"Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!" --Ms. Frizzle

"Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!" --Ms. Frizzle

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Last week my girls were sick. Lavender was merely under the weather, but Geneva was sick-- fever, headache, chills, and no desire to leave the couch. Because of this, we ended up watching an unusual amount of television, including a documentary about Yellowstone National Park. Geneva, as horrible as she felt, was riveted. When the documentary ended she asked me to get out paper and pencils; she wanted to write a book about Yellowstone. As she sat on the couch and told me about elk and geysers and birds of prey, I took dictation and then read back to her what she had written. She made a few changes and added facts as she remembered them. When we were finished, she had indeed written a book. Wow. A book.

Here it is. I know this is a braggy post but oh well. I'm just so damn proud.

Yellowstone, by Geneva Zoglman

Wolves are clever. They hunt elk. They live in a pack. They are very interesting. They can survive a hard winter.

Coyotes are as clever as the wolves. They eat elk, too. They eat little bison. Their tails are puffy. The fur is golden.

Bears are very sensitive. They hunt bugs and fish and honey. They have the same parts as people. They have a head like we have, legs, a body, and claws. We don't have claws. They live in a den or a cave.

Bison are very big. They have a big head. Bison have fur and horns. Little bison are weak, but big bison are strong. They can live in hard winter.

Rocks are very hot, because of a volcano. There are geysers. A geyser is water that spouts. They are very interesting. There are hot springs, too.

Hawks and eagles are birds. They fly and flap their wings. The eagles have wings and white heads. They eat deer. Something else killed it and they ate it.

Elk are very interesting because I like their things that point up: antlers! Elk make a funny sound. That is how they talk. They live in a herd.

Yellowstone is very interesting. People can visit there someday.

And that is why we are planning a road trip to Wyoming sometime in the next year or two. I predict it will be, as Geneva says, very interesting.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nurse, Rock, Breathe

This afternoon after a long day of running holiday-related errands, Lavender had had about enough of that nonsense and was ready to call it quits. She wanted to be away from the people and the noise. She wanted to cuddle. She wanted to nurse. She wanted time with just me.

As we sat in the peace of our own home at last, nursing in the glow of Christmas lights, I gazed down at my blissful child and realized suddenly, painfully, that a day is coming soon when this will not be enough to make her happy. She will need more than what I am and what I can give, which is as it should be. Still, the impermanence of our quiet moment together was almost heartbreaking. She will grow, and I will have to count on others to be gentle with her heart and to nurture her sweet spirit. She will want to be apart from me, to go out into the big, uncertain world with desires that neither I, nor perhaps anyone, can fulfill. And I will let her go. How can I do that? How can I not?

Little Lavender, today you are happy just to be held. You only need what I can offer, and so your contentment is whole and complete. Here in our quiet house, nursing and rocking and breathing together, you are not thinking of anything more. You don't know that this will change. Someday you will not drink my milk. You will not want to pet my skin. You will pull away, and consciously you will forget ever having wanted those things. It is a loss-- an aching loss-- that only I will feel.

It will have to be enough, then, for me to remember days like today when you are big and far away. You will be so strong and independent that it will be hard to imagine that you ever fit in my arms, but still I will know that today was real. It happened, and nothing can erase it. You will not always feel the whole, complete contentment you feel now, but it will be there just the same. It will be a part of how you grew, of how you came to know the world. It is a memory I will never let go. And a part of us will forever be nursing, rocking and breathing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lavender Day

Some days I feel like little Lavender gets the short end of the stick. She's not the littlest one in the house these days, and doesn't get carried as much as she would like. She's certainly not the oldest, either, and I'll admit that most of our daily activities focus on things the three-year-olds would find entertaining or enriching. So, she's stuck in the middle, tolerating the diversion of my attention to another baby, and trying her hardest to keep up with or even just comprehend what it is that the older girls are doing. 

Some days, though, are Lavender Days. Those are days when instead of hurrying along we get to walk slowly, so her little legs can keep up. They are days when we are outside in the sun and the air, with room enough for everyone to play without being jostled. Most importantly, they are days when I choose to let other things go so that I can snuggle my little girl-- my big girl-- and watch her shine.

My Lavender, after a very full and happy day.

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Husband, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Avery: They're forecasting a ton of rain by the end of the week.
Jamaica: Really?
Avery: Yeah, they say there will be about eight inches in some places.
Jamaica: Eight inches in some places, just not here.
Avery: ...That's what she said.
Jamaica: *forehead smack*

Thank you, thank you. He'll be here all week.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bum Bum

No, not the Law and Order music.

"Bum bum" is Lavender's ubiquitous word, or maybe I should call it her prototype word. It's the word  from which almost every other word she says is derived. For instance, "pom bum" is pumpkin, "bu' buh" is buckle, and "bom bom" is bottle. Usually. There's a certain amount of fluidity between words, and most of my Lavender Comprehension comes from context. Still, it feels really good to be able to say that my baby daughter speaks and I understand her. I can't describe how dense and inept I feel when I have a child making urgent, repeated requests of me that I cannot for the life of me translate into some form of useable English. I'm sure Lavender would liken the experience to talking to a dog: she asks a question that seems perfectly clear; I cock my head to one side and prick up my ears, or wag my tail and bark. So now, finally, I'm able to make sense of most of what she says. Most of it is "bum bum," and that's just fine. It's better than fine. We're communicating.

Here is a list of Lavender's words that sound almost indistinguishable from "bum bum." For some of them, being on this list makes a lot of sense. For others, I'm dying to see how her brain made that leap, but in the end I'll probably never know.

Car noise

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Wrote a Poem

In my closet is a small jumble of old purses that are now much too tiny to carry my requisite daily load of wallet, keys, sunglasses, broken crayons, toys, diapers, wipes, snacks, and changes of clothing for four children. Basically, they are purses that I haven't used even once since I had kids. In this way they serve as an interesting time capsule because-- and this will come as a huge duh to anyone who knows me-- I did not empty them out before they were relegated to the closet. Today I dislodged one of these tiny purses from its resting place and a piece of paper slipped out. A poem was written on it. I read words--my own words-- that I had not read in almost four years, and went whooshing back in time.

Four years ago I was just beginning a new job in Sunnyside. I was teaching English to elementary school students, and although I loved the work it was a very challenging experience. I was assigned to a portable, isolated from the rest of the faculty, and did not share a planning period with any of the grade-level groups. I ate lunch alone a lot. The culture shock was pretty significant, too, as I had just moved from Seattle, where I had been living and working in very diverse but safe neighborhoods. Sunnyside really only had two ethnic groups to speak of: the white middle class minority, and the impoverished Latino majority. Gang violence was always looming, either as a threat (lockdowns, being unable to wear my favorite red headband) or as an actual presence (teachers gossiping about the dead body found in someone's yard, students missing school for funerals). In some ways I had never been as frightened as I was when I started that job. Not that I feared for my safety; I was terrified of letting my students down when they already had the deck so heavily stacked against them.  But it was a wonderful time in my life, too. I had just become pregnant with Geneva, I was making new friends, and Avery and I were living cozily in the back room of his aunt and uncle's beautiful empty farmhouse on the Yakama Reservation. I was happy, but I was exhausted. I worked long hours, and when I did come home at seven or eight at night I brought all of my work anxiety with me.  I needed some sort of outlet, so one day before I left my classroom I sat down, grabbed a sheet of notebook paper, and just started writing.

That sheet of paper is what slipped out of my old purse today. I decided to share it, not because I think it's a great work of poetry (it's really not) or because it shows what an amazing teacher I was (I really wasn't). It is just a very specific and very true snapshot of where I was four years ago, after my whole life had just changed and before it changed again.

One young boy's tongue sticks and stops.
His face burns red as he shakes the English words
out of his head.
One morning,
numbers tumble from his fingertips
like seeds
and sprout.
I see him clearly for the first time,
Geometry our Lingua Franca.

Glowering girl straddles her chair,
scrawls hearts upon my wall,
mouths pendejo in the air,
carves bitch into the bathroom stall.
She's learning her lesson well
that no one ever cares for grades the way they do
for love and hate.

A curious boy with a pen-and-ink voice
takes my joys and troubles home,
names them
like stray dogs.
Dear Mrs. Zoglman,
How old are you?
What makes you happy?
When is your baby due?
I know the kids in class make you mad,
but Mrs. Z, don't feel bad.
Sometimes I get angry, too.

It hurts to remember
an empty-chair day,
though she never spent much time in her chair anyway.
Her brother was shot

Too-big child, a head above the rest,
moves underwater slowly,
forming perfect empty letters.
Not language; art.
Her voice caresses every foreign syllable.
Not speaking; part of a song
she's been singing for two years
without knowing the words.

I can smell the buses leaving from my classroom.
I sit at the smallest desk
for hours
so still that the lights
automatically shut off.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Florida in Photographs

What lucky Zoglmans we are. We spent a week in early May visiting our dear friends Sylvia and George, and their children Gabriella and Micah, at their home in Florida. To borrow phrasing from Tolkien's Bilbo Baggins, a week is not nearly enough time to spend in the company of such excellent and admirable people. Sylvia and George, we love you! Our doors are always open to you., and we'll be back to see you in Florida just as soon as we save up enough money for another trans-continental vacation (read: not very soon. Insert sob of anguish here). 

Monday, September 3, 2012

That Old Cliche

"Life has just been so crazy."

That's what I keep feeling like I ought to write here as some feeble explanation as to why I haven't posted anything in months. I haven't written to celebrate my baby girl's first birthday, first words, or first steps. I haven't put up pictures of our vacation to Florida, which, by the way, took place in May. I haven't said a single word about learning to play the banjo or camping at Kalaloch or taking Geneva on her first ever Ferris Wheel ride. Did you know we bought a new car? Well, we did. Geneva has already barfed in it, earning it the nickname Vomit Comet. I'm taking care of four kids during the day now, a topic which could be fodder for several new blog posts in and of itself. Oh, and my wonderful brother and his darling fiancĂ©e had their wedding this June, an event so quirky and charming and perfectly them that it almost defies description. So yes, "life has just been so crazy" about sums it up.

But oh, my skin almost crawls at that old cliche! Life is always crazy. Whose isn't? It is full of comings and goings, of changing seasons and the changing activities that go with them. Life without this so-called craziness would be boring. Hollow. Empty. And if we're smart and self-aware, the craziness we put into our lives is really just a happy jumble of things we choose to do, with some unavoidable obligations thrown in. I haven't mowed the lawn in about a month now, but the truth is I could have if I'd decided it was important enough to me. The same goes for making jam, or keeping up on this blog for that matter. Saying "life has just been so crazy" feels like apologizing for the choices I make. I know I can't do every activity that piques my interest, or spend endless hours with the people I love, or maintain a perfect home while simultaneously being a completely engaged and involved parent. Every moment that I choose to devote to one thing comes at the expense of the thousand other things I could be doing, and so I strike the best balance I can. It's the best anyone can do, really.

Now, after a brief hiatus, my crazy happy balancing act includes blogging again. It's a choice I'm really excited about! A jam-packed life is worth recording, and worth remembering.

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Dear Daughter

Three years ago I gave birth to a daughter, my first ever very own child. I had the surreal experience, on that Tuesday morning, of seeing a face I had never laid eyes on before and knowing it instantly and intimately. From the funny little crease over her nose to the shape of her bottom lip, I recognized her as easily as I recognized my own reflection. She was my girl, more precious to me than thought or heartbeat or breath, and this letter is for her.

Geneva, you have been a self-described "big girl" ever since you could hold up three fingers by pinching your pinkie under your thumb. Sometimes I forget just how young, just how new you still are, because of the challenges you constantly seek for yourself. You are three years old and you put on your own clothes, make your own sandwiches, buckle yourself into your carseat (sometimes), wash your own spills and even post your own mail. I love this about you... but it is not why I love you.

Your flair for self-expression is a source of constant joy and amusement to me-- and I hope it is for you, too. I delight in your complicated stories about the mice you rescue from oncoming trains or the wolves who decide to give up being big and bad. You employ such words and phrases as "parasaurolophus," "conveyor belt," and "moderate your voice." Once you informed me that your doll was real, and that she was made of bones and magic. If you don't know the word for something, it's no trouble for you to simply describe it or give an analogue. I clearly remember that when you didn't have a word for tupperware, you referred to it as "like a tank, or a jam pot." You soak up language wherever you find it, and then transform it into something beautiful and inimitable as you tell us your thoughts on life, the world, and everything. I love this about you... but it is not why I love you.

Although you are certainly an extroverted, outgoing child whom I remind every day-- or possibly every minute-- to slow down and be gentle, you are truly a kind and compassionate person. Beyond your good habits of saying "please" and "thank you," you express unprompted, genuine gratitude for things like interesting books, fresh food and sunny days. It is a rare day indeed that you do not tell me, in a matter-of-fact voice that makes it all the sweeter, "I love you, Mom." And as a big sister I have gotten to see you truly shine. You cheer for Lavender when she tries a new food and often give her tastes of whatever you're having-- even if I announce that she's had enough already. You sound the alarm whenever your little sister gets anywhere near the open front door or a set of stairs. It makes me catch my breath each time I see you hugging, kissing, patting and caressing her, and hear your little voice murmuring "Lavender. Lavender. Lavender." I love this about you... but it is not why I love you. 

You are smart. You are frighteningly smart. You know that bubbles rise in water because they are made of air, that sharks hunt using their sense of smell, that the Earth is part of a solar system of planets, that mixing blue and yellow makes green, and that m-a-p-s spells maps. I think your intelligence shows even more, however, in the things you do not yet know. You want to know why the bad guys in your stories make such poor choices. If I tell you that the metal silver is used in telephones, you want to know what else it is used in. I've all but given up on sugarcoating things for your benefit; you see through the euphemism and circumlocution, then tell me what I should have said: "Oh, so it didn't die because it was old. Someone killed it. That's what happened, Mom." So far in your life, there is nothing so frightening or uncomfortable that you'd rather remain ignorant on the subject. Your curiosity is so natural, and your mind so quick, that I stand in awe of you. You will be much, much smarter than I am by the time you are in your teens and I regard this knowledge with a mixture of terror and pride. I love this about you... but it is not why I love you.

I love you because you are my daughter. 

From the moment you were born and I held you in my arms-- you screaming and pooping, me weeping and grinning-- I have adored you beyond condition. There is not anything that could keep me from loving you, because I cherish you without reason or ration. You are exactly who you are meant to be, and you are mine. And every day since your birth I have found new things to love about you, the girl I have always loved just because.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, Maya Rose!

Dear Little Maya, 

It has been a joy to watch you grow ever since you were just a bump in the Pioneer Elementary faculty photo. You are stubborn and sweet, gentle and kind, fiercely loyal and fabulously affectionate. Thank you for sharing your beautiful self with my family, for being Geneva's best friend, for tolerating the chaos of the Zoglman house and for bringing a little bit of calm with you wherever you go. Most of all, thank you for being exactly who you are. My gratitude for the simple fact that you are in this world goes beyond words. I hope someday I can explain to you properly how much I love you. Until then, I'll tell you with hugs and kisses.

Mama Maica

Oh, and tell your mom thanks for throwing such a rockin' Third Birthday Party!

Happy Birthday to one of the coolest kids I know!