The very first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant with Thomas was google “triple bunk beds.” I did this even before I went downstairs to tell Zac, who was in the kitchen making pancakes for the four children we already had. This is what is referred to as the presumptive close: yes, I’m pregnant again, and Wayfair has a triple bunk bed in stock now, free shipping, good reviews, only $539.

Our new house is 1504 square feet, or as I used to say, 250 square feet per person. Now that Thomas is here, we’re down…


Image from Pixabay

Some time ago, I became allergic to everything. I’d always had a few mild allergies to a few foods, things like avocados and sunflower seeds, and I managed just fine (though Southern Californians are forever baffled by anyone who doesn’t eat avocado). Then the food allergies began to grow, in both number and severity, joined by what I surmised was a type of pollen-dust mites-airborne-something allergy that presented itself like a long-lingering cold. At some point, I became allergic to almost every raw fruit, vegetable, tree nut, or seed. Almost every, but not every; the uncertainty made every meal a…


There’s been a lot of talk in the last week or two about whether or not there will be a Halloween this year. Of course there will be a Halloween! Twitter user pennysnark said it best:


Photo by author.

Last week, after months of sadness and worry, I got a promotional email from the Spirit Halloween store and instantly I felt glad to be alive. As in, I literally thought, verbatim, “I’m glad I am alive.”

This week on Twitter there’s been a lot of talk about what Halloween will look like this year. Many people worry there will be no Halloween at all, which is of course ridiculous. For all its long history, Halloween has been under threat (in the 17th century, it was outlawed). Halloween has been threatened by Puritanism, by urbanism, by deforestation, by commercialization, by…


I started this letter on March 4 and just reopened it again. The original letter began:

“Yesterday was an election day. I woke up early to go stand in front of the elementary school with some other parents and wave signs that read Yes on Measure I (a local school funding initiative). Everyone was in high spirits. We were preaching to the choir, of course, and that’s the most fun kind of preaching. Parents honked and waved as they drove by and shouted ‘I voted!’ out of their passenger windows. I ran in this election too, for a small local…


This week the most extraordinary thing happened. Beatrice was studying for a geography test, filling in a blank map of the United States, and her dad sent me a video of her memorizing all the states’ names and locations by reciting a long, convoluted mnemonic device that included lines like “Kansas isn’t where you think it would be because it starts with K, an unexpected letter.”

This is exactly what I do.

I wrote about a few of my mnemonics on my long-defunct blog:

While driving a car, in order to remember which pedal is the brake and which is…


Image by cwizner from Pixabay

This year Starbucks released the pumpkin spice latte on August 27, the earliest date yet and before Labor Day, another contender for the official marker of fall in America. It’s not cold anywhere on August 27 and no leaves are yet changing, but by some definitions, it was fall.

What is fall? The most common answer is that fall is when the weather changes from summer hot to winter cold — though this has never been true in large parts of this country and others, though it’s often not true even in the places you expect it to be, though…


Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

We got married! At the end of the day, at the end of the summer, on the edge of a mountainside, everything held still at the precipitous edge of fall. To begin the ceremony, my witch, Amanda Yates Garcia, called forth the four elements from the four corners of the earth, and when she called to the spirits of the air in the east, a wind blew in, right on cue. Later Amanda texted to say that the east is the place of new beginnings, where the sun rises.

This year we made the mistake of scheduling all our day…


On Dr. Lucy Jones, canned corn, slow rollers, and fast catastrophes

Photo: Ivan McClellan/Getty Images

“I thought a truck was going by,” someone says later. And someone else says, “I thought it was the upstairs neighbors.”

I was at a hair salon in Los Angeles when the first of the big Ridgecrest, California earthquakes struck on July 4, 2019. When the large, crystal chandeliers started swaying, my first thought was that it must be the wind. The phenomenon of the earth shifting beneath our feet is so contrary to expectation that it feels less probable than indoor wind.

It was not the wind. There was no one in the salon but my hair dresser, her…


This spring came the plague of butterflies. For two weeks in March, millions of painted lady butterflies flew through Southern California. Painted ladies visit Los Angeles every year on their migration from the Mojave and Colorado deserts to the Pacific Northwest, but rarely in such astounding numbers. This year their population was boosted by the equally apocalyptic superbloom, as record-breaking winter rains carpeted the deserts at the edges of the city with flowers. Here in the center the streets were choked with butterflies, parking lots and freeways massed with insects blinking orange and black like signal beacons.

The butterflies put…

Summer Block

Writer for Catapult, Longreads, The Awl, The Toast, The Rumpus, McSweeney’s, and so on. Owner of After-Party Taxidermy. Working on a book about Halloween.

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