Feb 28 2011

At the Library

So I want to tell you about our local branch library. It’s wonderful. It was closed for remodeling when we first moved in:

library (closed)

But now it is open! Yay! Let’s all go to the library!

library steps

(If you wonder why Sam is hauling what appear to be—and are—two very heavy grocery bags, it’s because they’re full of comic books to donate. If you wonder what Robin has on top of his head, hold on, you’ll see it better in a minute.)

Built in 1916 with a Carnegie grant, the library is a gracious, serene Classical Revival building (look at those marble steps!) with some Craftsman touches inside. Check out these skylights:

ceiling detail

The reading areas are sunlit and peaceful, fitted with old-fashioned bookshelves, tables, and chairs, and splendid wooden paneling:

shady nook

Here and there they have carved benches set in the walls. Here’s a picture of Robin looking goofy on one of the benches (yes, that’s quite a hat he has):


Every Thursday morning they have toddler storytime at the library, which I’ve been trying to attend faithfully, although last week we didn’t go as it’s a longish walk and it was rainy. But Robin loves it. The children’s librarian, Adina, is one of those delightful people who seems to brim with cheerful energy. She knows all her regulars by name, and when we poked our head in for the first time she was quick to take Robin under her wing. She’s got the kids’ book section categorized, partly in the expected age-range groupings, but also partly by interest—so there’s a “dinosaur” shelf and a “things that go” shelf, where fiction and non-fiction books for readers of different levels are mixed in together. So within just a few minutes she was handing Robin as many train books as he could hold.

I felt a kinship with Adina almost immediately. She’s a library person. I have spent a lot of time working or volunteering in libraries: I can quickly recognize library people, and I like them very much. “This library,” I told her, “is amazing.” I really was blown away. I hadn’t expected it to be anywhere near this nice. It’s the nicest library I’ve seen in ten years. It’s vastly superior for our purposes to the San Francisco Main Library—they have fewer books of course, but with interlibrary loan you can get any book you want. And they provide something that the San Francisco Main Library does not: a calm and beautiful space that’s inspiring for children.

I mean, when we lived in downtown San Francisco we rarely went to the library because it was ugly and depressing, with scowling security guards and metal detectors at every door, and homeless people bathing in the restroom sinks. I just ordered books from Amazon instead. But this library is a treat to visit—it’s not simply a place to get books, it’s a place for Robin to spend a delighted half-hour playing and exploring, while I chat with the librarians or just bask in the sunlit serenity.

Modern libraries are torn in two different directions: there’s the old mission, that of serving as a sort of communal temple to the mind, and there’s a new mission of providing Internet access to the homeless. The second mission is important too, but I wonder if it’s wise to try and combine the two functions in one facility. Places that are set up to provide services to the homeless aren’t usually great spaces for kids. It’s obvious to me only now—from being in a library that executes the old function and does it well—how much can be, and has been, lost.

“What do you need?” I asked Adina, after I’d had a few minutes of just being staggered to find such a treasure in a place where I’d almost forgotten to look.

“Well,” she said, “there’s the Friends of the Library…”

“Yes, yes, obviously,” I said, somewhat impatiently. I already knew we’d be joining the Friends of the Library, just as I already knew this library would be imperiled—all libraries always are. “But what do you need? Any specific materials? Periodical subscriptions? Infrastructure?”

And then there was a little gleam in her eye. “Circulation,” she said, with an intensity answering my own. “We need circulation. The city allocates funds based on usage, and we’re coming up short. Check things out. Here, take more books. There’s no late fee on the children’s materials.”

“How many can we check out at a time?”


“I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you right, it sounded like you said–”

Forty. You can have forty items checked out at a time, and please do, we have DVDs too—I would be just delighted if every visitor went home with forty things every time they came.”

“Well,” I said. “All righty then. We’ll start over in this corner here, how does that sound?”

So that is how we embarked on a new mission, that of reading every book in the library, forty at a time (although to be honest we don’t take forty things every time, because I have to carry them home). But we do try to go every week, and check out as many books as we can keep track of. Robin practically sings all the way there: “Going to the library! Going to the library!”

And what a nice library it is.

Feb 27 2011

What’s for Dinner

We canceled our veggie box order this week because we thought we wouldn’t be able to pick it up—Sam was supposed to have to work on Saturday—but they postponed the big data-center move on account of all the snow.

(There wasn’t actually any snow. Everybody in the Bay Area got super-excited about some weather reports calling for snow—it hasn’t snowed here since 1976—but the weekend dawned bright and clear. Everybody celebrated by driving as if the streets were clogged with a foot of slush, though.)

So this without veggies this week, I’m going a bit wild and buying whatever strikes my fancy: beets, romaine, leeks, red potatoes, kale, basil, bananas, grapes. I’m planning on making pasta puttanesca tonight; tomorrow, roasted lemon chicken and a caesar salad; Tuesday, steaks and a side dish of farro with walnuts and beets; Wednesday, chili mac and Thursday, potato-leek soup. Friday we’ll have leftovers.

Feb 24 2011

A Nice Story About a Pit Bull

The Florida woman, who has been identified by authorities simply as “Angela,” was leaving a playground with her toddler son in Port Charlotte when a man approached her in the parking lot with a knife and told her not to make any noise or sudden movements.

Angela didn’t have to do either to protect herself and her child — a dog mysteriously ran to the scene and charged the man, who quickly fled.


Technically this is yet another story about a pit bull attacking a stranger, but it’s actually heartwarming rather than awful.

Feb 23 2011

Babies I Have Known


So much of parenthood has been a process of discovering for myself all the things that are completely obvious and everybody else already knew.

Like, did you know that mothers really really love their babies? I mean really a lot? Did you know that? You probably knew that, huh? It’s not like all of human civilization isn’t built around an understanding of that fact.

And yet when I pick Davy up, and he’s warm against me and soft, then I have to give him a kiss, and then he chortles and beams at me, and then I love him so much I can barely stand it, and even though this is a thing that happens every day—and has happened every day since Robin was born three and a half years ago—there is still some little dumb piece of me that is surprised. On some level this experience is still just really amazing to me.

Feb 18 2011

Urban Foraging

A quick shout-out to Quirky Urbanite, who has awesome adventures in local foraging. Her account of harvesting local olives made me all fired up to do the same (I know exactly where there’s a big olive tree in my neighborhood) until I got to the part about the worms. Still, really cool stuff to read about.

Feb 18 2011

Baby’s Gonna Get You

Probably both the boys’ favorite game right now is “Baby’s Gonna Get You,” an activity wherein somebody (usually Sam) chases Robin around the house while holding Davy out in a vaguely menacing fashion. Davy loves this and will wave his arms around wildly while chortling happily. Robin also loves it and will scream with glee while running away. In fact, they both love the game so much that they sometimes try to play it without Sam, although as you might imagine this involves quite a bit of cooperation on Robin’s part in order to make the “chase” even vaguely interesting. This is a picture of Davy winning the game:

gonna get you

Baby’s gonna get you!

Feb 15 2011

Heart Day

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day! Robin was thrilled with all his mail. I explained to him that they were “Valentines” and they were from people who wanted to tell him they loved him, but Robin spotted the salient feature pretty quickly. “Hearts!” he said, holding up his cards. “Look Mommy, hearts!” So I told him that, yeah, it was “heart day,” and he seemed to find that so very thrilling that I’m wondering if we shouldn’t do square day and triangle day and so forth. At one point in the afternoon he came to me demanding “more hearts,” so I cut him out a big red construction-paper heart, and he carried that around for hours. Adorably, when Sam came home the first thing Robin did was run up and hand him the big red heart.

Unfortunately, on Valentine’s Day we also got colonized with another round of germs. So far I’m just feeling mildly stuffy, but Robin’s got a worsening cough, and today I don’t think he feels well at all. “Hurts, Mommy,” he croaked this morning, pointing at his throat. I gave him some children’s Tylenol, and I”ll see if I can get him to drink some hot tea with me. Hopefully he’ll bounce back quickly.

Feb 10 2011



Also: check out these chompers!


Feb 9 2011


I’m working on the novel revisions that the agent requested, but I need someone to help me read through it and identify words that might be so unusual as to be jarring to the reader. I don’t trust myself to do a good job—I changed “ululating” because that was specifically pointed out by the agent, but looking through the rest of the chapter I skimmed right over “atavistic.” Sam caught that one for me, but he’s having trouble carving out the time to read through the rest of the manuscript. Is there anyone reading this blog who would be willing to help me with this? It has to be a reader who would break stride at “ululating,” “atavistic” and similar words—that is, someone who reads like a normal person, rather than an English major. This is a deficiency of mine and I need a careful reader to help me correct for it.

Let’s see, what else has been going on over the past week. Robin had the second of the two playdates I mentioned: Elena is a very charming little girl, and the two of them played together quite sweetly. Amy sent me a message after they left: Fresh out of the babe’s mouth after asking if she had fun today: “Robin is very nice.” Awww. Awww!

Careful observation has shown that Davy is not crawling, but he can travel quite some distance by rolling. He’s also sitting up now.

The sleep issue: still a problem. Yesterday we ran out of coffee and I was basically non-functional by 3:30 in the afternoon. I crawled into bed as soon as Sam got home at 5:45 and I slept through (except when I had to get up to nurse Davy) until the baby woke up a little after 5 am. I was still tired. At least there’s coffee in the house now, because Sam went and got some last night. Yay Sam!

Feb 2 2011

A Poem for Davy

Pear in your hair
It doesn’t go there
My child, where
-fore did you put that pear in your hair?

In other news, Davy is a stealth crawler. I’ve never managed to see him doing it, but if I put him down and leave the room, he won’t be in the same spot when I get back.