Saturday, March 29, 2008

"Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles..."*


Without blood, or any incident whatsoever.

Primo got English muffins out of the freezer, toasted them, put Nutella on them (“Don’t worry, Mom, I used a butter knife, not the steak knives.” Ohhhh, gooood) , and then cleaned up. They were so proud of themselves, my little Nutella-slathered guys.

They neglected to wipe the kitchen table, but I am the only person in this house who does that on a regular basis – and once every few weeks, I scrub it down anyway, and take a knife to the crusty grout (which, incidentally, would be a fabulous name for a band).

Primo pointed out that if I move the cereal down from the top of the refrigerator, they can get their own breakfasts every morning.
Leaving Mama to loll in bed with bonbons and trashy novels until 10 a.m.

I am off to my 6-week post-partum check-up, and to grocery shop for Seg’s family birthday dinner tomorrow. I will try to fit in a run later. I will go to the library, too - although I am deliberately not returning books I know to be overdue, so that I may finish them (there's holds on them, so cannot renew. Bad library patron.) I am feeling remarkably cheery today.

How odd.


"Miracle of Miracles," Fiddler on the Roof

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

“If you were to ask me if I'd ever had the bad luck to miss my daily cocktail, I'd have to say that I doubt it."*

Who was it who said, “It’s five o’clock SOMEWHERE”? Blackbird, dear, was it you? Because if ever I needed that sentiment, today was one of those days.

The Remora cries – a lot. Colicky-a-lot.

[Side note: I am developing this theory that a baby’s labor and birth is indicative of traits that will emerge later in the child; it fits my boys fairly well. My high-maintenance man, Primo, was a finicky, fiddly, endless, and painful labor: induction, hallucinations, epidural not working, the works. Seg’s was dogged and steady, just like him: my reliable, to-be-counted-upon boy. Terzo was what I call a drive-by, and so is he: easy-going and relaxed. Unfortunately Quarto’s labor was a repeat of Primo’s, complicated by some medical issues, the perfect storm of labor and delivery, only culminating in, thank God, a healthy baby. A cranky, colicky, screaming baby, but healthy. Any other moms care to weigh in here on this theory? I think it’s got legs.]

My brother was here this weekend so I am recovering from the orgy of eating that always occurs, because I have NO self control. I swear I could feel my thighs and butt growing by the minute (even though I went for my first run in ten months on Tuesday). Does fat itch?

I cracked a molar on one of those ridiculous cinnamon candies I am addicted to and the dentist can’t fit me in till next Thursday – since I am not in any pain and therefore it’s not an emergency. There’s a substantial chunk of my tooth gone missing, and I can eyeball the silver filling inside, but it’s not an emergency.

I am yearning to vacuum my filthy floors, I have a dissertation to wrap up tomorrow morning, I can't seem to finish a novel, and I need a shower desperately.

[On the other hand, Seg spent the morning with a friend so the two youngest and I strolled outside in the sunshine with Terzo’s new Easter-egg-shaped chalk, leaving colorful trails of flowers, smiley faces, Penguins logos, and other artwork throughout the neighborhood, in a path leading to the coffee shop and the most delicious brownie I have ever eaten (shared with a most delicious two-year-old), accompanied by a nice steamy latte for me and hot chocolate for him (with TWO helpings of whipped cream). Then after school I took all four boys plus one of Primo’s friends to the park where they ran wild for two hours, The Remora slept in his carseat, and I stood around and chatted with my mommy friends, all of whom had had the same idea. Also, H and I have hockey tix for tomorrow night. Also also, my new Nigella book (How to Eat) came in the mail today, along with the newest Mary Doria Russell novel. So. Life is not all bad. It just makes for more interesting copy...]


Bonus round: Reason number 16,346 why I can’t be bothered to watch TV anymore - “Jon & Kate + Eight.”

Are these people for real? Tonight’s episode featured the pancake breakfast and potty training, complete with photos of the kids with their poop. Please. I am as inured to poop talk as the next mom, but honestly, why? The parents are beyond annoying, and the kids weren’t much better although one can hope they’ll at least grow out of it. Oy.

I turned off the TV, propped The Remora on my chest, and attacked the latest round of Scrabulous instead. Now I am off to bed with Devil in the White City.


* Luis Bunuel

Sunday, March 23, 2008

“Lisa, vampires are make-believe, like elves, gremlins, and eskimos” *

Now, please, if you are a little old nun, a Transylvanian, an Eskimo, or a vampire, don't take offense. This is one of my favorite jokes of all time, and H told it at dinner tonight, making me nearly choke to death on my Easter ham.


Two nuns are driving through the mountains of Transylvania.
A vampire leaps from the side of the road and plasters himself to their car’s windshield.

“Oh my!”gasps the first little old nun.
“Swerve left!” directs the second little old nun.
The first little old nun frantically jerks the steering wheel left. The car swerves all over the road but the vampire hangs on, laughing maniacally.

“Swerve right!” directs the second little old nun.
The first little old nun frantically jerks the steering wheel right. The car swerves all over the road but the vampire still hangs on, laughing louder.

“Turn on the windshield wipers!” shouts the second little old nun.
The first little old nun turns on the windshield wipers. The vampire grins his toothy grin at her and hangs on.

The second little old nun, inspired, shouts, “Show him your cross!”
And the first little old nun leans out the window, shakes her fist, and screams at the vampire, “Get the fuck off my windshield, you fucking asshole!”


*Homer Simpson

Friday, March 21, 2008

"We are bad bears. We are not to be trusted."

I have clearly been slacking.
But I did manage to format a bibliography, proof a resume, and start editing a 100-page dissertation draft – without seriously curtailing my Facebook Scramble activities. Hey, something’s gotta give…

Mostly I haven’t been feeling very clever or funny or anything close to approaching my normal witty and erudite self – not to mention I have been amazingly cranky and nasty with the boys and there’s truly nothing funny about THAT.

Although I believe I have good cause to wonder: is it possible that I indeed have the world’s most annoying child (Primo), the world’s whiniest AND loudest child (Seg), and the world’s most stubborn child (Terzo)? It seems like way too much of an – ahem – honor to truly believe I have all three. But I FEEL like I do.
So enough about boring, cranky me. Let’s talk books, that always makes me feel better.

Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons - Shirley Jackson. If you, like all the rest of creation, were required in high school to read Jackson’s morbid short story “The Lottery,” or later ventured into her creepy novels We Have Always Lived in the Castle or Haunting of Hill House, you will have a tough time believing that the same woman penned these dry, witty, somewhat tongue-in-cheek accounts of her life with husband and four children in a ramshackle old house in a small town. They read like early Erma Bombeck, or, for those of you lucky enough to have read it, Theresa Bloomingdale’s laugh-out-loud funny I Should Have Seen It Coming When the Rabbit Died. They have been perfect reading while my four children wail and cry and whine and beat on each other the first few days of spring break.

Devil in the White City – Erik Larson. Loving it. More when I am done…

Prompted by an amazingly delicious, dark and velvety chocolate Guinness cake brought to the party Saturday, I purchased Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat yesterday from Amazon. I originally bought Beth Gutcheon’s new novel, not due out till July, and Mary Doria Russell’s newest novel, but to qualify for Supersaver Shipping, I would not receive the Russell till July, when the Gutcheon comes out. So I had to cancel that order, reorder the Russell, and find something else to buy. Hence, Nigella. I love Nigella. I own How to Be a Domestic Goddess and have never, not once, cooked anything from there that wasn’t incredibly delicious and mostly pretty easy. Victoria sponge has become a staple in my baking repertoire.

Oh, and I also bought Bad Bear Detectives. Because those little stinkers Irving and Muktuk have wormed their devious way into my heart and make me smile. Just obstreperous children. Sigh.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"Couches are good for one thing."*

...and that would be for lying upon (while H takes all four boys to his parents for an hour or so, God bless the man), with a drink close to hand, a nice bowl of cashews, my laptop (12 ongoing games of Scramble), and Devil in the White City which I am finding surprisingly (to me) readable. It reads like a novel. It's fascinating.

And Vicki Glembocki told me to read it.
Yes, THAT Vicki Glembocki.
I talked about her book The Second Nine Months, remember? I was enjoying it very much. And she found me and emailed me. Before I could email her to tell her how much I liked it (well, really, before I could - via email - throw myself at her feet, arms wrapped around her ankles, sobbing, "Yes! Me too! Me too! I loooooove you! Can we get our babies together and have coffee? And do you truly not care if I have showered or not?")

And again, we all know how I am with Real. Live. Authors. (Right, Rebecca?)(I wonder if I should have used my favorite sycophant quote for this post..)

So - read her book. in fact, BUY her book - this sort of honesty should be rewarded. It's funny. And spot-on. If you've had a baby to care for 24/7, you'll get it; if you haven't (and plan to), consider yourself (truthfully) forewarned. It's straight up, it's not Girlfriend's Guide (which lost me when she told me to basically starve myself while breastfeeding to get my bod back SIX weeks after birth). It's not What to Expect (which basically yells at you for eating anything that's not wholesome and wholegrain - she says, drink in hand). It's just real. And funny. And heart-wrenchingly accurate. I may very well make my husband read it - or maybe not. As he has already experienced one woman's baby crazies.

In other book news:

- reading Lucinda Rosenfeld's What She Saw. I was speeding through it, thoroughly engrossed, and then the protagonist's affair with a jerk of a professor threw me - and her - off track, and Phoebe has emerged as this whining, narcissistic, bulimic, insecure bimbo - and I am having a tough time continuing. Which is sad because I really liked Phoebe in the first half of the book.

- also reading Revolutionary Road. Gina's description of it as the novel form of Virginia Woolf is accurate. Frank Wheeler is an asshole; his wife April is a twit. And yet I keep reading because I must know what happens.

- just bought a hardcover of the inestimable David Mitchell's Black Swan Green which I remember liking very much but don't remember much else. Plus, I read Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Nigel Slater's Toast around the same time and am sure I have it confused with one or both of them.

- bought Greg Bear's Quantico for H's birthday. I read and liked Darwin's Radio (but I was pregnant at the time and it freaked me out pretty badly).

- bought a Titanic book for Seg's fifth birthday coming up in a few weeks. Wonder of wonders, to find a Titanic book we don't already own!

- restrained myself from buying Terzo a little stuffed puppy dog he was playing with at the bookstore (he was "ruff! ruff!"-ing at Quarto). Oh. My. God. He was so dang cute, and he kept talking about his "friends" (what he calls all his stuffies he must sleep with). I did buy him a book about backhoes, though. Because that boy has me wrapped right around his little finger. And everyone knows that backhoes ROCK.


* John Wayne

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"I've been a wild rover for many a year, and I've spent all my money on whiskey and beer."*

Toilet overflowing (complete with water dripping through dining room ceiling): Check.

Girl vomiting/peeing self in kitchen (ok, she was three): Check.

Snoring man passed out upstairs in my bed (my two-year-old): Check.

Floors sticky with beer (and juice): Check.

Wow, my life (and my St Pat’s party) is JUST LIKE living in a fraternity.

(Except instead of being a little sister, I am the mommy.)


*"The Wild Rover"

Friday, March 14, 2008

"I have fallen for another, she can make her own way home..."*

In the spirit of the holiday, I give you my personal St Pat’s playlist, in no particular order (I was going to write an ode to Shane MacGowan, but maybe later...):

Traditional tunes, sung by any number of Irish (and not) performers:

“Fields of Athenry” (I have probably scarred my boys for life by singing this dismally sad and heartwrenching song to them as a lullaby.)

“Finnegan’s Wake” (my favorite part is yelling “Lunch!”)

“The Orange and the Green” (I love the slapstick-y humor of this song.)

“Danny Boy” (H is named for this song. We had an oboeist friend play this last year at our party, and I am sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.)

“Farewell to Nova Scotia” (Not technically Irish but the permutation of RHP (before they morphed into an Irish rock band) used to play this, as the fiddle player was a sailor.)

“Sonny Don’t Go Away” (Ditto. And the reverse Oedipal overtones of this song make me laugh.)

“Black Velvet Band”

“Cockles and Mussels” (Hate hate HATE this song but apparently am only one of the face of the earth.)

“Jolly Beggar” (You can’t hear this and not want to dance.)

“Wild Rover” (Same sailor of “Sonny” fame sang an insanely ribald alternate version of this that made me howl with laughter.)

“Long Black Veil” (Also sing this to the boys – therapy awaits! And I know it’s not remotely Irish except for the Chieftains (with Mick Jagger) having recorded it.)

“If I Should Fall from Grace with God”
“Turkish Song of the Damned”
“Fairytale of New York”
“South Australia”
(If I Should Fall from Grace with God - The Pogues)

“I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Everyday”
“Sally Mac Lennane”
“Dirty Old Town”
“The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”
(Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash – The Pogues)

“I’ll Tell Me Ma”
“Marie’s Wedding”
(Irish Heartbeat – Chieftains with Van Morrison)

“I Useta Lover”
“Red Cortina”
“Presentation Boarder”
“Only One Girl”
“Irish Post”
(If This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll, I Want My Old Job Back - The Saw Doctors)

“When I’m Up I Can’t Get Down”
“Here’s To You”
“Blood Wedding”
(Holy Bandits - Oyster Band)

“Jamie Across the Water”
“House Husband’s Lament”
“Fisher’s Hornpipe”
“The Galtee Set”
(Old Lead – Boiled in Lead)

“My Son John” (From the Ladle to the Grave – Boiled in Lead)

“Dearg Doom” (Straight From the Horse’s Mouth - The Horslips)

“Nancy Whiskey” (The Snake – Shane MacGowan & the Popes)

“Whiskey in the Jar” (Vagabonds of the Western World – Thin Lizzy)

“Rocky Road to Dublin”
“Sadam’s Reel/Kulsko Horo”
“William Taylor”
“Hanter Droiou”
(Another Setting – The House Band)

“Rocky Road to Dublin”
“Follow Me Up to Carlow”
“Foggy Dew”
(Rocky Road – Young Dubliners)

“Bullet the Blue Sky”
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
(Joshua Tree – U2)

“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
(Sunshine on Leith – The Proclaimers)

“Step It Out Mary”
“John O’Hara”
“Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye”
“Drunken Sailor”
“Irish Rover”
“Johnny’s Lament”
“Black and Tans”
(Something’ Close to Sinnin’ – Red Hand Paddy (in other words, the entire album but for a few tracks in the middle))

Now I am off to decant (if that's the word) the beer bread from its pans, peel ten pounds of potatoes, and peruse the recipe for oatmeal stout cake that I am considering making for the party.

And buy another case of Guinness (and a bottle of rum for me).


* "I Useta Lover," The Saw Doctors

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"...because the world's a horrible place, because it didn't give us everything we cried for."*

He’s NOT hungry. He nursed for almost an hour, draining both boobs, just before we left.

He’s NOT poopy. In fact, that may be the problem as he’s having trouble pooping, and you know, pooping is sort of an important life skill to learn.

He’s NOT hot.

OR cold.

He HASN’T been in the car seat all that long.

I ALREADY cut the tags out of his clothes, and he isn’t wearing socks.

So, yes, to the grandmotherly woman behind me in the grocery store, and everyone else glaring at me because my baby is screaming at the top of his lungs – I ADMIT IT.


Isn’t THAT what you wanted to hear?



*John Lennon

"He's calculating the right thing to say, believing that there is a right thing to say, not understanding that nothing he says will be right."*

Two weeks after Seg was born, H turned forty. I hosted a birthday party for 45 people, complete with food & cake and presents, in our teeny tiny house.

So a St. Pat’s party for 50ish (plus a couple dozen kids) in our monster house, with corned beef & cabbage & scads of Guinness & Jameson’s, a month & a half after Quarto’s birth, should be a relative piece of cake.

Shouldn’t it? I’ll let you know. Also, do you think chocolate cake & lemon cake are sufficiently Irish desserts?


I am currently reading The Second Nine Months and Revolutionary Road; reviews to follow when finished. I also picked up, cheap, at the library book sale The Historian, Labyrinth, and A Lesson Before Dying. And a friend lent me A Thousand Splendid Suns. Plus library books: Devil in the White City and Lucinda Rosenfeld’s What She Saw. So I have plenty to read.



I recently reconnected with an old friend from college whose wife, it turns out, is publishing her first novel next spring. She has been writing all sorts of stuff and has developed an impressive career, including finalist for the Pushcart. I am enjoying reading through her stories on her website. Pretty exciting stuff, and you know how I am about knowing Real! Life! Authors! (Rebecca, you did know I worship you – in a non-stalkerish sort of way – didn’t you?)

* Vicki Glembocki, The Second Nine Months: One Woman Tells the Truth about Becoming a Mom. Finally.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

“Some of the worst mistakes of my life have been haircuts.”*

It’s a haircut night in Pittsburgh! Every couple months or so, we run an assembly-line haircut operation and buzz the boys. Yet another sign that it’s probably a good thing I did not give birth to a girl…


Currently reading:

High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed - Michael Kodas. A compelling read, if a tad scattered – although he may yet pull it all together – and hyperbolic (not that death on the world’s highest mountain isn’t deserving of drama, but his prose get a little purple sometimes...and sometimes I feel like the way people in the book remember events is a bit too…convenient...)

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell. I believe there’s more to this slim little novel than meets the eye. I am halfway through, I’ll keep you posted.

Beware of God - Shalom Auslander. Ultimately disappointing (if you’ve read Foreskin’s Lament, you’ve read many of Auslander’s riffs before) but the hamster story is positively brilliant, should be required reading in any college religion course, and it alone is worth the price of the book.


*Jim Morrison

Thursday, March 06, 2008

"Mum! Dad! It's evil! Don't touch it!"

Facebook = Virtual heroin


A few of my girlfriends went out with me last night. A big fat blue cheese burger, a couple of Penn Pilsners, and some wholly inappropriate girltalk, and four hours later I had sufficiently decompressed. I felt so much better today, thank you for all the support and kind words. I knew a new baby would be hard, but….it’s still HARD, you know? I also got my hair cut today (chunky layers put back in) so I feel marginally less trollish.


Also this afternoon, Primo and I went sneaker shopping (for him), and stopped at a different branch of the library (New! Exciting! Fun! Complete with glass elevator which Primo was dying to ride!), and had some ice cream at Baskin Robbins. He kept telling me how much FUN he was having, and he opened up a bit about some school stuff, and we enjoyed an hour in each other’s company. Which was a relief because as soon as we got home he started tormenting Seg again (although I notice he very politely asked the man at the shoe store for a second copy of the free magazine with Sidney Crosby’s photo on the front cover. A second copy, for Seg.).


I finished Forgive Me last night. It was a technically more complex book than either of Ward’s previous efforts, but it lacked soul. Or heart. Or maybe both. Not to say it didn’t keep me glued to the page – it did; but I didn’t empathize with the heroine the way I did in Ward’s other books. She tackled a tangled set of complex issues, headed up with apartheid, so I did learn a bit about South Africa’s bloody history - which makes me want to read at least some Nadine Gordimer. Any other reccs, folks?


As a nod to the movie meme sweeping the Internet, go on and guess which movie the quote came from...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

“I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.”*

I believe I have officially reached my threshold.

I am tired of carrying the baby around 24/7, and nursing him nearly as much, and he’s a fussy little bugger.

Terzo is firmly in the Terrible Twos and has thrown several tantrums in the past week that left ME sobbing. And he weighs a freaking ton, so I have been left watching, helpless, because I can’t hold the baby and physically deal with picking him up. Which means that I stood on the sidewalk the other day - baby in the front pack, Terzo lying in a puddle on the sidewalk freaking out – and just waited him out. Stubborn little cuss (wonder where he gets it?) kept me there for fifteen minutes.

Seg, too, for that matter – my sweet boy, screaming No! and throwing himself on the floor, or jumping up and down hysterically, over NOTHING. Nothing, I tell you. He’s turned into a total drama queen.

But Primo – Primo takes the cake. Oh my god, he takes the cake with frosting, and buttercream filling, and sprinkles on top.

He’s been faking stomachaches and lying about throwing up every morning for the past week. He lied to come home early from school on Monday. H and I have asked about schoolwork, his teacher, bullying, his friends – anything we can think of, since it is CLEARLY NOT physical – and come up blank every time. I have NO IDEA what is going on but I am moving quickly from sympathy to anger and frustration. I should not have to be threatening, cajoling, and ordering my seven-year-old around every single morning to get him out the door. This morning, when he claimed illness, I told him he could stay home but there would be no TV, computer, games, hockey, or playing outside – if he was home sick, he needed to be in bed, reading or sleeping. Within five minutes, he “felt better” and had his uniform on. I am at my wits’ end.

And while I am kvetching: my laptop battery only lasts for an hour, I have a chapped area on my lip that hurts like hell and looks like a cold sore, I need a haircut and an eyebrow wax, and I am tired.

I have lost a ton of weight but now am terrified that I am going to pack it all back on.

And we are out of orange juice, my desire for which continues unabated.

Oh, and have I mentioned the weather? Cold and clammy and wet and grey. Sorta like my brain.

It may be March on the calendar, but it’s still February in my soul.


*Calvin & Hobbes

Sunday, March 02, 2008

"Our names are smirched?" *

I always try to pick library books for the boys on my weekly (or more frequent) trips there. I especially focused on Seg this week, as he is READING. Really reading, sounding out words and spelling words to me that he doesn't recognize (and thrilled to death to be able to read the sports page).

I randomly picked this Daniel Pinkwater picture book, about two polar bears accused of stealing blueberry muffins from the docks in Bayonne, NJ. It IS as insanely ridiculous as it sounds, and it's hysterical.

I LOVE this book, and even better, I LOVE reading this book out loud to the boys - Seg especially appreciates the dry humor, and I love voicing the smart-mouthed bears.

I need to own this book (and the other five in this series).

Any of you with kids - trust me - go check out this hilarious book featuring the muffin-loving polar bears, Irving and Muktuk.


* Irving, in The Bad Bear Detectives

Saturday, March 01, 2008

"Well, it doesn't say that exactly, but somewhere there is something about a chicken." *

I finished Alex Garland’s The Beach last night – it was a good read, but I felt like there should be more to it. It reminded me of what one of the characters in the novel says to Richard the protagonist about the beach itself: “It’s great if you just take it for what it is.” The book WANTED to be Lord of the Flies, Apocalypse Now, and The Swiss Family Robinson all rolled into one. Instead, it was merely an entertaining, off-the-wall, slightly disconcerting tale of drug lords, world-weary travelers, and stoned expats in a secret paradise gone awry.

I enjoyed Kathleen Center’s The Bright Side of Disaster. It was fluff, but well-written and with some terrifically quirky characters and subplots, not to mention a comfortingly realistic depiction of life with a new baby AND a happy but not sappy ending.

And lastly, I skimmed through Reva Mann’s The Rabbi's Daughter, a self-absorbed, self-indulgent memoir of her life trying to be an Orthodox Jew in Israel. I disliked the woman by halfway through the second chapter and my dislike just continued to grow throughout the course of her life and the book. And if her poor children don’t need therapy, I would be shocked.

Not that my children won’t – but then I also didn’t write a book about what a colossal fuck-up I was as a teenager and then follow that sad but commonplace enough tale with lots of selfish, blinkered whining about how fucked-up everyone ELSE is, once I was SUPPOSED to have grown up.

Hmmmm. Let me tell you how I REALLY feel...


*Tevye, "Fiddler on the Roof"