms.”

I thought, “Oh, that’s cute, he thought they eat worms because they’re birds and birds eat worms. But there aren’t any worms at the South Pole.”

But I asked him about it, and he seemed pretty sure of his answer. So I kept my thoughts to myself and googled it.

Silly mama. Some penguins do eat worms. And not all penguins live at the South Pole! I’ve seen tropical penguins myself (at the Galapagos Islands).

Ali 1, Mama 0

Feb1: And suddenly (3 days before she turns 2), Ayla is talking in complete sentences. Especially when she’s upset. (Kind of like how my Russian gets better when I’m drinking. I worry less about perfection and just go for it.)

“Hey, Mama, where you going?”

“Why did you throw that?”

“I don’t want to go to bed!”

Feb1: This is me trying to clean my house:

I need to clean the counters. But first I need to empty the dishwasher so I can put the other dishes in. But really I should vacuum first, because the vacuum will run out of charge and then be ready to vacuum another room later. OK, I’ll listen to an audiobook while I do that. Oops, I don’t really want to listen to any of the audiobooks I have. OK, I have some credits. I’ll check out the wish list. Hm, I don’t really want to listen to any of those, either. OK, I’ll check my Amazon wish list for other books I keep meaning to read / listen to. Uh oh, Ayla wants some jello.

Half an hour later, I haven’t unloaded a single dish or turned the vacuum on.

Feb1: When Ali is “wasting” wipes or tape or something, it helps to think of them as “art supplies.”

Feb2: Finally got rid of the Christmas tree yesterday #NoRules

Feb2: Ali said he’s learning about ocean life now at preschool, and after talking about it for a while, I said, “You know, I can scuba dive. I have a license.”
“Scuba dive?”
“I can put a mask and tank on and breathe underwater like a fish. Play on the bottom of the ocean.”
“Where is it?”
“What?”
“The mask.”
“Oh, I can rent those when I go to a place where I can scuba dive.”
“Like where?”
“Oh, like Egypt, Croatia, Arkansas…”
“I want to do that.”
“Sure! When you’re a little older…”
“No, I want to do it right now. With a mask for a 3-year-old.”
OK, now I have to google if 3-year-olds can scuba dive… Nope. 10 years old is the absolute youngest.
But if any 3-year-old could do it…

Ayla is deep into her Moana phase, and I’m not mad. Ali was deep into it when Ayla was born, and it brings back sweet, if exhausting, memories.

I wonder if the people who made the movie knew they were making it specifically for just-turned-two-year-olds.

Also, this soup [pressure cooker ribollita] is spectacular. And Ali wanted to make “chocolate eggs” (he saw it on Leo the Truck), so I gathered ingredients for vegan truffles (since I can’t do dairy) with coconut milk and finely chopped cashews. Alas, they were too bitter for Ali. I will have to use lower-quality chocolate next time.

Ahmed and I like them just fine.

Preschool was canceled today due to bad weather, and then nothing happened whatsoever. Oh well. Cozy day in.

Feb3: Ali finally “slept in” this morning until 7:30 and didn’t wake poor Ayla up at the crack of dawn. She slept until well after 8. Cozy little moppet. Even though when Ali did finally wake up, he started yelling like crazy about the snow.

Meanwhile it’s a Snow Week pretty much. Day care noped out. Just entertaining kids and catching up on housework since I had a dairy allergy attack that took me out from anything but minimal effort for a week.

Next time I see something labeled “Milk Candy,” I’m going to take it seriously. I assumed it was just milk-flavored, and below the threshold for affecting me badly, but it turned out to be a sinus-seeking ballistic nuclear dairy missile.

Feb3: Tomorrow is also Ali’s two year anniversary of being a big brother. Ayla is older now than Ali was when Ayla was born. Such a tiny thing!

Feb3: Ali just found our empty Blue Apron box, filled it with plastic vegetables, taped it up, and delivered it to me in the kitchen.

Feb4: Two years ago at 5:59pm, this tough, funny, chill, cuddly yet independent sweetheart joined our family and world. Happy Birthday, sweet Ayla!

Feb4: WHOAH. I just realized our baby shower for Ali was on February 4. Which turned out to be his sister’s birthday!

Feb4: Ali today playing in the snow: “Do we have a dasher through the snower?”

Feb4: I had to “dash through the snow” (seriously, the roads here are terrible — more like creeping along the snowy roads and still briefly losing traction at least once) to get ingredients for Ayla’s strawberry birthday cake with chocolate frosting. Ali “helped” me make and decorate it. And licked plenty of batter and frosting along the way.

Ayla ignored the cake; she only had eyes for the $2 “Widda Boony” (little pony) cake topper, which she soon realized was also a “Unitorn.” Eventually we caught her attention with the Happy Birthday song, which she sat through rather skeptically. We tried to tell her / show her how to blow out her candle, but she didn’t quite get it. So Baba blew it out and re-lit it. Then she got it and, after 3 tries, blew it out herself. And earned some fist-bumps all around.

Then we traded her a piece of cake for her Widda Boony, and she ate happily. Ali had 3 big pieces. The only thing he had for dinner tonight was 1.5 ears of corn even though I made romesco chicken with poblano peppers, cous cous, and labneh. Oh well. Ayla refused all food for dinner, as she has been often lately and just wanting “Top me now” (chocolate milk). Teething?

Meanwhile Ali and Ahmed’s snow man is slowly and dramatically dying. It’s still cold but sunny.

We haven’t even given her her presents yet: a balance bike, magnetic face-maker game, wooden scoops and pea gravel sensory bin. Plus a card from Great Grandma Pat. She talked with family in Turkey (boy did she talk!), and she’s still randomly singing, “Happy bowday, Ayla!”

Feb5: Welp. Ayla’s balance bike was too big for her. So I guess Ali got a balance bike for Ayla’s birthday. He loves it!

Feb6: Ali found some dental floss in a drawer, and it’s amazing how much fun two kids can have with a bunch of floss. Running around with big ropes of it dangling from their mouths (tow ropes, apparently) while the cat chases it — that’s just the beginning. I don’t even know all the worlds they are passing through with those big white strings.

Feb7: Ayla woke up at 6:08am, almost an hour and a half early, saying, “Mama, Mama, Mama…”

I went in there and she stood up and looked at me and said, “Maui take the heart.”

Maybe she’s seen Moana just a few too many times…

Feb7: Does anyone else find it distracting that Pixar makes the characters’ cheeks puff out slightly when they pronounce the P sound, even though real people’s cheeks don’t do that (because we tense slightly to prevent it)?

No? Just me? OK.

Feb8: Ayla is a happy camper. Guess what the song’s gonna be for her class’s dance recital? “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana!

(It’s Ali’s dance class, too, and he likes the song, too, but he’s past his “totally obsessed with Moana” phase. Though he is starting to understand its moral shades of grey — how Maui isn’t all good or all bad, and he makes bad decisions sometimes because he’s scared and insecure, etc.)

Feb8: The cutest little girl at Ali’s preschool, named Lenox, always lights up and says, “Hi, Ali!” every time she sees him. It’s the most adorable thing in the world.

He usually kind of stiffens and looks somewhere else or just ignores her and keeps doing what he’s doing.

I’m sure it’s a typical-ish thing for both of them to be doing. But I can’t help but hope he doesn’t end up as socially awkward as I am.

ETA: OK, so there’s a hilarious coda to the Ali story about the girl who always says Hi to him.
The Valentine-themed question for the class today was, “Who do you love?”

Ali’s answer: Lenox!

Lenox’s answer: Momma!

Feb11: Some cousins stopped by!

Feb12: It must be a universal human instinct

Feb12: Woke up to a happy surprise this morning: Ahmed had come home a day early from his work trip to Nashville! Everyone is so happy to see him again.


It was a long, exhausting week but a fun one. The kids had a hard time sometimes with their dad gone but handled it better than I had a right to expect, with plenty of calm, quiet empathy from their mama and lots of Skyping with Baba, the grandparents, and the cousins.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Beach Fun

And two more months are done and dusted. Things are going so fast there’s barely time to try to document some of it. Much less other long-term projects I have like finishing Ayla’s baby book (heck, Ali’s isn’t even really finished yet), creating an “Origin Story” book for Ali (for his fourth birthday) with pics of him as an embryo, pics of some of his genetic siblings and half-siblings, etc, finishing my novel… There was so much nice forward momentum in early October after hiring an editor to help with my first chapter, and I literally haven’t had time to look at it since.

But life is full and fun!

Facebook Stories

Oct17: If Ayla doesn’t know how to say something, she’ll say, “Da na na na.” We are supposed to translate. Mind-read, actually. It’s funny she’s found her little “This means I’m trying to say something” phrase.

Oct19: Ali’s school-a-versary. I’m so proud of all he’s done and all he’s grown in a short year! (Well, it was a long year, but still just one year.)

Oct20: Today Ali and I went to Pumpkin Town, and he spent some time in the play houses making pretend food. We sat down to eat a pretend meal, and I said, “Bon appetit!”

Ali said, “What does that mean?”

I said, “It’s something French people say before eating.”

He paused a moment, then shrugged gamely. “Old apple eat!”

Oct20: Ali’s first ever carved pumpkin. He did the eyes then asked me to make an angry mouth. Quasimodo vibes.

Oct22: It’s gonna be a long day, y’all. Up at 3:50am with two kids to drive to the airport and catch our 6am flight. The plane was heading to the runway, lights dimmed, when suddenly there was a hydraulics issue and we went back to the gate.
Everyone deplaned after a while, and of course we’ll miss our 9am connection in Dallas. So we were rebooked on a 4:30pm flight.
Still in Tulsa, waiting for the first plane to get fixed. We’ll spend a lot more time in Dallas than we bargained for, too.
Crazy idea: Why not check the hydraulics before you load the plane?
Uuuggggghhhh, we coulda slept a normal amount if we’d just known we’d get a bum plane anyway.
The kids are hanging in there but alternately calm and wild / miserable.
Not the worst thing in the world, but not the best.

Oct22: Ali was about 6 months old when lawn mowers, weed eaters, and leaf blowers kept “saving” him from naps. Hmm…..

Oct23: Well, that’ll get your heart going in the morning. Ahmed was outside and I saw a big black dog barreling straight toward him. I wasn’t sure where the kids were, so I ran to intercept the dog and it diverted into our garage — and then straight inside our house!
Turns out both kids were inside the house. Ali was at the door and hid behind it as the dog ran past. (He kept amazingly cool.) Ayla was on the stairs, and I grabbed her and shut her in Ahmed’s office. I went and got Ali and shut him in the pantry. (Both these rooms have glass doors, so they could watch the fun.) Then Ahmed and I chased the dog all over the house trying to get it outside. At one point it barreled up the stairs, and I was like, Oh God, it’s gonna pee on something.
After a long, merry chase (merry for him), we finally got him herded toward the door and Ahmed had to pick him up to get him outside.
He had a collar. I think he was a poodle, and bigger than your average bird dog, with fairly close-cropped hair (no fancy stuff). Less than a year old, it seemed. A big goofy puppy, lost and rambunctious, having an adventure.
But until it was OUT OF MY HOUSE, away from my kids, all I saw was a tornado demon who might bite someone’s face off.
I hope he finds his way home.

Oct24: Hmm… I think I’ve put some brain pieces back together. It’s not as bad as a year ago, that’s for sure! But the process of buying a house, moving, arranging the house, and getting all the new stuff we need for the house (with two small kids underfoot) has been its own kind of exhausting. I look forward to seeing how life is a year from now. Onward and upward!

(Oct24, 2020: Not complaining, just remarking:
This time last year I was dealing with pregnancy insomnia and frequent night pees.
I haven’t slept through the night since.
Looking forward, one sweet day, to putting the pieces of my brain back together.)

Oct25: Ah, the Bolt Era (in Oct 2019). Followed by the Coco Era. Ayla doesn’t seem to get quite so invested in movies, other than a few weeks’ run of wanting to watch Totoro all the time.

Oct26: Vroom vroom.
Also, check out what Ali did for Fall Break! (Third from bottom)
Also, Ali raided the office candy dish at his school so many times they first tried to hide it and then took it away altogether 🤣
It was never a great idea anyway with so many kids walking past it every day…

Oct30: Looks a lot like Ayla, huh? Ahmed’s niece Belinay

She maybe looks a little like me, too?

Oct31: Here we go! Indiana Jane and Funny Ghost ❤

My brother pointed out that Ayla was kind of a mix of Han + Indy

Oct31: Pretty good candy haul!

Oct31: Baba carrying Indiana Ayla with Ali Ghost trailing behind…

Oct31: Nom nom nom. (Ayla’s white shirt is now tie-dye from her drooling on it in all the colors of the rainbow!)

Nov2: We don’t have a wake alarm because Ali unfailingly wakes us up in plenty of time to get out the door at 8:40am.
Well, this morning a reminder alarm went off at 8:30, and everyone was still asleep! Somehow everyone was dressed, lunches were packed, and the car was loaded up by 8:43. The kids even had breakfast, though Ali had candy for breakfast and Ayla had a croissant in the car. (I usually don’t allow food in the car seats.)
Whew.

Nov3: Me to Ali: “You got ketchup on your clothes.”
Ali: “Just one clo. My sleep sack.”

(Ali calls his footie pajamas a Big Boy Sleep Sack.)

Nov8: It gives me such joy to see Ayla absolutely inhale any kind of fresh guacamole or avocado smash with singleminded fervor. The whole rest of the world (and meal) is dead to her.
Me, too, baby. Me, too.
(Also, of course, she has to do the dipping herself. She wants to do everything herself these days.

Nov9: Watching Frozen with Ali, I said: “Oh, hey, there’s the reindeer.”
Ali looked at me very seriously and said, “Snow deer.”
Right, buddy. He hangs out in snow, not rain. What was I thinking?

Nov9: Ayla does not understand how pendulums work. When I sit on the yoga swing for her to push me (at her request — she can’t say the words, but she can get it across), she stands right behind me, pushes me, and can’t understand why I come right back and knock her on her butt. (Gently, and it only happened a couple times before I put an end to that game.)
She tried pushing her doll instead. The doll didn’t knock her down, but it kept coming back and hitting her in the belly, and she ended up just kind of defending herself and then pushing the doll away again. Over and over.
She figures things out fast. I’m pretty sure she’ll get this one before long. It’s fun to watch them learn by doing. This is the basis of any understanding of physics.

Nov10: There’s a Facebook group I follow called “Visible Child: Respectful/Mindful Parenting,” and it has cut my parenting stress by at least 65%. Probably more.
The basic idea is that children are human beings and worthy of respect and consideration as much as anyone else.
Crazy, right? And yet it’s just generally not how our culture treats kids. We treat them like we’re bigger and stronger and right and kids just have to go along with it or else.
Obviously there are things that are non-negotiable. Mainly health and safety issues.
But with lots of other things, there is PLENTY of wiggle room to make a kid feel included and heard. Visible. Real.
It gets repetitive sharing my victories with the group (which is huge now with so many people recommending it like crazy), so I’ll share a couple here:
Bed time has become bloated and miserable with Ali, with him constantly asking for one more thing until an hour has passed, he’s over-tired, and he’s set up for another day of not having enough sleep and feeling “a little bit sick” all the time. I was getting fed up and feeling lost.
I said on the way to school yesterday, “I think you’re feeling a little bad because you’re not getting enough sleep. And one reason for that is that bed time keeps taking so long. How can we make bed time go more smoothly?” As soon as I said it, an idea struck me. “Maybe we can make a checklist and just do the same things every night in order?”
“Yeah!” he said.
“OK. I’ll work on it today, and we can work on it together when you get home.”
I made the basic checklist, and he helped expand it a bit at bed time, but nothing too crazy. We followed the checklist last night, I didn’t feel like a chicken with my head cut off, and he was asleep in record time and woke up saying, “I don’t feel a little bit sick today!”
It’s amazing how just asking a kid’s opinion can open space for all kinds of new ideas.
Today on the way to school we were talking about things we’re grateful for, and then I said, “It’s also OK to talk about other things — things we want to change. What do you wish was different?”
“Our house,” he said.
I immediately felt a bit defensive about how hard we worked to find and furnish the house and make it a wonderful place for him and his sister to grow up. I still miss things about our old place, too.
But I just said, “Oh? What would you like to change about it?”
“Christmas lights.”
“Oh, we need Christmas lights?”
“And a Christmas tree.”
Ah. Glad I kept my projections to myself and just listened! Usually a winning strategy 🙂

Nov10: Just after posting a couple parenting wins, I lost it when Ali (once again) asked me for a specific food, and I prepared it for him, and then he rejected it and wandered off, having had nothing nutritious for dinner yet again. (This was after he rejected the first thing I prepared for him as “too spicy,” even though it’s not all that spicy at all.)
That still makes me angry — the wasted food, effort, mess. And the worry about him eating at least one healthy thing in a given day, which he pretty much has not today. The most nutritious thing he had was apple cinnamon Cheerios with milk for breakfast. He’s abysmally picky. A sugar fiend. It makes me feel like a failure.
He’s 3. It’s my own stuff. I’m still working on it. Working on a lot.

Nov12: At the airport, Ali ran into a store and ran out with breath mints. I took them, gave them back to the store, and said to Ali:
“You can’t just run into a store and take things. That’s called stealing.”
Ali: “I like stealing!”

Nov12: I could cry with joy. Our plane actually took off this time. On time!

Nov12: A jolly Sikh man in a turban with a white beard passed by us at DFW airport and kindly waved and cooed at Ali a bit.
After he passed, Ali asked me, “Is that Santa?”

Nov12: So grateful to say everything went smoothly today, starting with a Pakistani Uber driver who empathized with our previous travel adventure but reminded us God is arranging everything for the greatest good. Inshallah.
Grateful for the warm welcome from my Aunt Barbara and Uncle David, and excited to meet “Ali’s new cousins” tomorrow (my Olson cousin’s kids).
Going to bed in Bridge City, a bit late but with full bellies and happy hearts.

Nov13: Ali is having fun with his “brand new cousins” in south Texas (my cousins’ kids). Ayla is Mrs. Fussy Pants so far, but here’s hoping some chicken nuggets and a good night of sleep will put things right!

Nov14: Just arrived in Alabama. Ayla is asleep. Ali is scarfing down chips because he didn’t eat anything else all day 😕 The kids weren’t as miserable as we feared. (Pretty miserable at times, but it coulda been a lot worse.) Turns out we can survive a pretty straight-on 6.5-hour drive. It only took us about 8.5 hours (with stops)!

Nov15: Ayla woke up this morning, popped her head up from the Pack n Play, and said, “Hi. We diffa house.”
We are in a different house, baby 🙂

Nov16: Ali got to sit in the cockpit of our plane (that took off! on time!) and found his great Aunt Barbara’s vacuum cleaner.
Ayla has had a runny nose and a bad attitude most of the time since we left Tulsa. (But she’s still cute.)
Ali just spiked a 103 fever randomly. He has a hacking cough that won’t quit and won’t let him or anyone else sleep. I feel like I have a newborn again, as far as feeling run down and desperate for sleep.
“Vacationing” with two sick kids in a strange place where no one is sleeping well is pretty much maximum exhausting. Ayla wants to be carried EVERYWHERE and neither kid will eat anything but juice, cookies, and candy most of the time. They just refuse every meal and wait for snack time. We’ve resorted to Pediasure.
But we’re having fun (sometimes)! Ali has seen a ton of wildlife: sandpipers, pelicans, skates, dolphins, a crab, and so on. Ayla loves digging in the sand. Here’s hoping things will smooth out a bit from here!

Photo 1: He got a wing badge and everything.

Photo 2: “It’s dusht like Baba’s!”

Photo 3: “Cheese!”

Photo 4: You again?