Thursday, June 26, 2008

"...and it looks like all my dreams."*

I am trying to be a more relaxed parent.

I am trying to let things go that don't really matter, and not stress about little irritants (and I don't just mean the children...).

I am trying to not yell so much, and to say yes to (polite) requests more.

It's either that, or lose my mind before August.

So when the boys commandeered my laundry baskets to play in and with, I let them. I let them fill them up with trains and stuffed animals, and race each other around the dining room, and stack them up into towers.

If I had known they were climbing them, I would not have been relaxed about that. Because climbing them is when trouble happens - trouble with a capital T. Climbing them is when Terzo topples off and smacks with a sickening thud - in slow motion, but not slow enough that I can catch him before contact - into the trunk we use for a coffee table.

And thank God we use a beat-up old trunk with softened leather edges, or it could have been much, much worse.

He was so brave - we iced him down and mopped up the blood and applied a Spiderman Band-aid.

In the morning, H decided it would be best to take off the Band-aid and let the wound air out a bit. But he wanted to apply some disinfectant, just to be on the safe side. And he couldn't find the mercurochrome. So he used another bottle in the medicine cabinet, one that very plainly stated it was a topical disinfectant for use on minor cuts, scrapes, and abrasions.

Now I? Always thought gentian violet was only used for thrush - and that's why I had a bottle of it in the first place. But you know, it turns out it is a fine disinfectant, with FABULOUS staying power.

Three days later:


*The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Pinkwater

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli."*

You know, normal people become addicted to things like cigarettes and caffeine - and don't get me wrong, I have had those monkeys clinging on my back, too.

But today's current addiction: sexy, spicy broccoli.

Or raw marinated broccoli.


*I* will call it "broccoli crack."

Broccoli Crack

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

2 heads broccoli, 1 pound each, cut into bite-size florets

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 fat garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons cumin seeds [I didn't have cumin seeds, so I used half the amount of ground cumin.]

2 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil

Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes.

In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking.
Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes.
Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well.
Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 48 (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours). [I'd like to be able to tell you how it tastes after longer marinating times, but I ate it all. Sorry.]
Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.

I served it with thinly sliced grilled rare steak, a green salad, and twice-baked potatoes. Perfect with a cold Heineken.
But you could just eat it straight from the bowl with your fingers.
Not that *I* would ever stoop that low....I am just saying...people COULD.
People who have been raised by wolves and whatnot.
Not ME.


*George H. W. Bush

Monday, June 23, 2008

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.”*

Just finished Mary Kay Andrews’ Deep Dish. God, she writes fun books. Everything always turns out ok and the jerks always get what’s coming to them in a most satisfying manner. I only wish Andrews had included the recipe for the shrimp salad.

Now I am reading Rachel Pastan’s This Side of Married. Did I mention how much I liked Lady of the Snakes? I liked it a lot. Yes, there were flaws, and it was clunky in parts, and I hated the character of Billy the husband from the get-go (what grown man goes by Billy?) but I look forward to Pastan’s future work. I am also - so far - enjoying her previous novel.

I bought a bunch of stuff at Half Price Books last week, mostly for Primo (including 4 volumes of re-issued Enid Blyton stories like “The Magic Treacle Jar,” and a couple of Charlie Bone books, but the biggest hit was a thick omnibus issue by Gordon Korman called something like Nosepickers from Outer Space. Primo howled out loud while reading it TWICE in two days. )

I scored Nigella’s Feast for ten bucks. I am so in love. I admit it.

I picked up a couple other books - Away (I know I said it looked too depressing for words, but for a buck, I figured what the hey), Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name (speaking of sounding depressing), and Detectives on Everest: The 2001 Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition (complete with photos! Of artifacts! Like dead bodies!) because the clearance shelves were full of stuff I wanted. I didn’t even look through the rest of the shelves, just the clearance ones. So much good stuff.

I also snagged a bunch of Laura Lippman Tess Monaghan novels at the church sale this past Sunday. Someone at church has more money than they know what to do with, because there are always brand new hardcover novels in the sale shelves all the time. This person must buy ‘em, read ‘em, and donate ‘em – much to my benefit. (Once I read these, I’ll re-donate them. I like Lippman but I don’t need to own them.)

But with the piles of books cluttering my bedroom (once the plumber takes out the kitchen sink on the 3rd floor and we can move bookshelves up there, I will only have to contend with half the fiction in there and I intend to build shelving right onto the wall), even I am slightly embarrassed to be bringing home MORE BOOKS. So I hid them in a plain brown cardboard carton and fish in there for something to fling at Primo when he whines, “I’m boooorrreddd!!!!”

Which only happens, oh, once every couple MINUTES.


*Walter Elliott

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable." *

Erm. What are we up to this lovely Friday? Not a whole bunch.

Took the baby to the doctor today, and he still has the ear infection despite all evidence (other than an actual exam) to the contrary. So on we go to Augmentin. He still sounds like Darth Vader as well, so we get to administer albuterol and prednisone, too. I will pack up the boys again and drive up to the pharmacy, perhaps stopping at the bakery for treats on the way home. And the coffee shop for CAFFEINE. That ten hours of sleep apparently only made up the deficit, it didn’t give me sleep in the bank.

The two older boys have rounded up every Thomas train in the house and are hard at work writing a play and acting out a story about the Ghost Train.

I heard some serious thumping upstairs earlier and went up to yell at the boys but lo and behold, it was our electrician installing wiring on the third floor. Which we’d asked him to do in, um, let me think, September.

I mailed baby clothes (one part of me says, “Sniff sniff,” but it keeps crashing into the part that’s dancing an ecstatic little jig and crowing, “No! More! Babies!”) and bought chocolate and brought back a fabulous haul from the library yesterday. I am happily engrossed in the newest Mary Kay Andrews (I need fluffy and light right now; my powers of concentration are sapped) and have the next Tess Monaghan mystery awaiting me. This weekend holds the last t-ball game and some rollerskating and maybe a DVD, if H and I can stay awake past nine p.m.

With any luck, I will have an hour to first-coat the baby’s room trimwork AND go for a nice long run.

I have butter softening for chocolate chip cookies, and I am planning a spinach-and-mushroom frittata and tossed salad for dinner, courtesy of our CSA.

My life is back to its usual chaotic self, and it’s ok.

To my friend who asked, “Why do people have kids anyway?” I think this post is the only answer I have. And it’s not much of one, I realize. There’s no quantifying the decision to have children. I know in my bones that this is what my life was meant to be. It could be calmer and quieter and cleaner, but as I said before, that wouldn’t be my life. It wouldn’t feel right. You have to do what feels right for you, my friend.



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder & violence every single day should be avoided entirely..."

I can’t remember why I thought I wanted to read either Maybe Baby or Susan Cheever’s As Good as I Could Be.

Seriously. No recollection. And for the sake of my blood pressure, I kinda wish I hadn’t bothered.

Maybe Baby is a collection of essays by famous and semi-famous writers debating the merits of having children - or not. I didn’t mind the truly thoughtful, introspective essays – I do believe some people just don’t ever experience a maternal urge or their ticking biological clock, and I am fine with that. (Some days I wish I’d ignored mine.) I understand that children take up a lot of time and resources that many people are not willing to surrender. But is it necessary to be belligerent and rude about MY choice to bear children? I do realize there are parents who have no right having kids, but my boys are sweet and mostly well-behaved, and I try very hard to be a good parent, instilling in my children (I hope) thoughtfulness, consideration for others, the importance of family, and a decent work ethic. H and I work hard for our money and act responsibly with it, and if we choose to spend it on children, that is our prerogative, isn’t it? Why must you be so aggressive and downright venomous about our choice? I don’t care that you have chosen NOT to have children. Yes, there are days when I am exhausted and fed-up, but I love my boys, and I can’t imagine life without them. It might be neater, quieter, wealthier, and less hectic, but it wouldn’t be my life. So, you know, BACK OFF.

As for Ms Cheever – let me put on my Judgmental Hat for one moment now – she married three times, had a child each by her second and third husbands, and then spends several chapters decrying the horror of divorce and the terrible anxiety it inflicted on her son and daughter. She wonders, My kids--a daughter who is now a Freshman at Princeton, and a ten-year-old son--didn't have many of the things that kids are supposed to have--family stability, money, consistency--yet they are fabulous, wonderful children. In thinking about how that happened--what it was they did have that helped them so much -- I began to think about writing this book..

Well, my solution for divorce-scarred children is simplicity itself – don’t do it. I understand the reality of marriages and divorces – sometimes totally necessary – but there comes a point at which it’s just careless to marry/divorce again and I venture to say that three is my magic number. If your spouse dies, or runs off, or abuse is involved, I get it – but to just decide, “You know, we just don’t LOVE each other anymore.” Well, guess what, maybe you should have thought of that before you procreated together.

I realize I am probably in the minority in my views on this, but I am unapologetically a huge believer in staying together for the children. H and I would not still be married if it weren’t for the kids; I love him now, but five years ago, we were ready to not only go our separate ways but as fast as possible in completely opposite directions with nary a backward look. However, this desire was complicated by a couple of little guys, and neither of us could bear the thought of not seeing Primo and Seg every single day, not kissing them goodnight, not waking up to them - in essence, not parenting them, together. We kicked around several ideas and ultimately decided that we would live in our big house as roommates. We hashed out a care schedule so each of us would have a few evenings free, and figured out the money situation, and proceeded to be *very civil* roommates, until H recovered from his premature midlife crisis, and I got my head screwed back on straight, and we tentatively proffered olive branches and slowly returned to the other. And now things are, if not idyllic, good. Happy. Solid. Mostly. We disagree about things, and we fight, and there are days when I could cheerfully clobber him, but I love him. We have history. No one knows me as well as he does. And our boys still have two parents every day, under the same roof, and I would not have it any other way. It hurts my heart to think of my children having to figure out where their bathing suit or stuffed bear or lunch box is – Mommy’s house or Daddy’s house? So I chose to do what was best for my kids, and fortunately in the long run best for me as well, and I am still married to their dad. And I find I have little patience for Ms. Cheever’s selfishness and subsequent cluelessness.

So, here you have it. My eloquent (ha!) review of two “parenting” books I probably should have skipped.


*Phyllis Diller

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I just slept for ten hours straight.
(And woke up with a soaked t-shirt...)

Do you know the last time I did that?
Um...lemme least seven years ago.

The Pilsner Urquell I drank with my blue cheese burger last night might have helped.

Or my jaunt through Half Price Books on the way home from my shrink's office.

Or the physical labor of scraping and washing the moldings in the baby's room.

Or the sense of accomplishment from several hours of solid research yesterday afternoon.


I feel like a new woman.

I am off for a run now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"And I'll drink and dance with one hand free..."*

I packed up three days worth of stuff for the older boys and a day’s worth of stuff for the baby and now I am on my own for the next 36 hours.

H trundled off to the Great Thomas Adventure with Primo through Terzo (I kissed Primo and Seg goodbye but only Terzo did I squeeze breathless and actively wish he was staying home with me. Even though he will enjoy Thomas the most of the three, as he’s totally at the right age and obsession level.)

Am I the only freak who, instead of being happy that they will have a great time and enjoying a little peace and quiet for myself, instead worries that there will be a horrific van wreck, or H will lose track of them in the crowd, or he won’t realize Terzo can’t reach the bottom of the pool, and he’ll come home minus one, two, or all three of them? (I have already decided that if this happens, I will divorce him and take the baby and go live quietly off the grid somewhere up north. I have a PLAN.) I know they make me nuts, but I would miss them if they weren’t around. (Especially my sweet Terzo, who makes me happier than any mom has a right to be.)

I KNOW I am morbid, but there have been so many horrible stories in the news lately and I am terrified when they are not with me. (Not that this stops me from fobbing them off on babysitters, friends, grandparents - heck, anyone who'll take 'em for an hour or two - so I can’t be THAT terrified. It’s more of an abstract terror, I guess.) I eyeballed the little boy whom my babysitter also cares for: Could he be a homicidal maniac just looking to squash a baby flat? Or bop the baby on the head? Or feed him Doritos?

I have been looking forward to this respite for months but now that it’s here, I admit that I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I have lots of writing to do, and editing for clients, and trim work to paint, and a doctor’s appointment this evening. But right now I think I will lie on the couch with my cup of coffee and play Wordtwist, and then finish Alice Hoffman's newest novel, and maybe I’ll stop at the grocery store on my way home from the doctor’s office to buy potato chips and onion dip for dinner.

*"Back in the High Life," Steve Winwood

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No more pencils, no more books...

This is the first time I have thought, I can’t do this. When the baby first came, I revelled in being superwoman – getting my seven year old out the door to first grade, my five year old out the door to preschool, my two year old changed and fed and settled in front of Dora or building train tracks, the baby changed and nursed. Sometimes we’d walk up to the coffee shop or we’d go grocery shopping, and I would think smugly, I CAN do this. But the baby came in February when it is cold and grey and icky and therefore perfectly acceptable to hunker down on the couch under blankets watching TV and making cocoa for lunch. Now it’s June, and it’s sunny and breezy and hot hot hot. Everyone is sticking to everything and we’re all melting and cranky.

It's been so unseasonably warm, in fact, that as mentioned in the previous post, I have hauled the plastic wading pool up from the basement and filled it up, letting the boys run around and throw water at each other, and eat their lunches out on the front lawn. I can manage the making of lunches and getting of popsicles because my brother is here, but he will go home tomorrow and the day after that will be my seven year old’s last day of school, and then, THEN, it will be me and all four children, every day, all day, for twenty-four hours, the whole long hot summer.

How am I going to contend with the seven year old and the five year old screaming at each other over Pokemon cards/stuffed animals/crayons/whatever, starting at the crack of dawn? How am I going to cope with the seven year old’s constant repetitive requests to spend 'just half an hour' on the computer? How will I peel the toddler off me long enough to nurse the baby? How will I handle the baby’s need for cool and sleep and still take the older boys swimming?

(Aside: This reminds me of the conundrum I ponder every single time I drive over one of this city’s many bridges – if the bridge were to collapse when I was halfway over, how could I save four children and myself, when none of them can swim? When we are at the pool, must the seven year old (who can swim) stay in the baby pool where I can watch him constantly, or can I trust him to go into the bigger pool with his friends and be very careful and check in with me? If the two year old slips in the baby pool, his head could still go under water – do I force him to hold my hand the entire time? If one of the older boys needs to be rescued, is it permissible to rip the Baby Bjorn off my chest and lay the wailing baby down on the concrete pool apron? (Of course, I’d pick him up again right away as soon as the drowning boy was saved.))

How will I keep my ears from bleeding due to the constant chatter and running commentaries?

How will I keep us all from going completely bonkers and not killing each other? (After all, I can only spend so much money on Pokemon cards, dudes.)

More importantly, how will I keep the neighbors from calling CYS when I lose my shit ALREADY at 730 in the morning?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

"...but I ain't up to my baby tonight, 'cause it's too darn hot!"*

Rules for the wading pool

Do not put your peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the water.

Do not dump your glass of lemonade in the water.

Or throw it at your brother.

Grapes do not float. Do not put them in the wading pool.

Pretzels do float. Do not put them in the wading pool.

You must keep your swim trunks/swim diaper on at all times.

Preferably covering your butt crack.

Do not try to balance your book on the side of the wading pool.

Do not try to lift one side (or the other) of the wading pool.

Do not throw water at my car.

Do not scoop up soggy bits of peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fling it at my car.

Or your brother.

Do not hit your brother with your water pistol.

Do not throw your water pistol.

You know what, maybe the water pistols weren’t such a great idea.

Do not pee outside.

Do not pee on, near, or around your brother’s shoes.

Do not splash or throw or shoot water near your mom, who is holding the baby.

Note to mom: baby does not like to have feet dipped in ice cold water. Imagine.

Do not drink the pool water.

Do not pour cups of water down the front of your swim suit.

No one wants to see your errant willy.

Which, come to think of it, is a good piece of advice to generally live by.

"Too Darn Hot," from "Kiss Me Kate" (Cole Porter)

Friday, June 06, 2008

"The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook.”*

Is there anything more delicious than a freshly washed baby?

With a sprinkle of salt, and maybe a dab of butter?

Although, after reading Cormac McCarthy's horrifying and haunting The Road, I find myself somewhat reluctant to make my usual edible-baby jokes.

Is it just me?


* Julia Child

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"Your own preoccupation is where you'll go."*

Finished my second John O'Farrell - The Best a Man Can Get - not as hilariously funny as May Contain Nuts but more emotional and eye-opening - and still amusing. He's a good, solidly clever writer.

I also finished the first Tess Monaghan detective story from Laura Lippmann. It was uneven (as the Amazon reviews said), but by the end, I liked Tess very much even if I found her as insanely exasperating as all her friends in the book do, and I promptly requested the next book from the library.

Love Walked In - Not at all what I expected. Truth be told, I'd avoided it forever, it was so ubiquitous(That STUPID cover with the cursive writing and the girl's legs...). But it's GOOD. Cornelia is a bit annoying at times until you get into the rhythm of her voice, but I feel almost instantly in love with Clare, and am devouring the book. Weirdly, I'd picked up the sequel at the library but instead decided to request and read the first one first. Good choice.

Now I have the sequel to anticipate.

Otherwise, we are crazy busy - t-ball and IEP meetings and end-of-year picnics.
Camp registration and signing up for swim lessons and pool tags.
Trying to step up my running (am up to 45 minutes).
Working on the house and trolling Craigslist for furniture we still need.
Working hard, editing, and fixing one monumental screw-up I made last week.

It doesn't look like my summer is gong to calm down any, but I'll try harder to be around here. I owe Jennifer Niesslein a review and I want to do an interview with her, and I owe a few nice editors reviews of advanced reader copies of various novels...and I miss you guys.

*"Gotta Get Away," Offspring