Life Cycle 101

Turns out it's much easier for me to talk to my toddler about my vagina than about death.

They're both just biology, as far as I'm concerned, but when answering questions about birth, I can point to body parts and pictures and draw on analogies (it's just like the tube slide at the park!) and concrete answers (hopefully the baby won't land in the potty, but someone - the doctor?  your papa?  will catch him when he comes out).  Death?  Not so easy.

We've had a few neighborhood pets (a bunny, a cat, a dog) get put down this summer, very old and sick and not unexpected, but well-loved beings who were a regular part of our lives.  So the questions still come up:  'Where's ____?  Where did she go?  Why won't she be back?"  Hmm.  And we also visited some older relatives who are struggling with their health, which brought up related questions.  How to explain without making it too scary?  I don't want to compare it to sleep, and I don't want to focus too much on how it will happen to everyone.  I'm not going to say things I don't believe - she's chasing rabbits in doggy heaven! - that pretend it's a happy ending.  Of course we can't know for sure what happens, and I'll allow that there are more things on heaven and earth, etc. etc., but basically things just stop.  What does that mean to an almost-3-year-old?

It even comes up in silly little ways:  Harry, the dirty dog, plays dead in the story.  He lies there without moving.  No, that bee can't sting you - it's dead.  That means the body stops working.  Why?  The blood stops flowing, oxygen doesn't make it to the brain... as the science gets complicated, it starts being ridiculous and unhelpful to try and explain.  Hey!  Was that a helicopter?  Do you want some ice cream?  Let's go to the park!  Topic successfully evaded once again.

And birth?  To quote:  "That's just silly!"  I can't say I disagree.  (okay, okay, also wondrous and amazing, but come on, y'all)



Do not inhale helium.  Helium reduces and can eliminate oxygen available for breathing.  Inhaling helium can result in serious personal injury or death.

Inks used on this balloon conform to government standards that relate to children's toys.  Keep dry.  Water can cause the inks to bleed.  

This balloon may conduct electricity.  Do not release outdoors.  Do not use near power lines.  Misuse may cause personal injury.

Not suitable for children under 36 months due to potential small parts.

All this on a single happy-face balloon from the dollar store.  Repeat in French for full effect.  Ideally with a chipmunk voice from having inhaled helium.  God bless America!

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Side note:  100 posts!  Huzzah!


You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think

Oh, Texas.  You've done it again.  You gave us Six Flags and Austin City Limits, so it ain't all bad, but when it's bad, it's really really bad.  Yup, we're talking about education.  The recent news about the Republican plans for the state that unfortunately influences schools across the nation.  Some of their brilliant ideas for improving things?

-Allow teachers more latitude with discipline, because corporal punishment can be quite effective.

I guess in a state that hands out the death penalty so often, violence is the answer.  Reminds me of when I taught in New Mexico and had parents offer to write me a note giving me permission to hit their kid because that's how they did it at home and that's the only way to make 'em pay attention.  Um, no, actually, we don't do things that way, sorry, but thanks for your help, always good to get the families involved.  I guess it's better than the ones that didn't show up or answer calls at all.  But those were awkward conversations, and I'm sad to say they happened more than once.

-Stop teaching higher-order/critical thinking skills, because they will cause students to question their fixed beliefs and undermine parental authority.

WTF, Lone Star?  This is like all those people who vote for a guy they want at their bbq, instead of someone who comes off as a snob.  You know what?  I want the president (or any politician, really) - the leader of the free world, the commander-in-chief of one of the most powerful nations - to be a heck of a lot smarter than I am!  Sure, fine, let's knock back a beer and a burger, be a (wo)man of the people, but really, just have your shit together for your job.  Same goes for the future of our world:  these kids are going to grow up and face a heap of trouble, and I want them to be able to think creatively and problem-solve their way through the mess we leave behind.  Make good choices.  Pay attention to the world around you and be able to react in ways that make it better.  Why would parents not want that for their kids?

As much as I've been irritated at the media for inciting the red-blue divide in a land that's much more purple, and as much as I believe we all really do have more in common than not, these are the moments that make me wonder how we can possibly make it as truly united states.  There are just some divides that seem impossible to cross.  Maybe if I went to Texas and talked to those folks, we could find a way to understand each other, but this just seems like such a fundamentally different way of being in the world.  I hope it turns out to be all talk, and that the people who are in the classroom and making the real decisions make the right ones.

Legend has it that Dorothy Parker was asked to use the word "horticulture" in a sentence, and replied with my title.  This news reminded me of her response, but I've gotta say, I've got a higher opinion of the ladies in that profession than the men (pretty sure they were, mostly anyway) who spouted forth this garbage in the name of progress and better education.  Yee-haw.


Flip. Flop!

(a 5-minute quickwrite from summertime 2009)

Flip.  Flop.  Freedom.
Sweet release from a winter’s worth of smelly closet.
Shuffle shuffle shuffle – sunshine. 
Hot pavement.  Splintery boardwalk.  Sand.
Abandoned, as the feet fly into the water, oh so blue.
Flip.  Flop.  Fish!

Priceless protection for pattering pads
$3 thongs – can shove into a bag
travel the world and the neighborhood
flippin’ and floppin’ – man, life is good.
Kicked off at the hammock, the beach, and inside.
Let those feet breathe, dance, slip and slide!