Sunday, May 07, 2006

Making Time 

As I've mentioned here before, I am constitutionally nocturnal, a victim of Retarded Sleep Phase Syndrome, up long past midnight as a matter of course.

Once this was no problem. I did my best thesis writing between the hours of dark and sunrise; blogged late into the night, and made it to my classroom for the odd 8:30 class blurred but functional.

These days, however, what with commute and a seven thirty homeroom, my teaching mandates an early awakening. And I mean early. Like, before six.

End result: total suckage.

I've tried going to bed earlier as a matter of course (say, a civilized eleven fifteen) but for some reason, my brain and body seem to prefer to head to zombieville as the weekend nears. For a few weeks I managed to beat the odds by "accidentally" falling asleep putting the kids to bed at 8, which felt good as it happened. But this just as often caused me to rise in the wee hours of the morning afraid of missing the alarm, wander about for an hour, and end up overtired the next day.

I'm tired all the time, overcaffeinated and jittery when I should be alert. By Wednesday, I begin to arrive home with a shortened fuse, meandering about drunkenly without a drop to drink, napping on the couch when I should be enjoying those few precious kid hours between homecoming and bed. Thursdays I start nodding off on the drive home.

I'm starting to hate my life. Worse, I'm starting to sleepwalk through it.

So this week, in the interest of compromise, I've decided to start prepping for the morning ritual before bed. So far this evening I've ironed clothes for the week, hung 'em out for tomorrow, laid out wallet and pocket change by the door, and made sure the bathrobe and towel are handy. I even pre-filled the coffee pot.

Estimated net gain, at least by alarm clock standards: 20 minutes of extra sleep.

To be fair, twenty minutes doesn't sound like much. But I figure it's worth the same to the psyche as a serious midweek catch-up nap. At least, I hope so. Because this braindead-by-Thursday thing is seriously starting to kick my ass.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:14 PM | 3 comments

Saturday, May 06, 2006

In Other News... 

In addition to our wonderous new discovery (see Zoo Story, below), a trifecta of other trivialities today:
  • We finally bought a lawn sprinkler, because if you're going to have dirt, you might as well have wet dirt.

  • Post-it sticky-back photo paper is the best invention ever for three year olds, especially if your goal in life is to fetishize images of yourself on carousel horses.

  • Cassia has decided that the whole point of her new potty is to sit on it after she pees all over my leg.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:45 PM | 0 comments

Best. Zoo. Ever. 

As always, click on the pic for more photos from our day at the zoo...
Willow with wallaby - woo!

We're big proponents of tourism in bad weather, having once experienced a blissful 45 degree day at Disney World with no lines. So when the weather websites once again proved totally out of sync with the realities of New England sun-to-rain, we were more than prepared to hit the local zoo we had heard so much about.

Well, that, and after 15 hours of allergy-encrusted sleep between yesterday afternoon and this morning, I was itching to get off my ass and out of the house to spend some time with my wonderfully Daddy-tolerant family.

We arrived at Lupa Zoo just after 11 under overcast skies just beginning to let loose; bundled kids into the ever-handy double stroller befitted with oversized umbrella; scrounged up enough singles to make it through the gate only to discover that though there was no credit taken at the gate, the underage countergirl at the tiny gift shop was happy to call what was surely a mom-slash-owner to run the espresso machine and sell us a couple of boxes of animal snack crackers.

From there, we wandered what turned out to be an exquisitely intimate and friendly game farm that depends on visitors to feed the animals. Each pen, from Antelope to Zebra, allows closer-than-typical proximity to the animals, in order that bran crackers and purchased seed corn might be dropped down the everpresent chute or, in many cases, gifted open-hand through the crisscross fence to the lipping mounth of all sorts of fun exotics.

One note, for those (like myself) that have seen exotic animal care from behind the scenes: as our friendly and oddly ubiquitous young zookeeper mentioned over the course of our visit, the trade-off in making a zoo that is so visitor-oriented, so mellow and so intimate, so close-packed with face-to-face encounters of everything living and interesting is that a) there is no behind the scenes in which to care for and train animals, and b) the usual method of coaxing animals with food is lost to the "visitors feed everyone" phenomenon, which leaves little incentive for, say, the bear or coatimundi to behave for vets and caretakers.

But this is a minor quibble, one well worth (in this visitor's opinion) the experience that results. How often can you climb a staircase to handfeed a giraffe with a three year old? Or let the one-year-old walker rub noses with a baby Zebu? We saw more animals than people, which beats most zoo-goers experience anytime; never went more than 30 seconds without seeing another beast or bird close at hand. We stayed for over two hours, an unheard of success for kids this age past naptime on a rainy Saturday. Enough said, I say.

Overall, Lupa Zoo is a marvel of zoos, one which takes the typical "each animal a separate viewing spectacle" phenom of the modern zoo and replaces it with adjacency, an easy walk from one animal to the next, and even a single indoor space in the zoo center teeming with simians cages that twist around each other, bats up close, small monkeys clutching surprisingly human-like babies up to their chests mere inches away from our peering faces, aligators in an honest-to-god bathtub.

It doesn't feel like a spectacle, or a planned experience. It has no real commercial component; has two tiny gift shops of cameras and snacks, but it doesn't even have professionally made souveniers. Heck, the halloween decorations are still up from last year.

Lupa Zoo rocks, and that's all there is to it. It feels like a petting zoo, a community, an open barn in someone's backyard. It feels safe, open, and inviting. They run on biodiesel, compost heavily, and encourage visitors to bike in. They guy who built it lives in a nice house just past the aviary and the bobcats; you can see in his windows.

In fact, I'm planning on calling sometime soon to see if they take volunteers -- or want to hire this old museum educator for weekend educational programs, maybe.

If you're ever driving through Ludlow, Ma, call ahead and we'll meet you at Lupa Zoo. Just don't forget to bring cash to get in.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:50 PM | 1 comments

Thursday, May 04, 2006

New Life In The Neighborhood 

Arrived home to find Willow's been pushing her tiny sister around all day, and Mama's lost her voice to the same glandswelling something that hit me earlier. Shopping meant the ability to strap the kids down out of eyesight, so we all went off, bought spitcooked deli chicken and real bread, played it light for the evening, and it seemed to help.

The baby went down early, though, so while Mama and baby snuggled behind blinds Willow and I wandered off into the waning daylight. Highlights:
  • New calf close-up and mother-protected in the pasture across the street, still wobbly and wet.

  • Pooh-sticks with the season's first dandelions under the waterfall bridge.

  • This season's first frog, fat and green, jumping high at our feet, scared back into the water from the slippery slope above.

  • Bark souveniers from the beaver-chewed tree by the banks, it's scarred surface rough under our intertwined fingers.

  • A tick each, discovered and knocked free, and thank goodness we found them.

Ah, the discoveries of Spring. Home under a halfmoon with the half pint, a livingroom slowdance in the almostdark, and all is well again.

Funny how wide the pendulum swings in a day, sometimes. Not so funny, how vast and infuriating the shift from competitive to cuddly when her sister leaves the room.

And so it begins. If we're lucky, we've got a minimum of fifteen more years of this sibling rivalry, at least under our roof. At least we know how she feels, we two first children raising their own first.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:00 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Small Town Life Suits Me Fine 

6 miles from the Connecticut border. 20 miles from the nearest Starbucks.

One bar. One school -- 80 kids per grade but it fields a pretty strong softball team. One market, one drugstore, one laundromat. Two kittycorner gas stations with dual service bays.

Total population: 8 thousand, including us four.

Friendly townies of bluecollar stock most in their third or fourth generation wander the streets in the afternoon. Farmers, carpenters, roofers, motorcyclists; sneakers and workboot feature prominently in adult couture.

There is no rush hour. At 3 in the afternoon school gets out, the streets begin to fill up with pick-up trucks, teenagers out driving their parent's cars, white utility vans. The market lot stays crowded until it closes at seven.

Sitting in a local barber shop while the car gets a long-overdue inspection offers, almost demands we revisit the smalltown life we have chosen. Here the gossip over the scissor snip; there on the window colorcopy flyers promote church ham suppers, fly fishing tournaments, the high school production. On TV they're interviewing a woman three towns over. The world passes by the windows. And it is good.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:52 PM | 2 comments

Monday, May 01, 2006

On The Other Side 

Green lawns line the roadside up and down the mountain. Some are populated by dandelions; most have delineated edges where woods begins and yard ends. The biggest, most lush homesteads have already grown enough to mow, sport finely trimmed lawns with perfectly parallel lines to and fro, like a freshly vacuumed carpet.

All around us, people spend their Sundays on the greening lawn, hose in hand, tossing water like rain. Meanwhile, our grass seed lies dead upon the hardpacked earth. Small tufts of green grow here and there, clustered like daffodil stems in the midst of an otherwise wasteland.

We debate buying a sprinkler. We try to buy a sprinkler, but life gets in the way. Plus, the Agway is closed on Sundays.

It looks like rain, but it doesn't rain. We take the kids through the car wash instead. Baby Cassia, new to the experience, reaches for the slapping cloth that slams against her window, and does not cry.

Next year, I promise myself. Next year we will have a lawn. For now, it is more than enough to have earth, and a family to put down root in it.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:24 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 29, 2006

How To Begin 

Still planning on doing so "real" writing this summer, with a book-length goal; as part of this process, I've allowed a part of my mind ongoing muse-ability on the subject. So far, however, though I seem to have settled on a voice (autobiographical and cultural analysis) and a tone (casual, with less research but plenty of anecdotal evidence laid out clearly from my life inner and external), picking a focus has eluded me.

One thing I've always found in my own writing is that, given a month of musing and muttering in a given direction, all it takes from there is that golden nugget -- a sentence, a phrase, even a title -- and you can build the world of interconnected ideas around it. But setting such a scale for the summer's trial means that my instinct is to write about everything all at once.

In order to establish that direction so crucial to putting words on paper, I've been toying this week with a title which would help me focus.

The title: Blogger and Son.

The inevitable premise that follows: the book would build on my last three and a half years of life experience, starting the week I began blogging and my daughter began turning from infantile object into person, with my own development as parent and son, and how the decision (and constant reexploration) to make my life public has affected and been affected by my role as a member of a growing family, at the heart of it all.

Obviously, the larger issue would be to try to make some connections to the universal -- through my experience and cultural agent and teacher of young people, and through exploration of the new ways in which various generations are using webbed technologies a la Web 2.0 -- and, in the end, make some generalizations about how currently living generations have been changed (and may continue to change) because of the new ways in which social technologies affect family dynamics, as a part of social dynamics.

The big question, then: Would this work? Do you think a publisher would want to buy it? Would you want to read it? And also, of course, has it been done?

posted by boyhowdy | 7:35 PM | 2 comments

The Week of "What?" 

Last week's virus on the tail of a long family flight has left us with a household of infected ears. Business as usual for me, really, since poorly constructed eustacian tubes run in my family (remind me to tell you about my brother and his re-cored soundhole sometime). And at just-one Cassia is too little to really be lost to a few days of lost audible cues.

But Willow has adapted to her loss of hearing by acting out more, as if an inability to hear us in active parent mode releases her to act out however the heck she feels. Ask her to do something and she smiles and yells "What?" Try and get her to stop pestering her sister and she reacts far too slow, as if the decoder that is her ear-brain connection is rather more delayed than simply stopped up.

To be fair, it probably does take her longer to process -- she's likely getting only bits and pieces of code, so it takes longer to rebuild meaning and react. But I'd like to think she would have adapted by now, and perhaps realized that she'll have to listen more carefully for a while. Instead, she's come undone, behaviorally, and spends much of her time in chairs. She seems to be taking advantage of that delay of translation, rather than simply suffering through it.

We are all frustrated and annoyed. I'd call a family conference, but it's hard to have a rational discussion when everyone's yelling at each other, and no one can hear you scream.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:19 PM | 0 comments

Friday, April 28, 2006

Poem, Again 

Something raw, half-drafted in indellible ink on an old envelope against the steering wheel while driving to and from work today. Because the blog entry I wrote earlier wasn't for public consumption. And because it's time, and true.

I've taken mornings to the concrete stoop
again, after so many changes put an end to it:
a need for sleep, and to disconnect the smoker's habits
from the newness of nonsmoking; the end of winter.

New job, new home, new patterns:
four years ago I could smoke in the house
where it was warm and childless,
Three years ago we lived in a stoopless attic;

The suburban proximity that disallowed
bathrobes on the porch, and the homeless summer -
the world conspired to keep me inside
until I was ready, and public, and already moving.

But flowers bloom in Spring and so do I.
The earth is warm and the road is behind the trees.
And here I am in my bathrobe way too early,
for no other reason than to watch the sun rise,

yesterday's coffee, reheated by my side;
admire new lawn, a hundred inherited daffodills
the way the tallest trees bud in yellows
and deep redbrown, crewcut against a bluing sky.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:39 PM | 0 comments

Parenting 301:
If it was easy, it wouldn't be love. 

For the first time in forever I actually felt the back go out, could feel the twinge as I twisted and dropped, lifted and tossed.

That I did it throwing my first and precious child, firm but as gentle as possible under the circumstances, into the time-out chair, roaring, still but only barely in control of my self, makes it no better.

That she was red-faced, screaming, already thirty minutes into a full-blown wail-and-cry attack makes it worse.

That what got us to that moment was that she tried to hurt me, but stopped herself at a token, is reassuring, though it doesn’t excuse the attack on my nose or wrists, with head and tinystrong hands and hard-headed dolly.

That she did it to try to get to mama is always and only a sad thing. But what can we do? Somewhere, even she knows that she has turned to keeping Cassia awake, accepted the bad attention as better – for now – than no attention during the younger sister’s bedtime. Keeping her from baby bedtime, that the baby might sleep, and more, that the elderchild might afterwards have the solo mama-and-me time that she so desperately craves and deserves, is an inevitable and vital step forward; that she has forced our hand in getting there by hook or crook is no excuse for letting things get worse, as if they could.

That I didn’t lose control is an ongoing triumph. I no longer fear myself, in these moments – know, indeed, that I will ever be capable of keeping the responses within the scale and scope of measured response. Once I worried that I would lose that conscious brain, revert entirely to lizard brain, in the worst of interfamiliar anger. It is truly awesome, in the original sense, to find that I am not, will not, cannot be that person that I feared I would be unable to not be.

But knowing that I own my temper is no compensation for having to go so far along the path towards big and scary.

And knowing that it has come to this is hard to accept, sometimes.

I do it out of love, and she accepts that, in the aftermath, hugging me goodnight, telling me she loves me. But it hurts, physically and psychologically.

That twinge of pressure will over three days swell and ache until it peaks at monster pain, the kind only those of us with herniation can truly understand.

I guess I had hoped we would be different. Now I know better, I suppose. That twinge of knowledge in her eyes, the one that says I know you are bigger and will use it when you must, is in the end the bittersweet heart of every parent’s constant struggle to love and care for, tame and ultimately set free every willful child.

It’s a mess, this parenting thing. It takes all my energy, drains my emotional core. And it hurts so much more because, in those lucid moments, she understands, somehow, at three and three quarters, that it hurts me, too. It hurts so much more because I, too, am no fan of delayed gratification, and I know exactly how she feels.

In these moments we are each other, the mature three, the once-child (and still secretly childlike) Daddy. We are past and present and future all at once; we are each other, and our selves in every age.

And in some ways, that we can go through this together and come out clutching each other is the scariest and the best thing of all.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:19 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dizzy & Light 

My wife is one of those steadfast people, the ones who soldier on through anything, and I admire her for it. It's one of the qualities I need in a family, and one reason I'm lucky she chose me. For though the constant blogging helps me center and reflect, I am flighty and anxious by nature, and cannot stabilize myself.

But we all have our off days, through no fault of our own. She gets dizzy spells sometimes when the weather changes, and today was pretty bad: I arrived home to find her in bed, trying hard to keep her head still while the kids swarmed around her.

We made it through evening, movie night and take-out chinese, but by bedtime the world turned sour and shaky again. Willow's been hit hard by the return to one-parent daytime normalcy after our long family vacation, and in the dark hours has started screaming for solo care from mama only -- which tends to wake the baby, thereby making mama inaccessible.

And from downstairs, as I closed the door to the basement laundry, I could hear my wife get stern, and then cold. And I knew she was desperate. You could hear it in her voice.

It's no fault to get frustrated in such scenarios, no matter how stable you are. The three year old middle-of-night mindset doesn't really grasp the causality of her actions; she's bright, but cannot be expected to own the cycle she creates no matter how much we lock her out in a vain attempt at sanity and long-term care for all. And what a cycle it is.

So tonight it was my turn to be the stable one, coming upstairs to remind Willow how precious she was while an exhausted and still-faint mama wandered off with the baby to put her to bed far too late for easy putdown.

It was, to be sure, a pure accident of timing and tenor that earned me tonight's sighs and heart-lightening halfsleep babble of love and affection where last night, post-nightmare, her sister awakened and now screaming behind a mama-closed door, Willow screamed at me that she did not love me when I tried the same strategy. Some things, parents learn, can not be fixed, but merely tolerated.

But sometimes it works.

And if I am able to be the center of the whirlwind even in these exceptional moments, given the allowance of daughter and chance, it is because Darcie has taught me to be me, and to be sane in the face of frustration. It is she that is precious, that we could not function as family without. It is she that still takes my breath away, and makes me dizzy and light, for no more reason than the realization that she loves me.

It is that love that I give to my daughter, when she lets me.

May I never forget. May we never be alone without it.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:17 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

All Things Go 

A late frost tonight, perhaps the year's last, after a damp day. Not enough to make the new grass crunch, enough to bring a wet sparkle to the garden rocks.

Willow wakes moaning in the night, cannot tell us where it hurts. Her ears have not yet recovered from the two-leg flight home on Sunday; she's been in off-and-on pain and half-deaf mornings and evenings since then, but it might be just a bad dream. I go upstairs to help, she pushes me away for mama.

Mom was up today after a trip to New York and New Jersey side of the family. My brother and his fiancee, unsure of their future, trying to decide which coast would best support their art without forcing them to earn life-money with the time they need to create. Her cousins, once as close as siblings, now proud grandparents themselves, each struggling to survive in their own way. Her aunt, in the last stages of Alzheimers, cawing at her like a crow, refusing to take her eyes from her.

As the Florida warmth leeches out of mind and body I think more and more about her great grandfather. Dad's father seemed more lucid than the last time we saw him, though he didn't change his clothes the whole time we were down there. He talks about the present more; has rebuilt himself, mostly, moved on from the loss of his wife, my grandmother.

The connection he had with Cassia brought him to life somehow, more than any I've seen in him, even with Willow before her. When I left the room he spoke to Darcie of his first child, born ill, the daughter he lost long before she passed away; when Willow pushed at her smaller sister he turned protective, though he spoke with understanding of the rivalry there.

Maybe it's a blessing of sorts, that he's finally there for himself, unhindered by future or companion, able to live in the moment, love with whole heart a small girl just barely able to speak his name, who smiles up at him with big blue eyes and just a hint of his late wife's red hair, tries to give him the stuffed bear he gave her moments before.

My brain sifts through it all, trying to make sense of the unanswered moments before they fade or crystallize. I think about my family, slowly falling to pieces, growing up, growing old, spreading to the corners of this country. I think about the small ones playing musical beds upstairs as they cry and wake, rock and fall back to sleep again, enacting in microcosm the up and down curve of adult life, and of life itself.

This afternoon while Mom tried to take our picture Willow and I danced slow in the playroom, holding each other tight tight tight. I hid the iPod on a shelf behind their chair while they shared a story and song, and, thinking about the 8 track recordings my mother's father once made of he and I, there in their New York high rise, recorded their conversation for the ages.

Once I knew where those tapes were, and cherished them. But then, once I had Cassia's first cry, and then the old iPod was stolen.

The world shines in funny ways. Sometimes its just mica in the rocks, a soft rock so easy to peel away. Sometimes its quartz, hard and unforgiving, eternal and sharp-edged, permanent as teeth. Tonight it's ice. By morning it will have melted away.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:38 PM | 0 comments

Monday, April 24, 2006

Shades of Independence 

Like everyone and Everett, I like indie music. 7300 songs worth and counting, if the iPod is any indication.

Unlike Everett, however, who is happy to lump the Beatles and Dylan in amongst his "less cutting edge, straightfowardly "indie" music" downloadable set at All Things Go, I can't tell what makes modern indie music distinct from modern folk music.

(And I'm not alone, either -- see the Wikipedia entry on Freak-folk, aka New Weird America music, and pay close attention to both the mess of a genre-description and the oddly diverse list of acts that follows).

These days, indie instrumentation is raw and acoustic, themes remain subtle and slow, and -- for much of the genre, at least -- stripped down singer-songwriter is the name of the game. Especially confounding is the borderline acts once officially folk-designate, such as The Weepies and proto-genrebuster Ms. DiFranco. Both of whom I've seen at folk festivals. Before they were indie. When their music sounded the same.

Unless it's a very, very slight tendency towards the obscure and morbid found in everything from band names (cf. Death Cab for Cutie) to lyricism (cf Sufjan), it seems the main difference between indie and folk is little more than audience designate -- as if the very fact that bunch of SXSW-hittin' twentysomethings were standing up at a venue made something not-folk.

Which is silly, and a bit like saying that, because adolescents read more fantasy than anyone else, anything adolescents generally read must be fantasy.

So much for post-post--post-modernism. I'm calling the genre fakefolk, or perhaps faux-lk, until further notice. Please join me in designating the very concept of "indie" officially dead.

In other news of impending independence, I've been back at work one day and already we're counting down the weeks (7) until summer vacation. Can I get a whoop whoop for the teachers and students in da house? Thanks, y'all. Now get back on the bus and get those damn white strings out of your ears.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:53 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Last Night In The Sun 

Sunset over Delray Beach

Technically it's another night, back on the Barnes and Noble balcony squeezing a few final hours out of yet another whirlwind week in the heat and humidity. The kids sleeps soundly back at the cubanero rental, resting up for the long haul back North tomorrow.

Sunday will bring two planes, car returns, driving to and from. Apple juice in the lab again, surely -- I can feel the weight of baggage literal and metaphorical as if I had brought it here into the cool breeze. Work and school again in the early morning the following day loom ahead. Monday comes ever too soon.

It hasn't been all sunshine and light. The strain of travel got to the elderchild early this time around. Having a DVD player in the rental car got a bit too good; by the end, we could do little to top it; the contant threat to leave her in the car became more promise than anything.

In the end, this week's lessons include the sad truth that there's little to relax about when you're traveling with two wee ones. It occurs to me in the midst of our final highway drive home this evening, Willow whining about Cassia screaming, that it is a rare moment indeed for all four to be in sync, but so easy for one to drag the others down. Fun with children on the road is a frantic affair, much like chasing a high.

Into every swim a little sand must scrape, I suppose. But what a swim, and how warm the water. They're a handful, and I love them dearly. And no childless couple could ever know the sheer joy that is four of us, big to little, in those everrare moments of smiles and light.

Willow was so sweet with her old prep school friends today, disbursed souls like ourselves, now Floridian transplants happy to welcome us into their tiny townhouse. Cassia's knees are bloody from falling down in short pants, but she turns around so quickly, smiling, moving on, it's hard to imagine her as the tiny infant she was when we first set off on the road, bereft of home, prospects uncertain, the last time we hit sand and surf.

And so we move on, ever the wanderers, ever on the road, always together. The sun sets on another vacation. But somewhere, it is always rising, floating into the sky, light as my heart when they are by my side.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:57 PM | 1 comments

Friday, April 21, 2006

Please Vacate The Premises 

Still vacant, er, vacationing. Life remains relaxed and warm. My neck is sunburnt, but we've had much cooler nights since we discovered the air conditioning.

Many, many more pix up at flickr, some even right side up. Click here for evermore zoo, beach, fountains, and an especially wonderful series of shots featuring my father's father and his tiny greatgranddaughter; see below for the rotated teaser.

I'd write more, but it's not properly my night out tonight. I just popped off to upload the pictures, and to pick up some cheesecake for the goodwife's evening of decadence. She's waiting at home with a fork, so I better go. Keep smiling, folks...

Great Grands. Ain't it grand?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:35 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

This = The Life 


I'm writing from a Barnes and Noble balcony, enjoying my first try at wireless, vanilla latte at my side. It's warm up here above the midweek bustle of CityPlace. Warm, and just quiet enough amidst the world.

At the table next to me, two earnest greybeards debate the meaning of life in their heavy euro accents; two down, a trio of overtanned students study and chat, wasting their $3.95 fiddling with their iTunes playlists. I identify with both, feel young, and feel wise.

Down below us the traffic zips by. The Gap turns off its lights. Florida begins to wind down for the evening.

It's been 89 and humid here in West Palm Beach, which is a bit above our family tolerance. But we've been making the most of it. Yesterday, early supper with my Grandfather, almost 91 and still going strong in his retirement villa; today, four hours in and out of the car at Lion Country Safari, a perfect dry rub on a row of St. Louis Ribs at Tom's Barbecue.

CityPlace is our saving grace, our latenight haunt. In the dark the antique streetlights glow like our skin after a day in the sun. The fountains burst forth in ballet on the hour and the half hour, thrilling the little ones. Willow grows fearless, leaning over the cement barriers into the spray, dancing into the night among the startled, smiling crowds. We stand in line for ice cream, prompt the ever-cheerful Cassia to wave at the crowds of cooing old ladies. It's hard to imagine the kids happier, really.

Cassia Meets the Ocean, and It Is GoodWe hit the beach a half hour before sundown, and get the place almost to ourselves. Cassia shrieks with glee at the waves, won't leave the water's edge no matter how forcefully it tries to bowl her over; Willow inches into the deeper waters, rolling with the tide, and comes up grinning every time. I swam out as far as I dared into the rough tide tonight, the water bathwarm and tart on my lips, and waved at them there on the shallow surf with Mama to show I was okay.

I'm more than okay. The yearbook's done, the school year almost over. My back feels better than it has in years. The dark jeans, black shoes and crisp blue-and-white checked shirts I prefer for their comfort mark me as one of the best dressed down here: quite accidentally, of course, but being well dressed in the crowds makes me feel like the world is in its proper place.

Now the kids slumber safe back at our rented Cuban villa with the wife in a bed once owned by J. P. Morgan. They're tired out, and I'm tired, too. We're missing the full bloom of our garden back home, and who knows if the new seed is growing into lawn in our absence. I spent the last leg of our flight down covered in apple juice and ice. The kids are rashy in the heat, and Darcie wilts visibly by midday.

But it's my night out, the night is still young, and I'm ogling the comedy club across the way as I wind the typing down. This is the life, and it's the sour that makes the sweet taste so good. Florida, I raise my paper cup to you. Enough with the blog -- I'm here to live.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM | 2 comments

Saturday, April 15, 2006


I don't blog much anymore, it's true. Can't tell if the writing urge is waning again or if there's just too much happening. I hardly use the computer at home, fall behind on my mp3 blogging, don't bother catching up, skim when I finally get to this week's web.

Possible, too, that the words are merely coiling, ready to strike, a concerntarted force. Because the poetry is starting to trickle back. First I won that contest, and then, last night in the midst of yearbook, this circular thing, this sonnet of all things:

The moon is as bright as a streetlight

Rising over the meadow
Like a knife
It parts the new tulips
Like a knife.

A thousand unshadows
Flood the paths between the trees.

The smell of woodsmoke
Has been replaced by
the smell of the woods growing
In our neighborhood.

It rises over the meadow
Floods the paths between the trees.

It's good to see the words come together so carefully again.

As summer approaches a teacher's vacation promises something new: a home of our own, a deck to build, a yard to tend; children to fill any hour.

Somewhere in it all I've been promised a first attempt at some serious writing. A novel, maybe. A sestina cycle. Kiddie lit. And it looks like it may just happen.

Something big is growing in me. I can feel it.

In the meantime, we're off to sunsoak. Back a week from Easter, with tales to tell.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:55 PM | 2 comments


The yearbook's been put to bed after over 24 hours of last-minute pagesetting and creative solutions, thanks mostly to me, and a few kids who were available by email and managed to make a few pages each remotely in between golf lessons and soccer leagues. You can't imagine how good it felt to run through the pages in the cirtual booksetting, hitting "submit" with impunity, after being so far behind for so long.

It's hardly worth the thousand bucks, but I'll do it again next year, mostly because the yearbook publishing company has built everything from multiple image submission to cut and paste functionality into the new web interface, because I've learned (some) from my mistakes this time around, and because I can't say no to a new principal before he's even here.

The baby's birthday went off without a hitch -- both yesterday's private ceremony at the newly opened farm, complete with goats and burgers and cake batter ice cream milkshakes and today's family-full household. It was a bit overwhelming for the wee one, but she learned to say "egg" and "gapa" and "gama" and wandered fearlessly around the yard with everyone's dogs, so it's hard not to be proud.

Older sister got her first trike in honor of her first anniversary of sisterhood, but she seemed more interested in the easter egg hunt. Later, long after the relatives had gone, we spotted her wandering the newly seeded yard, still searching for any eggs unfound.

Folks were gone by three, so I even managed to squeeze a few hours in on the yard, finally getting the last of the moldy hay off the dirt. Spread seed in a matter of minutes with the verycool new seedthrower; uncoiled the new hose and soaked children and self in the waning heat; got filthy and felt fine.

Funny to think a year ago we were in the hospital with a new second child, tryingt o contain the older kid in the birthing floor hallways, worries about impending jobloss and homelessness while trying so hard to stay focused on the new miracle.

Now the yard is damp and dirty and the kids are all sugared out; the work is over for a while; it's school vacation, finally, after all this stress and bother: Now it's all miracles, and we're off to Florida to celebrate. Back in a week. Enjoy the Spring.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:58 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Procrastination Pays Off 

Still swinging, I swear!

Sorry for the long hiatus, folks -- too much coming down at once this week. Term grades were due Tuesday, for one thing...and that yearbook deadline hurts advisors more than you'd expect. Still to come: more lastminute layout madness, and the baby turns one on Friday.

Perhaps one day I'll do a proper post on the oddness that was Passover at our Universalist Unitarianist meetinghouse. Also the surprising meta-irony of a totally non-trayfe Yarzheit candle purchased at The Christmas Tree Shop. Oh, and teaching through a full-day coffee-only fast, to a school population which contains not one Jew out of 420 students. It's been a weird week to be Jewish, I guess.

In the meantime, check out my contest-winning poem The Internet Is Such a Distraction (or Turns Out Gwyneth Paltrow Is Awesome) over at mp3blog extraordinaire Awesome Until Proven Guilty:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art taller. Or sweaty. Or more awesome, and more temperate
Whatever that means...

AUPG bloghosts and sole jurists Travis and The Trick promise to send along mix CDs and "a bunch of awesome crazy stuff" when they can, which is cool, but it's really just nice to know I've still got it. 'Specially for a poem I tossed off merely to avoid the avalance. Did I mention the spouse is bugging me to quit my day job and write for a living?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:52 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Eleventh Hour Caption Contest Entry 

What can I do? They all have passes.

Also toyed a bit with they test for gravity in fifth grade now, Ms. Jenkins, but decided it wasn't universal enough. Wish me luck!

posted by boyhowdy | 9:32 PM | 3 comments


How clichéd to say
It was easier when we had nothing to lose.
How human to write it anyway.

And, though it is wet and cold,
Lie on the new grass
Under this three quarter moon.

This, too, will pass soon.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:55 PM | 0 comments
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