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?”
“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

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.)

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?

Nov17: Ayla on the beach, finally having fun! Her cousins make her laugh a lot ❤ (Ali was not super cooperative with the pictures, but he’s having fun, too!)

Nov18: Mom’s eye recovery has gone well, thankfully!
Meanwhile I have a sinus infection. Fun.

Nov19: Couldn’t sleep last night due to sinuses cemented shut. Got up to watch the eclipse (might as well get something out of a sleepless night) and it turned out I got the time wrong and missed it (other than a bite taken out of the moon around 4am). Both kids woke up insanely early and whiny.
This day is starting out just super, LOL.

Nov19: Send help. I’m sick and have zero energy, Ahmed is working, and two small kids are stuck in a small apartment with me.
We’re getting to know the Disney Channel all too well. And Ali is making a shell cake in the kitchen using a hand mixer.
I want to check out of this universe for a while. Alas. No “sick days” for mamas.

Nov20: Things are looking up. I’m not in nearly as much sinus pain, I was able to breathe/sleep last night (except between 11pm and 2am), and Ayla broke the 7am barrier and didn’t wake us up until almost 7:30. And the kids were happy to quietly watch Totoro until 8:30 and let Ahmed sleep in.

Nov20: Just a silly little story. Ayla was playing with some dinosaur pop-its and saying “ROOOAAAARRR” in a deep, throaty voice (for a toddler). Her cousins wanted to interact with her, and one of them said, “Hey, Ayla. What does a horse say?”
Either she had forgotten her adorable little whinny, she was just in ROAR mode, or the pressure got to her.
She said in a deep, throaty roar, “HOOOOOORRRRRRSE.”
Her cousins cracked up for ages and will NOT let her forget it. Probably never will 🤣
ETA: She also likes to say, “Come on, [let’s go to the] beach!” But it sounds like, “Come on, bitch! Come on, bitch!

Nov23: Ali: “I want to go ____.”

Me: “OK, put some clothes on.”

Ali, 20 minutes later, still in underwear: “I want to go ____.”
Me: “OK, put some clothes on.”
Ali, 20 minutes later, still in underwear: “I want to go ____.”
Me: “OK, put some clothes on.”
Lather, rinse, repeat.

Nov23: Just a few hours planning / shopping / in the kitchen. Not gonna stress 🙂

Nov23: First photo: Ali was hiding behind a door and told me, “Go away. I’m not going to do any thing.” Right. Clearly he was innocent of whatever he was about to do.
Turned out to be him gathering a Band-aid, the tube from my Nosefrida, and Ayla’s sippy cup to make a “water vacuum.”
Second, third, and fourth pics: We went to a super cool train museum in Foley, half an hour from Orange Beach, then wandered around the town square, where there was a huge Christmas tree and several little wooden houses that were just for show, and Ali kept trying to break and enter because he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t play in them.
Fifth picture: Woke up to this delightful message. Yep, this is Alabama.

Nov24: We tried. This was the best we could get!

Nov24: Either Ayla has started the “Why?” phase really early or she’s just copying her brother.
Either way, there’s two of them now

Nov25: One-eyed grandma showed up at the beach! 😛 Happy Turkey Day!

Nov25: I was able to breathe through at least one nostril all night long last night. It’s been more than a week. It’s a Thanksgiving miracle!

Nov25: I was wrong about Ali: He didn’t just eat dinner rolls. He also ate gravy and cranberry sauce 🤣
I’ll call it a win!

Nov27: Even on a beach in Alabama, Ali needs to find his nearest vacuum friend.

Nov27: Ayla is at an age where photos are well-nigh impossible, but she was sure glad to see Grandma and Grandpa!


18 hours total in the car with two little kids went better than I feared. (6 hours to Alabama from Beaumont, then 12 hours from Orange Beach to Tulsa.) The worst part was when everyone was finally awake and hungry at the same time at 6pm, and we were so far out in the middle of nowhere we couldn’t even find a McDonald’s for another hour. The kids were not amused.
There were about 17,000 repetitive “why” questions — just Ali making conversation. He has decided he wants to see a volcano made of rocks (as opposed to toy volcanoes and workaday smokestacks, which he calls volcanoes), so maybe we’ll go to Hawaii one of these years.

Nov30: I often think about how I wish I could just offer editing / ghostwriting to people who need it and have good things to say, but often don’t have money to pay me.
I have friends who are therapists / counselors and desperately wish they could provide their services to everyone, not just people who have access to money and/or good insurance.
I know doctors who would happily give care without worrying about insurance and payment if they could.
Teachers? They do so much because they know their work is incredibly valuable and meaningful, despite often insulting pay.
I imagine massage therapists often wish they could give a massage to people who really needed it, not just whoever could afford it.
And on and on and on.
With UBI or other ways to eradicate want (which we already could do, it’s not actually out of our reach), most people would not just sit on their butts. That gets old quick.
If we didn’t have to worry about survival, imagine how much good we could do for each other, just because we want to.


  1. I and Ayla at the beach.
  2. We got a four-foot real Christmas tree, and we just kind of let the kids have at it for a minute before we intervened. They hung up the ornaments, tags and all 🤣
  3. Our first stockings, hung by the TV stand with care, but they will not stay up. How do you hang stockings on a thick mantle without either making nail holes or buying expensive heavy stocking holders (which could fall down and brain a small child)?
  4. Happy tree! Our first one not made of a cone of felt fabric

Dec2: I feel like this is Ali’s first “real” Christmas where he understands things and asks for presents and has his own stocking and will remember our traditions, and I keep thinking, “He has to have everything I had as a kid on Christmas plus everything I wish I had, and I definitely need to find a bunch of old-timey candies and nearly-inedible giant red apples and nuts in the shells and nutcrackers — not the decorative ones, the silver tools that actually crack nuts — and Star Wars (original trilogy only) playing on a loop on TBS, and what’s our baking tradition going to be now that I finally hand a stand mixer and I wish we had a creek but at least he’ll have cousins to play with…”
Whew. One thing at a time. Got the personalized stockings, went to Cracker Barrel for chocolate gold coins and other goodies, we have our silly little tree with plastic ornaments, I’ve gotten him maybe half a dozen gifts (out of at least a hundred things he keeps asking for, LOL), and there will be plenty of time for baking. Even if there are crazy supply chain issues, I can probably find flour and butter somewhere.
Every time we pass any kind of toy aisle anywhere, he finds something he needs/wants for Christmas, and I say, “OK, put it on your Christmas list,” and he either takes an imaginary pad out and writes it down with an imaginary pen, or he asks me to take an imaginary picture of him with the item. It’s a good way to say “No” without saying “No.” And hopefully on Christmas he’ll be thinking about what he got instead of the 95 things he didn’t get

Dec2: Today Ali asked why his brother wasn’t in school. I assumed he meant his cat brother, and I said, “It’s not a school for cats.”
He said, “Well, I think we should find a school for cats for Mateo.”
“Oh yeah? What would Mateo do in a school for cats?”
“Well, you know, fun stuff like lunch and naps.”
Sounds exactly like cat school

Dec3: Ali has a song from Cocomelon he likes to sing in the car. The kids keep asking, “Are we there yet?” and the parents finally suggest they play a game where they all say what they see. Ali always says “Trees!” and “Houses!” and stuff with the same wonder the kids do on the video.
Ayla wanted to play today, and amazingly, Ali piped down and let her. Here’s how that went:
“What do you see?”
“Tais!” (sky)
“What do you see?”
“Taoz!” (clouds)
“What do you see?”
“What do you see?”
“Tarz!” (stars)
I know she didn’t see stars (it was 9am) and I doubt she saw the moon. I think she just started with the sky theme and went with it

Dec6: This little girl, who has never allowed anything to stay in her hair for more than 0.8 seconds, grabbed some scrunchies from the cart in Walmart today and then asked for help putting it in her hair.
Smart girl — she found something that definitely won’t pull or hurt!

Dec7: Two nights ago we saw the crescent moon, Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter all lined up, evenly spaced, in an arc that filled half the sky.
Yesterday Ali came home with a toy telescope in his backpack.
We still don’t know where it came from. If it belongs to the school or another student. If someone gave it away. The teachers don’t know, either. Ali conveniently lost it when we said we needed to take it back to the school and find out who it belonged to.
Ahmed finally found it in a random drawer just before bed time. Ali, stalling bed time as always, asked for “his” telescope over and over, and we kept telling him no, it was bed time and the telescope wasn’t his.
Finally he said, “Can we look at the planets?”
And just like that, this physics major mama wasn’t mad anymore, haha.
But we’re still taking the telescope back. (It does nothing to actually help look at planets — the “lens” is just a scuffed clear plastic panel — but it’s adorable he thought it would.)

Dec8: Last night I made the coolest build-your-own pasta salad with lots of toppings.
Ali just ate all the mushrooms (sauteed in white wine). Ayla just ate all the cherry tomatoes.
Oh well.

Dec8: When Ayla says “apple pie,” she means pineapple.
Just to save you the frustration

Dec9: Here’s how Ali sings Jingle Bells:
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jing along the way
Old MacDonald is to ride in a one horse open train
Train train trains, train train trains, jing along the way
Trains trains trains, tra-trains trains trains, trains trains trains trains trains, yay!
I asked him this morning if he needed to pee, because he was grabbing at his pants.
He said, “No. I just did that because trains have a penis that they use to blow smoke out of.”
OK then.
Meanwhile Ayla’s in the phase where if you say, “Bye, Ayla!” to her, she replies sweetly, “Bye, Ayla!”
She also loves to lead the way, saying, “Tum on! Tum on!”

Dec10: Today I get to fold laundry and wrap presents for the two sweet children I am so lucky to have.

Dec11: Just a random funny moment:
I was about to turn on the blender, and Ali clapped his hands over his ears. Ayla looked at him and apparently wanted to do the same, but she was holding a chicken nugget in one hand, so she split the difference and put her free hand on top of her head.
Then the blender started going, and suddenly Ayla knew what time it was. As the Vitamix got louder and louder, she quickly moved to put the chicken nugget on the ground, then moved even more quickly to bring it back up to her mouth for a last bite before tossing it on the floor and covering both ears.
It cracked me up.
She also says “Hey da doe” when she gives me something: “Here ya go.”
And “Hab it” for “Give it to me.” I think it comes from me saying to her, “Can I have it?”
It is hard to tell the difference between “Don’t want it” and “That one” (meaning, “I want that one”).
They both sound like “Daow wann.” Much confusion ensues, haha.

Dec11: Hearth and tree. Our first of each.

Dec12: So, Ali is obsessed with making hot cross buns. (Thanks, Cocomelon.) I’m afraid we’re going to spend hours on the project only for him to realize it’s just dinner rolls with a little icing on top. (We all hate raisins, so no dried fruit in them — yech.)
And he’s going to say, “Ewwy!” and spit it out.
Oh well.

Dec12: So, Ali has decided that instead of currants/raisins in his hot cross buns, he wants marshmallows. I’m thinking we add chocolate chips, too.
Whether Hot Cross S’mores is a disaster or the Next Big Thing remains to be seen. Stay tuned.
(It’ll take until dinner time. Lots of mixing and kneading and rising and baking. So, don’t hold your breath or anything, haha.)
ETA: The dough is proofing. Half s’mores, half plain (in case of s’more disaster). I made the mistake of telling Ali the yeast farts to make the dough rise. He wants to hear the farts.

Dec12: Not the prettiest or fluffiest hot cross buns ever made. Apparently one should be more serious about kneading than Ali and I were. Even with two rises / 2 hours 15 min worth of proofing, they’re no dinner rolls. More like scone-encrusted biscuits. But definitely edible! Ali likes ’em. How was your Sunday?

Dec12: Spent hours yesterday un-scrambling this scrambled egg of a house, in part to put things that go together back together (blocks and kits and stuff aren’t as fun to play with after they’ve been strung from one end of the house to the other long enough), but largely to take stock and choose a bunch of toys to give away before the holidays (in case anyone needed them — and we got some grateful takers via Facebook).
Re-scramblization to commence in 3….. 2….. 1…..
Meanwhile Ayla is outgrowing things like crazy, and I’ll have a big bin of girl and boy clothes for toddlers to give away soon. And a whole bunch of very sentimental baby toys that we aren’t quite ready to let go of yet, but that day is coming soon.
All in all I’m glad to leave the baby years behind — onward and upward to new (and hopefully less sleep-deprived) adventures. But I do wish that when they were babies, I could have known all the wonders and personalities coming. Babies are fascinating but so inscrutable. Even if you can decode their wants and needs and likes and dislikes, there’s sooooo much more coming. I would be that much more fond of baby Ali or tiny Ayla if I could interact with them now! Linear time is so limiting sometimes…

Dec13: I keep stalling wrapping the presents and putting them under the tree. We literally wrapped boxes of toys Ali already had and put them under the tree just for fun (Ali helped wrap them, he knew what they were), and he only lasted a few days before he opened them. Like it was burning a hole in his mind.
I’m going to have to install a guard if I wrap real gifts and put them under the tree, or it’s gonna be a feeding frenzy, or at best a begging fest for the next two weeks.
Totally normal and age-appropriate, haha. I was exactly the same! In fact, one year when I really should have known better, I snuck down around 2am to open gifts, since technically it was Christmas morning. I got my little sister up, too. My mom heard noises and went upstairs to look for us and thought we had been kidnapped.
Nope. Just poor impulse control.

Dec13: Not just talking. Also constantly being underfoot like a cat, putting his curly head between me and whatever I’m trying to do, touching and smushing and handling and shaking and grabbing things while we try to bake something, “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”
All perfectly normal. A lot of deep breaths for this easily-sensory-overloaded person!

Dec13: I told Ali some snakes live in the water. He said, “Do their grandmas live in the water?”
“Yeah. They all do. I mean, not all snakes. Most snakes live on land.”
“That’s just where they live.”
“Do some of them live on snake airplanes?”
“No, motherfking snakes to NOT live on motherfking planes.”
Kidding. I didn’t say that. I wanted to, but I didn’t. I said, “Well, on one movie they did. But it was just a silly movie.”
“Can we watch it?”
Haha, no, buddy. We’re not watching that movie any time soon.
Meanwhile Ayla has developed a very clear fashion sense. She likes purple and horses. And she likes watching “We-doe Tutt” (Leo the Truck) as well as “Horse Mane” (the My Little Pony movie).

Dec13: Holy cow. I’m all caught up on Discovery. (Almost — one episode to go.) I guess endless dishes and laundry is good for something.

Dec14: The new My Little Pony movie on Netflix has overt anti-fascist and anti-bigotry messaging, and I’m here for it.

Dec14: Yeah, so. This is both me and my son sometimes.
Sorry, Ahmed Doğan

Dec14: Ali got a hair cut (at his request) and blowout, and I am low key traumatized, LOL. Ahmed hardly recognized him.
(The curls will come back. We had a perfectionist hairdresser who wanted to straighten it so she could make sure it was even.)

Dec15: I buried the lead a bit yesterday because I spent all my energy trying to get a decent pic of Ali and ran out of time to get a pic of Ayla before we headed to Jenks Park and BBQ.
But THIS little squirt got her very first haircut yesterday. You can’t really tell. It was just a half-centimeter all-over trim (plus snipping her little rat tail mullet off), but it was her very first cut, and she did amazing. I think it helped that she watched Ali brave his hair cut first.
I really wish I’d had a camera, because their little heads look hilariously tiny on that big chair with that big robe around them. She had the world’s biggest pout the whole time, just infinite aggrieved sadness with her chin tucked slightly, and every once in a while she’d whimper, “Don’t want it.” But it was over in a flash and she was so happy again.
Even more impressive? At Jenks Park (Veterans Park in Jenks), Ayla followed her brother up a ladder that was far too big and far too advanced for her. But I spotted her and gave her a chance (assuming she’d give up or wouldn’t make it, I’d catch her, and she’d know from experience that it was too hard for her now), but danged if she didn’t get all the way to the top and only need the tiniest assist to bridge the last, biggest gap. The second time she tried it, she didn’t need an assist at all.
The third time, she had a bad foothold near the top and did fall, and I caught her, and she laughed. Brave girl.

Dec16: There are lots of things that give me comfort that are incontrovertible (or seem so), whether this or that religion is “correct” or not.
One is that everyone who ever existed, existed. They caused ripples throughout space and time that will endure forever. The ones I love probably caused some of the biggest ripples within me. I carry them forward.
Two is that we don’t really understand how time works. I studied physics in college, and it helped me understand how little we know. Time seems linear to us, but there may be vantage points from which it is not. Everyone who ever existed, in a sense, still exists somewhere on the timeline.
For these reasons, I don’t tend to put deceased people in the past tense. It feels weird. They are still rippling. Maybe in some sense they are still existing. I certainly never say “I loved them.” I still love them. That love is mine, it is now, and it is real.
Three is that there may well be “higher powers” we can’t yet begin to fathom. I don’t claim to know the nature of them. But what human scientists know, compared to this vast universe, can fit on the head of a pin. So I try to be a bit humble on this point.
Four is that I had an experience once of losing my ego completely — my sense of identity. I was not on drugs of any kind. I was under the stars. And suddenly there was no barrier between myself and the rest of the universe. Which makes sense. Quantum-mechanically-speaking — even chemically — the boundary between myself and the rest of the universe if very fuzzy. Merging with the universe for a moment was a wonderful experience. I do not fear it.
(Some scientists are beginning to play with the notion that consciousness, rather than matter, is at the base of reality. Intriguing to say the least.)
Five is that we are surrounded by mystery, majesty, and beauty at all times whether we realize it or not. The universe if f***ing cool. Ants alone, giraffes, supernovae, clouds, children, trees. We are lucky beings indeed.

Moving In, Settling In

Well, it’s been a very intense *checks watch* two and a half months. Ayla’s school had already ended by the time I wrote my last update on August 4, and Ali’s ended two days later, then we went to Stigler for a while I think, then we came back and closed on the house on August 17, cleaned the carpets, and got a new washing machine. (The dryer was back-ordered for weeks, and we didn’t get that until October 9.) The kids were still out of school that week.

We moved our primary residence to the new house on August 21 but still had two weeks until our lease on our apartment expired. I used every spare moment while both kids were (finally back) in school over the next two weeks moving the rest of our stuff, cleaning, doing laundry, etc. It was just never-ending. Meanwhile I was learning the new schedule and protocols of the new school, where Ali goes 5 days a week and Ayla 3 days a week, and on days they both went to school, I felt like a crazed pack mule wrangling both their bags, both their nap rolls, and both kids through a long, crowded hallway, and digging out their cups and lunches and handing them over at their respective doorways.

Nowadays Ali will carry his own backpack and Ayla will walk, so it’s not so bad.

Meanwhile there were a million administrative things to do, changing addresses everywhere and turning utilities and internet on and off at each place. I also signed both kids up for extracurricular classes — Tippi Toes dance for both and a storytelling / theater class for Ali. But Ayla was eventually kicked out of the dance class for being too little (in fairness, it was supposed to be 3 and up, and although she did amazing, the bigger kids weren’t so careful around her), and Ali refused to do anything Ayla wasn’t doing.

We took the kids to the aquarium and the state fair, and Doug and his family came down to visit the house, and we got patio furniture, a cute little plastic picnic table for the kids, and a California King Avocado bed for the master bedroom (we still don’t have a bed frame), we played some soccer, I hung up infinite laundry on indoor racks (it never ended), we went to Pumpkin Town several times, I hired an editor to work on the first pages of my novel and the query letter, Holly and Ivy came down for dinner one evening, this week was “fall break” with no school on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, and this weekend we’re helping my parents move out of their apartment that was close to ours. End of an era, and a bit sad, but our new house is lovely, and it’s amazing for the kids to have so much space to run and play inside and out. And for us to have so much space for dinner guest and/or overnight guests, finally!

But the housework… It never ends. There’s such a difference between 900 square feet you don’t really care about all that much and 3400 square feet that are yours for probably at least a decade. I’m actually trying to keep the toilets sparkling clean instead of just passable. I plan to scrub the tubs more than twice a year. There’s ridiculously more carpet to vacuum and hard floors to sweep (and eventually mop), and ants to fight off by keeping the breakfast nook floor (our dining room) scrupulously clean. A least it is a hard floor, though, so I’m counting my blessings there!

Facebook fun

Aug 5: While I was gone, Ayla learned to say “Don’t do that!” apparently from us saying that sometimes when she drops / throws food.

It sounds like: “Don’ doe dah!” Breathy and high-pitched, like everything she says

Aug5: Ayla is absolutely frenetic when she swims. It so exhausting but so much fun watching her have so much fun. I put her in the floaty for a while, after like 30 seconds she signals “all done” and wants me to carry her all around in the pool. Then she wants me to put her up on the side so she can jump back in instantly. Like her butt makes contact with the side of the pool for less than one second. Over and over and over. (Such joy on her face, though!)

Then she keeps pointing down into the water and trying to claw herself away from me, so I dip her in the water so that her head is submerged, and she comes up gasping and coughing gamely, then I spin around in place for a while, holding her and letting her legs trail in the water, then I back up and count to three and release her so that she can “swim” toward me (with the help of momentum) for like one second, then I bring her up again, gasping and coughing gamely.

Then we go to the stairs and she stands on one and tries to sit on the next one but her mouth is underwater so I rescue her and she keeps climbing, then turns back around immediately and leaps into my arms again, then she wants to do it again, and again, and again, then I just get too tired and put her back in the floaty, then after 30 seconds she signals “all done,” so I carry her all around in the pool for a while, then…

Whew. Can’t wait to have a little kiddie pool in our new backyard next month so she can entertain herself!

Meanwhile I’m slowly learning to speak Ayla. If she is holding a spoon and points at the fridge, she wants yogurt. Now I know.

Aug5: OMG. They’re both eating my whole grain banana date spinach egg milk cinnamon pancakes.

*internal happy screaming/dancing*

Aug6: Ayla’s words so far, in approximate order:

Meoooow = cat


Baba (dad in Turkish)


Uh oh



No = nose

Hah = hat


Baw = ball

Ow = ouch

Oh oh (barking) = dog

Wa wa (quacking) = duck, or any large bird

*Maniacal laugh* (neighing) = horse

Joo = shoe


Don’ doe dah = Don’t do that (said when she drops or throws something she shouldn’t)

She has significantly more receptive language (can point to most body parts when we say them, etc), and she loves to “sing along” to songs. She’s learning lots of animal sounds, and her neigh is insanely sweet and funny. It sounds like a high-pitched, unhinged laugh.

Aug6: Someone on a parenting support group wrote:

“My husband has been home with us for a week (with our ten-week-old and 17-month-old) and he says he’s feeling emasculated. He’s an amazing dad and wonderful husband but he wants to feel accomplished at the end of the day.

I explained to him I feel this everyday, like I never get anything done and yet never get to sit down. It’s just how it is raising little ones. Any suggestions on how to get him to feel more comfortable with being home?”

I replied:

“Our society has, for centuries, disrespected and denigrated “women’s work” (caretaking, child raising, cooking, cleaning, etc) as fundamentally lesser and undignified.

Even though society would COMPLETELY FALL APART if it didn’t get done.

It has also disrespected and denigrated women while simultaneously shaming women who didn’t take on those roles, and shaming men who did.

So, it’s a big nasty cake that has been baked, and no wonder if affects so many people — men and women alike.

I hate the undignified feeling of being “Cinderella” on my hands and knees cleaning up under the damned high chair again, you know? I could be working on a novel I’m writing, exercising, reading, going for a walk, traveling solo in the Middle East like I did in the freedom of my child-free 20s… Like, millions of things.

And yet, someone needs to clean under the damned high chair.

[Ahmed does his fair share in our household and then some. He is not at issue here.]

I don’t know how to completely reform society, but somehow it needs to happen.

It’s a privilege to be able to raise my babies, but it’s ridiculously hard and ridiculously undervalued.”

Aug6: Today was a sweet day. Ali’s last day of (summer) school. I asked him afterwards how he felt now that he would never go to his school again. He said, “Great.”

He’s been vaguely complaining about his school all summer. He’ll have a new one starting in a couple weeks. We’ll see if he just hates school in general or what, haha.

He had his first Boba tea after school (I was worried about him choking on the balls, but he’s a champ with them), and while we were waiting, Ayla sat on my lap and Ali tickled her and hugged her and they were so super sweet. Until Ali took it a little too far and Ayla started saying, “No, no, no!” Such is the way with older brothers, haha.

When we got home, Ayla pulled some dolls out of the closet and she played with one and Ali played with the other one. Ayla put hers to bed and put a blanket over it. She kept pointing at it and saying, “Baby,” and then putting her finger to her nose and saying, “Shh.”

Now we’re going to Big Splash for the first time for the kiddos. (I know it has a new name. I do not acknowledge it. I have so many good memories of Big Splash. I’m a reactionary in a progressive body, I guess!)

Aug6: Ali is just starting the “endless questions” phase, and his questions yesterday were, “Where does water come from?” and “Where does our brain come from?”

He may have asked the wrong person.

“Well, kid, 14.5 billion years ago…”

Usually his eye glaze over pretty quickly and he asks for a snack

Aug6: We had SO MUCH FUN celebrating the end of (summer) school at Big Splash. It’s such a great-sized water park — not big enough to be some massive crowded tourist attraction, but plenty big enough to be a whole lot of fun. Definitely getting season passes next year.

Ali, Mr. “Didn’t Like Water Play At School All Summer,” suddenly found his water mojo in the wave pool, laughing uncontrollably as the waves pummeled us.

Ayla waded straight into the huge kiddie pool area. She seemed to take great pleasure in “plopping down” on her butt only to kind of float down gently into a seated position. And she loved sitting down with her head above water. It’s just her size. Like a series of gigantic, clear puddles.

She liked the wave pool, too, though not as much as Ali did!

(At one point, while the waves were off, he was paddling his arms around in a kind of unusual way and said, “I’m a lawnmower boat!” That may just be his billion-dollar idea…)

He wanted to go on this giant kind of scary slide but was too short. Meanwhile he wouldn’t try any of the slides in the kiddie pool area. Go figure.

On the way there, his question kick continued. He’s obsessed with Billie Eilish’s song “You Should See Me in a Crown.” He calls it “One By.”

“Who is singing?” he asked, though he knew.

“Billie Eilish,” Ahmed said.

“Biddie Eiwish? Did she didn’t like the song and so she sent it to us?”

Ahmed laughed. “No, that’s not how that worked. She liked it, so she shared it with everyone.”

“Oh. Is she in California?”

“Actually, she is. How did you know? Who told you?”

“Does she have a phone?”

“Yes, she probably has a phone.”

“Is she a woman?”


“Is she can do some vacuum?”


“Is she a better vacuumer?”

“Better than who?”

“Better than you.”

“That would be really hard. I’m the best vacuumer in the world.”

And that was the end of that line of questioning.

Ali also calls ambulances “anabwences.” We stuffed ourselves silly on Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ after the swimming, and Ali insisted the Oklahoma Joe’s catering truck was “a anabwence.”

Then we saw a helicopter transporting a patient to St. Francis Hospital.

These are the days.

Aug7: A tale of two kiddies.

Ali’s Mother’s Day gift this year (Look at me, I’m so cute!)

Ayla’s Father’s Day gift (I will probably murder you in your sleep)

Aug7: Ayla when she was sick with RSV a couple weeks ago

Aug8: Ayla gets so emotionally invested in Cocomelon videos. Precious and hilarious.

Aug10: My mom set an alarm on her phone and told Ali, “Now remind me to take my pill every time the alarm goes off.”

She made the alarm go off to show him what it sounded like. Then she couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. She said, “What do I do now?”

Ali said, “Take your pill!”

Aug10: BUSTED. But fast on the getaway. And DGAF.

Mom wrote: She took my drink.  She took his car.  And we are powerless against her.

Aug11: So, Ali had a small bowl of butter for dinner tonight.

That is all.

Aug11: Today’s task: Choosing a washer and dryer for our new place.

Leaning heavily toward the LG machines because they have clear lids so that Ali the Engineer can watch the machinery go.

Planning on a top-loader. Trying to decide between an agitator or impeller (leaning toward impeller).

Domestic adventure, ho!

Aug11: Frito chili pie. Canned chili. Canned pinto beans. Garden tomatoes. Avocado tomatillo salsa. (Sour cream and cheese for the dairy eaters.) Sweet onions. Pickled jalapenos.

Sometimes a super simple meal can be just perfect.

(Of course, Ali ate like 3 chips and a bowl of butter. Whatever. Ayla ate like a bear about to hibernate, like she always does!)

Aug12: Ayla has started using at least 10 new words in the past few days:

ish = fish

ah gah = all gone

doe = door




I’ll write more when I think of them. It’s starting!

Aug12: Ayla was just standing there, looking to the right. A wasp landed on her left pinky, stung her, and flew off.

What a freaking jerk.

She cried for a few minutes, then went back to normal, other than she cries every time I wipe off her left hand. No apparent swelling.

Still. What a freaking jerk.

Aug12: As my brother said, using that corn dog to soak up the bowl of butter he ate yesterday. Calories are a victory at this point!

Aug12: Handsome boy with his laundry in the window…

Mom wrote: Grandma multi-tasking at her finest. Drying laundry, a waitin’ on a train.  Sounds like a bad country song.

Aug12: There’s a runt pig being bottle fed at the gift shop in Stigler. Not as a publicity stunt. The pig just needed help.

I took Ayla down there to see him. He was such a wee little thing, not much bigger than my hand, perfectly formed from the snout to the curly tail. It slurped down the bottle and then the owner got it out, and it bucked and squealed a little when anyone petted it. Ayla plopped down and watched it mince around on its little high heel hooves and petted it so gently. And I think she said 3 new words just while we were there.

Aug13: Rice, butter, cow connective tissue… that’s a healthy breakfast, right?

I’m talkin’ ’bout a rice krispy treat.

Aug13: When I was 11 and had bangs and mom jeans.

Aug13: Ayla finally learned how to say “Yeah.”

From now on, it’s not just “No, no, no!” and a blank look for yes

Aug13: Happy happy (early) birthday to my amazing step-dad Bill Cox!

We love you lots. Sorry we’ll be so busy closing on our house on your actual birthday

Aug14: Pig pics! Ayla is a pig whisperer, it turns out. She just sat down quietly, and the pig was all over her. (No pics of that.) She was so gentle when she petted him, too

Aug15: Unprompted Ali poop in the potty [happy dancing gif]

Aug15: And just now, Ali asked for noodles, chicken, and broccoli for dinner. And he’s eating it! [wide-eyed emoji]

Aug15: Tonight Ali saw an airplane (ayer-pwane) go by and said, “Hey, I think I know why it’s called a airplane. Because it has to go in the AIR. So it’s a AIRplane.”

He also corrected himself: “We find it… We found it.”

That broccoli is making him smart [laugh emoji]

Aug17: Oh my goodness, our realtor found out I was allergic to dust mites and dusted the blinds in our new house for us.

Thanks, Keli Brooks Smith! It means a lot!

And by the way, we are officially homeowners now.

Or, well, technically our lender owns it, but details, details

Aug17: Our new digs. I’m especially excited about the back yard for the kids and the sweet office for my husband and me (not at the same time, unless the kids are in preschool).

There’s a play room and 3 bedrooms upstairs, and we’ll live up there for at least a few years. Which means the master bedroom downstairs is open for guests.

Come on out if you need a south Broken Arrow escape! (It’s pretty close to 101st and Garnett.)

We need lots of stuff, from patio furniture to fun indoor kid stuff to fun outdoor kid stuff to a ladder and lawnmower. If anyone is getting rid of these or knows of any good garage sales, send ’em our way!

Aug18: Grandpa’s early birthday cake. With some underwhelming pyrotechnics, LOL. Can you see the 70 on the cake marked out in candles?

Aug19: Running on fumes. Recovering from a viral (non-COVID) infection, dealing with the million administrative tasks of moving, packing and transporting our stuff little by little each day (with the big final-ish push on Saturday), living in a skeleton home with everything in disarray, living on McDonald’s (because who has time to shop or cook?), all while Ahmed is working full-time-plus and two little kids need a lot of attention (Mom and Bill are watching them part of the day, thankfully, otherwise this would simply be impossible), and I was just about to take a much-needed short nap when I remembered Ali has a dental check-up at 3.

Glad to be moving.

Moving sucks.

Both these things are true

Aug21: All the books are in the new home. That alone was a huge undertaking. And kid stuff accumulates like crazy. Blankets, quilts, clothes, kitchen implements, furniture, a million other random things. We have a small and reasonably tidy place, yet the sheer volume of stuff is exhausting.

The good news is, we won’t need to worry about it for another decade or so, by which point we can garage sale it all away.

Thankfully the weather is cooperating. It’ll be cloudy but not raining most of the day. And no one’s back has gone out, so that’s a win! (Knock wood)

Aug21: Ayla was pushing her little horse toy backwards across the floor.

“She’s mowing backwards,” Ali said. “She’s going to make it tall. She’s going to make the grass tall again!”

Aug21: The worst is over. There are just some random things left that we can take in a few car loads. Did NOT have the bandwidth to deal with these last things today. But the Unreasonably Heavy Mattress (DreamCloud is no joke) traveled downstairs on a raft of plastic and was not damaged. Neither were we. Hooray.

I’ve packed up a suitcase and we’ll all “camp out” in the master bedroom together while we slowly put the house together.

Soon we’ll have a dining room with hard floors and not effing carpet!

Aug21: And we are online at Casa Dogan and ready for sleep!

Aug22: Ayla decided sleeping was for chumps last night and neither she nor her parents were chumps. Then Ali woke up at the crack of dawn. Send help.

Aug22: My body is tired but my heart is happy

Aug22: We still have a little ways to go. We got to the new place late last night (after moving as much as we humanly could), and the kids slept poorly (i.e., everyone slept poorly). We barely had the energy today to go pick up the cat (we had to leave him at our place overnight) and his paraphernalia and a few other necessities from the old place, have lunch, unpack enough stuff to get to the couch, put the couch together, find all the stuff we need to send the kids to their first day of school tomorrow, find a little time to play with the kids so they don’t feel completely neglected, have dinner, go shopping, bathe everyone, do bed time routine, and put the kids to bed.

*deep breath*

(We pretty much haven’t breathed in a week.)

So yeah, we still have roughly 7% of our stuff at the old place, even after five days of exhausting work, and two more weeks to get it all out. We can manage that. We can breathe through it.

What we couldn’t manage was doing what we did without help from Mom and Bill watching the kids while we worked. Mom had an especially rough time with two kids for nearly all of Saturday, and they wouldn’t nap and were acting hog wild after the rough and weird week. And I know all too well how exhausting that is.

THANK YOU for everything. I hope you understand how much we appreciate it!

Aug23: Last night we actually got to sleep like 7 hours, thank God. But the cat woke us up a couple times. I got up around 1:21am and saw crazy bright moonlight making a shadow under the back porch.

I walked out to look and saw a spectacular waning gibbous moon trailed by Jupiter and Saturn across the zenith.

I’ll call that a good sign.

Aug23: Both kids were rock stars at their first day at their new school. Maybe they tell all the parents their kids are stand-outs for being good-natured and having fun, but it’s always fun to hear. Ali was a “leader,” which apparently meant he was first in line or something? They seemed to act like it was a minor big deal, whatever it was.

Ayla clung to me and cried in the morning, and it was hard, but they said all day she was just happy to be doing whatever they were doing next.

They both ate great. (Turkey and cheese croissants, cheese-flavored cauliflower chips, grapes, hummus for Ali, a macaroon for Ayla.) Ayla put herself to sleep but only napped about 45 minutes. Ali didn’t nap but lay quietly.

Best of all — Ali said it was a good day. That’s a high bar for our little man. I’m so glad.

Aug23: Ali was so sweet with Ayla tonight, asking if he could give her a hug before bed (she enthusiastically hugged back) and then asking if he could sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to her (her favorite song).

She settled right down to sleep after that (and my usual nightly song to the tune of Edelweiss)

Aug24: No longer using a soup pot as a wastebasket #progress

Aug24: “Hey, Ali, don’t wipe your nose on the TV.”

Yep. I said that.

Aug24: Ali: “What’s California mean?”

Ahmed: “Your Aunt Val lives there.”

Ali: “With MacQueen?” [Lightning McQueen]

Ahmed: *chuckles*

Ali: “Does she say, ‘Hi, MacQueen’?”

Ahmed: “You’ve gotta ask her next time you see her.”

What say you, Val Monticue?

Aug24: Poor Ali had his first bloody nose today. Tripped and fell on the driveway. When we asked what hurt worst, he said it was his hand. His hand was not injured at all but got blood on it from his nose.

He also skinned his knee and got a big band-aid.

Oh, and we got a lawnmower! It’s mechanical, so a whole new world for Ali to explore. And for Ahmed to wrestle with.

So many doings in these days.

Aug25: We went to the hardware store yesterday and passed by a giant dog with dalmatian markings, big as a St. Bernard but thin like a greyhound. [Harlequin Great Dane]

Ali didn’t even glance over. So I stopped and said, “Hey, you just breezed past that dog,” and pointed at it.

He said, “Uh huh. OOOH. There’s a carpet cleaner!”

Sure enough, there was a carpet shampooer just to the left of the giant weird dog

Aug25: Ayla doesn’t have school today, but when I was dropping off, one of the teacher’s aides talked rapturously about how Ayla was just singing and singing, and how much she must love music.

Yep! Our “music room” is still overrun with bins and boxes at the moment, but it’ll be a proper music room one of these days. Can’t wait!

Aug25: Ali is now obsessed with “belly button videos.” Just random videos that have to do with belly buttons.

Can we please go back to vacuums? (It all started with a video of a vacuum hose stuck to someone’s belly button. We can’t find it again. I think he’s hoping to stumble across it?)

Memory from Aug 27, 2016: All of us get to be ourselves, and that is pretty amazing!

I try not to be jealous

Of birds because

They fly in a way

I never will.

I try to look at

Musical savants

And be glad that

Someone gets to do it.

I see Olympic gymnasts

And prima ballerinas

And know it is a life

I will never know.

But I also know

That I am me

And that is something

No one else can ever be.

Aug27: I’m watching Ayla learn to eat jello with a spoon (a very different skill from eating yogurt with a spoon), and most of it is dropping onto the (hard) floor, and I don’t even care 

ETA: I think she’s got it! She’s started not turning the spoon upside-down on the way to her mouth. And also just using her hand when she really wanted an embedded mandarin orange Right Now.

And now she’s back to yogurt, and I saw her flip the food upside-down in front of her to see how it didn’t fall out. And she took a few bites with the yogurt spoon right-side-up.


Aug27: We still don’t have a dryer at our new house, so I went to our old apartment to do two big loads of laundry today (way too much for a drying rack to handle), only for that dryer to break down. Then on the way out, a handle broke off a plastic box I was carrying to bring stuff home, and a bowl broke and sliced my finger. I had to clean that up and was late to picking up the kids.

Then I got home, and both kids were buck wild and just wanted their Baba, who was in a long meeting in an office with a glass door and no lock (yet). So that was super fun.

But then finally we went to get Chinese food (the kids ate a ton, like they had been starving for days) and play at LaFortune Park. A little festival was going on, and after the kids did the slides and swings for a while, we went back and watched the music. Ali said, “I see a guitar!” and later, “I didn’t know they had a singing place here!” Both kids watched, fascinated. (Two electric guitars, one acoustic, a bass guitar, and drums.)

The house is still about half chaos. Our entire kitchen hasn’t been moved yet. (I know, I know — believe me, we are moving at the highest speed we can manage, and it is slow AF with two kids.) The kids are learning new routines, people, and places at their new school, and so am I.

I still have to deep clean the old place. I have another week to do it.

And Ayla tripped down the stairs yesterday, and in the process of lunging to try to catch her (I failed, and she rolled down a few soft steps, none the worse for it, though I about had a heart attack), I did something to my right middle toe that has it swollen, discolored, and very painful today.

We still need to get a garden hose.

I keep trying to remember to grab the bread knife, and failing.

We are tired. In another two weeks the chaos should be in some better order. But the pace is so slow when you have two littles and so many other things to do besides.

I can’t wait to have all this sorted and just be able to live. (Today was a night “off” of shopping and arranging and everything else, to *just* have fun with the kids.)

ETA: Oh yeah, and Mateo disappeared. He was missing over 24 hours until Ahmed found him in his office closet. (Ayla’s favorite pastime right now is closing doors.) Mateo didn’t make a sound the whole time. And he still spends much of his time in that closet. But he’s finally eating and venturing out more.

Aug28: I love how Ali calls Ayla “silly girl” sometimes, and he pronounces it “siwwy gowoh.”

Aug29: Tonight we were heading to the garage to get in the car and go to the park, and Ali said to Ayla, “Why don’t we hold hands?” They held hands all the way to the garage, and Ali said, “Aren’t we cute?”

Um, yeah. Yeah, you are.

Ayla, for some reason, started doing her happy stomp dance, and Ali and I did, too, and she started laughing and dancing at our silly behavior.

At the park, Ali decided I ate too much of his imaginary ice cream and I needed surgery to remove the excess ice cream. I lay down on a slide, and he cut my stomach open with scissors and used pliers to get the ice cream out. My first ice-cream-ectomy.

Then he taped me back up.

When I was up and around again, he ran to me saying, “Here’s your Dum Dum!” Because of course you get a Dum Dum when you go to the doctor. I pretended to take it and put it in my mouth.

Ayla came running up, opening and closing her little hand, begging for a suck of my imaginary sucker.

Ali said, “Oh! I can get you a Dum Dum, too, Ayla.”

Ayla waited patiently for him to come back from his slide clinic and give her a Dum Dum, too.

Of course, he gave her imaginary candy — aka nothing. She was confused and not at all amused. Her face clearly said, “What the hell, bro?”

At twilight the fireflies came out at Haikey Creek Park (our local park, super close), and I said to Ali, “Hey, look at the lightning bugs!”

He watched for a while, then said with some trepidation, “Are there thunder bugs?”

On the way back, there was a really bad skunk smell. So now Ali is watching Youtube videos learning all about skunks.

Good grief, if I had had Youtube as a kid! What a magical thing!

Aug29: Mungees on the ranch.

Aug30: When Ali was this age, he said “Gah gai!” for “All done!”

Ayla says, “Don’t die!”

Aug30: It has been a dream of mine for a long time to have enough room for the kids to have their own little wooden table for eating.

Meanwhile, Ali’s dream of having his Very Own Real Vacuum came true today! ($23, and its filter just throws fine dust in the air, but it really does an excellent job picking up small things like grass and fuzz, and Ali’s excitement is worth it!)

Aug31: Yesterday on the way to school, Ali said, “I’m going to be sad a little bit when you leave me there.”

Sure enough, he sobbed and clung to me when I left him there. But his teachers said he had a great day.

The next day on the way to school, he said, “I’m not going to be sad when you leave me there today. I’m just gonna be happy.”

And he was. He walked right into class without a look back.

That’s some emotional awareness right there.

Meanwhile Ayla marches into preschool every day like it’s her dream job and she’s the boss.

Sep1: Because of Wheels on the Bus, Ali calls windshield wipers “Shwishwishwish.”

“Mama, turn on the Shwishwishwish.”

Sep4: We came close to taking Ali to the ER last night with retractions / difficulty breathing related to some kind of virus (not COVID, he tested negative for that).

Meanwhile I’ve been hearing stories of ERs turning away car accident victims (including children) because they are overrun with  non-vaccinated COVID cases and ivermectin poisoning cases. I was honestly terrified to take Ali there. (Ali is, of course not vaccinated. He’s too young.) And I was terrified not to take him there.

Thankfully albuterol and oral steroids set him right enough to sleep peacefully on his side and wake up energized.

But Jesus, what could have happened…

This is one reason I have absolutely no problem with mandating vaccines. (Can we also mandate not taking livestock medicine? Can we just mandate against stupidity? Gaaah.)

Sep4: Once after I yelled at Ali and apologized and said I was just feeling stressed and it wasn’t his fault, he said kindly, “You should do meditation. That’s what Grandma does when she’s stressed.”

You’re absolutely right, buddy. I perpetually intend to meditate, and it keeps getting swallowed by the days. But this week I’ll do it! Starting Monday. Tomorrow I recover from 3 weeks of moving house…

Sep4: Ali held aloft his fortune cookie and said to his Baba, “Do you remember? You break it and then you take out the tag.”

Thanks for the refresher, Bud.

Sep4: Labor Day weekend, everyone in the family is sick, but at least no one’s in the hospital, and the kids are happily sick (especially Steroid Boy).

I worked 6 hours today cleaning the old apartment and somehow packing yet another whole carload of crap (a large framed picture, the curtains, cleaning supplies and tools, a giant floor lamp, the internet stuff, and on and on), all while sick, then I turned in the key and the three-week moving saga is officially over.

Other than figuring out and arranging the new place, which is in some kind of order but still needs at least another week of work.

Sep4: Ayla’s vocab is exploding. Her favorite word now is, “Bite!” As in “I want one!”

Sep5: Cute pics two years ago, in the apartment we just left. Lots of good memories. Here’s to more memories in the new place!

Sep5: My world is rocked. I thought “Who Wants to Live Forever” was a heartbreakingly beautiful ballad about the AIDS crisis by Freddie Mercury that got co-opted by the show/movie Highlander.

Turns out it was written by Brian May, inspired by and for the movie Highlander.

Sep5: Ayla has finally gotten to the point where not every meal is a complete mess-splosion apocalypse.

Just in time for us to finally have hard floors. Oh well!

Sep6: We found a water bottle with straw that we liked so much for Ali, we got one for Ayla, too, for school. Unfortunately, her little 18-month-old hands couldn’t push the button to open it or push hard enough to close it.

So we kept her school sippy cup and just gave her the straw cup, already open, at home.

She worked for hours with single-minded focus, and by the end of it, she could open it with two thumbs and close it with both hands.

That’s how she is. She will focus on a skill for hours until she nails it. No prompting by us required.

ETA: It’s more accurate to say she kept coming back to it hour after hour, not that she literally sat there for hours with just the cup. But she can definitely spend a lot of minutes with one thing like that! And then keep coming back until she figures it out.

Sep7: “Say hello to my little friend.”

Sep8: We finally have a functional enough kitchen that I could cook a real dinner last night (ginger/garlic/soy marinated salmon, mashed potatoes with feta, and spinach fritters — Ali just ate feta cheese), though we never found the pot lid or the potato masher.

We have beds assembled and everyone moved into their correct rooms (instead of all camping out in the master bedroom) and even some curtains on the windows. Ayla is out of her SlumberPod tent and in the open air of her new room and doing great.

Just about six more bins to go and the bins are empty at last, but everything is still in weird provisional places. It’s like 3D chess trying to figure out what goes where. A highly iterative process.

We have a (mechanical) lawnmower, weed eater, and leaf blower, and we’re figuring out the sprinkler system.

About 3 more weeks until our dryer gets here. Daily washing and rack drying until then (and plenty of crunchy clothes and handkerchiefs).

Such a process, but it’s going!

Sep9: I’ve been crazy busy / productive and also sick all week. Going to sleep early but still feeling exhausted all day.

I gave myself an hour to read a book before picking Ali up today after rushing around the house all day in an ADHD frenzy trying to get things cleaned, arranged, etc. I can’t get one thing done without running across 3 other things that need to get done first. Repeat ad nauseam.

Exactly when I was going to take a refreshing shower and finally relax for a rare, sweet hour, Ahmed got a call (after I didn’t hear my phone).

Ali’s school is so full of kids who are sick (including some confirmed COVID cases), he was sent home with a 100.1 fever (not even technically a fever) and a cough (same cough from the cold he had last week) and had to get another COVID test. It was negative, but he HATES them. It gets worse every time he gets the damn swab up his nose. This time he was hysterical for more than 15 minutes, trying to hit and head-butt me and crying and yelling while we waited for the results.

I am so sick of this.

The school asked me to take both of my kids out tomorrow anyway because they’re so skittish. I don’t blame them. But damn. So much for my plans tomorrow to either really take a run at the house and get a ton more stuff done, or catch up on sleep, or God forbid actually relax and do something I enjoy for a little while. Stay off my feet and let the strained muscle in my lower leg (from the move) finally heal. Nope.

Whine over.

I guess we’ll go to the Aquarium until nap time. Not the worst place to limp around.

Sep10: I can’t believe I did that. We hadn’t watched the movie Tangled in about a year. Ali was 2.5 last time he watched it, and of course he didn’t really get it then. He’s starting to get it now.

At the end, when [SPOILER ALERT] Eugene cuts the hair and Gothel turns old and then falls out of the tower, I said without thinking, “Welp, she’s dead.”

Ali said, aghast, “She’s died? Why is she died?”

He doesn’t understand that she’s “the bad guy” and she “deserved it,” because if she didn’t die, Rapunzel would be enslaved forever. (Yeesh.) She was just a woman he followed through the movie, singing songs and stuff. Something horrible happened to her. He was horrified.

When Rapunzel started crying about Eugene dying, Ali lost it completely. He wailed, “Turn it off!” We thought if he watched Eugene come back to life, he’d feel better again. But the damage was already done.

Bless his sweet heart.

Sep11: That time this bench kept trying to eat my son…

2019: Anyone else’s kid repeatedly and deliberately manufacture a desperate crisis if you stop paying attention to them for more than five seconds? “Save me, Mama! Save me from this thing I’ve done 30 times today!”

Sep11: We had been together about two years at this point. Not quite married yet. (We still have those hampers.)

Sep12: I think the play room came together nicely. Next project: Books books books!

Sep12: Two years ago today, we came out as a soon-to-be family of 4. Poor baby Ali. Had no idea what was about to hit him.

But now he wants to hug and kiss her every night before bed (probably as a bed time stalling tactic, but I’ll take it).

Sep13: Ali loved My Neighbor Totoro. He calls it The Big Teddy Bear Movie. He cheered at the growing tree part. Thanks, Tim!

Sep13: Tonight Ali was sad at bed time because he missed his grandparents and missed his old school and missed his old house. I empathized that missing people is hard and change is hard.

He said, “Yeah. But you can’t move backwards. You can only move forwards.”

[Wide-eyed emoji]

Sep14: Getting back on the wagon after about 3 years of mostly convenience foods. It’s actually pretty easy to be vegan and grain-free for the first two meals of the day to pack in other stuff — smoothie with berries, soy milk, spinach, and pea protein powder for breakfast, lentil soup and salad with balsamic and olive oil for lunch. (I’m leaving dinner alone for now, since I don’t want to eat separate from everyone else.)

And yesterday I did 30 minutes of yin yoga, today 10 minutes of cardio. (Starting slow, don’t need injuries.)

Fall soccer starts on Friday. Always motivating.

Sep14: I tried to get Ali to watch Ponyo, but he just wanted to watch Totoro again (and repeat all the things he and I said the first time we watched it).

When the girls find a post that’s a bit rotted and about to fall down, he said, “Their house is a little bit broken!” Just like last time.

I said, “Yep.”

He said, “Just like our house was a little bit broken.”

Eh, true. A door knob fell off. Some wood needs replacing. I had to tighten the screws on the hand rail of the stairs. Some light bulbs have burned out. Etc.

I said, “Yep.”

He said happily, “EVERYTHING’s a little bit broken!”

He’s on a philosophical streak, I tell ya.

Sep14: Ali and Ayla went to their first dance class today. Ayla technically wasn’t old enough (it’s supposed to be 3 and up), but the instructor encouraged us to try a class and see.

She was just as good as can be, following directions almost perfectly, waiting her turn, etc. She was better than some of the 3-year-olds. Including Ali. When the instructor asked Ali what his name was, he stared at her in stony silence.

Ayla pointed at him and piped up, “Ali!” (It was super cute. She just learned to say his name.)

He spent several minutes with his back turned to the whole thing. Then he sat on my lap and watched. Then when some plush turtle toys came out, he asked if he could get one just to play with while the others danced with them, and the instructor said sure. So he did.

Then when the ribbon wands came out, he did the same and played with one, mostly swishing me in the face with it. Toward the end he watched with more interest.

The instruction was way too advanced for the age and no one really did much of anything she modeled. It was too fast, for one thing, and she also never explained how to point the toes or plie or anything. She just did quick dances and expected them to dance along. Maybe they’ll pick it up in a matter of weeks? Ayla kind of bopped along the whole time and actually did try to point her toes once, but everything went by too fast.

Afterwards the instructor asked if Ali would dance with the class next time, and he said cheerfully, “Yeah!” He said it in the car, too when I asked the question again.

So we’ll see. He sure likes to get the full picture of something before he’ll dive in. I think that will serve him well once he’s a teenager!

Sep15: Ayla right now loves pointing at Ali and saying, “Ali! Ali. Ali!”

Then she may point to herself and say, “Ali?”

I said just now, “You’re Ayla?”

She pointed at her eye. “Eye… la?”

Yep, you got it.

Meanwhile, Ali has been experimenting with word sounds. He’ll say, “Hey! Shoe wooks wike bwue.” (Shoe looks like blue.)

Or, “Hey! Car looks like carpet!”

Also, for the record, one of Ayla’s first words has been “mawmower” (lawnmower).

Sep16: Ali’s teacher today was kind enough to speak with me while Ali was in a kiddie drama class and let me know he was doing great and making friends, and he was one she could count on to ask for help when the other kids were being wild.

I get to see him sad in the morning as I drop him off, and tired and restraint-collapsed when I pick him up. So that was lovely to hear.

Sep17: Fall soccer season started and we won the second half of the game (after shaking the cobwebs off during the first half, lol). All in all, the math did not work in our favor, but it was fun, and I got to see a sunset and moonrise and hang out with Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Sep18: Here’s the problem with learning an entirely new area of expertise, like cooking: You run into phrases like “turn the dough out” and have no idea what they’re talking about. So you google it, and it means “tip the thing over and dump the dough out.”

Why didn’t you just say that?

I’ve been learning to cook for years. Now that I have a stand mixer (and soon a food processor), new worlds are opening up, haha. Homemade quiche butter crust, here I come. No more frozen margarine crusts from Wally World.

Sep19: At Walmart, Ayla kept randomly shouting, “Bubble boo ixx… waayaanee.” (W, X, Y and Z)

Obsessed with the ABC song like her brother before her.

Sep21: If my kids were named after what I craved during my pregnancies, Ali would be Boba Tea and Ayla would be Sugar.

Sep21: The kids get stickers at the end of every dance class, and Ali kept saying, “I want the one with the germ. I want the germ one.”

The instructor had no idea what he was talking and let him pick.

It was this one.

Sure enough. It looks just like a coronavirus. (It’s a glowing heart.)

Meanwhile he kept talking last night about my “walking dad.”

It took me a while to realize he meant Bill — my step-dad 

Both kids are still loving the dance class. Ali got plenty of twirling practice at Grandma’s place when the cuckoo clock went off. I reminded him of this, and he said, “Yeah! Then Grandma knocked it off the wall. Now it’s at the cuckoo clock store.”

Sep21: Haven’t posted a pic of Ayla in a while. Here ya go.

She’s “bow ba bow”ing along with Blue.

And she needs a hair cut! (So far she won’t tolerate top knots, head bands, or clips.)

Sep23: Fun day at the zoo with Grandpa! Ali got a plush rhino and Ayla picked out a red panda. We saw rhinos, giraffes, elephants, chimps, giant tortoises, flamingos, and more. And we rode a train and a carousel. I think a membership is in our future.

Sep25: Ayla’s mom holding the poles and a bucket.

Can someone digitize the photo of me feeding a dead squirrel to a bird dog?

Sep26: Our doorway. Waving good-bye to Grandma and Grandpa.

Sep28: So nice to have a backyard… and grandparents to share it with!

Sep28: Let the record show, one of Ayla’s first polysyllabic words / phrases is “Doe toe doe” (Totoro).

Right after “Don’ doe dah!” (don’t do that), “Doe ‘way!” (go away), and “Mawmower” (lawnmower).

Sep29: My helpful, sweet, curious, sensitive, beautiful, silly son.

Thanks for making me a mama.

Thanks for being a great big brother.

Thanks for being you

Sep30: Ali got up earlier than everyone else today, and when he greeted me, wide-eyed, at the bottom of the stairs, he said:

“I… I… I just ate… one baniwa wiper… two baniwa wipers… three baniwa wipers… four baniwa wipers… five baniwa wipers. Just five. Wet me show you. I need to show you there are some left.”

I don’t know if he ate just 5 vanilla wafers. But it was an adorable confession.

Sep30: Suddenly Ali can spell his name. I guess he learned it at school. (We don’t push these things, just play around with things, including numbers and letters, at home.) Grandpa held up a wooden A, and Ali said, “A L I!”

I asked Grandma and Grandpa and Ahmed if they had taught him, and they all said no.

Then Ali got a mischievous look on his face and said, “A L I… P P I!”

Anyone who’s watched Blippi knows why he added those last three letters 

(Blippi always emphatically spells his name at the end of his Youtube videos so parents can look him up and subscribe.)

Oct1: Fearless Ayla (with her shiner from falling on our rock patio) ran right in the middle of the animals.

Meanwhile, Ali enjoyed the animals from Grandma’s arms!

Goofy Ayla

Oct1: Last weeks with the lello vacuum at Grandma’s little Tulsa house

Mom wrote: The difference in little boy Ali, who made me vacuum every day, and big boy Ali?  THE KID CAN VACUUM!

Oct1: Just a girl, her mama, and her Tiger Pig.

Oct1: I figured out tonight that I can order Ali around — and he’ll obey, happily — if I use a silly grumpy Wookiee voice. (He doesn’t know what a Wookiee is. Star Wars would make him cry right now. He doesn’t like fighting. I don’t actually sound like a Wookiee. More like Cookie Monster.)

Then after a while he asked why I was so angry and asked if I needed a hug.

Wookiee heart melted.

Oct1: Our dryer will finally come in 8 more days. Since the wait was so long, they upgraded us to a dryer that can do steaming, or something. Probably wasted on us, but I’ll take it.

Ready for laundry to not be twice the work! It’ll be so exciting to be able to wash my kids’ nap rolls any time I want and not have to wait overnight for them to dry. It’ll be nice to be able to do bigger (and fewer) loads because I won’t have to worry about having enough room on the drying racks.

No more stiff clothes and towels or worrying about mildew.

I wish I could live without a dryer. I much prefer life with it.

Oct2: First big bunch of visitors to the new house. We have patio furniture. Places to sit. Iced tea and cider. Brown butter apple pie with streusel today (Ali’s idea). Come on by!

Oct3: We were watching a cartoon with nursery songs.

Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream

Merrily merrily merrily merrily…


Oct3: That feeling when you *know* there’s some missing chili, and you finally find it down the back of your daughter’s shirt.

Oct4: Ali wants to be a strawberry ghost for Halloween. Apparently, it is strawberry flavored. I don’t have any sheets I want to sacrifice. No pink sheets at all. Any ideas?

Googling “strawberry ghost costume” produced no useful results.

Oct4: First parent-teacher conferences with the kids. In short: No notes.

Ayla is “so bright” (if a little serious and suspicious at times) and you can see the gears turning in her head when she’s trying to figure something out. Super chill. Very attuned and attentive. Not yet super empathetic (Ali at this age was more sensitive to others), but good at holding boundaries (taking back toys and saying, “Mine!”). Loves going to the window when she hears sirens. Loves singing, dancing, and imitating what the teachers are doing. Understands and follows directions well.

Ali’s teachers said, “I’ll gladly take a classroom full of Alis.” When he’s class leader, he gets excited to go to the window and check the weather. Follows directions, attentive and engaged, sweet and has friends. Rock star with scissors. (They gave him paper to cut up to show his skills, and he had it in shreds before they turned back around. They basically had to gather some “confetti” and staple it to the evaluation paper to show me.) They said he seems very happy there.

(The only shocking thing is that I asked how much he talked about lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners, and they looked at each other like they had no idea what I was talking about.)

I am a very, very lucky mom.

P.S. The kids got flu shots today. I was honest with Ali about where we were going, and he fought me on the way to the car. But we talked in the car about what it feels like, what it does, how he’d get a Dum Dum and ice cream afterwards, etc, and he didn’t fight anymore. He was amazing.

Ayla recently had her 18 month check-up, and she was wise to the gig pretty fast. “No no no no no!” wagging her finger and shaking her head. Poor baby.

But once she got her watermelon Dum Dum, all was right in the world.

Oct5: Bless her little heart. Ayla was kicked out of her dance class, not because of anything she did (she was doing amazing), but because it was technically 3 and up, and some of the 3-year-olds were a little rough and rowdy, and they worried she wouldn’t be 100% safe, being so little.

Today I happened to pick Ayla up first and bring her into the huge room where Ali’s class spends the last of the day and the Tippi Toes dance class happens in the back.

Ayla started squirming and saying, “Toes toes toes!” I wasn’t sure what she was getting at, so I put her down. She marched straight over to the dance class, and the instructor said, “Oh, do you want a hug?”

Both our hearts fell.

“Or are you going to break my heart by sitting in your old spot?”

Ayla broke our hearts by sitting down on her old spot, as if to say, “It’s been a while, but I’m finally back. All right, it’s dance time! Let’s go, guys! Yay!”

Having to pick her up and carry her out of there, crying and protesting in disbelief, was so, so sad.

But it’s wonderful to know how much she loved it! Hopefully she can start next year 

It’s not your fault, little girl. They want you and you did so good. You just need to keep growing a little more.

Oct6: I made duck tonight with a sauteed grape pan sauce, thinking Ali would just eat bread like usual. To my surprise, he tried it, and to my greater surprise, he loved it! He said, “It’s kinda like mushrooms.” (As far as I know, he doesn’t like mushrooms. But I guess “kinda like mushrooms” is fine.) He put away half the duck I had prepared.

Ayla, uncharacteristically refused to even try anything and just ate bread and cheese.

(I also made a roasted delicata squash and brussel sprouts salad with slivered almonds and parmesan cheese. Neither kid touched it, although Ali did valiantly try it. Oh well. More for us.)

Oct6: I caught Ayla today using a stethoscope to listen to her stuffed elephant’s heart. She looked up at me and said, “Dottor!” (Doctor)

Ali’s Halloween costume came in the mail, and it came with a tiny cloth pumpkin bucket. Ali asked me to put some candy in it, but I didn’t have any. I said, “On October 31, you’re going to need a much bigger bucket than that. You’re going to get so much candy it’s going to blow your mind.”

His Baba put a breakfast bar in the bucket, and Ali said a little later, “I want to eat this bar.”

Ahmed said, “Eat it.”

Ali said, rolling his eyes, “I can’t eat the package.”

I’m sure he meant to say, “Baba, can you please open the package for me?” Haha, three-year-olds.

Oct6: Oh what a joy to sit on our back porch sipping tea while the kiddos play.

Ayla has her water table, Ali has his leaf blower.

Oct7: Nothing is funnier than when Ayla poops in the bath and then shrieks and desperately tries to get away from it, as if a dread sea monster has suddenly appeared.

Oct7: Last small load of crispy, wrinkled clothes with sad sagging collars before our dryer finally arrives on Saturday.

It’s going to be amazing getting a large load done in 3 hours instead of small loads done in 12 (most of it drying time). It’ll cut the job by more than half.

And don’t tell anyone, but I haven’t done sheets in weeks because I have nowhere to hang them to dry.

Oct8: Happy ❤

Oct8: If there were any justice in the world, I’d be going to bed right now and sleep ’til morning. Can’t believe I have 90 minutes of soccer to play

ETA: It was a good game. The score was uneven, much like last game, but the actual team mismatch wasn’t so crazy. It could have gone either way if our team had been a little less under-manned (and tired/lazy) and had a little more luck.

Whatever. It’s a “rebuilding year.” Just glad the game was fun this time

Oct8: Friends are starting to go into menopause, and I feel like we need some kind of cincuenta-añera to mark it, instead of just kind of mostly ignoring it. With crazy Met Gala outfits or something.

I’m not there yet, but I’m a little jealous, to be honest, since I’m done having kids and would like to be done worrying about it. Excited for this next phase of life!

I’m grateful I got to be young when I was young. I’m grateful I get to be middle-aged now, with so much more perspective, so much more selective about what I care about. (Worried about / preoccupied by so many fewer small or ultimately unimportant things.)

I’ll be grateful for every year I get.

Oct9: Any piano players on my list?

Do you ever learn the first half of a Sonata and then not want to put in equal effort to learn the second half since so much of it is just recapitulating the first half (which was better than the second half), and the effort doesn’t seem worth it?

Like, after a while sometimes it feels like the composer is just filling time, you know? Like he was paid by the note or by the minute or something. Even if the first part of it was totally banging.

Anyway. I have learned several half-sonatas.

Can’t wait to get a piano for the new house! Maybe I’ll learn some second halves eventually. But I’ll probably just pick another one and learn the first half again.

Oct9: Tonight Ahmed said to Ali, “You see that big star next to the moon?”

Ali said, “Well, it’s not a star. It’s a pwanet, actually.”

(Ahmed knew that. But he didn’t know Ali knew it.)

Happy half-birthday, baby boy. 3.5 today. Magical boy, magical age.

It’s been almost one year since we first put him in “school” 2 days a week. I’m so glad he has thrived with his friends and play!

Oct10: Ali thinks the older sister on Totoro is the older brother, and he calls the little sister Ayla.

Oct15: Ayla has some serious Glen Campbell hair going on and won’t let me put ties, bands, or clips in it, and Ahmed won’t let me cut it. Oh well. C’est la vie, my shaggy mulletted child!

Oct15: My parents are moving out of their apartment (next to our former apartment) tomorrow. So many fun memories made there when we didn’t have nearly enough space for everyone at our place.

The new house is bigger than both apartments combined. We had good times. Looking forward to many more!

Mom wrote: This is the entrance to our second floor apartment.   A slight turn to the left and the pathway over to Pamela and Ahmed’s third floor apartment.  All of this will be history tomorrow.  Ali says he will vacuum the whole place before we leave.

18 Sweet Months, New House

Ayla is a year and a half old. Such a fun, sweet age.

Goodness, I just looked at my last update post, and it was lamenting that summer still hadn’t really started yet. Now summer is almost over! It’s Ali’s last week with Riverfield. Ayla’s day care already ended. It’ll be two more weeks until their new school starts. (They’ll be at the same school, new for both of them. It’s bright inside and has gorgeous, shaded playgrounds. The teachers really seem to care. And it’s far cheaper than Ali’s “old school,” as he calls it.)

Both kids have spent a ridiculous amount of the summer sick. If it wasn’t a stomach virus or random fever, it was HFMD or RSV (ugh, poor Ayla). Snot everywhere, all the time. Missing so much school I was getting salty about paying for it. (And I’m definitely not getting any work done on my novel.) Ali still has his little cough, though not so bad as before. He’s eating and pooping well, so that’s good!

Meanwhile so much of the summer was taken up with researching houses and neighborhoods and schools and visiting houses for sale on the weekends, etc. We bid on two houses and lost to cash buyers. Then on the 4th of July we finally bid high enough (almost 10% over asking) to beat a cash buyer. It was a huge relief, and the house is lovely. We’ll have a dedicated play room and a dedicated music room along with a nice office for my husband and a guest room. There’s a neighborhood pool and playground and pond, and we’ll have a nice big backyard and a large driveway and sidewalks for wheeled toys.

But it’s a bit of a psychological adjustment to realize we really are settling down in suburbia for the next ten years or so. I guess it’s fun to imagine we’ll pick up at any moment and go live in a yurt in New Zealand or something. Buying a house kind of puts the kibosh on that. On the other hand, in ten years we’ll have a whole lot of the house paid off (it’s a 15 year mortgage), the kids will be tweens, and we can think about selling the house and taking the kids’ opinions and values into account when thinking about where to move next.

But I guess we’re “responsible adults” for the next decade. Our forties. By the time that adventure may be over, we’ll be 50. I guess we’d better eat well and exercise while we enjoy stability and suburbia, haha.

These definitely have the potential to be (more) awesome years. All in all I’m excited about it. I’ve never had a place that was mine, one where we could have guests over comfortably. It’ll be a whole new ballgame. And with little kids, having space for play and learning (and not driving each other too crazy, haha) will be priceless.

Facebook posts

June 9: Ali took my temperature and said, “What’s this? Is it a mometer?”

I said, “It’s a thermometer. But I guess when you’re measuring your mom, it’s just a mometer.”

Yeah, moms can make dad jokes, too.

June 9: Ali Polliwog. We’ve graduated (after a stomach virus) from weeks of eating almost nothing to occasionally eating Uncrustables, ice cream sandwiches, and chips.



June 9: Wow. A person in my favorite parenting Facebook group posted this sentence, and I got chills. So insightful.

“If I am really honest about my own wounds of childhood, it isn’t that a kid at school called me a name or mocked me, it’s that I didn’t have the skills and relationships I needed to be able to be resilient and move past these events as a child.”

June 13: Ahmed came in the living room wearing a lime green soccer shirt.

“You’re all green, Baba,” Ali said. “You’re all green. You’re green like the mop.”

Ahmed went and got the mop. Ali was exactly right.

June 15: Y’all, I can’t with this little girl. I did not make her like this. It’s all her. We put the dress on her. She put the bracelets on, and after Ali came home, she stole his hat and shopping bag and…

June 15: Photos of Miss Dooley today (everything but the dress is all her)

June 16: I read The Rabbit Listened to Ali last night, and after all the other animals kept trying to solve the little boy’s problems, and the rabbit just came and snuggled up next to him wordlessly, Ali said quietly, “Rabbits are really nice.”

The boy gets it.

June 16: Ali said, “Look what I can do!” to Grandma and spun around on one leg.

His Grandma said, “You know, there’s a French word for that: pirouette.”

Ali said, “There’s a French fry? Is it wet?”

June 16: Surprise bonus grandparent / cousin visit! On their way to Grandparents’ University at OSU.

June 18: Ali wanted to watch lawn mower videos on Youtube. I said, “Hey, what about videos of big brothers meeting their baby sister or brother?”

He said, “No. I want to see a lawn mower mowing a baby.”

I laughed. “Lawn mowers don’t mow babies. That would hurt.”

“Well, I just need to see about that.”

June 19: There’s a game I play sometimes called “Where the heck did I just go?”

I don’t have a smartphone, so I generally hand-draw maps if I need directions. Then if I get lost, I’m just lost until I call someone for help or find my way back to something familiar.

Then I go look at Google Maps to figure out where the heck I just went.

June 19: You don’t control whether your child is brave or timid, what shape and size their body will take, or what their interests will be. (Or so many other things.)

What you do control is how supported and loved they feel as exactly the person they are.

June 19: Yesterday, after viewing a house, we went to LaFortune Park (or “A Fortune Park”, as Ali calls it) and saw a family fishing for crawdads in the creek. Ali saw the crawdads that had been caught crawling around in a bucket. After we passed, he said, “I saw some bugs in there.” These creek lobsters were at least 4 inches long. Big bugs!

We stopped on the bridge to watch the family catch some more. Ali said, “I don’t want to fall down in the water. The bugs will eat me.”

I said, “Crawdads don’t eat people. They just eat bacon, apparently.” The family was using bacon as bait.

After he was done watching and we headed to the car, Ali said, “What’s ‘bacon’ mean?”

LOL, you know you’re married to a Muslim when…

June 19: Got beat out on a dreamy house with a “cash offer that couldn’t be beat,” even though we bid $11k over asking.

Yeah, this is gonna be rough.

It’s harder than I thought imagining our lives in these places (homes, neighborhoods, views) and then having it ripped out from under us.

But we’re also tired of living in a small apartment. And we don’t want to rent some over-priced depressing house, locked into a rental agreement, only to have to move again. (We’re month-to-month now at the apartment.)

We’re finally in a good place to buy a house. We just… can’t.

June 20: Ali tried to give Ayla a high five, and she didn’t put her hand up.

So he slapped her face.

“I gave a high five to her cheek!” he said happily.

June 20: Yesterday, Ali’s friend Owen had a party at a super cool splash pad. Ali doesn’t like to get wet these days for some reason, so he watched the other kids do water play and ate cupcakes. Pretty soon Owen got tired of being wet, too, and changed into dry clothes. Ali joined him on a dry playground. When they saw each other, they just threw their arms out wide and fell into a sweet hug. It made my mama heart swell.

Last weekend we went to Woodland Hills Mall to pass the hottest part of the day, and Ali and Ayla rode the carousel. Ali rode in the wagon part that doesn’t go up and down or have a fierce face. Ayla rode a horse, and the first time looked very trepidatious. The second time, she was hanging on with just one hand like an old pro.

Today I took Ali to Woodland Hills again to let Ayla nap, and he chose the lead horse and rode it three times.

The other day, our neighborhood Walmart was apparently being repainted and updated, and it looked very weird with signs taken down and primer or something streaked all over.

Ali said, “Our Walmart is broken.”

Ayla has started saying, “Uh oh!” any time something drops down. And she tries so hard to sing along and do the moves for Wheels on the Bus. Her favorite part is the Mommy going “Shh! Shh! Shh!” She puts her finger in her mouth to do it.

When she sings, “All through the town,” she says “Ahhh” with her chin up, then ducks her chin and says in a lower tone, “Thooo,” then picks her chin up a bit and says, “Doooown.”

It’s fun watching her little mouth try to do what my mouth does and make the sounds. (And my exaggerated chin movements, apparently!)

June 22: I still can’t get over the fact that whenever I squat down to be on Ali’s level, he squats down, too. Doing what I’m doing, sure, but no longer on my level. Defeats the whole point.

That kid really cracks me up.

I can’t bear to “correct” him because it’s so funny every time.

June 23: Anyone who puts carpet in a dining room or a bathroom should be… gently re-educated. After you high-five their cheek.

June 24: Ali Dustbustering the Hoover. In Stigler. Have fun, buddy!

This is my second weekend “off” in more than 3 years. And this time I have a second kid who’s still here. So, not really off. Off-ish.

June 25: If parenthood were 12 hours a day with, say, one weekend off per month, it could be a hell of a fun job.

24 hours a day with no real break, ever? (You can’t even count on naps or nights.)

It’s a lot, yo. At least in these early years.

June 26: Someone’s happy to be in Stiglerville!

June 27: Yesterday I gave Ayla some chicken and waffle strips, and she saw a ketchup bottle on the table (that I had used for something else earlier) and grunted for it.

So I put a spot on her tray, and she grabbed a waffle strip and dipped it right in. I hastily opened a little container of pancake syrup and put that on her tray, too. She grabbed a piece of chicken and dipped it in and kept dipping chicken until it was all gone. Then she finally dipped the waffle strips in and ate them, too.

I expected an epic mess, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. Most of it ended up on her shirt, hands, and thighs, which were easy enough to clean, and she never tipped over the little container. And now she knows there’s something out there even better than ketchup to dip everything in!

June 27: Sometimes, before I work on my novel, I read excerpts from critically acclaimed books that aren’t very good to boost my confidence

June 27: Welp, Ayla’s first time cracking an egg was a total failure. I was cracking eggs for a quiche, and she kept holding her hand out for one. So I gave her a bowl with an egg in it and showed her how to hit it on the bottom. She picked it up and set it down gently.

I picked it up and mimicked hitting it hard on the bottom of the bowl.

She picked it up and threw it over her shoulder. It landed and exploded at her feet.

OK then. I guess that’s one way to do it!

June 27: Ali’s back! Good to see his sweet face.

And funny to be reminded that he learned “Somethin’ else” and “Someone else,” and he says “Somewhere nelse.”

June 27: Ayla is all dressed up and nowhere to go. (She put her shoe on all by herself!)

June 29: Ali patted the bushes today and said, “Someone needs to get the hedge trimmer and hedge these.”

He also calls shredded cheese “sprinkle cheese.” Now you can, too!

June 29: Ayla has mastered the stairs so well (at least the ones that have baby railings), she’s started showing off by walking up the stairs backwards.

We also have a fidget popper toy we always give her in the car, and after a while she started looking for it and grabbing it for herself in her car seat each time, settling in like an old lady with her Sudoku.

She’s started patting her diaper every time she answers nature’s call, and once she even went and grabbed a diaper and lay down. Which she instantly regretted, because she hates diaper changes, haha.

Meanwhile Ali calls his pinky his “little piggy.”

Today Ayla opened her mouth wide and I said, “She has one molar on the left.”

Ali said, “Lawnmower?”

When we were driving, Ayla was hollering to get out of the car seat, and Ali said, “Can you get her out?”

Ahmed said, “I can’t right now, I’m driving.”

Ali said, “Can you get her out on the road?”

I said, “No, baby, we can’t throw the baby out on the road. The police would get us in a lot of trouble for that.”

Ali said, “Well, you can throw her on the grass. She’ll be safe there.”

Great thinking. An excellent compromise, which we…

Just kidding.

June 30: My two kids:

Today, Ali wanted a strawberry, but with no leaves, not cut up in any other way, and with the seeds removed.

Meanwhile Ayla ate an entire strawberry, leaves and all, before I could stop her.

June 30: Aunt Val’s in town!

July 4: Family 4th fun!

Thanks, Uncle Galen, for bringing the equipment!

July 4: Always deep in thought. Profound Hot Wheels musings.

July 4: My brother posted this. It’s true. Even though Ali’s “style” is a hat we hastily bought after he ate too much vitamin D, some sunglasses we found abandoned at a park, hand-me-down shorts from his cousins, and a shirt from Grandma

Still, it’s an attitude. Not everyone could pull it off…

July 5: Great pics of happy Ali and his doting grandparents

July 5: Peekaboo with her patriotic tutu

July 6: Apparently everyone in Tulsa has the summer bug. Ayla was our plague rat.

July 6: Holy cow, we have a house. We probably only got it because it was the 4th of July weekend, so maybe the cash sharks were taking a break. And we *barely* got it.

It’s a great house. A little further out than I wanted (not far from 101st and Garnett), but close to some parks, nature trails, highways, and a neighborhood pool. All the infinitude of possibilities reduced to one place we’re just starting to get to know.

It happened so fast. Literally we saw the house Saturday morning, made an offer that night, and found out we got it the next day (the 4th). It felt unreal. Almost like a game, and we honestly didn’t really expect to “win.” My head is still spinning.

We’ll close in mid-August, on my step-dad’s birthday

July 7: The other day, our cat Mateo scared Ali and made him cry. Mateo has been extremely skittish and prickly since our friend found him treed by two loud dogs when he was way too young to be without a mama. He scratches and bites us sometimes. Almost never breaches the skin, very rarely even hurts much, but it happens. He is not the world’s sweetest, gentlest cat (though he does cuddle right up to me every time I sit down).

I told Ali about Mateo’s past, and about how when you are too loud or too rough around him, he gets scared and sometimes might bat his paw at you or even scratch you. He asked some questions about where Mateo’s mama is now, and so on.

Later I heard him say to Mateo, “I’m sorry I scared you, Mateo.” Even though Ali is still kind of scared of Mateo.

Ayla has the sweetest little butterfly hands when she pats you on the back when you’re hugging her. *pat pat pat*

(Though she has a bad habit of throwing food and drinks, and she recently managed to put a hairline crack in some mini mason jars with lids and silicone straws that we’ve used since Ali was tiny. We had to throw it out. Should have learned my lesson, but I gave her another one yesterday, half full of water, and she threw it straight down onto the bone behind my big toe. It’s still painful and swollen today and I probably won’t be able to play soccer tomorrow. Taken out by a toddler.)

ETA: Tonight, when Ali was hugging me good-night, he asked if my leg was hurting. Apparently his Baba told him it was. I said no, just my foot is still hurting from where Ayla injured it. (He saw it earlier and said it looked like purple marker.) He bowed his head down and gently kissed the injured spot

July 8: Ayla’s words these days:


Baba (dad in Turkish)

Nanu (thank you)

Baw (ball)

Die-bye (bye bye)

Cocomelon (she babbles something that sounds like it)




Uh oh (when she drops something)


Boo! (when she plays peek-a-boo)

She does motions to Wheels on the Bus and babbles along to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Her receptive language is definitely getting better, but she’s not as verbal as Ali was. I wonder to what extent it’s because we had all the time in the world to spend with him and walk with him and read to him, and two kids is so much crazier.

July 8: I am vibrating with joy at the thought that we’ll soon have room for a piano. It’s been decades since I had regular access to a piano. Beethoven and I have some catching up to do.

Also, anyone have a piano they don’t want?

July 8: Watching Brave Little Toaster movies is like smoking a looooot of pot. Like too much.

July 10: We went to Go Ballistic yesterday, and Ayla wandered over to the Build a Bear corner and lost her ever-loving mind over a not-yet-stuffed tiger. Dancing and cheering and hugging it and dancing some more. She has never cared anything about any stuffed toy or doll, so I went ahead and got it for her.

Then of course Ali had to get something, and he chose a white cat and named it Maisie, like the cat from the Brave Little Toaster movies, which he calls “Vacuum Stories.” (There’s a vacuum cleaner character, too.)

Ali loves to tie stuffed animals into his cat robe, and he asked my help tying his new white stuffed cat in today.

I said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I put it upside-down and the cat’s butt was in your face?”

He laughed, and I did it. He looked down at the cat’s butt.

Then he said, “Nooooo… Can you just put it upside-up?”

July 10: We were walking by the river and I said to Ali, “You see those dark clouds? That means it’s going to rain.”

He considered this for a moment. Then he said, “Is it just going to wain quietwy?”

(He’s not a big fan of thunder.)

Later, just before it started raining hard, I said, “Oh, wow, I smell lots of petrichor!”

Ali said enthusiastically, “Yeah! I smell petwafore, too!”

July 12: Soccer injury + Toddler injury

I blocked a power shot with my inner thigh, and Ayla dropped a heavy glass on my foot. Not in that order. (The toddler injury has been healing for almost a week but still hurts. Playing soccer on it yesterday was dicey, but I made it.)


July 12: Ayla loves to have the wind in her hair

July 14: Evening in with Grandma. Everybody wins! 

(Ahmed and I had to put our heads together about house stuff and other matters. I don’t know how anyone with kids gets anything done without a Grandma to help out…)

July 16: Pediatric urgent care did not have Dum Dums. How dare they.

It’s OK. We found a giant sucker at the pharmacy on the way home.

(Infected bug bite. No sign of tick-borne illness, thank goodness!)

It took almost 3 hours to get someone to look at it for 5 minutes and say it was probably fine and prescribe some high-powered Neosporin. Sigh. No telling what the bill will be. Oh well.

July 18: Ahmed got Ali some mint ice cream, and he can finally live the dream of eating as much “toothpaste” as he wants.

July 19: Swimming with Ayla (almost 18 months) is like wrestling a 30-pound octopus with 20 claws and a strong knee-thrust.

She’s a daredevil. She keeps pushing me away, gets submerged a bit, claws at me until I grab her again, then wants to do it all again, then doesn’t know what she wants and twists around and claws me for no reason and flips on her back and back on her front…

Then she wants me to put her up on the side over and over so she can “jump” in (from sitting), then she wants me to take her to the underwater stairs over and over so she can climb up to the top them climb back down again and jump into my arms again.

She is pretty much rapturous the whole time.

And I woke up with a very sore back, haha.

Also, when she watches the Ants Go Marching song, the way she says, “Uwaa… uwaa” (Hurrah… hurrah) is insanely adorable.

July 19: The family that vacuums together… Wait, how does the saying go?

July 20: Ali was pulled from school last Tuesday for a random fever. He was fine after a day of rest. Still had to take him to the doctor’s office to get a doctor’s note so he could go back to school (their policy). The doc saw the same thing I saw: He was fine and had no fever. Waiting for the bill.

Took him to urgent care Friday for an infected bug bite.

Today, minutes after dropping him off at school, we got a call that he vomited twice. I was kind of heartbroken I had to pick him up because it was Make An Ungodly Amount of Guacamole day. Boy needs to learn to appreciate avocados.

We’ll have to take him to the doctor again tomorrow to get another doctor’s note.

Meanwhile I pulled a muscle in my lower back, and everything is painful, especially wrestling my freakishly strong girl into and out of her car seat.

No help this week other than Youtube. Thank God for Youtube.

July 21: Annnnd now Ali needs a last-minute rapid COVID test to go back to school.

I cannot catch a break.

July 21: So Ali caught a little stomach bug and had to be traumatized by a COVID test in order to go back to school. I could tell it really, really hurt him. (He has allergies.) He cried for a long time. (It was negative.)

Afterwards he wouldn’t even accept two Dum Dums from the nurse (one for each nostril, she said, trying to be nice). After she left, he told me to throw them away. (This never happens. The boy is candy crazy.)

All because of another spike in COVID cases, overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated.

People. We have a safe, effective way to end this. Get the shot. For Ali’s sake if nothing else. He doesn’t deserve to have a stick shoved up his nose — both nostrils, bless his heart — because you won’t suck it up and get a little jab.

Many, many children who will lose parents in the coming weeks and months don’t deserve that, either.

July 21: After Ali’s COVID test we went to a park, and Ali met a 5-year-old boy (they exchanged names and ages) and they started playing together. The older boy wanted to move to a different playground (20 feet away) and was trying to convince Ali. I think that’s what they were negotiating. Either that or something to do with a “treasure map” (scavenger hunt sheet) that the older boy had.

He said, “I’m five. I’m an expuht.” (Expert.)

It was super cute.

Later Ali wanted to show off his little orange lawnmower, and he let the older boy play with it, and he was being kind of rough with it. I wanted to step in but figured I’d let the boys sort it out.

Next thing I knew, the older boy was saying, “Sorry, I’m sorry!”

He had broken a front wheel off by banging it on the ground trying to get the dirt off, after he got it dirty dragging it hard through the dirt. He apologized several times and meant it. But Ali’s lawnmower was still broken.

Ali said quietly, “That’s OK,” but he was clearly shaken.

The other boy said, “It’s OK. I said I’m sorry.”

He wasn’t trying to be mean or anything, it’s just hard when you’ve done something that you know wasn’t a good thing to do, especially when you’re a kid. He wanted it to be OK. And he apologized, which was exactly what he was supposed to do.

But Ali’s lawnmower was still broken.

Ali kept playing with the boy, pretty cheerfully, but after he left, Ali told us that he was really sad his lawnmower was broken.

I said, “It’s OK to be sad.”

Ali said, “No it isn’t.”

I said. “OK. It’s sad to be sad.”

I’m really proud of him. He has better emotional regulation than his mama already.

We’re going to try to glue the wheel back on, but it’s an awkward break, and it may not work. This is already his second lawnmower after the first one got lost. We did find the other one, but then a back wheel came off its axle. We haven’t fixed that yet and may not be able to. We didn’t feel we needed to since the other was was still in good order. So we were kinda sad, too. I feel like if I buy another one, I’ll be solidifying a precedent that I’ll just buy a new thing every time something breaks or get lost. That doesn’t strike me as a sustainable policy, LOL.

Tangential question: How do you handle sincere apologies when you want to accept it but don’t want to pretend you’re not still sad about what happened?

July 22: Every time I get Ali out of the car lately, I catch him putting just his right sandal back on. I thought it was kind of weird but didn’t press. Kids are weird.

He also kept asking me what kind of shoes I was wearing every time I sat down in the driver’s seat. OK. Kids are new at making conversation. They do their best.

Turned out there was a method to the madness. A long time ago I told Ahmed it wasn’t safe to drive in flip flops because they can get caught on the pedals. So we always take one shoe off — the right one — when we drive in flip flops / sandals. Ali had seen Ahmed take a flip flop off and asked him why.

So now Ali was making sure I was driving safe and also pretending to push the gas and brakes on the back of the passenger seat — and removing one sandal when he did so to be safe.

July 23: Ali just said something about “Tolar bears,” and Ahmed had to correct him. (Polar bears.)

Ahmed said they lived at the North Pole.

Ali said, “Nipple?”

Meanwhile Ayla pointed at some tiger cubs and meowed like a cat. We let it slide. Then she correctly “hoo hoo”ted at owls.

Now they’re all 3 singing the ABC Song. (Ayla very approximately.)

July 25: Ali is so funny. Ayla is sick again (RSV is my guess), and after Ali woke up, he found me and said, “I want you to go get a Dum Dum so I can give it to Ayla so she doesn’t feel sick anymore.”

I said, “Oh, well she already had some juice and a little food, I think now she just needs to rest a bit. But that’s really sweet of you to think of her.”

“Oh.” Ali paused a moment. Then he said, “I just want you to go get a Dum Dum. For myself.”

Right. Slyly bring up the subject of Dum Dums to be nice to his sister, assuming that once the Dum Dums were out, it’d be a short trip to getting one himself.

When that didn’t work, take the straight route!

Later he said, “I just want to eat a Dum Dum with my quiche.”

I said, “How about you eat some quiche and then have a Dum Dum for dessert?”

“No,” he said. “I just want to have a Dum Dum for wunch.”

July 25: Ali: “Is that a fruit fly on the apple slice?”

Ahmed: “Yes.”

Ali: “Is that his wunch?”

Ahmed: “Uh, yes.”

Ali: “Well… We bought that for us. For ourselves.”

Also Ali Julian:

“Coke makes me sparkle.”

July 25: Ali, holding his lawnmower and the front wheel that was broken off by a boy at the park:

“Now that the front wheel’s off, it can be an edger. And now it’s a tricycle lawnmower!”

He laughed at his own joke and then said, “Noooo, it can’t be a tricycle lawnmower…”

But hey… why not?

I love how that sunny boy finds the good in things. He’s my comet of joy.

July 26: Oh man. Today is the ten year anniversary of losing my garnet and gold birthstone ring — my favorite possession for literally as long as I can remember. My brother’s friend’s toddler apparently absconded with it.

I guess it’s officially time to give up ever seeing it again.

Sorry, Ayla Rain. I’ll have to give you something other than what I planned since I was a little girl.

10 Years Ago

July 26, 2011

Feeling sad — my favorite possession, my birthstone ring, the one I had since before I had memory, is officially missing 😦

July 26: Ayla wipes her mouth with the back of her wrist like a little cat.

July 26: Ali: “I droke the drink. I droke it up!”

July 27: Is it possible the never ending burn / tickle in my throat is from the wildfire haze from the west coast?

And poor Ayla is literally coughing her lungs out on day 5 of RSV

July 28: It’s so crazy buying a home. You don’t really know what the neighbors are like. You don’t know what it sounds like at night. You don’t know what the air quality is like in August. I recently learned that Broken Arrow doesn’t fluoridate its water and sometimes has sediment issues in late summer.

We literally had to make the decision on whether or not to buy in a few hours on 4th of July weekend. As much as we madly researched, there’s only so much you can do.

In this market, many people are buying sight unseen.

I’m hopeful, but gosh, what a gamble!

July 29: Ayla is so. freaking. adorable when she signs for “more.”

She looks like a little supplicating mouse, looking up at me with big eyes and tapping her little fingertips together…

And she knows I will give her more of ANYTHING if she does that.

ETA: Imagine this little face and her tapping her little teeny mouse paws together.

July 31: My sweet boy in his party clothes! (Friend’s birthday party).

Ali at the party with his new haircut, done by me. Not my finest work, but he’s always cute anyway!

August 2: Back in Tulsa after my dad’s funeral

August 2: Thank you, Carl, for the universal consciousness you instilled in me. May more people find the light, and may we enjoy it together.

August 2: Because of Cocomelon, Ali is always wanting to pick up trash on the side of the trail or the road. Which is wonderful. But in COVID times, he even wants to pick up nasty QuikTrip cups with unidentified liquids (and probably germs) still in them. (Some of the liquids even have unidentified solids suspended in the liquids. I wouldn’t want to ask if I could.)

It’s kind of heartbreaking when I have to discourage this wonderful impulse in my son.

August 2: Legion was a really fun (if deeply dark at times) and thoughtful watch. Helped me through this rough time.

August 3: 3.5 is a wonderful age. They are such PEOPLE now.


I wanted to visit my Dad for the first time in two years on June 12, shortly after everyone was fully vaccinated for COVID. (I had also tried to visit my dad when I was heavily pregnant with Ayla, but the Olsons — Dad’s brother David and sister-in-law Barbara — had other plans every weekend that I could visit. I wanted to make the trip a reunion with them as well, so I decided to put it off a few months. Then I had the baby, then COVID hit.)

My dad hadn’t seen Ali in person since he was 13 months old and he had never met Ayla at all. We were so excited for him to see them — Ali such a big boy now, totally into cars and trucks and machines like my dad, and Ayla’s at an adorable age. My dad was never very demonstrative, but if there was one thing he was ever excited about in his life, it was his grandson Ali. He might have gotten a kick out of Ayla, too.

Dad wasn’t all there in general. He had declined since David and Barbara put him in an assisted living home, in part to protect him from COVID (which David and Barbara both got after my dad was in the home — my dad never got it). He was all in all not too bad for a dementia patient. He wasn’t mean or violent or defiant. He mostly just lost or destroyed any electronics they tried to give him, including phones, which made it very hard to get in touch with him at times.

When I did manage to talk with him, sometimes we chatted with relative ease, even though he was probably winging it and not really getting everything. Other times he seemed paranoid and had no idea who I was, or he’d talk about random oil prospects or my nonexistent job hunt. He would try to end conversations with his usual, “All right, Baby, I love you, too. Take care.” Like a line sequestered somewhere in his memory. Or maybe a little light went on at those times. I have no way to know what the world looked like to him by then.

But I had a hope that seeing Ali and meeting Ayla would bring some real light to his eyes and give him a real smile. Grandchildren, I’ve been told, are among the world’s greatest gifts. And it’s a real legacy — something to point to that you helped make happen. He’s had what I consider a hard, sad, lonely life, largely due to his own actions. Maybe he liked his life just fine. I don’t know. But something as pure and beautiful as my two kids, who wouldn’t be alive without him… It was something he could take pride in and feel real joy about. At least in my reckoning. I was looking forward to giving that to him.

Well, once again the Olsons had plans, so we postponed our trip two weeks to June 25. I didn’t want to, but I thought, after all this time, what’s two weeks? My sister could come down at that time, too, and it would be a really nice reunion.

A week before we were scheduled to drive down, on June 18, Dad vomited something black and was rushed to the ER, where they found he had an abdominal aneurysm. If it had burst, it would have killed him. They drained about a gallon of black blood and bile from his stomach and found he had an intestinal blockage, too.

He was helicoptered to Houston (two hours away from where my aunt and uncle live), and they did a major surgery. My sister went down as planned. The hospital had a one-visitor-at-a-time rule due to COVID, and it wouldn’t make sense to drag the kids down, 18 hours in a car, just to sit in a hotel or hospital waiting room most of the time. It was doubtful the kids would get to see him at all. We postponed yet again to give him time to recover so he could really enjoy his grandkids.

After the surgery he was in the ICU for a couple of days, and in the normal hospital he was agitated and had to be restrained because he kept ripping out his IV lines, trying to tear the staples out of his stomach, etc. He refused to eat and hardly recognized anyone. My sister said he called for his dog once. She wrote: “He just patted his bed and said, “Come on, dog!” Nothing can take away how much he loves animals.”

They said he needed at least a couple months to recover, both physically and mentally. So we postponed again, until August 12. It was right during school break, so the kids wouldn’t have to miss any days, and I wanted him to have some chance of being in a space where he could even know who his grandkids were, not be in pain, not be scary to them or scared of them, etc. They said it had all been incredibly tough on him, and he may never get back to where he was cognitively before the surgery.

But my dad is a tough old bird, surviving on Campbell’s soup and ham sandwiches and Mountain Dew for 79 years. Plenty of close calls by himself in remote lakes. I had hope he would pull through and get back toward his old self, to whatever level was possible. I was pretty sure he’d live another 20 years, and I was hoping for the best chance to see that light in his eyes when he saw Ali. Waiting 8 weeks seemed about right.

On the 4th of July, when he was released from the hospital into skilled nursing care, he hadn’t walked in over two weeks. Aunt Barbara wasn’t pleased with the nursing home’s care. It was still unfamiliar, and they weren’t offering much in the way of help or interaction. So on July 7 she moved him back to Collier Park, where he had been before the aneurysm, and hired a sitter to be with him. He was very weak and still disoriented, delirious. Apparently common in dementia patients after major surgery. They said he should improve over time. All on track for our visit, I hoped.

On July 13 I asked for an update, and they texted me a couple of pictures of Dad. He didn’t look like himself at all. I’d say he looked haunted, but he looked too vacant to be haunted. The shape of his jaw was different. Sunken in. Almost like a Holocaust survivor. I asked if he recognized anyone. Barbara wrote: “Im not sure. David asked him if he knew who he was and he said brother!!”

But finally he was in the right place getting the best care. He could eat and build himself back up, get his strength up, and hopefully his mind would follow.

But on 4:50pm that day I got a call from Barbara. I kind of knew what she would say, but it was still a shock and a bitter pill. She was sorry. My dad had passed away. They took him to the doctor, and he did good. Then once he was back in the car, he keeled over. Massive heart attack. Might have thrown a clot with all the struggling after the surgery. They tried to get him back but could not.

So that was it. The chapter was closed on the life of my father. He never got a chance to see Ali again or meet Ayla at all. And I’ll always be sad about that.

I’ll write more about his life, before all this, when I can. I have reached my limit for today.

* * *

Post from August 2:

Back from my dad’s funeral in south Texas. Still got a whole lot of processing to do. But it was lovely spending time with my Olson family ❤

My dad was a unique one. My parents divorced when I was 6, but he got us (my sister and me) every other weekend throughout our childhoods and took us on road trips around the US and on hunting and fishing trips. Camping in Yellowstone and meeting our dad’s Uncle Eldon at a country club in Virginia were highlights. I couldn’t stop ordering Shirley Temples — so sophisticated! And we fed the ground squirrels in Wyoming so much food they’re probably still walking it off.

One of my favorite memories is being out on a lake at 4am where the top layer of water had frozen and was just starting to break up. It sounded like we were paddling through the world’s most gigantic glass of iced tea.
Another time we were in a little creek or inlet and the water was perfectly still, reflecting the green canopy above. It looked like we were levitating in a tunnel of greenery.

He was a bit of a closed book, but I learned a lot about him this weekend. Of course you always wish you could go back and ask more questions and do various things differently once it’s too late. But I think we all did about as well as we could.

If there was one person my dad was crazy about, it was his grandson Ali. We were supposed to visit my dad this summer (he was in assisted living with dementia in south Texas near his brother), after everyone was vaccinated, but my dad had a medical emergency and needed surgery just before we were due to go down, and with COVID protocols at the hospital (he wouldn’t have been able to see my kids at all) and a rough recovery ahead of him, we decided to go down after he had a chance to recover a bit. (My sister was able to go down and visit him at the hospital.) But he passed away suddenly of a heart attack a couple weeks after the surgery.

I’m very sad he didn’t get to see Ali again or meet Ayla at all. I’ll always be sad about that. But I am glad he lived long enough to delight in his grandson and take little walks with him and have meals with him before his dementia progressed and he moved down to Texas.

A lot to be grateful for, including my life. Goodbye, Dad. I love you.


Apparently we moved to Oregon and no one told us.

Just kidding. But seriously. There have been virtually no sunny days in as long as I can remember. Both kids are supposed to do “water play” at school, and it’s constantly rainy or gloomy and cloudy. It’s too cold to use our apartment complex’s pool. Too cold for splash pads. Very strange.

Meanwhile we’ve decided for now to stay in Tulsa for the foreseeable future. We want to buy a house for a little stability, to have a yard and some space and make memories while the kids are little. It’ll also be an investment–our first, really. For any kind of decent house here, it’ll be cheaper than renting to go ahead and buy. But the market is crazy. Our step-dad’s cousin who’s a realtor in town is telling us to forget it, try again next year. But we don’t want to spend another year in a tiny apartment (we’re month-to-month now, which means we’re paying 150% of the normal price), and we don’t want to blow $2,000+ a month on rent in a (probably depressing) place we’ll just move out of in a year.

Of course, if we end up wanting to leave Tulsa earlier, we’ll be pretty trapped if we have a big mortgage. It’s a commitment to living in a place with a reasonable cost of living and family nearby that’s just not that exciting. But I’m not sure anymore what “exciting” really means. I think things will get exciting again when the kids are older. Then we can really think about where we want to live long-term. I guess? I don’t know. I wonder if I’m missing options. But the Nashville housing market is like twice as crazy as Tulsa’s, and it’s crazier yet in most other places we’d consider.

I guess it’s not bad to enjoy the suburban life for half a decade and then reconsider our options. It’s the best I can come up with.

Meanwhile Ayla had her last nursing session on May 11. The next day we went to Stigler and I just plain forgot her morning milk. The next day she refused it. That was that. Bittersweet, but mostly sweet. After nearly 4 solid years of pregnancy and/or nursing, my body is my own again.

Ayla had her 15 month check-up on that same day and measured 31″ (64th percentile), 22.8 lb (70th), and 47.5cm head circumference (90th). Big ol’ big headed girl 🙂

Pics and stuff coming soon. I’m way behind. On everything. Both kids got sick in May. Ali had an ear infection and took antibiotics and got a nasty stomach virus and has been terrified to poop ever since. We got to enter the wonderful world of poop withholding and its many dangers and many treatment options. It’s exhausting.

Ayla was a snot factory most of the month, and no one was getting adequate sleep. Now Ayla is teething hardcore. Fussy a lot. But it’s super fun watching her personality emerge, her little words and sounds, singing along (in her own way) to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and doing the moves to Wheels on the Bus (looking carefully at me at the start of every new verse and doing her best to mimic what I do), saying the same “Wow wow wow” that Ali used to say (instead of “Round and round”). She still has so few words but gets better and better at making her meaning clear and getting her needs met. It is delightful to watch.

What can I say about Ali? He’s still a ball of sunshine. Except when he’s whining, “I don’t want to poop!” over and over, and we’re sad and stressed because we know he’s holding it again, and we know what that can lead to. He also decided he doesn’t like his “old school” (his current school) and wants to start a “new school” (one that will apparently have ice cream?)

We told him we might move to Nashville, and he might get a new school, and he was immediately all in. And he still seems to think he’s going to get a new school. So we’ll check out some other schools in the area and see if he likes them. But there’s a good chance he’s in the best school for him already. Maybe he’ll realize that when he figures out there’s no ice cream at any of the other schools. His teachers say he’s doing great at his school and seems happy. I’m not really sure what’s going on with that.

But he is absolutely wonderful and hilarious and sweet and wonderful. It’s a rough stretch in some ways, but I’m so damn glad he’s my son. I try every day to be worthy of him.

OK, Facebook stories:

Apr24: Ali is finally forward-facing in his car seat. Looks like a captain’s chair now.

Ayla is climbing up on the beds by herself.

Milestones all over the place!

Apr26: Fully vaccinated and going OUT for COFFEE with a FRIEND tomorrow for the first time in over a year. Kinda giddy.

Apr26: The first time a school administrator told me to go to Signup Genius, I thought they were being passive aggressive.

Apr26: Worked on my novel AND did cardio intervals for the first time in a month. #FeelsNice

Apr26: Made some not-too-sweet cinnamon honey roasted cashews and boiled some lentils for salads all week. Ooh, I should toast some sesame seeds. (Feeling productive for once!)

Apr27: When Ali was finally starting to warm up to his new sister, juuuust a little.

Apr27: Ayla today at day care, eating mulch and going up the slide the wrong way. Sounds about right! 

So glad she has some kids her age to play with a couple times a week

Apr28: Ali taking Ayla’s temperature. And Ayla breaking the fourth wall, The Office-style.

Apr28: Baby dominoes

Apr29: Parenthood: When you’re grateful for the cohesiveness of your kid’s poop in the bath and grateful she’s old enough now not to try to eat it.

Apr30: I am at home in this world even if I am not at home in this culture.

May1: Ayla is still not talking much more than the three “words” she’s had for a long time (Maaaoow for meow, Mama and Baba, and E-Na-E-Na-No — she recently added “Haow” for dog, like the sound they make).

But she loves Ali’s talking / singing dog toy, and she plays “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” over and over, kind of making sounds to sing along. For “Up above the world so high,” she says, “Buppa bubba muh muh haaai.” She also claps (for the entire song, not just when you’re “supposed to”) when “Happy and You Know It” comes on. And when “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” comes on, she touches her face parts and laughs. (Randomly. She can’t really do the motions, but she gets the idea!)

May1: What are some “Crazy Hair Day” ideas for a girl with this hair? Yeah, “Spirit Week” has apparently infected all the way down to one-year-olds…

May2: Today we were reading a book, and there was a baby kangaroo in it. Ali called it a Jeff instead of a joey.

Hey, why not?

May5: Happy birthday to my mama tomorrow!

May5: It’s a small thing, but when we asked Ayla if she wanted to get out of the baby swing tonight, she emphatically ducked her chin and shook her head with a very serious expression on her face, in the cutest way possible. We pushed her high again, and she laughed and smiled. It took about ten minutes for her to be ready to leave the swing and stop shaking her head and hold her arms up instead.

Just a little snapshot I want to remember.

May6: Fun birthday party for Mom with pizza, salad, cake, homemade apricot pie, vanilla-plum ice cream, and two funny kids.

Love you ❤

May6: Ayla was terrified of Grandma’s birthday hat for some reason

May7: Damn, Clive.

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

~ C. S. Lewis

May8: We’re doing Mother’s Day today. Ahmed let me sleep in, and he’s taking point on the kids and picking up IHOP while I work on my novel.

(Tomorrow I’ll take point on the kids while he catches up on work and plays soccer.)

May8: So, Ali promised he would go down for his nap after 5 minutes of playing with his lawnmower.

Five minutes later, Ahmed told him it was time.

Ali said, “No. I don’t want to go to sleep. I promise I’m not going to sleep! I promise I’m NOT going to sleep!”

May8: I had to get a rolling pin to make Mom’s birthday pie. Ali loved it. After I was done making the pie, he rolled all the carpet in the house. (And kinda buttered it a little bit.)

May8: TFW you look up street names for cocaine for a book, then a pop-up window asks, “Are you ready to get help?”

Thanks, browser. I’m OK.

May9: When Ali got his three-inch model riding lawnmower for his third birthday, he immediately turned it over and said, “Hey! Where are da bwades?”

Sorry, buddy. No little actual razor blades on your lawnmower toy.

May9: I’ve hated running and jogging all my life. A means to an end, period.

Then in my 40s I finally learned how to do it: Head tucked back, shoulders down, lower TAs braced, breathing 360 degrees into my ribcage/back/sides/belly, driving from the glutes, landing mid-foot.

Now it’s not only easy, it’s pleasurable. My cardiovascular fitness is another matter, but running itself is finally fun.

What’s hard now is watching people on our river trail with their butts tucked under, bellies soft, chins thrust out, breathing into their shoulders and heel-striking, knock-kneed, using their hamstrings for locomotion. It’s not my place to stop them and give them a tutorial, but they look as miserable as I used to be.

May9: Ayla is already learning how to “start trouble” (get attention and exciting interaction). Ali loves his tiny toy lawnmower and is highly territorial of it. Ayla found it on the floor next to him, and she picked it up and looked at him, waiting for him to react. He was absorbed in the TV (Stinky & Dirty). She waited and waited.

Finally she waved it in front of his face and shoved it in his hand. Then tried to grab it out of his hand. And she got her drama, LOL!

May12: Made it to Grandma’s house

May12: My grandma, surrounded by 7 great-grands (and me, over-tired-baby-wrangling)

May13: Grandpa and grandson out on the lake

May14: It’s uncanny the truly refined sense children have of when you’ve finally taken a load off or gotten just a tiny bit comfortable.

That’s when they strike, without fail, with a need that absolutely cannot wait.

May14: Grandpa got his lawnmower stuck in some mud, and we had to drive the pickup around and tow it out. Ali watched, delighted.

Later, he got his own lawnmower stuck in the exact same place! Thankfully a tow rope was found and all was well

Mom: That kid!  You can see where Bill for real got the big mower stuck today and had to pull it out with the pickup.  Big doings in the hood.  Should have known.  Ali GOT STUCK TOO and we had to get a tow rope to get him out.  He never misses a trick!

May17: Ali got a commemorative gold coin when he went to the Tulsa Aquarium.

Today he held it up and said, “Did you see this coin? It’s from the shark store.”

May18: Things I never thought I’d say:

“Finish your powdered donuts and then you can have your Kinder egg.”

(Ali has been sick. We are desperately trying to get any fluids and calories into him.)

May20: Not to brag, but our apartment complex has a super cool rain puddle that forms in part of our parking lot — like 50 feet by 10 feet, and up to 8 inches deep.

Ali’s been sick, but he had to go visit the puddle today. As he waded in, he realized it was going to get more than ankle deep if he kept going. He hesitated.

“There are no sharks in there,” he said, reassuring himself.

May21: Ali was a little over a year old when he found himself in this tricky situation, standing in one drawer and hanging from another…

May22: Ali wakes up every single morning asking about this harvester from Cars. When it goes on this long, we know he’s serious.

Dang you, Disney…

May22: Fantastic rally in support of Palestinian human rights at 71st and Memorial today (in Tulsa, OK). Lots of support from honking cars. Not even a whisper of a counter-protest.

I’m bad at estimating crowd size, but it was at least 200 people? And they seemed much more on the front foot — out and proud — as opposed to seeming more defensive and beleaguered as pro-Pal activists have in the past.

We’re here. Your scare and smear tactics are less and less effective. Get used to it.

ETA: Whoah. In my Tulsa Moms Facebook group, there was a post asking about what the protest was, and like 10 people jumped in to explain and support. Only one person left an Israeli flag as their comment and then bounced.

May23: At the hippie co-op where I lived my senior year of college, we had markers in the bathrooms and freely wrote on the walls.

Someone once wrote:

“If I can’t _______ I will _______.” Inviting another pisser to fill in the blanks.

I filled it in:

“If I can’t mosey, I will kill you.”

College was fun.

May23: Ali’s latest “vacuum”: A mop attached to a llama.

May24: Ayla is quite proficient at fist bumping now, and today for the first time, as we were leaving Zogam, she waved and said, “Dye bye!” to the waiter 

ETA: And later when She of Few Words saw a banana, and clearly wanted it, and I put it down to get a different banana, she wailed, “Nanaaaa!”

May25: Ayla had her first baked potato (topped with chopped BBQ brisket) at Oklahoma Joe’s, then we made mud pies at LaFortune Park.

Wonderful day — I still feel nauseated (have for a few days; no, I’m definitely not pregnant, just some stomach bug), but you kinda forget it watching your daughter smear mud on her legs. In a good way

May26: Wow. Life doesn’t feel completely annoying and impossible, and food sounds good again. Nice to feel human again!

May26: Ayla doesn’t say much, but she’s a block-stacking genius. Check out that tower of condiments (with a ketchup packet on top).

She clapped for herself after building it.

May27: Babies found their Grandpa, just in time for the storm!

Ayla stacked 9 of Grandma’s wooden science blocks on top of each other on the table. She was proud as a peacock.

May27: Ayla does this thing where she will walk up to us and look at us almost exactly like this (picture below), but with her chin ducked even more, her eyes barely visible below her brow, and a smile that’s more mischievous, less evil. It’s so cute and funny and… a little disconcerting?

May28: Ayla has started doing a thing where, when she sees numbers, she points at them and starts making counting noises: “Waaa, hoooo, eeeee, faaaa…”

She’s a great mimic. Math genius? Yet to be seen 

(I didn’t get a photo of her pointing at the numbers on the side of the coffee maker, but she’s still got her pointer finger out. Then I captured a good giggle.)

Also, Cocomelon is our babysitter (or baby-entertainer anyway) when we need it, and it’s the only thing that calms her down when she’s sick. (It’s a creepy computer animated nursery song sing-along show on Netflix.) Ayla has started doing the movements to Wheels on the Bus, all on her own.

Thanks, Netflix!

May30: Tell you what, I’m glad we’ve lived in a small apartment (950 square feet) while the kids are tiny. I don’t know how people do it who have big ol’ houses.

Also, I’m ready to have a bigger house now. And a back yard!

May31: I wish I could have gotten a picture of Ali very earnestly holding a 3-inch paper cocktail umbrella over his head on the way into Walmart (with me holding a shopping bag a bit higher to really try to keep him dry).

He asked for an umbrella. It was the only one I had. I didn’t think he’d try to use it.

Meanwhile he’s been bugging me to make cupcakes, and we got cupcake making stuff to make then together, and I’m in the kitchen making them by myself while Ali plays a game on his dad’s phone called “Literally Just Mowing.”

Jun4: Gussied up on 8th anniversary dinner night

Jun4: Ayla can do most of the moves for Wheels on the Bus now. It was Ali’s favorite for a long time, too!

First (for Ali) the wheels went “Wow, wow, wow,” then “Roun’, roun’, roun’.” It’s so fun watching them grow

Jun6: Just random Ali anecdotes.

Yesterday we were driving to what we call Jenks Park (a park in Jenks). Suddenly Ali said, “Dere’s fwazz on da wamps.”

Usually he’s highly intelligible, but I couldn’t understand him until I closed all the windows and turned the AC off: There’s flags on the lamps. By which he meant, there are banners on the street lights.

Later he was quiet in the back seat for a while. Then he suddenly said, “Hey, Mama! I was just singing the ABC Song with my eyes.”


Today we checked out a house for sale and Ali heard a lawnmower outside. He and I followed the noise to a man mowing his front yard. The man stopped the mower, and to explain why we were watching him, I said, “Worms and lawnmowers. It’s heaven for little boys.” (Ali had also remarked on the dead worms in the gutter.)

The man spread his arms wide and said rapturously, “Are you kidding me? It’s great! My wife makes fun of me because I still rescue worms when I find them on the sidewalk.”

When we were back in the car, Ali told him about meeting a man with a lawnmower. Ahmed said, “Oh, what did he say?”

Ali said, “Are you KIDDING me?”

Ahmed just laughed, because it sounded like such a rude thing to say. I had to explain the context.


Ali was watching Cocomelon and a sheep dove into a berry bush and got covered in berries. Ali said, “It got berried!” Baby’s first unintentional pun?


Today Ali got a toy “stand-up blender” (stand mixer) and put (real) pretzel nuggets in with his fake egg and butter pat to make cookies. He asked me to give him real chocolate chips to put in, too. Whatever. OK.

Once Ali was done mixing, he took the little wooden cookies and put real chocolate chips on top of all the places where chocolate chips were painted on. He said after a while, “There’s poky things, Mama.” He pointed to the little points at the tops of the chocolate chips. “You gotta be careful. They will hurt you so bad.”

Right, son. Those things are a menace.

Later he wanted to put the wooden cookies (on their plastic sheet pan) in our actual oven. We did so, and I turned on the oven light, but of course not the oven itself.

I said to Ali, “What do you want me to set the timer for?”

He looked at me like I was crazy. “The cookies.”

Later I gave him a little bowl of popcorn to eat and he put it under the stand mixer and started mixing it. He said, “I’m making popcorn cake.”

He then added a fake pat of butter to it and asked, “Where does butter come from?”

I said, “Do you know where milk comes from?”

“Yeah,” he said. “From your boobs.”

Never a dull moment 

Jun6: I asked Ali, “Do you want Darjeeling tea or English Breakfast?”

Ali: “I want… I want Darn Jewish tea.”

We don’t talk about religion or politics in front of Ali, and if we did, we wouldn’t say “darn Jewish.” It was a complete coincidence that those sounds came out of his mouth. But it was pretty Darn Funny.

Jun7: Today Ali worked on a giant thank you card in class for a gift to his class. His teacher told me he went up to her at one point and said, “I like working with you.”

Ayla already says a little “Thank you” (Nanu) when I give her something (we don’t “teach” manners, just try to model them), and she’s great at holding containers level and not spilling. Until she wants to dump them, of course.

June7: Thinking I’ll do a little math lesson, I tell Ali, “I’m carrying two backpacks and a bag. How many things am I carrying?”

He does that thing where he pauses and looks at me like I’m crazy.

Then he says, “Two backpacks and a bag.”

The Big Three

So much to catch up on. Ahmed went to Nashville over spring break while I went to Stigler with the kids. It feels like a million years ago. While he was there, he enjoyed being in an office with his colleagues, and they enjoyed him, too. They have ideas to implement for years, and Ahmed is one of the first employees. He could be on a management track if he can actually get in there. (That’s much harder to do remotely, and it’s probably harder to advance, too.)

So, the following week was spent madly researching Nashville real estate and possible preschools for Ali. We also got our first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and I got food poisoning. It was a crazy week. I took Ali hiking in a forest with redbuds and springs that weekend, then Ali’s little friend Ramona had a super fun party at a bounce house place. It took Ali some time to adjust to the noise and the crowd, but he had a blast and kept wanting to go back after the party was long over.

We visited Honor Heights Park in Muskogee and saw the azaleas and blooming trees (and I learned what cypress knees are, mysteriously surrounding the ponds there). Not as impressive as earlier years, in part becase of the crazy February freeze, but still lovely, and the kids enjoyed the playground and Ali tricycled along the path (and scraped his elbow a bit).

Biggest news of all — Ali turned 3! It’s such a great age, and it’s such a wonder watching them go from 2 — still a baby really — to 3, when they’re definitely a little kid. Speaking so brilliantly, with so many feelings and opinions they can finally voice. And so many they still can’t. Hence some serious moodiness and meltdowns sometimes, but if you don’t take it too personally and just ride the wave, they usually pass. Except when they don’t, and they drive you completely nuts, haha. But you have to accept that, too. It’s not their job to make our lives easier. It’s their job to feel and express authentically in a given moment. The best we can do is let them feel it and empathize. Be the calm in their storms. When we can.

We had a fun party on Wednesday, April 7, with Grandma and Grandpa, then we took rabbit donuts to his classmates on his actual birthday, Friday, April 9. (Kids always take treats on their birthdays.)

Ali’s well visit found him at 39 inches (83%) and 30.2 pounds (34%). His blood pressure seemed low to me (78/54), but my pediatrician said it was normal, and I tend to have low bp, too.

I had been feeling better than I had in ages after my first COVID shot, but the second one had me feeling under the weather again. Then on April 19 Ayla started preschool 2 days a week (Mondays and Tuesdays) so she can get a little socialization, and be less bored, and I can work on my novel. Maybe even finish it before I turn 50. But she and Ali were and are both kind of snotty, and I’m still feeling sick and tired most of the time. (Ayla waking up early lately and me generally not getting good sleep isn’t helping.) I really hope it will pass.

I also hope we can figure out whether or not we will move to Nashville. The not knowing is anxiety-producing, and it’s a whole other blog post, trying to figure out what it all means, how important being near family is (vs. striking out and finding new adventures), whether Nashville and Tulsa are really our best or only choices, whether we should just chuck it all and travel until our savings run out, wee! I’m 41 years old after all. Might be our only chance. And our kids only have one childhood. Will it be more magical for them to see the world or have some stability and make some friends?

Probably a bit of a moot point. We probably won’t travel until our savings run out. Because what then? No assets, no cash, two kids, and they’ll probably need some decent school options and we’ll probably need to live indoors one way or another. It’s not easy to get a web developer job after a few years away from the game in one’s mid- or late-forties. I don’t even know what kind of job I’m qualified for at this point. It’s all exhausting to think about. Being an adult is lame sometimes.

But a home and a little piece of land and a big kitchen and maybe a community pool of some kind nearby… a garden… my kids interacting with peers… Might be a nice rest and respite, and we can take trips, hike plenty, have a lot of fun without jetting around. Teach my kids what I know and watch them enjoy their own travels when they’re a bit older.

Life is good, and we have some good options. Although the price of Nashville real estate is making my eyes bleed. We can kind of afford it, but barely. That asset better not depreciate in value or we’ll be in trouble, if we decide to buy. Problem is, prices are artificially inflated by lots of coastal people moving in, but there’s no sign of a slow-down any time soon. There may be more inventory on the market next year, though.

Moving on, Facebook fun:

Mar10: Today we were walking and I randomly sang a line from Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.

Ali said, “The monkeys should jump on the bed.”

I said, “What if they fall off and bump their head?”

He said, “Mama monkey should get them a band-aid.”

Touché, kid.

(For the record, we jump on the bed all the time around here.)

Mar10: We are watching a Youtube video about belly buttons (um, yeah), and Ali said, “I was in your belly.”

I said, “Yep. You were so tiny. Then you got bigger and bigger and bigger and became a baby, then you came out, then you got bigger and bigger and bigger and now you’re my little boy!”

He said, “Yeah! And Mateo was so tiny.” He pointed at my belly. “And he got bigger and bigger…”

I laughed. “No. Mateo had a cat mama. You thought Mateo grew in my belly?”


Oh man. My kid thinks I can make a cat. That’s pretty cool.

(To be fair, I have called Mateo “your cat brother” since Ali was born.)

Mar11: Just now, as I’m leaving the house to take Ali to school, Ayla gave me first my left shoe, then my right shoe. Then she went and picked her shoes up.

Poor baby. She’s always so sad when we leave without her.

ETA: I’m gonna take her on the ride. She also gave Ali his (correct) shoes. And yesterday she started spinning for fun for the first time

Mar12: Finally got Ayla a sun hat that fits. If only she’ll wear it for more than 0.2 seconds at a time…

Mar13: Stigler Spring Break (And….the little girl showed up….)

Mar14: Just another time warp Sunday

Mar15: Ayla Patch Doll, wearing mama’s old clothes when she was barely a month old

Mar16: Daddy cat and his beloved Stigler baby cats (Good morning Mr. Ali Cat!)

Mar16: I don’t even know what’s going on here… (I. Give. Up.)

Mar17: My daughter is perpetually unimpressed. She has resting Pam face. But I know from personal experience that there’s plenty going on behind that deadpan face

Mar18: My goofy girl (I WILL CHANGE THE WORLD!  She is so stinking cute!)

Mar19: Newborn Ayla and newborn Pamela. Cheeky monkeys.

Mar19: Here is Fred Flintstone in his borrowed UBER!

Mar19: The boy loves his cup holders (Oh my gosh he squirreled around inside the house and put a CUP IN THE CUP HOLDER!  I’m dying.)

Mar20: It’s not a big mystery where my daughter gets her facial expressions. (I’m the one in the glasses on the right.)

Mar21: Just one year ago. Ali was still such a little tyke. He’s such a little boy now. Ayla’s still always looking around, but doesn’t say much more now than she did then, haha. She learned to meow from the cat and sing E-I-E-I-O from her brother, I guess? Otherwise still just says “Mama.”

Mar21: Wanna ride? (Oops.  Sister sneaked in while he wasn’t looking!)

Mar21: Holy Crap. I watched some MCU films over Spring Break while the kids were napping. I had a short list, and Endgame is the last one. I looked it up, thinking it was made at least 5 years ago.

Nope. April 2019.

It’s been a long year, y’all.

Mar21: Rubber baby buggy bumpers

Mar21: We visited my cousin’s ranch in Stigler and saw lots of cows and calves. I said to Ali, “A baby cow is called a calf.”

Ali: “Like a elephant calf?”

Me: [GIF of Jeff Goldblum absolutely lost for words]

Mar22: I brought the kids out on the balcony to entertain them while Ahmed finished his work day. We brushed the cat, then Ali wanted his Lego leaf blower to (pretend to) blow the fur and leaves off the balcony. I also brought my lint roller to get some of the cat hair off my black pants.

Ayla, very quickly, wanted that lint roller with every fiber of her being. I handed it over. She used it like a leaf blower, making leaf blower sounds like her brother.

Later, Ali dumped a bunch of dirt out of an old watering can, and now he’s using my lint roller to “clean it up.”

It’s a bit later, and now he’s using his new toy Dyson (with real, if minimal, suction action) to “clean up” more of the dirt (which, in actuality, will largely just be knocked through the cracks to the downstairs neighbor’s balcony).

I’m leaving out at least 20 steps, and I get kind of exhausted by these shenanigans after 3 years of it 24/7, but sometimes it is super cute.

ETA: Annnnd I had to give his vacuum mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after it picked up too big a clump of dirt and cat hair…

Mar23: Andrew Gabriel Rose nails it:

”If this whole situation isn’t showing you the problems with using money to decide who gets food and housing and medicine, then you are ASLEEP… Money can decide who gets diamonds and hang gliders. Everybody should get food and housing and medicine and education.”

Mar23: Ali got to see an airplane at Stigler’s little airport! But he was more excited about the Roomba robot vacuum. Naturally.

Mar23: Ahmed and I got our first jabs today. Do we have mascots for the different vaccine types? If so, we’re Pfightin’ Pfizers.

Had to go all the way to Claremore and waste a whole afternoon, but there are worse things!

Mar24: Oh my gosh, was that a year ago already? Time is in a warp, y’all. Ali was making blenders before he was 2 years old (Ali wanted a “shoogie” (smoothie), so he decided to build himself a blender. (Took me a while to figure out what he was doing!))

Mar24: Hopeful the vaccine will clear up my long-running post-COVID fatigue. Go immune system, go.

ETA: I was complaining about vaccine side effects, but… it probably wasn’t that.

We were late for our appointment, and I left a turkey sandwich out until we got back. It took longer than I thought, and then I had to get Ali from school. Then I ate it.

So it’s probably “just” food poisoning. Feels a lot like it, and I just threw up. No one to blame but myself here.

And I’m feeling bad for spreading probable misinformation about vaccine side effects.

Meanwhile I am starting to maybe smell things a little more normally? I’ve had that damn “burning cigarettes” smell ghosting around me for months now. Here’s hoping.

Mar25: Feeling like a hundred million bucks compared to yesterday. Don’t leave your turkey sandwich with mayo sitting out for 4 hours on the counters, people.

Or as Ali said, “You shouldn’t eat food that makes you sick, Mama.”

Great advice, kid.

But he did think it was pretty cool that I “puked like Mateo” (our chronically vomitty cat).

Mar25: When I picked Ali up from pre-school, a teacher put him in his car seat, as is the COVID custom. When Ali saw me, he said brightly to his teacher, “Mama ate a sandwich yesterday. It made her sick and she puked just like Mateo!”

I said to the teacher, “I bet he told that story a lot today.”

Mar26: Ayla is only a year old and already speaks fluent cat. She talks to Mateo more than she talks to us. I’m not sure which was her first word, “E-Na-E-Na-No” or “Maaaaow?”

Still her only words other than “Mama,” which refers to both me and Ahmed.

Mar26: It’s early yet, but I feel more clear-headed today than I have in months, and I haven’t even gotten much sleep lately.

Hooray for the vaccine! Especially if the vaccine is what caused this change. (But hooray for it either way.)

Mar26: Ayla naps from 10:30 – 12:30 or 1:00. Ali naps from 1:30 – 3:30 or 4:00. Dinner’s around 5:30. Ayla’s bed time routine starts at 7.

We basically can’t leave the house. I got your built-in pandemic right here.

Just grateful the two pandemics happened at the same time!

Mar27: I’m still digesting WandaVision. It’s one of the best things I’ve watched, ever. Layers and layers. There are things to nitpick, but overall, masterful.

Mar27: Went hiking in the Redbud Valley with my best little buddy Ali today.

We heard some frogs talking back and forth across a large, clear spring-fed pond. I said to Ali, “I wonder what they’re saying.”

Ali thought a minute. “Mmm…” Then he broke into a huge smile. “He wants his Baba to do the vacuum!”

“Oh, really? The frog vacuum?”

“Yeah. To clean the water.”

(Meanwhile Ayla learned to climb up on her brother’s table and get into her high chair completely by herself. The first time we found her in there, and neither of us had done it, we could not figure out what the heck had just happened, lol.)

Mar27: Meanwhile Ayla makes herself comfortable in the Captain’s chair.

Mar28: Teeny Ayla (Ayla is learning to smile (and read about Florida panthers with me))

Mar28: Ayla is already doing ball drags (with the sole of her foot) and heel kicks with our little soccer ball. We haven’t even tried to teach her anything. Just put the little ball on the floor.

Mar28: Ayla scraped the same knee 3 days in a row. But didn’t cry once, even though blood was dripping out this time. I guess we should get her some knee pads for concrete for a while!

Mar29: I had totally forgotten about Cosmo Lewis.

2016: We took a couple of my little nephews to their soccer game yesterday and asked them what we should name our new car (a slate grey Toyota Corolla).

Jack suggested, “Newy.”

I said, “Like Newy Lewis?” [A reference to Huey Lewis that I knew no one in the car would get, including my Turkish husband.]

Jack shrugged.

I said, “We were thinking of naming it Cosmo.”

Mason said brightly, “Cosmo Lewis!”

Mar29: Ali yesterday went to his second birthday party for one of his school friends. It was in a bouncy house place with huge inflatable bouncy things and slides. On the way to the main rooms in the back, we passed a utility room. Ali said excitedly, “There’s two vacuums in there!” He can spot a vacuum or lawnmower a mile away.

The kids (and inflating fans) were loud when we arrived fashionably late. Ali hung in the doorway and tried to go in but just wasn’t ready.

We went back to the empty party room where Ali sat at the table and had a cupcake, apple juice, and goldfish crackers for a while. Then I asked if he was ready to go join his friends, and he said, “Yeah.”

We found a round bouncy castle with a “wrecking ball” in the middle and little platforms to sit or stand on and be knocked off. Ali crawled around the perimeter while I hurled the wrecking ball at him (and he learned a bit about the limits of pendulums, haha). We also just bounced, and he saw a girl ride on the wrecking ball like Hannah Montana, and later he wanted to do it, too. And I did a bunch of Jiu Jitsu “ninja rolls” that I hadn’t had a chance to do it a long time and some hits and kicks on the soft columns. Still got it! (Kinda.) And Ali did his hilarious lanky somersaults. (He tumbles over into plow position and then has to make his legs follow.)

When it was time for everyone to go to the party room and have cupcakes and goldfish crackers and juice, I sat between two parents, one a British-Indian man who happens to play on Ahmed’s soccer team and the mother of a boy who’s probably the youngest in the class and one of the smallest. Both were worried about their boys being shy and timid, and I told them about bringing Ali into this room for 15 minutes to get prepared before joining the party, which I didn’t think was a big deal at all. They’re so little, after all.

The mother said her little boy had a hard time adjusting to school but Ali was his first little friend that he talked about all the time. In fact, her eyes lit up when she realized I was “Ali’s mom.” I have no real eyes on what goes on when he’s at school, just a few pictures they send out every day and a little glimpse of him on the playground before and after school. It really warmed my heart.

After the party was over, Ali wanted to bounce some more, so we went back to the bouncy rooms and had a good time for almost another hour, all by ourselves.

On the way out, he spotted yet another vacuum in another room and said good-bye to the two vacuums he had seen at the beginning (and pointed out that they had cords).

The party was on Sunday. All I heard Saturday was, “I want to go to We-Mona’s party.” (Ramona’s)

All I heard all day after the party was, “I want to go back to We-Mona’s party.”

I love when he has fun

Mar30: Yep. It’s been well over a year of the vacuum fascination 

At least he’s diversified into leaf blowers, lawn mowers, weed eaters, and tractors, too. But his first and greatest love is still vacuums.

Mar30 2020: So we’re in Stigler and we hid the vacuum from Ali and he hadn’t mentioned the V-word in like 24 hours. He was playing with a little toy gazebo pretending it was a blender, and Bill came up and said, “Of course it’s a blender. Definitely not a vacuum!”

Mom and I both jumped six inches and made “cut it out” motions with our hands. Ali perked up and said, “Vacuum?!”

Bill. Stop.

Mar30: Look at this pair. (Or should I say trio, counting the beloved Lello Bakuum.)

Mar31: Every little kid gets their very own roll of toilet paper at some point, right? And then cries hysterically when you try to take their picture because they don’t want you to take their picture, they want the camera, in the process showing off the wad of toilet paper they are chewing?

Mar31: We’d rather not hide Easter eggs in our apartment (already did that for Halloween, just hiding candy around), but if we hide them in a park, other kids will be finding and taking them.

Any ideas?

Apr2: Ever since I started interval training before the soccer season (walk-jog-walk-run-walk-sprint), I don’t get injured the first 2 or 3 games anymore. Imagine that.

My left hamstring is hanging by a thread, though. Just gonna rest up this week.

Nice win against our rival tonight. Gorgeous weather, beautiful sunset, greening trees. My husband and son and daughter came by and I got to play with them at half time. Ayla is amazingly good at kicking her little soccer ball, and Ali burst into tears at half time because he thought it was all over and he couldn’t play. But I held his hand while he kicked his little ball all over “the big field” (the one we were going to play on again once the game resumed) and he was happy.

#GettingOld #ButLifeIsGood

Apr3: Ayla is gently redistributing all the little paper bits of trash I picked up around the living room. I’m letting her do it because it’s keeping her occupied while I organize something else that she will no doubt demolish within seconds.

It is truly pointless to clean up with a toddler of this age. And yet, sometimes I reach my limit of tolerance for chaos and clutter, and I try…

Apr3: It’s singing truck season again!

We always forget to carry cash when we go outside, so when an ice cream truck comes by, in order to prevent begging followed by a meltdown, we say, “Hey, it’s the singing truck!”

He still doesn’t know why the truck sings.

Apr3: 26 treat-filled plastic eggs are hidden with great care. Here’s hoping Ali finds them before any ants do.

Tomorrow’s going to be sugar nuts!

Apr4: I don’t know how I got it this wrong, but there are only videos of Ali and only photos of Ayla this Easter. Only videos of the Easter baskets (from Grandma), no photos. The videos are long without obvious highlights. So here’s Ayla. Ali was very cute, too. You can come hang out with me if you wanna watch the videos

Apr6: Who else feels fancy when they use a Sprouts bag as a liner for their waste basket instead of a Walmart bag?

Apr6: I am freaking out a little that after Ali turns 3 on Friday, 1/6 of his childhood is over

Apr6: My sweet boy at Red Robin with his fully vaxxed grandparents. Freezing in the air conditioning because his Mama forgot to send a sweater with him! I forgot about cold-ass Oklahoma air conditioning (especially if you drink a cold drink). I always have to carry a sweater in the summer…

Apr7: Ayla had as much fun as Ali on his birthday. He got 3 slimy snakes that he didn’t like and she loved. And he got an inflatable ball pit and had no interest in it — too busy with his garbage truck, tiny riding lawnmower, and his vet kit and leaf blower from Grandma and Grandpa.

Ayla was pretty sure the ball pit was for her anyway. And it kinda was.

Apr7: Ali’s long-planned, long-awaited LAWNMOWER CAKE! That little lawnmower was definitely the star of the show. The blinking, glowing 3 was something I threw in at the last minute. (Also, I thought 1/8 sheet cakes were bigger than that, but a little cake worked just fine in the end.)

The icing words say “Ali Julian is 3” (There was supposed to be an exclamation mark.)

He’s actually 3 at 3:06am on Friday, but we had the party today so Grandma and Grandpa could join

Apr7: So, so sweet

Apr8: Ali wants me to find a Youtube video of an orange riding lawnmower mowing carpet.

I think he thinks there are literally infinite options.

Apr9: Great pic of Ali (and his Grandpa) on his 3rd birthday (observed) on Wednesday.

Don’t worry, we have a huge sugar cookie with sprinkles, another candle, and one last present held back for him today, his official birthday. Plus he’s taking rabbit donuts to his class.

Apr9: Happy birthday to my favorite little guy! (Pics from his school. I sent the donuts. He asked for rabbit donuts.)

Apr9: More pics from Mom of Wednesday fun!

Apr9: Ayla enjoying the ball pit we (*wink wink*) got for Ali for his birthday.

(Something for him to open, that was really for her. But he may deign to find some way to have fun with it at some point, despite being so dang big.)

Apr9: I’m supposed to play soccer tonight, but instead we’re listening to the “Totato siwen.” (Tornado siren.) Looks like the hot zone is going straight through our fields. Not gonna lie, kinda grateful to be (finally) watching Picard instead of putting on cleats right now. The game will hopefully be rescheduled to a week I’m not feeling so busted.

Apr9: When anyone says “Happy Birthday!” to Ali, he replies cheerfully, “Happy Birthday!”

Apr10: We went to Honor Heights Park today to see the azaleas and flowering trees. Really beautiful. A nice cool partly cloudy day.

Apr12: Ayla was in some kind of mood when we went to Woodward Park, even though she’d just had lunch and all the water she could drink. Finally I gave her some apple juice and it all turned around! Then she found some dirt, and it was even better

Apr13: And once again I say: Sisyphus had absolutely nothing on the parents of toddlers

Apr14: I got frustrated over Ali dragging his feet this morning and snapped at him, even though I’m a notorious foot-dragger myself and there was no giant hurry. He started crying and said, “I don’t want you to yell at me!” (I didn’t raise my voice, but my tone was clear.)

I apologized and hugged him until he felt better.

Later I said, “I’m sorry I was a bit short this morning. I’m just hungry and tired and not feeling like myself. It’s not your fault.”

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s just your fault.”

I laughed. “Yep. It’s just my fault.”

Ah, learning to be an adult, a parent, and own your own feelings… It’s a trip.

Apr14: Today I told Ali he had a well visit, but he wouldn’t get any shots.

He said, “I’ll just get a Dum Dum!”

Apr15: How beautiful is that boy? His preschool class is making a chandelier as a gift for the trees. The class came up with the idea after the trees lost all their leaves. They wanted to make the trees feel better. It’ll be interesting to see how the project evolves now that the trees are flush again.

Apr15: She’s not just a charmer. She’s also a snake charmer.

(I got Ali some squishy sticky snakes for his birthday. He did NOT like them. Ayla did!)

Apr16: Ali tonight, pulling my grandpa’s red handkerchief out of the laundry:

“Oh, is it your Christmas cloth?”

I laughed, because… well, who’d see an old handkerchief and say that? Refreshing and sweet.

He said, “I mean, your Christmas hunkerchip?”

I laughed again. Genuinely not trying to be mean or anything, he just managed to delight and surprise me again, one second later.

He said carefully, “Hunker… chiff?” Trying to correct himself.

I really can’t with this kid. He is everything. I hope he knows my laughs are just joy.

Apr17: 33 years old (8 years ago), trying on my wedding dress. And posing like a poser.

Apr18: Whenever you take Ayla outside and set her loose, she immediately makes a beeline for whatever is most dangerous: A parking lot, a busy road, a pond.

I took her to Woodward Park, thinking I’d set her down in the middle of it and she’d have a long way to ramble before hitting anything dangerous.

She just looked at me and cried. Refused to budge.

I had to carry her way down closer to a road before she’d do anything. It’s like she feeds off my adrenaline.

Apr19: My brave little girl started her two-day-a-week preschool today. So far we’ve gotten one pic, in which she has her usual skeptical face, but apparently she’s doing great!

Latest message through the app:

“She is doing so well. Hasn’t cried yet. She’s having lots of fun!”

Is it bad that I *kinda* wish she missed me a little?

Apr19: Love getting these pics from Ali’s school. He has so much fun!

Apr19: Yep, Ayla never cried on her first day of day care. Didn’t faze her at all. She was like, “Hmm, new things and people. OK.”

When I returned, her vibe was, “Oh, hey, you again. I suppose we are going home now?”

I think she’s ready for college maybe.

Apr20: Awww, Ayla clung to me and cried today when it was time for her to go to day care. Maybe she was just kind of in shock yesterday. And thus begins the transition period…

Apr20: Count yourself lucky if you’ve never had to google: “What to do when you wash a pull-up in the washing machine.”

Apr21: Where would you be if you were keys carried off by a toddler? Asking for a husband.

ETA: What we didn’t think of: That big brother would find the keys hours earlier and put them in his trash truck (and forget about it), rendering all our attempts to read Ayla’s mind moot.

Apr21: It is so freaking hard not to laugh when I offer Ali half a mini donut, and I bite half of it off and try to hand him the rest, and he bursts into tears and says, “I want the other half! I want the half you just ate!”

And it’s so cute that he calls the living room the “wooming woom.”

And breath mints “breff mats.”

Apr22: Ayla is a walking fruit salad. Her diet today was at least 80% fruit.

Apr23: How I feel sometimes as a mom… but I wouldn’t change it, of course. Just, like, a week off now and then would be amazing?

I have a need of silence and of stars.

Too much is said too loudly. I am dazed.

The silken sound of whirled infinity

Is lost in voices shouting to be heard…

 ~ Home, William Alexander Percy (In April Once)

From Apr24, 2019: A story by my brother that illustrates how very “from Oklahoma” we are:

This story goes back a few years but it came to my mind today… We were playing Catchphrase at mom’s house and my word was “cross”…

My teammate was William Cox and I shouted out “Jim Bob!”

He said, “Kirk.”

I said, “No, another one!”

Bill said, “Dickson!”

I said, “No, another one!”

Bill said, “Cross!”

I said, “YES!”

You know you are from a small town when you know that many Jim Bobs!

Haha shout out to all the Jim Bobs!!

Winter Spring

We had some crazy ice weather in February, like much of the country, but other than being super cooped up with cabin fever (what’s new, right?), and Ali’s school being canceled for two weeks (which destroyed all forward progress with the novel I was working on), we came through it relatively unscathed. And it’s been beautiful since. With Ahmed working two jobs, we are both burning the candle at both ends for a while, and my novel is not making nearly the strides I had hoped, but it’s OK. It’s not forever. The kids are awesome and life is good.

Feb10: That feeling when you’re singing your daughter to sleep and you smell ketchup and realize you forgot the wash her hair…

Oh well. She and her sheets will be thoroughly cleaned tomorrow.

Meanwhile our long weekend trip to Stigler, where the kids could visit with their cousins, is canceled due to crap icy weather. Boo.

ETA: Ew, now I smell like ketchup. I’m going to have to launder my robe, too.

Feb12: Managed to get a couple cute pictures of the kids on the couch. In general, it’s nearly impossible to get a shot of Ayla. She’s at the stage where she lunges for the camera any time I hold it up to take a photo.

Feb12: A 12-month-old’s speciality is dumping things / picking things up and taking them somewhere else. This house is a scrambled egg.

Feb13: My daughter keeps picking through my books and always chooses George Orwell’s “Why I Write” to walk away with.

Feb13: God help me, Ali got tired of waiting for the weather to clear so we could go to Stigler and get his hair cut there. With my heart in my throat, I rared back and cut it myself. His first real cut, not just all-around minor frizz trim. Still relatively long on top, but no longer covering and annoying his ears or crowding the back of his neck.

The first shot is the “before” pic. I didn’t have time to get a proper one, they were already set up like this when I got in there. The rest are “after”!

ETA: I added 3 reasonably proper “before” pics from a few days ago. A definite Frodo Baggins vibe!

Awww, I miss messy Frodo. But I think he’ll enjoy not having hair all over his ears and down his neck!

Feb13: Meanwhile, our little wizard paladin…

Feb14: My Valentine’s Day: Letting my husband sleep in AND take a nap with Ali (actually Ali waited until Baba fell asleep and then snuck out, oh well), having 3 cups of decaf (I like the taste) and a mug brownie with lunch, and taking a shower all the way to the end of the hot water. Extravagant, I know!

We’ll make heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies after dinner.

Feb15: I wish Ayla looked at me the way she looks at my ear buds when she’s trying to grab them out of my ears.

Feb16: Today I woke up and Ali was sitting on the couch and immediate told on himself:

“I got a yogurt bar and I ate it all and washed my hands.”

He then showed me where he put the packaging in the trash. “It’s all in ‘ere.”

There were chocolate crumbs in a few places, but overall he did a pretty good job getting his own breakfast for the first time. [Though we had to move the scissors to where he couldn’t get to them unsupervised. He needs them to cut the packaging off.]

Feb16: I made 3 dozen chocolate chip cookies yesterday. The kids got a few. The rest went fast and I even had to raid my Girl Scout Cookie stash after dinner tonight.

It’s that kinda Tuesday.

Looking forward to double digit temperatures tomorrow. Woo hoo!

Ali may even go back to school on Thursday? Not holding my breath, though. He did his first ever Zoom school this morning — just for 20 minutes, just for fun, not in any way required. I can see why it’s soul-sucking if you have to do that with any regularity…

Feb17: Just three years ago, we had baby stuff and no baby. It’s crazy how life can shift in such a short time!

Feb20: Why is it always the Muffin Man? The Ice Cream Man? The Fruit Stand Man? All the kids songs tend to be about men, unless it’s about a mother. That’s how young the assumptions start that men go out in the world and do things, while women “just stay home” and are basically taken for granted / forgotten from history.

There’s nothing wrong with staying home, of course. Maintaining a home and raising kids is kind of the basis of civilization. It’d be nice to hear songs about it that implicitly recognize the value of it. It’d also be nice to have more songs about men doing work in the home and women doing things out in the world. Because there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Feb20: Today we were almost to the 71st St bridge when Ali asked, “Where’s back home?”

I said, “You just have to follow the river. Like the dinosaur in the movie.”

He thought about this for a while. Later he asked, “Are there dinosaurs on the other side of the river?”

Oh, man. We had to start early talking about extinction. And evolution. Though he seems to think a “rocket hit the dinosaurs and they all died and we have to dig in the earth to find them.”

Feb21: Today we went for a walk in this gorgeous sunny above-freezing weather and took some sidewalk chalk. Ahmed suggested to Ali that he should draw one of the pine trees next to us, and Ali grabbed a piece of chalk and walked off and started drawing on the tree, haha. Not quite what we meant.

Meanwhile I drew a pine tree, and Ayla grabbed a red piece of chalk and Ahmed said, “You want to draw some fruit on Mama’s tree?”

I said, “Sure, draw some apples. We can make pine apples.”

On the way back home, we passed an orange traffic cone with fluorescent stripes. Ali said, “Is that a space ship?”

He’s already pretty sure the River Spirit Casino Hotel and the gold Cityplex Towers are space ships.

Meanwhile, one of Ayla’s first words (or at least something she regularly repeats back to us) is E-I-E-I-O. I thought, being a girl, she’d be a fair ways ahead of Ali by this age, but she’s right on par with him, language-wise. She seems to understand quite a bit, though. When I say and sign “More milk?” she gets the biggest smile.

It’s also cute that Ali has a lidded straw cup of water next to his bed, and the first thing Ayla does every morning is toddle in there and grab the cup and swig it as she walks around and surveys the house. Kids this age are like wind-up toys, you just take ’em out of the crib and watch ’em make the rounds, picking up and tossing down this or that little interesting thing as they go.

Feb23: D’awww

Aside from the cute, she’s very opinionated these days, rapidly learning a few sign language signs, and pointing insistently at anything she wants (which is a lot, especially electronics, fruit, and sweets). Sometimes when she wakes up in the morning, I go to hug her, and she pushed back from me and points to my chest.

OK, OK. Milk first. I get it.

Feb23: I put Ayla back in her brother’s old play clothes and went outside, and she knelt in a dirty puddle in the parking lot, sat in mud, carried a big rock around for a while, swished pebbles around on the ground, played in snow, stepped in water, and fell in grass.

Then she tried to grab the vertical hand rails on our outdoor stairs and walk up them like a big person! It got too taxing dragging her foot all the way up to the step, so pretty soon she started using her knees to advance.

“Cute girl clothes” are great, but I’m glad we have an alternative for days like these.

Feb23: Pretty much impossible to get decent pics at this age. They are so busy! Grandma got her a little purse with a phone, keys, credit card, driver’s license, nail polish (she loves popping the top off and on), and other toy goodies. She loves carting it around, opening it, dumping it, filling it… Great gift for a one-year-old! Thanks, Grandma ❤

Feb24: Back when Ayla was a big baby, not yet a month old, and Ali was a rock god.

Ayla is kicking her keyboard and Ali is rocking his new ukulele.  Get ready for the Dogan family road show…

Feb24: My 3 kiddos (one is a cat)

Feb24: Why does Peppa Pig have to look so much like a ballsack? I can’t watch it without seeing a bunch of talking penises with two pee holes.

Generally speaking, why does so much kid stuff have to be in gaudy primary colors and/or grotesquely drawn? My favorite stuff as a kid was the beauty of Belle and Sebastian and the gritty realism and subdued palette of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I even wondered why the Muppets had to be so garish.

Ren & Stimpy was new and cool for a hot minute. Now so much is shrill and/or deliberately ugly.

Feb24: While Ayla falls asleep for her naps, we can hear her in there singing, “E-I-E-I-O.” Although it kind of sounds like, “E-Ya-E-Na-No.”

Feb24: Ali today on his way to visit Grandma: “They need to do the leaf blower.”

Me: “Well, it’s a bit damp right now from the snow melting.”

Ali: “Oh…” *Thinks a minute* “They need to do the hair dryer! I mean the water dryer!”

Sure thing, kid! Let’s give all of Tulsa a little blow-dry. I’ll watch

Feb24: Mom took Ali to a museum today. Apparently, that kid occasionally listens to me… ❤

(Doesn’t hurt that I put him in the front seat of a car just to drive a little ways in the parking lot, and I hit the brakes a bit hard at one point, as a demonstration for why car seats are necessary. I thought I was being pretty gentle, but I had to use my arm to keep him from hitting his face on the dashboard. Car safety is no joke, folks!)

Mom wrote:

Ali during our road trip to Gilcrease Museum.

Do you know why I am in a CARSEAT?

Because it keeps me HEALTHY AND SAFE.



We never know what will come out of his mouth.  Then later…



We went to Gilcrease Museum specifically to see the special exhibit by Shan Goshorn who was a friend of mine.  She taught herself ancient Cherokee weaving patterns and wove baskets of WORDS printed on watercolor paper.  This exhibit is EXQUISITE and highly recommended.  We plan to go back to stand and study each basket.  Today we kept being urged onward by a friend searching for a ZAMBONI!

Feb24: Ali was walking along a road with Grandma and Grandpa, and according to Grandma, he said, “That road goes down to hell!”

Grandma said, “What?”

“Dat road goes down da hey-yul!”

(That road goes down the hill.)

Feb24: It is SO HARD to get any kind of pic of my babies side by side. Great job, Grandma!

Feb25: There’s a sweet spot for taking pictures of kids, when they’re old enough that they can see a phone or camera without immediately lunging for it, they understand what you mean when you ask them to smile for a picture, and they’re ye not old enough to think smiling for pictures is lame.

Neither of my kids is in that sweet spot. (Ali had to be bribed with a jelly bean to “smile” for these pics.)

Grandpa Bill is back in the sweet spot, though!

Feb26: I give Ayla a little toothbrush to brush her teeth in the bath. I wanted to brush with her but didn’t have my toothbrush, so I got a hair brush and pretended to brush my teeth with it. She grabbed it out of my hand and touched it to her head, as if to say, “No, Mama, this is for the head, not the mouth.”

Then later she decided to try it for herself and started brushing her teeth with the hair brush. Then she tried brushing her hair with the toothbrush.

So… Mom fail, or teaching a baby to think outside the box?

Feb26: “This curious world which we inhabit is more wonderful than it is convenient; more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Feb26: Grandma gave Ayla a purse. Of course Ali decided it was the COOLEST THING IN THE WORLD. (We’re not allowed to give things to Ayla, lol. We do, but he always tries to claim them.)

Feb26: The kids are chasing each other, and laughing, and not trying to kill each other. I. Love. It.

Meanwhile I’m pretty sure Ayla is a Viking. She loves to slam or throw her drink down after she is done. With authority.

Feb26: Ali bursts into tears whenever I try to sing him songs I used to sing to him as a baby. He says, “Don’t sing baby songs… I’m sad because I’m not a baby anymore.”

He’s a sensitive soul. And I’m amazed at how much he remembers.

I haven’t sung a particular “baby song” song to him in over a year. But he remembered and burst into tears. (By that I mean the songs I sang to him when I rocked him to sleep as a baby, right up until Ayla was born and he refused to let me sing those songs anymore.)

Feb27: Today Ali wouldn’t nap, so Ahmed went in there and lay down with him. He got up and snuck out when the other was asleep and joined me on the couch.

By “he” I mean Ali. Ali waited until Ahmed was asleep and snuck out.

Mom wrote: When he “took a nap” with Bill, he wiggled and squirmed and talked for an hour, then came out and looked at me and said, “That was a GREAT NAP!”

Feb27: Ayla keeps draping pants over her shoulders. That girl needs a feather boa. [Or superhero cape]

Feb28: Happiest of birthdays to my most wonderful husband Ahmed, an excellent life companion and extraordinary father. We love you so much.

(This was on our first day all together as a family of 4 humans and 1 perplexed cat.)

Feb28: The cake was a hit! Devil’s food chocolate cake (I added chopped dark chocolate chips) with coconut raspberry cream filling, homemade vanilla marshmallow buttercream frosting, raspberries, and chocolate sprinkles. We had a little before dinner. We’ll have more after.

Feb28: I think Ahmed had a pretty sweet birthday. Homemade spinach feta quiche and cinnamon rolls for breakfast, a soccer game where he scored the tying goal in the last 5 minutes, burgers and fries and pop (his favorite post-game meal), an adorable hand-made card from his kids, a lot of fun playing with the kids, a homemade chocolate cake, and a feast from India Palace. Whew!

And I’m off to take care of the complete disaster I made out of our kitchen 🤣 (Ahmed is not allowed to clean anything today.)

Now that “family birthday / extended holiday season” is finally over — or at least on pause until Ali’s birthday on April 9, when I have to figure out how to make a lawnmower cake — we’re going to try to lay off the sweets, eat more vegetables, and exercise, haha. With two small kids, and a pandemic, and crap weather, it’s so easy to let things slide. So this is our New Year, kinda

Feb28: I didn’t even realize until now that Ahmed’s cake looks a little like a coronavirus. Fitting. Delicious spike proteins.

Ayla and Ali marked on the card. It was Ali’s idea to tape on some pieces of brown paper and another drawing he did, which folds out to reveal yet another drawing. Mostly rather abstract at this point.

Feb28: I don’t know if he’s just messing with me, but Ali has decided he didn’t want his hair cut after all and wants me to put it back on 😳

Dude, I didn’t want to cut it in the first place. You asked me to.

I do wish I’d pushed the head bands harder. I think he would have liked that better than hair ties. But I forgot about them. I miss messy Frodo Ali…

But he is pretty handsome like this, too, and his hair is a heck of a lot easier to wash and comb!

Mar1: It’s crazy to miss your son as a baby. I know he misses being a baby, too. I love every stage, but I also miss every stage when it’s over. Other than pregnancy. I don’t miss that, honestly. Babies are way more fun.

2 Years Ago

Ali has one little curl, and I am obsessed.

Also, you can kind of see his teeth in the smiley one.

Also, can you believe this guy was ever the size of a pickle?

Mar1: Success! We had to work hard to get this footage. Ayla will sing her little “E-Na-E-Na-No” unless there is a camera anywhere nearby. Then she gets distracted and just wants to lunge for the electronics.

Ahmed set up a hidden camera situation to get this. (Or at least put in an unobtrusive place until it was forgotten about.)

Don’t mind me in the background, noisily making frosting.

Mar1: Ali chugged his sister’s vitamin D drops today, and Poison Control said it was fine, just try to keep him out of the sun and don’t give him any more vitamin D for a month.

Well, he’s in an outdoors-based preschool and it’s sunny all week. Of course.

So, we needed a sun hat for him. Unfortunately all we had was an Elmer Fudd-looking hunting cap with ear flaps that’s way too big. To my surprise, the teachers said he actually wore it. (They also said he was a bit subdued today, but it might have been because we were so frazzled and unthrilled to wake up and have to call poison control. We didn’t yell, but we made it very clear we were not happy.)

But of course we looked for something better after school. We went to Walgreens first, where I was picking something else up. We looked and looked for hats and saw nothing, until suddenly Ali said, “There’s some hats!”

Well… they were giant sparkly green bowler hats with glitter shamrocks on them, clearly St. Patrick’s novelty hats for adults.

OK, kid, *technically* that is a hat, but… moving on.

At Walmart I found a cute explorer-type hat, but he hated it. Instead, he wanted an adult-size straw hat with a giant brim. It was adorably comical but entirely inappropriate.

Eventually we found a baseball-type cap that was also too big, but it was the best we could do. An Amazon sun hat with sharks is on the way.

Mar2: I got a sweet mama ring on sale for $120. An amethyst for Ahmed and two pale heart-shaped lilac stones for my babies (the average of amethyst and diamond).

Mar3: Ayla grabbed the fork out of my hand today and started feeding herself. She started with wheels and cheese, which don’t stay on the fork very well. I replaced them with little pear chunks, and she forked ’em up like a champion.

She’s also started to say “Na nu” (Thank you) when you give her something or she gives you something.

So much happened in Ali’s 13th month, too!

ETA: Tonight at dinner she didn’t want to get into the high chair, then Ahmed tried to feed her while holding her, then she fussed and squirmed and struggled until we put her back in the high chair and gave her her own fork.

Mar4: A friend made and sent this beautiful sweater for Ali. I need to get a picture of Ayla in it, too!

Ali got a new sweater! A friend from Vermont made it and sent it to us. I’ve never met her in real life. I contacted her through some other friends I made on a book tour, and she let us house sit for her (and her cat Dragon) for a winter escape when Ahmed and I lived in NYC. So sweet

Mar4: Figured I’d get some cute pics of Ayla in Ali’s old sweater on the day the photos of Ali in the sweater popped up in my feed.

I couldn’t get any pics of her worth anything (see last picture; she just wanted the camera in her little paws) until I let her pluck one of my ear buds out of my ear. She is mad for electronics.

I also took her shopping today for the first time (Walmart), and she bit her lip the whole time like she was on an alien planet. But she didn’t fuss and did remarkably well all told.

Mar4: Grandma with her babies. And Ali randomly sucking his thumb, claiming it’s “locked” in there. I couldn’t find the right key, I guess. (This is the first time I’ve ever seen his thumb in his mouth. Toddler randomness.)

Mar4: Someone at the skate park tonight told Ali to listen to his dad and stay out of trouble.

Back at home, I said, “Well, that’s your Baba’s job. To keep you healthy and safe.”

Ali said, “Noooo. I don’t want to be healthy and safe.”

“What do you want to be?”

“I want to be in trouble.”

I laughed. “You want to be hurt and in trouble?”

“I want to break things like I was a baby.”

(He’s been saying a lot these days that he’s sad because he’s not a baby anymore and he wants to break things. From what I can gather, he thinks babies can get away with breaking anything.)

Our poor little rebel, forced into car seats and not allowed to destroy all our stuff…

Mar6: Ayla S. Thompson

Mar6: Pics before we got Ayla a sun hat that actually fits… next on my list, haha. Love Ali’s new anti-vitamin-D hat!

I’ve been slowly ramping up my cardio fitness after a winter of letting it go to zero, basically. First time I did a walk-jog-walk-run-walk-sprint circuit (5 minutes total), my SI joint hurt, but I realized it was just because I had sat in a weird way while working on my computer. So I stopped doing that.

Second time I stepped in a hole and it hurt the area behind my big toe a bit, but I still did the circuits, almost 10 minutes.

Today I was going out to jog for 15 minutes and Ali announced he wanted to run, too. But he was eating lunch. So after he finished lunch and I finished my 15-minute run/walk (my foot is still slightly sore but should be fine in a couple days), we all went out to the river. Ali and I ran together while Baba and Ayla took it slower. Then we doubled back and we all walked down to the river bed where Ayla sat down and played in the sand while Ahmed and Ali walked all over the huge sand bar, Ali looking like a little Sahara explorer.

On the way back, Ali wanted to hold my hand and run (he always wants to hold my hand lately, I love it), but I was just fast-walking while he ran, and he wanted me to run, too. I said, “You have to run faster to make me run because I have longer legs.”

So he ran along and eventually I would jog a bit, too, hand-in-hand, even when I probably could have fast-walked it.

He fell asleep pretty quickly for his nap.


Mar7: I didn’t figure it out until today, when I got his toy hammer and we “smashed” his toy yellow vacuum (with Muppets characters), as he has been wanting to for a long time. (We didn’t actually do any damage.) He said happily, “It’s smashed! Now I can get a new yellow vacuum! Can you talk to the vacuum guys?”

I knew exactly what he was talking about — a Casdon yellow vacuum he had seen on Amazon. (He also wanted a green vacuum on Amazon, but it looked really chintzy.)

(By the way, “the vacuum guys” are a variation on what I called “the birthday fairy” that he can ask for birthday gifts, and he calls them “the birthday guys.”)

So, here’s the convoluted thought process in my toddler son’s mind over the past few weeks:

He’s sad because he’s not a baby anymore.

Babies can break anything.

He wants to break his toy yellow vacuum.

He wants a new yellow vacuum, and apparently breaking his old yellow vacuum is the way to get one.

As it happened, I had ordered it for him last week and it arrived today. It came in a nondescript cardboard box, but he INSTANTLY knew what it was.

We opened it, and he was so happy. Then he said, “Hey, where’s the green vacuum?”

I said, “The vacuum guys just sent this one.”


He’s been having a blast with it. His heart’s desire for so long, and it took me this long to break the code.

And the vacuum really picks up a little bit of cat hair. Bonus.

Mar8: So, I shouldn’t, but I get frazzled and exhausted sometimes and I yell at Ali. I always try to apologize and often say things like, “I was just really tired, it wasn’t about you.”

Today I had to apologize again because I told Ali not to drink from a cup of day-old room-temperature smoothie, and he not only went behind my back and drank it, which could make him sick — he also spilled it and made a mess.

And I have not been sleeping well or enough lately.

So I yelled, and when I cooled down I apologized, and I apologized again tonight before bed. He said, apparently in character as me, “I was just mad because I was tired.”

I laughed and hugged him. “Yes, that’s right.”

He said, “We’ll feel better after our naps.”

Inshallah, buddy.

Mar10, 2015: More adventures in being married to a bilingual partner.

Me: Where’s the clicker?

Ahmed: What?

Me: The clicker.

Ahmed: What’s the clicker?

Me: The remote control.

Ahmed: That’s not what you call it.

Me: Yeah it is.

Ahmed: It doesn’t click.

Me: . . . Good point. I think they used to click?

Mar10: Ali boysplaining vacuums to Grandpa.

One Year Girl

Here we are — no more babies in this house. It’s hard not to get a little “baby fever” even though overall I’m excited for everything coming up and glad so many hard parts are over. I’m ecstatic for my body to be my own again when I wean in another couple of months and recoil at the idea of going through pregnancy, birth, recovery, and the brutal exhaustion of the newborn months making me barely fit to be a parent to my other kids. I’m on birth control pills, and I’ve felt kind of under the weather and irritable since I started them. Sigh. Now my body is hijacked by synthetic hormones. Hopefully it’ll even out soon.

Mainly I’m absolutely thrilled with the two kids I have, and it’s hard enough dividing myself between them. I seriously don’t understand how people have 4 or 5 or 6 kids. It does not compute. But it’s also a nice thought to give Ali a brother or Ayla a sister. But, that logic could keep going for a while, and I am 41, and I hate getting my cycle every month, too. And hey, birth control fails sometimes, LOL.

Just some ramblings. Life is awesome. It’s just a little wistful when the last babe walks off and starts blowing her own nose. They are so amazing, and increasing them by 150% would be that much more amazing, right? But a friend of mine had spontaneous twins after IVF and they were pretty blindsided by it. Anything could happen, especially at this age. Our plan remains to leave awesome enough alone. But it’s OK to feel a little melancholy about that.

On February 8 Ayla had her well visit (12 months 4 days) and she was 30.25 inches (84th percentile), 20.8 pounds (64th percentile), with a head circumference of 46.5 cm (87th percentile). She’s up to date on vaccinations and had no apparent side effects, though she’s been snotty for a few weeks now. Ali has, too. Probably brought home from preschool. It’s almost comforting for them to have a normal ol’ cold. But I’ll be glad when they quit snotting all over the place!

I turned 41 on January 21, a day after we FINALLY got a new president. So glad that horrible jackass is cowering in Florida, where his neighbors don’t want him, either. Best birthday present ever. Especially when my 2016 birthday brought both Trump and the death of my best friend’s dad, who was someone I really loved as well. And I still didn’t have any kids at that time. Such a low point.

Here’s to good things ahead!

Jan5: Ali napped at school today! He’s been resisting naps lately and being a fragile grump most of the evening when he skips it. He skipped it at school yesterday — he was the only one who did. I was afraid it would be a trend, but hopefully, maybe, just a one-off.

I’m also so grateful they expose him to a wide variety of food — wider than I could reasonably do every day, especially when he rejects so much. He eats pretty well there, and it takes a great deal of pressure off me.

Jan5: Grandma’s here! Ali is so happy

Jan6: We are meant to deliver Ali to his grandma’s apartment today at 9am. Ali woke up at 7:30am saying, “It’s Grandma time!”

Ahmed said, “Grandma is asleep right now.”

He accepted it for a while, then said, “No, she’s having coffee!”

Well, he was right. So Ahmed said, “She wants some time alone right now.”

Ali said, “She not gonna bite me.”

Ahmed laughed. “No, she’s not a cat.”

Back story: Ali has spent much of his life tormenting our cat, only to have our cat hiss at him and/or run away. We’ve explained to him that “Mateo wants some time alone right now. That’s what it means when he hisses like that. He may bite you if you don’t leave him alone.”

So. Yeah. Apparently anyone who wants some time alone is going to bite him if they don’t get it

Jan6: Ali’s grey cat robe came! It’s perfect. Good choice, kid.

Jan6: OK, now Ali is hissing and biting people while wearing his cat robe…

Jan8: Ali cried because the cereal bar we played catch with was broken when it came out of the package.

Ahmed cheered him up.

Then he cried because “I don’t want to be happy!”

Boy needs his daily nap. Didn’t get one today.

And I’m kinda worried he’s leading an insurrection. Four other kids from his class (who normally have naps) didn’t have a nap today, either.

Jan9: These are my best two color options for Ayla’s birthday t-shirt (that she can wear, if she wants, every birthday until she turns 18). I can’t decide which one. She looks great in dusty rose colors, but I worry the pink is too jarring. But the navy blue is a bit boring. I wish they had more colors!

Jan10: We have a timer that I used one time to show Ali how long it would be until Grandma would come. I said, “When the timer goes off, Grandma will be here.”

Now when he misses Grandma, he asks me to set the timer again. Apparently it’s a magic device that makes Grandma appear.

Jan10: This little goober got my scarf and hat on all by herself

Jan11: Let’s just take a mulligan, please? I was doing good with plans, getting things done, staying healthier, then Wednesday happened and it’s been five straight days of doomscrolling.

And let’s just assume this week will be a mulligan, too. The new year will start for me on my birthday, January 21.

Jan12: Dang, buddy, slow down.

(The teacher said she put a word up for them as a model, just for fun. Ali was the only one who actually copied it.)

Jan13: With Ali, we obsessed over every milestone, and it was so easy to go on walks with him or take him to the park.

Ayla is so low-key and content playing by herself, it’s easy to still let Ali have the lion’s share of time and attention. Any time we take both kids to the park, we have to both be there or it’s nearly impossible to keep a good eye on both. Any time we go for a walk, we have to take a giant double stroller and Ali complains much of the time about this or that, wanting to go somewhere else or do something else, wanting Baba to carry him, wanting Ayla’s seat instead of his… It’s kind of exhausting. (He doesn’t really “get” a walk for fun unless it’s going somewhere. He certainly has no patience for watching Ayla toddle around while we try to keep rocks and trash out of her mouth.)

Now with Ali in school (or in today’s case spending time with his grandparents), I can finally really spend focused time with Ayla during daylight hours. It’s a joy. Yesterday we went to the park and did the swings for a while, then I let her down to explore. She just wanted to sit and watch other kids play. Finally I stood her up and held her hand, and she walked me right back to the swings.

Today we went to the river, and again when I released her from the stroller she just wanted to sit and look around. We went further on a bit, and then she wanted to stand and look around.

Finally she started walking, but she wasn’t used to uneven terrain and fell pretty easily. She started to get a bit frustrated, then downright alarmed and in pain when a fall would come with a side of sand burrs. (Good Lord in Heaven how I loathe sand burrs.) But she kept gamely getting up and trying again, and after ten minutes she was visibly better at it.

We went back to the park, and I set her down halfway between the swings and the slide. She walked right to the steps up the slide and hung out in front of the stairs for maybe five minutes, just looking and getting used to it and digging around in the mulch with her feet. Then she climbed swiftly to the top and checked out the platform (walled except for the stairs, the slide, and an open place that led to a fire pole or something). When she walked to the slide, I sat down and we slid down together.

There were no other kids there, so when she started trying to climb back up the slide, I let her make many attempts in various ways for quite some time. Finally she settled on walking up a bit, flopping onto her belly, and slithering down backwards. She did that a few times and then walked back toward the stroller.

Nap time now. She earned it.

Jan13: Ayla is now at the stage where trash cans are irresistible and clothes being left on a shelf for more than two seconds is intolerable.

Oh well. Nice with the second to really understand it’s all just a stage and it all will pass!

Jan13: I finally got Ali reading books again.

Every night, we read:

Everyone Poops


Where’s the Poop?

Good times!

The nightly dialogue with the girl pooping behind a door is a highlight. Good thing I’m trained in Improv…

Jan14: Ayla turned 9 months on November 4, but I scheduled her well visit for November 2 because I was genuinely nervous about widespread violence / civilizational collapse on November 3.

People on Facebook now are talking about stocking up on supplies and not leaving the house until after January 20, and/or worrying about friends (who are not straight, white, Christian males) getting hurt or killed by gangs of armed, angry MAGA and QAnon people.

We are a nation living under siege by domestic terrorists. I’m f***ing sick of it.

Jan14: I swear to God, there’s a black hole somewhere in this apartment. Now I can’t find Ali’s birthday shirt. His bday’s not coming up until April 9, but if I’ve already looked everywhere, I don’t know what’s gonna change between now and then. Grrr.

Jan15: Lovevery accidentally sent us a play kit for 7-8-month-old babies instead of the block set I ordered.

Figured I might as well let Ayla play with one of the toys for 5 minutes. She put the ball in the hole over and over, and once when it got caught in the box, she bent down to look for it. After a while she tipped the whole platform up the other way to make the ball roll back into the box.

She played with it every which way until I got a camera, then she lost interest and wandered away. So hard to get good pics these days! These kids are just living their lives. Not into documenting it.

Jan15: Me: Hey, you know what? There’s no school Monday. It’s a holiday.

Ali: I want to find candy.

Me: You want candy?

Ali: I want you to hide it so I can find it.

Me: Oh, like on Halloween? (We did an “Easter egg hunt” for candy on Halloween.) You think that’s what we do on holidays?

Ali: Yeah. That would be funny.

Me: It would be funny to do it on Martin Luther King Day. OK. We’ll do that on Monday.

Ali: Not on Monday. We could do it… today.

Why not just have an Easter egg hunt for candy every day, for that matter?

Jan18: Every day that comes and goes without too much dumbf**kery, I breathe a sigh of relief. Every morning I check Google News and hope for no screaming headlines. Every evening around sunset, I exhale.

Please let it be over soon…

Jan19: Ali would be SO MAD if he knew Grandma was playing with Ayla without him…

Jan19: Ali’s school goes all the way to high school, and their middle school is currently in the thick of Academic Bowl tournaments.

Put me in, coach!

I want to jump in so bad… My trigger thumb is itching.

(What the hell do middle schoolers know anyway? What the hell did I know?)

Jan20: I remember when I was a kid, there was nothing more delicious than sucking on a wet rag in the bath tub. I love watching Ayla do it (at least before the water gets too dirty / soapy).

Meanwhile both kids have some kind of crud (I assume not COVID since we all had it two months ago), and man, what a difference it makes when a kid can blow their nose. (Ali can. Ayla can’t. Poor girl.)

Ayla also got a pink cat robe (not LL Bean this time, just a $17 knock-off since she’s not yet old enough to choose her own robe), and it’s pretty dang cute having two fuzzy cats wandering around here. Three counting our actual cat.

Jan20: We told Ali we were watching This Is Us. He kept looking and looking, trying to figure out which one was Mama, which one was Baba, and which one was Ali.

Because, after all, it was “us.” Right?

Ali didn’t eat dinner tonight (didn’t get a chance anyway — Ayla found it first and spread it far and wide, including in a basket full of clean laundry), and we finally settled on something he would eat: A chocolate-covered yogurt bar. But then we started another episode of This Is Us.

I said, “You want to take a break and give him a yogurt bar?”

Ahmed kind of shrugged and we kept watching for a little while.

Then Ali said, “You want to break Mama and get a…”

I laughed and he immediately switched mid-sentence to, “What do?” (Meaning “What are you doing?” meaning “What are you laughing about?”)

We’re laughing at you, little grey cat. Because you are so dang cute.

Jan21: Thank you, everyone. I haven’t had a minute to sit down and read all your kind greetings, but I look forward to it!

It was a lovely birthday. A little hectic at first because Ayla is a bit sick and sleeping like crap and I’m slightly under the weather and not doing well with her bad sleep making my sleep worse.

I sleepwalked through the first couple hours (at least Ali was happy to go to school) and then napped through the next hour (while Ayla napped), then delivered Ayla to her grandma so I could do some shopping.

Came back just in time to do an exercise video before picking Ali up from school, delivered him to his grandma (Ayla was back at home napping by then), got some things done and played with Ayla for an hour, delivered her to her grandma again only to find a little surprise party waiting for me. We had Mardi Gras king cake, and Mom got me a copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (my original copy was stolen in the Great Storage Facility Heist of 2016).

Then Ahmed and I went for a walk by the river. Like old times. Before a little munchkin spends the entire time whining about wishing he was mowing the lawn, lol. Pretty sunset.

Then we came back home, ordered sushi, and watched the latest episode of This Is Us (or most of it) until it was time to pick both kids up from grandma. Then we had more cake because I hadn’t known a party was waiting for me, and I picked up a berry Chantilly cake for myself at Whole Foods. Ayla had most of the berries. Ahmed got me some sweet, thoughtful gifts.

I am as full of fish, rice, and buttercream as I have any right to be. Life is so good

Jan21: Ayla and I had our longest conversation ever today. She would make some goofy noise, I would mimic it, she’d laugh hysterically, then I’d laugh. Then she’d make another goofy noise, I’d copy it, and she’d laugh hysterically.

I think she’s part dolphin.

Jan21: That time Uncle Bernie showed up for our Christmas picture…

Jan21: One of Ali’s poop books asks the leading question, “What does whale poop look like?” without answering it.

So Ali and I had to look it up on Youtube.

It is… not good. Big brown swirling liquidy cloud. In the ocean, it’s bad enough. In a tank, it’s an absolute disaster.

Jan22: My first baby, shortly before my first human baby was born.

Jan22: I’m giving myself the gift of a computer-free weekend. Grateful, at least, to have professionals at the helm for a while. Utterly incompetent soulless bigoted grifters — the worst of the worst — are exhausting in their own special way. Just having at least some people who know (and care) anything about anything at all… It’s something.

Back to it all on Monday.

Jan22: [Post by my mom] This will probably be the funniest thing I see all day. If Ali is up when I meditate he always comes and snuggles in and “sits” with me. I don’t even open my eyes. Even though I knew Bill snapped this pic, I had NO IDEA that Ali was on a direct line with the Almighty! Or that he had brought what he calls “special” tape to put on my knee. I only just really looked at this today…

Jan22: My brother posted a picture of me, my cousin Lindsay, himself, and my little sister Val.

Jan23: Just popping in to document that Ayla climbed the little stairs and slid down a baby slide all on her own for the first time Friday, January 22. Love that determined little monkey. And how her baby fine hair blows back and her face lights up when she scooches her little butt up to the edge and then lets herself fly.

Jan25: Yesterday I was randomly singing “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, and Ali asked, “What’s that?”

I said, “It’s a song you sing when kids are scared of thunder. Even though thunder isn’t dangerous. It’s scary to some kids.”

(One thing I will never say to my kids is: “That’s not scary.” It’s not up to me what any other person finds scary. Some adults are scared of mice, after all. I sometimes say, “It might be scary, but it’s not dangerous.”)

Anyway. Just after Ali went to bed, there was an unexpected thunderstorm. As I was kissing him good-night, he said, “Sing the thunder song.”

So I got to introduce him to the song and then sing it in context in the same day 🙂

He didn’t seem to like the “dog bites, bee stings” part, so I rewrote it later to:

“When the thunder makes me wonder why I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things and then I will feel so glad!”

I’ll also have to write some new verses about leaf blowers and lawn mowers…

Jan25: Where it comes to finding our purpose and meaning, I think of life as a dark and slippery mountain. Sometimes we don’t even know if we’re going up or down. Sometimes the only indication is the most subtle shift in air density that you might well be imagining. Sometimes we climb quite a bit only to slide down even further. We don’t even know what’s at the top, if anything.

Friends are important in this scenario…

Jan25: In Ali’s class they do a lot of cool work with wires and beads. When Ali is in a bad mood, he says, “I don’t like _____” (including stuff he definitely likes), and I try to empathize with him.

The other day he didn’t want to go to school and he said, “I don’t like wire work!”

I made a sympathetic sound and said, “Back to the sweat shop, eh?”

He sighed. “Yeah. Back to the sweat shop.”

Jan26: When Ali was right in between where Ayla is now and where Ali is now, on e year ago… It’s wonderful that Ali can say almost anything now (humidifier, triceratops, whatever he wants), and I can’t wait until Ayla can say anything! She’s pretty mum for now other than “Mama” and “Baba.” Like her brother before her.

Ali translation key:

Berber = blueberry
Bearbear = gummy bear vitamin
Saursaur = dinosaur
Sickle = bicycle / motorcycle
Shaaaaklit = chocolate (said like the sisters in Frozen)
Guck = drink
Gock = dog
Wawa = water
Bakoom = vacuum
Waddit = rabbit
Sin = medicine
Sugar = finger (don’t know why…)
Whee-ooh = whale
Siyen = siren (I’m so glad we have this word — now that he can identify it, he’s not as scared of them, whatever form they take, including the tornado siren tests on Wednesdays)

These are just off the top of my head, not remotely exhaustive. He has maybe a couple hundred words and says most of them pretty well

Jan26: This week Ali has started saying, “I like school now! It’s so much fun!”

He also says he likes his wobble board now.

Will food be next?

(Every evening, if dinner is even mentioned, he wails, “I don’t like dinner!”)

Jan26: A work in progress (extra verses to Favorite Things, customized to Ali):

Tall yellow vacuums with little round handles
Scooters, computers, and cupcakes with candles
Playing with Baba, a Mama who sings
These are a few of my favorite things

Grandma and Grandpa and quiet leaf blowers
Dust busters, dust pans, and riding lawn mowers
Playing at parks on the slides and the swings
These are a few of my favorite things

When the thunder makes me wonder why I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things and then I will feel so glad!

Jan26: Ayla is finally perfecting her “get off high things feet first” maneuver. Quite a milestone. She can now exit the couch or the bed without injury or drama.

Jan26: Well, now I know why Ali suddenly likes school.

I said to his teacher today, “Does he ever go on the swings?” I see other kids on them all the time but haven’t see Ali on them at pick-up.

She said, “Sure, sometimes. But he mostly likes the sand box and the trucks and the bikes. Oh, and he recently found a little black tube that we have lying around and he’s been using it as a vacuum, like to suck up the sand and stuff.”

Aaaaaaah. He’s found his vacuum.

Meanwhile, Ayla is a prodigy at blowing her nose. She’s not yet a year old and can blow when you put a cloth to her nose. Not super effectively, but the attempt is clear. Right now she’s carrying a cloth around trying to blow her nose on her own! Again, not very effectively, but it’s clear what she’s trying to do.

Jan26: A toddler’s entire job description:

F*** around.

Find out.

Jan26: Ayla’s first birthday is next week. I got two really cool things: A play kitchen and a sweet wooden block set. Both have always been meant for both kids to enjoy, not specifically for Ayla. In fact, my original plan was to give them both to Ali for his birthday, but I don’t want to wait two months for them to play with these things. They are great indoor toys for crummy weather.

Also of note: I didn’t get Ali anything for his first birthday. Just a cake. He got gifts on his second birthday and will get a ton of gifts on his third birthday (in April).

Should I:

(a) Give both things (kitchen and blocks) to Ayla for her birthday and let Ali learn how to tolerate other people getting gifts and parties (not easy for any two-year-old)

(b) Give both things on Ayla’s birthday but say they are for everyone (so Ali feels included in Ayla’s birthday?)

(c) Give both things at a random time and say they are for everyone (i.e., leave Ayla’s birthday out of it, and Ayla just gets a cake on her birthday like her brother did when he turned one)

[I gave both things at random times — the kitchen the day before Ayla’s birthday, the blocks the day of, but I just pulled it out to play with, no one unwrapped it.]

Jan27: We like to give Ali choices, like, “It’s OK if you don’t want to eat lunch, but if not it’ll be time for you to take a nap. Lunch or a nap, those are your options.”

Today he was climbing around on the couch and saying half to himself, “I want to watch leaf blowers, vacuums, and push mowers. Those are my options.”

I think he likes his own options better.

Ayla learned a while ago how to climb up into the toddler tower by herself. I said to her today, “Baby girl, that’s a toddler tower, not an infant tower.” I guess she is almost officially a toddler, though (next week!)

Anything we put in front of her that she can possibly climb on top of, she does. And often kind of wags her butt up and down after she does. She’s a little twerking mountain goat.

(And now she’s walking around blowing her nose on a used (wet) diaper.)

Jan27: First a southern drawl much thicker than mine, now this…

Jan28: Ali in the car today: “Does the sun makes the outside lighter?”

Jan29: Ayla seemed to sign “all done” today. Previously she’s been waving her arms wildly, which could have just been baby exuberance. But today she just rotated her little hands in space.

It’s such a miracle to witness this light bulb go off.

Feb3: Well, it’s happened. Ali doesn’t just want a trim. He wants us to “mow” his hair.

Recommendations for a curly-headed boy who wants it short?

Feb3: One year ago today — the day before Ayla was born. Ali was so little! Such a little tiny guy to take on the venerable station of big brother…

Feb3: Busted out the new kid kitchen. A huge hit!

Feb3: Ayla has a “word” she likes to say over and over. I hear Nummy:


Ahmed hears Meena:


It’s “laurel or yanny” all over again.

Feb3: When Ali’s trying to learn a new skill, we sometimes say, “Go ahead, keep trying. Try harder.”

Well, the tables have turned on us. He’s figured out how to disarm the child-proof door knobs by just ripping them off with brute strength.

He said proudly, “I got it off. I tried and then tried harder.”

Feb4: Yep. That happened a year ago. Happy first birthday, Ayla Rain! Technically it’ll happen at 6pm today.

Feb4: Ayla got her very first piece of birthday mail from her beloved great-grandma, Virginia Reavis! Thank you, Grandma ❤

Then there’s a photo of her holding aloft a vacuum attachment like the Torch of Liberty… And she randomly started sweeping the floors today.

Feb4: Technically she’s not a year old until 6pm. But you strike while the iron’s hot with these blanket photos.

And these are the last. The blanket only goes up to a year.

No more infants in this household in T minus 3.5 hours…

Feb4: Family pic with Grandma on Ayla’s first birthday

Feb4: Mama got Ayla the cutest little hippy dress for her birthday, but I couldn’t get a single shot of her standing up wearing it because she never stopped moving unless someone held her, haha. She also got a super cool puzzle with family pictures under the pieces. Her gift from me was a wooden block set in lovely multi-colors.

Meanwhile Ali got a vest and hedge trimmer for Ayla’s birthday. Can’t beat a deal like that!

Feb4: Found some more Ayla hippy dress cuteness!

(She walked all over the apartment carrying Mom’s cell phone, staring at it like a little business executive. At one point she went into the living room and just walked in a tight circle, like a little dance, with her free hand held elegantly out for balance, and then kept on walking. She is so funny.)

Feb4: We did a balloon drop in the kitchen, and Ayla looked like she had seen the face of God. She was wearing her special Class of 2038 t-shirt that her Aunt Val made for her. Then we put her in the same pale blue cloth diaper Ali had worn on his first birthday, added a cute head band, and gave her a smash cake.

We did it before dinner so she would be hungry and not too tired. Or so we hoped.

Alas, much like Ali before her, she got confused and cried (after immediately removing the head band). She ate a few berries off the top and cried some more. It took her a very long time to even smush her name around a little, and she managed to get all her toes covered in buttercream, but she had zero interest in eating the cake. So Baba and I ate it. We took some videos, but they are very boring and a little sad. Definitely a “Pinterest fail” (if I was on Pinterest). Oh well. The balloon drop pic is kinda cute!

She’s a bit under the weather and her nose is running like a faucet. First birthdays, man, it can be a rough time! I think she had fun overall, especially once we went to visit Grandma and Grandpa.

Feb4: We gave Mateo a cat treat after we clipped his claws. Ali asked what it was. We said it was like candy for cats.

So, naturally he wanted to try one. I gave him one, expecting Mr. Picky not to even put it anywhere near his mouth. But he stuck it right in. After a while he said, “It’s not too bad.” Then: “I’m gonna be a cat.”

I sighed, trying to figure out how to stop him from asking for the rest of the pack. “Well, next time we clip your claws, you can have another one, I guess.”

Mom commented: He will start saying fftttttt!

Feb5: There’s a Youtube channel where a soft-spoken British guy unboxes every vacuum cleaner known to man — real and toy — and tests them. His average video is about 15 minutes long and has a few hundred views.

These are Ali’s people.

Feb6: When we realize our parents are imperfect, we become adolescents.

When we forgive them, we become adults.

When we forgive ourselves, we become wise.

(Author unknown)

Feb7: Ali pointed out that I left candy out of his “Favorite Things” song, so I fixed that. (Replaced “dust pans” — lost a little bit of parallelism, but oh well)

Here’s the working version:

Tall yellow vacuums with little round handles

Scooters, computers, and cupcakes with candles

Playing with Baba, a Mama who sings

These are a few of my favorite things

Grandma and Grandpa and quiet leaf blowers

Dust busters, candy, and riding lawn mowers

Playing at parks on the slides and the swings

These are a few of my favorite things

When the thunder makes me wonder why I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favorite things and then I will feel so glad!

Last night, in the middle of a book, Ali said, “I want to hear the thunder song.”

After I sang it, he said: “That’s my favorite song.”

Feb7: Everyone’s kinda sick. Weather’s crap. Good day to sit around and watch American football. And in Ayla’s case, bop to the national anthem.

Feb8: Last night I dreamed I accidentally drove into a flood under a bridge and hydroplaned. But I was able to get control again and didn’t wreck.

Today, getting Ali from school, I lost control on icy bridges twice.

I was going very slowly, with large distances between cars. The brakes were useless a couple times. I just kept tapping ’til the tires made contact with the road again. But man. My nerves are shot.

Have to go to damn Walmart now. We have nothing and the weather is only getting worse.

Feb8: Ayla’s one year well visit was today, on top of everything. Still a big healthy girl. 84th percentile for height, 64th percentile for weight. She didn’t like the shots, but overall took it like a champ.

Made it back home after hitting ice on a bridge twice on my way to get Ali, then went back to Walmart to stock up. Ali offered to put the groceries away while I went to get the rest out of the car.

Came back to this.

Walking on Christmas

Ayla’s 11th month came with some major milestones. She’s walking like a champ now, climbing stairs on her own (on her hands and knees), she slept through the night (!) (It’s been hit or miss since, but still better than before), and she had her first Christmas.

And Ali got his first haircut (don’t worry, he still has his curls!), made his first snow vacuum, painted his first watercolor, and made his first wire sculpture.

Holidays are always a bit hectic, but all in all it’s been a huge improvement from COVIDvember, haha. Life is really good. We spent two weeks in Stigler, where the kids were totally spoiled by all the space and all the sweets and they spent some good times with their cousins. As it should be.

Dec8: Ali came home from school yesterday with a big story about how he threw water on the teachers and they hissed like Mateo (our cat) and he used a vacuum cleaner to vacuum the water off of them.

The real story was that a different kid threw a water bottle and the teachers explained to that kid why it was not OK.

But I love his big imagination!

Dec9: This picture is heaven

Dec9: Are y’all watching Jupiter and Saturn inch closer and closer to each other in the sunset sky? On December 21, they’ll appear closer than they have in 800 years. (They’ll still look quite close to each other right up ’til Christmas.)

Another similar conjunction will happen in 2080, when I’m 100 years old

Dec11: December 11, let the record show, Ayla took 7 steps!

I think it happened because she was so distracted / thrilled because I gave her two pieces of packing tape to play with (closely supervised).

The girl likes anything dangerous or that she can break.

She’s very graceful / elegant with falling. I’m impressed by that.

Dec12: Yesterday morning (ETA: with everyone fully clothed), Ali asked me very pleasantly and very politely, with a sweet smile, “Did someone take your penis off?”

I have a feeling that question has been brewing for a while, and he was waiting to develop the proper grammar, vocab, and syntax.

Well done, kid!

“No, baby, I never had a penis. You and Baba were born with a penis. Me and Ayla were born without a penis. Some people have one and some people don’t. It’s normal.”

Something like that!

Dec13: Ali is enjoying his first Winter Wonderland in this gorgeous snow. Guess what was the first thing he and Baba built? A snow man. The second thing?

Yep. A vacuum cleaner.

(I slept in today. Also glorious.)

Now they’re in the kitchen having “warm cocoa.” (Ali doesn’t want hot cocoa. It’s too hot.)

Later he’ll help me make pumpkin pie. And I’m sure Ayla will help us eat it!

Dec13: Ali’s first painting! (Watercolor)

Dec13: Ali just now: “I pooped. Good job! Give me a high five.”

*high five given*

“It’s in there. In my butt. In my dai-poo [diaper]. Whoo! It’s disgustin’. It’s a stinky one.”

[For the record, we do not describe poop as disgusting. Unless his sister is trying to eat a chunk of it in the bathtub. And when we say, “That’s a stinky one,” we say it cheerfully, matter-of-fact. Body positivity, yay]

Dec14: Ayla is a fry monster. If french fries are on the menu, she wants absolutely nothing else. Once she eats her fries, she ignores the rest of her food and begs like a sad / angry puppy until we give her more fries. She doesn’t even want pumpkin pie. Just fries.

Not that we have fries all that often. But man, she goes to town.

Dec14: Ayla is playing with Ali’s toy cell phone. When you close it, it says, “Bye bye. Adios!” When it did, she smiled and waved to it.

Dec14: Man, Ayla’s even more of a hummus monster. Give her hummus and fries, she’ll never stop.

Dec14: Ayla is a big fan of assisted somersaults today. She snow plows here little head into the bed until you lift her butt and flip her over. Then she smiles big and signs for “More!”

Dec15: Woke up this morning regular Mom tired, not lingering COVID fatigue tired. Woo hoo!

Dec15: Ali skipped his lunch and his nap today at school then came home and got a nosebleed (probably from picking at it after a long day in cold, dry air).

He was actually in a great mood until he learned we were going to go to Stigler tomorrow and not today. All he’ll do is cry that he wants to go to Stigler now.

So this is fun.

“Just thinkin’ about… tomorrow…” 😛

ETA: After school, before the nosebleed, while Baba was on a Zoom meeting, I offered Ali “rectangle ice cream” to calm him down. I put one of my special dairy-free coconut cream ice cream sandwiches on a plate and cut it in half.

He said, “Don’t cut it. Don’t cut it!”

Alas, it was already cut. Thankfully we had one more in the freezer, so I put the cut one back in its package and got another one out. He ate it happily.

Once it was gone, he said, “I want the cut one.”

I said no and stuck with it. Cue next meltdown…

The boy needs food and naps. I wish we could convince him of that.

[EDIT: He also brought home a very cool little wire sculpture that he did at school.]

Dec16: When your kid is acting like an absolute lunatic and refuses to eat anything all day if it’s not ice cream, and you’re trying to pack for a long hometown (COVID-safe) visit and your husband is working and there’s also a baby crawling around getting into everything, and you just give him the damn ice cream…


Dec17: Ali got his first hair cut today and I’m having feelings.

He doesn’t look any different. They just chopped off the last wild inch. But he came with that wild inch!

He took it like a champ. Watched his Baba get a hair cut first, clutching at my legs, seeing other people get blow-dried and looking very nervous indeed.

“That’s like a leaf blower for the hair,” I said. “Don’t worry. They won’t do it to your hair.”

I told Ali if he didn’t want to get a hair cut, he didn’t have to, and he seemed to be leaning in that direction. Then I said, “Or you can just sit in the chair and let her touch your hair and see how that feels.”

To my surprise he said, “OK.”

He did, and she started spraying detangler, and he said nervously, “I want a camera.”

I guessed he wanted a mirror, and I asked her to turn him around so he could see what was going on. From then on he was fine! Except he kept saying very seriously, “I don’t want a leaf blower in my hair.” We assured him none was coming.

My little curly-headed boy. Still my curly-headed boy. Just a little less wild around the edges.

Here are the before, during, and after of Ali’s first haircut

Dec17: Fuzzier Ali and slightly-more-sedate-hair Ali (before and after first hair cut)

Dec18: Ali tries for ten minutes to take Ayla’s temperature with a forehead thermometer while Ayla crawls around and plays. Finally he does it.

Ali: “I did it!”

Ahmed: “What does it read?”

Ali: “Temperatures.”

Dec19: My grandma when she was about 2. Also my daughter, now. [The last one is 2 images of me when I was little.] Almost the same facial expression. Ayla just needs a little disapproving squint. And another year’s worth of hair.

Dec19: Christmas pic with all the grandsons! (Can you tell Ali didn’t nap today? Way too excited. Ayla had already gone to bed.)

There was almost a Christmas crisis, though. Mr. Grumpy No-Nap Ali was supposed to get some small gifts today (Cousin Christmas) and then get his big gift — a train set — on Christmas morning.

His cousin Levi got the same train set today. As soon as Ali saw it, he could only point to it and say, “I want that train. I want that train!”

We offered him another (smaller) present. He said, without even opening it, “I don’t like it. I like the train.”

He probably could have dealt with the disappointment / desire better if he’d had a nap. But he had not. And he was about to be sad instead of happy on Cousin Christmas.

So Mom went and got his train set out of its shipping box and presented it to him. He pointed at Levi’s train and said, “No, I want that train.” (They were identical.)

Bill saved the day by taking both train sets into another room, switching them, and asking Ali which train he wanted. He picked one, Levi was happy to take the other one, and Christmas was saved.

And God bless us every one

Dec19: Nephews playing King of the Mountain to Skype with Aunt Val and Uncle Galen in California

Dec19: You can see Ali’s haircut did not diminish his glorious curls. Happy, tired boy here with his Grandpa and youngest (American) cousin.

Dec20: Happy Christmas to all! (We’re celebrating early)

Cousin Christmas big family pic. Not bad! Everyone’s smiling but Miss Dooley and her pearls… (She smiles all the time but gets a serious, curious look on her face when you hold a camera up!)

Dec20: Ali’s cousins WORE HIM OUT

Dec20: Extreme baby close-up. She got her shirt and her bow for Christmas from her aunt and her grandma. The beads we randomly found in my old closet

Dec21: Our SPARKLICIOUS Stigler Solstice Conjunction bonfire. The days only get brighter from here. Right?

It’s actually been a pretty sweet year for us all in all. Ayla has only existed in the year 2020 so far. Not a bad defining element for our family. Be safe through this crazy winter. See you on the other side!

Dec23: Ali playing on his Baba’s phone last night:

“This game is too simple for me.”

Meanwhile Ayla is walking up a storm and slept almost all the way through the night on the night of the Solstice / conjunction! Sleeping 8pm to 6:50am is not bad at all. She got up at 5:15 this morning but went back to sleep with a little rocking and encouragement (no milk) and woke up babbling and happy (and thirsty) at 7:30.

She’s also totally obsessed with climbing the stairs. I spot her to make sure she doesn’t fall, but