Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"I'm madly in love with you and it's not because of your brains or your personality." - Grandpa

I don’t plan to find out what gender this new baby is.
It’s not that I don’t want to know – I do. It would make some planning much easier – clothes and sleeping arrangements, among others.
And I will admit to some relief if it turns out to be another boy.
I know what to do with boys.
Most days.
But my theory all along, through three other pregnancies, has been, “SOMETHING has to get me through the pushing.”
And so I never found out the gender.

Because, let’s face it, the hardest part of labor is the time you spend pushing. It seems unfair that after your water breaking, hospital admittance, invasive exams, contractions, and in my case chills, fever, and vomiting, that you get nearly to the end and that’s when the hardest work is required.
And I needed a reward at the end and that reward was FINALLY finding out the sex of my baby. (No, sillies, the baby itself isn't enough!)
My husband doesn’t know this – he thinks it’s because I wasn’t in terribly good physical condition – but my third took as long as my first because I just couldn’t muster up enough energy to push really, really hard.
Confession: I am a childbirth slacker.

My first labor was fast – rushed along by Pitocin, I had nonstop contractions for about seven hours, pushed for about forty minutes, and there Primo was. Not easy-peasy but not bad for a first, especially once I accepted an epidural.

Seg was even easier, since I wasn’t induced. And I only pushed for fifteen minutes. Of course I had completed a sprint-distance triathlon while pregnant with Seg, so I really was in insanely good shape (for me).

Terzo – well, my water broke in the early morning. I dropped Seg at day care, drove to the hospital with Primo, checked with my doctor’s office, got myself admitted, and then called H to arrange for him to pick up Primo. I gave birth in the afternoon, and probably would have done so sooner but I was determined to wait for H to get back from dropping Primo at his mother’s house. I did push for forty minutes, but if I’d given it my all I probably could have cut that time by ten or fifteen minutes. But what’s the point? The baby came out anyway. And it was another boy which was not the huge shocker to me that it might have been to other people.

And just between you and me, my ‘nettie friends, I am betting this one is a boy too. It’s what I do best, gestating boys. I LIKE boys (Always have. Badum-bum.)

Boys are relatively simple folk. You feed them, clothe them, take them to the park. You can yell at them, and I have to admit I would have a much harder time swatting a little girl on the butt than I do my boys, when necessary. Boys don’t care if their hair is combed, or their pants match their shirts. They do care if they have a Pikachu Pokemon card, or if there are enough wiffle balls, and these are things I can remedy. They solve disputes with lots of noise, and, often, speed and, more often, physicality, and this is a process which I understand. In fact, I am fairly convinced that I was a boy in a former life.

I have one niece, and about eleventy million nephews (ok, only eight), and the one girl is a mystery to me, unfathomable and remote. Not that I don’t love her to bits, but I just don’t GET her. I don’t get why she loves cheerleading, complete with sexy, sequined little costumes and hair extensions and strutting, booty-shaking routines that make me very uneasy (I have NO IDEA how her father watches them without pulling her off the field and throwing her into a nice convent), and why she wears clothes that look like they were designed for Las Vegas strippers, and why her shorts have writing across the butt. (I don’t want ANYONE reading my daughter’s butt, lemme tell you.) I don’t understand why she wears lip gloss and eye shadow. I don’t understand why I have never seen her read a book, but she has attended several Backstreet Boys concerts and knows the words to every single N’Sync song. Did I mention she’s NINE?

In my defense, a dear friend has two little girls who I ‘get’ much better - but then E is fighting a hard, uphill battle against the formidable forces of contemporary fashion and culture. Her girls love horses and dogs, and they play sports, and E dresses them in cute but age-appropriate clothes (the sort from Hanna Anderson, although I swear E would have them in pinafores if she thought she could get away with it), and they read Harry Potter and LM Montgomery and Nancy Drew (and yes, Pony Pals), but I’ve never seen either of them with teenybopper magazines in their hands. I have never seen either of them shake their booty to a Britney Spears song (although I have seen them jump around to some Ralph’s World). They look and act the way I in my old fuddy-duddiness think six- and eight-year-old girls should look and act. (But then I am the throwback who refuses my six-year-old video games at home, and his own email account.)

H and I watched “Little Miss Sunshine” last night.
Terrific movie. Really enjoyed it, every minute of it.
Stellar cast – I think I am a tiny bit in love with Steve Carell.
I loved the teenaged son who has taken a vow of silence until he gets into the Air Force Academy, and Toni Collette was perfect as Greg Kinnear’s long-suffering and practical wife. Alan Arkin cracked us up, with his heroin-snorting, profanity-spewing Grandpa. But the best character was far and away that of Olive, the little girl who dreams of competing and winning the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. And I don’t want to ruin the movie, because I want you to go out and see it RIGHT NOW for yourself. But this quote is what stuck with me: when her brother and her father want Sheryl to pull Olive out of the pageant talent show, after watching little JonBenet Ramsay clones strut their stuff and fearing that dorky little pigeon-toed and bespectacled Olive will be laughed off the stage, Sheryl refuses. She says, "I know you want to protect her, I know, honey. But we've gotta let Olive be Olive." (Even if Olive does shock and surprise everyone with her (unpolished and innocent) dance routine, it is still weirdly more appropriate than the glitzy, polished dances the other contestants perform.)

I guess what I am saying is I’d rather be Sheryl than any of the other mothers.
I’d rather my daughter be true to herself, even if it means exposing herself to laughter and possible ridicule. I’d rather she be a little awkward but sincere, than polished and superficial.

I would rather navigate the minefield with her than give up without a fight.

But I guess what I really mean is, I think I’d rather just have another boy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

“Somebody's boring me. I think it's me.” - Dylan Thomas

I am generally the world's dullest person. I don't like to go out, I don't like TV, I really don't care about movies, and my sports interests are limited to hockey, and gymnastics during the Olympics.

My idea of a good time is reading books, entering my books into my LibraryThing account, reading book blogs, and indulging in the occasional TextTwist orgy.

I enjoy doing research. I enjoy reading obscure stuff, and knowing arcane facts. I found this wiki wildly entertaining and spent a good hour yesterday afternoon playing here.

So because I am so very dull, I have nothing for you.

Most of the interesting, scintillating people are in Chicago, scintillating one another. I am here in the burgh, being dull as dishwater.

I am reading Connie Willis's Doomsday Book, finishing up Silver on the Tree, which I will be very sad to see end, and I am ditching Shadow of the Wind. I have more than fulfilled my fifty-page obligation and could not care less.

I did spend a few fun hours yesterday evening on a friend's front porch, sipping ginger-peach iced tea and hanging with some fellow librarians. I have a few book recommendations to look up from that, and I am somewhat ashamed to recall my impassioned ten-minute ode to The Sparrow.

My books are catalogued.
I am excited at the thought of putting up more bookshelves.
Used bookstores get me hot and bothered.
And I think the best way to get to know someone is to see what's on their bookcases.

I couldn't get any less exciting.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride..."

I am reading:
Silver on the Tree - Susan Cooper. I sort of forgot about this, it’s not that it’s not good. It is.
The Mother’s Day Murder - Lee Harris. Prosaic writing, but somehow her mystery twists always suck me in.
The Shadow of the Wind - Somebody Carlos Ruiz Something. Please release me, let me go...Gina LOVED this; what the hell is wrong with me?

I have been handing Primo lots of my childhood favorites, including the first Black Stallion book, which I adored, and which prompted me to read the entire series. He refuses to try it, though. Even though I was right on regarding the Boxcar Children, the Bobbsey Twins, and Roald Dahl. Until...
Primo is reading:
The Devil’s Storybook - Natalie Babbitt. He is finding it deliciously funny.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone - JK Rowling. He was on chapter 7 when I left for work; he paused long enough to look up at me from the back porch lounge and exclaim, “This is GREAT!” And then he sighed, “I will read The Black Stallion right away.”

I am eating, whenever I can:
Hot and sour soup, and egg rolls with lashings of duck sauce.
Coconut cake.
Ginger ale and seltzer.
An occasional apple, and inordinate amounts of cantaloupe.
Kix cereal with lots of milk.

I cannot even look at:
Peanut butter
Tap (uncarbonated) water or orange juice

I am seriously contemplating:
Finding out the sex of this baby
Quitting my job
Begging my doctor for pregnancy-safe migraine meds (hahahahaaaaa!!!!)

I spend much of my time:
Longing to nap
Trying not to vomit
Ignoring my headache
Worrying that something will be wrong with this baby
Looking at other people’s minivans

I wish:
I could go home and go to bed NOW
I could go to the beach.
My boys would stop fighting over Pokemon cards
I would learn to say No to people occasionally
My sticky kitchen floor were clean

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"You say it. We share it." - Blogher

One in an occasional series [8/25]

The sad fact of the matter is that I don’t have two hundred dollars to spend on airfare (or the fortitude or desire to drive eight-plus hours); three hundred for conference registration, plus maybe another hundred to two hundred for food, drink, entertainment.
I have that to spend on rebuilding our backyard fence, or having our basement scraped and painted, or even, maybe, rebuilding the porch railings. But I don’t have it to spend on Blogher. Sorry, guys. Even with Poppy’s kind and generous offer to provide me lodging, I can’t justify it.

So here is my compensation: how many of you East Coast/MidAtlantic/New England bloggers would be interested in trying to cobble together a weekend like the one Blackbird and I planned last May in Bethlehem? I am not wedded to Bethlehem, but I will say it is a cute little town with good restaurants, fun shopping, at least one wonderful thrift shop, and lots of fairly cheap hotels. (There MUST be a Marriott, wherever we wind up.) (And I would consider a roommate this time, since I feel as if I know you all a bit better by this time. Just in case, I will have the cooler with me, though – so watch your step...)

There won’t be presentations on how to pimp your blog or attract advertisers or pump up your site hits; there would be lots and lots of talk, laughter, and hanging out snarking about other people’s blogs – you know, the people who DON’T show up. Oh, and chocolate (and alcohol, for those who are not gestating).

I was thinking maybe a weekend in late September, or early October, before the holiday insanity hits but after the kiddos have returned to school.

Any takers? Thoughts, comments, suggestions, etc.?

You can comment here, or email me at babelbabe (at) comcast.net

Come on, you know you wanna...


I gave Blackbird this little box's twin before we left Bethlehem; I had picked them up in a little gift shop when I decided we needed souvenirs. It made me think of that first night when, a leetle inebriated and breathless with laughter, we saw The Star. And one of us gasped through our hysteria, "Well, Jesus Christ, we ARE in Bethlehem!"

I LOVE Blackbird, and you all going to Blogher will, too.
I envy you all.
Have a wonderful time, and lots of laughter, and don't snark my blog too badly, ok?

Monday, July 23, 2007

"The palest ink is better than the sharpest memory." - Chinese proverb

Complete text of email to H fifteen minutes ago:

I have taken the liberty of finding every marker in this house (washable and non) and throwing them away. You will understand why when you view your two youngest children this evening.

Also, all that ancient dot matrix printer paper in the box under Seg's bed, the one your parents gave us because 'maybe we could use it'? In one of those paper recycling dumpsters first chance I get because I have no desire to EVER fold up thousands of feet of paper EVER AGAIN.

And, lastly, if that dog EVER TAKES A HALF OF A BAGEL RIGHT OUT OF MY HAND AGAIN, straight to the animal shelter with him.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

OH. MY. GOD. Where IS everyone?

I KNOW it's past eleven pm EST, but damn it, I just finished Deathly Hallows - a previous brunch appointment, and then the park and ice cream with my boys - goddamn family time! - interrupted my headlong rush through all seven hundred-odd pages.
And I need to talk.
Wake up, my sweet little 'netties, I need you!


I will sleep and you can - harumph - get back to me in the morning.

Page: 493.

Body count: Who can keep track?
Fingernails remaining: One and a half-ish.

Friday, July 20, 2007

"I am a ghost." - Silas, in "The Da Vinci Code"

It all started with Walter Geist, in Sheridan Hay's The Secret of Lost Things.
Then Francis Davey, the vicar of Altarnun, in Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn.
And now Bran, the ‘raven boy' in The Grey King.
Albinos seem to keep popping up in my fiction picks lately.
I was interested enough while reading Secret to do a little research.

Albinism is an inherited recessive disorder, resulting in lack of melanin, and therefore pigmentation (of eyes, skin, and/or hair), and, always, vision problems. They can have blue, violet, hazel, or even brown eyes, but albinos always have vision trouble. There are actually a variety of forms of albinism; sometimes you cannot even tell a person has albinism and with other albinos, it is obvious. Albinism is usually diagnosed/confirmed via blood tests and eye exams.

I myself have experienced in real life only one person with albinism. He was a boy who went to my college, and he maximized his striking looks by dressing entirely in black all the time, topped off with, always, summer or winter, a black porkpie hat atop his white hair.

What didn’t pique my curiosity then did so now. The most enlightening and engaging website I found was Bianca Knowlton’s. A self-possessed young woman with albinism, Bianca offers on her website lots of information, insight into what it’s like to be an albino, and details of how she copes with her disorder.

It turns out that albinos populate many works of fiction and movies, and generally are portrayed in a negative light, cast as the villains or at the very least as ‘freaks of nature,' like Bran. The latest negative portrayal is Silas, the self-flagellating villainous monk in "The Da Vinci Code." Lists of these fictional characters abound: here, and here, and here.

I was surprised that in all the lists of fictional characters with albinism, Francis Davey made nary an appearance. But his character is not even listed in the cast of the 1938 film version – although how they did without him, I can’t tell you.

One of the world’s top models has albinism.

As do several (in fact, an almost disproportionate number of) famous musicians.

Roy Orbison is NOT an albino, despite the sunglasses, and rumors to the contrary.

And did you know that it is traditionally believed that Noah was an albino?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. -A.L. Huxtable

I am trying to schedule a sleepover for Primo on Friday with one of his three cousins, or a friend from school. The one cousin is going out of town to a minor league baseball game; the other two cousins have day camp all week, and golf lessons on Saturday. The friend has summer camp for the next two weeks. Another family of friends has chess camp for the oldest boy and zoo camp for the middle girl.

I also tried to arrange a Kennywood trip among families at Primo’s school; fully one-half of the people I asked are going out of town so much during the next month that they cannot schedule one more thing. One boy is out of the country for the next six weeks with his mom; another is in the Midwest visiting his dad; two more are spending the month in California with their father and his new girlfriend.

I am just as guilty as everyone else. My two oldest did a week of neighborhood day camp, and this week are enjoying mornings at zoo camp. Next Monday begins two weeks of daily one-hour swim lessons. I have trips planned to the conservatory (Primo wants to see the glass exhibit!), the children’s museum, and the skating rink. They have attended a baseball game already this summer, and are trying to weasel another out of H.

When I was a kid, after the school year (walking five miles uphill both ways barefoot in the snow) was over, my mother more or less threw us out of the house and told us not to come back till the streetlights came on. She fed us (I guess she must have, although the only thing I distinctly remember is purple cows served at the picnic table in the backyard, and bike rides up to the 7-11 for Slurpees and fudgesicles). We came in to sleep (all piled on the living room floor in sleeping bags, as it was the only room in the house with air conditioning). And when the heat got too bad, we all laid in front of the TV in the darkened, freezing living room and watched Gilligan’s Island and Speed Racer and Hogan’s Heroes and Starblazers. After dinner, all the kids swarmed back outside to play Kick the Can and Jailbreak, running up and down our dead-end street and hiding anywhere we wanted but old lady Weston’s yard, until it got so dark we couldn’t see to find anyone anyway.

We had a teeny pool in the backyard that my father erected each summer, spreading bags and bags of sand underneath it and cursing and struggling with the damn pump. We kids loved to get in while the pool was filling; why that six inches of ice-cold hose water was so much more exciting than the actual filled pool I will never understand. Somewhere my dad found a giant truck tire inner tube, and we would float around in that thing for hours. Sometimes we would make waves, jumping up and down rhythmically in the middle of the pool with the inner tube around us, and the pool water would fountain up in the middle and then splash out over the sides. The pool sides would buckle and bulge, and my father would come running out to yell at us that the pool would collapse. It never did, though.

My friend Stacie had a pool too, and hers was bigger but she didn’t have any big brothers around and I don’t remember having as much fun at her pool. She and I would spend all day in my pool, making whirlpools and waves and playing Marco Polo. We liked to make waves and then the person in the middle would scream, for no memorable reason, “Whoop-de-doo for my Subaru” and fling ourselves into the swells. We would emerge only to run inside the frigid house, shivering wrapped in our towels, to get popsicles out of the freezer.

I can remember my mom taking us all to the library; I think I even took a watercolor class there for a morning a week one summer, and an embroidery class another summer. I played softball in the Pony League, but was positively abysmal ( I wore glasses and had no depth perception; one traumatic game I got smacked in the nose by a grounder that cracked my glasses in two) and anyway, my mom couldn’t have cared less; Stacie’s mom picked me up and took me there and drove me home. I hated it, though, I only played to hang out with Stacie, and was glad when the season ended mid-July. My older brother was a whiz baseball player though, and routinely made All-Stars. So we would all troop down to the Little League fields and watch the All-Star game and eat red licorice laces and drink raspberry Slush Puppies that turned our mouths blue.

Every so often my dad would be struck with a yen to go down to the shore. Whale Beach, my mother’s preferred spot, was only about an hour east, but you’d have thought we were planning a trip to the moon. Of course we wanted to get an early start but inevitably packing up the cooler full of fried chicken and devilled eggs and orange soda, and finding bathing suits and towels and beach chairs, and packing them and us three kids up in the car took all morning, and so we would get on the road about 11 or noon, my father furious not to have left at eight, before the heat of the day, and my mother loudly complaining about how much she hated the beach. We would spend all afternoon on the beach, my mother reading in her beach chair and bitching the whole time about the heat and the sand and the biting horseflies. My dad would swim with us, lifting us over the waves and teaching us to bodysurf. After our packed meal, we would walk the boardwalk and eat frozen custard with jimmies, and then pile into the car sunburned and full of sand, to sleep the whole way home. My father would carry us into the house one by one, my mother moaning about all the sand in the house and in the beds. For whatever insane reason (we were kids, and therefore dumb?) this was the height of summer fun, and we’d have done it once a week or more if our parents would have.

Fourth of July meant the parade with fire trucks, and hot dogs (boiled on the stove), and fireworks by the pond once it got dark. The big event of August was my little brother’s birthday, with a homemade cake intricately decorated by my mother, and maybe a trip to Clementon Amusement Park. Clementon was the sort of park that no self-respecting teenager would want to be seen in – only one or two rollercoasters and no death-defying rides - but it was great fun for littler kids. Every summer my mother would win us each a stuffed animal shooting air rifles at a target range that looked like a Wild West saloon – I am sure my little brother still has his leopard, and I still have my owl. One year she won us a little bendy giraffe, too.

Sometimes my parents would take us out for ice cream. On special occasions, we would go to Green Valley which was a fancy ice cream parlor, booths upholstered in dark green plush and the whole place smelling of sugar cones. You could order ice cream sundaes that looked like clowns or carousels, festooned with maraschino cherries and whipped cream and animal crackers.

On less momentous occasions, we went to Adolph’s, a little soft-serve walkup window near our church. We kids and my dad almost always got cake cones piled high with soft-serve vanilla and sprinkled heavily with rainbow jimmies, but my mom sometimes got a hot fudge sundae which came overflowing a little blue plastic rowboat that I claimed after my mom finished her ice cream for use with my Barbie dolls. On very hot days, the Mr Softee truck would round the neighborhood; you could get orange sherbet push-ups, or fudgesicles, or red-white-and-blue rocket pops, or plain old ice cream cones. I have yet to taste frozen custard that tastes as good since.

I spent weeks every July and August at sleepaway camp, in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, learning how to canoe and shoot a BB gun and swimming and playing Mission Impossible in the middle of the night. When I got older, I worked in the camp kitchen, lifeguarded, and took counselor-in-training classes. My older brother attended Camp Sankanac, too, in the beginning of summer when boys’ camp was held. The summer he was twelve, he returned home wearing the clothes in which he’d left, with a trunk full of clean underwear and a raging case of impetigo. We thought that might be the end of summer camp, my mother was so furious, but fortunately it was not. We both spent every summer at camp until we got old enough to want a job that paid more than fifty dollars a week.

I hope my kids will look back on their summers with the same fond nostalgia with which I recall mine. Despite zoo camp and museum trips and playdates (and necessary trips to the grocery store), the traditional words of summer: “I’m booooooooooored…” have already issued forth from Primo’s mouth and I anticipate them soon from Seg. I take this as a sign that I am providing them with all the requisites for favorable childhood memories: long afternoons at the pool, and lounging on the porch playing Monopoly and watching the lightning bolts, and muggy summer evenings playing wiffle ball in the alley. Ice cream cones from a truck chiming “Turkey in the Straw,” and swinging on the tire swing at the park, and playing pirates on the boulders, and splashing in the fountain. Homemade popsicles slurped in the backyard, drawing all over the pavement with colored chalk, trundling bikes up and down the sidewalk, taking long walks in the coolness of early morning. Check, check, check, and check. Of COURSE they’re bored.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"I like it when people cook for me, or I'll just order some take-out." - Famke Jannsen

Have you ever been in the grocery store with your children (or even just one child) and a full cart of groceries, and you are at the check-out trying to simultaneously hand the cashier your shopper’s card, unload your cart in a reasonable way ensuring the bagger doesn’t pack your bananas on the bottom and your forty pounds of laundry detergent on the top, keep said child from pulling all the gum off the shelves, and forage for your credit card, when you have someone behind you who apparently was never taught to wait his goddamn bloody turn, and you just want to snarl, “Buddy, BACK THE FUCK OFF!”?

Worse, my cashier has no bagger, and so as she and I try to bag quickly enough to get the rest of my cart’s contents on the belt, the guy behind me grabs one of those little divider sticks and starts unloading HIS cart. Even though CLEARLY I still have half a cartload of groceries.

“Ahem.” I say politely. “I still have all these –“ waving my hand at the stack of food in my cart.

“Oh! Oh, sorry.”

Finally get the groceries all rung up and bagged and stacked in the new cart, baby transferred, coupons tallied, and am ready to pay. I don’t recall swiping my card already, but I must have, so I punch the Yes button – $200.31 is OK.

The machine asks if I want money back.

I say No.

And then I say, “You did ring that up as a credit card and not debit, yes? Because it’s never asked me if I want cash back before.”
And I start to sign the credit slip.

The cashier says, “Oh, Discover cards always ask that.”

“Except I didn’t use a Discover card.” I say.

“You must have,” she tells me, and shows me the credit slip where it definitely says Discover.

“Except I don’t even HAVE a Discover card.” I say.

But guess who does, sonuvabitch?

That’s right, Mr. Impatient behind me, who in the interest of ‘being efficient’ (his words) and ‘being a raging pain in my ass’ (my words) had already swiped his credit card in the interest of saving, oh, what, three seconds?

Well, ha-fucking-HA, the joke’s on him because now we BOTH need to wheel all the way over to customer service, so his credit card can be refunded, and mine charged. Which takes something like ten minutes because there is great debate as to whether every single item has to be voided and then re-rung, or if they can just credit and debit the total appropriately. *I* personally don’t care – my child is busy snarfing a doughnut and charming the pants off the dry cleaning ladies. But Mr I-Can’t-Wait-For-YOU has to wait. And I am just evil enough to love every minute of it.

I know, I know, karma’s a bitch, and I’ll get mine. But next time, I won’t be so polite, I just may snarl, “Hey, buddy, back the fuck off.” It’ll take less time in the long run.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"If the west wing is rotting and our best wine is clotting, well, I'm terribly sorry, but I don't care!" - "Extraordinary," from "Pippin"

Oh gosh. My brain is all over the place these days – commonly known as “placenta brain” or “pregnancy brain,” this syndrome seems to have clobbered me this pregnancy. And I am grumpy to boot. [GrumpIER, I should say, before David, Rogue Librarian, and/or Hungry in LA do.] I don’t want to deal with the mid-year annual report (I KNOW, it IS as ridiculous as it sounds.) I would rather put bamboo shoots under my fingernails than “revisit” the library walking tour guide. And if the printer is not pulling paper from tray 2, I DON”T CARE. I want to be left alone to read my books, and write some stuff, and, I suppose, scream at, er, wrangle my children.

“If your idea of packing for vacation is a suitcase full of books and two bathing suits, you've come to the right spot.”

I wanted so badly to like John Burdett’s Bangkok 8 - at least as much as I wanted to like Arthur Phillips’ Prague - that I bought them both and brought them home and found them both dull as dishwater, and, additionally, just like this blog post, overwrought and overwritten, and so they sit on my shelves. So the fact that Burdett has a third book, Bangkok Haunts, out, which critics are pushing as an ideal summer read, just makes me want to yawn. And apparently I want the world to yawn with me.

The Children’s Hospital – Chris Adrian / Jamestown - Matthew Sharpe
And the premise of this first book sounds sort of fun and quirky, in that weird post-apocalyptic way which is very trendy right now, but just reading the plot makes me realize how hard the author is trying, so I think I’ll pass, thankyouverymuch. However, Matthew Sharpe’s Jamestown looks like it might be hilarious, if he too doesn’t carried away with his own cleverness. At least I am willing to give him a shot.

At Large and At Small – Anne Fadiman
However, I feel as if my soul could use a little friendly soothing right now, so I may just stop at the bookstore on the way home and pick up Fadiman’s newest collection of “familiar essays.”

In her take on necessary summer reading, my best-friend-forever (what? I can dream, can't I?) Maureen Corrigan recommends Hilma Wolitzer’s Summer Reading, comparing it to the enjoyable Jane Austen Book Club. It’s possible that this novel may be as forgettable as The Doctor’s Daughter but if I have fun during the reading, I can forgive its lack of permanent impression.

Corrigan also recommends Ian McEwan’s latest outing On Chesil Beach, which sounds so insanely dreary to me that despite my regard for her taste, I will skip it. In fact, the only reason I mention it at all is so I have an excuse to use this Corrigan quote which made me laugh out loud, and ALMOST made me take home Saturday:
”Speaking of being less than bright, last year I was so carried away by Ian McEwan's novel Saturday that I began enthusing about it — to a crowd at a bookstore, no less — when I was just two-thirds of the way through it. Then I finished it, and saw to my horror that Saturday took a nosedive from the sublime to the ridiculous.”

I had so much fun clicking around the NPR site that I checked out last year’s summer reading lists and was gratified to find several books I totally loved on the list: Lori Jansons’ The Girls (although, ohmigod, does this mean I have to try to read Geek Love AGAIN?); Kevin Brockmeier’s beautiful A Brief History of the Dead; Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend (which I liked but found the second half a tad unbelievable).


The letter writers on Salon these days really need to chill. This article about Harry Potter-inspired garage bands was CUTE. What’s the harm? Maybe it’s a slow news day (thank God, I say), but so what? (I haven’t seen the new movie yet, but I have to say that the few people I know who have were NOT blown away. I am saving my energy for Book Seven.)


(Joke, you may want to look away...)
H and I spent an enlightening and engrossing evening watching Bill Moyers interview Bruce Fein, the conservative Constitutional scholar who recently outlined the case for Dick Cheney’s impeachment in Slate, and John Nichols, a writer for The Nation and co-founder of Free Press. I spent most of the program thinking, “Yes! What he said!” and other similar sentiments. Despite his comb-over and squinty eyes, I am now just a little bit in love with Bruce Fein. If everyone were HALF as smart as he is, the country wouldn’t be in this insane predicament, necessitating discussion of impeachment, in the first place. [/POLITICAL STUFF]

Thursday, July 12, 2007

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.” - Oscar Wilde

My babysitter is on vacation for the next two weeks. This entails me taking a week of vacation to stay home 24/7 with my dear darling children. It may not sound like much, but seriously, the Tuesdays at work and the Thursday mornings to myself help maintain my sanity. It is Thursday, Day One of “Vacation,” 9:21 am, and I already feel my usually-tenuous-ANYWAY hold loosening. It doesn’t help that I have had a headache for the past four days, and that H hurt his back again somehow and has no feeling in his left leg so is no earthly use at all. (I know, I ooze the milk of human kindness.)

In good news, I read in one big gulp yesterday Cameron Stracher’s Dinner with Dad: How I found my way back to the family table, an account of Stracher's cutting back insane Manhattan work hours to be home in the Connecticut suburbs with his family five nights a week to eat dinner, and three of those five to cook it. Like just about every parent everywhere, he battles the picky eating and reluctance to try new things of his six- and nine-year-old children, and grapples with suitable vegetarian options for his wife. He’s funny, and he is incredibly and, at times, annoyingly honest. But he is well aware of his character flaws, and I appreciated and admired his brutal frankness, recounting his temper tantrums when his kids won’t eat a dish over which he has lovingly labored. Who hasn’t been there? You make homemade macaroni-and-cheese but your kids turn up their noses because it’s not orange-powdered cheese food from a box; you pan-fry breast-meat chicken nuggets coated in homemade bread crumbs and your kids clamor for Weaver’s. His “analysis” of the eating habits of American families is wry and self-deprecating, but right on the money as far as I am concerned. Throughout the book, he wrestles constantly with his financial obligations to his family, which do battle with his desire to see this project through to its end. His wife delivers a body blow when she tells him his pet project has resulted in “too much togetherness” but I liked him very much for stepping back and realizing what his presence contributes to his family dynamic, and why.

I highly recommend this book, although I do wish he had included recipes, especially for his black bean burritos. Badger, you need to read this book; it dovetails beautifully with your “Make Your Own Damn Dinner” project, and I really think you should consider trying to get a book deal out of that blog. (You can use the photo from your other blog for the author shot : ))

In other good news, the boys and I visited the main branch of the library yesterday, coming home with over fifty books AND Primo’s brand-new, very own library card.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"God! Look at that thing! You'd have gone straight to the bottom!" - Jack, in "Titanic"

I seem to be reading LM Montgomery’s The Blue Castle; I picked it up one afternoon when I needed something to read while sitting on the floor in the bathroom while The Baby had a bath (and sunk the Titanic and poured water on the floor). It’s typical Montgomery, and although I find the plot assumptions (spinster heroine grows a bit of a spine, throws over overbearing family, and finds herself) a little improbable and slightly tired, it’s mostly pretty charming. I didn’t set out to read it, it just happened to be at hand. I could have picked up worse things.

My ILL of The Shadow of the Wind came in yesterday. I was immediately turned off within the first ten pages by the ten-year-old boy conversing at length with his long-dead mother every night. Is it just me, or does this seem unhealthy behavior? I guess I’ll keep going; I was in a mood yesterday so it may not rub me so wrong later today. Or I’ll wait till Katya sends me the extra copy she’s got and I am in the mood to read it. What I want it to be is another Secret of Lost Things, and I don’t suppose that’s likely, hmm?

Speaking of Katya, she loaned me a copy of Octavia Butler’s Kindred. It has worked its way to the top of my TBR pile, but it looks fairly intense. I may shuffle it down a few books yet, Katya, if that’s ok. My brain just isn’t up for intense right now.

The other night I left my copy of Meg Wolitzer’s Surrender, Dorothy on the floor of the baby’s room, where I had been reading while he played with his trucks. He was just starting to calm down and get ready to sleep and I couldn’t go back in to retrieve it (which was honestly fine, as it is a little dated and not nearly as good as The Position which I really liked), so I picked up Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn which was sitting on my downstairs bookshelves. (Yeah, I seem to start a lot of books that way. There’s something to be said for having books all over the house.) Jamaica Inn seems to be a strange little almost-Gothic tale, along the lines of Jane Eyre or maybe even Wuthering Heights. So far; it’s fun. Du Maurier writes atmosphere like nobody’s business, and the rain-swept moors are helped along by Pittsburgh’s grey skies and pre-thunderstorm winds today.

The boys and I are off to the main branch of the library, to track down some more Encyclopedia Browns and Asterixs (Asterices?) for Primo, and books about the Titanic for Seg.

I am wearying of reading books about the Titanic; I mean, it’s not as if the events of the night are in any way disputed, and how many different fictionalizations can be generated? (Actually, you might be surprised. Apparently hundreds.) But if it saves me from having to read The Magic Hockey Stick ONE MORE TIME (a charming and very sweet book but one I am heartily sick of), I am all for another unfortunate soul perishing in the watery depths of the North Atlantic. I am debating trying to turn Seg onto the Marie Celeste story, though that might be a bit too creepy for bedtime reading.

I have already terrorized them with The Hobbit - Smaug freaked them right on out, and why does Bilbo have to become a burglar, burglars are BAD; and The Wizard of Oz: it didn’t seem to matter that the Wicked Witch of the West was, well, WICKED – she was still killed by a house falling out of the sky, and it’s not as if Primo needs any more help generating neuroses to obsess over. So, back to the drawing board. Or the library, as the case may be.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

“The Russians love Brooke Shields because her eyebrows remind them of Leonid Brezhnev.” - Robin Williams

I can't get the photo to save - so here's the link to the "Order of the Phoenix" premiere:
Photo of Ron, Harry, & Hermione

I have three things to say:

1. Emma Watson is a lovely young woman.
2. Daniel Radcliffe needs some serious eyebrow work. Hand over the tweezers and the wax.
3. What the hell is wrong with Rupert Grint? Maybe his hair has to look like that for the movies, but would it kill him to wash it, and maybe put on some decent clothes? It's not like he's not a gajillionaire.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back...

I decided I should read Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising fantasy series on the recc of Lazy Cow. I picked up the actual second book, also called The Dark Is Rising, at work on Saturday. (The first, Over Sea, Under Stone is really more of a prequel.) I started it this morning. I just finished it. I GOBBLED it down. And I gobbled all my fingernails in the process. The dog barking at passing cars nearly gave me a heart attack. And I have to go buy the next book Green Witch because our library doesn't have it, and I. can't. wait.

A mysterious stranger hasn't given me the heebie-jeebies like the Walker did, since, well, Stephen King's Walkin' Dude traversed the land in The Stand.

Dudes, it's so creepy and atmospheric, thank GOD I wasn't reading it with a winter snowstorm blustering outside. And Will is perfect, just perfect. There's no arguing or protesting, no simple naivete - he accepts his role, learns his magic, and is wise beyond his years as an Old One should be. I loved it. I adored it. It was better than Cats - or at least, better than - dare I say it? - Harry Potter.

You know, Harry et al. gave it a good whirl but let's face the truth, I am only buying the seventh book and reading it to see how the saga wraps up - I don't really care anymore. I stopped caring pretty much after the fourth one. I am not knocking Ms. Rowling - she is a fine writer and has an amazing imagination, but Harry stopped being magical for me after Goblet.

Maybe that's tied up in the movies, and the fact that Harry, for me, has become Daniel Radcliffe, which isn't a good thing. The movies stripped some of the magic away for me; they put the brakes on my imagination, peopled my brain with the characters as Chris Columbus and Alfonso Cuaron (brilliant though he may be) saw them.

My fault for seeing the movies, I suppose.
I won't make that mistake with The Dark Is Rising.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"Childbirth classes neglect to teach one critical skill: How to breathe, count, and swear all at the same time." ~ Linda Filterman

First: the baby update. Saw the doctor yesterday, all seems well. We spotted the little bean with its itsy-bitsy heartbeat – even with the crappy office ultrasound machine - although since I am not sure about the dates, the doctor thinks I am actually due later in February than we originally thought. Since I have had three normal, uncomplicated pregnancies, they are not as concerned about my “advanced maternal age” (God, how I despise that phrase!) as they might be if it were, say, my first. Now H and I are trying to decide when to tell the boys. Preferably sometime before I file for Social Security benefits and my AARP membership comes due.

Second: the RSS feed update. David, did you get the whole post? Lemme know.

Now, the book update:

I finished Baker Towers last night, and I have to say, I LOVED this book. Thanks for the recc, Gina. I enjoy complicated family sagas, and this one was a goodie. It reminded me a bit of Rebecca Johns’ Icebergs although the actual plots and geography differ greatly. They are both books you can get lost in, if you like. While H took the kids to his mom’s for the fourth time in five days (I don't even want to see people I LIKE that often), to play baseball with their cousins, I stayed home, finished off my book, and ate cheese, pretzels, and chocolate for dinner. (What? Chocolate and cheese are dairy! Calcium and protein, my friends. Calcium and protein.)

I then started Ian Sansom’s The Case of the Missing Books, which is going to be an incredibly light read but most entertaining. Israel Armstrong completely cracks me up, and I can’t wait to see how he resolves the issues with which he is faced. The scene in which the locals give him directions to Balleymuck via Balleygullable made me howl. It might help him if he grew a backbone, but the story wouldn’t be nearly so amusing then.

Due to the general Internet disgust and confusion over the movie version of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, and Lazy Cow’s indignation more specifically, I am about to check this book out of the library and read it tonight.

So the project to read down my TBR shelves is coming along swimmingly: both Baker Towers and Missing Books hail from TBR Land; however, I can anticipate having to buy the next Ian Sansom, which will shoot my intentions straight to hell. And after all the light fiction, I may be in the mood for something like The Children’s Blizzard next, or maybe some nice Russians. I’ve never read The Brothers Karamazov, and it IS sitting on my shelves.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

"As in thy arm ready to wield the sword, So also is it ready to carry the cross." - English translation of French lyrics for 'Oh, Canada!'

I ducked out of the house this afternoon with the intent of dropping off some almost-overdue library books and heading to the coffee shop for lunch.

I wandered around the adult shelves for a while – picked up Val McDermid’s The Grave Tattoo which Gina liked, and which looked really good, but I decided I didn’t want to rush the reading of it. I couldn’t seem to settle on anything – and I couldn’t seem to remember any of the books which at some point I had looked up and been surprised to find that my neighborhood branch held. As I am happily tandem-reading Miracle in the Andes and Baker Towers, with Tracks and Tractors picked up when the mood strikes, I may just stick to concentrating on reading down my TBR stacks.

While I was at the library, however, the heavens opened and didn’t close for quite some time, and then I got soaked running to the car. Plus, my stomach was actively rebelling at the thought of a nice turkey panini and side salad.

(Q: How can I tell I am pregnant? A: The only thing I can possibly think of putting in my mouth is McDonald’s French fries. Sad but true. And hey, it’s worked for three healthy babies so far.)

So I went home, ate my French fries, and took a nap instead.


Books I brought home for Primo:

About the B'Nai Bagels – EL Konigsburg.
Primo read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and loved it, so I thought more Konigsburg, one of my favorite quirky kids’ authors, was called for.

Danny, the Champion of the World and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator - Roald Dahl.
The last two Dahl kids’ novels he has left to read.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum.
I think the movie would freak him right on out, but the book, he might enjoy.

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch and Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers - Donald Sobol.
A few weeks ago I brought home from the thrift store a carton of books, about fifty total. Some were picture books for Seg and Terzo, some were classics I thought the boys might like to read aloud (Call of the Wild, Rats of NIMH), and some were books I remembered enjoying from my childhood. In the box was the first Encyclopedia Brown, and Primo really liked it.

The Talking T. Rex and The Runaway Racehorse.
Primo likes the A to Z Mysteries, and these are the next two he hasn’t read.

Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, part 2.
I don’t hate these books as much as some people seem to. I think they’re funny and harmless, and I love hearing Primo’s big fat belly laugh when he’s reading one.

The House with a Clock in its Walls – John Bellairs.
Illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators ever, Edward Gorey. And if Primo can read and enjoy Dahl, he can certainly read and enjoy Bellairs.

Marvin Redpost: Is he a Girl? - Louis Sachar.
Do I have the faintest idea what this book is like? No, none, but I figured why not give it a chance? It looks funny and Sachar writes good books for older kids.

Me oh Maya! and Oh say, I can't see - Jon Scieszka.
I tried to get Primo interested in the Time Warp Trio books after he’d read all the Magic Treehouse Books. Since he very knowledgably explained to me the battle of Trenton last night after the fireworks (what is it with boys and wars?), I thought he might especially enjoy the Revolutionary War one.

Asterix and the Falling Sky - Albert Uderzo.
Primo had read all of the library’s TinTins?

Oddly Normal. Volume 1 - Otis Frampton.
No idea, it just looked fun.


Lazy Cow mentioned that she is reading The Hobbit to her children, a remarkably brilliant idea and therefore not something that would have occurred to me in a thousand years. I thought I’d give it a whirl for Primo and Seg. Seg can take it or leave it; his current reading love is the adorable and clever Magic Hockey Stick, but Primo has asked for it even when he gets to pick the night-time reading.(The first night I told them I was reading them something I wanted to read, and then I’d read their picks. After the first ten pages of Hobbit, he picked the next ten for his choice, and there has been no looking back.)


We took the two older boys downtown for the fireworks last night. Seg really really wanted to go, and Primo didn’t want to miss out on something Seg got to do, so he sucked up his natural disinclination to deal with loud noises and came along. The fireworks were fine, the boys had a good time, and when we got home and I put them to bed, they made me sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” to them. (Don’t tell John Ashcroft, but then they made me sing “Oh, Canada,” too. (But not the French part – I don’t speak French. Or sing it, either.))

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"So tired, so tired, so tired, so tired, so tired." - Ozzy Osborne, "So Tired"

I am so tired.

I could write a post about people who plan adult birthday parties for weeknights when they are on vacation and others are NOT, and yet others are obliged to attend. But I am too tired to be bothered.

I could write a post about how much my mother-in-law annoys me, with her constant need for validation for every little thing she does and says. I’m sorry, the pasta was inedible and I am too tired to lie about it. And if you sprinkle crushed Ritz crackers and shredded Velveeta on top of broccoli, you have rendered unpalatable a perfectly fine vegetable.

I could write a post about patrons who incorrectly impugn my considerable abilities as a research librarian. But frankly, I am too tired to politely point out the error of their ways and content myself with snarking to you about it.

I could write a post about the squickiness level of the research I am doing for a freelance assignment. But I am too tired to figure out what my non-disclosure agreement covers, and what it doesn’t.

I could write a post about how if *I* had spent thousands of dollars on a boob job and tummy tuck, I would eschew Peter-Pan-collared gingham shirts with Winnie-the-Pooh appliqué, and high-waisted, pleated shorts (let’s face it, I eschew all these things anyway). I think I am too tired to consider what I would wear, other than Old Navy’s low-waisted cargoes.

I could write a post about how my six-year-old is driving me absolutely batshit with his mouthiness and whining and neediness, and how my four-year-old needs a volume control, and how I think The Baby may have roseola. But I am too tired to do much other than throw waffles at them for breakfast and push them outside to play.

I could write a post about how happy I am that my big brother is coming to visit over the holiday. I am really too tired to cook for him, but fortunately he really won’t care.

I could write a post about the war of words waged on the neighborhood email list, regarding whether or not children and dogs should be permitted to splash in the park fountain. I am NOT too tired to point out that we all survived fountain- and pond-splashing, tree-climbing, bike-riding without helmets, and playing Jailbreak in the street till after dark.

At least I appear to be too tired to bother being nauseated, so that’s something.

Monday, July 02, 2007

“Sometimes it pays to stay in bed in Monday, rather than spending the rest of the week debugging Monday's code.” - Dan Salomon

I started Jennifer Haigh’s Baker Towers last night, based on Gina’s recommendation. So far, so good. I like the characters; the strength and complexity of Rose especially appeals to me. I hope it continues to be as interesting.

I am also now enjoying Robyn Davidson’s Tracks; I still don’t really understand her dysfunctional relationship with Kurt, the man who teaches her to train camels; I think there must be more there than she is letting on, but otherwise I find myself caring very much about her animals and her adventure.

My little brother gave me A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian for Christmas two years ago, based solely on the title, I am guessing. We are half-Ukrainian and quite proud of it, although neither of us speaks a word. (Well, actually, I can say “I love you” in Ukrainian, but as you might imagine, it doesn’t come in particularly handy, well, ever.) I started it the other night and like it, although it reminds me very much of Lily Brett’s You Gotta Have Balls which I didn’t especially like.

I just requested The Shadow of the Wind from the library, despite my self-imposed moratorium on library books. I am trying to read down my TBR shelves, God knows there’s enough of them. But I’ve had my eye on Wind for ages now, and Lazy Cow’s recc sealed it for me. (And by the way, I am thrilled she is back! I missed you, LC!)

I generally help out at our church by doing whatever needs to be done, and yesterday there were six boxes of donated books that needed to be shelved for the book sale. So I did it. And – the privilege of working – I scored a signed (sixth) edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn!
And a lovely 1932 edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.
And an adorable little Russian Fairy Tales volume from Peter Pauper Press, which publishes some of the quirkiest and most interesting little books around. I own a copy of Comic Epitaphs published by them in 1960, and it's a rollicking read.

It was a good haul. All for the low low price of five dollars. I feel like I should give them more, but those are the posted prices. As long as I don’t turn around and try to sell them, I think I can live with my conscience.

And now we are off to visit the newly-remodeled neighborhood coffee shop, and sip some latte (me), and eat some sfogliatelle (all of us).

Happy Monday!