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Thursday, June 26, 2008

upcoming workshops and classes

After six months off from teaching, I am anxious to get back into the classroom. I'm craving that moment in class when a student realizes her writing is going in a direction she didn't expect. I love being a part of that excitement and discovery.

I have two classes coming up this summer/fall:

Writing Family - Jackpine Writers' Bloc
August 2, 1-4:30 pm
Park Rapids, MN
Click here to learn more or to register.

Mother Words - The Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis
Thursdays, 1-3 pm, September 18 - December 18
Click here to learn more.

Please pass the word.

Friday, June 20, 2008


I was interviewed by Miranda over at creative construction. Check it out and read the other recent artist interviews!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


It was a big week for us. D and I went on our first date in six months, Zoë pooped for the first time in four days, and Stella has her first loose tooth!

D and I haven’t been out together—just the two of us—since I was about six months pregnant. But Friday it was my birthday, and we desperately needed some alone time, so we put Stella to bed and I nursed Zoë until she was about to explode. Then we passed Zoë off to my mom, and ran out the door.

It was a beautiful evening—70 degrees and sunny—and it felt as though we were playing hooky. We drove to our favorite restaurant, the one where, a decade ago, we fell in love over bottles of wine and thin-crust pizza and crème brûlée. At that time, D was still playing soccer and I was waiting tables, so we would meet there after work two or three nights a week. (This was, clearly, pre- mortgage and car payments and house repairs.) The restaurant hasn’t changed, but going there sometimes makes me realize how much our lives have changed.

When we were seated, I placed my cell phone on the table and willed it not to ring. (Zoë still refuses to take a bottle, and when she’s hungry and I’m not there, she cries as if she’s being tortured.)

We ordered a bottle of wine and sat back, slowly remembering what it felt like to relax together. It was a lovely evening and the food was amazing. I started with a cup tomato and fennel soup and then had the most wonderful smoked chicken risotto with peas and some kind of demi glace. I haven’t eaten food like that—with flavors that mingle perfectly—in so, so long.

And the best part: no calls from my mom. When we got home, Zoë was sleeping soundly in grandma’s arms. Hallelujah!

The other big news (other than Zoë finally pooping after four days) is that Stella has a loose tooth. We were at the dentist on Monday, and I casually asked the hygienist when kids start loosing their teeth. (I obviously remember nothing from my own childhood.)

“Oh, about five or six,” she said. But then she started checking Stella’s teeth, and said, “Oh, she’s got one!”

Her front left tooth has got a little wiggle in it.

Stella smiled proudly and I got tears in my eyes. If she’s loosing teeth, it means she’s going to be a teenager in like, four minutes, no? I immediately flashed forward to braces and pink hair and her begging for some kind of body piercing.

But she was so excited! The whole way home, she kept asking, “Is it this one, mama? Is this the loose one?”

She wanted me to tell her friends about it the next morning at pre-school because she thought she might forget which one it was, but as soon as we got there, she dashed over to them on her own. I heard her say, “You guys, guess what? Guess what?! I have a loose tooth!” Her little friends all gathered around her to witness the almost imperceptible movement. Stella beamed.

These little things—a date, a tooth, and an overdo poop—have made me smile this week.

But now I need a really good novel. I’m craving a sweep-me-away kind of novel, one I won’t want to put down. Any recommendations?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

a discovery

I just made it through another five-day stint as a single mom, which I hope explains my recent silence. Stella is also on a reduced pre-school schedule this month, so I have even less time to sneak away to my computer. When to blog? When to blog?

When D is gone, it’s the extra sleep that I miss the most (other than just missing him, of course). Stella is an early riser—she always has been—and when I’ve been up with Zoe in the night, it’s utterly painful to be dragged downstairs before 6 a.m. Strong decaf just doesn’t cut it anymore. I’m a morning person, so it’s a serious problem when I’m dragging and it’s not yet 7 a.m. It can only go downhill from there.

But now D is back, and though I don’t feel rested, exactly, I do feel calmer. He’s always had this affect on me. Just after he and I began dating, one of my closest friends was in town for a visit. We were out at a bar and I had my undies in a bunch about something or other. But when D arrived, my friend later told me, I instantly relaxed. (She actually said, "It was remarkable.") So even though he’s super busy right now and working crazy hours, just having him home makes me feel more settled.

On Sunday, after we got home from the airport, he went outside to start the grill and play with Stella—she likes to be pulled around the yard in her sled, which they were jumping off a soccer ball. (You’d have to see it to understand what I mean.) Zoe was sleeping in her car seat, so I settled myself on the porch with Best American Essays of 2004. I’ve been slowly making my way through the volumes, looking for a little inspiration to help me with an essay that’s in my head but not so much down on paper.

Well, I got to the very end of the volume and began reading Cynthia Zarin’s “An Enlarged Heart.” I didn’t remember this essay, and in fact, after a few paragraphs it was clear I had never read it. How could this be? I’m religious about this series; I read the latest volume every year during the days after Christmas when we are up at my mom’s cabin. But in 2004, Stella was just one (and very busy) and I was finishing up my MFA and under deadline to get thesis pages to one of my readers. That’s my excuse. It’s all I got.

The problem is that I have insisted that in twenty years of Best American Essays, only one motherhood essay has been featured: Penny Wolfson’s “Moonrise.” But I was wrong. Zarin’s essay is about her daughter contracting Kawaski disease while they are vacationing in Cape Cod. Her prose is tight—perfect—and her voice absolutely engaging. It reminded me a little of Lorrie Moore’s in “People Like That Are the Only People Here.”

I don’t like to be wrong. But in this case, I’m glad I was. I like Zarin’s writing so much that I’m going to order some of her poetry. Here are two poems I found online. She has three collections: The Swordfish Tooth, Fire Lyric, and The Watercourse. Now the only question is which one should I read first?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

two sisters, two winners

My dear sisters didn't follow my directions. They were supposed to read the haiku entries, then confer and choose a winner. But they each chose a winner, so now I have two winners of the first Mother Words haiku contest. (Not such a bad thing--I loved all of them!)

The winners are: Emmie and Soon to Be First Time Mom

Emmie wrote:

OK - had two bad bouts of mastitis and several plugged ducts. The "dangle feed" (nursing while leaning over the baby, best done on a bed or on the floor) saved me from more bouts of actual mastitis, as did aggressive self-massage. I always remember my OB saying, as she noticed the angry red line on my breast, "well, this is the kind of thing that used to sometimes kill you before antibiotics". Anyway, here goes - true story, never since discussed, thankfully:

Feed with dangling breast
Good for mastitis, they say
Dad-in-law walks in

Soon to Be First Time Mom wrote:

Expectant Haiku....

Thirty-two weeks now,
Reflux: Used to seem quite bad
Posts arouse New Fears

Here are the comments from my sisters:

Rachel said:

Wow, these haikus were truly funny to read, and I'm a big fan of funny haikus. Nothing funny about mastitis while in its evil throes, but it does tend to make for good stories later - both in giving a lighter slant to the dark hours of breastfeeding, and in highlighting the strength of women in their journey through motherhood. You don't know me, but I'm Kate's younger sister, Rachel. I had some raging mastitis that set in exactly 1 week after I gave birth to my son. My favorite memory is Kate coming over to visit me after I went to the doctor for antibiotics. I've memorialized this visit with a haiku of my own:

Let me see, she says
Almost vomits in her mouth
Does it look that bad????

Anyway, it's difficult for me to be a judge...first, because I'm no expert on haikus; and second, because I have a hard time making decisions. But, if I had to choose just one, my vote goes to: Emmie. The image of your father-in-law walking in on you gave me a hearty laugh!

Sara said:

Hi everyone. I'm Kate's older sister Sara. I'm the sister who has never had mastitis. I am also not a mother and not pregnant, but I'm definitely neurotic, so should I become pregnant at any point in the future I am very, very afraid I might get mastitis (among a long list of other fears). I therefore have to throw my vote to the "expectant haiku." In particular, I would like to applaud the use of capital letters with respect to New Fears. Because my youngest sister Rachel and I have split our votes, I will leave it to Kate to determine an equitable means for awarding the gift certificate. I enjoyed reading all the entries!

Emmie and Soon to Be First Time Mom will each receive a $10 amazon gift card. I have Emmie's address, but Soon to Be First Time Mom, will you please send me your address (to katehopper [at] msn [dot] com)?

Thanks to all of you who posted your haikus.