Category Archives: family

four new christmas stockings

fourkidstockings_belafront

late october or so, it occurred to me to make the big guys xmas stockings. almost simultaneously, i recognized my longstanding dissatisfaction with the knitted stockings i’d made béla and claudia when they’d first arrived, and decided to make new ones to match the boys’.

it did seem a pretty clear example of holiday mission creep, to want to make four entire new stockings by christmas when i had started around halloween. i did not get them all done. asa’s and béla’s were done. claudia’s was finished christmas eve day and was still damp enough from blocking that santa, worried that her gifts would block it out of shape, just left the stocking draped over her stack.

tucker’s stocking got cast on on xmas eve day, but only out of stubbornness. on christmas morning, he had gifts in a store-bought stocking from target chosen by our friend liz. i finished his stocking about a week ago, and it is out now still because some of his birthday gifts are in it.

asa’s stocking was first, fastest, and easiest.

asa_wholething

it’s also the only one of the four blocked with the heel folded at the side; the name chart and octopus chart were both small enough that i doubled them and there is one on either side of the stocking. it’s the only one like that. (thus far.)

asa_button

both big boys have a scottish military button on the loop at the top of their stocking.

béla did not have any single thing in particular that he wanted on his stocking, but was willing to choose from a number of suggestions, eventually going with the hattifatteners from the moomin books, which we are reading. i found this chart online, made for mittens, and it was a bear to make. but it came out so great.

bela_hattifatteners

it was, however, so long that, if i was basing the size of the new stocking’s on asa’s completed one, i now had no room for the name band. at least not on the front. so béla has a vertical name band on the back of his stocking.

bela_verticalnameband

he also has a tassle on his toe.

bela_tassletoe

claudia was just too obvious — we had to make her a pink stocking with hoogah on it!! i say we because tucker was called into service to chart hoogah for me…

claudia_hoogahchartbytuck

absolutely perfect.

claudia_hoog

the thing about tucker is, if you say “i want to make/do something for you, how would you like it to be?” he will give you a baffling and ambitious answer, but he will also be happy to foot part of the bill. he wanted a magpie — so, he charted a magpie.

tucker_magpie

his magpie also has another of the scottish military buttons i’d gotten, in its beak.

we were both of pretty strong mind that tucker’s stocking should be grey, and while all the other stockings had name bands bounded with black check, we felt just as strongly that tucker’s box needed to be more open. so it is.

tucker_openboxandquote

he also wanted, on the foot of the stocking, a quote by mogwat the magpie from the book he is currently reading the children, perloo the bold. Of all challenges the greatest is to be yourself. tuck charted that too; he did not use any printed charted alphabet, he simply made it up on his own. there’s no way to get a photo of the entire quote, but trust me, it is lovely.

i am working on ben’s stocking now, i know what mine will be as well, and actually tucker and i are doing some research on something for his and asa’s daddy. i am sure that by the time those are finished, i will know who is next.

fourkidstockings_belaback

halloween (sort of) 2013

it has been a really long time since i posted here. nothing to say about it except that life got big, and our family got bigger. all is well.

this year, both claudia and béla wanted store bought costumes. béla, in fact, knew nothing about what he wanted to be EXCEPT that he wanted it to come from a store; claudia is very into monster high right now (sigh) and has used all her tooth fairy money (four so far) on those dolls.

she wanted a monster high costume, he eventually chose a ghostbusters costume (having just seen the movie in a hotel in richmond, virginia) and they enjoyed their dance school party, regular school party, and trick-or-treating.

trickortreating

halloweenfriends

but.

tucker has been reading d’aulaires’ greek mythology to claudia since the summer. (béla wouldn’t sit for it.) and we convinced her that, even if she didn’t wear it anywhere, that we NEEDED to make her an athena costume. just for the sake of doing it. and for pictures.

so we did.

as my friend bryan said, “i’m not angry about war or happy about war, it’s just what i’m the goddess of, the end”.

athenapreshoot5

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so even though no one but her family saw her, we had our little goddess of war. plenty more photos available here.

crop rotation

i’m a big believer in making the empty space — even though empty space can be scary — for new things to come into your life. i think filling up life with so-so activities and so-so projects leads to a so-so creative life. still, sometimes there is work that is worth doing in the short term, and when the time comes to end it, digging the roots out, even though they may not be as deep as others, is a pain in the ass. 2012 was a lot about that for me.

naturally, one of the biggest things in me is writing. i’ve been doing more non-writing than i ever thought i would, but writing is still a primary impulse for me. however, much of the writing i have been doing in the last few years– much of it nonfiction and for parenting or cultural publications — has not been meaningful to me the way it had been when i was feeling out being a parent. my kids will turn five in 2013. they are not babies. they are not people i need to write about — at least not in articles, columns, not even much in blog posts. in fact, the world of parenting-writing, and adoptive parenting-writing-blogging-social-networking, wore me thin pretty fast. it’s just not my world. i’m a mother, but “being” a “mommy” is just not one of my “hats” (and i really smirk at that whole hat-wearing analogy).

i had tried it before, but i knew it was finally time — for real — to stop writing regularly for korean quarterly. all the columns i wrote there — a series entitled “creation myth” — used to be on this site as a separate page, but i have taken that page down as well. it’s not part of where my head is now and i don’t think of it as having much to do with my creative body of work, although it was certainly important to my early parenting process. the pieces themselves are still available through korean quarterly’s back issues, and anyone who wants to read them should buy the back issues through KQ directly. i am grateful that they were as well-received as they were. i’m grateful for my continued relationship with the KQ family.

ceasing to report, in print, about my kids and my family and how i felt about parenting — in a balanced, nonfictional way — had immediate benefits. it got me writing about a lot of other things in a deeper way. a scarier way. a more savage way. and to be honest, a more truthful way. this does not mean that i have no plans to write some nonfiction work in relation to parenting, ever again. there are irons in the fire where that is concerned. but they are fewer, and much heftier, irons than the work i’ve done so far. and i’m glad i’m on the handle-side of them.

but i’m really trying to keep the writing a fully creative outlet.  i’m already involved in one of “the year’s coolest literary magazine innovations” (as previously reported earlier in the year).

and although it only began in 2012, i petered out before the year was over as a crafts editor for InCultureParent magazine. i knew i was stretching it thin. i knew i’d want to use that craft-ingenuity (such as it is) for krampus stuff, just as i knew i wanted to use all my writing mind for fiction. i did what i could. and then i stopped. and not having to come up with crafts on the calendar has allowed me the freedom to stew for the festival that i use to work through my own monsters, and and i am gratified when it does something for others. i hope it continues to.

here's our krampuslauf family, by the amazing len peralta.

here’s our krampuslauf family, by the amazing len peralta.

and speaking of that “krampus stuff”. after krampuslauf in 2011, i was sure that i had found something that mattered to me enough to continue with – something that was now part of my calling, my job, whatever it is that i do and am. and i felt even more sure about that in 2012. the needlework i do this year may be 90% related to krampuslauf.

the other change that was made was that i needed to change the conditions under which i continued to grow in my spiritual korean drumming practice. again, 2012 was when the epiphany happened, and again, in the form of “i can’t contribute to this group project any more, i need to do something for just me.” i know — what a pain in the ass, right?

except it got me drumming. and things are moving ahead in a new way. i can’t make this a new year’s post if i wait to write about that until i’m ready to do so, but i’m very satisfied. there will be more to come.

2013 could be a very interesting year. my meditation:

on the day after new year’s i took claudia to the hair salon and found boy george heralded as a “legend” in the year-end issue of OUT magazine. we all know how i feel about boy george. this quote from him took me back thirty years — to the real beginning of me:

“If you go back to the beginning, part of my whole plan was to create this universal family of disenfranchised people…. It wasn’t just about sexuality, it was about anyone who felt odd.”

having kids spreads you thin. it — or people — can make you believe that, to do it right, you need to lose some of your edge. i’ve seen folks lose themselves entirely, and i’ve seen people scramble to get that edge back, or pretend that losing it hasn’t happened. i had to make the changes i made, when i made them, to accommodate for my own evolution. but the shape of things has changed again. there is a lot i’ve taken back. and the ground is very fertile.

halloween costume preview 2012: ozma of oz and jack pumpkinhead

as you may recall, last year was an oz halloween as well. the kids were, at that time, very interested in the old MGM film, which, while i think it’s fine, has never really fostered much in my imagination.

but the kids received all the oz novels for christmas last year (as well as an oz-themed tarot deck) and they have spent all year having these read to them. what trippy books these are! i think they are on the tenth out of fourteen.

by may of this year, béla was sure he wanted to be jack pumpkinhead. claudia initially wanted to be general jinjur (a girl who commands an army of other little girls armed with knitting needles; i had started to work out a kind of janet jackson “rhythm nation”-inspired costume) but then switched to princess ozma, a princess who began her journey in the oz novels as a little boy named tip. yes. a transgender character of childrens’ literature. (sort of. and not all that self-directed. but still.)

here’s ozma as per one of the books’ original illustrations.

and here’s claudiozma.

i made the dress, which was a real skill-builder for me. godets (which almost got hemmed out of existence.) box pleats. lots of ruffles. a lot of being hunched over on the studio floor listening to steely dan, that’s what ozma’s gown is for me.

ben made the scepter and the crown, and did an amazing job.

here’s the original jack pumpkinhead and his friend the sawhorse.

and here’s jack, being a little crunk at FDR park. with sawhorse behind him.

we had to make a sock/shoe color switch. seriously, no turquoise chucks in kids’ sizes? i made the jack head, and ben made the harness that keeps it on (which is pretty ingenious, although this is still not the most carefree béla’s ever been in a costume. now that i think of it, he’s never really very thrilled to have anything on his face or head, but that’s kind of the name of the game). ben also made the sawhorse, who obviously cannot be dragged along trick or treating. but he’s great for photos and is probably going to be in béla’s room for a good long time.

now that the pictures are taken, the kids can put their costumes on for trick or treating with their classmates on wednesday, and i don’t really have to care what happens to them now (the costumes, that is).

i’m certainly very happy with these and so are my boy and girl.

the scariest things ever (and how i passed the first of them onto my son)

here is the most terrifying thing that ever happened to me:

 

i remember the first time i saw this on prime-time tv, at home one evening with my dad. i was, i guess, eight. i remember watching it in actual horror, and then looking immediately to my dad, who looked — well, impressed, i guess is one way to put it.

at that point, i had watched a lot of things that kids younger than me would not have tolerated. i had been a big fan of kolshak: the night stalker and loved the spookiest halloween things, never going for princess, clown, or hobo (can you imagine kids today dressed as hobos or clowns for halloween? my god, i think kids were still dressing as COWBOYS sometimes when i was a kid!).

anyway — i don’t think anyone would have guessed that evening how wretchedly all-encompassing that clip would become to me over the next few months. i had never known fear like that before. the poster for the movie was at the mall; i had to work to avoid it. the new editions of the paperback novel with the movie tie-in covers were in bookstores; i had to avoid those. every evening i had to sit in front of the TV with an afghan at the ready, and any time a show went to commercial, i had to get the afghan over my head AND get my ears plugged.

my charlie mc carthy doll, whom i had had for years and for whom i had never felt anything but affection, was put away indefinitely.

eventually, i got over it all. i reclaimed charlie with the hopes of passing him on to my children (check!). in my late teens, while babysitting, i rented magic and watched it on my own. it’s a good movie; i’d call it underrated. vent figures are fertile territory for terror, but i haven’t seen it done any better than this.

so a few weekends ago we were in asbury park for the zombie walk.
and there were literally thousands of terrifying, live beings all around us. béla had one brief dance with terror during this day — very brief, but loud — when his own fudge-fueled tantrum coincided with the appearance of a very elaborately costumed glow-eyed skeleton thing, and i suggested that it was a constable of sorts, checking out misbehaving children. whoever was inside the costume went along with this idea more than béla would have liked him to. but really, it was a blip in the day.

so who would have guessed, that an innocent — and APPROVED, at the time, by béla — purchase of an asbury park tillie shirt:

would turn into the scariest thing about a day when we were literally surrounded by fifteen thousand of the undead?

who would have guessed? — well, why wasn’t it ME who guessed?

i tried to put the tillie tee out for b.’s clothes the day we got back from asbury park. he balked, asking to instead wear his bloodspattered monroeville mall shirt. i said he couldn’t wear that to school — tillie was nice, and school-friendly, didn’t he want to just wear tillie?

nope.

he continued to sulk about tillie, but only when i asked why he hadn’t worn it yet. offering to buy him a packet of snickers pumpkins IF he wore the shirt almost worked. but he continued to hold his ground. i’d take it out; he’d say no; i’d put it back.

until this morning, when he wouldn’t even open his drawer to get ANY shirt out, for fear of seeing tillie.

now i knew where we were. i just couldn’t believe i had so unwittingly bought us the ticket.

when b. got home from school i told him i had hidden the tillie shirt and that he wouldn’t have to see it anymore. he was happy that i had tried to save him from the shirt, but this “hidden” thing… he had to know exactly where it was. so i told him. he wanted it further away than that.

claudia, with a cheery machiavellian equanimity, suggested that SHE just take ownership of the tillie t-shirt. it was all too easy to picture claudia, at two in the morning, wearing the tillie shirt and squatting at the foot of béla’s bed, willing him to awaken just so she could terrify the shit out of him. no claudia. you don’t get the tillie shirt.

we talked, at dinner, and i told them the story of the movie commercial that i had seen when i was little, and how afraid i had been of that puppet, and how much that puppet had reminded me of tillie. i told this story by way of apology, but neither of them were interested in my apology. they wanted details. WHAT did this puppet look like? show us. what was this VOICE you speak of? do the voice. is this on the computer?

obviously — or maybe not so obviously, since i AM the mother who sicced a skeleton on my son and bought him a terrifying grinning silkscreened rictus that made him unable to open his own bureau — i was not going to show them the clip from magic. and i did not show them the clip from magic.

there are a very limited number of things that have terrified me over the years. a surprising number of them were made in 1978 though. here is a clip from the tv movie “the mud monster”, which also nearly destroyed me (this is sometimes credited as being released in ’77). neither this film, nor this clip, have been retained very distinctly in my memory, but for the sake of history we should get this down.

 

1978 was also the year that this scared the shit out of me:

 

i still have a hard time watching that.

and although trilogy of terror was made in 1975, i didn’t see it until i was in my twenties and NEVER made it with my face uncovered to the end of this final scene until i was, well, forty. (if you want to skip to the meat of the thing, start at about nine minutes.)

 

that’s about it for film. and after all our talk about film at dinner, as we prepared to go to all hallow’s read at woodland cemetery tomorrow, béla scrutinized our offering — arthur machen’s the great god pan — and wanted to “see the pictures”.

but he still doesn’t want to see tillie.

and now i have this premonition of a thirty year-old béla, driving his luxury car to my house in the dead of night and trying to get in bed with ben and me, because he’s just finished reading the great god pan.

halloween season 2012

i think we’re getting the full measure of excitement, pleasure, hard work and anticipation from our halloween season this year. the kids, both of them four now, know what to anticipate, enjoy seeing our own family’s decor come out of the basement, and also enjoy the new things…

i mean, if you had a treadmill desk, you’d decorate it for halloween too! or at least, if you don’t have one, you don’t know that you wouldn’t.

the season kicked off early with our trip to asbury park for the 2012 zombie walk.

and i had the very personally fulfilling experience of seeing béla model my own halloween costume from 1974, which my mother made. i’ve saved it for thirty-eight years!! béla and i talked about this and he was excited to wear something that he saw me wearing when i was a four year-old.

we are all enjoying repeated viewings of the wine-tasting scene from roger corman’s “tales of terror”:

and the only disney movie i have EVER sought out with excitement — the legend of sleepy hollow, narrated by bing crosby:

in a couple weeks, we will do our halloween costume preview here! the sewing part is complete, but there is still a lot of engineering for both costumes, which is mostly ben’s department. anticipation is high!

a béla béla changsu! 2012!

three years of the béla changsu, and here is the picture to prove it:

a family friend has pointed out that it will take many more years of these pics before the scary clown recedes from view.

we went to knoebels and we had a blast. lucky béla, we celebrate this day every year and we always seem to go to an amusement park, while claudia’s day tends to just be a workaday early spring day and we don’t do as much.

béla was interested this year in seeing the airport, and the terminal in which we had first seen him. we had not been there since that night… and we had a lot more fun this time.

and at knoebels, he RODE A ROLLERCOASTER!

he is planning an iron-man themed cupcake extravaganza for his birthday next month…

but he will take spider-man in a pinch.

he’s a smart, loving boy and we are so proud of him!

living with pizzazz (and, sewing with vinyl)

this summer, claudia is at daycamp, and she gets out a few hours earlier than béla does. it’s been on my mind that with 12-month programming, the kids haven’t experienced that “summer vacation” feeling yet (and i think we all agree they do not want to be home all day!) so i try to keep things a little lighter — perhaps scandalously so — when they are home these days. this in many cases means “more TV”. it was good enough for me, and it’ll be good enough for mine. and not just sneaking in a bunch of korean programming, either; it’s summer. it’s time to get dangerously dumb.

and we have.

memie was a big JEM fan back in the day, and was very excited to indoctrinate claudia.

 

so, lately, i pick claudia up from camp in the afternoons, and we watch some JEM. i won’t say how many consecutive episodes. and we knit. i knit, claudia “knits” (tangles up a row, then sits on my lap and does hand-over-hand as i untangle and re-knit it, and then gets off my lap and tangles it again).

these afternoons have been one of those pinnacle parenting experiences — where it’s exactly like everything you’d ever hoped it would be before the reality of the children was actually there.

trying to “correct” all the political incorrectness in JEM would only be attempted — or thought necessary — by an idiot. (i’m still reeling over a local online parenting message board conversation from a few years ago, where concerned mothers gasped that they had had no IDEA that “a charlie brown christmas” was so HARSH!) but the terrible messages sent by JEM are fathomless. a hundred oceans of wrong. JEM’s mansion full of “orphans”… the member of the holograms who for a few episodes made me think by her weird speech that she was supposed to be deaf, but turned out to just be “chinese” (should have known — her name is “aja”)… the discomfort of the “rock video” montage from the “world hunger shindig” where beaming brown children raise their arms in suppliance to JEM and her bandmates…

and that’s just the race stuff. the messages this show sends about the apparent superfluousness of hard work or talent are where the REAL brainwashing is. every room that JEM wanders into is full of exactly one arts-patroness with a terrible european accent, and one cowboy-hatted texan with “money in oil” who “wants to invest in a record label” (or produce a movie, or have a concert to feed brown people, or make sure that nice old dude doesn’t lose his ski resort, or help make sure that asian orphan doesn’t go blind). then, figures who you assumed were just filler in the screen start popping up, offering their services — as video directors, fashion designers… all frequently willing to work entirely for FREE, just for the honor of being near the absolutely talent-free JEM.

JEM and the holograms’ “rise” to fame, from having no record contract and not a single video, to playing the great wall of china, was an oddly lateral rise. no one worked hard, and the only “creative setbacks” the band experienced were that they were constantly stalked and brutalized by the misfits, so many times in so many ways that these women should have been unable to get out of bed in the morning, permanently rewired with eight different kinds of post-traumatic stress disorder.

but no, people just walk into the room and offer them things, and then they shriek a few songs about the last few lines of dialogue they had, and it becomes an instant hit. come to think of it, JEM’s career rose quite similarly to that of strongbad when he sang the “song about sibbie”.

 

i was not surprised when claudia identified most with — or at least insisted on being addressed as — pizzazz, leader of the misfits. unable to make her hair turn lime green overnight, her outfits soon reflected her new allegiance:

i would also like to point out that her hair ornament of the day was goody “bo-bo’s”, which are large iridescent spheres filled with plastic jacks (had to explain to her what jacks were). i bought about ten sets of these from a weird warehouse store here called jo-mar. i’m sure they’ve been sitting in storage for thirty years.

claude informed me with her characteristic generosity that i could “make her a pizzazz costume”, and that this would require a green wig. “you can make me white skin,” she also told me. i said, if there was a black dorothy and a white dorothy (we’re still heavy oz here), it was also going to be ok to have a black pizzazz and a white pizzazz.

anyone who knows anything about JEM knows that pizzazz is an awful “person” and that she’s also the coolest thing about the show. claudia picked up the pizzazz mantle and engaged in a lot of pizzazz-like behavior — knocking around small ottomans, tossing my crocs, scowling. were we “concerned” that claudia was “learning” to be an ethically challenged maniac whore-clown? no, because that would make us morons. what we were, and are, is amused, and intrigued, and proud — that our kid is so capable of identifying, and being interested in, an aspect of all of us. call it id, or call it pizzazz, claudia is dancing with it. and because claudia, also, is not a moron, she knows when to be done with it.

usually. life with pizzazz did get out of hand on a few occasions, and JEM-watching sessions were revoked at times. what do you know — our kid learned a lesson about how to treat people, about where the line is drawn in terms of “pretending” to be something and just being fucking irritating. and she did it without being forbidden the experiment of “being” bad. she saw clearly the attraction of “bad”, at least bad in an “attractive” package. and, at times, she saw what it got her. (in trouble.) imagine that.

mealtimes have become a dinner theater of cheesy dialogue. “you’ll eat that salmon burger, pizzazz, or you can forget about the misfits playing the big concert tonight!” we hear ourselves saying. and she sings constantly, but then she sang constantly before she was pizzazz — claudia’s life has a libretto at all times, and she’s very skilled this way — but we are never sure whether she is singing an actual song from JEM or is making a song up in the moment (although the one about stealing the dishtowel from the kitchen, i think was an original).

during one of our viewathons, i said, perhaps a little casually, “you know… memie used to have a JEM doll.”

you know that shot in requiem for a dream where the eye dilates?

alas, memie no longer has her JEM doll. but i found a lot of nine, naked JEM dolls, including pizzazz, on ebay for a good price. they seem to have penises, maybe this is why they were so cheap.

so this whole story, if you can call it that, winds up with a sewing project: i got a vintage pattern for one of those back-of-the-door barbie holders, and engaged in my first stitching of vinyl.

the project is far from without its flaws. there was an unmarked seam that got away from me, and there’s no seam-ripping when it comes to vinyl. and i had the classic problem of “thread that thinks its too good to be a bobbin” (i believe this is a tension issue — what isn’t) and so there are some unintended scrumbles on the back of the piece. and the bias tape edge… oh, issues… but overall, i learned a lot, it doesn’t look too bad, and it’s quite suited to its job and owner.

help.

in fact, i find myself sort of hoping this one doesn’t hold up, since with all my hindsight on the project, i could do a much better job on a second. but with all that bias tape, it’s probably going to be just fine. (although JEM dolls are a bit more weighty than barbies.)

still, it was a real relief to put this one on the “finished” list. i am just nowhere near the sewer that i am the knitter, and slogging through all the “practice” can be pretty ugh. still — this made someone pretty happy!

mr. rogers speaks from beyond the grave

i took a photo of this sign next to one of the ubiquitous mr. rogers’ sweaters one finds framed around his hometown. this one in particular was at the mind-bending children’s museum of pittsburgh.

i’m including it here because people seem to like it — i had some friends ask me to send them a copy — and because i know that the knitters that read here will appreciate this sentiment (and perhaps wonder if they should not start including this photo with the knitted gifts that they give).

we had an amazing time in pittsburgh, which was the first stop in a drawn-out, multi-year “let’s find another city to live in” tour. we have no absolutes other than knowing that we can’t stay in philly forever. it had been sort of my worst-case scenario that i would instantly fall in love with pittsburgh and just pine for it endlessly, and that’s why this post is up a little later than it might have been otherwise — i was so bummed at not being there anymore that i didn’t feel like talking about it. we have other cities to look at, and have committed to visiting any we feel strongly about in each of the four seasons before we make any hard decisions. (while not suffering unduly here in philly, it’s a damn good thing tony built me that master suite because i surely did need somewhere new to go, even if it’s here at home!)

but what a great city. great museums, beautiful natural features, friendly people, they honor their drag queens openly… and even though we can’t possibly be getting it on a very deep level, we have become fans of “pittsburgh dad” :

we are looking forward to a return trip to do all the things we missed — there were a lot! hopefully next summer can be kennywood and the monroeville mall zombie crawl.

rehab

poor claudia recently had a week of toy tragedy. we came home one night to find the child-version, easter-themed, non-caucasian barbie she’d gotten in her easter basket (you think that was easy to find?) half-eaten by danpung. claudia’s sobbing was terrible, but even worse was how she looked at the chewed pile of legs and said, with a truly pathetic attempt at positivity, “her SHOES are still okay…”

this barbie-eating thing has happened before (the precious “halloween barbie” — claude’s first caucasian barbie) and when that happened claudia asked me to just throw her away, and i did. but this time, there was so much of the little girl doll LEFT — well, less than half, but all the… thinking parts?.. claudia and i both have a paralyzing degree of anthromorphization going on in our heads (i had to draw multiple happy faces on beat-up envelope recently, after it had surfaced from a pile and claudia became sad because “nobody has used it yet”), but that’s not the reason i wanted to save this little-girl barbie. the idea that a human without legs — or useable legs — should be thrown out, is not a good one for our family.

why?

memie!

claudia and béla’s only aunt — my sister — uses a wheelchair. so it seemed important to point this out to the agonizing (maybe a little ostentatiously agonizing) claudia. i said, “gee, i know YOU’RE sad about this barbie being eaten, but imagine how SHE feels! now she has no legs, AND she has to worry that someone is going to throw the rest of her in the garbage!”

claude didn’t want to let THAT happen. we talked about what a little girl with no legs might need. a flurry of tiana band-aids later, Easter Torso Barbie was safely “hospitalized” on a kitchen shelf, awaiting… yes… her wheelchair.

there are more and more toys i want for my kids that require me buying from third-party “collectibles” dealers on amazon. the african-american styling bust (lovingly known as “christie head”) was one of those, and out of all the aa styling busts i found available, i found myself paying more for the darker-”skinned” one. literally — the very light skinned “not white but not black” ones were cheapest, medium-hued skin was medium-range price, and undeniably black was most expensive. (and in pristine vintage packaging.) well, we tore that packaging apart and had tons of fun. even béla loves christie head. (and i will be paying out the nose soon to buy béla a “vintage” spirograph set, because the ones they are manufacturing these days are total shit.)

at some point in the nineties, the barbie people made “share a smile becky”, who sits in a wheelchair. all i needed was the chair, but we got becky too, and we upgraded her to “doctor”. or maybe she’s a home aide. i don’t know for sure. but i don’t think i have to consult with my sister — who is not very into disability “culture” — to know that naming this doll “share a smile becky” is a little disgusting. it suggests, and encourages, that the BEST thing that disabled people can do — what THEY have to SHARE with the world — is their pleasant gentle SMILE. my sister and i aren’t that different in temperment. knowing this, do you want to suggest to memie that she should do us all a favor and share her smile with the world?

she might share a smile, or she might key your car for parking in the handicapped parking spot at the mall. you just don't know.

anyway, we have the wheelchair, and “doctor” becky, in her unfashionable sporty clothing (because that’s what disabled people wear) and hideous shoes (which seem kind of realistic — ankle support can be nice if you do your own transfers in and out of a chair). both kids are thrilled — béla loves to push the wheelchair, and claudia is mostly interested in “doctor” becky’s hair.

in the same week that Easter Torso Barbie revealed her true smile-sharing purpose to us, claudia bounced her harlem globetrotters basketball into traffic and watched it pop under the car of a VERY frightened, and then pretty angry, driver.

once again, more wailing, wailing claudia. but we almost immediately ran into friend and artist kate mundie, who had many suggestions for what we should do with the popped ball. here’s our harlem globetrotter hanging flower basket!

there’s a bright side to so many things!