Category Archives: parenthood

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Well shit that was depressing.

April and I went out to the playground this morning after breakfast, trying to get in some quality run-around time before the heat locked us down. It’s always pretty quiet at the park in the early hours — I mean 7 a.m. early — especially on weekends. Most mornings, if we’re there that early, we’re the only ones there.

This morning I bumped into Emma and her mom. I don’t know the mom’s name, it’s just one of those playground acquaintances. I’m April’s Mom, she’s Emma’s Mom. Anyway, I asked how she was doing, we talked about the tense times, how it’s hard to see other moms when all of the regular activities are canceled due to high heat and no electricity.

I mentioned that I hadn’t seen Max’s family in several days. Max, his sister Little Emma, and his moms are one of the few families that is often out and about as early as we are. Max is a month younger than April and Little Emma (one of ten Emmas on the playground at any given time) is about four month old.

“Didn’t you hear?” she whispered in those hushed tones that auger ill news.

“Obviously not. Is everyone okay?”

“Sort of,” she shrugged. “Apparently Little Emma got some bad formula and was in the hospital for a week.”

“Bad formula?” I blinked. “What?”

Turns out that formula — dried, mixed, concentrate, whatever — has been getting harder and harder to come by in the city. Especially the quirky special formulas — soy and whatnot. When Max’s Mommy was running low and couldn’t find anything (like the great sugar kerfuffle a few weeks ago) she bought from the Baby Formula Black Market.

“The WHAT?”

There are people selling stuff at ridiculous prices out the back of their cars. The buy it in the cities that aren’t so locked down and bring it in past the checkpoints, saying it’s a personal supply. (And, of course, hoarding makes perfect sense, since it’s so hard to come by. Of course it’s probably so hard to come by because of hoarding….)¬† And then they sell it at astronomical profit. Max and Little Emma’s Mommy apparently paid more than $75 for a 30 oz. container of powdered Similac soy.

(For non formula users like myself, I asked Big Emma’s mom and she said that’s about twice what it usually goes for.)

Anyway, you can imagine the rest. It was cut with something unhealthy and Little Emma wound up in the hospital.

I twas touch and go there for a while, but she’s okay now. But Max, Emma, and their mommy have packed up and moved in with the grandparents. The other mom — the Momma — is staying in the city because she has to work, and she wants to keep the house safe. But with gas prices they way they are, she doesn’t know when she’s going to get to see her kids. So the family has been effectively¬† broken up. Apparently a lot of families with infants are going that route because of the formula difficulties. The city has started a formula distribution center where you can get formula — but only one can at a time, there’s no choice of brand or type, and you have to wait in line for hours.

For a mom with twins, that means standing in line half a day once a week. Just to get food so her kids can eat.

I think this is the end of civilization.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

My daughter, the subversive. I don’t know whether to be proud or terrified.

Since the Evacuation Day flag stunt, the “undercover” Hired Thug Intelligence Weenies (HTIWs?) have given up even the fig leaf attempts at being undercover. There are simply piles of men looking vicious and angry strutting around the city, especially The People’s Republic of Cambridge, harassing passersby, glowering at tourists, and breaking up any gathering bigger than five.

You can imagine how well that went over at the Six Years in Iraq protests today.

After Paul got shot at the last one of these things, we decided to stay away. But WBUR is reporting that there were “several hundred” arrests in the Boston Common protests alone. We Bostonians are all hippies, you understand. I haven’t heard from any of my friends who were there yet, so I can’t give even second-hand reporting on the event.

Instead, April and I marked the day with a trip to Burdick’s in Harvard. It was such a nice day that we walked instead of taking the T, which route took us right past the Harvard Common. There is a corner of the Common where the Friends usually sing peaceable songs to protest the war. April likes to wave at them. Instead, today, we saw a … squad of Thugs. Dressed in BDUs and flak jackets and wearing guns very visibly and standing aggressively. I’m not precisely certain how you stand aggressively, but I think it’s something to do with the hips thrust forward like bad 70s porn stars posing for a cover.

April, expected to wave at the “Fweinds singing” was tugging at my hand and running down the path, only to stop abruptly when she saw this imposing group of men. Not young men either — mostly in their 30s, I’d guess. Anyway, she paused, looked at them for a long moment, then whipped around and tried to climb up my leg.

“Mommy! Mommy! I got scared all over my gween jacket!”

I scooped her up and hugged her tight to my chest. Her little body was trembling and she wrapped her arms around my neck and buried her face in my hair and I suddenly realized that these guys must look very like the men who hurt her daddy that bad day. She’d been so normal and happy since then that I really hadn’t worried about long-term trauma but here was evidence of some scarring at least.

“It’s okay, it’s okay, I’ve got you, Mommy is right here, it’s okay,” I cooed, walking past as fast as I could, trying to get her out of sight. I figured once we got into the Square, I’d nurse her to calm her down. She’s a brave kid and rarely scared, I had no idea what else to do.

One of the Thugs, for reasons that were probably quite benign, decided to call out, “Hey little girl! How are you?” in a friendly sing-songy voice.

April’s body shuddered and tensed and then she lifted her face out of my hair and in a most un-April-like voice shouted, “I don’t like you! Go away!”

Then buried her face in my hair again.

I looked over at the guys with the guns and didn’t smile or make an apology or even reprimand April. I just gave them my blankest face and strode away silently, clutching my angry frightened daughter. Several had the grace to look abashed. Several looked confused. And several looked very very angry.

Friday, Feb. 13, 2009

So who here had a black cat cross their path today or walked under a ladder? It’s Friday the 13th and I got through the day pretty well (so far, knock on wood).

I did have the joy today of another meeting with my section chief and the union rep. These things are becoming entirely too common. The section chief wanted to know whether I was going to continue on with the lawsuit over being…what’s the word I’m looking for here? Shot!

The man actually wouldn’t say the word. He kept referring to it as an ‘unfortunate incident’ and ‘being caught in a security action.’ I really was thinking of letting the whole thing go (insurance covered the medical bills and PT is going remarkably well), but I really couldn’t bring myself to tell this guy. Some folks continue to damage the reputation of government bureaucrats, which is a feat seeing how we are held in such high esteem already.

So, no decision today. I’ll deal with it next week.

This weekend is Valentine’s Day and a three-day weekend. One of the (ever competitive) grandmas is coming up tomorrow and Neve and I are off for a romantic trip…the first since April was born. I’m not giving you-all details because she doesn’t know them yet either.

Friday, Jan. 23, 2009

Okay, here goes.

Paul and April and I were at the kids’ section. We weren’t going to march, it was pretty cold and April’s nap time coincided with most of the big media-worthy events. But we showed our support by showing up, buying a pin, eating a hot dog (at 10:30 in the morning… ick), and just generally being there. Paul was taking a smallish risk, after that insane memo from the White House but the Bushies aren’t really popular with the EPA rank and file and we bumped into Paul’s boss at the rally, so we figured we were okay.

I bumped into one of April’s playground friends, we’ll call him B. I knew B from our local park but had never met his mom or his older sister, just his nanny. So, while April and B played, Paul and I did a little Cambridge-parent shmoozing. We were in easy viewing distance of the Frog Pond, where B’s 7 year old sister was trying out her skates.

There was some noise from over the hill, but there had been noise for a while. Then I heard whump whump whump and felt my gut twist but I couldn’t figure out why I was suddenly nervous. Still, mom instincts kicked in and I picked up April. Then the crying started. Normally you don’t notice a few kids crying but this was four and then ten and then fifteen. Kids over on the fringe of the designated kids’ area were all screaming and crying and the smaller ones were vomiting and parents were coughing.

The noise form over the hill suddenly resolved, for me at least, from general hollering and crowd noise into a frantic, urgent, angry mob noise. I could hear bullhorns and shouting and screams. And the news helicopters seemed really low. That’s when I realized what that noise, that whump whump had been before. Tear gas cannons. (I was a reporter in my youth and covered some riots.) And a faint whiff of that smell.

“Tear gas–” I started.

“Something’s wrong,” Paul said almost at the same time and he looked at me and at April and then at B and B’s mom, who was much slower on the uptake. “Go, go, up the hill.” He picked up B and handed him to his mother.

“Where are you going?” I grabbed at him, selfishly terrified. Just about then, B’s mother tweaked into the fact that something was wrong. She screamed her daughter’s name and started to run towards the bad stuff, with her toddler in her hands. Paul grabbed her and hauled her back, pushing her up hill, towards me. I was walking up backwards, to scared to stay but not wanting to lose sight of Paul.

“I’ll get her, go!” he shouted at B’s mom (whose name I still don’t know, isn’t that awful?).

B’s mom and I headed up the hill towards Joy Street, if you know the area, slowly moving away, though I guess we were actually running but it seemed slow. Two squirming upset toddlers certainly slowed us down. B’s mom was crying and kept stopping to turn back. So did I, frankly.

I got to see Paul get to the Frog Pond where the kids — older than the toddlers but still pretty young — were all coming to a stop on their skates and standing, staring. I couldn’t hear, but I know Paul and he’s got a big deep voice, a good courtroom voice, and good lungs. He started shouting and waving and the kids looked at him with sort of wide eyes and then started running.

Running in ice skates is hard. Running in ice skates over broken frozen snow pack is impossible. But at about that moment a bunch of the Thugs broke over the hill. These guys were in full all-black riot gear, smoked glass face masks,

So Paul grabbed B’s sister and another kid and started hollering at the parents, many of whom were still standing around. They started running, too, grabbing their kids off the ice and helping them. Paul shouted at some of them and they helped the parents who had too many kids to haul. There were still some younger toddlers and parents gagging and coughing where the first plume of tear gas came around the hill, so Paul handed B’s sister off to some college student, pointed her at B’s mom and me, and ran to help the toddlers. Right towards the advancing line of Back Water Thugs.

I’m wholly ashamed to admit I screamed in anger.

Some male college students had the same thought as Paul and I guess the Thugs looked across the hill and didn’t see a bunch of men trying to help weeping, crying, vomiting parents and children. They just saw a bunch of big guys, several of them in long black coats. (It’s winter in Boston. We all wear long black coats!) Because they charged right at Paul and the toddlers.

Paul shouted something at them, the Thugs, and stood up, and I screamed again, from way up on the hill because one them fired a fucking GUN AT MY HUSBAND! AND PAUL FELL TO THE FUCKING GROUND!

I was clutching April against my shoulder and my voice is still hoarse I screamed so loudly. My world spun around me and I’ve never been that close to blacking out. Only April’s little hands and her voice saying, “Mama! Mama! Mama!” over and over in my ear kept me from running towards Paul.

Something in my brain was still rational enough to notice that Paul was not bleeding, he was moving and still yelling, probably some very bad words. And then a Thug pulled his boot back to kick Paul.

At this point, from my perspective, out of no where, came a white knight. One of the Park Rangers, riding one of those giant black horses, came thundering into the skirmish line, putting herself and her horse between the Thugs and the kids and more importantly, between the off-balance Thug who was about to kick Paul and my husband’s downed body. The horse body checked the Thug and he went down like a tree.

I looked her up later, she was a little bitty thing with a long brown braid, but she was like Joan of Arc and Boadicea and Ripley from Aliens all rolled into one in my opinion.

Suddenly, Paul scrambled up, and grabbed some toddler under his left arm and sprinted across the hill, away from where suddenly the Thugs were coming up against some Staties and that fucking awesome Ranger. Don’t mess with a lady on a horse, I can tell you. I didn’t know where the Staties came from, I was pretty well focused on Paul, but once I saw him moving I noticed that there were cops directing the parents and kids into the open gates of the State House, Patrick himself was helping some poor woman with her four kids, and I stopped just standing there, clutching April and took off for safety myself.

I found Paul in the crowd — thank god he’s a tall man — and he was fine. It had been a beanbag shot and apparently fired from much further away than it seemed to me at the time. He had a nasty bruise but insisted he’d be okay. I insisted we go to the hospital and thank god we did, because both April and I had apparently inhaled some of the tear gas. (I’ve got a mild case of asthma that doesn’t bother me unless, say, it’s really cold, or I’ve been running, or I breathe in something nasty. You can imagine how well I felt after all three.)

Okay, I’m shaking and exhausted and can’t write anymore.

Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009

Dear God, where to start?

First, I imagine, with a general facts of the case. I assumed, since we hadn’t been watching the news, that the Boston Massacre II (as it’s being called, that’s the most awful name in history, I think) was all over the TV and all the phone calls we had on the answering were about that. Now that I see that protests all over the country went ugly and Boston wasn’t even the worst (though one of the worst), I imagine some of you don’t even know what happened.

Well, from reading reports and my own experiences, here’s what happened, generally. I’ll get to what happened to us later. Maybe tomorrow. I’m so tired.

Boston’s “protests” were really more of a rally, as I imagine they were in almost any blue state. On the Common, at least, there was food and music and street theater and a kids’ section with face painting and a moonbounce for the love of God. Not hard-core at all. Gov. Deval Patrick was going to speak, exhorting Mr. Bush (I refuse to call him President anymore) to allow elections to go forth.

There was going to be a march to the Old State House after the speeches and stuff. Up Tremont, past City Hall, to hear some one holler off the balcony where they first proclaimed the Declaration of Independence. It was a nice symbolic gesture.

Some of the more strident activists were camped out at City Hall Plaza while the rest of us had a good time on the Common. The kids’ section was near the Frog Pond, away from the main action, and hard to see from. There’s a hill in the way.

Anyway, according to reports, some of the folks down at City Hall got a little antsy and maybe a rock or two was thrown at the JFK Federal Building down there. The cops had it all under control in a few minutes, mostly some drunk folks it sounds like, though there’s one report of an organized gang throwing rocks. (Where the hell did they get rocks in the barren bricked-over wasteland of City Hall Plaza, I want to know?) But someone, somewhere, we have no idea who, called in the FPS (Federal Protection Services). Who apparently had some Hired Thugs stationed around the country just waiting for this.

The Thugs, who work for a little ole company henceforth know as BackWater (as in thuggish bullies from some small back water town), apparently didn’t actually listen to the report of violence at City Hall. Instead they went to the main protest site and “deployed” along Charles St.

The TV people said there were only 60 of them, I didn’t count. Dressed, I can tell you, in all black riot gear with masks covering their faces and big smoked-glass front helmets. Darth Vader’s storm troopers had nothing on them. They fanned out in a line and started sweeping forward, shouting orders to disperse.

Unfortunately, they arrived at about the same time as some street group was doing some parody theater, and apparently the troops couldn’t tell college students with water pistols (full of perfume, apparently) and yahoos throwing some snowballs from real rioters and things got ugly real fast. They started hitting people and rounding them up and tying their hands with zip strips. They threw tear gas bombs, too. And they started advancing quickly, at least one clump heading for the Frog Pond. You know, with all the toddlers.

Gov. Patrick, the man of the hour, he’s got my vote for life I swear he does, saw what was happening and did something. He ordered the cops — Boston cops, Staties, and Park Rangers — in to protect the kids. The Back Water thugs apparently didn’t recognize the cops’ uniforms or some such BS, I don’t fucking know, and there was an actual skirmish. One ranger — god I love Park Rangers — took her horse through the line to try to slow them down so that we, with the kids, could get out.

I’m tearing up. I don’t know if I can write any more. God. Okay, long long long story short. The tear gas came ahead of them, the kids were in a screaming panic, we all ran away, cops and Thugs fighting, Patrick opened the gates of the State House, most of the parents and kids got away. Our own story is a little more complicated, I’ll tell it tomorrow, I’m so tired.

The long and the short of it is, dozens injured, three dead. Ten of the injured are children who had a bad reaction to the tear gas. April is, technically, one of them. So, frankly, am I. Nothing like the hundreds injured and dozens dead in D.C. but pretty awful for me.

And then, not two hours ago, Monkey Brains Bush comes on the TV and says that the elections will be further delayed due to the Civil unrest! I’m read to scream.

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009

We just got back from the hospital, everyone is fine. Well, Paul’s got a nasty bruise on his shoulder, I’m still coughing a little, and April is collapsed in exhaustion, not to mention we’re all reeking of righteous indignation and fear and tear gas. But other than that, we’re fine.

I’ll post more tomorrow.¬† I’m still so confused as to what exactly happened that I couldn’t write it all down anyway. From our standpoint it was all chaos, screaming children running from masked thugs, a park ranger’s horse screaming through a skirmish line (no, really!), clouds of tear gas, and a frantic dash for safety. If you’ve been watching the news, I’m sure you know more than we do. We’ve been in the ER waiting room for the past seven hours and avoiding the news so as not to upset April any further.

I’ve got to call the grandparents now and let them know that we’re okay. My answering machine has 37 messages on it.

Friday, Jan. 9, 2009

Neve and I have been reading Shotguns & Sweetpotatoes (on the NIJOT blogroll!) mostly because it is a good place for reviews of books on disaster preparedness, low-impact living, and the like. Mr. & Mrs. SNS are generally looking at the large-scale disasters, but I wonder if Inauguration Day isn’t going be small to medium-sized challenge here in Boston. If a Coastie from Virginia is willing to jump in on my “federal worker walk-out” idea, what is the Boston Anarchist Drinking Brigade going to be up to? Whether it is anarchists, terrorists, or security contractor/mercenaries in the streets, I’d like to know that my city is ready and willing to share its information and resources with it’s citizens.

Somerville, just across the town line from us, has made a pretty good step with their 311 system. This lets the citizens act as the eyes and ears of the city, to let them know about things that need to be dealt with but aren’t enough of an emergency to warrant a 911 call. On the other end, the system sends out mass-phone calls to city residents about snow emergencies, road closures, and the like. A friend of ours has dubbed it the ‘city AI’.

I love the idea of these systems, and unlike the federal government under the current regime, I trust the city governments to use them in the interests of their citizens. However, there are a lot of communities stacked one on top of the other in greater Boston. I wonder how hard it would be to get something comparable set up for the stay-at-home mothers and nannies (letting you know what playgrounds have been plowed, advertising promotional events, mapping stroller-friendly routes after snow storms). Or, jumping back to Inauguration Day, what would it take to build a system for all the protesters and and would-be insurgents to meet, share information, and track any possible blowback from the Powers That Be?

There’s gotta be some MIT kid out there just dying to try this hack.