Friday, September 30, 2005

James="one who supplants" ; Angus = "unique strength"

10:30 a.m. First morning home. James is sleeping on my bed, surrounded by Mimi, pillows, Jude’s stuffed animals, and some trains (Call CYS!). Dan is at work (I know, I know…but he loves what he does and had some important meetings this past week that got postponed unexpectedly…ahem). Si is at preschool. My in-laws are still touring new England by bus. I am showered, have eaten, and am writing a blog entry; I have only burst into tears once in the past 24 hours, and am actually contemplating going downstairs and baking some oatmeal cookies – good for the breast milk production, dontcha know). Wow, you are not kidding the third one is different! I do not anticipate this bliss lasting but I will enjoy it while I’ve got it.


First, thanks to all of you for all your good wishes, good vibes sent my way, and for liking his name! Dan will dine out on his 2 a.m. email story for years, and I am enjoying the looks on people’s faces when I tell them I posted a blog entry and went back to bed. Oh how very modern we are.

Indeed my water had broken. I showered, dropped Jude at daycare, stopped at Starbucks for hot chocolate for Si, and went to the doc’s office early for my 945 appt. When indeed it had been confirmed that it was amniotic fluid and I had not quite resorted to just peeing myself rather than getting my pregnant bulk to the bathroom every ten minutes, I was told they’d check me in to the hospital and get it going with a little “vitamin P” as I still was not contracting a whole bunch even though I was dilated 4 cm. Simon was intensely interested in all the hospital gewgaws but fortunately Dan came pretty much as soon as I called and whisked Simon away, as I believe the tender age of four is much too young to witness the miracle of childbirth, or even the spectacle of your mother with stranger’s hands in various orifices (he wrapped himself in the privacy curtain even though I made the doctor wait till he had left to do most of the invasive examining). In the meantime, I mildly contracted to Elmo singing stupid songs about – appropriately enough – new babies. (If it had been Barney on at the time, I might’ve just popped out the kid right then in disgust.) I also called work to tell them my maternity leave was starting NOW and not October 7, and the dentist to cancel that afternoon’s appointment, and Gina to check on the origins of the name Angus…

Dan came back around 130 after arranging all the necessary childcare, they cranked the pitocin, and I was on my way.

I got an epidural, even though the anesthesiologist knocked over his entire cart of drugs and equipment within five minutes of being in the room, which did not particularly inspire me with confidence. However at that point contractions were a minute and a half apart and I would have let Jack Kevorkian insert the epidural needle if need be.

And you know how they give you that little clicker thingey so you can send a little more of the drug streaming through your veins if you are feeling particularly “uncomfortable”? Well, I did it a few times and only discovered after actually giving birth that the damn thing had malfunctioned. No wonder I actually felt pain at the end…it blows my mind all the technology they use around pregnant women but they can’t control a little thing like a MY PAIN MEDS CLICKER THINGEY (…that, and they can never find me a hospital gown with all six shoulder snaps working).

So technically I was in labor for all of about four hours, not too bad, although the pushing was (sorry to burst your bubble, Joke) as hard as the first one. (And I will NEVER find out about the fourth or fifth, thank you very much…) Probably because the second practically did fall out (15 minutes), this one was more difficult in comparison (40 minutes). Well that, and I didn’t have any pain medication going into my body anymore.

Dan was all a husband in the delivery room should be. Except, between epidural and actual pushing, when he sat by my side patting my leg absentmindedly, no doubt thinking of a project at work, while I gritted my teeth and tried not to bite his hand off. I was *trying* to visualize ocean waves to get through a particularly bad contraction and all I could feel was him…pat, pat, pat…pat, pat, pat…of course if I had bitten his hand off, I’d only have vomited it up a few minutes later, so it really worked out ok.

And have I mentioned the plethora of people who show up in the delivery room? Joke and I had a thread going a while back about not even wanting my husband in the delivery room. But if you’re a stranger…sure, c’mon, in, join the party! At last point of paying any attention to that sort of thing, I had in the room the following people:

My husband
OB/Medical student
My nurse
Two other OB nurses
Two nursing students
Director of nursing education
Anesthesiologist resident

And me.

Really, at that point, why didn’t they invite in the janitor responsible for cleaning the room? Or the little old Italian lady waiting downstairs at the bus stop who patted my belly in the elevator and predicted a girl? I mean, why not? Right? I am never going to see most of these people again. And my dignity was shot to hell already, so really, bring in the crowds, charge admission, and get the little guy’s college fund off to a rollicking start.

So yeah.

James Angus, 3:57 p.m., September 27 2005
7 lbs. 12 oz; 20 ½ inches long
Lots of dark hair and an alarmingly loud hiccupping issue

And man, was Gina ever right about the hospital/vacation thing (although having your legs waxed hurts almost as much as childbirth, in my opinion…). Meals arrive at the appointed hour without my having to do anything; my room was cleaned for me; I had cable TV; and I got 200 pages of Green Darkness read, in addition to the newspaper every morning. Sign me up, it was the most relaxation I’ve had…since Jude was born!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Perhaps it's the realization that irrational fears about government headed by a chick pale in comparison to the reality of one headed by a turkey.

I have school on Tuesday nights, so I can't watch Commander in Chief, but I think I might start taping it, just because of this line from Rebecca Traister's Salon article: "Mac enters the Capitol rotunda to address the nation; there are the familiar words: "Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States"; and then Thelma Dickerson walks through the door. The moment sent chills. The audience was sniffling. Some of them perhaps hadn't been sure they'd live long enough to see this. Even on television."

Just *reading* that makes me tear up. I was one of those girls who begged for a subscription to Ms. and was enraged when I heard people refer to Mondale/Ferraro as "Fritz & Tits" (even though it gives me a chuckle now)--I've been happy to call myself a feminist since I learned the word. I have an undergraduate certificate in Women's Studies. I've always thought it was stupid that women in the Oval Office weren't a matter of course.

But I guess I never really *pictured* that scene. I think the thrill for me is in the fact that she is announced without that condescending- and cliched-sounding (to me, anyway) Madame President. She's just the president of the United States, and that's that. Wow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

It's a Boy!

Just a quick post while I'm on break from class: Val called around 5:30 to let me know that James Angus has indeed arrived. He's 7 pounds, 12 oz., and 20 1/2 inches long. He has lots of hair, and according to Val, "He's pretty cute." Ya think?!?!? :-)

Val and Jamey, as I bleieve she plans to call him, are both doing well and should go home on Thursday.

Happy Birthday, little guy!

possibly too much information...

what has this world come to, that the first people I inform of my incipient labor are my blog buddies? well, you know, my husband is sleeping and my in-laws are on a bus tour of New England and Gina is asleep, with a job to go to in the morning and a kid of her own.

Well, if this isn't me in labor, I am not sure what's going on. Big pop, sorta contraction-y thingeys...if not, I have a 9am appt with my OB who will no doubt tell me what's going on.

But Gina, if I die in childbirth, remember that Ilove you and I still have your last Jasper Fforde and your Jennifer Weiner.

I will keep you all posted - well, Gina will as she will be the first person I call. Or it will all be a huge embarrassing false alarm/wishful thinking and you'll never ever believe me again when I say I might be in labor. (You know, it's my third, you'd think I'd KNOW, wouldn't you??)

Monday, September 26, 2005

"It was a book to kill time for those who like it better dead." - Dame Rose Maccaulay

I “finished” Anne Rivers Siddons’ Sweetwater Creek pretty much the same way I’ve finished her past two – I read the first third, got disgusted, and skimmed though the rest to discover what the big tragic secret of the heroine was. Yawn. I give up. I am not even going to waste my time starting them from now on. Which is a shame because some of her early books were really engrossing.

I am going to use my came-in-the-mail 10%-off coupon coupled with my membership discount to buy Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown. I looked through it at B&N the other night and the first chapter was interesting enough to make me want to keep reading. Hope it’s better than Fury. Rushdie is one of the few authors I will take the chance of buying new, in hardback. (Some others include Byatt, Kingsolver, and Harry Potter : ))

I was at B&N to buy a Percy and a Harold the Helicopter for the new baby to “give” to the boys when we come home from the hospital. We did the same thing when we brought Jude home from the hospital, and Si still says, “Jude gave me this book because he was so happy I was his big brother.” It was worth the couple bucks.

I also ordered Finn Family Moomintroll and Comet in Moominland for Simon for Christmas. (I am trying to get some Xmas shopping done before el bambino shows up.)

I plucked Patrick Suskind’s Perfume off my shelf to read when I finish Children of God. It cropped up in some editor’s pick list recently, and I’ve owned it for ages. My reading is getting very scattered again. And I am obsessed with finding some article from a Harper’s a few months ago about termites in New Orleans. Dan mentioned it in passing and I want to read it.

Courtesy of Joke – Joke, you’re right, the little I’ve read so far of Bastiat *is* amusing. One Amazon reviewer said this, and I say he said it better than I could have:
Important economic concepts that a Samuelson might spend 2 pages of … econo-speak labouring to explain, Bastiat makes crystal clear in a 2 line pun or paragraph-long satirical swipe. The man is a joy to read - one of the few economists whose writings will make you laugh out loud.
(I sent this page off to my brother, too, in case he wasn’t aware but I am sure he is. He’s probably already read Bastiat’s books. I just started off with some essays I found online…)


Last Monday I cleaned the entire house, and yesterday I worked my way through all the laundry and did a huge stocking-up grocery shopping trip. Some people might call it nesting; I simply call it being prepared. Especially since my in-laws are out of town this week, so if I do go into labor, Dan hasn’t got ready help with the boys at hand. And my friend Deb, who is leaving town for several weeks, made and gave me a huge casserole to put in my freezer. I love any kind of present as much as the next person, but someone who gives a pregnant woman ready-prepared meals to have at hand deserves a special place in the afterlife.

My friend Leslie came over for dinner last night and I do believe Simon is in the throes of his first crush. He’s been wanting to meet her for ages, probably because I talk about her a lot since we work together just about every Saturday. And she was treated to a full tour of his “art gallery” (the pictures he has taped on his bedroom wall), his Thomas coloring book, and anything else he thought she might find interesting. He even came out onto the porch and invited her in to hear his bedtime story. Simon was also very nonchalant with his goodbyes, always a sign. Better be careful, Leslie, I think he’s got his eye on you. How do you feel about younger men?

In complete trivia – my husband keeps running off with my special favorite pens. They aren’t expensive or really all that special, they are Pilot push-button gel pens and I own them in red, blue, and black. I stock up on refills and keep the pens in my nightstand drawer. And the bugger keeps swiping them because he likes to do crossword puzzles/Harper’s puzzles with them. I believe the only solution is to buy him his own set and refills and then chain mine to my desk.

She Works Hard for the Money. So Hard for it, Honey.

I've been pretty quiet for a while now, mostly because our Traffic and Operations Manager is out at a conference and then taking some (well deserved) vacation time. I am her back up. I am not really qualified to be the person who generates and maintains the station's program logs and thus controls everything that goes on the air, but here I am, floundering. I don't like to flounder--it makes me crabby.

I will be temporarily less crabby after Wednesday, when she comes back, but that reprieve will likely be short-lived, as we start our fall Pledge Drive next week. Sigh.


I did house work and school work all weekend, aside from a surprisingly fun visit with my extended family Saturday night. My sister and I are Taboo Goddesses, and the rest of the family bows down to us--it's quite flattering.

I read Persepolis this weekend, which was as good as all the hype claims. Can something be considered stark and rich at the same time? It's a quick but absorbing read, and I got choked up more than once.

I also read David Rakoff's new book of essays, Don't Get Too Comfortable. Rakoff's funny, but I think his strength is in his intelligence/thoughtfulness. I wonder if hanging out with Rakoff, Sarah Vowell, Ira Glass and David Sedaris would be as fun as I think it would?


Teddy and I have started playing Myst III: Exile. We're using a walk-through, as neither of us has ever played a game like this, but it's a good time. Teddy is entranced by the graphics, which are admittedly cool but kind of give me a headache, and I love being able to work as a team to solve the puzzles/complete the quest.


That's it for me, I think. Back to work.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

...and good night to the old lady whispering hush.

I finished Goodnight Nobody last night. I forced myself to finish it. I enjoy Jennifer Weiner’s writing, and I really enjoyed her previous three books, especially In Her Shoes. But I do wish she hadn’t copped out to the “mommy mystery” with this new book. The mystery part just wasn’t that compelling and in my opinion, her efforts writing that part detracted from the writing of the interesting parts (what I thought of as the “Goodnight Nobody” parts) - motherhood, marriage, suburbia, reconciling herself to her disappointments in life, finding her identity as a grown woman. I think that sort of examination and thoughtfulness is where Weiner’s strength lies. So, yeah, I was disappointed.

Back to finish Children of God and then start Anne Rivers Siddons’ new one, which I got from the library. I am positive it will be formulaic and trite, but I couldn’t help myself.

Simon has discovered Aesop’s fables, which are at times perhaps a bit more violent/bloody than I’d like, but he seems ok with it. It started as a quest to find the tale abut the mouse and the lion with the thorn in his paw, which I soon discovered/remembered was actually “Androcles and the Lion.” I got him a library book of the tales in poem form but I don’t like them all that much. I think I will just dig up my old copy of Aesop’s Fables for Children and start him off with that.

Look, look – I am so excited! Audrey Niffenegger of Time Traveller’s Wife fame has a new book out. I will go buy it immediately. Right after I buy Salman Rushdie’s new one (I have only so much disposable/book income).

I came home yesterday to a package from Amazon. I hadn’t ordered anything. I love when things like this happen! My little brother sent us a book we had all been discussing last week: The Road to Serfdom, which he thought we’d be interested in (ok, it’s really more Dan’s thing, but still…) so he sent us a copy. I love it when people send me books.

I love finding books my husband might be interested in. This one, Odyssey of the Voice showed up in a catalog from Plural Publishing, which I receive, along with lots of other catalogs and mailings, courtesy of my MLA membership.

I must call the hotel in Lancaster AGAIN today, for the third time, because apparently it’s just too difficult to call back a frantic parent who is trying to find her son’s beloved Bunky that got left behind in the tangled bedclothes. Thank God we didn’t forget the child, although perhaps *that* might warrant a returned call…

Friday, September 23, 2005

"Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise." - Margaret Atwood

Dropping Si off at preschool this morning, Jude cried because he wanted to stay. I told him we had to go home, but we would work on potty-training so he could go to St Andrew’s next fall. So, an hour later, he looks up at me from his trucks on the floor and says, “Me work on my potty train now.”
So I say, “Ok, let’s go sit on the potty.”
“No! Me build my potty train now.”
Light bulb clicks on – how do I explain this one? Do I turn the potty seat into an engine? Will that work? Ack! It's the newest Thomas character, Stinky the Port-a-Potty Engine.

Help. I so cannot cope this morning. I didn’t sleep last night because at one point or another both boys climbed into and then out of my bed, and I also have a raging headache. And I woke up at 4 with such an awful cramp in my hips that I truly thought I was in labor until I managed to shift myself. God, I hate mornings, and this one in particular.

I have been referring to the city website for public school/magnet school application information and deadlines. Where, it came to my attention this morning, all the dates are WRONG.

This is a process fraught with huge stress and anxiety anyway – you are only allowed to apply to one magnet school, and then you wait to hear if you – um, I mean your child - got in via lottery. If you are wait-listed, then you can apply to another magnet and start all over again. You can of course just go to your neighborhood school - unless it sucks – which ours does. Or you can do what everyone else in this city did and move to the suburbs where there are no sidewalks, but there are a lot of soccer moms discussing the benefits of organic milk and precut baby carrots (ok, I stereotype, but if you met my SIL you would understand!), and terrific public schools.

And also now we have returned to Square One in the Catholic school/public school debate in this household. My husband is a raised-Catholic atheist. I was raised fundamentalist Baptist and pretty much avoid all organized religion whenever possible. So do we suck it up, ignore our principles, and get the kids baptized to get them into the desired Catholic grade school? Deal with my kids learning about things we don’t believe in? Pretend we do believe while dealing with school admin and other devout parent-types? (They will without doubt go to the Catholic all-boys high school my husband and every other male in his family have gone to since time immemorial, but there’s a big difference between sending a 5-year-old to religious school and sending a 13-year-old to religious school.)

I hold the position that if we chose to live in the city because it’s a good place to live and only if normal people live here and try to better it, will it get better, then we should also support the city’s school system. But my idealistic husband, who is generally on the same page, loses all idealism and social conscience when it comes to the kid, and is ready to be baptized himself if that’s what it takes to get him into Catholic school. Let other idealistic parents support the public schools – their kids can suffer, ours will not. So not only do I feel as if I am being a bad parent because I continue to insist we live here and not skedaddle to the suburbs, but also because I actively want my kids to go to the public schools.

And I thought pregnancy and labor were difficult.


Gina said in a post last week:
Carolyn’s post from last night made me think again about what will happen to my parents when they get old. It's easy for me to pretend that I won't have to worry, because my grandmother is 81 and still works full-time as a home-health nurse and is a CERTIFIED FITNESS INSTRUCTOR who teaches "Sliver Sneakers" classes at the Y.

As much as I like to assume that my mother will follow that lead, I don’t suppose I can. So can I take my parents in if/when they can no longer live on their own? I’m willing, of course, but will I be able? Will I have the skills? Will I have the money? Will they?

Here’s my take.

I have the good fortune (or perhaps bad fortune, depending on when you catch me) to not have to worry about this particular issue, at least in regards to my parents. My dad’s been dead for 18 years, and my mother for 7. However, while my father died suddenly, my mother lingered for a couple months, going through first transplant hopes, then palliative cancer care both in the hospital and a nursing home. I crumble under the weight of everyday mundanity, but boy do I kick some ass in a crisis, and I was so on top of my game.

But – and this is a huge but – there was easily enough cash to sustain decent care for the few short months we needed it (and I had my act together enough to get my mom signed up for her Medicare benefits the day she turned eligible age). There was always an end in sight - I never had to wonder how many years the situation was going to linger; it was really only a matter of months, if that.

I also was foresighted enough to obtain power of attorney, so I could pay her bills and make medical decisions when she was unable. If you have elderly parents/relatives living with you, this is something VERY important you need to consider and discuss. My mom would have happily buried her head in the sand - which is some of the reason we didn’t find out she was so sick until it was too late to do much – but uncomfortable and stark as it may be, these issues need to be discussed.

I have made VERY clear my viewpoints and wishes about life support, feeding tubes, etc., to my husband. I have discussed with him in great detail what is and is not acceptable for me, and what is to be done with my body after death. Maybe I am morbid, but I like to see it as being prepared and making his life easier in the instance of my death. I have also listened carefully to his views and wishes. And if you have parent/s living with you, it’s that much more important since you as their child are probably not the default decision-maker or caregiver.

There was also no question that my mother HAD to be in a nursing home – the care she required was far beyond anything any of us could offer at home. That made some decisions a bit easier at least. If you feel you have to decide between home care/home nursing and a nursing home, it can wreak emotional and practical havoc. It adds a new dimension to an already difficult situation.

Now I have already made it clear to my husband that if and when his parents need help, I am there. They can live with us; we can contribute cash if needed; I will do whatever it takes, as if they were my own parents. Not necessarily because I adore them but because I believe in respecting and loving and caring for your elders. Some of it is all about karma and some of it is about being a decent person and being able to live with yourself. They are both completely healthy, but you never know from one day to the next what can or will happen.

I never really felt like an adult until I cared for my mom during her illness and death. And I think in some regards, you aren’t fully an adult until you’ve been through the death of your parents. But in my infinite wisdom and knowledge – HA! – I have to say these two things, to all of you who have to think about this and may have to deal with it one day:

1.Discuss all the options before it’s reality, before you HAVE to make a decision.
2.Make sure your parents know what you can and are willing to do, and what you absolutely can’t, and discuss how they can help or make it easier in the future.

In most cases, you all love each other, and nobody wants to be a burden. Keep those things firmly in mind.


Now I am off to eat another piece of coconut cake for breakfast. Perhaps it will make me feel better.

Oh, ok, and REM was just on Sseame Street singing "Furry Happy Monsters." Life just got a bit better. Michael Stipe cavorting with muppets pretty much warmed the cockles of my heart. Although what's with the Kirstie-Alley-lookalike Muppet?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

September has come, It is hers whose vitality leaps in the autumn,

Whose nature prefers
Trees without leaves and a fire in the fire-place;
So I give her this month and the next
Though the whole of my year should be hers who has rendered already
So many of its days intolerable or perplexed
But so many more so happy;
Who has left a scent on my life and left my walls
Dancing over and over with her shadow,
Whose hair is twined in all my waterfalls
And all of London lilttered with remembered kisses.

- Louis MacNeice, "Autumn Journal"


Happy autumn, everyone. I love this time of year – but I think I say that with every season. Fall makes me want to break out my knee socks and new school shoes, and sharpen some pencils. Oh, and bake an apple pie. Instead what I really need to do is schedule tours of public school kindergartens and fill out applications to magnet schools for Si for NEXT fall.

I am halfway through Children of God and while I find the plot slightly less believable than that of The Sparrow, the characters, especially those of Fr. Emilio Sandoz and Supaari VaRakhati, are so compelling and intricately drawn that I have to keep reading to find out what happens to them.


Last night I started the new Jennifer Weiner, Goodnight, Nobody. Gina is right, it is very reminiscent of Ayelet Waldman’s mysteries, except I do like the main character of this one better (probably because she dresses the same way I do : )). But God, I HATE her husband, what the hell is wrong with him? There’s this whole bit where he gets mad at HER because his kids' birthday party was not a three-ring circus that made me want to fling the book across the room (and if it had been my copy, I probably would have.) Why can't anyone write a book where the husband is a nice guy trying to do his best and yet the mom still feels like a failure?

And also, the parts about her parents – her father is an oboeist and her mother is an opera singer. Where have I read this before? It sounds so familiar – maybe Dewey Decimal System of Love? I’d have to look. But the estranged musician parents plotline has definitely been done before.


OK, I give up, Sebastian Faulks has crossed the radar one too many times to be ignored any longer. It is a sign from the gods, or something. After this article in The Guardian, I really need to read his Human Traces.


I love A.S. Byatt. I think she is a genius and among the finest writers living today. As soon as I am guaranteed fifteen minutes of uninterrupted peace, like sometime in the next twenty years, I will read this article about her use of fairy tale imagery in her short stories.


Check out these children’s books, shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. They all look pretty good. Gina, care to read them and report back, maybe for some sort of credit for your Kids’ Lit class? I’ll speak to Maggie about it : )



My boys are busy performing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “By the Way” at the top of their lungs. It’s ok until they get to the part where they freak out across the stage shouting things that sound like “Pork Chop!” and “Wombat!” and that I am fairly sure are actually profanities. My walls are in danger of being whacked to bits by foam baseball bats and waywardly-flung dolls and Pooh bears in the frenzy.

OK, my guy JD won the Rockstar INXS thing. He is the new lead singer of INXS. I even whooped and cheered, before I realized that all my windows were open, it was 11 at night, and other normal people might be already sleeping. But really – he’s sexy, attitudinal and confident, holds the crowd in the palm of his hand, has the moves and the voice, and meshes nicely with the band. Go, JD! And now the freakish Marty (who at last count had 28 teeth just on his bottom jaw) can go star in some adaptation of Kurt Cobain’s life directed by Tim Burton.

The neighborhood has had a strange rash of plant thefts this past two weeks. Someone perused my plants (according to my usual modus operandi, purchased half-dead and cheaply from Home Depot’s end-of-season sale) and selected the purple azalea bush, leaving behind the pink azaleas, some purple asters, and a whole clump of black-eyed Susans. They then carefully dug it up, roots and all, and took it away. I was so pissed.

And in baby news – everyone, including my OB, seems to be under the impression that this child is going to be a girl. Hmmm.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"He's tasting victory. I'll bet it tastes good, like salt-water taffy or a Chunky." - Cleveland Brown, "The Family Guy"

One of my closest friends from college got married last weekend. As soon as I found out I was pregnant and due only three weeks after her wedding, I called her and told her very regretfully that I could not come to the wedding. The ceremony was taking place an hour or so outside L.A., entailing a bus trip from the airport to the resort. I would be coming alone, thirty-seven weeks pregnant, and staying about an hour from the nearest hospital. The airlines will not permit you to fly after 36 weeks, and my OB absolutely forbade it. Lauren was incredibly cool about it – she didn’t even take me up on my offer to name the child after her : ) For her honeymoon, she and Frank are taking the QEII cruise to England. I hope they had an awesome time, and I cannot wait to see pics. I haven’t met her husband but he seems like a terrific guy - and one of the biggest benefits of the match is that he is NOT in show business. Lauren’s very successful in her field, and very ambitious and driven, and it’s good for us/those theatre types to have civilians to offset the tension and artificially-created stress of theatre/TV life.

So having said all that, at one point in the drive to the shore last Saturday there was a part of me that was so incredibly grateful that I was not 1) flying to L.A. at all, and 2) flying from L.A. to Philly on September 11. I felt like a worm not to be at her wedding, but there you have it, my honest feelings about the whole plane thing. I am a bad friend.


Dan likes to listen to music while he drives; I adore driving by myself so I can revel in the silence. However, driving to the beach, he put in Ziggy Stardust. I have never listened to the whole album – I enjoyed it. And, as a big fan of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, it also became very clear to me where John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask took their inspiration. Pretty cool.


Jude spent much of the ride to the beach coloring – books, paper, Mimi. He spent much of the ride home dropping handfuls of crayons down the far side of his carseat until his brother finally noticed that his crayon choices were getting slimmer and slimmer. By the way, I am in love with these new crayons that I bought for the boys.


The Smiths had a very cool clock, the top half of which was a normal clock and the bottom half, a tide clock. (The background was a map of the coast of NJ – my brother and I finally found out where the heck our parents had been taking us to the beach all those years – this itsy bitty little beach called Whale Beach just south of Strathmere. Why we didn’t just go to Ocean City like every other South Jerseyite, I do not know.) Anyway, the tide clock fascinated Simon, and Dan spent some time explaining ebbing, flowing, and the moon’s effects on the tides to him. Si spent most of the rest of the week saying things like, “It’s fibbering – um, febbing - now but soon it will be flowing.” Or, “It’s low tide. That means soon it will be fibbing.”


Si got way too much sun on Monday – we were all having such a good time building the sand structure of the century that we spent three hours on the beach. So Tuesday he felt a little grumpy and warm and not so well. We did not go to the beach that day. But the next morning, after lots of water and some sleep, he said to me, “Mama, I still feel a bit yesterdayish.” What I longed to say was that I spend most of my life feeling a bit yesterdayish. But isn’t that a great turn of phrase? How handy can that description be? I love it.


My weirdo older brother has been promising for weeks that he was coming down to the shore (about a 45-minute drive for him) on Wednesday. Wednesday came and went – three calls to his cell, no response. He never showed up. I got nervous enough that I called his work Thursday morning, and he had indeed been at work the previous night. Oh good, so at least we know he’s alive. I spent most of the first half of the week listening to the two boys be excited that Uncle Curt was coming on Wednesday, and then a lot of Wednesday fielding questions like, “When is Uncle Curt coming? Will he be here by lunch/nap/dinner/tomorrow morning?” By Thursday morning, I was furious. My mother used to turn her phone off because she couldn’t be bothered answering it, and after a week or so of listening to it ring and ring, I would eventually get concerned and call one of her neighbors to go check up on her – invariably she was just fine. This whole experience was so reminiscent of that that it made me physically ill.

I was angry at my brother most for disappointing his two nephews. He did finally call Friday morning (I admit I was still angry and did not answer my cell when I saw the caller ID) and left this message: “Um, it’s Friday morning. I guess I will catch up with you later.” Asshole. Obviously I am still furious. I am even contemplating not calling him when the new baby arrives. I am soooo pissed at him right now.

The mental instability/illness factor in my family runs high – the difference between us is that I have gotten help and am on meds; my little brother admits he’s a bit unstable and has a wonderful wife who is a terrific influence on him; Curt just acts like it’s normal to be totally anti-social and not give a shit about anyone other than himself.


With Lincoln we have a man whose depression spurred him, painfully, to examine the core of his soul; whose hard work to stay alive helped him develop crucial skills and capacities, even as his depression lingered hauntingly; and whose inimitable character took great strength from the piercing insights of depression, the creative response to it, and a spirit of humble determination forges over decades of deep suffering and earnest longing.
[Shenk, Joshua Wolf. Oct 2005. “Lincoln’s Great Depression.” The Atlantic Monthly 296 (3): 52-68.]

Dan read this on vacation and handed it to me to help me understand how he feels (“just not as grandiose,” he said) about his struggles with his depressive issues. Which made me feel like a shallow depressive – heck, when I am in the depths, all I feel is stupid and useless and burdensome. I don’t see it as honing the steel of my soul or developing my character; I just feel guilty and worried and dumb. And weak that I feel that I need pharmaceuticals to help me live a halfway normal life.



I have discovered the glories of Celestial Seasonings Lemon Ice cold-brew tea. I love iced tea but it takes time to make a decent pitcher. Now you just pour water over these tea bags and ten minutes later you have perfectly delicious iced tea.

I am all over James’ saltwater taffy, as opposed to the standard South Jersey Fralinger’s. I bought three boxes and ate two over the course of the past week. Mostly because there is NOT a preponderance of peanut butter taffies in each box of James’ like there is in the Fralinger’s. Peanut butter saltwater taffy is revolting. I realize I’ve mentioned this before, but I feel very strongly about my saltwater taffy.

In Lancaster we asked the hotel clerk for a restaurant recommendation – she directed us to the Plain and Fancy Farm, “the ultimate Amish experience.” Yes, well, ultimate in the sense of what the Amish lifestyle would be like if Disney got a hold of them. We didn’t even turn off the car, we just U-turned and found a different place to eat. When we walked in and saw three tables full of Amish and Mennonites (the locals, in other words), we figured we’d found the right place. We had.

Dan ditched The Sparrow: he said he was fifty pages in and didn’t care to find out what happened. There is no way I could give him a plot synopsis, the book is too complex. And I was really disappointed that he didn’t like it; I still think if he’d stuck with it, he would. Oh well. Maybe I am deluding myself and it’s not all that great of a book? Sigh.

The INXS finale is tonight. It must be JD or all will have been in vain.

I totally love Stewie from The Family Guy. What do you think of the name Stewart if the baby is a boy? Hmmm…

Simon has developed this irritating new tic: he's only clearing his throat but it really sounds like he's trying not to spew all over himself. It makes *me* want to sympathy-puke, thank God the morning sickness is long over. But it is driving me INSANE.

Did I mention my little brother (who is a kick-ass chess player) taught Simon to play chess this week? It started out as, “OK, Si, now this is a leetle queenie-weenie. She only wants to move a little itsy bit each time, so…” until two hours later, it was, “All right, you just took my rook. I am now going to check your queen, except…oh, I can’t do that. Shit. Let me think…”

Monday, September 19, 2005

"Never judge a book by its movie." - J.W. Eagan

A Salon article about Nancy Drew – I have all of mine, but have never reread them since about high school. Maybe I should -- although I was a huge Trixie Belden fan and would rather reread her; incredibly dated but still fun. If this next child happens to be a girl, I suppose I’ll be rereading all of them anyway.

This program to Adopt a Library affected by Hurricane Katrina is a great idea. I may mention it at work and see what sort of reception the idea gets.

I am sorry but Elijah Woods’ huge expanse of forehead and bulgy bug eyes just freak me out. And yes, I know Gina wants JSF desperately : ) but he looks so much like this pretentious twit in my sophomore class in college who went by the unlikely nickname of Soda (weren’t we a little old for Hinton references?) that I can’t look at him either. Needless to say, I will not be seeing the movie. I will have to rely on Gina for the review.

And attacking another of Gina’s icons (sorry, Gina, not on purpose) – who the hell does Neal Pollack think he is? He is not fit to prop up one of Salman’s droopy eyelids.

Just discovered this worthy-of-checking-out blog, thanks to Michael Schaub at Bookslut, who also comments that he thinks “librarians are the coolest people in the world.” I KNEW I liked that man. Thanks, Michael! And what started this whole thread of compliments: his bit on Bookslut this week about Parents Protecting the Minds of Children. In my humble opinion, you have to do more than just quote a couple of blurbs from an entire book to prove your point that a book may not be suitable for teenagers to read. I do not believe in censorship; I do believe in being aware as a parent and keeping an eye on what your kids are watching and reading. But again, taking passages from a book that contains curse words and sex scenes – a half a page out of a two- or three-hundred page book – not going to do much to convince me of anything except that perhaps you have way too much time on your hands.

And in that vein, Lolita is one of the most powerful and beautifully written books I have ever read. Go on and ban that, babe – you will deprive readers of one of the most incredible reading experiences of their lives.


I finished Corelli’s Mandolin over vacation. It was a nice enough book, not really all that compelling, but I have no idea how they made any sort of movie out of it at all, let alone a decent one. I love Nicolas Cage, so toyed with the idea of seeing it, but Charles Taylor says it’s awful.

I tried to start Rule of Four but either wasn’t in the right mood or the writing really was that bad. So instead of dutifully finishing A Civil Action I started Children of God and can’t read it fast enough. It’s a little bit clumsier than The Sparrow but still believable and engaging, with great characters and a driving plot. I am about halfway through it and look forward to reading Russell’s only other book Thread of Grace.

Dan finished the fourth Jasper Fforde, which he liked a whole lot better than the second and third books, and started The Sparrow.


So Si is in school this morning and I thought I’d have some peace and quiet. But no. Jude is repeating endlessly, “No, Septimus! No, cat, no! Owww! No, cat!” and the cat just keeps trying to play with Jude’s tank engines. Good Lord, what next?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

"You're not a wave, you're a part of the ocean."

Despite everyone’s fears, I decided to boldly go on vacation to the beach regardless of my very pregnant state. I am happy to inform you all that I have returned from New Jersey more pregnant than when I got there. The heartburn is incredible, I am always short of breath, and if this child does not emerge soon I will be increasingly cranky.

And by the way, have you ever tried to body surf with an eight-month pregnant belly and a maternity suit? You wind up looking and feeling like an indecently attired beached whale. The ocean swimming part of this vacation consisted – after my first vain attempts at riding waves in my normal fashion – of wading around collecting shells for Simon to put on his sand structures. The only down side of this was when he decided to decorate the beach umbrella dyke with shells and then the umbrella blew over and Dan had to stamp the umbrella back into the dyke. Ouch.

We rented the same beach house that we stayed in last year. Two blocks from the beach, a lovely deck on the back, a short walk to the Wawa for the newspaper and some soft pretzels (breakfast of Philly champions) in the morning. The beach itself at 100th Street is nice and wide and has a sandbar about twenty yards out that keeps the waves fairly gentle.

The only problem this year – the Catholic church across the street was scheduled to finish construction on its parish community hall in March (we spoke to the head priest last year before booking for this year.) We figured, even with delays, that we were safe as there was an almost-six-month cushion. When we pulled up to the house and noted the dumpsters and buckets of mortar and front-loader parked in the parking lot, my heart sunk. Dan and I are both incredibly noise-sensitive anyway, and we both just tensed. We had a lovely weekend and spent a lot of it telling each other that it might not be too bad, etc. I was walking back from the beach seven a.m., Monday morning – the front loader was pushing the dumpster across the parking lot and the whine of electric drills had already begun. We spent Monday morning trying to convince ourselves it wasn’t too bad. Who were we kidding? It was awful and loud and intrusive and perfectly poised to ruin our peaceful vacation.

My little brother pointed out that the real state trend at the shore is to buy a perfectly nice little house for, say, a million bucks and then rip it down to build some monstrosity right out to the property lines, which you may then, if you wish, sell for three million bucks. Building these houses is an incredibly lucrative way to make a living at the shore, and the contractors are pretty much kept busy year-round. So a modest half-a-mil church project probably just kept getting pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Hence the delay.

Enter our heroes – my little brother’s in-laws. I may have mentioned them before – Dan and I adore them, they are wonderful, wonderful people who are generous and thoughtful and kind and deserve all the good things in life they have. They are my model for a successful marriage, and for successful parenting. (In addition to my delightful and lovely sister-in-law, they have three other girls and a boy, all of whom clearly love and respect their parents.) Last summer they bought a house in Stone Harbor, where they have been vacationing for years. It is a block from the beach and it’s huge because they have a large family. We were lucky enough to be able to coordinate with my brother and his wife so that we got to see them all weekend the first weekend. I got to meet my new nephew who looks JUST LIKE my little brother, which is just freaky. And my sister-in-law and her mom offered us the keys to their house, so we would have someplace quiet to stay. The house we rent is cozy and shabby and comfortable. I don’t worry about the boys coloring on the walls or dropping food on the carpets; it can all be scrubbed down. The Smiths’ house is gorgeous, like something out of House Beautiful. (Not that they are fussy *at all* but *Dan and I* spent a good portion of time vacuuming up sand and admonishing the boys to not color anywhere but on paper, on the table.)

So we packed everything up and moved two blocks up and thirteen blocks over, to a palatial resort home. It was a very nice week, in a house that is bigger and nicer than our real house. It was mostly quiet on that end of town, and we could see and hear the ocean from the upper deck. Other than Jude’s rampant diaper rash/yeast infection exacerbated by his penchant for eating sand, and the fact that by the end of the week I had packed and unpacked our stuff something like eight times (more on that later), it was a peaceful and playful week. We took the boys to the beach to swim and jump waves and build sand castles; we did a little shopping for salt water taffy and things like that; we got homemade ice cream at Springer’s which was open this week this year – I was hoping for their coconut-pineapple bisque ice cream but the Almond Joy flavor I had to settle for was delicious as well.

By the end of the week, the boys had discovered the joy of sitting in the tide and letting the waves smack them in the face – I am sure they *still* have sand in their ears. We have boxes full of chunks and bits of clam shells, and some sunburn on all of us. I have a fetching new sunhat – bright yellow, bucket-style with navy trim and a zippered pocket on the brim - you can’t be too choosy when you’re shopping in the last week of the season.

So – why all the unpacking/packing, you may ask? Well, the youngest host child was coming to the shore with ten of his friends Friday evening, and we had no desire to inflict ourselves on him, or his friends on ourselves. So we packed up, cleaned up, and headed out. In some incredible and unusual stroke of good luck, we got a hotel room in Lancaster, a few miles from Strasburg, where Thomas the Tank Engine was doing one of thrice-yearly weeklong stints hosting what really wound up being a very surreal convention for four-year-olds. When we checked in, we were worried about our boys disturbing other hotel guests. Dan’s exact words were, “We are someone’s worst nightmare.” However, MY boys were asleep by nine, and considerably better behaved than roughly 75% of the rest of the little conventioneers. Of course it helped that we didn’t breathe word one about Thomas until we had tickets in hand and were on our way to the train station.

The Thomas event was my idea of hell. Screaming children, fat sweaty parents, crowds, port-a-potties – and good lord was it hot. But I had a good time watching my boys be delighted. We rode Thomas, and we rode Douglas (who is one of the big black twin engines, I was reliably informed), and ate some lunch. (I actually really enjoyed the train ride parts. Very peaceful. I could’ve gone to sleep.) Then we went and took pictures with Thomas. Dan told the boys that Sir Topham Hatt had had to go back to the main branch line to deal with some troublesome trucks, and Simon had several helpful suggestions to make; it saved us from the hour-long line to meet said Hatt. (I know, we are rotten, ROTTEN parents.) Then we bought Jude Annie and Clarabelle, and Si picked Gordon and we skedaddled. (I did do some minor Xmas shopping – T-shirts and Colorforms)

So we wound up back here last night, after one last diner stop for dinner (where I had some incredible coconut cream pie). And today we did laundry and de-sanded and bathed and unpacked and grocery-shopped, and all those lovely vacation’s end tasks that make you sad. My boys set to work constructing a giant train set/village complete with volcano and circus to run their new engines around in.

So that’s the non-thinking rundown. I will post again later with important or off-topic bits, and whatever else pops to mind. I did do some reading, and the boys did and said some hilarious stuff, and Dan and I had several philosophical discussions, all of which I am eager to share. But now – I must sleep while I still can. Three Tums, a Tylenol, and prenatal vitamin, and I am off to Dreamland.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Welcome Home, BB!

A virtual lemon tree, to welcome you back to your virtual home. :-)

Friday, September 16, 2005


Teddy had a homework assignment last night wherein he had to write a statement, then a question, and then an exclamation, all about the same topic. Imagine seeing this in the handwriting of a third-grade boy: I like corn. Do you like corn? I LOVE CORN! I've been laughing about that since I saw it last night.


Carolyn’s post from last night made me think again about what will happen to my parents when they get old. It's easy for me to pretend that I won't have to worry, because my grandmother is 81 and still works full-time as a home-health nurse and is a CERTIFIED FITNESS INSTRUCTOR who teaches "Sliver Sneakers" classes at the Y.

As much as I like to assume that my mother will follow that lead, I don’t suppose I can. So can I take my parents in if/when they can no longer live on their own? I’m willing, of course, but will I be able? Will I have the skills? Will I have the money? Will they?


Of concern: In class last night, Resources for Children, a woman who’s just had a baby mentioned the absence of mothers in the books we were discussing. I mentioned that in some books for very small children, like Good Dog Carl and The Cat in the Hat, mothers can’t be present, because mothers generally maintain order and safety and peace—mothers prevent wacky adventures more often than not. The professor said, “That’s very astute, Gina. I hadn’t thought of that.”

WHAT?!?!?! I thought she was being sarcastic, but others assured me that wasn’t the case. How can this woman whose life’s work is children’s books (she served on TWO selection committees for the NEWBERY!) not have considered this most basic of ideas?!?!?!?

I was really let down.


Okay, happier things: Val is coming home tomorrow! I’ve missed her this week—blogging, e-mailing, and lunch just weren’t the same.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Corpse Bride

I took Teddy to a “special screening” of this last night(I have no idea why Pittsburgh got a screening of a movie that opens in “select cities” tomorrow and then everywhere else the following weekend, but I got free passes from work, and I don't ever question the goodness of free passes).

I like Tim Burton as much as the next erstwhile hipster, but I haven’t seen one of his movies for years and I remember them being much darker than this one. It’s inarguable, of course, that accidentally marrying a corpse is dark, but this movie is positively cheerful and even (and I shudder to use the phrase) life-affirming to a Disney-like degree. It isn’t precious at all, as Disney can be; it sort of echoes old-school Disney, like Sleeping Beauty.

It was fun and cool to look at, especially considering that everyone and everything recalled those Christmas specials with Rudolph and Chris Kringle and the elf who wanted to be a dentist.

I liked the songs, and I liked the story, and I even got a little choked up at the very end (because I’m a sap and a sucker and cried when Snoopy wouldn’t come home), but all in all, . . . eh. I’m glad it was free.


We saw the trailer for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which looks like it will be lots of fun. I’m very fond of this book, and will be disappointed if the movie is as bad as the first two. The boy who plays Ron seems to be growing less annoying as he gets older, which is a relief.


I’m reading Infinite Jest. It’s going to take me forever, because I have tons of reading for school this semester, but I found myself getting crabby because I wasn’t reading for fun. I know David Foster Wallace makes some people want to swing annoyed punches, but I eat him up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Not Much, You?

Cathy Small, a 52-year-old anthropologist at Northern Arizona University, has just published a book called My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student. She noticed that her students weren’t engaged in class—falling asleep, eating full meals, whatever—and she wanted to know why.

She went undercover to find out, and she talks a bit about the experience in a Salon interview today. I wasn’t at all surprised by the things she discovered, but she went to college in the 70’s, before going to college was commonplace—now more than half of high school graduates go on to college, and Small notes this. She mentions that kids in college now are training to be able to compete for jobs in a way that her generation didn’t really have to. She also bemoans the fact that there’s little sense of community outside of the Greek system, because everyone is busy making themselves into perfect job candidates.

I’m sure there’s truth to that, but I think there’s something else to it: I think it’s taken for granted now that college is necessary, but because “everyone” goes to college, it’s not cool. No one wants to be engaged because, why should they bother, when college means nothing anymore? I think many people are just doing what they need to do to get through.

This might change if the custom of going straight to college from high school wasn’t so prevalent. If people took time after high school and worked or volunteered or traveled—or some combination of those—I think college would be a lot different. I think some people would realize their interests and passions don’t require college degrees. I think others would find passions that college might help them pursue. Maybe then colleges would be full of people who want to be there, rather than people who are smart enough and think they have no choice but to get some kind of BA.

Okay, I’m off the soapbox.


I had a call from Val yesterday, and I freaked when I saw her name on my Caller-ID. No baby yet, though: She was just checking in. The weather is lovely and they’re having a great time, although they were planning to move to another house because they were right across the street from a construction site. Even on vacation, nothing is ever easy.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

September 11th

There isn't much to say about this day--I certainly can't come up with anything new or of any special value. Go and make sure the people you love know that you love them.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky...

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.


Off for the week to the shore. Blog you when I get back.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Opinions, Please

My kid wants a bigger bed. He's tired of waking up with arms and legs hanging over the sides of his twin, and I'm pretty tired of him trying to weasel his way into my queen. Would it be feasible to get a full-sized loft thing (like from Ikea), and put that over his existing bed? That way he has a place for his friends to sleep (now they sleep together on the futon in the TV room, but they're going to be too big to want that/fit there soon).

Any thoughts?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Businesses lose approximately $13 billion per year due to migraines...

The Booker short list has been announced. I am sadly deficient in my Booker-List-2005 reading – I have in fact read none of these books. Although I am sure they are all fine, fine novels.

Dan’s a Banville fan, and I have heard wonderful things about Julian Barnes, although the only book I tried to read of his, A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, bored me. (However, reading the Amazon blurb made me rethink it. Maybe I should try it again. It looks funny.) I had to look up Arthur and George on the Amazon UK site to get to any reviews; it looks ok. (Why do books come out in the UK way before they come out here? Is there a lag time there for American writers/books?) As for Barry – it is against my principles to read Irish novels/books anymore. I may be the only living soul who has never even picked up Angela’s Ashes. I am so heartily tired of Americans wanting to be Irish (don’t even get me started on Americans of Irish descent who support the IRA), and the Irish feeding on this phenomenon, and so I boycott. Or something like that.

The Ali Smith won’t be released in the States till January, and I never made it though White Teeth so haven’t approached Zadie Smith’s new one. As for Ishiguro, I am sure it’s an excellent book, but his stuff is so freaking dry and I simply don’t have the brainpower to work at one of his novels right now.

So I am being anti-cultural and enjoying my vacation books instead of immersing myself in the excellent literature represented by the Booker prize. Like last year’s winner, Line of Beauty? Well, yeah, EXCEPT for that one.


Books out and about in the past weeks and in the next few weeks that I want to read, in no particular order:

October 25 The Lost Painting - Jonathan Harr
September 6 Shalimar the Clown – Salman Rushdie
September 20 Goodnight, Nobody - Jennifer Weiner
September 1 The Tender Bar - J.R. Moehringer
August 3o A Widow’s Walk: A Memoir of 9/11 - Marion Fontana
July 19 The Undomestic Goddess - Sophie Kinsella


Ultrasound this morning; it has been confirmed by the physician’s assistant at my OB’s office – el bambino is head down. I couldn’t see jack since their office ultrasound is so crappy but I believe her BECAUSE I WANT TO.

And for Gina’s peace of mind, I promise to pack some towels, a pair of scissors, a gallon of bottled water, and some Purell in the car when we leave for the shore. Because she’s right, giving birth on the PA Turnpike will require some advance prep. I hope to hold off on birthing this baby till we’re either down the shore, or back home, since there is a great likelihood that my car would never be the same again. And I love my car.

Also the PA told me that she doesn’t think I am going to make it till my due date. Great, thanks, now you have ensured that I will be late AGAIN. This happened with my second son, and I am still bitter.


Speaking of lack of brainpower (was I? I forget.), this morning I put Si’s sneakers on Jude and did not notice until we were halfway through my doctor appointment.
Also, this afternoon, I literally forgot where I put my work bag and made Dan turn off the car so I could unlock the hatch - when my bag was in the backseat since I didn’t have the key to unlock the hatch in the first place.
I also tried to brush my hair with my toothbrush yesterday morning. At least it wasn’t spinning at the time.

Dear God, please tell me my brain cells will return to normal. Please. I can’t stand being *this* stupid.


Check out the The Fatwa Corner (2nd bullet down). What the heck is the Fatwa Bank, and what the heck is a Live Fatwa? (Ok, now I know, see below. I had to look up the actual definition. I think most people associate fatwa with Salman Rushdie, and apparently it’s not JUST a death threat!)
fatwa : a legal opinion concerning Islamic law

Also check out the Ask the Scholar link though; there’s some really interesting stuff on that page. The take on the true meaning of jihad and the explanation of Islam’s viewpoint on peace was educational and enlightening; however, some of the women-in-Islam-related stuff about praying while wearing make-up and nail polish leaves me, frankly, a bit bewildered and a bit amused. I don’t know a whole lot about Islam; I should do some reading.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Rowing Pic

Just because it was such a beautiful day, and he's so cute!

...and all of London littered with remembered kisses.

First day of the new regime. Jude is at daycare by himself. Somehow it broke my heart to leave him there without his big brother. He had his Mimi, but still…and Si went to his first day of preschool today. I am not sure what I expected, but what I got was this:

Me: “Bye, Si guy. Love you. Be a good boy and don’t forget that Grandma will come get you this afternoon. I love you.”
Si: “Ok, bye, Mom. Where’s Quinn? Quinn…!” and off he ran to play in the pretend kitchen with his next-door neighbor friend.

I am glad he wasn’t stressing, but I found myself feeling a little bereft. I contented myself with slipping a maudlin-mama note into the backpack I packed for him to take to his grandma’s this afternoon. Toys, a puzzle, some Thomas coloring pages, and a mushy note telling him I couldn’t wait to hear all about his first day and that I loved him oodles.

Considering I get teary when I watch my *neighbor’s kids* get on their school bus, can you imagine what a wreck I will be next September when my baby goes to kindergarten? I don’t think it’s purely hormonal either…I am just a sap.


You know, I HAVE HAD IT with college students who don’t think it’s important to keep or carry their class syllabi, or at least take thorough notes, yet get mad at me because I can’t find a textbook with a title like “Introduction to Psychology.” No author, edition number, not even the *actual* title in many cases. It’s MY fault that I can’t discern, like the Great Carnac, the exact title and edition of the book they need. Clearly I am a deficient librarian.

“What do you mean, you can’t look it up by class number/name/professor name?”
Well, I can, probably, but that’s YOUR job. Log onto a computer and figure out how to access your professors’ syllabi. At some point you might actually need that info.


RockStar INXS:

Tonight is the night Jordis is told she’s "just not right for our band INXS.” I had high hopes for her early on but she seems exhausted and tame now. Dave Navarro pegged it last night when he said she seemed like she was holding something back.

Mig – Please. If INXS wanted a Michael Bolton manqué as a front singer, don’t you think they’d have advertised for one? But his first song was fine.

Marty – Nothing personal but every time Marty opens his mouth, I have the urge to count his teeth. And do you think he’ll wind up his stint on the show by proposing to Sweet Suzie McNeill?

JD is SUCH a dick. But he’s got the sound…sometimes.

Suzie is my fav at the moment, and *not* just because I think Dave Navarro wants to bonk her. She has really displayed her voice to its full advantage these past few weeks; she has gained a quiet self-confidence that really reads; and she has somewhat more fashion sense than any of the others.

David – how COULD you fall asleep last night after seeing what Brooke Burke was wearing? Honestly, man….!


And all of Highland Park littered with abandoned flea collars…
Emmy (my outside cat) has managed to lose her THIRD flea collar in as many months. She’s as bad as my kids – does she think I am made of money? I put them on tightly, I think I just have the Houdini of the cat world. Can you staple them on?? (ok, I am kidding…sort of…)

Best Internet Thing Ever. EVER!

I'm speechless. And so excited! I did a whole shelf in about half an hour last night. Internet? Come here so I can give you a big hug!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Dispatches From a Public Librarian

This new posting is directed to those still *in* library school--like me!

Rowing and Scrabble and Pie, Oh My!

I bought a food processor Sunday, and I baked a perfect apple pie Sunday night. Hooray for Val’s crust! (And Cuisinart!)


The boy and I went white water rafting on the middle Youghiogheny on Saturday. We rented a two-person raft called a ducky because I thought it would be more fun for us to feel like we were on our own little adventure, despite the fact that we were on a guided tour with a large group. The bulk of the party was a Pakistani family reunion filled with dads and uncles who were gallantly concerned about my obvious single mom-ness. Another group was comprised of three young Asian couples who apparently had trouble with English. They were oblivious to the guides’ instructions and spent the afternoon drifting about and shouting at one another and/or giggling. Who knew the Laurel Highlands embraced such diversity?

So back to the rafting: We popped into our little raft and started rowing like pros. Teddy loved acting all manly and calling out directions: “Hard right!” “Hard left!” The weather was gorgeous and the water was clear and cold—every time I got splashed I thought “tonic”, but not like a healing potion-type tonic. I thought of the bracing mettle of gin and tonic. It was weird, but exhilarating.

And then I realized that the “rapids” were really more like “tepids” because we haven’t had much rain. The river was slow and peaceful: Lovely if you’re drinking beer on a pontoon boat, but not so nice when you’re expecting to spend the afternoon in Nature’s amusement park. I spent four hours rowing. And rowing. And rowing. Teddy got tired after a while, of course, so he kicked back and soaked up the sun, trailing his fingers in the water. I kept rowing. Ted hopped out of the raft and swam around for a while. I rowed. You get the picture.

My arms were so tired that I couldn’t lift my nephew that evening. (Stupidly, I kept thinking, “I just flew in from the coast, and boy are my arms tired!”) I don’t think I could have lifted a gallon of milk, yet I was barely sore at all when I woke up Sunday. I had that pleasant feeling of knowing I’d exerted myself, but that was it. My peasant ancestry makes itself apparent—I’m hardy! :-)


I spent the day Sunday catching up on house work and laundry and grocery shopping and pie baking, and then had a picnic yesterday with some people from school, whom I beat soundly at Scrabble. Is it rude to beat your guests at games, even if you’ve fed them steaks, baked potatoes, salad and homemade apple pie?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Without labor, nothing prospers. - Sophocles

Happy Labor Day! Wouldn’t it be fitting if I went into labor on Labor Day?
I have been informed by my mother-in-law that I am not permitted to have the baby on or between September 25 and October 1. I am also not permitted to have the baby on October 8 – it’s the Penguins home opener and everyone is going. Well, everyone except Dan – he said if my due date were earlier and I were in the hospital on the 8th, he’d go but otherwise, he just wouldn’t “be able to relax.” HE wouldn’t be able to relax – ha! Except then my MIL said her mother’s birthday was the 8th, and wouldn’t it be cool…I counter with the fact that my mother died on October 1, so let’s avoid that day….I am assuming from all these directives that it is also preferred that I give birth during regular business hours, Monday through Friday. I suggested that perhaps I could give birth in late September; September 20th or so would be ideal. Both Dan and his mom emphatically said anywhere in the September 20s was too early…I say it’s only two weeks early and at this point, other than foregoing the shore, I could happily give birth RIGHT NOW. So play your numbers and place your bets folks, I aim to please.


My vacation book list, pretty decided:

Children of God – Mary Doria Russell
The Rule of Four – Ian Caldwell
Green Darkness- Anya Seton
In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of its Survivors – Doug Stanton

If I haven’t finished A Civil Action and/or Corelli’s Mandolin, I will lug them along too. Since I have exactly three t-shirts that are huge enough to cover my belly, and only two skirts/pants that fit comfortably, and one (maternity) bathing suit., my other luggage will be minimal, so I can bulk up the books portion.


Philosophical ponderings must be quite the trend among the preschool set these days. My next-door neighbor’s three-year-old saw a dying mouse while they were on a hike recently. Quinn asked her mother, “Mama? Was it a bad mouse? Did it deserve to die?” According to Lannie, all mice are evil vermin and definitely deserve to be dead, but I am not sure she said that to her daughter.

In the car on the way to the grocery store yesterday, Simon started crying. I asked him what was wrong, and he sobbed, “I don’t KNOW! I just feel really sad!” I talked to him a bit, about how it’s ok to feel sad sometimes for no reason, and you feel better soon, and there’s a lot going on right now in his life that he might not *feel* stressed about but that doesn’t mean it’s not upsetting on some level. What I really wanted to do was clutch him protectively and growl to God/whatever powers that be, to make him HAPPY, and not make him be like his mom, to whom every day is a fight just to exist normally. Other people expend energy actually living; I feel as if I spend my energy just working up to trying to live. I am so exhausted with my fight, and he’s only four, and I don’t want his entire life to be that way. And I feel even worse, even more guilty, since I am clearly the one who passed that gene onto him. I want to make everything fine for him, even though I know I can’t and that is not the way to fix anything.


My in-laws came for dinner last night. We made homemade pizzas with the red peppers from the farm and some Italian sausage. Pretty darn yummy. I made a coconut custard pie for my FIL, and a Toll House pie (chocolate and walnut) for my neighbors who came over later. And then today for Dan’s family’s Labor Day picnic, I made a blackberry pie with Gina’s crumb topping, and some chocolate cupcakes. This cooler weather really brings out the June Cleaver in me.


Jess, here’s the coconut custard pie recipe. It’s incredibly easy, and you can eat it for breakfast even, what with all those eggs : )

4 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup Bisquick
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp softened butter
a handful of flaked coconut

Proces in blender till smooth. Pour into a 9" pie pan, preferably one with 2" sides. It will be VERY liquid. Sprinkle top generously with grated/flaked coconut. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Cool on a rack, and don't cut it till it's cool. Refrigerate any leftovers.


Something disturbing - there was, at this Labor Day picnic, a priest who was astonishingly good looking. Not just good-looking "for a priest"; simply gorgeous, no matter what. Tall, thin, silvery-grey/dark hair, kind of wolfish teeth with a great smile. And he was flirting with me. He is a colleague of Dan's uncle, and I was talking baby names with Uncle John (who is very funny but not very good-looking). And he introduced this priest who joined right in suggesting all sorts of silly (and otherwise) names, and we just clicked. It was SO ODD. We were laughing about all the same things, and he was charming and suave, and oh my God, he most definitely was flirting with me. I have never been flirted with by a priest before (unless you count Father Tom who, besides being decidedly gay, flirts with *everyone*). And I have NEVER been *attracted* to a priest before. But there I was, laughing and talking and being wildly attracted to this man. Am I going to hell? (Of course, to finish the tale, I wound up saying something really dumb, which I refuse to reveal -it's bad enough I said it the first time - so now I can just cringe at my stupidity rather than at my cupidity.) But I am SOOOOOO going to hell, aren't I?

Saturday, September 03, 2005're it....

1.Number of books I have owned: In the low thousands. But only the nonfiction is catalogued, so I can’t be sure.

2. Last book I bought: The Sparrow and Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell; A Civil Action- Jonathan Harr; a couple other miscellaneous kids’ books.

3. Last book I completed: The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

4. Five (or more) books that mean a lot to me:
(not in order)
1. The Small Rain/A Severed Wasp – Madeleine L’Engle
2. Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson
3. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
4. Jitterbug Perfume – Tom Robbins
5. In Watermelon Sugar – Richard Brautigan
6. Big Red Barn – Margaret Wise Brown

5. What are you currently reading?
1. A Civil Action – Jonathan Harr
2. Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
3. To Love and Be Wise - Josephine Tey
4. October issue of The Quilter’s Newsletter
5. CNN website, compulsively

6. To which 5 bloggers are you passing this on?

Whoever feels like it.


Seven Things I Plan to do Before I Die
1. Get a PhD in English literature
2. Learn to rock climb
3. Learn to love my Eastern European peasant physique
4. See my children grow up
5. Read The Brothers Karamazov
6. Take a month-long vacation ALL BY MYSELF
7. Join the Peace Corps

Seven Things I Can Do
1. Swim – all the strokes
2. "Program" HTML/XHTML/XML
3. Sing Edelweiss and various other Broadway standards over and over again until my boys conk out
4. Bake
5. Spell
6. Run an 11-minute mile
7. Read – pretty fast, too

Seven Things I Cannot Do
1. Listen to the radio for much longer than half an hour
2. Eat cottage cheese – heck, I can barely stand to look at the stuff!!
3. Type
4. Get *all* the moldy bits out of my bathtub grout
5. Finish a book that bores me
6. Argue logically
7. Cook rice

Seven Things that Attract Me to the Opposite Sex
1. Brains
2. Long knobbly fingers/hands
3. Humor
4. Gentleness/kindness
5. Lankiness/height
6. Willingness to cook
7. Dark hair/skin – I have only ever dated one blonde man in my entire life

Seven Things I Say Most Often
1. "I am NOT a contortionist!”
2. "It’s not brain surgery for God’s sake"
3. "Unless there’s blood, I do not want to hear it!"
4. "What happened?”
5. "What the hell do I know, I’m just your mother/wife.”
6. "Tall mocha frappucino, no whip."
7. "Hey, little bratty children…”

Seven Celebrity Crushes
1. Colin Firth
2. John Cusack
3. Nicolas Cage
4. Jill Hennessey
5. Mary Louise Parker
6. Dar Williams
7. Anthony Bourdain

I tag anyone who needs the distraction.

The American Red Cross and other ways to help victims of Katrina

If you have any extra room to house refugees and are interested in doing so, you can get info and sign up here:

What an excellent idea.
Step up to the plate, George. Prove you’re the leader you like to think you are.

According to some local contacts in Houston (people who work with the company my husband works for), the refugees at the Astrodome are in need of clothing (particularly pants/shorts) in M-L-XL sizes. I will look for an address to mail things to and post it as soon as possible. So get going through your closets.

Please continue to donate to the Red Cross and other organizations; even if they can’t get into the city of New Orleans due to FEMA restrictions, they can access the refugees elsewhere and will need resources for them.

Lists of places where you can donate money and whatever else is needed: Joke has a comprehensive list.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Well, I'll be ding-dong-danged!

Sunday morning, driving down Penn Ave., my car got hit with a stray foul ball from a pick-up baseball game going on at the middle school’s playground. I heard the ball rustling through the tree leaves and KNEW it was going to hit me and did not know what to do. It hit my windshield, fortunately not cracking it, and then bounced and left a big dent in the top of my car. Even more fortunately we were not rear-ended by all the speed demons racing to their scheduled brain surgeries when I hit my flashers and pulled over to assess the damage. We were all ok, if a bit shaken up. Well, I was sort of hysterical. Simon, when asked if he was ok, replied solemnly, “We’re ok Mom. A little shocked but we’re fine.” (Did I really give birth to that boy? If I hadn’t been there for the actual event, I am not sure I’d believe it myself.)


Jude used a red marker the other day to draw Dalmatian spots all over his legs and feet. I did explain to him that Dalmatians are black and white, but he seemed pleased with his artistic license.


So yesterday a coworker says to me, When are you due?
I say, October 8.
Pat: Oh, only four weeks...Are you having twins?
May the good Lord strike dead with lightning bolts from heaven any woman who has never given birth yet thinks it her bounden duty to open her mouth and express her opinion about someone else's pregnancy.


Dan’s friend gave us a book about Noah's ark that Si read last night (no drowning bodies or anything – enough of that in the news). But Si finished it (he wanted to read it to me) and then asked me, "Mama? God's a good guy, right?" So sure, yeah, I say, "Most people believe he is." As I do not wish to get into theological discussions at bedtime – or really any time at this point. He looks at me and asks, "Well, why would a good guy do a bad thing like the flood?"

Oh, my Simon guy, the question of the ages, and you're only four. God help us when you are sixteen. And how I wish I knew the answer, my sweet little one.


I could not get my butt out of bed this morning. When I finally did, at 9, the boys were upstairs playing but Mimi was in the bathroom sink, stark nekkid, with the water running, an entire pad of Post-it notes was dismantled and scattered like blue snow around the second floor, and Dan's poker money which he keeps in a cup on his dresser had almost entirely been deposited into their respective piggy banks. I suppose it could have been much worse.


Jude reading Thomas:
“Thomas! Peep, peep, Thomas! People get in, quickly, quickly! Poop Poop! No, no! Peep, peep! Thomas say Peep peep! Not poop, poop!”
Yes, God forbid we mistake the Poop poop for the Peep peep!


I’m not reading much of anything other than the newspaper right now, and contemplating registering us to host a family from down South that needs housing. Am I insane? I know I have a new baby coming in four weeks, but these people are in dire need. And we have the room. Only one bathroom, but otherwise plenty of room.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

See You in September

I’m a dork, and I always find myself singing this song for when September rolls around. I’ve always liked the song for its melodrama (don’t get me started on melodramatic songs, by the way—a pony named Wildfire, anyone?), and for the fact that it was probably my first exposure to the idea of people actually going away for the whole summer.

Imagine a time when it was common to spend the summer at a resort, a la Dirty Dancing. (Imagine a time when it wouldn’t have been at all weird to hear a man say, “Baby’s starting Mt. Holyoke in the fall,” now that I think about it.) Imagine having a whole summer life, separate from your regular life of home, work and school. Imagine an entire summer filled with sunshine and fishing and sand in your bathing suit. Adirondack chairs and floppy hats and iced tea by the shore. Baskets of books from the tiny library a bike’s ride away. Rainy days filled with reading on a rocker. No schedules or clocks.

I know there would still be cooking and cleaning and laundry. I know there would still be bills to pay. I know my sister and mother would still drive me nuts, and that Teddy’s dad would still be a selfish schmuck, and that people in general might often still be rude and disappointing and drive poorly, but . . . just imagine!