Friday, February 29, 2008

"If you come any closer, I will rip you to shreds."*

Humdy-humdy-humdy-hum…what’s going on around here these days?

Let’s see…

Seg called Primo an asshole last night. Totally my fault. No, I am not necessarily proud, BUT he used it appropriately and in perfect context – Primo WAS being an asshole.

The Baby now fits into his 0-3 month clothes. But he still has little chicken legs.

Terzo is outgrowing six 6 diapers, so he has no choice but to be potty-trained as soon as possible. Lovely. Especially given his recent fascination with all things scatological. WHY do boys find fart jokes so funny?

I spent an hour out by myself yesterday, when the babysitter was here. I hit the drugstore (baby wipes, Easter paraphernalia (new toothbrushes and egg-shaped chalk and jelly beans), and a five-pound bag of cinnamon imperials (Ferrara-Pan, not Brach’s, but still an ok score)). I went to the bank (money) and Starbucks (grande nonfat latte) and Home Depot (white curtain rods for the older boys’ room) and the library (the most important stop).

A lovely discussion about fundamentalism in general, Orthodox Judaism specifically, ensued between My Favorite Librarian, my Second-Favorite Librarian (an earnest young man who apparently reads as much as I do), and me. I recommended Amanda Eyre Ward to MFL, and she expressed surprise that I did not love Gods Behaving Badly. I LOVE my library.

I picked up the following haul:
A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You - Amy Bloom. Away is getting lots of press; this is Bloom’s debut, which I think I tried to read before.
The Chestnut Tree - Charlotte Bingham. Someone was reading Bingham and mentioned her on their blog, comparing her to Rosamunde Pilcher or early Maeve Binchy. And we know how much I love Rosamunde Pilcher comfort reading…
The Bright Side of Disaster - Katherine Center. There’s a bright yellow rubber duck on the cover! How could one go wrong?
Beware of God - Shalom Auslander. My new boyfriend’s first book.
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates. A book mentioned by more than one author in The Top Ten: Writers pick their favorite books.
The Rabbi's Daughter - Reva Mann. A direct consequence of combining Shalom Auslander with Amazon’s “People who bought this book…” feature.
High Crimes: The fate of Everest in an age of greed - Michael Kodas. Everest! Mountain climbing! Death! Yay!
Forgive Me - Amanda Eyre Ward. Have I raved enough about AWE? She’s a great writer, and I cannot put her books down. She needs to write more, and faster!
The Neverending Story - Michael Ende. An 8-year-old friend recently read this and declared it the best book ever. So I thought I’d check it out for Primo. The last book I read for him was Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which was amusing.

I am halfway through The Beach and it is just about what everyone said – a good, fast read, entertaining enough, with some suspense/mystery.

And I have to blog about Salman Rushdie, whom Gina and I went to hear Wednesday night. So you have THAT to look forward to…along with tales about and photos of the boys’ new bunk beds which we are hoping to pick up this weekend and thereby reduce some of the chaos in this house. If we could just get the electrician here…

* G'mork, "The Neverending Story"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hockey players wear numbers because you can't always identify the body with dental records.

Dudes! This sucks!

THIS is why I try not to get involved. Why I try not to let myself CARE.
Because every time I let myself care, THIS is what happens.

The Pens broke my heart in ‘96 when they got rid of Sergei Zubov (allegedly because the great Mario Lemieux did not get along with him); again in ‘98 when Ron Francis left in free agency for Carolina; and now – now – they have traded my Colby, he of the boyish smile and twinkly eyes – oh, and, you know, his hockey skills are important, too...

Primo came home from school crying about the trade (although he may have been more upset about the loss of Christensen), and I tried to explain that being a hockey fan can be traumatic and heartbreaking sometimes…hollow words. I was ready to cry, too.

Monday, February 25, 2008

:Cabbage as a food has problems." *

Primo attended a birthday party yesterday at a glow-in-the-dark mini-golf course. (I KNOW. MY birthday parties were all held at my distinctly NOT glow-in-the-dark backyard…)

The place was positively migraine-inducing, so I dropped off Primo, made sure the birthday girl and her parents knew he was there, and ventured out to the soulless mall. I did some desultory birthday shopping for Seg (6 weeks away), and bought floor mats for the new minivan, and after walking what felt like three miles from one end of the mall to the other (why are the two stores you need to go to at opposite ends of the mall, ALWAYS?), settled down on a bench to read and drink some coffee. I was finishing up Chris Bojhalian’s Double Bind; it ended better than it had begun, and the ending was well worth slogging through the slower middle – in fact, as I read what I have just written, I realize that the book was actually sort of slow throughout, and awkwardly written in places, but ultimately a good read.

I can say no more.

What was a good, fast – almost breathless – read was Amanda Eyre Ward’s How To Be Lost. I am sad that she has only one more book for me to read, Forgive Me, but I am requesting it from the library this morning.

John Elder Robison’s Look Me in the Eye just never grabbed me – I made it through a couple chapters before he just annoyed the shit out of me. I found the parts where he talked about his Asperger’s and how it affected his interactions very interesting, but I also felt that he blamed some major asshole-like behavior on his Asperger’s. In a “Ha ha, aren’t I clever?” sort of way that smacked of arrogance – and falsehood (heck, he is Augusten Burroughs’ brother…) - to me.

In other not nearly so exciting (to YOU) news – I am pissed off as hell that first my grocery store and now the drugstore has stopped carrying the world’s best soap – SoftSoap’s Milk & Honey body wash. I am assuming it’s still made; I just can’t seem to get my dry little hands on the stuff. Badger, it’s all your fault – just like a smack habit, you got me hooked on the stuff in the first place. Enabler!


* Jane Grigson

Friday, February 22, 2008

"That would be so God."*

I was raised Baptist, of the “Footloose” sort, in the little-known South Jersey Bible Belt of fundamentalism. I survived a childhood fraught with the emotion of altar calls, and worries that the Rapture would take my parents and leave me behind. But I went to a secular college and left my strict upbringing as far behind me as I could.

I attribute years of therapy to my relative mental health regarding religion. Shalom Auslander mentions his therapist early in Foreskin’s Lament, but it’s possible that he needs even more therapy…he is a funny, sarcastic, insightful, and EXTREMELY bitter writer.

I almost didn’t start the book last night – I have three others I am halfway through – but it’s a seven-day library book and I really REALLY wanted to read it (because Jessa loves Auslander, so I want to, too). Once I started it, I had a very tough time putting it down. If it’s possible for my kindred spirit to be a lapsed Orthodox Jewish author, then Auslander is mine. He GETS how fucked up religion in its extreme form can be, and what havoc it can wreak on impressionable young minds, and like me, he also questions why any sane, caring adult would subject their child to the mindfuck that is fundamentalism in any form.

He and his wife refer to his childhood religious experiences as “theological abuse.” I know EXACTLY what he means. I want to email him and say, “Yes! Yes, I get it, and you are so right, and oh my fucking God, ME TOO!”


*Shalom Auslander, Foreskin's Lament

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”*

We have an electric cooktop at this house; I am used to cooking with gas. But it really doesn't matter - I am notoriously horrible at cooking rice: I scorch it, boil it, leave it crunchy...

I just had a rice disaster. My house still reeks of scorched rice, and the only good thing that came out of the whole experience is that I know my smoke detector needs new batteries.

Do I need a rice cooker, or no? Discuss.

*Condeleezza Rice

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

“It is very, very easy not to be offended by a book. You just have to shut it.”*

Tuesday random:

I don't want to forget what they look like at this age - since this is my LAST baby.


The lovely and erudite (and pregnant - not that that's here or there...) Doppelganger is plugging the Dewey Donation System. Help a library in need get books. Go on, you know you want to. I had a good time picking out board books for the preschoolers that I know *my* guys liked. I Love You, Stinky Face, given to us by my friend D, is a particularly huge hit.


I like lasagna. But I would be happy not to see another piece of it for a few weeks. Don't mean to sound ungrateful as a lot of friends have been bringing us meals - and some have brought yummy lasagna - but three lasagnas (lasagni?) in the space of a week is plenty. I froze a lot of it, and will be very thankful for it later. Meantime, I am plowing through my friend L's delicious dessert of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries in some sort of whipped cream/sour cream sauce-y stuff. YUM.


Gina just asked me to go hear Salman Rushdie speak next week. I am so very psyched. Satanic Verses is one of my favorite books ever, and I loved Midnight's Children as well. Gina said I should come prepared with a question written down to ask him; would it be incredibly rude to ask when in the hell he is going to write another decent book? Because the last couple? Dreck. Redundant and derivative. Or actually, self-derivative, which being Salman Rushdie, could be worse, but still...


*Salman Rushdie

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"You'll understand if I'm not in a particularly social mood." *

The older boys are at church with H – H helps run the children’s music program and since we don’t insist on the kids going to Sunday school, we do make them attend the music service. They always grumble (I think it’s the having to put on real pants (not sweatpants) and decent shoes (not sneakers) more than anything else) but they seem to enjoy it once they get there and spend the week humming the new songs they’ve learned

I opted to stay home with the baby – yes, it’s fifty degrees here, but it’s raining and everyone seems to be sick (including me) so I figured I’d keep him sequestered a while longer. My mother-in-law would approve – in her day you didn’t take babies anywhere until after they were christened (about six weeks). Quarto will be christened (Episcopalian), but maybe not at exactly six weeks, and he’ll be out and about before that, as I still have three other children who have things to do and places to go.

Meanwhile, I can use the relative peace and quiet to edit a sixty-page proposal I promised a client by Monday. I KNOW, I just gave birth, but this is the third client who has contacted me and pleaded with me to “just take a quick look, pretty please” (ok, he didn’t say pretty please, but he was very nice). The only people who seem to understand that I HAVE JUST GIVEN BIRTH (and seriously, you don’t want me editing anything with my diminished brain capacity right now) are my favorite clients with whom I have a standing gig, and they have told me to take all the time I need. Which translates to a few more weeks for me, thank God. But meantime….my other clients are frantically preparing dissertation proposals for defense, and childbirth cannot get in the way!

I have been happily procrastinating, however by reading voraciously. I finished Enigma Friday night, Sleep Toward Heaven Saturday morning, and Mrs Kimble last night. Well, you know, all I have been doing is nursing The Remora and reading.

Enigma was somewhat predictable but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. Sleep Toward Heaven was an almost perfect little book – sparely written, but with real characters. I couldn’t put it down, and requested How To Be Lost the minute I turned the last page on Heaven. And I loved Mrs Kimble - way more than I liked Baker Towers which is saying something. I am greatly looking forward to Jennifer Haigh’s newest novel due out in the spring. Granted, none of these novels are destined to become great works of classic literature, but they are all well-written, very plot-driven, and completely engrossing.

Now I am started on Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father, which I am enjoying. I am not sure how strictly autobiographical it is, in that it’s not full of facts and dates; it is more of a gentle rambling over childhood memories and impressions of people and events. But he’s a good, mostly clear writer and I like him. I like his voice, I like his honesty and introspection, and the way he explores and probes his conflicted feelings about and impressions of race.

In other news, The Remora is pooping dark green poop which according to reliable sources (um, the Internet) apparently indicates some sort of foremilk/hindmilk imbalance so now the jaundice is cleared up, I have something new to worry about. Yay, motherhood

Theoretically, the electrician is coming tomorrow to run the cable line up to the third floor so we can move the computer out of the boys’ bedroom finally and start organizing this disaster of a house. I love my books but am thoroughly sick of two-thirds of our books being piled in my bedroom, with paths left only to the bed and the closet.

And I made the mistake of looking at Us magazine’s profile of celebrity moms and their post-baby bodies (linked from Mamarazzi). Oh. My. God. My flabby stomach seems worse than it ever did. But it does make a nice shelf to prop The Remora on so I can type...

*Karen, "Cabin Fever"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?"*

Don't tell me I don't love you - I am showing you this delicious bit of baby goodness, aren't I?

Happy Valentine's Day

*Romeo And Juliet, Act 2, sc. 2

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Machines take me by surprise with great frequency."*

I am still reading The Winter Rose because it's one hell of a long book and I didn't finish it in the hospital. But I did finish See You in a Hundred Years which I wound up enjoying way more than I thought I would, and The Tin Princess which I think was way better than any of the previous three Sally Lockhart novels.

So, having worked my way through the library books - and not able to get away to go to the library to pick up my next batch (Jennifer Haigh's Mrs Kimble, Amanda Eyre Ward's Sleep Toward Heaven, Gary Schmidt's Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, and John Elder Robison's Look Me in the Eye), I resorted to reading books I actually - gasp - own that were lying on my TBR shelf.

I started Allegra Goodman's The Family Markowitz and was disappointed to learn that it is really a book of short stories - all about the same extended family, granted, but short stories nonetheless, a form of literature I just don't appreciate, troglodyte that I am. So I put that down for the time being and picked up Haven Kimmel's Something Rising (Swift and Light), but fell asleep last night before finishing the first chapter. Doesn't bode well for the rest of the book - I might need my real brain back first before starting this book again.

And so, tonight, while nursing the baby in the bedroom, within arm's reach of the TBR bookshelf, I picked up and started both Robert Harris's Enigma and Alex Garland's The Beach. I am now seventy pages into Enigma and enjoying it greatly. Harris is a good writer, and I am intrigued by stories about cryptography. Not much of a nonfiction reader, I devoured Simon Singh's The Code Book and loved every page. Harris's novel is set in Bletchley, England, during WWII, and concerns one young mathematician's quest to break the Germans' Enigma machine code. Smart, fascinating, and fun.

The Beach started out promisingly, but since I have no idea what it's about (or even why I bought it wherever I bought it), I figured it could wait.

So there I sat, The Remora propped up on my stomach, fingers red from those crunchy little cinnamon hearts, reading about Alan Turing and the Enigma machine and German U-Boats and all sorts of other cool stuff. While H bathed the other three boys and put them to bed. Sometimes it's a bonus being the one with functioning mammary glands.


*Alan Turing

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

“The snow itself is lonely...There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only."*

Boots: Check.
Two pairs of socks: Check.
Sweat pants: Check.
Snow pants: Check.
Sweatshirt: Check.
Jacket: Check.
ZIPPED: Check.
Scarf: Check.
Mittens: Check.
Hat: Check.
Time spent outside: 15 minutes.

Now I understand why my mother hated snow days.


*Joseph Wood Krutch

Saturday, February 09, 2008

"All you zombies, hide your faces..." *

I know you all want a labor story, but I am still too exhausted by it to even think about it, so here, have some book reviews instead.

But Enough About Me: A Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous – Jancee Dunn. Gina recommended this to me and I gobbled it up. Lots of fun and very amusing, it’s about the author’s experiences writing about celebrities for publications like Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and GQ – and the path that got her there. Anyone who grew up in the late 60s/early 70s, ESPECIALLY if you grew up in Jersey, is going to appreciate Dunn’s experiences and influences. I knew I would enjoy it as soon as I finished the first chapter, in which she attends a Hooters concert. If you grew up near Philly in the eighties, you were a Hooters fan. That simple. I still have all their albums, albeit on tape. (I do not have a crush on Eric Bazilian anymore, though.)

The Tin Princess - Philip Pullman. The fourth book in the Sally Lockhart “trilogy.” (I know, I know…) As good as the other three, containing the same level of excitement and over-the-top Victorian melodrama. I am trying to decide if my friend’s 9-year-old would enjoy these, or if they are a tad too old for her yet…

Gastroanomalies: Questionable Culinary Creations from the Golden Age of American Cookery - James Lileks. My friend E gave this to me as a present recently. She knows me well. I had to stop reading it while in labor though because the laughing hurt too much. But that was ok because then it kept H entertained while I was stoned out of my skull on Nubain. Anyone who enjoyed The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan: Classic Diet Recipe Cards from the 1970s is going to enjoy this one, maybe even more.

The Heroines - Eileen Favorite. This book has a fabulous premise – the main character’s mother runs a B&B at which various heroines from classic novels show up for "vacation" or some rest. Promising as the plot was, the execution could have been better. I really felt like the two halves of the book were written for two separate novels, and although reading it so soon after A Good and Happy Child probably skewed my perception, the parts of this book set in a psychiatric hospital were just boring. Nonetheless, it kept me engrossed for a day in the hospital.

Then I moved on to Jennifer Donnelly’s The Winter Rose. You really want to go read Jess’s review as I haven’t finished the book yet, but *its* over-the-top Victorian melodrama was precisely the sort of brain-comfort food I wanted whiling away the second day in the hospital. I was all politicked out from Super Tuesday and just waiting around on bilirubin levels for Quarto, so I needed something light but relatively un-put-down-able and this fit the bill. Although I have to admit, I hid the cover from my doctor : ) I am such a literary snob.

I was really pleased I had borrowed both James Collins’ Beginner Greek and Marie Phillips’s Gods Behaving Badly from the library as I didn’t get further than forty or so pages into each before I knew I wasn’t interested in finishing either. Beginner Greek was pretty badly written – stilted and pompous (sort of like the main character) and overly laden with dull, unnecessary detail. Gods was just too contrived and precious for me; although, Gina liked the plot well enough but felt it wasn’t very well-written.

I have been skimming through Logan Ward’s See You in a Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America, about a family from New York who decides to buy a farm down South and live as if it were 1900 for a year - which is exactly the sort of book I normally enjoy. Parts of the book are really interesting, and Ward is a spare and honest writer, but I find myself getting very impatient with him – maybe I just fail to see the point of this particular experiment.

I have Chris Bohaljian’s The Double Bind and Allegra Goodman’s The Family Markowitz waiting, and I just bought Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father and Hilary Clinton’s Living History. As Caro correctly pointed out, what the heck else can you do but read, when you are nursing pretty much nonstop an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow-polka- er, jaundiced baby?

*The Hooters, "All You Zombies"

Thursday, February 07, 2008

"Where the boys are, someone waits for me..." *

"Ma! Whaddya DOING? D'you want the whole blogosphere to know exactly what I look like?"

Um, yes, just this once, yes, yes, I do. So listen up, listen carefully, I am only going to say this once:

Luke Francis
February 4, 2008
6 lb., 11 oz. 19-1/2 inches long


I was going to use the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” lyrics, per Suse’s suggestion, for my quote on top of this post, but oh my God, have you ever read the REST of the lyrics? Terrible. Can’t do it.
Am going with Connie Francis. Because, let me tell you, if there was ever any doubt as to where the boys are, I can tell you now – they’re HERE (and in Australia, with Kim : )).

Everyone home now, and doing well. (It is SHOCKING how disgusting a house can get in forty-eight hours, though…) Will post more details later. He’s currently a wee bit jaundiced so is attached to me like a remora for the moment, making typing rather difficult.

And to any one who feels compelled to ask:



* "Where the Boys Are," Connie Francis

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.” *

I didn’t think I cared who won the Super Bowl – heck, until this afternoon I couldn’t have even told you which teams were playing – but right after I had commented to H how boring I find football, the Patriots scored on an incredible passing play that kept me and H glued to the TV after all. And then….the comeback of the Giants – how exciting! So maybe I get it a little bit after all.

It could have been the basement-cleaning that took place today, or the walking around Bed Bath & Beyond looking for curtain hardware with my friend E yesterday – or I suppose it could have been “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat” that caused my water to break just as what we thought was the Patriots’ winning touchdown was scored.

If it had been the Stanley Cup finals, though? I wouldn’t have even told H until the game was over.

I’ll keep you posted.


* Bill Shankly (in all fairness, what we Americans call a soccer player)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

"This case deserves to be a classic." *

The Queen of Japan narrates the following story:
A young Japanese boy, Sunoco, discovers his father has been killed. He enlists the help of the Queen, who orders Sherlock Holmes to time-travel (from present-day America) to help solve the mystery. Sherlock discovers that Sunoco’s father was murdered by a pig-Latin-speaking Roman centurion who had traveled to Japan for that explicit purpose. The Queen, Sunoco, and Sherlock band together to capture and imprison the centurion. And then Sherlock time-travels back home, and the Queen adopts Sunoco to become the prince.

The End.

Written, directed, and produced by Group #5 (Primo, A, E, and T).
Courtesy of Primo's first grade opera workshop project.


*Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Priory School

Friday, February 01, 2008

"The Shepherd-boy shouted in an agony of terror: 'Pray, do come and help me; the Wolf is killing the sheep,' but no one paid any heed to his cries..."

Immediately after I posted the last post, the contractions stopped.
(That reminds me of that old joke about the coughing coffin...does anyone know what I am talking about?)

Anyhoo, the contractions eased up, so I am back to merely being grumpy, uncomfortable, and breathless. Exacerbated by the fact that now the public schools are not going to strike, they feel free to declare two-hour delays for just about anything including, it seems, the superintendent's hangnails. Oh, all RIGHT, I know we had an ice storm but when I was in school...let me tell you, uphill both ways, barefoot, in the snow...blah blah blah....

I did something else last night I am now really sorry I did (other than leading my Internet pals down the garden path): I skipped ahead in a book I was mostly enjoying to find out what happened and am pretty sure I ruined reading the rest of the book, since what happened in the book was of course meant to devastate the reader, and I actually didn't much care.

WHAT was I thinking? Now I need to rethink my hospital books again...

Oh! And I may not have a baby yet, but I am the proud owner of a lovely silver Honda Odyssey minivan (the whole process involved much less pushing than childbirth, too). I haven't driven an automatic since I learned to drive eons ago, but I suppose I'll manage. It's wonderful and ROOMY.


*Aesop, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"