Random feathers



Coincidentally, I both literally and figuratively cannot catch my breath at the moment. I have had a horrid cold that turned into a horrid chest/head infection scenario, complete with antibiotics. It is the epitome of end of summer fun.

So much has happened since I last wrote and then, so much has stayed the same. What has stayed the same is this internal, nagging guilt that I am not writing memories on here for posterity. I want to, and then when I set about to parcel out the time, it generally gets snatched away by something unexpected. Maybe, then, a recap and a commitment to moving forward?

So what has changed?

  • Penguin has started kindergarten. For our family, it was less of a major transition than some of the neighbors experienced, since he has been going to preschool since he was 4 years old. But what has changed is that he is going every day as opposed to 3-4 days a week. And he is in the kindergarten room, learning kindergarten things like math and science.
  • Also? Penguin is big. I mean, I look back at pictures and then I look at him now and now I say to myself, “That’s a kid right there. A tall, solid, fully formed kid in front of my eyeballs.” It startles me sometimes. Because I live with him and see him every day, I don’t notice the changes until they are so jarring as to shock me into realization. The other day, I laid out a pair of jeans that he wore at the start of the summer, before it got so hot. He put them on and it looked like he was waiting for the flood (does anyone/people of Wisconsin still say that anymore? My mother and I do). It was so noticeable, in fact, that I stood back and took a good look at the boy. And MY WORD. He has grown. In a few years, maybe by 4th or 5th grade, he’ll overtake me. And he is so handsome. So handsome. I know all mothers think this of their sons, and they should, but sometimes when I look at him, I take pause. Did we really create something so lovely?
  • And then there is my little Owl. He and Penguin share the same softness in their features – my nose, my lips, my eye shape (though their father’s color), probably my heart-shaped chin (though time will tell). But there is something of the fierce determination about Owl’s looks that differs from his brother’s visage. In him, I see that early, boyish sense of adventure and slightly mischief that harkens the Greek God, Pan. Whereas in Penguin I see Apollo, Owl’s lightness of foot, deft movements, delicate boyish/girlish features and unrelenting desire to be outside, exploring, investigating, playing, seem to spring forth from the mystical touch of Pan’s hoof. When Owl is outside, I wonder if he hears the faint strains of panpipe music where most of us just hear the sound of blowing wind. His father is similarly nature-inspired and I suspect he would say that he experiences something very different in nature than the vast majority of people.
  • Also? Owl talks now in ways that are recognizable to the vast majority of people. He still has his little peculiar speech quirks, quite like most kids of his age. But I understand most of what he says and when I don’t, I can usually figure it out after about a minute of his increasingly irritated repetition. Interestingly, he pronounces “k” as “sh,” which amuses me to no end as he chases our cat around the house, proclaiming loudly, “Awwww, I love my shitty!”
  • Speaking of cats, we lost our dear kitty Basil in July. That deserves its very own post and I am feeling like I can write that now. Up until this point, the thought of writing it was too sad to bear.
  • We took a vacation. It was to my parents’ house for a week and then to a family house in western Michigan. It was exactly what it needed to be. Quiet, calm, restorative. For the most part. Except for the cat dying, Owl ending up in the ED for nursemaid’s elbow, and me pulling my ab muscles so severely that I needed to go see a doctor to get a prescription muscle relaxant. However, during this same vacation, we attended a festival with my folks and Papa Bird and the boys. Have you ever gone to a small town America festival? I recommend that you try it at least once. After sidestepping bored youth looking for a touch of trouble, drunk guys that tell really loud jokes about hunting, and women in hairstyles that were pretty damn awesome eight years ago, you’d be amazed at how much you could absolutely love a pancake breakfast at a firehouse, a small carnival where one of the rides seemed constructed in someone’s garage/shop, and a fireworks show surrounded by people who love America so much that each explosion serves as a reminder to them of how great this county is, fuck yeah!
  • We attended our first wedding as a family this weekend. The boys had their very first kiddie cocktails, which for me, was the sole reason that you attended a wedding as a child. Also to run around a very large room while your parents looked on and laughed and talked to relatives. It was, for the boys, exactly as I remember weddings as a kid. Playing with cousins, eating too much cake, busting out errant dance moves disjointed from the music at hand, and a real sense that coming together for such a big, happy party was one of the coolest things ever. I love ceremony. Pomp and circumstance – these rituals play a role in our lives and every time I am a part of something like this, a giddy electricity courses through me and I can hardly contain myself. The boys seemed similarly electrified, and even the normally subdued Papa Bird showed signs of life.

And what has not changed?

Dissertation, mostly, I took an extension to complete my work since, technically, I was to have been out of the program in August. I am close. I know I say that all the time, but I really am very close. I am doing the data analyses now and I am writing up the final draft. It will happen soon. Soon. This is the last year. I work on the weekends, now, as opposed to sleep depriving myself all night. It means I miss out on our weekend adventures, something I put off for as long as possible. I really hate that. But we are at the end here and I needed the time. So close. Sooooo close.

Also, my ass is still spectacularly fat. I’ll work on that soon, too. Once I have more time. I already started watching what I eat, for the most part. Now I have to exercise. It will happen. Maybe not this month or the next month, but soon.

I make promises to myself that I will be back here writing every week, and every week I do, err, not that.

Same tired excuses. Work. Dissertation (<– major culprit).

So much has happened though. Penguin graduated from preschool. Owl is forming little sentences that resemble cognizant thoughts and not just two-year-old word salad. And we are cleaning our closets, getting rid of baby clothes and baby things. Don't even get me started on that one.

I'm here. We're here. We're good.

Except my five faithful readers. So be ready for it. 

I’ve always been fascinated with cognitive biases. This is a psychological concept that introduce the idea that all of us have deviations from “rational thought” or “good judgement” and that these occur in somewhat predictable ways. 

I suspect that when we are involved in something very important to us, or even something that comprises a large bulk of our time, we engage our cognitive biases and create our own subjective reality. To deal with uncertainty, exhaustion, fear, anxiety, and maybe even overwhelming joy. It’s what we do to get through. 

Since I like to write and I am a academic-nerd type at heart, I thought this might be interesting. There are at least 100 biases we can engage in to create a version of reality more palatable or less stressful to us. Let’s dig in over the next few months!

There was a great article a while back in the NY Times from a writer that took notice of time through the changes in the trees outside of his window.

I read the piece with a bit of a slack jaw because I, myself, do something very similar. I can remember the things I do, the things my sons and I do more importantly, through what is happening to the trees. The reason, I argued, that I could grow to love this apartment was because it sat right in front of a large nature preserve and it was the closest thing to outdoorsy I imagined one could get in the suburbs. It has proven to be the case, right down to the relentless summer mosquitos.

When we first moved into our suburban apartment, nearly four years ago this autumn, the leaves had turned and started to gather at the base of the trees. It was a windy day and I can recall holding a 22-month old Penguin and watching the leaves swirl up into the air and the limbs sway with no resistance to the wind.

That spring, a number of the trees burst forth with these beautiful and fragrant whitish-pink blooms. One morning when Penguin and I were outside, again with the wind in our favor, the petals all started blowing off the tree. A soft, fragrant snowstorm of petals overtook us and for a full five minutes, until the  last of the petals fell, we danced in the downfall.

Incidentally, or perhaps not, I learned of Owl’s pregnancy a few weeks later. On my more mystical days, I’d like to think this was my botanical clarion call that another blessing was heading our way.

That summer, the lush green of the trees by our apartment and the hundred feet beyond created the backdrop for so much of my time outside with Penguin. The sound of rustling leaves, so loud and yet so comforting, the soundtrack to our adventures. The stormy summer nights, when thunder, lighting and heavy winds would push the trees and the branches in every direction, creating a sound so loud it was though you were standing at the base of a massive waterfall.

In the fall, my belly large from a little Owl, I took several walks among the trees with Penguin. We slopped through the soggy leaves, smelled the peat smell of forest and crunched through the piles that managed to find a little bit of sunlight.

As the trees became bare and it became impossible for me to walk long distances without tiring, I knew that our little family of three would soon be no more and in a few weeks, a new little presence would embrace our lives. Snow dripped from the limbs and on some moon-filled nights it would be so bright back there, it was though the earth was lit from below.

On the drive to the hospital the morning Owl was to be born, I touched the branches of the bare trees outside our front door. Grabbed pine needles in my finger tips as I passed and smelled the sticky sweet sap on my fingers.


There are days, more days that I can count, where I can be found staring out our back patio window. Looking to the trees. Watching the squirrels and the birds make their homes in the branches. Watching the boys run circles around the trunks and play in the dirt at the base. Marking the days of the year by the color of the leaves, the loudness of the rustling, the earthy smell in the air, the drag of the limbs by weight of snow and ice.

Right now, I see the tiniest hint of a green bud on the littlest tree by my back patio and I know that Spring, in earnest, will be here soon.

So yeah. We were supposed to have been on the road for hours now, but we started out fairly recently, so there you go. It’s exactly what I would have expected, including the anticipated meltdowns, shouting, throwing things and temper tantrums that ensue as we are packing up to leave. Don’t worry, though. Papa Bird is fine now and has settled back into the ride.

There is a lot of corn and fields west of our little hamlet. That’s about all to report at the moment. Penguin is staring out the window and Owl is chatting to himself.  Good times.

I always forget the questions, though I am generally asking them to myself since no one comments here anyways.

So, Self (or anyone actually reading):

What do you look for in a preschool? I am going to tour some preschools for Penguin for the fall and I am just not sure what to look for in a good one.

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