California: Academy of Sciences

Where else can you see a planetarium show on the creation of the universe, a four-story self-contained biodome (with an airlock to make sure you don’t have any hitch-hiking free roaming butterflies on you as you leave!) a full aquarium, and a natural history museum- and all under one environmentally sustainable living green roof? Yeah, it was awesome.

Back when I was a kid, Steinhart Aquarium was where we went for our Family Outings, but a few years ago, they redid the whole shebang, and boy howdy, they did it up right. The entire complex is now sustainably built, and they even harvest their own rainwater from a living roof (you’re welcome to traipse around up there, but the idea of willingly taking Bean on a roof with me being the only adult was a tad too much for my stomach). The enormous tanks are fed directly from the Pacific ocean, and all the habitats are natural and sustaining- and absolutely incredible.

My kids are celebrating that the Megalodon jaws over the Aquarium entrance are fossilized- or maybe that’s just me. Have I told you how I feel about sharks? So anyway, only small sharks, thank you very much. Did you know Great White’s give live birth? Me neither.

We spent all day there, and never even got to the display on Extreme Mammals. I know! Then we headed up across the Golden Gate, because it’s just necessary. After the baker yesterday in the City, it was joyous to have the cool, awesome, wonderful (did I mention I hate heat?) blessed fog rolling through the gates…

(Anyone else noticing a theme?) And then, in the five minutes it took to get from the Point back on Hwy 1 South, the fog was pea soup. I love love love San Francisco. Or Fran Sanfisco as Abby says.

California: Yosemite

So hey everyone- we’re on vacation. My folks flew the kids and I down for a little family time, and we spent this last weekend in Yosemite. I am reminded of what John Muir said about Yosemite:

One may as well dam for water tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.

I can not now, nor have I ever been able to find fault with his reasoning. I have also never, ever seen a photograph or painting that adequately captures the breathtaking majesty and incomparable beauty of the Yosemite Valley. Not even Ansel Adams’ finest photograph captures adequately  the beauty. When you first round the bend from the western granite tunnels and see the vista, see El Capitan and Halfdome, your breath catches in your chest and you can’t breathe for a minute because its so unimaginably beautiful…

We all made it to the bridge on the Vernal Falls trail. It’s only about a mile, but it’s almost straight up. Bean pretty much ran the whole way, Jeffrey moaned and groaned, but he did it, and Abby required much coaxing and cheering, but only cried once. On the way down, she slipped and skinned her knee, and that finished her. She was done with hiking, forever, and made it very clear. Poor sweetie. I was kneeling beside the trail with her while she cried, and the boys had gone ahead with my family. A very nice stranger stopped and offered to help my very tired, very sad girl, and he popped her on his shoulders and carried her down the rest of the (very very steep) trail. I almost cried with gratitude. Tender mercies, folks.

Happy 90th Anniversary To Us!

Happy Anniversary, ladies! On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee General Assembly, by a one-vote margin, became the thirty-sixth state legislature to ratify the proposed Nineteenth Amendment, making it part and parcel of the U.S. Constitution, and fully enfranchising women with the vote.

Check out this fantastic photographic collection of our forebears fighting the good fight… and if I could make a cinematic recommendation, check out Iron Jawed Angels, about Alice Paul and the last push for suffrage. It’s worth the time, and Netflix can have it in your mailbox in a day.

The Up-Side of Autism (Updated)

I know that sounds oxymoronic, but these kids are awesome, and if you can get over your own parental expectations and adult hang-ups (this is an ongoing process) then you can find beauty in the most unexpected and amazing places. For example…

On Friday, we stopped at a garage sale. Bean found an antique push-carpet sweeper and was enthralled- it worked well, so I okayed it. He handed over his $2 with great joy, and became the proud owner of an 80 year old sweeper. He’s been vacuuming the house for the last three days continuously. This morning, I found it in his bed:

That’s a top bunk, mind you.

The other day, he painted me a picture, and asked if he could hang it on my door. Absentmindedly I told him to go ahead, and he disappeared with the masking tape and his artwork. Later, when I went in my room, I found his handy-work:

That sucker’s not going anywhere. Ever. The tape wraps all the way around the back.

A few minutes ago, I went in my room to retrieve something. Now, I’m not sure when he even was in there, but clearly the mark of Bean can be seen for all who have eyes to see:

It looks like an accurate make-up model of Angkor Wat to me.

Then the other day, with great joy and jubilation, a big package arrived with Bean’s name on it. Inside was the greatest gift ever- a hammock chair in RAINBOW! My home-teacher has hung it in my room, and he now starts and ends each day hanging in his magic rainbow chair:

I wish I could take this hammock on the plane with us in a few days when we head to grandmas…


Post-Script: This morning, after getting breakfast for the kids, this is what I found in my room:

Hmmm… Okay. Then, when I went downstairs to change the laundry, I found this, our play room:

He says he was making a hill so they could roll down it, and that’s why their table and chair set are wedged under the guest-bed mattress. I have no idea where he put the sheets. I want to stress that I am home with this child constantly- that he is never left unattended. He pulls this stuff off while I’m bathing his sister, or doing the dishes, or in the shower, or going pee. I kid you not. He’s like greased lightning. And I’m convinced he has an invisibility cloak stashed somewhere…

Done and Done

My last final was submitted this morning, and the sense of relief was immense and unanticipated. I had thought I was dealing with the pressure well enough, but it’s another situation of the frog in hot water… and when the valve tipped and the steam released, I hadn’t even realized how heavy it had been. My dreams of a perfect quarter are in shreds, but I still hope to pull high enough grades to score some grants and scholarships. In one class I know I have perfect number, but the other two will adjust with a weighted total, so I have to wait until Wednesday to find out. At this point, I hardly care. I did my best.

Now a month of languid days lies ahead of me. It’s really my first day of summer vacation- deep into August. My poor kids have had a tense mama who hasn’t been much fun, studying most of the days. Jeffrey said he estimates the amount of homework I did in the last 8 weeks is more than he’s done in four years of school. I told them from here on out, it’s a Yes summer. I plan on being as free and flowing with them as I possibly can manage- starting today with a Yes Day. That means they got popsicles, frozen pizza and Nerds (I never let them get non-chocolate candy. I have this weird idea that almond M&M’s are at least redemptive in their candyness by virtue of the almonds. I know, I know.)

One of my aunts sent them a box of books for summer reading, and each of them a gift certificate to Baskin Robbins- so not only did they get unredeemed candy today, but they are begging me to take them for ice cream tonight. You know? I just might.


Have returned from a three days in Salt Lake City for a speaking engagement, and am in the middle of finals. I still exist- but am buried and tired and will return in a few days.

Bean: In Fine Form

It’s like living with Calvin. So help me. I know I wasn’t going to write, but I have to preserve today for posterity.


Bean, walking into my room: MOM! I really like how I feel when I say bad words.

Me, picking up laundry from the floor, full stop: Wha..? Um. Okay. You like bad words? How do they make you feel?

Bean shrugging and now skipping around my room: I just like it, inside, when I say them.

Me, trying to play it cool: So, um… what words do you like to say?

Bean: POOP! I like to say POOP!! And sometime (whispering) … fart!

Me, exhaling: Oooooooh.


(I ran this one by my brother first to see what he though about sharing- he thought it was fine, so I’m going with it) We have one full bathroom in Little House. Bathtime is kind of hectic. I had just pulled Abby from the tub and Bean had gotten in. I was wiping down the counter and getting a dry towel, when I turned to see a Lego man fling across the bathtub, and Bean burst into uproarious laughter.

Me: What was that?

Bean: Look mom! I can use my wiener as a catapult! (he had an erection)

Looking in the tub, as he retrieves his his Lego guy, he pulls himself back again into the water, and lays the Lego man on his penis, and let’s it rip, and the Lego man flies across the bathroom. I’m not stunned into silence often…

Bean, looking at me: HEY MOM! Why does my wiener get hard?

Me, oh dear Lord why me. I opt for specific and technical: Uh…Well, it’s normal. A penis has tissue inside that fills with bloo…

Immediately interrupting, Bean: THERE’S TOILET PAPER INSIDE MY PENIS?????!!!!!

I can hear Jeffrey burst into outrageous guffaws from his room, and I throw down the towel, literally. I give up.


Ten minutes later. I am in my room, helping Abby into her nightgown and combing her hair. Bean walks in, totally naked, dripping wet, no towel, hands on his hips.

Bean: MOM! So I have a little problem.

Me, in my head: no no no no no nooooo! Me aloud: What’s happened- you’re all wet, where’s your towel!?

Bean: Weeeeell… The water in the bathtub is blue.

Me: Huh? How…WHY is the bathtub blue, Bean?

Bean: Well, I said I had a little problem, and it was with Jeff’s man-soap.

(I had picked up some Old Spice shower gel for Jeffrey a few days ago- it had not yet been used)

Me, setting Abby on the bed and heading down the hallway: HOW blue, Bean??

The scent of Old Spice body wash assails me as I approach the bathroom. The tub is still full of water, but the water is bright electric blue. The empty container floats forlornly amid the deep blue suds. My eyes are watering from the smell.

Me: The WHOLE bottle Bean?? What were you DOING?

Bean: It was pretty and I liked how it looked while I poured it on my tummy. It’s okay mom, we can get some more, right?

There are four fans on in my house and all the windows are open, and my eyes are still watering.


Now in my room, in jammies, and sitting on my bed, while I have the fan on in the bathroom and kitchen to clear out the Old Spice insanity. The boys are watching Shark Week, while I pointedly ignore the TV (have I told you how I feel about sharks? ridiculously illogically, terrified) Bean, stinking like DIAMONDS, crawls in my lap and whispers in my ear:

“Mom? Sharks don’t have tongues. But they are really nice, and if we just be nice to them, they won’t eat us all. I promise.”


In the last week, he has asked me: how to build an atom bomb, if we can get a kimodo dragon, what would happen if he put the fire extinguisher in the bathtub, to make him list of the ten deadliest animals in the world, if a compound pulley would allow him to lift his own weight, how poison frogs work, if Eskimos eat penguins, why anyone would live in Antarctica, if he can have a BB gun, and if it’s possible to drill holes in the ceiling and hang ropes for climbing inside the house so he doesn’t have to touch the floor ever again.

I love this child with every fiber of my being. Somedays though, I am just so tired I want to cry.