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Because Facebook doesn’t do GIFs.

Posting these auto-animated GIFs here where (I think) they’ll actually work. Clicking on each image should show you the animation, which will give you a startlingly good idea what a day with this child is actually like.

wesgif wesgif2


Since I was very young, I’ve been terrified of snakes.

I remember an instance when I was standing very still, playing hide-and-seek I think, and a small garter snake wrapped itself around my ankle. I think this was the trigger. If you don’t have any phobias, you may be thinking, “But that’s not even scary.” No, it’s really not. Also when I was very small, I fell off a balcony or something and broke my arm, but I’m not afraid of heights or balconies or anything related to that.

You can’t make sense out of a phobia.

There are two different things people tend to say to you when you mention that you suffer from ophidiophobia (or snake-phobia, which is not a real word but is easier to spell).

The first: “They’re not slimy!” True. They’re not. It’s interesting to me that people across the board so quickly arrive at the conclusion that the only potentially upsetting thing about snakes is a misconception about their texture. I’ll happily let frogs and newts, despite sliminess, crawl on me. The difference? THEY’RE NOT SNAKES.

The second thing: “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” I dispute this assertion. If you hook a snake up to a heart rate monitor and show it a not-terribly-realistic drawing of me, does that snake have clearly measurable arrhythmia? I have never actually done this study, but I feel pretty confident about the outcome.

As an adult, I didn’t find this phobia that limiting to my existence. I chose to live in urban areas without much in the way of nature around (there are many reasons, but the snakelessness of city sidewalks is right up there on the list) (also I am allergic to grass and trees).  The biggest risk was TV shows and movies. Or clicking through on nonspecific “Wow, this is amazing!” links online (I feel so validated in my cautiousness on the rare occasions in which the comments make it clear that it actually was a snake).

But then I had a kid. And not just any kid – a boy one. This opened up whole new worlds of grass and dirt and terrifying picture books. I thought surely people who knew me well would check books they were considering as gifts for potential freakout-inducing images. I soon found out that people don’t necessarily check books they’re buying for small children for anything; a picture book about Dizzy Gillespie stands out in my memory – got it as a gift and was reading it to my then-preschooler until I got to the part about how badly his father used to beat him. (If I ever buy your kid a book, I promise I will have read it first.)

So I made a resolution. I couldn’t prevent the uncomfortable physical effects that happened when I saw a picture of a snake, but I could damn sure keep them to myself. My kid wasn’t going to grow up with irrational fears like mine – at least not ones I could prevent. For several years, mostly through the use of deep breathing, I successfully stuck with this plan.

He was just four when, after he’d spent some time with a relative, he came home with many hilarious stories about times Mommy, who was absolutely terrified of snakes, had encountered one – or a drawing of one, or whatever – and wigged out.

Lesson learned: If you plan to fake anything about your personality for the benefit of a small child, you might want to send out a memo to the people who actually know you.

Anyway, I’m slowly making progress. I can look at cartoon snakes without any measurable reaction (well, as long as they’re not moving). The last time I encountered a real snake went less well; we were at a presentation about my kid’s afterschool program and some guy way at the other end of the auditorium had a massive snake wrapped around him and – well, I spent the entire event with my face buried in my mother-in-law’s bosom. Making tiny whimpering sounds. Not real big on dignity. But I used to be pretty sure that if I saw a real live snake I’d have a massive heart attack and die, so I’m still counting that as progress.

An Evolving Dialogue with Hulu.

Is this ad relevant to you?
NO. I have no pets so do not buy pet food.

Is this ad relevant to you?
NO. I’m vegan.

Is this ad relevant to you?
NO. Not in the market for a new car.

Is this ad relevant to you?
NO NO NO oh my god there’s a SNAKE in it get it away get it away get it away

Is this ad relevant to you?
YES. It has Samuel L. Jackson. Who doesn’t like Samuel L. Jackson?

Is this ad relevant to you?
YES. Puppies are adorable.

Is this ad relevant to you?
YES. Um, the kid was kind of cute.

Is this ad relevant to you?
YES. Because, uh… OK, look. I’ll be honest. I’m going to click YES on everything now because I do not want to see that goddamn snake again.

Is this ad relevant to you?
NO.Well… almost everything. (Stupid pasta-making homophobes.)

Christmas is the time to say… ?


First, I’d like to deeply apologize for the unnecessary Billy Squier reference.

Maybe this image of  W. taking an entirely unrequested curtain call after his glee club’s Christmas performance will make up for it.

At the very least, it sets the stage for the story to follow: The Year W Started Composing His Own Christmas-Card Sentiments.

A Card to Me, His Mother:

Dear Mommy, thanks for making smoothies for me! Mine better be good on Christmas Eve!

A Card to His Very Own Father:

Dear Daddy, thanks for all your support this year!

A Card to His Uncle:

Dear Uncle J, I am glad you have a brother like R. I wish I was his brother.

I hope this will inspire you all to up your own card-writing game next year.

A conversation.

We were at Whole Foods. W. and I had walked there to celebrate his last day of summer camp with a Tofutti Cutie.

We were sitting at a small table outside, next to the exit. Next to us was a young man with a clipboard, asking shoppers over and over, “Do you have a minute for civil rights?”

I was kind of boggling at how few stopped, but then I remembered that this particular WF leans more toward foodie customers than progressives (not that you can’t be both!). Unlike the one in San Diego, where I could hang out all day – but that’s another story.

Finally, W. asked, “Mommy, what is he saying?”

“Do you have a minute for civil rights?” I thought about it for a second; I knew they’d talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. at kindergarten, but that might have been it. “Do you know what that is?”


“Civil rights is… a lot of people aren’t treated fairly in this country because of maybe their color or how much money they have or being a girl – things that shouldn’t matter. Civil rights is what we want everyone to have.”

“So what is he doing?”

“I don’t know exactly, but there are a lot of organizations… that’s a group of people… that work to get everybody the same treatment.” (I hadn’t practiced explaining civil rights to a 5-year-old in advance, so there you have it.)

W’s eyes got huge. He whispered to me, “Can we say yes to him?”

“Sure, honey.”

We sat there for another minute and W. said, “But he’s not gonna ask us.”

“Maybe not – but we can ask him.”

I leaned over and said, “Hey, what have you got there?”

He was there on behalf of the ACLU, and gave some examples of the cases they’re taking on.

“They do a lot of important work,” I said to W., then to the guy, “So… have you got a petition, or what are you looking for?”

Selling memberships, it turned out. I don’t usually make charitable contributions on the street – I’ve thought out how much I want to give and who I want to give it to – but I thought it was important to give the kid a small lesson in getting involved, so I did.

Walking home, W. wanted to know how we just fixed that problem. I gave a fairly convoluted explanation of how people like the guy we just talked to raised money to pay lawyers who could go to court and fight for the people who were being treated unfairly…

“Can you and me do that, Mommy?”

“Well, no, honey, lawyers do that part.”

“Aw, come on! You know how good I am at fighting!”

I thought back to all the conversations with daycare staffers, starting when he was two-and-a-half, who he’d backed into rhetorical corners. “We’ve been using these explanations with kids for fifteen years!” they’d say.

I thought of all the times he’d backed US into rhetorical corners. All the times we’d diagnosed him with an overdeveloped sense of justice.

“You know what, dude?” I said to him. “I think you could be one of the best civil rights lawyers of all time.”

He shrugged self-deprecatingly. “OK! I’ll be a civil rights lawyer then!”

You know? I really think he might.

On my tempestuous relationship with a certain Crowded House song.

I am willing to bet cold hard cash that nobody has stronger feelings about Crowded House’s not-that-controversial song “Don’t Stop Now” than I do. As are most things, I suppose, it was a matter of timing.

When the album TIME ON EARTH came out, we had recently moved to the other side of Los Angeles – just south of Pasadena, actually. That part of the world is lovely, particularly if you’re fond of Craftsman bungalows and lush foliage. (I’m about 75% on that, being allergic to trees.)

However, I do not understand who lives there. Owls? Bats? Voles? Because here’s the thing: The minute it starts to get dark, you can’t see a goddamn thing. The streetlights are, to say the least, minimal. The aforementioned lush foliage casts formidable shadows on the street signs, which themselves tend more toward the subtle and tasteful than the more appropriate glow-in-the-dark. Combined with my genetic lack of sense of direction, this meant trouble.

Before I basically stopped leaving the house after dusk (unless it was a straight shot to the freeway and outta there), I spent a tremendous amount of time driving around trying to find my own house. And crying. If you’re thinking, “Really? That’s worth crying over?” I assume you haven’t experienced the specific and profound humiliation of being regularly incapable of finding your home.

Also, you should know that we’re not talking about doubling back a block or two. Once I went to a store that Google Maps informed me was 1.7 miles away. By the time I made it there and back, I had racked up more than 32 miles on the odometer. We are talking LOST.

That was when I bought TIME ON EARTH. The opening track struck an immediate chord with me and, I learned from reading the press, was inspired by the Finn family having moved to a new town – in which Mrs. Finn was unable to find her way home.

Another pleasant day in the countryside
Has ended up in tears on a stormy night
Cause you can’t follow my directions home
But don’t stop now

God knows where the satellite’s taking us
I can’t tell what’s right in front of us
But I hang on every word
But don’t stop now
No, don’t stop now

This song clearly understood me. Everyone else thinks I’m an idiot – but here is proof that this has happened to at least one other person. It’s a small comfort, but I’ll take it.

And then this happens.

Give me something I can write about

I’m sorry. Give you something you can WRITE about?

You could write her some better directions. How’s THAT?

(Clearly, I’m projecting a little bit.)

Now I live in a proper city neighborhood, in a majestic and well-lit building that I can locate with ease from all four directions. But when I saw Crowded House play Club Nokia on Friday night, damned if my love/hate reactions to that song were not every bit as strong.

I guess it just goes to show that you’re never too old to have a formative experience.

And it came in such a tiny box, too.

Dear lovely people:

Tonight my life was vastly improved in multiple ways.

A gift arrived via FedEx. It was one of those newfangled iPads all the kids are talking about.

You’ve surely heard about all the things they can do. I’m just going to list a few things it’s done for me specifically.

My hands started on their lifelong path of being totally hosed when I broke my arm as a little kid, somehow resulting in calcium deposits in my right wrist that limit my use of that hand. Over the years, I’ve added to the problem, also developing (in both arms) tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and cubital tunnel syndrome (yeah, I’d never heard of that one either). Two years ago, I topped the whole mess off by developing something half-diagnosed as neurological tremor. Means my hands are real shaky.

There’s a parallel decrease in the things I can do. I went from reading constantly to being able to read only books in paperback, usually only mass-market, with wide margins toward the center so I could hold it open enough to read. Typing accurately is an enormous challenge, and often painful. I can’t play computer solitaire without serious pain – which doesn’t seem like that big a loss, but I eventually realized it had been my only successful relaxation technique. We won’t even talk about my violin playing.

(Because I don’t play violin. I can’t even play ukulele – and I’ve tried and tried!)

So here’s what this little device brought me.

First and most excitingly, I can read books on it. Any books I want. I don’t have to plot my reading list out by weight anymore.

Second, in my keyboard-heavy existence, it has the only one I can type in a fairly error-free fashion on – and it doesn’t hurt.

Also not painful: Games. Not only can I resume my Spider habit, but I have the freedom to become a Plants vs Zombies or Angry Birds junkie like everyone else, if I so choose.

This is less dramatic than the others because it’s just fixing a failing of my current computer rather than my person, but I’m also pretty stoked that Netflix streaming works on it. One step closer to freeing ourselves of the hilariously incompetent Time-Warner corporation!

I can’t think of another time my life was this affected by a material object. Nice one, Apple.

Important update. Seriously. This is HUGE.

As some of you will have read, my official nickname, bestowed by my young son, is “Mommy of the Future.”

Or rather – it was.

We were at a park in Beverly Hills, perhaps fittingly, when he informed me that I was no longer the Mommy of the Future.

Because I have a new nickname.

You may have to steel yourself for this one.

Do you have a snack? A stiff drink?

At least take a few deep breaths.


“King of Heaven.”

I was going to stress that I did not make this up, but I think you probably know I am not capable of making this up.

The only explanation I can get is that I’m taller than him, even when he stands on things. That’s not really sufficient, is it?

Anyway, if you have anything you need or want, let me know. I might consider it.

Stone cold.

My body temperature has always been 96.8.

I’ve long suspected that those last two switched digits were the reason that I’ve never been uncomfortably hot.*

I’m hardly weatherproof; I’m cold when it’s much under 80 degrees and downright miserable when it’s under 70. But when it gets up over 100? Bliss. My ideal day would be dry, about 110, with a nice hot wind blowing.

As you can imagine, this is my very favorite time of year.

There’s a small catch, though. The kind of weather that makes me deeply happy makes pretty much everyone around me completely miserable.

I’m a people person. I can’t just completely ignore this. (I know. I’ve tried.)

A few years back, we had record-setting heat or some such nonsense, and we had to meet my brother-in-law in the Valley. (LA people will know the Valley averages temperatures approximately 50 degrees than the rest of the area. 50, 20 – something like that.) So much of my extended family was standing on a corner discussing – actually, I don’t know what they were doing. I was busy. With my face tilted up to the sun and my arms stretched wide, I was glorying in the hot sun and the gritty, burning wind and pretending I was in the middle of the desert. As you do.

Until I noticed it had gotten… quiet. My god, the looks I was getting. What? I’m happy! DON’T YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY?

Although that was probably my finest moment in annoying actual loved ones, my best for sheer volume had to be when I was working in a record store. All day long, transaction after transaction would go more or less like this:


“Actually, I love this weather!”

“Fuck off.”

(Mostly they said that last part with their eyes.)

Oh, I could have lied. I could have nodded sympathetically and kept it to myself. But you try to keep stuff to yourself when you’re brimming over with joy. It’s hard.

When I was pregnant, everybody promised me my body would turn into a furnace. My third trimester was during the hottest part of the year, and I was assured that the heat would, for the first time in my life, make me a miserable wreck. WELL. Not only did I not overheat at any point, I was still freezing the whole time.

Apparently my system is stubborn when it decides to be peculiar.

Here’s a thing I feel guilty about: I have a long history of health problems. When these heatwaves strike and I’m the only ebullient person for miles around, I kind of relish the feeling of being the person with the coping skills for once.

Tangentially, today my acupuncturist speculated that I might have False Heat – True Cold. I nodded thoughtfully and Googled it later, as you do. I’m not sure; the descriptions I read made me think I’d look more like a creepy doll if I had it (which would be A LOT like a creepy doll) – but it’d be interesting if acupuncture averaged me out.

*Because no cliche is without truth, it sometimes is too humid for me.

PS – this is an exercise in writing something and publishing it, because I have become the True Queen of Unpublished Drafts this last year or so.

What the heck is up with me?, Chapter 1

As those of you who have diligently memorized everything I’ve ever posted here will recall, I’ve never had an alcoholic beverage. I’ve also never had a cigarette, an illegal drug, or – this is a good one – a sip of coffee.

Is this because I am no fun? Of course not. I am yes fun. This is because I made a freakishly sensible decision as a small child: That I would never start doing anything I saw people around me struggling to quit. And then I followed through. Please do not take this as an indicator of my personality in general. It is not.

Anyway, I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about this, but sometimes it manifests in odd little ways. Here’s one: I almost never enjoy songs about drinking/drunkenness. I’m not saying I dislike them, or am offended by them – I hear them and go “Hmm, yeah, don’t get it” and move on. This has kinda killed entire albums for me, by artists I love.

This is what I figured: “Of course I don’t get it! Never done it!”

So how, you’re wondering, does this aloofness translate when it comes to comedy? Well, it depends. Sometimes there’s a story that’s funny regardless of intoxication levels, even if drinking is heavily involved; sometimes it’s more about the actual drinking and I’m lost.

A few weeks ago we saw Paul F. Tompkins at Largo. I would like to state up front that I’m almost certain that Paul F. Tompkins is the funniest human being on the planet. You should buy his CDs and go to his shows and follow him on Twitter and such. That was a PSA right there.

Anyway, he did a bit about drinking, and I wasn’t bored or anything, because he’s the funniest human being alive, but I started to realize I hadn’t actually laughed in several minutes, which maybe has never happened before at a PFT show. “Well, sure,” I thought, “because I’ve never done it and such.” Shortly thereafter he moved to a different subject, and I was laughing my butt off as is customary, when it hit me that my theory had just been blown out of the water.

Because that subject? Was growing a mustache.

A thing that I have also never done.

So now I’m back to wondering: What the heck is up with me? Perhaps a mustachioed drinker will show up and point to a qualitative difference between these experiences that I am only subconsciously sensing. I certainly hope so – I’d hate to put much more thought into this.