Hugh Miller

(rediscovered – out of sync Cribsheet)
Well Isaac continues to amaze us in so many ways. Those of you who are about to get to see him will notice right away how much more he is like a little boy than a toddler now. He is temperamentally much the same little person we’ve been keeping company with for going on three years but the articulate and funny expressions of that person pull me up short sometimes – I love where we’re at but I find I already miss the little baby and the tiny toddler of yesterday, I know his Mom does too.

  • Here are some tiny little word snapshots of Isaac, recently.
    We were at the park in the playground. As usual, we were playing with pebbles in this boat like structure. He was gathering piles of pebbles on the bench seat sides of the thing and pretending they were food and he was cooking them. He named and offered them as he cooked:
    “These are chingosans – would you like some?”
    Oh yes, Isaac they’re delicious. And so on – he is remarkably comfortable making up crazy words and just using them in conversation. There were things like glernytibs and wimbledimps -sort of like a Dr. Seuss restaurant menu.
  • Anyway, I told you all that to tell you this – he picked up handful of pebbles and looked at me sweetly -“Sorry, Daddy” He said. I got out something like: “Oh Isaac, you have nothing to be sorry -” before he whapped me right in the face with the handful of pebbles. He had an impulse, knew it was wrong, very thoughtfully apologized and then went ahead and did it! I should have been mad or corrected him but I laughed till I fell down.
  • Around the same time he took to asking me where the *********** was? With “**********” standing for a noise that really sounds like a word but you can’t quite make it out – the first few times I said stuff like “I can’t really understand what you’re saying” and asking for clarification but I suddenly realized he was just having me on – and when he’d ask I’d say “It’s over there in the corner” or “it’s right behind you” and he would be perfectly satisfied!

Me-My-Mo-Menis

I taught him the Banana-fana song and he loves it, you know like: “Isaac Isaac bo-bisaac
banana fana fo fisaac
me-mi-mo-misaac
ISAAC!’
He made me sing it with the name of every person we know (granpa granpa bo banpa) and then on to every kids show character – (Thomas Thomas bo bomas) and all was well till we got to a Bob the Builder character named Muck. I started in confidently Muck, Muck bo buck
banana fana fo – UH OH

you see the second line always uses F instead of the person’s proper initial.
So I said it – I said it as simply and nonchalantly as I could so it wouldn’t stand out as anything special that he would home in on and start repeating loudly in public somewhere – to my knowledge we’ve both been pretty good about not cursing in front him (someone almost smashed into us in traffic the other day and I called him a fool) and he didn’t seem to notice anything special about it so I thought I was off the hook.

Till he said “sing penis!”
That’s a bit of segue, isn’t it. He clearly has a reference point for “naughty stuff’ even though I never see any sign of self consciousness in him or awareness of naughty things.
So I sang it – You might think I’m stupid but I was trying to keep it simple and light -ordinary and no big deal:

“Penis Penis bo benis banafana fo fenis
me-mi-mo menis PENIS!”

And thought I was clear till he said “Sing Chuck!”

Look. We don’t even know a Chuck – I wouldn’t have felt confident that had ever even heard the name “Chuck” but this kid seemed to know what would happen to it on the second line of the banafana song. I told him I wanted to do something else. Scary clever.


The other night I had a dinner for some old friends here and Isaac was in attendance -as dinner wound down Isaac decided to start handing out little golden tomatoes to everyone – we all played along and ate them because he was giddy with pleasure running around feeding us – his joy was so palpable – he ran out of sight into the kitchen for a moment and then ran to see us all smiling at him – he said:
“This is FANTASTIC, people!”


I came upstairs the other morning as Xxxxy was changing Isaac’s diaper – She was laughing and said “What are you doing?”
His little hand was cupped over his mouth and nose and he was babbling quietly in some completely made up language.
“I’m talking to my nose.” He said calmly.


He’s adopted this goofy little baby bonnet at day care and it’s his hat now – It’s so odd and like beyond not stylish but I’ve started to love it on him.

I’m including a particularly goofy pic of wearing reading glasses and the bonnet – he looks like an 18th century farm wife. (real time: Can’t find it)
warm thoughts to you all – Much love, Hugh

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Meet Your Professors!

All across the United States public college systems have adopted a system of having a tiny minority of full time teachers and an overwhelming majority of part timers (“adjunct” “transient” “contingent” Smell the euphemisms?).

1. We do not receive equal pay for equal work
2. We face teaching caps, limits to how much we CAN work because then we would cross a barrier to a better pay and benefit scale.
3. Many receive no benefits, those who do, lose them if their workload drops from 50% to 49%.
4. We have no job security, quarter to quarter employment is luck and relationships.
5. If we have the bad luck to become unemployed, we receive no unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile of course the college is FULL of administrators, office workers, and support staff all of whom have more security and respect than us. The reason college has become so expensive is that for the last 40 years or so this administrative and office strata has swollen beyond all reason. It simply propagates at the expense of actual teaching and actual teachers. The internal cost cutting has been accomplished entirely at the expense of faculty who have become a legion of temp workers.

And it’s interesting (in an awful way) but there’s a strange class sensibility and “politeness” framing this. They’ll hold “Adjunct Recognition Day” as they did just a few days ago, by order of the Governor no less, where we are offered home baked cookies. If I was to say “Hey these cookies are great but could I have my health insurance back?” Everyone would just look at me like a burped loudly. “Do you have have to bring up such a painful subject?” Always coming from someone whose benefits are unquestioned. 

  1. http://portside.org/2013-10-30/her-own-words-adjuncts-and-academic-labor-force-campus-equity-week-october-28-november-2
  2. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/when-a-college-contracts-adjunctivitis-its-the-students-who-lose/
  3. http://www.forbes.com/sites/noodleeducation/2015/05/28/more-than-half-of-college-faculty-are-adjuncts-should-you-care/
  4. http://college.usatoday.com/2014/07/17/underpaid-and-overworked-adjunct-professors-share-their-stories/

 

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(rediscovered Cribsheet – out of sync)
We’re hitting an especially high tone this time, eh?

Greetings to all and sorry to be out of touch so very long. All our well established patterns were broken up by Isaac’s Mom moving to her friend’s house. So now even simple tasks like taking pictures and getting at the computer are more complicated than they were. Isaac and his Mom are upstairs at P’s house and it’s a sweet little space and a nice home. I come in as usual at 7 in the morning to watch Isaac. We go downstairs to play and run into the problem of P’s sweet very old dog Maggie.

Every morning at 7:26 I step in a puddle of dog pee on a once exquisite Persian carpet. Many days worse things lie in wait. Maggie is sweet natured but half out of her mind. She asks to be let out of the back door to go pee in the yard (well OK, not in so many words) and I let her out and she takes care of business – except that lately she has taken to asking to go outside when she doesn’t need to and then she stands around out there looking sort of confused before barking to be let back in.
Then she forgets that she just asked and asks again – and again – and again – and again – and because I am trying to cut down on profound grossness in the living room I am afraid not to let her out. I spend my mornings being ordered about by a 400 year old dog and a two year old boy.
Maggie’s other quirk is The-Look-Of-Profound-Sadness which she nails me with every time I happen to look her way. When she catches your eye you feel a vertiginous drop toward an infinite horizon of ever deepening despair. It is a look of such woe and sorrow that the complete works of Ingmar Bergman on DVD would help you cheer up afterwards.

Multicolored alien micropenises? Bedazzled free-swimming clitorii? You be the judge.

We generally head for my house about 8 o’clock for Sesame Street and other vehicles of the gay liberal satanic agenda. One show that Isaac likes that completely baffles me is called “Boobah” a show which makes “Teletubbies” look edgy and concerns itself with six primary colored dancing, flying and apparently farting extraterrestrials who make children dance. When they fly or dance the sound track plays “whoopee cushion” noises so frankly, I don’t know what else to think. Isaac thinks they look like penguins. To my eye they resemble brightly colored penguins as much as they resemble some sort of ambiguous genitalia. They name their characters as they leave their UFO style sleeping quarters to dance and I cover ears and make noise so I won’t learn their names. I know the names of everyone on Sesame street – everyone on Mister Rogers – everyone in Thomas the Tank Engine and even, God help me, everyone on Teletubbies. I will be damned if I will learn the names of the multicolored genital-oid dancing flatulent penguins of Boobah!

Isaac has been great. Very dear and funny and we have to constantly revise our sense of what to expect from him. He is braver physically which is a nice thing to watch happen but he still has this odd way of noticing any mention of things to be cautious of and talking about them a lot. Apparently he heard someone say the phrase “pissed her off’ because he randomly shouts of “Pister Offer” with glee and intensity. We pretend nothing happened. It could have been me, but I don’t remember. He babbles a kind of jibbity jabbitty blibbity blabbity scat jazz jabber which is interesting because he also using really complete articulate sentences much of the time. The scat jabber rhymes and he is really getting into things that rhyme – a friend of XXXXX’s gave him a little toy beaver and he was playing with it – because my head is full of nonsense I said:
“Beaver B. Bumpkin.” Isaac laughed and said “Beaver B. Bumpkin, sitting on a pumpkin. ”

Tonight he said:” Mommy, I have a very good book downstairs which I think you’ll like.”
I’ll send more sooner – love and good thoughts to you all, Hugh

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Like most parents Isaac’s Mom and I struggle with the question of weapon toys. Boys are drawn to them like crows to shiny pebbles or celebrities to cocaine. My intuition tells me that it’s healthy and natural for boys to play at fighting. Hell, not just my intuition, my memory. It was a tremendously powerful drive, a longing and a need. Playing war was one of the most deeply satisfying games I can remember. If I could run in the streets with friends pretending to shoot at each other without actually being hospitalized or jailed I would be doing it this moment. I believe playing with weapon toys is a way boys express aggression but that’s only a piece of what they are doing. They also learn restraint, teamwork, dealing with peck order, storytelling, and possibly nobility.

Isaac and I have fights as the centerpieces of all our stories. He demands it. Always we are good guys, always we show mercy and look for ways to mitigate damage. But always, we fight. I think he needs to explore this to figure out how to be good and strong at the same time. I think the Mommies and Daddies who shame kids away from fighting toys are doing harm – it’s as if they simply disapprove of this developmental stage and in the name of being responsible shrug off responsibility. They want their boys to be good but I think they overlook how much the boy needs to feel strong in order to feel like being good. I think they are turning their backs on the the animal soul of their boys because it offends their delicate sensibilities. Isaac’s Mom struggles with this more than I do but she fundamentally gets it – that it’s a part of boy nature that is inseparable from the boys inner life.

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(rediscovered Cribsheet from age two – so out of sync)

Well, It’s Fall and the days have been beautiful cool jewels but they are growing foggy and soggy.

Isaac is a little sick today with a very minor temperature and he is droopy and sleepy as a result. I’m going to take advantage of nap time to say to you all and tell a couple of fresh stories.

It’s Thomas the – Goddamn -Tank Engine all day and night.

  • That cheeky little engine and his minions have filled the house – and turned it into a rat’s nest of track and little grumpy trains. The Thomas stories are a little weird because they are full of grumbling and selfishness and frowny faces. There is one basic story line in Thomas series – they fall off the track or bump into something and there are dozens of these stories. As Isaac plays with the trains (He has two states of being right now, asleep or playing with the trains.) it becomes more and more about incredible disasters and pile ups.
  • He comes and takes us by the hand and showing us the carnage says: “Are they OK? Are they OK?”
  • Actually, I think I’m starting to understand Thomas better for a two year old – It’s full of adventures that go wrong and then “getting back on track”. It’s what he goes through all day.
  • He isn’t two – he’s Very two. He’s violent and angry and tender and cuddly and that’s during a random 15 second period.
  • He loves music and we play it a lot and sing a lot – he can sing all of the ABC’s and twinkle twinkle little star and Itsy bitsy spider – and lots of bits of other songs – I find it wonderful to hear him. I like a rather strange band called “They Might Be Giants” and frequently play a song called “Dr. Worm” and now I can occasionally hear Isaac singing quietly to himself: “They call me Doctor Worm, I’m not a real Doctor but I am a real worm, I am an actual worm…”
  • I bought him a harmonica a while ago and we now and then do what I call the Strange Hillbilly Dance: He has me play what passes for a song on the harmonica while he does this weird little jerky dance. When I finish he says: “Yay!” and we return to whatever was happening before. For some reason we have to do it in the kitchen.
  • Peanut of mystery: You know we look under rocks to find interesting bugs. Well I lifted up a big rock on our regular rounds and we found a fully intact peanut under there (where there had been no peanut before). Logic suggests it must be a squirrel who did it but this is a big, heavy rock half covered with earth. It would require 7 or 8 squirrels working as a team with a block and tackle to place that peanut under that rock and replace the soil around it. Or else a single seventy five pound squirrel lifted out the rock and daintily placed a peanut there before cleaning up and moving on. Either way I am disturbed.
  • Isaac Ball: Some of you may remember Calvin ball from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes – kinda similar. When Isaac and his Mom went visit Isaac’s Aunt, Uncle and cousins. They introduced him to baseball which apparently Sam is really into and quite good at. At bat though, Isaac insisted on holding the bat by the fat end and tapping at the ball (on its T-­ball perch) pool cue style.
  • When they returned his Mom and I thought we better try to introduce him to sports a little more and bought some little guy baseball stuff. It’s a complete failure – the idea of rules everybody has to follow is clear to him it’s just that it means the rules as he see it – right now and subject to change when he sees it differently.
  • I took him out in the backyard and set up bases and a batting post and Isaac tipped the ball of it’s perch with the skinny end of the bat – ran in a wacky ricochet pattern around the yard and back to where he started and shouted happily to me (as God is my witness)
  • “Isaac a team player!” Which I’m thinking an amused relative might have told him back in Pittsburgh. All of our best to all of you,

Sooner next time,

Hugh

 

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 So Mama & Papa are falling in love with baby all over again. We’re in the grip and we got it bad. Except for short excursions into raw and nasty toddler moods he’s just a tender, shining little person. We walk beside him trying to hold our guts in place.

Right now M is lying on the couch reading with Isaac completely zonked out across her, his head on her shoulder. It’s a strange communion when he sleeps on you, it’s like getting vitamins and warmth from sunshine after a long winter.

He is leaving certain baby words behind, Buttnee becomes button & Mimi becomes mouse and we are both impressed and suddenly wistful as another cute little stage waves goodbye in the rearview mirror dwindling out of sight. He’s undergone a growth spurt which makes him look more like a little boy and less like a baby though it’s hard to see what changed.

He is using full sentences at times now and picking up the alphabet and numbers with a particularly keen interest. When he wants to count things he points at them one by one while he says “five – six – five – six”. He loves to learn and it’s fascinating to get to be a teacher to him, watching him construct a universe piece by piece. He takes things in with such interest and attention to detail that I find I have to play the game better myself at times. He observes and talks about tiny details and I find myself looking hard at things he mentions and almost always finding his perceptions accurate. The other day he made a better word choice than I did. I took him out to Magnuson park to watch the kites flying at kite hill. As we were getting ready to go I saw an interesting kite with dozens of little dangly strips of cloth flying behind it and I pointed it out to him. I struggled for a word to describe it and I said “Look, octopus kite.” He looked and said “Jellyfish Kite!” and he was right, that was much closer to it.

The other day we took him out to a public playground in the park and suddenly came face to face with all the dark probing questions that arise from swings and slides and – those – other – kids. He has this odd, cautious quality I’ve mentioned before and to be fair he’s a little under the weather with another cold but at times he plays like a little Swedish philosopher. Swings leave him cold and slides are interesting but as worrisome as being asked to skydive. He walks over rough ground about as well as I roller skate which is to say uncertainly. We put him into this cool boat-like play structure where he carefully sifted and examined the tiny gray pebbles underfoot – moving them from hand to hand, throwing them over the side and dropping them through a little hole in the stern on the “ship”.
Another kid much bigger than Isaac came to play in the boat, spinning the tiller inches from his head. Cautioned by his Grandma to be careful he got mad at Isaac and when he thought nobody was looking he picked up a handful of pebbles and dirt and tossed them at his face. They missed, falling harmlessly but I yelled “Don’t do that!” and watched that kid like a hawk for the rest of our stay. I was thinking of that kid as a little monster when I remembered that Isaac has once or twice whapped a smaller baby at daycare.

I remember someone once said that children before they are socialized are 360 degree personalities radiating everything outward. Naturally and rightly we can’t stay that way. In a social world an adult radiating a 360 degree personality is a hour from prison or an insane asylum. It’s HOW that burning wick gets trimmed that concerns me. Isaac, keep as much of your fire and light and heat as you can while being a nice person, a trustworthy person.

Anyway, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon.
Talk to you soon.

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