Clarence Joseph DuBois

1 October 2012

September 13, 1922 to September 29, 2012

Saying goodbye to my grandfather, Clarence DuBois. He was 90, he had been ill, it has been a long hard 5 months. He always said he’d never wanted to live to 90. I will miss him terribly. He was one of my favorite people. We didn’t always agree, but our conversations were always thought-provoking. Told me I looked sharp, but only when I did. Taught me so much about storytelling, joke timing, card playing, listening, even how to walk in the woods (“get your hands out of your damn pockets, Sarah”)

Grandpa, you’ll be missed.

to remember

6 January 2011
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As Miranda and Henry grow, I don’t think I should tell all of their stories. Even if they are funny. Darn ethics, I thought I had squashed you. But Bella – in preserving the big kids’ privacy, I am not recording the moments I’ll forget in her life. And I want to remember.

This is the year with the kookoo tree. Kookoo claus is pretty scary. Unless you circle him a few times in the mall and then maybe you can sit on his lap. Or at least that worked for Bella. She also will sing boo-boo bells, but not if you put the video recorder near her. She will laugh at us and say, Christmas and Santa next year. But this year, the kookoo tree is the most beautiful thing in the house, or maybe the world.

She cries to get her own way, but in an adorably manipulative way. We’re so screwed when she is 13.  Or 7. She doesn’t cry when she runs into the island countertop, or spins the bar stools and the arm rest whack her in the forehead. She has a plasmacar and can whirl around the house. (That’s the nifty little hot wheel type car that doesn’t have pedals, instead you turn the steering wheel and it goes! whee!) She talks all the time – and on New Year’s Eve, she even said a full sentence: No, I hold that baby!   Baby Natalie visited us. 6 month olds are too precious. Bella seemed like a giant next to her.

Grandpa just converted her crib into a toddler bed. She likes it, even if she isn’t quite ready to fall asleep in it. She is toying with toilet training. And preschool registration is at the end of the month! Only 6 months to succeed.

She loves baby dolls. Her kitchen set. Diego, Dora, Max and Ruby. Books. Henry’s light sabers and swords and guns. She likes puzzles and coloring and putting “pope” on her skin. (lotion in this case) She likes the water – swimming or bath or just the kitchen sink. She decides to wash her hair when she plays in the water for too long.  She also loves her big brother and sister. She thinks her uncle is the best and his dog is all that.

Being a 2 year old is pretty challenging. And Bella is pretty good at it. Click on any photo to start the slideshow.

morning light

4 January 2011
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Wow, I missed December entirely. Let’s see. We shopped. We wrapped gifts.We played in the snow. We adored Uncle Nate’s dog Mac. Wash, rinse, repeat. We also played dreidl with Bubbe Fran. Had a delightful visit from Santa and a nice gathering with my mom’s family. We had friend’s over for New Year’s. 6 month olds are so precious – I’d believe they are a plot to make you think your 2 year old is a giant and you wish you could have another baby. WE ARE NOT HAVING ANOTHER BABY.

Since the shortest day of the year, I have been enjoying the morning light. It seems ridiculous to notice the (extra, brighter) light. How can it be different? – it didn’t feel that different as the days grew shorter and shorter. But the light feels like a Hopper painting. The morning ones, not the indoor nighttime ones.

I’ve always been glad that the Mill Rd. (Milwaukee) Public Library had a nice book of Hopper prints when I was assigned to find an artist to copy in art class in high school. I fell in love with the ways America looks in Hopper paintings. I nearly always choose a Hopper image for my desktop wallpaper and usually have a Hopper calendar on the wall. My attempts at imitation were only flattering in the sense of the saying. But seeing how hard it is to capture light – to understand how revolutionary those seventeenth Dutch masters really were.

This year, I feel like I am seeing something new. The important part is that I am seeing it, not that it is new. The winter morning light.  I’ve always though summer was the season of light. The lush greens, the bright blues – made for Kodachrome and Paul Simon. Our wedding day is a happy memory, not just because I was ecstatically happy to marry Rob, but because the summer light was gorgeous. But this winter is challenging me to think beyond the grayness of December, and the heavy darkness of the fading light in November. January has had wide skies, cool light, pastel colors that don’t seem muted. And February will be gray again, I’m sure, as the snow gets old and dirty and winter gets (even more) tiring. Until then, I am enjoying the long light in the mornings. And wondering if heading to the western deserts in winter isn’t just smart for the temperature, but for the mirage.


30 November 2010
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And so another November has come to a close. And with it, so many dreams. Wow, I am coming from somewhere dark. It is dark outside – the incredibly shrinking daylight is getting to me. I am considering the idea that having snow on the ground might reflect some light from the moon. It has helped that the Christmas lights have sprung up all over the town. But it may be time to get a farm yard light.

Henry had his adenoids removed and tubes put in his ears in the middle of the month. The surgery was low key. His recovery was easy and fast. Despite my hopes, his internal volume control has only been notched down slightly.

Arabella is talking more and more. Bewwa enjoys her time with Gra’pa and Meemaw (Grandpa and Grandma). She wrestles with Hiyee (Henry) at every chance she can get. She is relentless, brutal and feels no pain or fear. She wants to follow Mi’enda (Miranda) and hang out in her bedroom. And as tough as she can be with Henry, she wants Miranda to paint her nails. Bonus for when they glow in the dark.

We had parent teacher conferences for the big kids. They are “Secure” in their work. Very secure. Henry is having a hard time expressing his upsets in words. Miranda is learning classroom management skills.

I have the Christmas cards back from Shutterfly.

Miranda now thinks it is a tradition to shop at 3 am on Black Friday. She is tired and grumpy by 6.

The cold that swept through our family in October after our trip to Texas has lead to antibiotic November. Rob has a sinus infection that won’t quit. I officially had pneumonia (much improved, but still a follow-up chest x-ray away before cured can be bandied about).

And I am going to start a new job in about 2 weeks. It has been a tense month for me. Excited for what’s ahead.

And catching up on 30Rock on Netflix has been amazing. I know the worst case scenario is that Netflix may either A. break the internet through overuse or B. break Net Neutrality, but I still love it.

Spooky drifts

3 November 2010
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Now that Halloween and the election is over, we can pack away the fear, the costumes, the hauntings. We had quite a costume year – I miss our group costume years. This year, we cavorted as a punk zombie, a witch, a gold-medal Olympics speed skater, a wolf, Obi Wan Kenobi, a Texas hipster and a black cat.

Aw who cares, pictures!

failing NaBloPoMo

2 November 2010
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It somehow seems nicer to just fail at NAtional BLog POsting MOnth right from the start. I didn’t write yesterday. I won’t write tomorrow. But today.

Some pictures from Texas:

car wash blues

12 October 2010
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Rob has been singing a lot of Jim Croce to the children. In turn, they have been singing, mangling and mumbling a lot of Jim Croce. The trick, they tell me, is to not breathe. All in one breath – suddenly depressing, low-down mind messing working at the car wash blues. It really doesn’t matter if I have that right.

I am in post-vacation letdown. Six months of prep. Six days of vacation. And now, home. I am trying my hardest not to turn my brain into mush. I need to pick out, then create or buy Halloween costumes for Henry and me. And maybe Bella. Probably not Bella. She can be a cat (from Miranda’s stash) or a lion (from Henry’s stash) . Two is a feline sort of year. We are doing three outdoor activities for Halloween, I hope. I want a warm costume suitable for a 30-something mother. And somehow being an Eskimo’s honey just sounds like it might be a bit racist.

We had a great trip to Texas.  I am not sure if we would have ever visited Texas if we didn’t have friends there. So much America, so little vacation time and money. But seeing as we have gone and will go again, I like Texas. I like how it is big and proud of it. I like how it is in on the joke and yet, still the joke, to nearly any punchline you can imagine. My vowels get just a little longer and I enjoy being called “ma’am” and my children called “baby.” The food was good, even when we didn’t have Tex-Mex.

We visited Ft Worth, Waco, and Austin. Austin made me think of the grown up child of Madison and San Francisco. Still hippie, but bold and bright and business too. I am supremely bad at timing vacations – the kids had school and I thought they’d have a day off.  The Austin City Limits Festival was being held. Which would have been awesome if we didn’t have kids, had tickets and didn’t want to stay in a hotel. The breakfast tacos were very good. An army and a family of 5 travel on their stomachs. That and time at the swimming pool.

The closest we came to dying (the hallmark of some people’s scale of a good time) was the flight out. The plane went up. And then banked sharply over Lake Michigan as the cabin filled with smoke. The smoke then cleared and we headed back to the airport. No idea how bad it really was. Incredibly grateful the older children could not see either my or their father’s face. We deplaned. Waited a bit and got on a new plane. No news.

This trip used up our Midwest frequent flyer miles. The flight itself, except for the smoking part, was fine. The staff was kind. The ride was smooth. The baggage arrived. But the reservation process was a nightmare. Frontier changed our flight number and then our flight arrival time twice. I called, sat on hold, politely pleaded to keep our seats together. in June, July and August, with a “just checking” call in September.  We bought the seats in April. The plane was nearly empty until September. And it didn’t matter. The calls didn’t help. I had to use the great power of Twitter on Tuesday to have one seat changed so we could ride as two twosomes and one single seat in adjacent rows. My two phone calls for help did nothing. But the twitter person @flyfrontier had superior spatial reasoning and found a good solution for us. On the way home we had two seats together and three seats in three different rows. And the phone staff, even the gate agents on the flight out, couldn’t help us. We got the DFW ticket counter 3 hours early and the wonderful woman there did get us all in 1 row, with Rob behind us.

I suppose I could say all is well that ends well. But this is my internet soap box. It was aggravating and a huge hassle. I’ll certainly consider Frontier again, but it isn’t my #1 anymore. And so ends an era. Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and be inspired for Halloween.

love letter to Monica Ferris

12 September 2010
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I was sad to read the last/latest Betsy Devonshire needlecraft mystery book by Monica Ferris. I found a slew of them at the Saukville Library and checked out the first 5 books for our Door County vacation. And I loved them. they were well-written, well-plotted, well-paced, nicely developed characters. As believable as any other cozy series (so not really, I mean who the hell would even want to be so close to so many murders. But I respect how Ms. Ferris has made Betsy uneasy about the same thing.)

I woke up on vacation, already with that strange sensation of where am I? and I wondered if I was in Excelsior. As much as it would pain the Door. Co. tourism bureau to hear, I wondered if I had ended up in Minnesota.  I have been craving needlecraft. The last time I sewed was Halloween costumes. And the last time I need any needlework, I was making Bella’s Christmas stocking. And now I wonder if maybe I should just give counted cross stitch another try. After all, Betsy improved. I like Betsy’s mind and her maturing as a character.  she would be fun to know. I want to hang out with Godwin, who skates a careful line of not just being your stereotypical gay best friend of pop lit, but is a fleshed out through and trough. Struth!

I was hooked. I scurried around. I checked out the other 8 or so books from three other libraries in our area. Annoying that Cedarburg had none of them. And I read them in order.

And tonight I finished the last one I have. I love how the secondary and tertiary characters slide in and out. Jill and Lars and I can picture Emma and Erik growing. Aww. And Doris went from being a small bit character (although didn’t she have a brother somewhere nearby?) and now she’s one of the gang. And Phil and Alice and Bersheda and Irene and Leona… And even Patricia, that daffy would be murderer who we get to see in redemption. I’ve read some series where all of the side-talking gets in the way of the plot. The mystery is either told as slight of hand and not clever deduction, all luck or random. And crossing my finger, Ms. Ferris has managed to keep the plots on target.

Now I just have to wait until the library gets the new release in December.  Find an independent needlecraft store and pick up a canvas and get to sewing. And stop seeing clever plots that Betsy could solve if there were a murder nearby.


just a thought

8 September 2010
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When we lived in Chicago, I was always impressed by the efficiency of Mr. Daley (and the stories of his father) as mayor of Chicago. I am not necessarily convinced those efficiencies were fair or kind or best. But things got done. I used to joke after we moved back to Milwaukee that we needed Mr. Daley to take a term up here, just get some things done.

And now I wonder if he was thinking the same thing. Tom Barrett wins the governorship, leaving open the mayoral position in Milwaukee. Rich Daley moves north, wins the mayoral election and we’ll have rail or water powered buses or bike trails or wrought iron fencing around every park by spring.  And nothing’s going to stop him.

EDITED TO ADD: And Now Mayor Daley suggests they re-reverse the river that flows to the Mississippi when it should flow to Lake Michigan. That doesn’t seem like an idea that would be very popular in Chicago. But it seems like one that would be heart warming in Milwaukee. Hmmm?

Lake Life

1 September 2010
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Today was the first day of shool. There were high anxieties but few tears. This is a good thing. And the 40 minutes we waited for the bus to bring them home made last week, with the lazy days on the shores of Lake Michigan, seem even farther away than they did yesterday.  We had a delightful week in Jacksonport in Door County. The cottage was so-so. I don’t think bunk beds are in our future. But the sandy beach and the lake, wow. Lake Michigan was warm, the sand got everywhere, the children even got sunburned. Miranda turned 9. She went zip-lining and let her parents tag along. We rode bikes. I read five novels (my love letter to Monica Ferris will follow soon). We played a three generation game of dominoes four nights in a row. I was the youngest player. We had to buy beer over and over. In other words, awesome. I am ready for a beachfront life. (Click on any photo to see a slideshow)

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