Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"All people have had ill luck, but Jairus's daughter & Lazarus the worst."*

Reports of my laziness have been greatly exaggerated.

What? That’s not how that quote goes?

Well, I don’t care.

Haven’t you ever heard of poetic license? This is blogetic license. Deal.

Why, yes, I am snarky today. I had a good run and escaped the house to edit a paper and am in a remarkably good, if snarky, mood. H was out last night (watching the Pens lose, they’re 2 down, very sad) and will be out tonight (oh, yes, and Friday evening as well; thank you, I will be accepting my Wife of the Month award at a later date). And while this means I get the kids to bed myself, it also means I have the house to myself (once Quarto finally stops nursing and goes to sleep, and once Terzo stops yelling for me to sing one more song, and once Primo and Seg stop squabbling). And even if I work, or play umpteen games of WordTwist, it’s still relaxing to have time ALONE (ish).

We had a very family-oriented weekend, and while it was mostly pleasant, I am ready to be a hermit for a while.

T-ball out the wazoo Saturday afternoon (first Saturday in the past month it has not been rained out).
Wedding Saturday evening (apparently half the world was getting married on Saturday, and the other half were attending).
Sunday was the family picnic, which, after the hellishly long drive there, was fine. Yesterday, finally, we got to relax a bit. The boys spent the morning (after sleeping in!!!) out in the backyard making forts out of the giant cardboard boxes my neighbor's new porch furniture came in. Then we all went out and bought roller skates/blades for the boys and packed up our hockey sticks and pads and took them all to the hockey deck to play.

Primo whined and cried but ultimately was pretty pleased with himself and his progress (there was minor drama (as always) over the skates we bought him first at a sporting goods store – but then when we got to Target to buy Terzo skates, they had rollerblades MUCH cheaper there AND they were adjustable so he wouldn’t outgrow them in three months…you’d have thought we were taking away food or something. Honest to God, that child. Am I depriving him by returning the $65 skates and making him use $30 skates? You’d certainly think so.) Seg was as always, slow and steady and will be fine. Terzo, his stocky little body planted squarely over his feet, acted as if they were merely extensions of his legs and was skating around like a pro in literally minutes (he’s going to be the one who supports me in lavish luxury in my old age, thanks to his NHL career). I hadn’t been on blades in eons but it’s like riding a bicycle (only more fun).

And I need my own hockey stick. Too bad Mother’s Day is past – do you suppose H would give me one as my Wife of the Month award? Hope so. Especially since *I* am the best skater in the family. She says modestly.


*Mark Twain

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."*

This morning I attended Primo’s Scholar’s program play. (Scholars’ is what the public schools call what WE called TAG (Talented & Gifted). The kids adapted Roald Dahl’s story “The Enormous Crocodile” into a play, and produced and acted in it. They did the set and the costumes and the sound. There were THREE stage managers. Primo had one line (but, oh, what a line it was). No seriously, he had one line but I hadn’t been to the Gifted Center all year, so I was happy to go check out his play. It was fun – the kids were surprisingly good, with mostly perfect comic timing, and such enthusiasm that even had it been boring, I would have still been entranced. And as a bonus, I stopped in at the lost-and-found and reclaimed two of our four missing lunchboxes.


I just finished John O’Farrell’s May Contain Nuts, which succeeded where much satire fails, by being both intelligently subtle and yet so over-the-top as to be hysterical. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of O’Farrell’s work.

Now I am embarked on Jennifer Sey’s so far somewhat formulaic memoir/expose Chalked Up: Inside elite gymnastics' merciless coaching, overzealous parents, eating disorders, & elusive Olympic dreams. Having dreamed of being the next Nadia myself (but being about 6 inches too tall and not particularly blessed with athletic talent), I am pretty into this book anyway; added bonus is that Sey grew up in South Jersey, two towns over from where I grew up, so reading about the places I too frequented is always fun.

I am also reading Laura Lippmann’s first Tess Monaghan novel Baltimore Blues. Lippmann is a mystery writer who has been blipping on my radar for a while, so I figured I’d try a Tess-flavored mystery and one of Lippman’s stand-alones, in this case, Every Secret Thing. When I am in the mood for a good mystery, it’s nice to have a go-to author.

I whipped through Prioleau Alexander’s You Want Fries With That? A white-collar burn-out experiences life at minimum wage. If you are expecting Barbara Ehrenheich-type indignation and enlightenment, this is not the book for you. In fact, Alexander is pretty darn annoying and exhibits some grating writing tics that just about drove me over the edge by the end. Was it necessary to use the phrase “crickets chirping” Every. Single. Time. he wanted to make the point that he was met with silence? Really? EVERY SINGLE TIME? Where the hell was his editor? Hmmmm?

I am having a lot of fun with My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs & Their Final Meals. Badger, or anyone else with an inexplicable yet ravishing case of the hots for Tony Bourdain, like me, NEEDS to see the photo accompanying his Last Supper. YUM. Tasty. And I don’t mean the supper, as I do not care for roasted bone marrow.


*Roald Dahl

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian life and faith?"*

We had the two older boys and the baby baptized Sunday.

Yup, it’s true, we de-heathenized the whole house in one swell foop.

The rector stopped by Saturday morning to make sure the boys knew what to do. “So, when you are baptized, it means you are now officially a part of the church community. When I ask, ‘Do you desire to be baptized?’ you say, ‘I do.’ This will be the last time you use those words until I perform your wedding ceremony! Let’s practice now: Primo, do you desire to be baptized?”

Primo stares at him. “Well…no.”

Um, ok. Having suffered through a childhood of enforced religion, I don’t want my children to require the therapy I did, but I also think the boys officially becoming part of our church is a great idea, not to mention a nice gesture. I was in a quandary; not so H or the rector, both of whom spring into action. H and I know that Primo really just doesn’t want to stand in front of a bunch of people and say ANYTHING; turns out (not surprisingly) that our rector is attuned to this fact. He gently explains what a great thing it would be for Primo to be part of the church, and how much they’d love to have him, and he doesn’t have to say ‘I do,’ he can just say yes. Primo is ok with Yes. So is Seg. Quarto is not given a choice; it’s hard being a baby.

Episcopalians baptize during a normal morning service, meaning we all gathered in the first front pews (all the Catholics looking thoroughly befuddled) and participated in a regular service, which happened to include this Sunday a never-ending processional hymn that started and stopped so often I kept making false starts to the sitting down – I happened to be cradling my infant who may technically only weigh 12 pounds but was like unto a sack of potatoes yesterday morning. Also we endured the LONGEST reading ever, intoned with funereal solemnity at the speed of molasses by a well-preserved older gentleman, and the most somber biddings to prayer I have encountered, recited by an equally well-preserved and noticeably nervous older woman. By the end of these two portions, I was ready to slit my wrists.

The actual baptizing part went smoothly, the kids all behaved and answered correctly (thank heavens). One of the godmothers was worried the rector would ask if she attends church (she does not); I told her that we Episcopalians so don’t care about trivial details like that. Quarto’s godfather kept saying, “What do I do?” and we kept telling him all he had to worry about was renouncing Satan. Everyone did just fine, including – or rather, especially, Quarto who was woken up from his deep sleep by water pouring on his head. I am sure he was all, ‘What the HELL? I HAD a bath this morning, for God’s sake!” but he was genteel enough not to verbalize it – much.

We had planned a pleasant little brunch for the godparents and assorted family after the service. Everyone happily ate and drank (leaving me, however, enough orange spongecake to eat for snacks the rest of the week, thankyouverymuch), and then dispersed to various and sundry paces to watch the Penguins trounce the Flyers.

I? Watched the first period and fell asleep for the next two, in my bed with Quarto snuggled next to me, still smelling faintly of the sweet-smelling oil the rector used to mark him “as Christ’s own forever.”

*"Holy Baptism," Book of Common Prayer

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"How come I end up where I started? How come I end up where I went wrong?"*

DUDES! This is making my DAY!
Radiohead touring!
Would I like to see them in Barcelona or Paris? Hell, yeah!
Will I settle for Cleveland? You bet your ass I will!

I love me some Thom Yorke, bay-bee!


I finished the Michael Lee West, and am halfway through Octavian Nothing. I am considering hiring Jess as my own personal booker (that's like a shopper, but slightly more literary.) She has NEVER steered me wrong and this book is so far no exception. I am really enjoying it.

Also am getting a huge kick out of Phoebe Damrosch's Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter and James Dickerson's Last Suppers: If the world ended tomorrow, what would be your last meal?.

Am slowly preparing to begin, I think, Kate Atkinson's Emotionally Weird, but I MAY save that Sure Thing for the week H takes the boys to Thomas and I leave Quarto with the babysitter anyway...


My brother was here for his usual flying visit.

Tuesday I cooked him meatloaf, mashed potatoes, lemon-glazed carrots, and peas. I also baked him an apple cake, the last pieces of which I tucked into his lunch this morning for his road trip home.

Last night we all had panini (pick your own filling - I picked spinach, fresh mozzarella, and prosciutto, and ohmigod, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven) and wedding soup and stuffed peppers.

Because I knew he'd plow through the apple cake, I whipped together a chocolate-marmalade cake from Nigella this morning. (I used the Trader Joe's bittersweet chocolate, which I am pleased to report works just fine; also, half a jar of apricot jam because I only had a cup of orange marmalade left in the jar.) And, oh my, - YUMMO.

Is it any wonder I can't seem to lose any more weight?


Speaking of, ran for 42 minutes this morning. I will top out at 45 and work on continuous running now (as opposed to alternating walking-running). My stomach may jiggle, but my thighs are steel.

And with that image I leave you.

*"15 Step," Radiohead, from "In Rainbows"

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"M is for the many things..."

My mom:

- Was ALWAYS there when I needed her, even at 2am – especially at 2am. Once, when a boy I loved broke my heart, I drove home from his house in Maryland in the middle of the night, and drove straight to the nursing home where my mom worked. She let me cry and cry and told me what a fool he was, and all her work friends petted me and made me feel better and brought me birthday cake from the nurses’ lounge.

- Thought I was beautiful. Even if she CONTINUALLY told me what I should do to be even more so – wear pastels, curl my hair, lose weight, gain weight, put on heels, shave my legs…if I had ever said to her, “Mom! I thought you thought I was beautiful!” she would look hurt and say, “But I DO! You ARE!”

- Was generous to a fault. Her packages were legendary in my dorm and she handed me money every single time I came home. Even after I had a job. “Just in case.”

- Cried every time I left to go back to Pittsburgh. She’d stand at the screen door and wave and cry as I pulled away.

- Thought I was brilliant. (Ha!)

- ALWAYS got my job wrong when telling her friends what I did, but always unintentionally promoted me. If I was working as a painter, she’d think I was an art director. If I was working as the scenic charge, she thought I was an art director. If I was designing, she thought I was the art…wait, I see a pattern here.

- Was always, ALWAYS on my side.

- Loved my friends and, no matter how much she liked any particular one, never thought any of my boyfriends were remotely good enough for me.

- Made sure we knew how much our dad loved us, and how proud he’d have been of us.

- Put three kids through college, as a single mom.

Of course, she also drove me absolutely nutso on a regular basis, was a compulsive shopper, had too many cats, and never cleaned her house.
But everyone’s got their faults.
In thirty or forty years, you can ask my kids about mine.

Happy Mother's Day, to all my mom (and about-to-be-moms!) friends out there!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife."*

Primo has always been good at helping me pick out bathing suits. Mostly because, like his dad, he’s really good at spotting my body flaws; for example, letting me know if I look fat and/or pregnant...

Last summer I solved the swimsuit issue by wearing a tankini top over board shorts, nicely accommodating my slightly-pregnant belly and providing comfort and coverage.

I recently discovered a gorgeous indoor pool about five minutes from my house, and am about to go purchase a year’s membership (at an insanely reasonable price, I might add). I love to swim, and can happily swim for an hour or more; I want to get back into it, hoping that not only will my upper arms shape up nicely but also that the twisting movement of the front stroke may whittle my belly. But to swim laps, I need a real suit, one that will stay up and cover my butt.

Many years ago LL Bean had the perfect suit. It was pretty, it fit well, and it made me look skinnier than I am. I only bought one, and wore it to death, so of course they stopped making that suit after that year. I have spent the past several years on the search for a similar suit.

Primo picked out these two online:

I picked out this at Marshall’s where I bought it and paid $20:

And this is the one I want, which is pretty close to the Bean suit:

Of course, to go out in public, what I really need is one of these:

*Erma Bombeck

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Think what a better world it would be if we all had cookies and milk at three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap."*

Dudes - I wish I had time to write a proper post - heck, I wish I had something interesting to say. But alas, my house is revolting and I must dust this morning. That is my plan. My entire plan. Dust. The. House. You could write your name on the piano. Or the bookshelves. Or the telephone table.

After The Dusting? I plan to Vacuum. So I won't crunch on the floor when I walk.

And then I have to swab the bathroom floors because right now my downstairs powder room and hallway smell like a subway station.

After this frenzy of cleaning, I will consider dinner. Pretty sure we are having poached-in-white-wine salmon, steamed broccoli, cucumber salad, and these sesame noodles. I should probably bake something - I made Nigella's cream cheese brownies for a party Saturday and they were a hit.Then Seg asked for peanut butter brownies. (I appreciate that they think I can conjure up anything, but honestly....) But I did. I used the cream cheese brownie recipe, only, instead of eight ounces of sliced cream cheese, I dolloped on eight ounces of crunchy peanut butter. QUITE yummy but almost gone. I believe banana bread is in my immediate future, as H doesn't much care for brownies and wants something less sweet. (Whereas my little boys would eat sugar by the teaspoonful if I permitted.)

Oh, and I have to go buy milk. Because we drank it all. With the peanut butter brownies.

So, let's review: Dust. Vacuum. Swab. Cook. Grocery shop.
SUCH an exciting life I lead.

Next up in this thrilling saga:
BabelBabe can't find anything at the library to read AND BabelBabe shops for a swimsuit. Can't hardly wait, eh?

*Robert Fulghum

Sunday, May 04, 2008

"She ran with the heart of a locomotive, on champagne-glass ankles..."*

Fact #582,341 you probably never would have guessed about me:

I like horse racing. I know a fair bit about it. I can rattle off Derby winners and jockey names and racing terminology – at least enough to converse semi-intelligently with my diehard racing-fan father-in-law and enough to pick decent horses to bet on (not that I ever really win, but I often have good reasons for placing a bet beyond, “Ooooh, pretty.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that rationale, either...) The horses are full of vigor and heart, and there are few things more beautiful than a horse in motion.

I was at a party yesterday afternoon when the Derby went off. We turned on the TV to watch the race. The favorite, Big Brown, won, coming in almost five full lengths ahead of the next horse – who happened to be number five, the grey filly Eight Belles, the horse I was pulling for. Eight Belles pulled out of the pack towards the end, finishing second. Man, what a gorgeous, gorgeous horse.

Just before we turned off the TV, someone said, “Is that a horse down?” but it wasn’t till this morning that I read that, right after her incredible race, Eight Belles was euthanized on the track. She’d apparently fractured both front ankles and, as is generally SOP with thoroughbred racehorses, was euthanized because with no way to put any weight on either leg, the chances for recovery are slim.

Washington Post sportswriter Sally Jenkins asserts that thoroughbred horses have become too strong with bones too lightweight..."Part of the trouble is the makeup of thoroughbreds themselves: They are creatures physically at war with their own nature. The heart and lungs are oversize knots of tissue placed in a massive chest, and huge amounts of blood course through legs that are dainty. Anyone who has spent time around a barn understands that horses love to run.”

However, Jenkins goes on to say, "...thoroughbred racing is in a moral crisis, and everyone now knows it...Horses are being over-bred and over-raced, until their bodies cannot support their own ambitions, or those of the humans who race them."

In recent years (spurred particularly by Derby winner Barbaro’s injury in the 2006 Preakness, and subsequent death), there’s been quite a bit of this sort of talk.

I agree with Jessica when she says, “After yesterday, I'd say there's going to be a lot more ammunition for that fight.” As well there should be.

Eight Belles


*Sally Jenkins, in "Is Horse Racing Breeding Itself to Death?"

Friday, May 02, 2008

"On and on and on, we'll be together, yeah..."*

I just started Michael Lee West’s Crazy Ladies and Bonny Wolf’s Talking with My Mouth Full. I had to read something while I stood in the kitchen stirring molasses and brown sugar and butter for Nigella’s gingerbread with lemon icing, for a picnic we are going to tomorrow. In the morning I will throw together a pan of Katherine Hepburn’s brownies (best brownies EVER) for the kids, or any adults who don’t like gingerbread. I am still reading Tenderness of Wolves, and it IS getting better, but I am so disappointed – I really expected to love it and just sail through it. Now I must hie me to Amazon to buy Not a Box for Seg. It is a huge hit around here, and one I think we need to own. Then I need to figure out how to set my running watch to count down and repeat thirty one-minute intervals. I have such an exciting life, hmmmm? Have a good weekend, guys, and GO PENS!


"On and On and On," from Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (this is my new favorite Wilco tune, and a song that makes me just a leetle bit in love with Jeff Tweedy)