You wouldn’t download a car…

…but you’d sneak a camera into various modern art installations.

The Bell in the world won't listen entrance, 2008

At some point in the past decade, Dieter-y pretentious art films collided into that end of Generation X-sters who collect things like first-edition, autographed Douglas Coupland novels. And thank god, I guess. It’s exactly the kind of snobby downgrade I needed in order to dig the genre.

I pretty much moved into Phil Collins’ the world won’t listen installation [cur: Suzanne Weaver] when the DMA lurched out of the dark ages with that acquisition. I flipped out for a few months straight: “Did you hear the DMA has freaking Smiths’ karaoke choreographed on three screens? No kidding!”

In the middle of the exhibit’s neverending loop, a supercool Asian couple sing the best version of “There is a Light” — available nowhere unless you’ve got some direct line to a modern art miracle.

At 00:16, Bella’s fourth grade voice spells it out, “You’re really recording this?”

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the last half of that clip since the installation packed up and disappeared. The girl in that snippet owns the song. That said: Phil Collins, what’s up? Isn’t there a deal you can strike for rights to release this as a DVD? Or something? I’m sure this has been causing hair loss for those rabid Smiths’ completists out there unable to sleep since the project’s launch in 2005, heh.

Last night, I finally bought the book. Then Bella framed the show poster for me this weekend. Today’s my birthday. Someone out there in the vast netherwebz has got to have a super-secret, complete recording of Awesome Asian Karaoke Lady. Send me a present.

I’ll gladly accept something else from Mr. Collins in lieu of pirate treasure, though!


Let Me See Your Sushi Roll, Your Sushi Roll!

“Bella, what sounds good for dinner?”

“Anything really.”


Insert total disgust and a heavy side eye here. “No way, Mom. Not that.”


Having failed so many previous sushi coercion attempts, I went straight for the bribe: “Ok, what if I sweetened the offer with extra computer time?”

Ding, ding, ding! “Really?”

“Yeah, but you have to act like it was all your idea and that you’re totally into trying new stuff with us so that Russell will think it’s opposite day and freak out.”

“Mom, you’re so weird.”


“Okay, it’s a deal if there is nothing too gross, like a fish head or…you know. That stuff.”

“Fair enough.”

And we shook on it.

An hour later, we sat at the sushi bar with one very confused Russell. “Bella, you wanted to eat sushi? What happened?”

“Nothing, Russ. I just really respect you and Mom and am trying to give the things you love a shot.”

Oh, brother.

When Russell stepped away, I leaned over, “That was over the top a little with the respect part and the ‘things we love’ and all that, but other than that, you’re doing an outstanding job.”

“Yeah, when I said that, I knew it was a little corny, but I’m kinda on the spot here, Mom.”

We exchanged a low key high five right as the sushi chef passed a “treat” over the glass for the three of us. I had zero clue what the heck it was other than some kind of fried chip with fish eggs and crab, I think, and a fish part. It was an ambitious beginning for poor Bell, who forced the fakest half-smile ever as she bit into half of the whatever-it-was. Then came the involuntary shiver. And the partial gag. And the hilarious: “Mmmm [gag], that was…what was that? That’s not fish egg, is it?”

Shock, shock, horror, horror. Shock, Shock, horror.

Russell told her it was Japanese Berry.

She leaned behind Russell and silently mouthed toward me, “Do I have to eat the rest of that stuff?” To which I gladly mouthed back, “No, no, that was awesome. Good job.” Man, whatever she wanted extra computer time for must’ve been important.

When the chef finished Bella’s sushi virgin order, the California roll, she looked panicked.

what bella saw when her california roll arrived

All the chefs were staring at her, making it even easier. I was proud, though, as Bella soldiered through this strange new food.

“What is this one?”


Blank stare and determination. “Okay.” Swallow. Water. More water. More blank staring. This was like when Dad used to drag me to pipe organ concerts. Poor Bella.

Noting Bell’s hesitation, the chef slipped her a tray of fried fish, trying to pass it off as the beloved children’s delicacy: le fishstick.

“Mmmm, now this is not bad! For real, Russ. What do you think?”

“Oh, this is delicious, Bella.”

“It is!”

“You know that’s baby harp seal, right?”

Bella started to spit it out on her tray and gagged abdominally. It took a few minutes to convince her Russell was joking, but even longer for the chefs and the people surrounding us to quit laughing. Nevertheless, Bella ate the entire serving of “harp seal”.

At the end of the meal, our server brought apples dipped in chocolate syrup, and I could tell my kid was scared there was going to be a fish eyeball or something stuck inside. Russell waited until she’d eaten them all to tell her it was “shark heart,” but it backfired with a barrage of irritated eyerolling.

Tomorrow The Bell gets her well-deserved extra computer time…and macaroni and cheese.

And that nerd Russell? Maybe I’ll make him some of this:

baby harp seal nigiri

The Bell, Letter Writer Extraordinaire. Snap, snap, snap.


A while back I scanned some of Bella’s awesome letters — tattle telling quandaries and Mom-and-Dad billet-douxs, mostly. In a scavenger hunt through Photobucket tonight, I rediscovered a few of those.

The urgent letter to the Principal of W.T. Hanes Elementary:

Dear Mrs. Blevins

If I had to pick a favorite, the letter to Mrs. Blevins would probably be it. It’s got third-grade narcing, “panting,” and is signed with “love.” More importantly, this one demonstrates proper, early parenthetical usage, which makes this maternal word nerd’s heart swell times nine million. I remember scanning it, too, as I only had a few seconds to confiscate the note and replace it in order to avoid suspicion.

The Rick Perry Letter:

Oh, Rick Perry. You foolish politician, you.

The Perry letter was read aloud in a faculty meeting. THEN it was read again at an ATPE function later in the week. I’m tellin’ ya, the teachers really dug this one. I’ll never forget when Bella emerged from her room with her pen and notebook paper, wanting to know what Rick Perry’s address was. He never wrote back, but The Bell wasn’t worried about it. She told me, “Mom, didn’t you see the fake email address I put down there at the bottom? I didn’t want to hear his song and dance, but I didn’t wanna be rude either.”

I was confused, “Wait, huh?”

“Mom, it was a decoder email address. He wasn’t going to tell me anything I haven’t already heard before. Politicians. You know what I mean.”

“I think you mean a ‘decoy’, Bella.”

“Yes, that.”


The Colorado Vacation Letter:

Letter from Vacation with Nana

If I could spend just a few minutes with Bella again at any previous age, this would be the phase I’d revisit. She missed me “so much.” With an exclamation point, even. She wanted to know if Getoff’s baby was born yet, but, in typical Isobel fashion, didn’t want anyone to write back because she was belting out this letter on her way home in Nana’s rental car. The best part: a post script full of danger sure to freak out any mom included “…real prisoners and a dust devil and a cattle drive!”

The Birthday Card for Her Dad:

For Dad

It wasn’t so much the birthday card as it was the backstory. Inside the envelope, she’d enclosed a dollar and forty-seven cents. It was all of her money at the time. She’d overheard us arguing about bills.

Sometimes people with newborns ask me what my favorite age has been of Bella’s. Truly, I have loved them all just as much as they’ve each been challenging in their own ways. When I see her these days trying so hard to be a teenager, but without the teen suffix just yet, I feel incredibly close to her even though she’s pushing me further and further away. Recently, I read a fantastic quote in Mary Pipher’s book about adolescent girls Bella’s age, Reviving Ophelia, in which a mother perfectly sums up every thought in my head at this point:

“I hurl you into the universe and pray.”

The clever, young girl who wrote these letters surely deserves an addendum to the above quote, though, and that makes me less nervous, if nothing else:

“I hurl you into the universe and pray — for others.

I love, love, love this child forever.

Kanye, please.

Last night, my eleven year-old daughter frantically yelled, “Mom! MOM! Did you see what just happened on the MTV Video Music Awards?! MOOOOOOOM!!!”

In case you were also in the back of your house arranging bookshelves like I was, YouTube  captured the moment (marker :42; it’s disabled here, but clicking the link enables you to open in a different window.):

Yeah, pretty unbelievable. I had to see it twice. Then I felt really awful for Taylor Swift — something I never thought I’d say after she tortured me inadvertently through my daughter’s stereo speakers for the past year.

The drama was a total letdown for tween Bella since the incident involved three of her favorite music peeps. At their impressionable ages, pre-teens haven’t mastered the complexities of media relationships and tend to get caught up in the moment, unable to separate the artist from his/her humanity. (At least, that’s what happened to me when I first saw the weirdness that was David Bowie shaking his butt on camera in unison with Mick Jagger for [shiver] “Dancing in the Street.” )

“Bella, I know you like Kanye’s music, and that’s still cool. He’s got bad manners is all. We just won’t invite him over for dinner.” I could tell my kid was just itching to punish Kanye by deleting his entire catalog on her iTunes library.

I won’t tell Bella about the other Kanye video shot moments later backstage as he was being kicked out of the award show, though:

Yes, that is correct. He was yelling for MTV to “give a black man a chance” because he has “the number one record right now.” My god, how many chances does Kanye need for MTV to give him? Isn’t it, like, his channel already? Give a black man a chance? Here’s a short list of black men who were never given chances by MTV, cough, cough, cough: Ed Lover, Fab Five Freddy, Prince, Michael Jackson, LL Cool J, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Tupac, Seal, and Kanye Friggin’ West. I said “short list” because I had to leave off about a million black men for the sake of word count. Kanye has apparently discovered a vacuum in time, and I wish he’d crawl out of that.

My kid is Kanye’s consumer. She’s also Taylor and Beyonce’s consumer. When Kanye hops on stage and flips out like some sort of black-music messiah, who does he think is listening to his point? People his age? Underground black artists the world has yet to discover because of evil MTV? Christ, no. His fan base is who’s observing Kanye’s crazy hour: kids with cable and internet access and iTunes allowance money. He’s not preaching to the ghetto, but he is alienating himself from the people who buy his music. His PR rep must have a continuous stream of panic attacks to go along with that immeasurable job security.

Taylor Swift is a pop artist. She’s the ultimate white girl. So what? As a parent, it’s nearly impossible to find modern music for your child to listen to that doesn’t include heavy sexual overtones and primitive language skills. Even with a Cosby Show rap artist like Kanye, I have to compromise my parental skepticism in exchange for giving my kid music she’s chosen for herself. It’s irritating to constantly tell your kid “no” when all the other children seem to be listening to straight out gangsta rap and songs about getting blowjobs at a club, drinking booze, and overt materialism — all using terms that make me feel like an antique, running to Urban Dictionary right and left. The culture needs to check itself. For that one reason alone, I appreciate sweet, little Taylor Swift.

Ugh. Kanye? Pleez.

“The voicemail you are trying to reach is full.”


Robot scavenger hunt for Russell's birthday

Robot scavenger hunt for Russell's birthday


Two reasons for failing to return/answer calls and chronic lateness:

  1. I got rid of my purses two months ago, keep forgetting to buy a new one, and am toting around a record bag that looks more like a diaper bag than anything a normal person might use. Thus, I can’t hear or find my phone inside that enormous thing;
  2. There’s been an extra amount of ass-wiping going on at work recently — both good and bad varieties;
  3. I’ve been slammed with an awful lot of What I Always Wanted.

I guess that’s more than two excuses. Cut me some slack. Let’s time travel.

April 1st:

Russell turned really old, and Tyson Summers was cool enough to crank out a super-fast commission even though he was moving at the time. I was expecting something really simple because of his circumstances, but within the first twenty-four hours, Tyson wrote:

I’m almost finished. It’s a risque piece based on deep ellum / fair park. I love the statue at fair park of the lady and cactus. I’ve used a very pretty nude model in halftone dots standing in the middle of a cartoon cactus. The two big characters of the cactus are landlord / property owners fighting. On the cactus will be 4-icze and a boarded up tunnel. Shazam, I think I’m almost done. The background is pink with my stars looking on. I added a halftone dot Uni looking after the lady as well.


Tyson's Cactus Lady of Deep Ellum

Russell loved it.

First Weekend of April:

The Bell and I met Madre in Austin to celebrate this year’s ATPE awards; she was one of the top three contenders for Texas State Teacher of the Year. While Mom tried staying awake during boring meetings, Bella and I toured the Capitol, the Austin Museum of Art, and T O Y  J O Y. 

Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol

Bella took this one. What a fantastic weekend.

Bella took this one. What a fantastic weekend.

April Never Ending:

The Bell needed a new bed, so we punished her with hours of IKEA. Sometimes, IKEA can be so sad. Luckily, Russell had a plan.

sadbedbed2bed3bed4bed5Alas, another case of IKEA blues was defeated.

Ongoing Family Bidness with the KLG (is gonna rock you…):

Grace asked me to quit calling her “Gracie.” Sniffle, sniffle. 

"Hey, Grace, do your Dio rock hand."

"Hey, Grace, do your Dio rock hand."

Here, Ken and Lindsay reenact a scene from 'Jacob's Ladder'.

Here, Ken and Lindsay reenact a scene from 'Jacob's Ladder'.

With a side order of May:

Isata and her family deserve more than just Honorable Mention; she’s a great kiddo with great parents and an incredible back story.

I loved Isata about five minutes after I first saw her as she handed my very sad Bella Monster a toy and patted her on the back. It was 1999, and I’d just dropped Bella off for her first Mother’s Day Out, which — for neurotic moms like me — was more like Mother’s Day to Freak Out. 

Isata came with a bonus prize — her parents. Idrissa and Ada left their native country of Sierra Leone in the early nineties. Recently popularized by the film Blood Diamond, Sierra Leone was amongst one of the world’s most unstable regions at that time due to, perhaps, the cruelest gang warfare and rebel fighting in modern history — fueled entirely by our greed for diamonds and Sierra Leone’s corrupt leadership and shaky relationships with its Liberian neighbors. Isata’s folks tell incredibly sad stories coupled with extreme optimism. They understand what matters in life in a way that isn’t as humbling or demoralizing as much as it is liberating for me. Truly, their spirits set me free.

Last week, I drove Bella over to Ada’s braid shop in Irving. (Ada has superhero fast braiding fingers.) Idrissa ordered pizza for us while we chatted about the girls and foreign affairs and how Bella had been handling the divorce all this time later. We talked about their African Muslim wedding in which Bella stood in Isata’s place of honor when they were four years old. I listened intently as Idrissa shared stories about his sister still living in Johannesburg, South Africa: “They asked me to come, but I cannot. The region, it is too dangerous even for someone like myself.”

Bella and Isata talked on the other side of the salon about the Black-eyed Peas and Hannah Montana and Paramore and The Jonas Brothers, though. That part of the world was far away.

There is so much more to add, but for the sake of sacrificing another five million in text, I’ll wrap it up with Isata’s most recent parting words: “Kristan, I love you. You are my second mother.”

I needed that an awful lot this past week. I love my families and am immensely grateful.

kristan and ada

kristan and ada

the bell and my other daughter, isata

the bell and my other daughter, isata

You can’t stop this party:

On Friday, I accompanied Bella’s honor choir to the yearly competition at Sandy Lake Amusement Park. (I need some coffee and a pretend cigarette already, and I haven’t even gotten but one sentence into this excuse for not being able to return your calls.)



One parent. One grandparent. One teacher who is retiring next week and can’t walk. Twenty-six fourth and fifth grade WIIIILD and CARAZAY KIDS. When I think “Last Friday,” I also think “Xanax.” 

To the four parents who canceled at the LAST MINUTE: you lost out, but there was no fun lost (except for the little guy who threw up all day, but you know…poor kiddo).


First Place Division!

First Place Division!

Is there a collection somewhere of past gum trees from other years? Hm.

Is there a collection somewhere of past gum trees from other years? Hm.


Saturday, Saturday, yes, Saturday, oh, Saturday, Saturday:

I wrote all about the whale scarf Julie made in L.A. via her Spiderbot Etsy store. Well, Russ and I managed to make it through the morning rain to the Etsy Dallas convention at Southside Lamar, and it was something else. I didn’t see anything I liked more than the whale scarf, which I wore like a medal, but I did find some interesting items for our jewelry-making endeavors. Russell stopped to investigate a funny doll.

Etsy treasure by Deb at

Etsy treasure by Deb at

I tried to be sneaky, but Russell knew I’d gotten the monster for him before we even got home.

“Let me see if I can find those snacks in your purse.” [Grin]

“Russell, why are you smiling like that?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” [Grin]

“Ugh, here’s your monster.”

“Thank you.”

Later that afternoon at the Grapevine bead convention (yes, you read that correctly), we found loads of cool stuff for projects. I bought black, bead wiring for jewelry crocheting, so if you receive something that looks like a bird’s nest, well, just humor me. I’m trying. I have to do something besides bitch and moan about politics, you know. After waging war on the Vote Yes campaign for the past two months, I’m ready for something less controversial — like wire crocheting the Big Bang Theory. Wait…

Don't call it "crafting." It's a scientific experiment, cough, cough.

Don't call it "crafting." It's a scientific experiment, cough, cough.

There were so many booths at the bead convention that we lost track of time and spent four hours inside that thing. I call it the “IKEA Phenomenon”. At one point, I stopped to admire a woman’s wire coiling and button bracelet, and she was kind enough to demonstrate her technique. Everything was fine until she added, “…and if you will recall [insert famous beading guy’s name here, unknown to non-fanatics]’s 2002 cover for Bead and Glass Magazine, there was, I believe, an instructional guide to this method in that issue.” That was when I realized I was way out of my league, thanked her, and quickly turned around to giggle with Russell as we made our way into a different room of the exhibit.

“Russell, I think I know what I sound like now when I talk about stuff like, ehhhh, I dunno…4AD record cover art around people who aren’t V23 fans.”

“Yes, that’s exactly how crazy you sound.”

Luckily, I spotted a ring artisan in the next area and quickly forget about my plaguing new revelation.

Last Night:

Lori is thirty-seven this week. I don’t know how that happened so quickly. Russell and I attended her anniversary dinner with Xtos, so I could present her with trinkets appropriate for an old lady, heh. I explained to Lors that my company recognized my ten years of service this past week, so I’d decided to give her a similar token celebrating her twenty years of service as my girl. There was sushi. A glass of wine. Oh, god, there was creme brulee. Then we both fell asleep during the movie while X-tos and Russell laughed at us (but not before Lori’s top semi-fell down at the restaurant). Hurray for pocket cams times ten thousand.

Birthdays come but once each year.

Birthdays come but once each year.

As dinner ended, Russell passed a napkin across the table.

“I love you!”

I got out my pen and scribbled, “I love you more!”

That’s when he dug around in his pocket for a moment, tucked something into the napkin, and passed both back across the table toward me. He said, “You don’t love me more than I love you.”

Wrapped inside the dinner napkin, was a beautiful new ring:

xo, totoro.

xo, totoro.


Maybe you guessed it: from the aforementioned ring artisan at the bead convention. He’s a sneaky guy, that Russell.

Right now:

I think I’ve covered much of the “What I Always Wanted” portion of my excuses for not checking voicemail and returning many calls. One of the great lessons Idrissa (and Ada) taught me goes something like this:

“In America and in no other country in the world, there is a sense of nothing but work, work, and work. It’s 24/7, this working. There is no time for family or happiness because so much emphasis is put upon job and career. Here, you are only about your job; it is who you are, and people think they must achieve success in that way only. In Africa, my father was surrounded always by his council and many bodyguards, yet from the time the sun came up until the time the sun went down, I was by his side. He made the time for me because I was important to him; I meant more to him than his duties. He made sure everybody knew this, too. In America, we must remember to love each other and to care for one another as if we are also family.”

I have time left for Now. I’ll call you back later.

Extreme Fantasy Capital Punishment

After reading an acquaintance’s blog yesterday about the funny things three year-olds say, I remembered one of my early internet endeavors with The Bell. I asked folks to write in with their “stupid adult questions” so that my pre-schooler could offer logical, real-world advice.

Dr. Bella at your service, Dummy.

Dr. Bella at your service, Dummy.

Her solutions for situations like “How to Date with an Embarrassing Car” and “What to Do About Credit Card Debt” usually began with some kind of sermon about how people needed to quit worrying about things that weren’t really important. Of course, just when it all seemed like the Best Advice Ever, she’d throw in something peppered with pre-K rationale:

“…and so, if you really need to have a different car, go to your parents’ house when they’re sleeping and borrow theirs. Parents usually have a nicer one anyway because they’re older and don’t waste their money all the time like people who date do. Plus, parents never really need to drive unless one of them has a heart attack in the middle of the night. You might get into a lot of trouble if that happens because, well, you’d feel guilty if your mom or dad died because you had to drive your girlfriend around in some fancy car that wasn’t yours. What would she think of you then? She would probably find out the car wasn’t yours. 

And funerals are boooooring! Well, they’re sad, but they’re mostly boring. Everybody there might also be mad at you because it was your fault they had to go to another funeral, too.”

Continue reading

Pete Re-Sessions and My Petite Monster’s iPod

Mom announced during lunch last week that she’d received a ridiculous phone call from Pete Sessions.


Oh, Pete Sessions, you horny devil, you!


“You mean our House Rep. Pete Sessions?”

“Yes, Kristan, that’s what I said. He had a poll.”

“This was an automated thing, right?” I figured that was a valid question since Pete’s probably got a lot of extra time on his hands now that he doesn’t have to waste the majority of his work week sucking up to Tom DeLay.

She was becoming frustrated with me, though, “Yes, it was automated, but I have spoken with him before in person. He’s a nice man. Are you going to let me finish?”

“Ok, yes. What was the ‘ridiculous question’ ?” Continue reading