Thursday, December 29, 2005

Dear stupid dog, I've gone to live with the children on Jolly Farm. Good bye forever.

Library books I have sitting on my nightstand with the hope that I will have time to read some:

- Catherine Wheels – Leif Peterson (creepy but nicely written and odd little book. The end just leaves a hundred different threads dangling, but it’s ok, it works. You don’t know what’s real and what’s not, and you don’t particularly mind.)
- Everybody into the Pool – Beth Lisick (I requested this from the library a while ago and reading the flap copy now cannot imagine why. But it’s amusing enough if a bit redundant in that Gen-X sort of way.)
- Love, Work, Children – Cheryl Mendelson (liked the title)
- A Place of Execution – Val McDermid (other mystery readers have been recommending McDermid to me for eons)
- The Babes in the Wood – Ruth Rendell (an article on Salon recently convinced me to give Rendell another shot, since the last time I tried one of her books I was about 16. I am enjoying this one very much, and I like the detective, Inspector Wexford.)

I finished The Leopard Hat a few days ago. It’s odd that I picked that book to read around the same time I tracked down an old college friend by discovering her mother’s memorial website – the feelings each woman has/had for their mothers are almost disturbingly intimate. Angela was a close and dear friend and was supposed to be my roommate sophomore year but in the summer between years, she tried to commit suicide and her father pulled her out of school and cut off all contact. So yes, Angela was always a bit overwrought and dramatic, but the depth of passion she felt for her mother, that I read on the website, feels foreign to me. I can’t recall ever feeling this way about my mother, whom I loved and whom I miss terribly, but - I can’t believe I am going to admit this out loud, as it were – at the same time, I felt a sense of relief when she died, not just because she was finally out of pain, but because my life is so much easier not having to contend with her influence in it. There is a part of me that KNOWS beyond a shadow of a doubt that if my mother were still alive, I would be divorced. I would probably still be slogging away painting in theatres. I might not even have kids. And so, while I loved her and did everything I could to help her during her illness and take care of her, I still feel horribly guilty that my emotions about her death are mixed.

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From the library today (I had a nice chat with my favorite librarian, the one on whom I have a schoolgirl crush....sigh...):

- Truth and Consequences – Alison Lurie
- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken
- The House with the Clock in Its Walls – John Bellairs (illustrated by one of my favs, Edward Gorey) – if it’s not too creepy, I’ll pass it on to Primo.

Also, Gina gave me her library copy of The Undomesticated Goddess, Sophie Kinsella’s new brain candy. And I got the DVD of “About Schmidt” to watch New Year’s Eve.

For Primo, I picked up the first two “A to Z” mysteries, some of Jon Sciezka’s “Time Warp Trio” books, some Magic School Bus chapter books, and an amusing-looking fairy tales spoof called Ten in a Bed. The boy is voracious.

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My one productive act of today – hanging the niece/nephews pictures, and my family’s Ellis Island rubbing and family portraits. Oh, and I did buy my brother’s son an outfit for his belated Christmas gift. I am also going to send him one of those Baby Einstein videos – probably "Baby van Gogh," as that’s my favorite because of the wind parts.

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I need your help. These are the shoes I bought in the past twenty-four hours. Do I keep them? Help. Are they cute, or just weird? Are they charmingly retro or just frumpy?

Skechers Sport, black




Nine West, tan suede, VERY comfy




Clarks, brown, more dressy for work with skirts, mostly


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Snippets:

  • Christmas Eve my brother-in-law was passing around an article about re-hymenization. How sick is that thought? As if losing it the first time wasn’t nerve-wracking enough...I think if I told Hubster that that was going to be his anniversary gift from me, like the woman in the article did for her husband, he’d divorce me.

  • Primo wanted to know why our (Episcopalian) priest was married, but H.’s uncle the Roman Catholic priest was not. I told him that Episcopalians are allowed to marry, but not RC priests. He considered for a moment and said, “That makes no sense at all!” Out of the mouths of babes…

  • I finally got my hair trimmed up today. Why is it that when the hairdresser talks to me I want them to shut up and let me relax, and when they don’t, I worry that I am a awful person and that is why they do not wish to converse with me? Of course, once this one did start talking, it was all about how he wept at the last Madonna concert – and I wished he’d shut up.

  • Isn’t it difficult to leave pictures of your children that you do not purchase at the portrait place? I man, they’re not shredding the little guy, just his photo, but it was weird.

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So my week in review:
Monday – open house here for various people, including an old friend from college whom I have not seen in years – he lives in L.A. and really only comes back for Christmas (and whom H. surprisingly remarked about, “I wish he lived here, he’s a really good guy. It’d be nice to have him around.” I wholeheartedly agree.)

Tuesday – the annual luncheon for ex-bookstore employees. I used to work at one of the big chains and about half a dozen of us get together every year right after Christmas for a nice, long, gossipy, boozy lunch.
Debra has just returned from China and brought us all these little boxes, with a Good Luck penny inside. I specifically got the baby one.


Lynne brought my boys Christmas ornaments, including this lovely train ornament for my Thomas-mad children. And also her son’s new CD. Check it out, it’s pretty decent for a first CD, and he covers a Radiohead song. Props to him!

We always do lunch somewhere luxurious that is members-only so it’s always free, which I alternate between reveling in and feeling guilty about, as the members never let us contribute to the bill.

Tuesday evening we had what was supposed to be turkey dinner with our wonderful neighbors, who called at 2ish and said the turkey was still frozen and we were going to have homemade pizza. It was great – forget calling take-out from now on, I am just calling them! And I didn’t have to noodle around with sweet potatoes or veggies, so instead I just made a whipped-cream-and-Nabisco-chocolate-wafer log which we devoured.

H. made the observation to me later that he was surprised that their upstairs was very NOT finished, and I wonder if he now feels better about the unfinished state of our house? God, I sure hope so!




Wednesday – the family portrait in the a.m. The ONLY thing I asked H. to do this week, I needed his help wrangling the children. And at 9:15 Wednesday morning, he said, “Oh, I have to go with you?” Yes! It went smoothly – we got some decent all-cousins shots, despite my boys’ recalcitrant hair that was driving Grandma absolutely fucking bonkers (she suggested gel and bobby pins).


We also got some adorable solo shots of Terzo, and a nice shot of just my hoodlums. So while I might not have picked those shirts, the portraits this year are done. Hooray! I don’t have to go out to the freaking mall again for at least another year!

After the portraits, which blew our Christmas budget, incidentally, the sisters-in-laws and Grandma all went out to lunch at a place called the Bookworks Cafe. Very cozy, very cute. And look at my lovely salad – butterfly-shaped jicama, star-shaped carrots, chunks of blue cheese. Delish, and pretty.

I took a pic of all of us and thought about posting it and letting you guess which was me, but decided against it. My one sister-in-law said, “Oh, are you going to post this on the blog?” (Primo spilled the beans while I was snapping away Christmas Eve). I said, “Oh, no!” but was THIS CLOSE to doing so until I decided I did not want to out myself.

Then we all went to H.’s band’s practice Wednesday evening and I hung out with the drummer’s wife, Terri, whom I adore, and the singer’s very pregnant wife, Mel, whom I enjoy very much, and ate too many buffalo wings and baklava. We thought we could put the boys to bed down there, like a slumber party, but they refused to sleep, and then Primo threw up in Terri’s office. Then Terzo threw up in the living room. We must come back, Terri said, as there were still two rooms downstairs and the whole upstairs in which the boys need to vomit.

Today I went and got my hair cut, and bought shoes (see above), and had lunch at the coffee shop, and went to visit Gina, and stopped at the library. I bought these blank books at Old Navy for TWO BUCKS a piece.



I skipped the January-birthdays party at the in-laws this evening – I am not only Perfect-familyed-out, I am peopled-out.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Get me (ka-ching!) – I’m giving out wings!

In the “Because I do not have enough to do” category:
Primo fell out of my bed this morning, where he had crawled during the night due to a nightmare, and knocked over a bedside table and a lamp, breaking the table and bending the lamp stem.

And in the “Let me bitch to you because who else can put up with it” category: Hubster, who felt the need to go to the gym, even though *I* haven’t gotten to exercise in God knows how long and God, does it show! forgot his sneakers (Christmas Eve he forgot his swimsuit) and came home to pick them up and GO BACK downtown to go to the gym. He’s been gone for almost three hours, all told. (P.S. But now he came home and is cooking me eggs and bacon – so all is forgiven.)

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Christmas Eve dinner went swimmingly (Haha! Get it? Swimmingly? Never mind.) and to my delight, just about everything was edible. I did try to get away with eating seven peel-n-eat shrimp and counting them as the seven requisite fishes, but that didn’t go over so well. So I ate the fried cod (cold but still good), the shrimp, the crabcakes (lemony and tender, if prepackaged), a smelt or two, and the woefully-overbaked (45 minutes!!) salmon. I won’t touch the baccala and potatoes or the linguine with clam sauce for love or money. I think next year I will institute the Christmas Eve Cocktail. The Red Devil has clam juice in it and that should count. Especially if tuna salad does! Which I did not eat. I can eat tuna salad of my own devising any day of the week, thank you very much. The limp penne and meatballs I skipped altogether. I suggested throwing some anchovies in the green salad/antipasti next year, for yet another fish, but that met with cries of derision from the culinary troglodytic masses.

We were regaled with music. My 8-year-old niece sang, in appropriately dirge-like tones, a song all about the coldness, hopelessness, and despair of life, that she had learned at her Catholic school for the Christmas concert. By the third verse, I was all ready to cut my wrists with the cheese knife. Good thing she’s so cute anyway.


We manfully plodded through the new tradition (my mother-in-law conjures up one a year, I swear to you) of singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” inspired and coached by these glasses which I think she got at Kaufman’s After-Christmas sale last December 26. Primo may have been the only one who1)knew all the words without the glasses, and 2)actually enjoyed this event.


The present-opening mayhem did not even begin until 8:30 p.m., which is generally the time my two older boys are in bed, lights out. Which meant I had two fairly strung-out boys on my hands. I wish we could get together in the afternoon for gifts, let us all go to our respective masses, and then reconvene for dinner, but suggesting that was met with a reaction, of course, completely out of proportion to its heresy.

At any rate, everyone was very excited and pleased with their gifts. And in the “Aren’t I an ingrate” category: Why does my mother-in-law find it necessary to hand me envelopes containing large sums of cash for the boys from all her card-playing cronies whom I could not pick out in a line-up, when I am nursing the baby, consoling wailing Segundo for one reason, and scolding sobbing Primo for another, all while ripping wrapping paper off their gifts for them? Apparently the Hubster is incapable of receiving these gifts? She makes me nuts. Can you tell? (And I don’t just mean those yummy sugar-and-spice pecans.)


Oh, and wait – the grandchildren photo. Seconds after this was taken, all the younger ones started melting down. Merry effing Christmas to you all, too. Doesn’t Segundo look like an angry, drunk elf?

Finally – FINALLY - we all got home, brushed teeth, set out cookies and carrots, checked the NORAD website one last time (Santa was in St. Andrew’s, Canada) and went to bed. Or at least the boys did.

Hubster and I collapsed in front of the TV to relax with a local Christmas music special featuring an enormous blind man in janitor’s coveralls tunelessly singing along with an all-female madrigal group, a three-hundred-year-old rocker, and a chubby Mariah Carey wannabe. At about ten thirty, Primo said loudly from his bed, “Mom! Dad! Go to BED or Santa will never come!” And then Segundo half woke up, crying for more of Grandma’s meatballs. No, I did not make that up.


Here’s the calm and peaceful post-Santa, pre-children scene.

Complete with Segundo’s favorite Christmas ornament. From now on, whenever I doubt myself as a parent, I am going to look at this and say to myself, “Yes, but how many mothers allow their children to hang clothes hangers on the Christmas tree?”

Around 3:30 a.m., Primo climbed into bed with me, wide awake and chatting. He finally shut up and went to sleep. And then next morning – around six? Count 'em, there're three. Then at 8:30 a.m.? Here’s Primo. We sent his brother in jump on him shortly after I took this picture.


Everyone loved their gifts. Even Mimi. I tried to talk Santa into buying her some clothes but I know Segundo won’t let her wear them anyway. Although he did give her a new tattoo for Christmas with his new gel pens.


I scored a waffle iron (years of hints) and even better, H. made me waffles.


The mountains of rustling crumpled wrapping paper freaked the cats right on out.

The best part? I got a two-hour nap Christmas afternoon, read about a hundred pages of a really engrossing if creepy Catherine Wheels, by Leif Peterson, and savored a Green and Black’s mint bar.

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Christmas night – over the Hubster’s aunt’s teeny tiny little house where I drank too much, ate almost an entire plate of ladylocks, spit out (into my napkin, people!) a mouthful of the MOST DISGUSTING cake I have EVER tasted (prompting my mother-in-law to make H. taste it, whereupon he had the same reaction and she proclaimed in disgust that she didn’t know what was wrong with us), and managed to get stuck talking to a boring cousin’s even more boring clandestine homosexual lover about kung fu.

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Christmas 2005 – and a good time was had by all.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"'Cause I wanna be anarchy..."


We figure we'll use this for their first album cover.

"Fra-gee-lay. Must be Italian."

I went grocery shopping at 6 this morning, while there was still a parking spot to be had – my mother-in-law called yesterday to ask me to bring a green salad to Christmas Eve dinner. So I am going the tossed-green-salad-with-some-antipasto-fixings route, to culinarily/ethnically match the Hellacious Spread of Seven Fish-Flavored Slops.

I’m also making that chocolate-wafer-and-whipped-cream dessert thing, although personally I would be happy slopping the cream right on the wafers and popping them right into my mouth. But some people apparently have more finesse than I.

I have realized that if I have half an hour or so to empty the dishwasher, start the laundry, straighten up, all before the boys get up, I am much more pleasant to be around. Of course this morning I had the benefit of caffeine too – thank God the Starbucks was open. Merry Christmas Eve, and a grande non-fat peppermint mocha, no whip, to all!

I also did some last-minute Christmas shopping at the store – Hubster is receiving the following thrilling gifts (but I can guarantee he will like all of them, however weird they may sound):

- A 4-pack of the pens he keeps stealing from me, in black
- Three little photo holder stick-like thingeys for his office gallery of the boys (driving over the bridge to his office, you can tell which office window is his because it is lined and layered with frames)
- A DVD from Target of “Flash Gordon” episodes
- A Su Do Ku book of puzzles
- A Penguins T-shirt (because he needs another T-shirt like I need a hole in my head)

And I bought Segundo the Winnie the Pooh bear he saw and wistfully admired while grocery shopping last week. Hubster and I were discussing the possible present inequity last night – I spent the same on both and they have roughly the same number of gifts to open, but Primo got a “big” gift – the electric guitar – and Segundo did not. We decided they’d cope – but I have also decided to gift Segundo with the baby stroller I picked up for Mimi at the thrift shop last week. Actually it will be tagged for Mimi…I mean, how could I not get the ugliest doll in the universe a Christmas present? Poor little thing, no hair and all…

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These are my favorite pens. And I bought the pack with all the pretty colors. Merry Christmas, me!



How I manage to get through the holidays...note the artistic juxtaposition of the Bacardi-and-Coke with the pacifier...




The magic trunk of gifts, inside and out. The boys have no clue this is where all the loot is – and unless Primo starts reading this over my shoulder, my secret should be safe for a while.



I made this for my friend Celeste THREE Christmases ago and have yet to staple it to its frame and give it to her. See why you should be glad I only had to contend with virtual gifts for you all?



And, it may be Christmas but the laundry never stops. It’s like the Christmas miracle —or actually more like the Hanukkah miracle, I suppose.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Wear the old coat and buy the new book. - Austin Phelps



Mine is the boring grey wool, very warm, pea coat. Ho hum.

Friday Show-and-Tell, courtesy of Blackbird

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Italian Wine Cookies

for Badger and all that leftover wine...

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup wine, any kind will do
1 cup vegetable or corn oil
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
Extra granulated sugar

Mix sugar, wine, and oil together. Set aside. Mix flour with baking powder. Incorporate the flour mixture gradually intot he wine mixture, stopping when the dough is still soft but no longer sticks to your hands. (It will stick alittle bit, it just shouldn't be goopy.)
Break off small pieces of the dough (approximately a heaping teaspoon). Roll each piece of dough into a small rope and form each rope into a round "o", pinching the ends togther. Dip the top of each cookie into the extra granulated sugar.
Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are golden brown. (They do not spread.)
Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies. They store very well, and are awesome for breakfast with a cup of tea or a nice latte.

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for Joke - I could not find the Henry Petroski bit online. But I believe it's the last chapter in his book, The Book on the Bookshelf, which was a pretty good read. So keep an eye out for it or get it at the library, and read the chapter on how people organize their books - even by, gasp, color and size. Troglodytes. (Except you, Joke. No, not you.)

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I had to make a star for the top of our tree.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

10 Things I Hate About You

No, really, what I mean is, 15 Things About Books.
Gina < Joke < Badger.

1. I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time my junior year in college. I was sick with the flu, on a Saturday night, on the night of one of the biggest parties of the year at the fraternity where I was a pseudo-little sister. My boyfriend, who was a brother there, was supposed to come see me for a little bit but apparently the partying was too good. Instead, he was hanging out with a friend from the chemistry department, this cute little preppy girl he nicknamed Boub, who he swore he was not romantically interested in – she certainly was not interested in him, in the three years I knew her I determined she may have been the most asexual person I’d ever met. At any rate, after pathetically calling him something like six –ok, maybe ten - times, I finally just crawled under my comforter with a cup of hot chocolate and P&P. I did not expect to enjoy it – it being a classic and all – but I loved it. As my little Jewish grandmother would say, “What’s not to love?” Oh wait, I don’t HAVE a little Jewish grandmother. Anyhoo…I wish I could also follow this up by telling you I had the courage to dump the boyfriend but I did not, and actually almost ended up married to him. But that is a story for another day.

2. I did post-bacc work in lit, working under the delusion that getting a PhD in English literature would be a good idea and lots of fun. Oh, and marketable. The first class I took was an Intro to Critical Reading class, and I had a raging crush on the professor. I pretty much made a fool of myself over him. But we did read some great stuff, Satanic Verses being the most memorable, and I learned that I could tackle any book I wanted, no matter how classic or monumental or groundbreaking. That class, and that prof, changed the way I read.

3. I met Gina shortly thereafter, in a 19th-century Brit lit class. She was saying something most assuredly brilliant about Silas Marner or Great Expectations and I resolved then and there to see if she wanted to go for a drink with me after class. She did – just like a date – and we went to Hemingway’s, and the rest, as they say, is history.

4. All of my books are catalogued – fiction alphabetically by author and non-fiction by Library of Congress. I prefer the beauty and elegance of Dewey but did not have the time to generate Dewey numbers, I could just look up the LC numbers. I have everything entered into a database so I can lay hands on pretty much whatever I need almost instantly, and the non-fiction is tagged on the spine. Once I get bigger shelves built, I will tag the fiction as well. And between work and my home library, if you give me a subject, I am adept at figuring out at least by letter the general area where a book lives. I am pretty sure every librarian acquires this skill.

5. I collect books about sharks. (My favorite is Thomas Helm’s Shark! Unpredictable Killer of the Sea.) And I really enjoy reading books about mountain climbing. Eiger Dreams is a particular favorite.

6. The best gifts I have ever received have been books. (Don’t tell the Hubster – I do love my diamond earrings!) Ones that stand out: the ill-fated fraternity boyfriend gave me an antique copy of Poems of Childhood illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, one of my favorite artists. A dear friend from freshman year in college(who later attempted suicide and with whom I lost touch shortly thereafter because her father cut off all contact with her old friends) gave me an inscribed copy of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet which I treasure to this day. And my mom gave me any number of gorgeously illustrated children's books, all inscribed and dated. I like to read them to my boys, and see her handwriting, it makes me happy.

7. Two hours before my wedding (but after my hair was done) I was in Barnes and Noble across the street from the church picking out books to read on the plane. And hunting down a dictionary of the saints – we were going to Italy and I wanted to be well-informed when I finally viewed the Sistine Chapel. In my defense, the groom was watching a hockey game.

8. I never go anywhere without a book. You never know when you might have a chance to read –stuck in traffic, waiting at the doctor’s office, in line at the post office. If I am going on vacation for a week, I take about half a dozen books. If I am going to be away for a weekend, I take two to four books. I am sure there’s a mathematical formula to work out somehow, like
time away * opportunity = number of books
but I haven’t taken the time to figure it out. I just know that if I am not at home, I have a book with me. And I generally have two or three books going at a time.

9. My father used to worry that the weight of my books in my room would cause the house foundation to crack or sag. And that was when I had only two tall bookcases full.

10. I have read James Joyce’s Ulysses in its entirety. I even enjoyed most of it, especially the Molly Bloom parts. Granted, it was for a class on the modern novel, and I had to write an in-depth paper on it, but I remember lying on our grotty old plaid couch with a drink and the book and enjoying the experience. And the book. Probably the drink helped.

11. I weeded my collection ONCE and have lived to regret it. I buy slightly more discriminately now (even though I have a box of books I picked up for a ten-dollar donation at the library books sale last spring waiting to be taken home yet). But I will never get rid of another book.

12. My cat’s name is Septimus, after a character in my favorite play, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. I also once had a cat named Hepzibah, after the rabbi’s daughter in Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi Small mystery series.

13. I enjoy a good mystery – really, more psychological thrillers like Elizabeth George, Caroline Graham, and Minette Walters, or non-mystery mysteries like Josephine Tey. I have read and do own every Ellis Peters ever written.

14. I can still vividly picture the library of my childhood, with the children’s section off to the right and the adult bestsellers in the sunny nook with all the windows. The railroad ran by right out front, and you could watch the train from those windows. The card catalogs were right in front of the circulation desk as you walked in. Mrs Stanaitis was the children’s librarian and she was wonderful and, as I remember it, beautiful, too. (Peg, do you remember her?) When I started reading grown-up books, I tended towards the innocent stuff like Miss Read and D.E. Stephenson books. In particular, the Miss Buncle books, gently humorous books about a woman who pseudonymously writes a sort-of-autobiographical book about her tiny village and the mayhem that ensues. They are out of print now but I am always on the lookout for them.

15. I love used book stores. My idea of a blissful vacation is to read, eat well, and hunt through used book stores. They don’t even have to be really good used bookstores, although that’s nice when it happens.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

15 Things About Books

From Joke, via Badger.

1-Like Joke, I read and walk. I once fell down the stairs and ripped a hole in the knee of a favorite pair of khakis doing this (fairly recently), but I continue to do it anyway.

2-I started listening to audio books because I can’t read and run.

3-My mother insists that I learned to read while I was learning to use the toilet. She says she strapped me into a “potty chair” and left me in front of Sesame Street and The Electric Company with a bag of Oreos. (This explains more of my bad habits than you can possibly imagine, but none of them to do with reading.)

4-If I find myself in a bathroom with nothing to read, I’ll grab shampoo bottles or whatever else is near. Sometimes there's more to read than just "Lather. Rinse. Repeat." (That’s more to do with an absence of books, but I stand by it.) PS-My current bottle of conditioner says I should, "Cleanse hair with Sham-pure . . ." The stuff I wash my face with "Cleanses without drying." I think the word cleanse is ugly, and wish people would stop using it.

5-My sweet, super-young sixth grade teacher at St. Pius X loved that I loved reading and gave me a copy of Go Ask Alice. I guess she thought I was mature enough? Or she wanted to see to it that I was “scared straight”? I don’t know, but I won’t pretend it didn’t affect me. “Acid and smack/There’s no way back.” Bwah, hah, hah, hah!

6-Harriet the Spy messed me up, but good. I was devastated when the other kids read her notebooks, and I swear that from then on I’ve never written a word without having an audience in mind—even my journals are written as if I’ve been expecting someone to read them. And I still sometimes sing (in my head), “It’s time for my cake and milk, my milk and cake . . .”

7-Teddy would have been called Madeleine if he’d been a girl, because Madeleine L’Engle is the kind of woman I’d like to grow up to be.

8-I read the first Flowers in the Attic books in late grade school. I guess my mom didn’t care, because she was just glad I was reading, but . . . there’s something to be said for screening what your kids read. Yikes.

9-I think Stephen King is (or at least used to be) a good writer. I don’t care much for horror as a genre, but I’ve always said that I’d want to read about his characters in any setting.

10-I have a thing for books published in the 1950s for teenagers, especially those about manners and grooming. I used to get one in particular from the library all the time, and I remember that it encouraged you to dry yourself with a “big Turkish towel” after showering.

11-I cried when Erma Bombeck died.

12-I read the Narnia books as a kid, but didn’t have a clue about the Christian allegory until college.

13-My first real boyfriend gave me a copy of Blue Skies, No Candy (he had replaced the actual cover with one from a book about baseball), and I kept it under my bed. It was the first of that kind of reading I’d ever encountered, and I went through a period where I read it over and over and over.

14-I’m not a big Virginia Woolf fan despite my feminist tendencies. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, though, is my favorite play.

15-Joseph Conrad’s books make me swoon like a school girl over his brilliance and manliness. Hemingway can bite me with his scotch and cigars and guns and big fish. I’m not saying he wasn’t a master of the craft, but as far as manly men and their manly subjects go, Conrad kick’s Papa’s ass.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

And you can be sure Way down deep I'm demure...'Cause I'm shy...

Our priest and his brother-in-law were mugged on our street last Saturday night, walking to his house after a concert at the church. They were attacked from behind by two young men who threatened them with a knife (unseen), beat them up, and stole their wallets and cell phones. I am SICK about this. Bruce is physically ok, and so is his brother-in-law, and it could have been so much worse. But now I am scared to even walk to the coffee shop at night, or come in from my car after working nights. It just added more fuel to Dan’s fire about this neighborhood and the house. I don’t know what to do. Yes, it could happen anywhere but the fact is, it happened HERE, less than a block from my house where my three children were asleep. Children I am supposed to keep safe from harm. No, I don’t take them out at night that often but it so happens that Primo and I are going up to the carol sing at the church this evening. There was an armed robbery last Saturday afternoon as well, and I really don’t know what to do with that. I will not be a prisoner in my own house, out of fear of the animals. I will not NOT let my children take walks and go to the park out of fear. But how do I keep them safe? As Dan pointed out, the first time one of them comes home bloodied, I will lose my mind. Am I crossing the line between good sense and paranoia? Then there’s Dan and his usual issues, made worse by this incident. If we move and he complains about – oh, I don’t know – pick something – having to drive everywhere, or the neighbors’ riding mowers being too loud, or having to cut the grass twice a week – I will have to kill him. Why is the Zoloft-snarfing, rum-sucking crazy woman being the voice of reason here?


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I actually *finished* another book. Eve Adams’ Garden of Eden. It’s pseudonymous, but I am fairly certain it is Jan Karon trying to be edgier than usual. I will be curious to see if Gina agrees.

Otherwise, I feel that the time is right to begin reading Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown No, I don’t know what changed, I just know I am ready for it now. After I finish Valerie Steiker’s The Leopard Hat: A Daughter’s Story, which I picked up at the library on a whim and which reminds me very much of Ruth Reichl’s books for some reason.

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I finished the Christmas shopping for the niece and nephews this weekend. The older ones got Barnes and Noble gift cards (nothing quite like buying people stuff you want for yourself; I contend these make the best sorts of gifts); the younger ones all got crafty stuff like paint-your-own-pottery sets and color-your-own-velvet-posters and Scratch Magic paper. Stuff that Primo would love to get his hands on and that would keep him occupied for an afternoon or two. Those kids do love to make a mess.

The grandparents? Books – The World in a Phrase: A Short History of the Aphorism by James Geary for Grandpap, two Maeve Binchys for Grandma. With any luck I will get to borrow the book from Grandpap before they leave for Florida, unlike the Anne Garrels’ book, Naked in Baghdad that we gave him two years ago, that he left in Florida before I could read it.

The maiden aunt? Lottery tickets.
The priest uncle? Ditto.

My first (blood) nephew? I have not yet shopped for him because I know I am going to go over budget, and I won’t see him till probably February. He’s not even a year old so he won’t know!

The babysitter? Baked an apple cake.
The preschool teachers? Making fudge for them tonight.
The mailman is on vacation this week. Yet another reason to love him to bits.
Our wonderful neighbors? A nice bottle of wine and probably an apple cake.

Dan? Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zero. I am a bad wife. So sue me.

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I really need to stop listening to the Christmas music on the radio. I keep hearing monstrosities like Leann Rimes’ version of “O Holy Night” and Porky Pig’s “Blue Christmas.” I am a Christmas music traditionalist. I want Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” and Rosemary Clooney singing “Silver Bells.” I don’t want songs about Christmas shoes and dying mothers and flatulent reindeer. I don’t want reworkings of Pachelbel’s “Canon.” I don’t want Paul McCartney simply having a wonderful Christmas time over and over nor do I wish to hear Band Aid telling me “Well, tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you.” If you must be cute, play “Snoopy and the Red Baron” and the Whos’ song from the original Grinch movie. You can play the Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” but for God’s sake, STOP PLAYING John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Merry Christmas (War is Over).” If I hear it one more time, I will scream. And I call for a global ban on “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and every spoof ever written of it. It’s not funny or charming or anything but BOOOOOOORRRRRRIINNNNGGGGG, people. Give me Christmas carols – “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World.” Stick with the basics. Simplicity rules. And take Newsong out behind the Christmas tree and SHOOT THEM.

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Snippets:

I went grocery shopping with the sprogs yesterday and bought the makings for some Christmas cookies. Rum balls, Italian wine cookies, amaretto biscotti – does anyone see a pattern emerging? Merry Chrishmas and Happy Holidaysh.

Our church had the children’s Christmas pageant this past Sunday. Gosh, all those little sheep and donkeys and wise men and angels – and especially little Mary in blue - were adorable. Except I happen to know that one of the angels is a bratty, annoying hellion in real life. Revoke her tinsel halo! (But one of the other angels is a sweetie pie who lives next-door to us, and the third was a tall, ethereal blonde made for playing the Anglo-Saxon angel ideal.)

Hungry in LA sent me a Christmas gift (and yes, I opened it RIGHT AWAY!): this. She will go in my library right next to the Great Writers Finger Puppets set, also a gift from H.I.L. She gives the coolest gifts! Thanks, dear! Merry Xmas to you and the hubster.

Yesterday I saw two people driving in a car, each on their own cell phone. Do you suppose they were talking to each other?

I have finally discovered a use for all the cute blank books I yearn to buy at the book store – taking notes for the blog. So much for the paperless society.

All right, I had the babysitter lined up for next week but just realized today that the library is closed. Because of the noisy boiler not allowing him to relax, Dan has already informed me he will be going to work next week. Soooo….I will be home for five days straight with all three boys by myself. Someone have a good reason why I should not just slit my wrists now? Anyone? Bueller?

An Angel Gets Her Wings

My grade school librarian, the woman who introduced me to the Moffats, the Austins, the Brontes, and the first book that ever made me cry, Bridge to Terabithia, has died.

She was a tiny woman with wire glasses and a puff of gray and black hair and blue, blue eyes. Her hands were delicate, like origami swans, and I can still see them fluttering up to pull books off the shelves for me. I was in fourth grade when she put an arm around my shoulder and told me what a special book Terabithia was, and that she felt I was ready for it.

She knew because, in addition to being an absolutley ideal children's librarian, Mrs. D. was one of my oldest friend's grandmother--I've known her since I was five. She was also one of those sweet, happy ladies who gave her entire life to her family and her church. God made the best kind of difference in her life--Catholicism helped her to be happy and loving and good, rather than guilt-ridden and fearful and angry, like so many of the other old Catholic ladies I knew.

I'm sad for her family, but I'm happy for Mrs. D. She lived a great life, and now I know she's right where she wanted to be. What more can anyone ask for?

Monday, December 19, 2005

"Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind." - Mary Ellen Chase



Ok, somehow Christmas feeling appeared in our house this weekend…

The tree was bought, lighted, and decorated. I was delighted to discover that my boys subscribe to the exact same tree-decorating theory that I do, namely, put every single ornament we can find on the tree. (Well, except I own at least four more crates of ornaments – but the boys don’t know that.)


I hung my Cinderella coach on top and have to manufacture a star or angel of some sort this week. Primo nixed putting Terzo on top of the tree because “we don’t want any holes in the baby.”

I hung up the sled door hanger and put out the sweat-sock snowman, who is missing an eye, but what the hey…it’s Christmas. The Grinch was inherited from my older brother who was given it by a psychotic, now-ex, fiancee. I used to display it in my cube at work, but now he lives at the house.




In our old neighborhood, one of the neighbors left a little ornament in our mailboxes the week before Christmas, from Santa. This reindeer was the last one we received before we moved.

Every year my mother-in-law buys us all wreaths. They are always pretty, and always the first decoration we have up. She’s much more organized than we are!

The tablecloth was my grandmother’s, and the gingerbread house was a very thoughtful gift from an old friend.

I picked up the sleigh yesterday while finishing up Christmas shopping for my niece and nephews. Joann Fabrics' Christmas stuff was all 70% off, and I needed something to put all our holiday cards in. I myself am not sending Christams cards this year, however, other than the email one, because I finally came to my senses about caring for a newborn AND taking and picking a photo, and ordering the photo card, and then addressing 60-plus cards.

Maybe I will manage to have a Merry Christmas after all.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Birthday Party

Yesterday was quite a day. Teddy and I picked up his (red velvet--which it seems that bakeries don't like to make either, by the way--I had to call all over the place, and the one place that would make it charged an extra $6 for red velvet) cake at 10:00. The girl behind the counter brought us an ENORMOUS box with our last name written on it, and I thought I had gone mad and ordered the wrong size. She opened the box to display a beautiful cake that read, "Happy 21st Birthday Mommy, Love TJ." Teddy looked at me in horror, but I laughed. The girl looked at us, closed the lid, and found another box with our last name on it.

We got home in time to stow the cake in the fridge (whipped cream icing) and wait for the friends to arrive--right on time. Ted doesn't have what seems to now be looked on as a "regular" birthday party, with twenty of his closest friends. Since his sixth birthday he's been choosing two friends to spend the day with us, and we kind of do whatever he chooses, and then have cake with the friends and the relatives who live nearby. Then the friends can sleep over or not, depending on whether they can/want to.

Teddy loves this, and feels sufficiently special. His dad and I can afford it, and we still get the cake and family part of the day worked in. Plus, the stack of presents is much more reasonable.

This year Ted's dad and I turned him and his two friends loose in Dave & Buster's. Do you all know D&B? It's like Chuck E. Cheese's for big people. I sat in a booth and had what seemed oddly like a date with my gay ex-husband for two hours, while Teddy and his friends ran around like old ladies in Vegas, only playing games that awarded them prize tickets. Whatever. They pooled their winnings, and some 3000+ tickets later, we were on our way home with bags of junk (or tresure, depending on who you are).

Cake and presents with family. Lovely. Easy. No problems. One of the friends had to go home, because of relatives visiting from out of town, so that left me with Teddy and his best friend, who sleeps over all the time. They played for a while, and I could have cleaned up and spent the evening happily reading my book, but NO. I thought it would be fun to take them to see King Kong. (Insert foreboding music here.)

Teddy's friend had been coughing and sounding vaguely froggy all day, but seemed happy and fine so I didn't think anything of it. We went to dinner at the restaurant in the theater, and then went to the movie. Ted usually sits in the middle when we take a friend to the movies, but this time the friend did--thank God. His cough started to get worse as we sat there, and I kept asking him if he was okay, and making him sip his drink. He kept telling me he was fine. And then he started to wheeze. I said, "Can you BREATHE?" He said, "A little bit."

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Sirens went off in my head. I said, "We need to go," and lead Ted and the poor little friend out of the movie (with only about 30 minutes left to go, by the way). We got to the lobby and the friend was gray and crying, clutching at at his throat, saying, "I can't breathe."

You really don't ever want to hear anyone say those words. It's especially hard when it's a kid who's in your care but not your own. I know a lot about my own kid and how he acts/looks/feels when he's sick. I can read him. I know when to take him to ignore him, baby him, or take him to the ER. But this kid . . . this kid wasn't mine, and I'd never seen him so much as shed a tear. And now he was telling me he couldn't breathe.

I considered calling an ambulance, but calculated that it would probably be quicker to drive him to Children's Hospital myself. I called his parents, and said, "J is sick. He's having trouble breathing and is getting really scared. Meet me at Children's." Then I lead a freaked out Teddy and a panicking J to the car. The poor little guy was wheezing and trembling, and I did my best to keep him calm.

We got to the ER and I answered as many questions as I could, letting everyone know that this wasn't my kid, and that his parents were on their way . . . and then I sat with one arm around J and the other around Teddy, until a nurse called us into a room and took over. It seems that J has the flu, complete with the broken-glass sore throat that I had a few weeks ago. The sore throat and congestion (and, I suspect, feeling so sick so quickly, without his parents) conspired to make breathing difficult. His parents showed up, in tears, falling all over him and then me. I apologized for having to scare them, and then thanked me profusely for doing the right thing.

And then I brought Teddy home, where we ate Fritos, discussed as much of the movie as we'd seen, watched The Fresh Prince, and went to bed.

Good Lord.

Teddy's still sleeping. I've been up for a while, but plan to take a nap this afternoon.

Oh, and the movie? WOW. It's a good old-fashioned great time at the movies. It's so much fun that the boys didn't even mind the love-story parts. (No sex, just kissing, but gross to the boys nonetheless.) People (including me) were throwing up their hands and gasping and clapping . . . it was so much fun that we're going to have to go back to see those last 30 minutes, because Teddy doesn't know what happens. I do, of course, but I don't want to miss my chance to sit in a theater and cry. :-)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

But I think that the most likely reason of all May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Dan has taken the two older boys downtown this frosty morning, to see the store windows, check out the ice rink, and – ack! – buy me gifts. I thought we had agreed NO GIFTS. I was floating along in my sea of delusion, confident that I did not have to worry about gifts for Dan – who is awfully difficult to buy for, by the way. He informed me that the gifts are from the boys. Oh ok. So really I just have to come up with gifts from the boys for their dad – who is awfully difficult to buy for. Oh, and yeah, we did buy his parents a kitchen table and chairs from Ethan Allen but we have to buy them gifts from the boys. Why oh why does he do this to me? Doesn’t he know I am crazy enough all on my own? I don’t need any more help reaching optimal craziness. And I don’t have a free day this entire week, because my Thursday hours got switched because the library is not open at night this week. In the two hours since the boys woke up this morning (I was about to say, since I woke up, but I was up and down all night with a trying-to-poop baby) I went from looking forward to decorating the tree and baking this weekend, to freaking out and stressing over presents that two hours ago I DID NOT EVEN KNOW I had to buy. Tonight is the Perfect Family Christmas dinner (not to be confused with the Christmas Eve Extravaganza of Seven Fishes – really, tuna salad SHOULD NOT COUNT); then the festivities really gear up: Primo’s preschool Christmas party, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day dinner, the “Girls’ Luncheon,” and then in between all this, we are planning to wrangle all eleven grandchildren up to some portrait place on the busiest shopping stretch in the city the Wednesday after Christmas to have a picture taken. Now I say, the two newest are MINE and I could not care less, lousy mama that I am, whether we have a family portrait with them in it. Also, the dress code this time? Red, white, and denim. Gag. The first family portrait we all wore our yucky white Perfect family crest sweatshirts. The second one we all wore white shirts and khaki bottoms. In truth, we looked like a Gap ad, except we were all about twenty pounds too fat. This time, it’s my sister-in-law’s favorite disgusting color scheme, red, white, and blue. My kids happen to wear a lot of red because the woman who kindly ships us boxes and boxes of her son’s outgrown clothes has a penchant for red. But none of my children look particularly fetching in red. And both of my older ones are chin-lickers. So their faces are all chapped up. So I am going to have to break out the Cover Girl.

The bright spot in all of this? Last night, I thought we were out of rum, because I finished off the gallon last weekend at Primo’s birthday party. But lo and behold, in our cupboard, was a fifth of rum that we’d bought at the beach this summer and decided to bring home with us instead of leaving it for our hosts’ son and fifteen of his best friends to gulp down. Hallelujah and glory, glory, we are NOT out of rum. Is it bad that I am thinking of rum at ten a.m.? Yeah, I kinda thought so.

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Here are some catch-up photos.

Primo’s snowman. Identifiable only by the carrot.


Segundo’s snowmen. Identifiable only by the carrots.


My newest mug, is it not so cool?


Cookie cutter d├ęcor in my kitchen.

Stockings not quite finished for the boys, except Primo’s, but hey, I’ve had close to five years to finish his.



For God's sake, woman, what is WRONG WITH YOU? Quit taking pictures and FEED ME!