Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vaseline Update

I have since washed Eden's hair with another Coke and three times well with Dawn dish soap -- used on animals caught in oil spills -- and her hair is pretty much the same: greasy. The upside is that her hair is now incredibly easy to braid and put in pony tails (slicked back little pony tails).

**********Added August 6th *************
Today, 10 days after the glistening hair incident, Eden's hair is back to normal (with little thanks, it seems, to the many home remedies). So there you have it, 10 days.

FOUR years

I just realized that LuluPatina turned four on July 20th. Thank you for reading and keeping me company these years.

I just made a few batches of jam and would love to send one to one of you. Please leave your jam preference (strawberry, blueberry, fig, peach) in a comment if you'd like Silas to try drawing your name from the pot!

******* Added August 6th ********

Kaia Joye and Kelly Callaghan, your jam awaits you*

Pictures from DC (catching up a bit)

When we were in DC with Cindy before she died, I think we were all grateful for the silly sweet play of kids and cousins...
(apologies for the number of pictures*)

Eden and Amber clicked for the first time and played for hours.

Silas rode a bike for the first time (easily -- I'm now a mad believer in the skuut)

Eden hit some developmental milestone and drew her first face on this trip. This is her third face, and he (probably in her eyes a beautiful she) has eyebrows. I am in love.

My life mirrored at the zoo...
It's almost impossible to find cotton candy spun before your eyes (at least at Disneyland and wherever else I've been), but we found it at the National Zoo.

In DC heat, I noticed Eden had tiny beads of perspiration on her nose, exactly like my brother Eli used to have all summer long when he was little.
Grumpily leaving the zoo.

Monday, July 26, 2010

the pictures

Monday, Vaseline, and Cornstarch

I woke up unprepared for a Monday and moved into the day adrift.

It is 2:30 PM and I am still wearing the sweatpants I threw on this morning. I think I brushed my teeth but am not quite sure.

Sometimes on these drifty days, I don't pay attention well. This morning, I realized I'd left Eden upstairs quite some time ago and there had been perfect quiet since. This could mean she is sitting in her room, sucking her pacifier and reading books. I crept upstairs to check and found her hair slick and glistening.
What's in your hair, Eden?
...Goop. (little smile of pride and beauty)
What kind of goop? She retrieved a thoroughly squeezed tube of Vaseline.

I put her in the bathtub, utterly unsure of how to get viscous Vaseline out of hair, then somehow instantly forgot she was there (denial), googled Vaseline-in-hair, and tried some washing. To no avail.

So I toweled her off, brushed her hair into the grossest greasiest pony tail I have ever seen, and took her downstairs.

Chat room write-up's suggested all sorts of remedies, and I knew a run to the store for Vaseline-fighting ingredients should have been first priority, but the whining broke out instantly at the thought, we could find only single shoes and my motivation was rock bottom. So we stayed home.

I made each kid a bowl of cornstarch and water and plunked them at the table. We started out in the usual way with my piping up instructions about keeping the water in the bowl blah blah. But after intervening a few times, I let them splash their corn starch water out, then scoop it up, and finally smear it all over the table. I realized I didn't really care if the kitchen turned into a white swamp; I got to write in Eden's journal (letters to her later) and they were in heaven.

But Silas and Eden were suspicious. They pretended each time they glopped more cornstarch on the table was an accident, then tested me with declarations:
We making a mess. (glance in my direction. I nodded, smiled, and kept writing)
We making a Meeeeesssss! (another look in my direction, another nod-smile)
LOOK AT THE TABLE!!!! (nervous look ready to outsource blame -- the table was solid white. another nod)
We making a MEESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! (one more glance).
Finally they trusted and dove into their extravagant mess.

Now Eden is napping -- I have washed her hair with shampoo, soap, raw egg, a coke, more shampoo, and I'm pretty sure we've made little to no headway. Her hair thick, sticky, mailable. I bet I could make a 7" mohawk on her little head.

This afternoon, if we can muster leaving the house, we will buy another coke and some baby oil to try (people swear by it), then head to the bathtub once more.

Friday, July 23, 2010


The night before last, the kids and I flew home to Ben.
The days are cool and overcast here; I've been wearing jeans and sweaters.
In DC we were tempted to walk around the yard naked and stay in the pool for hours.
The fair is in town, my favorite-- the colors and lights, people hurling through space, their exhilarated screams, french fries and turkey legs, the smell of grilled corn on the cob. The four of us went yesterday and piled into a photo booth, looked at ice sculptures, threw darts at balloons -- a little summer homecoming.

Today I feel like a balloon on a string, hovering just outside my body, filled til taut.
I bought two pounds of cherries at the market, and somehow the thought of pitting six cups by hand actually feels appealing. Maybe tonight I will make a pie.

As I left family, the last two weeks began to take on a dream-like quality, the intimacy, the darkness, the natural daily gatherings. I've been thinking about how time will force our new reality.

Until then, I might float like a balloon for a few days, held onto by Silas and Eden. I wonder what Ben will be, as the four of us drift through the fair...

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Last summer when Nana died, hospice came to her hospital room and brought care and pamphlets.

While Nan slept, breathing through an open mouth, I sat on the empty twin bed next to her and read through the booklet on the dying process.

The words printed there described, perfectly, what was happening in the room, to her body, in our family. They named her weakness, the rattle we suddenly heard in her breathing, the pink splotches that appeared on the bottoms of her feet.

It was as if the words were changing her body as I read them, and the booklet began to feel like a sacred text that held the secrets of death, of how we leave life, of how the times of sleep and unconsciousness are part of release.

At the same time, it felt almost crude, crass, to have our intimate experience summarized in a booklet doled out to hospital rooms. This wasn't a scientific observation, this was Nana, Nana, and the sweet, intimate, mysterious, achy loss we were being forced into.

And yet, as she died, I watched her leave the world just as the book said, step by step.

Last week, hospice came to Cindy's house and brought pamphlets. I half wanted to take one and tuck in away in a guarded place and half wanted to throw them all out to protect everyone from them. But once again, I found myself sitting on a bed, reading through the dying process. And despite my belief that Cindy couldn't really die, as the book said, she began to stay awake for shorter periods. Talking became too difficult. She communicated in moans and hums. Again, the printed words proved true. And then suddenly Sunday night, with everyone around her, she stopped breathing and was gone.

I can't quite hold the weighty fact that people die, vanish, and we don't see them again. Bear might be a better verb -- it is a fact we have to bear, not just hold for a moment but carry with us every day. How do we bear these absences? An absence should be weightless because that's what it is, the lack of a weight. But instead it the heaviest. Isn't that true in space, as well? A black hole looks like nothing but has the most concentrated mass?

I feel like I'm grappling with belief in death's existence -- it is too dark and silent. I know it makes no sense to contest death, to grapple with it -- it's fact; death isn't debatable. Dying has happened billions of times. People die around the world all day every day. It's been studied. The process is printed in booklets. It affects every single person on the planet. I have even watched it happen with my own eyes and felt the fact of it like a huge stone lodged in my chest. And yet, I am sitting here at the dining room table wondering how can it be, such finality?

Friday, July 09, 2010


I am in Washington because Ben's mom is dying. One May, a doctor said she had 6 months to live. It is 37 months later; she is not one to take no for an answer. Her house is full to the brim with children, grandchildren, parents, siblings. The kitchen is a circus of aluminum trays of macaroni and cheese, grilled chicken, and saran wrapped plates of brownies. Our days have no schedule. We have blurry expectations and are stumbling into a space where none of us has ever stood before. So we sit close to each other on chairs by her bed. We heat soup and find straws in the pantry, scribble grocery lists on paper towels, run to the store. We read the Bible, half to her and half to ourselves, and try to absorb words about God and safety and power. We take the kids swimming. We go for walks through the humid heat after dark. We make cocktails. We listen to the cousins squeal and bicker and make rules for their games. The deep sadness is quiet for now. It spills behind closed doors and late at night, or seeps into dreams.

Ben, the kids and I are staying up the street at my parents' house. Tonight, the kids were in bed, Ben wasn't home yet and I noticed my mom had bought a loaf of Roman Meal bread. I'm pretty sure she doesn't buy it when I'm not here but knows that one of my simple pleasures is a sandwich on Roman Meal -- what I ate as a kid. So standing in this quiet night, drinking mint tea, I am eating slices of soft Roman Meal with peanut butter like I used to. It isn't comfort, but it is comfortable, which is a little something.