California poppies at the Theodore Payne Foundation.
California poppies at the Theodore Payne Foundation.

I love poppies.  California poppies especially.  Oh eschscholzia californica, I am yours!  How did I ever think you were plain and a sorry choice for  a state flower? I was young and taken by the luxuriance of english roses, larkspur, and peonies.  Somehow, I woke up transfixed by your simple, vibrant orange blossoms and silver blue-green leaves and I cannot forget you!

Mr. Cartigan and I were married among matilija poppies.  We gave a garden mix of poppy seeds as wedding favors.

Romneya Coulteri
Romneya Coulteri (Matilija poppies) – Elings Park, Santa Barbara

A few years later we took M & R to the same spot.

R loves matilija poppies too.
R loves matilija poppies too.

We saw poppies on our honeymoon in Ireland.

The Boyne Valley.
The Boyne Valley near Slane.

And planted poppies at our tiny apartment just after we were married.

A poppy on our front porch.
A poppy on our front porch.

And now, I pause by our neighbors’ houses, so many of them festooned with the beautiful blooms.

A neighbor's poppies.
A neighbor’s poppies.

Today we visited the Theodore Payne Foundation and it happened to be Poppy Day!  Hooray!

Mr. Cartigan and R, in search of poppies.
Mr. Cartigan and R, in search of poppies.


Poppies grow wild at the Theodore Payne Foundation.
Poppies grow wild at the Theodore Payne Foundation.

IMG_8648We left with four California poppy plants!

My mom’s favorite flower is the lupine.  Every spring, when my dad saw the first lupines blooming on the Southern California roadside, he would stop and gather a few and bring them home to my mom.  I don’t think my dad knows that I love golden poppies so fiercely but this year he sent this picture announcing the arrival of spring.

Lupine and California poppies.
Lupine and California poppies.

Happy Spring!  I am so grateful for these golden flowers that glow with the sunlight.  To me, they are the pulse of the land; beautiful, alive, simple, faithful, and yet so delicate, so transparent, animated so dramatically by the rays of the sun.

Mermaid Poop

“Mama, I had a mermaid poop!” M called from the bathroom.

“A mermaid poop?” asked I, from the kitchen.

“I think she said ‘a runny poop’.” came Mr. Cartigan’s voice from the bedroom.

“No!” said M, “a MERMAID POOP!”

By then I was in the bathroom checking it out.  And she was right.  Her poop looked like a mermaid; a beautiful, peaceful, long-haired, fish-tailed mermaid.  Made of poop.  I had to ask myself repeatedly whether I should take a picture or not.  I didn’t but I probably should have.  Instead, we flushed it to the ocean, a la Finding Nemo.

“How did you do that?” I asked M.

“There are fairies inside me.”

I wouldn’t be surprised.

Resources for Talking About Race

A few weeks ago I published this post I’m Rinso White/I’m In-vis-i-ble about the anxiety I have about talking about race with my kids.  In the post I mentioned we’ve used some resources to spark conversations about race (racial constructs).  Here’s what we’ve used:

People Colors are colored pencils and crayons in an array of colors so that light beige isn’t the only “flesh tone” option.  To be sure, these are colors that would be included in a large collection of crayons but they’d have other names.  I like having this package to share with my girls.  These are available from Lakeshore Learning Store.

M and R named the people colors for family members.

My kids’ preschool has a great collection of dolls and they all get play time.  Like the sign says, “THIS IS A PARTY!”


The Colors of Us by Karen Katz provides a useful frame for comparing different skin tones to delicious foods and spices and also talks about the primary and tertiary colors that compose different skin tones.  Some have observed that this book utilizes some heavy-handed stereotypes and I’m not sure why Katz chose or overlooked that aspect.  It was still useful for us.

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler has wonderful rhyming and cadence.  This was really fun to read.


Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman questions race and gender assumptions in the story of a girl who loves adventure and wants to play Peter in her classes’ production of Peter Pan.


Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad? by Sandy Lynne Holman is the story of a boy who has noticed that the color black has a lot of negative associations in our culture.  Evil superheroes wear black, black cats bring bad luck, the child who doesn’t fit in is the “black sheep” etc. IMG_8548

His grandfather introduces him to the beauty and power of the color and his heritage.  This one was very helpful in generating discussion topics for us and the girls asked lots of questions about it even days after reading it.


Sandy Holman’s book was inspired by the wisdom and pride of her grandfather.

For Adults:

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman Their chapter “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race” is easy to read and understand and helps bring more awareness to the problem of most white parent’s silence around race.

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.  I’m so glad I found this book recommended on White Mom Blog.  Dr. Tatum shares conversations about race she had with her young son and then goes on to discuss a number of aspects and challenges of racial identity development in our culture.  It’s insightful, engaging, and very readable.

(By the way, none of these authors or manufacturers have endorsed this post.  Special thanks to our public library where we found all of the books mentioned in this post.)

What would you add? What has been helpful in creating conversation with your kids or even friends about race?


Specs for the peepers
Jeepers Creepers

I wish Mr. Cartigan and I could take credit for using “parent’s intuition” thereby validating our worth as parents,  for knowing that our girls needed glasses.  No.  It was our dear friend Sophie who noticed and also correctly diagnosed M’s farsightedness.  We’d really just thought she was making pirate faces.  Turns out,  closing one eye and using the other to glaringly intimidate while playing pirates, while sitting at the dinner table, and while watching t.v. (but surprisingly, not while looking at books) was just a coincidental bonus.  She has significant hyperopeia

R, on the other hand, showed no signs of any eye-problems but since her DNA is identical to Pirate M’s, we thought we’d better have her checked.  Also when she heard that M would probably need glasses, she didn’t want to be left out.

Eye exam!
Eye exam!

Mr. Cartigan has a big old soft spot for girls in glasses, and that, combined with our great hope that Dorothy Parker was correct and “men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” made the prospect of bespectacling our girls irresistible.  Oh, well, and the fact that they actually needed them, that was part of it too.  I didn’t have to slip the Pediatric Ophthalmologist a $20 to recommend we run to the nearest glasses store.  Besides, he’d never have done it for so little.

Eye exam!
Eye exam!

We were fortunate to get the girls in to see well-respected pediatric ophthalmologists and the girls loved them.  In fact, they dictated notes that I had the pleasure of writing out saying things like “They put drops in my eyes and I got to keep my eyes closed.  I love them.”  (We left the notes with the opthamology team.)IMG_8056

And then off we went with prescriptions to pick out the girls glasses!  Their eye doctor recommended Children’s Optical, a non-profit specializing in children’s eye wear.  John Mellinger, ABOC, helped us pick out glasses that fit the girls’ faces well.  After trying to find frames that fit at other optometrist’s offices and even larger stores like Costco, we were thrilled with the help we got and with the amazing selection of available frames.  John added special wrap around cables to the glasses the girls picked out so that they can head-bang with the rest of the 4-year olds and keep their glasses from flying across the venue.

R enjoying the rewards of the day, chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.
R enjoying the rewards of the day, chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.

It has been two weeks now since the girls got their glasses.  M especially seems happier and more engaged now.  It’s surprising to me that glasses would make such a difference and I’m so happy that we were able to get them.  Both girls say that things seem bigger and clearer.  And, it’s also the easiest way to tell M & R apart now! I know they are grateful for that!photo[1]


Took our SoCal kiddos for an impromptu drive up into the snow two weeks ago and Mr. Cartigan found us a gem of a spot to play in.  Dora hasn’t frolicked in snow for years and she couldn’t contain herself on the drive up!  I realize the way I said that makes it seem like Dora knew we were going up to play in snow and that’s why she was excited.  Well, I told her that’s what we were going to do.  Okay, it was just badly worded.  She loves getting out of the city!  So do we.

Blue and bright in the valley.
Blue and bright in the valley.
Dora kept her eye on the prize.
Dora kept her eye on the prize.
"I can't wait for the snow cones!"
“I can’t wait for the snow cones!”
Own own private snow bank.
Own own private snow bank.
M & R explore.
M & R explore.

We were lucky to have this spot to ourselves.  We passed by a few spots teeming with Los Angelenos who scurried up the mountain to see mythical snow.  Yes, that is exactly what we did too.   We ran around, had snowball fights, looked for animal tracks, and engaged in general merriment.  (Have I mentioned I love snowball fights? Tonight R threw a wadded up t-shirt at my head and it was like a big hug.  I love snowball fights that much.)

It was beautiful and quiet (when I wasn’t screeching over snowball fights) and we loved it.

Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

I’d forgotten that driving to Palm Springs can be so beautiful!  There was snow on the mountain tops and green on the ground – it was stunning.

LA to Palm Springs
LA to Palm Springs

Because we had some time before our Playback troupe’s rehearsal, my mom and I took M & R to the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert where we had some SERIOUS play time!  The Discovery Museum is totally hands-on and I couldn’t keep myself from trying out each of their exhibits along with my girls.  It was nice that it was nearly empty the Friday afternoon that we went.  We had free reign of the place and it was indoors and cool.  A major bonus in the desert.

M & R playing Spider and Fly...  Pretty sure this spider was vegetarian.
M & R playing Spider and Fly… Pretty sure this spider was vegetarian.

My mom got in on the fun times!

My mom playing the stringless harp.  Doesn't she look like a natural? So graceful!
My mom playing the stringless harp. Doesn’t she look like a natural? So graceful!

Then my brother joined us…

M & R show their Uncle Garrett how the strobe fan works.
M & R show their Uncle Garrett how the strobe fan works.

A child-sized grocery store?!  With pretend food, carts, bags, register, and cash?!  Did I don the purple play vest and very seriously ask my girls if they’d found everything they were looking for, then make scanning-sound effect noises as I checked out my daughters’ purchases?  I think we both know the answer to that one.  I also got waaay into organizing and facing all the products.  But back to the kids…

The girls did an impressive job of honing their consumer skills at the child-sized grocery store.
The girls did an impressive job of honing their consumer skills at the child-sized grocery store.

Next door to the grocery was a child-sized pizza restaurant.  Check this business out!

Mama Mia!
Mama mia!
Hand made pizza!
Hand made oven-fired pizza! No child labor laws in sight!

They made pizzas for themselves, their Nona (my mom), Uncle Garrett, and me.  Then, they helped clean it all up.  The museum is so hands-on that kids are asked to tidy up the areas that they play in.  The supervision comes from the adult(s) that bring the child.  The one area that is closely supervised is the… car painting area!

A VW bug that you can paint...  Try to resist!
A VW bug that you can paint… Try to resist!

M spent a good deal of time working on this and started playing with another little girl, the two of them painting together.  Very sweet.

M working on the VW.
M working on the VW.

I liked the layers of colors on the car.  It looked like the bottom of a crayon box where all the crayon crumbs are randomly mixed and very pretty.

And there were so many other fun things to explore! A vet’s office with x-rays, a braille reading corner, archeological dig, racks of uniforms and dresses for dress up, a climbing wall… They had to kick us out because we were still playing at closing time.

R's cool rider.
R’s cool rider.

And though it’s not part of the museum, nor is it in Palm Springs, I’m including Dinny, the Cabazon Dinosaur because he’s always fun to see.  When I was a kid and we’d take family trips, if we neared Cabazon, my dad would always say, “We’re in dinosaur country now! Keep your eyes peeled!”

Dinny the Dinosaur
Dinny the Dinosaur

So on our drive home, we stopped so the girls could walk up and into the belly of the beast, and then come back out unscathed.

Playback Theatre


Last weekend Creative Change Conferences presented their fifth annual It Happens To Boys Conference.  Carol Teitlebaum, conference organizer, describes her goal to create spaces where men who have experienced abuse can share and begin to heal from those experiences here.  This year, conference presenters included Dave Pelzer (“A Child Called It”), John Bradshaw (“Healing the Shame that Binds You”), John Lee (“The Half Lived Life”), and Michael Meade (“Fate and Destiny: The Two Agreements of the Soul”).

Playback Troupe at It Happens to Boys Conference.
Playback Troupe at It Happens to Boys Conference.

The Playback Troupe, directed by Dr. Cindy Carter (pictured above in the red tunic) performed stories shared by conference participants.  I was fortunate to be invited to perform with the Playback Troupe this year.  Despite fears about performing after a 10 year hiatus, working with this group of actors and conference guests was an unforgettable experience.

Playback Theatre is a mix of storytelling and stylized improvised theatre.  Performers listen to the volunteer’s story and then create a short piece of theatre that attempts to capture the essence of the story.  We had amazing musical support from Garrett Liggett and Stephanie Thompson, their thoughtful and feeling musical contributions deepened our understanding of the storyteller’s experience.

Also on display at the conference were paintings by artist Scott Smith.  He showed a number of beautiful pieces and I wish I had photos of more of them.  The painting below was my favorite.  **Please see the comments section below to read Scott’s description of this piece.

Artwork by Scott Smith
Artwork by Scott Smith

Here’s the best photo I could get of Michael Meade with my iPhone.  Sorry folks, you’ll have to use your imagination for the rest.  He was an amazing speaker/singer/storyteller and quite personable.Michael Meade's presentation

Michael Meade’s presentation

I was a little familiar with his work but was quite taken with his easy way of being with the audience and with the subject matter he spoke about.  He talked about the roles of family vs. community in the emergence of one’s pursuit for personal meaning, saying that it may be too difficult for our close family members to see and reflect our calling to us.  Instead, we must search and find a person or people in our greater community that recognize and validate that part of our soul.  You can learn more about Michael Meade, his books, and his work with youth and veterans at the website for Mosaic Voices Multicultural Foundation.

Here’s a nice blurb to whet your appetite, also taken with my phone and also blurry:


And now a big thank you to Carol and Robert Teitlebaum for creating this place of healing.  I was touched and heartened by those I met and by all the work I saw happening around a piece of life that is often kept quiet.  As Carol mentioned in the interview linked to above, abuse of boys is often underreported and there are so many cultural mores work against getting help and support to children and boys especially.  Learn more about the annual It Happens to Boys Conference here.

Carol and Robert Teitlebaum
Carol and Robert Teitlebaum – Life is about giving and receiving love.

Bookworms Become Beautiful Librarians.

M & R in front of our neighborhood library.
M & R in front of our neighborhood library branch.

Growing up, our library’s entry had a wall of cement and glass bottles made by a woman who had constructed her entire house that way.  The amber, clear and green bottle butts were flush on the side facing the entry and all the mismatched necks stuck out the other side.  I loved walking past it.  More than that, I loved the reading tree.  The huge, realistic looking oak tree in the middle of the children’s wing had a tunnel through it, like the tunnels in giant redwoods that you can drive through.  But two little seats remained on the inside of the children’s tree, so if you and your kid brother went to the library and picked out books from the metal racks, you could climb in and sit facing each other in the middle of the giant tree and read.  It was AWESOME.  At some point when I was a teenager there was an article in the paper reporting the tree would be removed and shortly after that it disappeared forever from the children’s wing of that library.  I don’t know why they did that.  It was the best part of the entire library.  Well, maybe short of the books.  I still hope that some librarian’s kid got the tree and reassembled it in their (humongous) room and will someday allow people to visit and perhaps climb in and read a few short stories.

Inside the children's section of our neighborhood branch.
Inside the children’s section of our neighborhood branch.  Local elementary classes visit to get books weekly.

The town we live in now has a beautiful central library with an impressive number of smaller satellite libraries.  A librarian friend told me this is because when our town was first developing, the very genteel residents wanted to make libraries within walking distance of everyone, regardless of neighborhood.  Oh how I love this city.

The Children's Wing of the central library is huge and beautiful.  The mantle has a bas relief of Peter Pan, the girls' favorite story!
The Children’s Wing of the central library is huge and beautiful. The mantle has a bas-relief of Peter Pan, the girls’ favorite story!
The grandness of this wing imparts such respect for a child’s love of books.

There are all kinds of interesting books and people at these libraries.  Strangers strike up conversations with me there and I like that.  Sometimes they yell at me.  I like that less but I still like the mix.   The libraries now have stations where children can sit and watch parts of stories being read.  While I’m not crazy about the library being a place for screen time, the girls love it and usually ask to check out the book they’ve previewed.

Returning to children’s literature has been a huge bonus in this business of being a mama.  After growing up (if indeed I have) I didn’t read children’s books anymore but they hold a special magic for me.  When M & R are teens and well beyond such books I don’t imagine I’ll be able to leave them behind again.  There are so many stories that bring me such happiness and I love all of the art included in so many of the books we love.  I am grateful for the chance to borrow and read so many stories and I’m grateful for the ritual of our trips to the library.

M & R with one of their best friends at the central library.
M & R with one of their best friends at the central library.

The librarian at the girls’ preschool visits and reads stories to their class every Tuesday.  She calls M & R her “best customers.”  They can’t be read to enough.  I fall asleep reading stories to them more often than I’d like to admit.  Although I’m looking forward to the independence that learning to read will afford them, I hope they’ll be asking us to read stories to them for a long time.


Recently, R told me she wanted to be a librarian.  I loved hearing that though I know it doesn’t translate into an easy career at this point.  My librarian friend pointed out that as a librarian, he is now obsolete.  I’m not sure which direction libraries and librarians will go over the next 15 years but I am so pleased that these girls love stories as much as they do and I’m glad that we live in a place where books and stories are shared by so many.

I stumbled upon this message in a children's book about the brain.  I love it.
I stumbled upon this message in a children’s book about the brain. I love it.