War Requiem

I could write a paper on this piece. Every measure is packed with meaning and care. I almost feel bad for the audience, that they will only get to hear it once and not be able to dissect it over the better part of a year like I have.


The only thing that threatens my marriage is when the government gets more of a say about whom I marry than I do.

The light of comprehension dawns

Alden has been wandering around saying "Sheep! Sheep!" excitedly for the past week or so. this is odd, because he's actually not that into sheep; he is into cars and trains and pouring water on the ground and climbing on things and not being told No. But still: "Sheep! Sheep!"

Today, we were on the way home from a party, and he said "Sheep!"

"Mm-hmm," said his father and I.

"Sheeps!" said Alden.

"Mm, yes, sheeps," said his father and I.

"Frangle! Sheeps!"

". . . what?"

"See-koo! Frangle! Sheeps!"

"Alden, what are you saying?"

"Ockle! See-koo! Frangle! Sheeps!"

". . . oval, circle, triangle, shapes?"

"Yeah! See-koo, frangle, sheeps! Ockle. OCKLE."




a sigh. "Wick. Ockle."

". . . rectangle?"

"Yes! Right! Wick ockle, see-koo, frangle, sheeps!"

Well, blow me down. I didn't even know he knew the word "right." It turns out he can actually identify a triangle and a circle correctly, too, now that we know what he's saying.


His CK test was normal -- it's not MD. THANK ALL THE GODS ABOVE AND BELOW. However, his TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was high, so he might be hypothyroid. He also might not be -- 70% of kids with a reading at his level come back normal on a rescreen -- but hypothyroidism can cause breathing problems and muscle weakness, and I'm hypothyroid and so is my mother, so it's really not out of the question. Fortunately hypothyroidism is quite easily and cheaply correctable, and even if he has a zebra instead of a horse (like if his TSH is high not because his thyroid is sluggish but because he has a pituitary tumor) it's still fixable, albeit with surgery.

After spending that hour in the Children's waiting room on Tuesday, a problem that, in its worst case, is fixable with a single uncomplicated surgery? I'll take it.

(no subject)

Alden had his neurodevelopmental screen at Seattle Children's yesterday. The reason for the screen is because of his poor muscle tone, poor core strength, inability to reach across midline at 10 months, delayed crawling (not until 13 months), delayed walking (not until 19 months), and croup history (4 ER visits, one admission). Put together, it was enough to make my doctor say "you know, I really want to rule out anything that would benefit from early help or treatment." So off we went.

The good news is, everyone we saw agrees with the overall assessment that he's almost certainly just fine. He had a Bayley assessment, and his cognitive and fine motor skills both tested out at or above baseline, and the OT said that she has no concerns about those areas at ALL. Gross motor, however, he is delayed; enough to qualify for birth-3 services. The OT said that she would recommend that we get those, though not particularly strongly. "He could probably benefit just as much from swimming lessons or time in a toddler gym," she said. "But, you know, it's available."

Then we had an hour to kill in the outpatient waiting room before the neurodevelopmental assessment. Which was very hard. First of all, that was at naptime, and Alden was all amped up and hyper, he basically just did laps around the reception area for an hour. (Which caused a lot of disbelieving looks when I told the receptionist we were here for a motor delay!) But also, there were a lot of very sick kids there, kids with a lot of challenges, babies with NG tubes and central lines, children with profound disabilities, and my heart breaks for everyone in that waiting room but also I know that when you ARE that person with the profoundly disabled child that the pity of strangers wears on you like a hair shirt, so I was trying to focus on my happy laughing running child, which then also makes me feel like a heel. Big feelings. I came home and cried for an hour.

The ND screen was great. After establishing that Lillian is also not particularly muscular and was kind of slow to walk, and that I and my brother were both skinny, and that I'm dyspraxic and needed OT, she says the chances are extremely high that his muscle tone is just the way he is and there's no particular cause for concern. But she is doing a creatinine kinase test for Muscular Dystrophy, just because it's cheap and it would be good to have that box ticked. She said she'd be shocked if it came back anything other than normal, but I of course will not fully exhale until I get the results. She wants to see us in 4 months to make sure he's still making progress and agrees that EI is a good idea if it's easy for us to do, but apart from that we are o-kay.
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Moo, Baa, La La La, by Sandra Boynton (in collaboration with Alden)

"OK, Alden. A cow says. . ."


"A sheep says. . ."


"No, sweetie! A sheep says. . ."


"Right, a sheep says Baa! Three singing pigs say. . . "

"La la la!"

"Yes! Three singing pigs say La La La! No no, you say, that isn't right! A pig says. . ."

". . .neek."

"OK, sure. A pig says OINK both day and night. Rhinocerouses. . . "


"Yes! Rhinocerouses snort and snuff, and little dogs go. . ."


"That's right! Little dogs go Ruff Ruff Ruff! Some other dogs go. . ."


"Yep, some other dogs go Bow Wow Wow. And cats and kittens say. . ."

*big grin* "MEOW!!!"

"Right! QUACK says the duck, a horse says. . ."


"A horse says NEIGH. It's quiet now. . . what do YOU say?"


". . .moo."

Important information about R-74

Yesterday, Governor Gregoire signed Washington State's marriage equality bill. In 90 days, it will become law, and we will have full marriage equality for all citizens of this state, and not a moment too soon.

Except: it's not that easy. (Chorus: It's NEVER that easy!) Those who oppose marriage equality have begun collecting signatures towards getting their referendum, R-74, on the ballot. R-74 would put the issue up for a public vote. The referendum affirms the exact text of the bill just passed into law. Opponents of marriage equality will try to get people who support marriage equality to sign the referendum petitions based on the pro-equality text. If they can't get enough signatures, it will become law on 6/6/2012; if it goes to a vote, it is possible for it to be voted down, and even if it passes, we won't get weddings until December. The petition isn't gathering signatures of those who agree with marriage equality; it's gathering signatures of those who believe that basic civil rights should be subject to a popular vote.

If you support marriage equality, please decline to sign ANY referendum about marriage that you see before this year's elections. But if the anti-marriage people get this on the ballot, you'll want to vote to APPROVE it in November. Welcome to Washington's confusing referendum process.

Languages Redux

I keep updating this list becauseI keep adding languages to it. This is all the languages I've sung in. This iteration adds Ojibwe and takes the asterisk off of Zulu, as I have now done a piece where I actually had a straight up zulu *verse*. Including a word with a click in it.

Black Speech
English, Middle
English, Modern
German, Low Medieval
German, Modern

I need K, T, V, and X. Who wants to write an opera in Xhosa for me?

Arizona "Lasagna"

I would love to come up with a better name for this. Shoot me your suggestions in the comments.

This recipe was borne of my purchase of four enormous winter squashes, the largest being probably 15 pounds, for a dollar each at our local fruit and vegetable stand's closeout sale in the fall. With that much winter squash in the pantry, I've had quite the task coming up with recipes to use it -- particularly considering that my husband doesn't really like winter squash. So he'll eat it, but the bar needs to be set pretty high. The other influencing factor was the so-called Three Sisters of the Native American tribes of the southwest: corn, beans, and winter squash. You plant all three of them together in hills, and then the beans nitrate the soil, the corn stalks support the beans, and the squash leaves spread out and shade the soil, preventing moisture loss. This idea appeals to me, and I wanted to use all three of them together in one dish. If cutting into an enormous winter squash seems an onerous task, do what I do: whale into the squash with your longest, sharpest knife, embedding it in the rind, and then tap the knife with a tenderizing mallet (or a plain old hammer) to split the squash in two. Or just pop it into the oven whole, roast it for an hour or two until it collapses in on itself, and separate the seeds and pulp from the meat afterwards.

This is still in the oven; I haven't tried it yet. By one view, it's an all-day affair to prepare, but the long things are unattended and can be done in advance, so it's really not that bad. It makes about 12 servings.

10 6" corn tortillas
1 pound of dry black beans, or 3 14.5 oz cans of cooked beans
2 pounds of pork shoulder (or boneless spare ribs, or pork blade steaks)
1 can of diced roasted mild green chiles
1 can of Ro-Tel, or 1 can of petite-cut tomatoes + a second can of green chiles, or a can of chipotle in adobo if you like things spicier
2 small, 1 medium, or 1/2 or so large winter squash -- you're looking for maybe 3.5 to 4 pounds total
1/2 to 1 pound shredded cheese; monterey jack, pepper jack, cheddar, or a combination thereof
1 tsp salt
2-3 tsp adobo seasoning, or Penzey's Arizona Dreaming blend

1. If you're using dry beans, cook them however you like; I use the 90 minute no soak method.
2. Cut open the squash (or don't, see above) and roast it at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours, or until soft.
3. Combine the pork shoulder with 1 can of the green chiles, about a half a cup of water, and the salt in a 2 quart dutch oven or stovetop-safe casserole. Bring to a boil on the stove top, then cook in a 250 degree oven for two to three hours until it's falling apart. (If you do the 90 minute beans, you can have them in the oven at the same time.) Shred it with two forks. If there's a lot of liquid in the pot when you're done, bring it back to a boil on the stove and stir briskly until the excess liquid has boiled off.
4. Drain the beans, and combine with the Ro-tel (or whatever) and the adobo or Arizona Dreaming.
5. Remove the flesh of the squash from the rind, and puree or mash it.
6. Cut 8 of the tortillas in half, then in strips crossways about 3/4 to 1 inch wide.
7. Butter a 9x13" baking dish or lasagna pan.
8. Layer the ingredients in this order: a layer of tortilla strips, then a thin layer of beans, a thin layer of pork shreds, a thin layer of squash puree, and top with cheese. Aim for 2 complete iterations of these layers.
9. Slice the two remaining tortillas into shreds, maybe an eighth of an inch by an inch and a half, and sprinkle over the top layer of cheese.
10. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

Now, that looks like an insane amount of effort, but in my case, I had half the squash already roasted and separated from the rind in the freezer, so all I had to do was thaw and puree that. I used canned beans, and I threw the pork into the oven before I took Lillian to a birthday party, and just let it burble away. I'll be interested to see how it turns out; it certainly smells fantastic.

Historical Metaphors in Parenting

Erik, trying to barricade Alden out of the kitchen while I cook: "I'm creating a Maginot line here for everyone's protection."
Me: "I notice you chose an example that was both resource-intensive and ultimately a failure."
Erik: "Well, Alden doesn't have an air force, so I have high hopes."