Monday, July 30, 2007

passing on knowledge

In a past entry, I discussed possible career paths my son might take based upon observances I’ve made of his personality and preferences. Here’s a quick review: So far we’ve had geologist, astronomer, underwater cave dweller, and American tourist abroad.

I’d like to add to those - sound engineer, Pig Latin interpreter, and, I’m afraid, teacher.

In terms of the first, I can only say that my son enjoys sound effects. He knows perfectly well the names for things like dog, fire truck, swing, drink. Yet, without fail, a dog is a “WOOF-WOOF!” a fire truck is a “WOOOO-WOOOO!” and a swing is a “wee-wah” (the sound it makes as it goes back and forth, pronounced with a sing-songy lilt). Drinking is denoted by a hand to the mouth and the sound “Zzzsssssooop!” The list continues.

Regarding number two, foreign languages are a specialty of Isaac’s. He speaks his native Isaac, some English, some sign language, and as far as I can see, is on his way to fluency in Pig Latin. He routinely drops the first consonant of any word as it is. He eats “‘nacks” and rolls his play-doh into “‘nakes” (also known as “Ssssssssss,” see explanation of “sound engineer” above). He also looks for birds in the “’wees” (drop ‘t’ replace ‘r’ with W sound) and never runs in the “‘weet” (see grammar rule for “‘wees”).

Okay, I know that you are supposed to drop the whole consonant cluster, but come on, he’s only a baby, he does his best. Once I teach him the addition of “ex-” and “-ay,” he’s in. Besides, he’s a fast learner (see explanation of “teacher” below).

All this is intriguing, but I can’t help wondering if Isaac’s true calling is teacher.

I swear I only told him once not to eat the green part of the strawberries. My son is not only a fast learner, he passes on his knowledge with generous enthusiasm. At every subsequent encounter with a strawberry it goes something like this:

“Mama, me no eat geen pawt.” (models)

“Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. DAD! No eat geen pawt!” (instructs)

“Okay, Isaac, I won’t eat the green part.”

“No eat geen pawt, Daddy.” (checks for comprehension)

Much of Isaac’s knowledge base seems to center around what not to ingest or how things are ingested. On some fateful day some months back, Mike asked Isaac where the food went after it left his stomach. “Um, knee!” Isaac pronounced, at which point, my dear husband made the unfortunate decision to confirm the theory.

At random moments during meals, Isaac can now be heard discussing the obvious trek his food takes through his body, from mouth to stomach to knee, with great sincerity. Watering out in the garden recently, he had more lessons to share with me.

“Mama, ‘wees no have knee. Have woot. Woot ZZZZsssooop up wawa.”

Hey, ya learn something new every day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

potty training

The year is 2025. “Harry Potter: The Musical” has just opened on Broadway, and Isaac, my 20-year-old son, rises from his seat in seventh row center as the curtain closes for intermission and wades through the crowd to the men’s room, where, miraculously, he makes use of the facilities all by himself.

I try to keep that glorious day as my vision. But most days, it’s hard.

More lies. They just keep coming. My sister told me, “Oh, potty train in the summer – put them outside naked and then they see when they have to go.” As if that were the issue.

My kid knows exactly when he has to go. Sometimes even informs me while the act is in progress. And we have our good days – the days when I can get him excited about all those commercial cartoons printed on his underwear. On those days, we do well. Very well. It’s getting to that point that’s the biggie. Most of the time the battle cry is “DIE-boo! DIE-boo!” How we love our captors.

The other part of the lie about the summer being the best time to potty train is that since you have to be home to do it and the summer is filled with festivals and beach days and stuff that is much cooler than watching the dust bunnies burrow in the living room, it demands sacrifice. Isaac and I don’t care for sacrifice.

The potty seat has become part of our household décor. Tattooed with stickers, a symbol of both pride and horror, it stands by us, whether loved or forgotten, plastic blue and white receptacle that fills my days and that I, were it solely up to me, would have filled in return.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


It is not yet twilight.

My toddler finds the slim crescent
barely illuminated in the sky.

Words come with effort,
syllables tow their funny vowels
across his still-new tongue:
“Moon. Out.”

And with that, he leaps skyward
grasps something precious and invisible
in his little fist, lands flat-footed.

His fingers peel back and he presents me
his open palm. “Moon,” he tells me.

But before I can respond, he is snatching
the air above him again, cups his two hands
against his chest.

Beaming, he holds out his hands.
“Stars,” he says. And suddenly,

I have everything I could ever want.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007

fences and neighbors

I don't yet have a toddler who clutches a toy with his whole body screaming “Mine! Mine! Mine!” Maybe because he doesn't have a sibling (mother-in-law: “He's going to grow up ALL ALONE?” me: “ALL ALONE.”)

Still, Isaac understands ownership. He also understands who is part of his community and who is outside of it. The two concepts are related. He flatly refuses to share his cars with a random boy at the park, but when his friend Joshua whom we've been waiting for arrives, he readily hands them over. Or at the beach recently it was “Girls, too! Girls, too!” as I handed him his cheese stick, and so I third it, giving a piece to my friends' twins and to Isaac.

Ownership and our ideas of property have gone wacky these days. “Share!” we tell the kids. And on what model might they grasp that idea, I wonder? Just look at our “communities.” In a past era, fences meant freedom, used to demarcate land ownership. Only free men could own land. There's a jumbled, ironic feel to all of that, but let's move along. These days, fences aren't keeping anybody free. They are the border between us and them.

I'm interested in exploring fences and neighbors. I've had the idea to make it into a radio program for over a year now.

The last radio show I produced for public radio was on elementary school kids' views of libraries closing in their neighborhood. It aired a few days before Isaac was born. Since then, I've done a few interviews with touring writers, but nothing like the time-consuming endeavor of mobile interview, collection of ambient sound, selection of music, writing intro, transitional and closing texts, tunneling through editing programs in the dark of a studio for hours, slicing up and rearranging my victims' sentences and creating narrative. Perhaps oddly, I crave to go back to that work (or at the very least a life that would afford me such time).

I want to interview the person with the two-foot green chainlink number that has four, count them, Beware of Dog signs on it. Huh?

I want to talk to the person who lives behind a crumbling white picket fence leading to a Pepto-Bismol pink house decked out in peace signs.

I need to get into the mind of the person who constructed a concrete block barricade to their rose garden, leaving planter openings at even intervals along the top, only to see whatever lived in them at one time shrivel to brown sticks and now host a flock of empty beer cans.

Those are the old fences. But people are constantly constructing new fences and walls in my neighborhood too.

The McMansions and renovations all seem to call for a second (or third) floor for the view and towering fences. Wood, brick, iron, take your pick.

Some of the McMansions can be described as nothing short of fortresses. Thick adobe-colored walls squaring off cement patios in a dizzying progression that ride higher and higher lest the inner sanctuary be sullied by the outside eye. There is, of course, a Beware of Dog sign posted prominently on these chateaus of welcome, and – centered over my favorite one – a fat, gold crucifix nailed above the door. (We're Christian, goddammit! Stay back!) The only thing missing is the jagged pieces of bottles poking out along the top of the wall.

I would ask questions about whether they considered their fence decorative, functional, other. I'd talk to them about who knows their neighbors. And how far in each direction they can name them.

Recently, a friend who is looking for a place to rent lamented how he'll probably have to deal with neighbors. “You guys lucked out here,” he told me.

At our house, we have few direct neighbors. There is the church I've written about, the 80+ year-old Johnsons I've written about in passing, and screaming children behind us, though we've never seen them. That would be because on the sides and back of the house there is a six foot high wooden fence topped with another two feet of lattice.

There is also our pseudo neighbor on the other side. His house faces the street perpendicular and he has a big yard that touches ours in just one place really, so were it not for the baby raccoon, we may never have crossed paths without going out of our way to introduce ourselves, which, well, people don't often do and which, well, is part of my point in doing a story, and, well, aren't I always whining about community? I still don't get why he didn't see the raccoon across his empty yard over three days. I'm just gonna throw this out there, and it doesn't mean it explains anything, but, well, he drives a Hummer. Anyway.

Recently we visited both families on the east coast in one week-long trip – something we had sworn we would never do again.

The day after we got home was a beautiful sunny Sunday and we were out in the garden reminding ourselves what our yard looked like when I heard a knocking on the fence.

My eighty-year-old neighbor Mrs Johnson was standing on an upturned bucket, peering through the lattice over the six-foot high barricade. “I said to James, I said, 'That woman with the truck has come a few times already, I better go out and see if she has a key. If she has a key,' I said, 'everything's alright.'”

We had really intended to let them know we were going. Really. We just didn't see them outside and knocking on people's door these days...well, it's that direct thing...don't we all hesitate? (e.g. knocking on the fence).

Despite the fence knocking, what is obvious from this exchange is that Mrs Johnson comes from another generation, where maybe neighbors were important. Not to mention another culture (she is from Salzburg, Austria), where maybe neighbors were important.

For the first three months we lived here, Mr Johnson, also from another generation and another culture (he's from Mississippi) addressed me solely as "neighbor." "Hello, Neighbor!" he would call from beside his light blue Mazda pickup (purchased new, don't ya know, in February of 1973). In truth, he couldn't remember my name, but who cares? How cute is it to be called "Neighbor?"

After we straightened out with Mrs Johnson how long we were gone and that the roses had indeed been watered, the conversation turned to more meaningful matters.

Still straining to hang onto the fence with one hand, Mrs Johnson motioned with the other. “Give me a plate, honey, I made cream puffs.”

Neighbors rock.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

back again

So, Mike's back is out again.

Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. That's me I'm describing.

I failed to write about the last time this happened - a year ago...on VACATION. ("What do you MEAN you can't pick up the baby?? I'm on VACATION!" Watching Isaac waddle in the direction of the street, I felt not unlike Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka warning away the brats from the dangers of the chocoloate factory. "wait. stop. don't." he managed unmoving.)

Anyway, I did write about the time before that - almost three years ago...when I was PREGNANT. The entry is here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

what it means to have kids

Mike had started cooking dinner and I had completed reading a good eighth of an article on Kurt Vonnegut when Isaac pulled out his dollar store recorder.

Before Izzy came along, I held to the unfounded, untested, and ultimately false belief that when it's your own child you must not hear his noise at quite the same decibel level as when listening to the random brat in the supermarket hollering in his campaign for Fruit Loops. How young and foolish I was.

You may train yourself to eventually tune it out (I am not the authority on such training as I have yet to complete the course) or you may pretend not to hear, but your child shrieking or playing what might pass as a musical instrument is just as painful on the ear drums as any other kid doing same.

Toot-toooooooot, went my son. Emily Cat bounded toward the garage.

Toot- tooooooot-tooooot, he played on. And I applauded, trying not to lose my place as the wisdoms of Mr. Vonnegut were remembered and turned about by lesser writers.

“Done!” Isaac waved at me gleefully and ran to his room.

“Hurray,” I applauded absently. And then he was back.

“Oh, God,” I said aloud, “I've caused an encore.”

And for his next act... “Mama, dum!” He gestured me over. “Daddy, dum!”

The next thing I know we're dancing like maniacs. Mike is spinning; Isaac is flailing his arms; and I am playing the blasted instrument – somehow – I couldn't recreate for you the chain of events that led me there. Family psycho band.

It was soon after that that I changed our answering machine message from the one we'd had for the past two years: “You've reached Kitty, Mike, and Isaac. Please leave a message” to “We can't come to the phone right now; we're probably having a dance party.”

A friend was so thrown by the new recording, she didn't even recognize my voice. “Um, um, this used to be Kitty and Mike's number...” came her startled message on the machine.

Some people just have no idea what it means to have kids.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

tell me when it's over

How quickly we become accustomed to what is out of place.

We'd heard the crying creature on and off for three days going on four. The first day I had resolved to go look for what it was, on the instinct that something was in distress. But it stopped for a while and after I got Isaac down for his nap I became distracted with whatever I'd chosen as my nap activity. Likely food or paying the past due bills.

I'd gone out eventually and located where it was coming from – just the other side of the fence by or in my neighbor's tree. The calling stopped when I got close. I'd settled on baby bird waiting for its mother to return and went back inside.

On the fourth day, Judy would be the one to find her.

A baby raccoon had gotten one of its back paws wedged in the slats of the fence and hung head down, its front feet resting on a crossbar.

“Stuck?” Isaac repeated over and over again. “No walk,” he told us, paddling the air with his hands in the ASL sign.

I dialed numbers, and more numbers the people at the first numbers gave me, pacing my garage, cursing myself for not investigating more closely, panicked that I had figured it out too late.

The SPCA wildlife division arrived within half an hour, but not before we tried to feed the little bandit a chopped up apple by broom handle.

“Stuck?” Isaac continued, but he refused to go and see for himself. He just wanted it better “Help,” he told us, “help.”

Yes, they were coming to help we assured him.

The thing is, I get it. In truth, my own gander at the critter was brief. I pawned off the apple on Judy and she took broom handle duty.

There are stories my son once loved that he won't let me read anymore, or at least he stops me before the conflicts arise. There's P.D. Eastman's Are You My Mother? in which we must skip past the pages showing the “snort” truck that scoops up the baby bird, and Mama, Do You Love Me? which threatens with its page showing the Mama angry.

When I was little, I would leave the room midpoint during the Flintstones. I couldn't stand to watch when Fred messed everything up or while the other set the stage for mishap and misunderstanding. – I just needed everything to work out and for someone else to get it to that point. I'd reclaim my seat on the couch for the happy ending.

You could say occupations like ER nurse never really occurred to me. I'm a poet who's afraid to look. I live with the irony. But what to teach my Isaac?

The baby raccoon was recovered successfully from the fence and I'm hoping to read about her release back into the wild of our neighborhood garbage cans in the next SPCA newsletter.

To witness suffering and help stop it, you must have compassion without caving in, you must hold the other's story gently as if it were your own while remembering it's not.

Isaac is small now and most of the world is out of his control. It's almost unfair to ask him to watch such things, a trapped animal, a scary snort. Life is unfair. I don't know how to nurture his sensitivity while cultivating in him the strength to take action when he can. There is another gap in my parenting knowledge, about the length of a broom handle.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

word of the day

“The world is made of names; my son is learning to speak. He has faith. He believes in things. Rock, I tell him, leaf. No, this, he says, holding the rock. This, he says, holding up the leaf.”
--from “Days – poems by Gary Young”

Somehow, in Isaac’s language, the words diaper, table, garbage and strawberry all come out exactly the same: “DIE-boo.”

If you aren’t paying attention, things can start to get all tilt-a-whirl on you.

“You want Mama to draw a diaper truck?”
“You can’t eat garbage for a snack, Little Mister!”
“I see. So, what you’re telling me is the ball has rolled under the strawberry?”

Sometimes I get the exasperated look. You know the one. The one that erases almost four decades of life on the planet and lets you know you know nothing. Zero. Sometimes, I get the sly, slow smile. “Yeah!” he agrees to the diaper truck or the ball vanishing under berries. “Why not,” he implies, handing me the blue crayon.

I’m not always prepared. It’s been years since I’ve lived abroad spending day after day in conversations in which neither party knew the other’s language. I was younger then, quicker on my feet. One more reason that come nightfall parents should be hermetically sealed into sleeping bags while carefully trained elves commute to our houses from their nests in the forest ready to battle any waking children by dancing them back to sleep, bringing them water and warm milk, or gently tying them to the bed. The sooner we organize the elves, the smoother this will all work out.

“DIE-boo!” my son tells me, tapping his fingers on each of his hip bones.
“DIE-boo!” he insists, pointing at the coffee table.
“DIE-boo!” he says, stomping and lifting his arms like a mechanical claw.
“DIE-boo!” he sighs, signing the word for the fruit with his twisting pinky finger.

Dictionaries and vocabularies are for those with less imagination living in the showy world of verbal subtlety. With his whole being, no matter the sounds from his mouth, he is teaching me the same things. The tilt-a-whirl is three tickets to ride. The elves are busy filling dandelion wishes. And, please, pay attention.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

July 4, 2007 - Esalen

Big Sur, CA
Here's where we spent our fourth.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

my own independence day

Some days I want a little more space than I get.

(Let me start over.)

Some days, what I want is space, away, I mean, more time, I mean, to myself.

(Eh-hem. Again.)

I wish Isaac napped longer. I don’t want to have to choose between lunch, nap, watering the garden or writing.

(Take four:)

Why can’t he play by himself?!? I mean, other babies do it? If he does it, for all of ten minutes it means he’s pooping in his pants. Why potty train the kid when it’s my only respite?

(Wait. Back up. Breathe. Okay.)

Some days I want a little more space than I get. I consider myself to be an emotionally demanding person. Like mother, like son.

They say: “I just read a book, turn off the light, tell him its nap time and leave the room. He goes right to sleep.”
Drinks milk. Asks for more. Finishes that milk. Rejects book number five, asks to read something else. Starts to drift off. Sits back up. Fills his diaper. Change him. Asks for more milk... The tendonitis in my wrists I got from lugging him around as a baby has returned full force because the child seems to have to hold my pinky finger in some awkward angle in order to fall asleep. I want a nap that’s longer than the time it takes me to get him to nap.

Mama, come peez. (Just a minute, Isaac, I’m feeding Emily cat.)
Mama. Mama! Mama!! Mama? Mama!!!
Mama, watch. Mama, watch. Mama, watch. (I’m watching, Isaac.) Mama, watch.

They say: “He just plays by the door while I’m in the shower.”
I can usually count on Isaac freaking out at least once a week when I take a shower – while Mike is home - and several times a week when I tell him I’m going to the bathroom.

Mama, has to go to the bathroom, Izzy. I’ll be right back.
No! Uh-uh. No!
Honey, it’s just the bathroom. I’ll be right back.
No-uh-uh-no. Nooooo! (cries)
Isaac. I have to pee. Can I please pee.
Well, I have to pee anyway. No one changes Mama’s diapers so I have to make it to the potty.
Noooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (cries frantically and busts through the bathroom door)

They say: “Isaac sleeps through the night now, doesn’t he?”
It took Mike and I three days to finish watching a movie because the creature has it in for us.

Mama, where’d do dough? Mama?

The child is Wearing. Me. Out.

And I wonder why I’m still a clockwatcher. I’m not proud of this in the least. I’m not nearly as bad as when Isaac was first born, but nonetheless, it goes something like this: “Okay, if he sleeps another half hour, but the time he wakes up, I’ll only have two hours to go before Mike gets home.” Shouldn’t it be more like …He wakes up, I drift into the yard with him, play baseball, deadhead some marigolds, he rides his radio flyer around, we watch a spider together, and seamlessly the time passes until, surprised, I look up to discover Mike pulling in the driveway.

Lately I’ve been getting them again. The comments. The ones that assume. The ones that come with shackles attached. The “Don’t you LOVE being a mom?” comments. And “You must enjoy your son SO MUCH!” Immediately, after these lines are spoken, invisible ropes of untold strength shoot toward my wrists and ankles from all directions. THWAAAAPPPP. THWAAAPPP. SHUKSHUKSHUKSHUK. I am bound. Where can I go? I am an awful person. But worse, I am an awful mother.

(NB: Don’t even think about the comment on how someday he’ll not want anything to do with me. Post it and I will eat you.)

one of my favorites: a poem by Gregory Djanikian

(thank you

Immigrant Picnic
by Gregory Djanikian

It's the Fourth of July, the flags
are painting the town,
the plastic forks and knives
are laid out like a parade.

And I'm grilling, I've got my apron,
I've got potato salad, macaroni, relish,
I've got a hat shaped
like the state of Pennsylvania.

I ask my father what's his pleasure
and he says, "Hot dog, medium rare,"
and then, "Hamburger, sure,
what's the big difference,"
as if he's really asking.

I put on hamburgers and hot dogs,
slice up the sour pickles and Bermudas,
uncap the condiments. The paper napkins
are fluttering away like lost messages.

"You're running around," my mother says,
"like a chicken with its head loose."

"Ma," I say, "you mean cut off,
loose and cut off being as far apart
as, say, son and daughter."

She gives me a quizzical look as though
I've been caught in some impropriety.
"I love you and your sister just the same," she says.
"Sure," my grandmother pipes in,
"you're both our children, so why worry?"

That's not the point I begin telling them,
and I'm comparing words to fish now,
like the ones in the sea at Port Said,
or like birds among the date palms by the Nile,
unrepentantly elusive, wild.

"Sonia," my father says to my mother,
"what the hell is he talking about?"
"He's on a ball," my mother says.

"That's roll!" I say, throwing up my hands,"
as in hot dog, hamburger, dinner roll . . . ."

"And what about roll out the barrels?" my mother asks,
and my father claps his hands, "Why sure," he says,
"let's have some fun," and launches
into a polka, twirling my mother
around and around like the happiest top,

and my uncle is shaking his head, saying
"You could grow nuts listening to us,"

and I'm thinking of pistachios in the Sinai
burgeoning without end,
pecans in the South, the jumbled
flavor of them suddenly in my mouth,
wordless, confusing,
crowding out everything else.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

boy at the big water

“Use your words.”

You may have heard caregivers, parents, or teachers patiently offer this advice to the stomping toddler whose toy has just been stolen or who's beet red, fists balled up in a yet undefined rage.

Far be it from me to point out the limitations of language as a creative tool of communication, but I'm beginning to question the “use your words” approach in certain instances.

The truth is, I started to pitch this line myself (limited resources and brainpower, just like our kids, we absorb what we hear). It does seem mostly appropriate at those times, for example, when Isaac has jumped straight to whine without asking outright for what he wants, assuming parental resistance and digging in with impatient demands.

But the other day, I caught myself saying the “words” deal when my obviously overtired baby reached up for me, ignoring my request that he pick out a book. What a stupid thing of me to say. First of all, Isaac only has just so many words, and most of those sound strikingly similar. What did I think he was going to say? His message was crystal clear: “Rock me the hell to sleep, Mom.”

I stopped myself in the very moment and began to wonder what message we might be leaving with children on this point. Are we teaching them that nuance or body language is unimportant or not worthy of our attention? Listening demands something of the listener and should be done with more than the ears. It is not the passive skill it is sometimes billed as .(Nor is reading the passive opposite of writing and the idea that it is contributes to students and citizens without the ability to predict or read critically.)

I witnessed and studied many exchanges as a grad student and teacher of ESL where the breakdown in communication had much less to do with the language ability of the non-native speaker and much more to do with attitudes of the person they were speaking to – someone who assumed no responsibility for the success of the interaction, deciding even before they began that their partner's accent was too unfamiliar or their English too “broken.”

Words are a ridiculously small part of how we move in and understand the world. I'd hate to give my boy only letters in his life portfolio.

Monday, July 02, 2007


As I drive along near the fairgrounds one Sunday not far in the past, punching at the radio buttons in a vain search to find music worth listening to, I realize something I've forgotten again. So I turn off the blasted radio and roll down the window. I can hear it, but not well – a sax riff, the beat of a bass, a hum gearing up to the next chorus. It's the last night of the blues festival. I sail through the yellow light into another year's wait.

What's a blog for if not embarrassing confessions?

In eight summers here, half that time living in walking distance to the fairgrounds, I have never gotten to a blues festival. It's weird. Every year I say I want to go and every year I don't.

I seem to hear artists talk all the time about what music filled their houses growing up. Their dads with Sinatra on and their head under the hood of a car, or their parents away and the kids playing the Billie Holiday record over and over again.

What will Isaac say? “I have no idea how I ever came to tour Europe singing opera. Must have been all that talk radio I grew up listening to.”

What kind of artistic environment am I giving my kiddo besides a mom who disappears once in a while to create frustrated half-poems?

Shouldn't art be absorbing what you know and then letting go into possibility and visceral emotion? Sometimes I feel like my “art” is simply about thinking and over thinking. And lately I've been thinking that the problem with this blog isn't that I need to revitalize it, but maybe that I need to put it to rest. Mike says it isn't “Fetal Positions” any more, that it needs a new look and focus.

This is the last official day of my week-long drive to write every day. I did. But I'm not sure to what end. I of course have lots of other stories about my amazing, aggravating, beautiful son who is going to drain every little bit of energy out of me if it's the last thing he does. I've been less able to pull those stories from the pages of my journal in the last months and glean from them any pithy truths or witty verbiage.

If you read this thing, please send a comment and let me know if you do. Now would be the time to check in.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

land of the free

Ah, the Fourth of July approaches, a time of year when my neighborhood, already dripping with charm and class – concrete yards featuring red rocks in a star formation, plastic likenesses of Winnie-the-Pooh playing golf, woodland creatures peering out of two-foot chainlink fences – adds kiosk after kiosk of fireworks for sale. I mean, what's a vacant lot for, anyway?

A couple miles in any direction and they're illegal. But not here. No. Here, in my neighborhood where you are far more likely to spot a parole car circling than you are that cute little downtown bus they've dressed up like a trolley, you can buy your very own piece of independence to shoot off at your leisure.

Oh, but don't worry, most of those kiosks are sponsored by the churches. They are fundraisers, since selling dynamite is clearly the Lord's work. And if they continue to wake my baby up with their holy thunder, I'm planning on kicking them from here to the here after.

Imitating bombs. This is what we've come up with for entertainment and, unbelievably, a feeling of freedom.

In an effort to tire Isaac out enough to sleep through the racket, I often take him to the park in the afternoons. We have several in walking distance. The closest one is the least impressive of the lot, but it has Isaac's favorite swings.

I push him “high-high” on the “wee-wah” as instructed, over the glass-riddled sand, until his feet reach above the roofs of the pimped out El Caminos stopping at the corner market for chips and beer, out toward the line of cypress and across to the ocean, his “big water,” until he is giddy, the wind stealing his breath, and he finds another freedom, sees a way out.

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