Thursday, June 30, 2005

isn't he the most beautiful baby ever?

Here is my brother and his wife's new little boy, Andrew, born last Friday. He looks just like my little brother. ACK! My little brother is a father! Life is so weird sometimes.

Age Maps

Creepiest. Thing. Ever.

Can we build it? Yes we can!

I wish someone could explain to me why I feel guilty that I am obliged to do some housework rather than hang out and play with my kids. Is it because a) I don't really want to play with my kids, because is there anything more boring than pretending to be Bob the Builder or one of the Thomas trains? Or is it because b) I feel guilty that by giving in to my desire to put away laundry and vacuum and maintain some semblance of order within the house, I am submitting to my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and so I feel that I should just be able to leave the mess and play with the kids? (See a).


Yesterday I spent the morning trawling the Red White and Blue thrift store. I went to look at maternity clothes but knew I couldn’t restrict myself to just those. I did however buy a nice plain navy blue dress with sunflowers printed on it that will do nicely for work. I also bought a little blue glass-bead necklace that caught my eye. (The nice thing about thrift store items catching your eye is that they rarely cost more than a few bucks and sometimes less, so you can indulge yourself with out too much guilt.)

I picked up some kids’ books (most of the adult ones I already owned or they were Harlequin romances…). I got Si two Richard Scarrys that we didn’t have, a counting one and What Do People Do All Day? (Answer: Damned if I know!); Amelia Bedelia’s Christmas; Ginger Pye (Eleanor Estes) and Runaway Ralph (Beverly Cleary) (we are moving towards simple chapter books to accommodate Si’s reading tastes and level); and two Elmo Golden books and a Teletubbies book for Jude.

The big score of the day however was Scoop from Bob the Builder, whom my boys have recently discovered. This Scoop is about 8 inches tall and talks and moves its shovel up and down and moves its eyes around -- for a dollar! I also picked up a Tonka tow truck for a buck. Jude immediately adopted Scoop – he slept with him last night and brought him into bed with me this morning. It’s freaky enough that I wake up to find Mimi staring me in the face some days (see the beauteous Mimi in pic at right), all I need is a backhoe too.

Total spent: sixteen dollars.


I have been trying to finish A Year by the Sea for the past day, but it is not the kind of book that lends itself to being read while two small children squabble incessantly over who gets to play with Muck and who gets Scoop.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Worst Album Covers Ever

Seriously. Have I ever made you look at this? I have it bookmarked--it never fails to make me laugh.

The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

I just finished reading this, and I am so sorry that Will Eisner is dead. What a wonderful, sensitive, thoughtful, talented man. I’m happy, at least, to know that there are many books to look forward to, including Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which, according to the Eisner bio in The Plot, “. . . is based in good part on Eisner.” Chabon can be too wordy for my taste, but I’m interested in learning more about Eisner.

Oh dear what can the matter be? Seven old ladies are stuck in the lavat'ry...

I was up way early today – 530. Couldn’t tell why. It actually cooled down a bit last night, what with the rain, so the sleeping was comfortable enough. One of the neighbors’ babies was crying (we are a block full of babies and toddlers, this is a not-uncommon occurrence); but it didn’t wake me up, I just noticed once I was awake. I actually feel pretty good – no low-lying hum of anxiety or morbid thoughts swirling thru my defective brain. Sometimes you just wake up early, I guess. And so you blog : ).


I came home from work yesterday to a package containing a book – John Irving’s Son of the Circus, which I want to read and thought I’d just buy until Peg offered her copy. Thanks, Peg!

It’s such a cool thing to get a book in the mail. My friend Allie once called me, very excited, because a friend of hers who worked for a publishing house in New York had sent her a random box of review copies and new books that were just lying around the publishers. Not that she had even opened it yet; just the *anticipation* of a WHOLE BOX OF BOOKS, all for her. She told me she called me because I was the only other person she knew who would be as excited, and would be excited for her.

It reminded me of receiving a package from my mom when I was in college. My mom was a world-class package-sender. I got them for all major and most minor holidays, and sometimes just because. Sometimes she’d send one to my roommate too, or my best friend, or my boyfriend, depending on her mood. And they were marvels of packing. Not an inch of space was wasted, and they were always full of the best, most unexpected things, and comfort foods, and little doodads that just cheered me up and made me happy. I think one of the things I miss most since she’s gone is my mom’s packages. The only thing that remotely approaches that happy, anticipatory feeling is when someone sends me books in the mail!


The French Lieutenant’s Woman is picking up steam. The characters become increasingly compelling. However, I am finding a very strange juxtaposition between the 19th-century Hardy-esque tone of the narrative concerning the characters, and the parts where the narrator steps beyond what in theatre we call the fourth wall and explains his motivation behind the characters’ actions, or his lack of control over his characters, or whatever. It’s written well, but each time he does it, I feel as if I am missing something about the story, and sometimes I get annoyed and just want him to go away and let me, the reader, get on with the story: can’t he make his characters and their actions do the exposition for him? I am hoping I discover his purpose for this device as the book continues.


Yesterday Jude brought home his Humpty Dumpty art project. He was wildly excited and couldn’t wait to tape it to his bedroom wall. I’ve know for a while now that he loves Humpty; I have a Humpty cookie jar on a shelf in the kitchen that sends him into paroxysms of joy. So I guess Humpty is his favorite nursery rhyme. I have always liked Hey Diddle Diddle the best, although the sinister nuances of the word diddle do give me pause for thought. Am I crazy that, at the age of 35, I have a favorite nursery rhyme? Hmmm…


In honor of this website with hilarious commentary on modern-day baby-naming practices (and atrocities), which has kept me entertained at work for several hours (thank you, Jeenah!), I am renaming my children. Or at least re-spelling their names. Si will be Psymn, and Jude will henceforth be Jhood. The new one will be Jhamyz if a boy and Eallynhoor if a girl. The cats will be Emmmi and Sep will become 7timus. The goldfish will become Kneemo Aenghys.

Wow, I give those people credit, that’s harder to do than you’d think!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

all righty then!

Amazon has on its homepage a list of the summer's "Break Out Books." I was curious and am always looking for something good to read.

How could I *possibly* resist this book after THIS review:
"Kim Addonizio uses words the way a dominatrix uses a whip..."

The book is Little Beauties, and you can read more here, if you can't resist. I couldn't.

Alice and Jello Cake

I suppose you could make jello cake with actual whipped cream, to appease your gourmand husband. I, however, like Cool Whip—it’s crazy chemical makeup doesn’t bother my lactose-intolerant digestive system. (Similarly, I don't question whatever poisonous chemicals go into those miraculous Mr. Clean sponge-things. They work, and that's all I need to know.)

So I read Alice Thrift, and it was okay. I liked most of the characters, but I did have a hard time with Alice herself. I know that was the point, but I had a hard time sympathizing with her at all. And you know what? My mom and grandmother are nurses, my sister abandoned nursing school, and a few of my childhood friends are doctors (not to mention the fact that I’ve had my blood pressure checked numerous times), and I have never once heard anyone in real life refer to a blood pressure cuff as a sphygmomanometer. No one says that! Yet the word came up at least twice in Alice AND in The Family Trade! What? WHAT?!?!

Yikes. Pardon that rant. Yes, Val, I’d like to borrow any of the other Lipman books. Whatever you think I’d like will be fine.

Oh, and you can look at my Nancy Pearl books whenever you want. I actually forgot I owned Book Lust until I saw More Book Lust on a table at B&N. I should keep them in my car so I have them handy for trips into B&N . . . I don’t have an index card in my wallet like I should, and I keep losing my scraps of paper and sticky notes.

Monday, June 27, 2005

"Scientologists are more Catholic than the Catholics"

I am reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and it is indeed very Hardy-like. Tess of the d'Urbervilles-Hardy. I like it. However, as is often my habit, before finishing one book, I picked up and began another, called A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman, by Joan Anderson. A while back I read a book about marriage sabbaticals. The Marriage Sabbatical: The Journey That Brings You Home was a true revelation to me at the time. Dan and I have had our ups and downs, as has any married couple, but one of the things we realized really works for us is to give each other more space and time alone than you might expect from your average married couple. I think naturally we felt a little funny about it, but then I read this book and thought, “We are not the only couple who needs vacations from each other, who need time to be by ourselves, and regroup and grow as individuals.” I know that as far as I am concerned, our marriage is stronger and more stable now than it ever has been, and it is because of this strategy. I bought A Year by the Sea around the same time I read the marriage sabbatical book.

When her husband takes a new job out-of-state, Joan Anderson goes to Cape Cod to live by herself in their summer cottage - to regroup, to assess, to grow. This book is the result of that year. In some senses, I feel that she can be immature and selfish, and she is decidedly of a different generation, but mostly I find this book enlightening and empowering. The process she undergoes, of relearning how to be happy with herself, getting to know herself, and allowing herself to develop, is a heartening one. At this point of the book, she and her husband are tentatively finding their way back to each other, both better for having been apart. I see by the author bio that she now lives with her husband in Cape Cod; she has also published a sequel called An Unfinished Marriage. I am eager to read this as well. This is decidedly NOT a self-help book. It is a thoughtful exploration of an intense and personal journey that Anderson has chosen to share competently and sensitively with her readers.


I know I am a new favorite thing to do at work? Look up authors I love (Robertson Davies, AS Byatt, Margaret Atwood) in the dissertations database. I even ILLed an article the other day comparing Davies and John Irving. I still can't believe it took me how many years to figure out that I should become a librarian??


Why don’t maternity clothes have pockets? Are people afraid they'll make them look FAT?


The list of blogs I check to read grows each day. So everyone, just quit being so damn entertaining, I don’t have time for this! Unless I get a laptop, in which case I can then sit on the back porch policing the mud-boys *and* read my email.


Two of the boys’ cousins were over today. I filled up the wading pool and gave them ice cream sandwiches and set them loose. About an hour later, they asked me to fill up the wading pool again. Not particularly caring about the mud pond that was the center of my backyard, I did so. I am fairly certain these two cousins have NEVER been this filthy in their young lives (whereas my scruffy urchins get that dirty every day and sometimes twice a day!) Dan seemed to think it was a BAD thing that the cousins will remember us as Mudland; I have no trouble with this. When you’re a little boy, you’re *supposed* to be muddy and have dirt in your ears and ice cream trails down your stomach and sunscreen in your hair. Just as your mother is*supposed* to have to hose you off outside before giving you a daily scrub in the bathtub and reveling in the yummy-smelling mango shampoo you favor. Is there a better smell in all the world than little-boy hair washed with mango shampoo, with lingering traces of Waterbabies sunscreen? If there is, I don’t know it.

Add a Caption

I stole this picture from Salon's lead story today. It's crying out for captions! Anyone? Anyone?

The Writer in the Way

I finished reading The Family Trade, and I don’t know that I’ve ever felt this way about a book: The story is great and fun and compelling, but the writing just isn’t there for me. I just took a look at the reader reviews on Amazon, and most of the people that bothered to write really loved the book. There was one complaint, however, that picked up on my concerns, but in regards to something I hadn’t noticed:

usually enjoy parallel universe stories and this one is no exception. Would continue reading the series.

One caveat, why o why don't authors who are going to have weapons figure predominantly in their books do at least a minimum amount of research about them? It's soooo(!) aggravating to be jarred out of the story by stupid (preventable) mistakes. A snub-nosed revolver with a safety catch? An elite military unit carrying MAC-10's?

This skinny (by modern standards) book is a pretty good teaser though. I'll keep reading and hope the author reads the reviews and does some research.

I don’t know much about guns or arms, so I didn’t catch that, but I agree with this reviewer—I’ll keep reading because I want to know what happens. If the writing doesn’t improve, though, I may find myself skipping to the last chapter.


It’s the end of our fiscal year. (If you haven’t made a pledge yet and have been thinking about it, now is a really good time to pick up a coffee mug.) My raise will show up in my next pay check, as will my increased payments for benefits and parking. There is actually a chance that my take-home pay will be less than it is now, despite the raise. Tell me again why I like working for a non-profit?


Teddy has two teenaged girls in charge of the kids on his camp bus. They look alike in the way that many slim-shouldered girls of that age do—same clothes, same hair, same jewelry. I didn’t realized Ted noticed this until he said from the back seat this morning, “Here come Carley and Marley.” I said, “Those aren’t their names. Aren’t they Amy and Gillian?” He replied, “I think so, but look at them.” Maybe my boy won’t grow up to dig sorority chicks? (Sorry if this offends, but my experience with sororities was not a good one.)


I’m thinking of taking a break from all current events that don’t involve celebrity hijinks. I’m fascinated by the whole Scientology thing, and could read about that all day, but I can’t take much more Iraq, and Iran is scaring the hell out of me. Is this avoidance justifiable self-preservation, or is it just childish and irresponsible?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Retail Therapy

I spent much of the afternoon looking for summer shoes that will accommodate the orthotics I need to wear to support my ridiculous, flat, pronating feet. I didn’t find anything in Little’s, Grodon’s, DSW, or Target, so I drowned my sorrows at Barnes & Noble.

Here’s the haul: Nancy Pearl’s More Book Lust, Elinor Lipman’s The Pursuit of Alice Thrift (Lipman read an essay on The Splendid Table about incorporating food into her characters’ lives while I was on my way to B&N—it was fate), Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native (Clearance; I had just been thinking that I should read some Hardy, thanks to Val), replacement copies of Tender at the Bone and The World According to Garp, Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, a clearanced knitting book with lovely pictures, the new Andrew Clements book and a nice fat collection of crossword puzzles for the boy.

Whew! I used my B&N card, a coupon for an additional 10% off the total, and one of the books was part of a “buy two, get one free” deal. I didn’t spend as much as I had feared, and I’m happy.


Jello Cake: Am I the only person here with the white trash background required to love it? You know, what it is, right? You bake a white cake in a 9x13 pan and then poke holes all through it with a fork. You dissolve jello mix in boiling water and then spoon that over the cake. Once it cools, you slather it with Cool Whip and shove it in the fridge. The result is a light, cool, fruity, dessert that is positively addicting! I made it yesterday with strawberry jello, and my whole family was thrilled with me.


And now I'm off to help with a crossword puzzle that will make me feel smart. :-)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

mocha frappucino - breakfast of champions

I am an aunt! I mean, I was an aunt before, but all on Dan’s side. My brother Drew and his wife Rebecca had their baby Friday morning. Welcome to the world, Andrew Preston! Drew says he looks like a combo of his in-laws and our maternal grandfather.


I finished the Deptford trilogy this morning. Again I say, just brilliant. But then I experienced my usual moment of panic: What am I going to read next? It’s a big decision. I had already begun The French Lieutenant’s Woman so will probably just continue with that. The quote on the back of Fifth Business (the first book in the Deptford trilogy) sealed the decision: It has the magic, mystery, and irresistible drive of the French Lieutenant’s Woman. – The New York Times. It was like a sign. Of course, I brought The Bookseller of Kabul with me, because I’d hate to get stuck for an hour at lunch with a boring book. I also pondered picking up David Copperfield or Vanity Fair, both of which are sitting on the shelf in my nightstand. We’ll see what I wind up with at the end of the day. I find I need to be in certain moods to read certain books, so I may change my mind once I actually have time to sit down and read. Although – I have a baby quilt to finish up quickly now!


I am instituting a new feature on the blog: The Book List. Each month I will set up a post that Gina and I can edit as necessary, listing books we’ve read that month. I find I can’t keep track. I used to write them all down but in the interest of making this blog a complete literary experience, I am going to try this instead. I really liked the way Nick Hornby listed Books Bought and Books Read in his book Polysyllabic Spree but I am not quite ready to go that far yet. So just look for the blog entry each month entitled Books Read – [Month name] to see the ongoing list.
I’ll try to post it in the beginning of the month starting next month, but for this month, I will just put an entry in today. Gina, I thought this was a cool idea, but if you hate it, tell me and we’ll figure out something else.


OK, I hate to sound like a raging non-feminist here, but why is it more newsworthy that female soldiers died? Isn’t that what modern women want – the opportunity to serve their country in the same capacity as men? Sadly, along with that privilege comes the same danger.
Lt. Sharon Battiste, a Navy nurse in Qaim, in western Iraq, said she has only dealt with male casualties in Iraq so far -- and acknowledged it would be extremely difficult to deal with female casualties.
"From personal experience, I can tell you it's very devastating whenever we have an injured Marine, much less one Marine or Marines that die," Battiste said. "I believe that it does affect us all when we have death. And I think it would affect us even more if we have a female that dies from one of these ... acts."
She added, "I think it just would hit home a little harder."

Because it brings it closer to home that if you fight for the right to serve like male soldiers, you also risk dying like male soldiers? The emphasis on gender just seems contradictory.

David and Marisa - Have a wonderful wedding. I know you two will have a long, happy, and fulfilling marriage, and that you will be only good for each other. I wish you both all the best from the bottom of my heart.


This story about the three boys in NJ is so sad. I’m not sure why it caught my attention any more than any other horrible child-disappearance story except that both my parents grew up in Camden (two of the boys were from Camden), and I grew up one block from Mt Ephraim (one boy was from Mt E). I saw the headline today and caught my breath. Every parent’s worst nightmare.

Books Read - June 2005


The Mother Tongue (Bill Bryson), The Essential Uncanny X-Men (Marvel), My Less Than Secret Life (Jonathan Ames), If Life is a Bowl of Cherries . . . (Erma Bombeck), A Long Way Down (Nick Hornby), Goodbye, Columbus (Philip Roth), The Family Trade (Charles Stross), The Pursuit of Alice Thrift (Elinor Lipman), The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Will Eisner), Assassination Vacation (Sarah Vowell)


The Deptford trilogy: Fifth Business, The Manticore, World of Wonders - Robertson Davies
The Hotel New Hampshire - John Irving
A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman - Joan Anderson

Friday, June 24, 2005

Can You Hear My Hair Frizzing?

I like alliteration as much as any native speaker of English, but there’s one phrase I cannot stand: “Hazy, hot and humid” is a bad, bad thing as far as I’m concerned. How about this, though? My friend Mark just told me that he loves it when he walks outside and feels like he’s being wrapped up in a warm, wet blanket. He likes it when it’s too hot to sleep with a blanket. How can he love these things that enrage me?


My reading has been sort of slow these days, as I’m busy and crabby. Or maybe I’m crabby because my reading has been slow? That’s pretty likely. Anyway, I just started The Family Trade, which is the first in Charles Stross’s Merchant Princes series. I wouldn’t have given this a second glance, but the second book is one of Salon’s recommendations for summer reading.

At first I thought the book’s protagonist, Miriam Beckstein, was a wonderful Jewish version of Thursday Next. That may end up being the case—especially as I get into the second book—but I’m having my doubts. What’s wrong? It’s Stross that’s causing the problems, not Miriam. Stross is Scottish—according to the flap copy, he lives “with his wife, Feòrag NicBhride, in a flat in Edinburgh, Scotland, that is slightly older than the state of Texas.”

Let’s give Stross the benefit of the doubt and assume that some jerk wrote that pretentious copy. Fine. The fact remains, though, that Stross is a Scottish man writing the story of an American woman. Why would he do this? And where is his editor? It’s jarring when an American woman in Boston gets her Saturn from the car park. There are other words and phrases and grammatical constructions on nearly every page, and it’s driving me to distraction. Yes, Miriam’s mother emigrated from England more than thirty years ago, but that’s no excuse for this disturbing language problem.

I’ll keep at it, though, because I’m curious about the story.


I just read Goodbye, Columbus, which Philip Roth wrote when he was 26. I had an infant when I was 26, along with a closeted gay husband and a rollicking case of panic and anxiety disorder. I wonder whether Roth enjoyed his 20s more than I did?

I picked up John Wesley Harding’s Misfortune at the library, but I’m not digging it. I might give it another go, but it’s just not grabbing me. What else have I read? I liked the new Nick Hornby, which Val is digging at all. Granted, it’s no High Fidelity, but I think Hornby put a lot of himself into it—and certainly not his best features—and I somehow feel closer to him for having read the book. I recently reread If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? Don’t laugh. I cried when poor Erma Bombeck died.

What else have I read lately? My short-term memory is shot. Val? Have I mentioned anything?


The play’s the thing. I read Teddy an adaptation of the Scottish play, which was pretty fun. He was thrilled with some of the famous lines, like “Bubble, bubble . . .” The only problem I have with adaptations of books/plays/whatever for kids is that I read some when I was in grade school and then felt that I already knew it all when it came time to read them again in high school. You know?

Speaking of plays, I listened recently to Neil Simon’s Chapter Two, which was okay, and Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma, which was great. I’m in the middle of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windemere’s Fan, and it’s super. I’m getting the plays on CD from the library, but I’m finding them first through the LA Theatre Works web site. They have a great collection of stuff that’s been produced for radio. If you’re at all interested in listening to something other than music in the car or through your headphones, you should check it out.

And now, I should go and do some of the work I’m paid for.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

a quote from World of Wonders, by Robertson Davies

In the study of hagiography we have legends and all those splendid pictures of saints who killed dragons, and it doesn’t take much penetration to know that the dragons represent not simply evil in the world but their personal evil, as well. Of course, being saints, they are said to have killed their dragons, but we know the dragons are not killed; at best they are tamed, and kept on the chain. In the pictures we see St George, and my special favourite, St Catherine, triumphing over the horrid beast, who lies with his tongue out, looking as if he thoroughly regretted his mistaken course in life. But I am strongly of the opinion that St George and St Catherine did not kill those dragons, for then they would have been wholly good, and inhuman, and useless and probably great sources of mischief, as one-sided people always are. No, they kept the dragons as pets. Because they were Christians, and because Christianity enjoins us to seek only the good and to have nothing whatever to do with evil, they doubtless rubbed it into the dragons that it was uncommonly broadminded and decent of them to let the dragons live at all. They may even have given the dragon occasional treats: you may breathe a little fire, they might say, or you may leer desirously at that virgin yonder, but if you make one false move you’ll wish you hadn’t. You must be a thoroughly submissive dragon, and remember who’s boss. That’s the Christian way of doing things…


but I don't WANT the light on!

I am halfway through the third book in the Deptford trilogy, World of Wonders. I love how Robertson Davies takes his time with a story, slowly revealing little tidbits and asides along the way so that you get the entire story only at the end. I think he’s just brilliant. He has much in common with John Irving, although he is more workaday – for example, his depiction of a traveling circus is so different from how Irving chooses to portray many of the same elements - much less oddity, more delving into the human character behind the weirdness. But the spirit is similar. As is the attention to detail, although Davies is much more subtle with his foreshadowing.

My plan to just reread things seems to be working with my limited and scattered concentration, although I did pick up An Unexpected Light yesterday afternoon. I am sure it’s very good but listening to and responding to Jude’s nonstop chatter (see below) made it impossible to concentrate and really get anything out of it.


Heartrending Jude moment, number sixteen thousand four hundred and seventy two:

At Taz yesterday morning, where we enjoyed hot chocolate and a doughnut (him) and a mocha latte and a chocolate croissant (me):

Jude: Mama, me happy. Me happy, Mama.

Argh. How do I let this boy out of my sight?

Of course by the end of the day I was worn out by Jude’s constant – and I mean constant – monologue. Although it’s not really a monologue as he does require replies. I guess it’s so rare that he gets a chance to speak without interruption that he just took full advantage of the situation. I thought my head was going to explode by six o’clock.

Now if only he doesn’t spill the beans to Si that we went to Taz without him…


First it was all Jehovah’s Witnesses, all the time, at the old house. I was home with a month-old baby, I probably would’ve talked to Charles Manson, but still…they were persistent buggers! We had to move away to get rid of them. Here it seems to be Mormons, although I only see them wandering the neighborhood; so far I have escaped actual personal contact with these clean-cut youngsters. (Is there some sort of sacred think tank or research group that goes into which religious group canvasses which neighborhood? Inquiring minds want to know…) Today – a neighborhood Baptist church. Sweet kids, very earnest…but I was brought up Baptist, in the little-known Bible belt of South Jersey, and am still recovering. Thank you, but no. You are welcome to and encouraged to practice whichever religion you choose and I will defend to the death your right to do so, but…

I would like my children to believe that God is a compassionate and helpful entity who wants you to try to be good, not some fire-breathing old ogre looking for any old excuse to throw you into hell for eternity.
I do not ever want my child to wake up in the middle of the night and feel he has to go make sure the rest of the family is asleep in their beds, and he was not the only one left when the Rapture happened.
I do not want my kids to think that the Beatles and Billy Joel sing Satanic music that you have to listen to backwards to get the full effect of the evil contained therein, or that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a song about LSD (who cares if it is, frankly?).
I would like them to grow up well-adjusted, fairly happy, and moderately self-confident individuals who have some sense of self and are encouraged to live life fully – in other words, SO VERY NOT what the Baptist church of my youth encouraged.


Simon is heading to kindergarten in a little more than a year, and already the school anxiety has begun. We dithered over where to move – Mt Lebo, Fox Chapel – due to the quality of the schools, and finally decided we wanted to live in the city so darn it, we were going to live in the city. So then the consideration of private and parochial schools began. Did we really want to spend their college money on kindergarten? If necessary, yes. Did I want my children brought up to practice a religion which my husband does not practice and in which I do not believe? No, unequivocally no. Could we get them into a good public magnet school? Possibly, depending upon the luck of the lottery system that the Pittsburgh Public School system uses. Was the feeder neighborhood school an option? No. I want racial and cultural diversity, I do not want my child to be one of only five white children in a school of several hundred. The stress, oh the stress. We started to discuss moving again. The thought broke my heart: I love my house, my neighbors, my neighborhood. I love my kids more – I could become a suburban minivan-driving soccer mom if that’s what it took to get them decent schooling.

At a meeting at Peabody High School earlier this week, Dan stood up and mentioned his concerns about city schooling and several parents took the opportunity to talk to him about where their kids go and how they like it. One wonderful woman in particular sent us an email extolling the virtues of a school we had briefly considered and then rejected – she has children roughly the same ages as ours and lives in the neighborhood, and is beyond happy with her experiences at Dilworth. She also stressed that no decision is irrevocable, so that immediately helped assuage my fears that if we couldn’t get my kid into Linden or Liberty, it was all over before it had even begun. I would prefer not to get into the application/interview/assessment admission process that many schools use even for kindergarten. I have friends with three- and four-year-olds who have undergone more rigorous admission processes than I dealt with to get into college. But I also am unhappy with the complete randomness of the public school-magnet admittance process.

And everyone thinks childbirth is the hard part!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Jesus H. Christ on a crutch!

Forgive my profanity...
but I just answered the phone at work and it was my husband.
Me: "Hi, how are you?"
Him, wailing child in the background: "Good. Hold on a minute."
One of my boys: "Mama! Mommee! Mommeeeee!"
Me, heart skipping several beats, sure child had severed his head or at least a finger: "Jude? Simon?"
They sound remarkably alike on the phone while wailing heartbrokenly.
Jude (turns out it was Jude), hiccuping and sobbing and gasping: "Mama? Elmo!"
(No, Elmo is fine. Mommy is about to have a stroke but Elmo is just an opening conversational gambit.)
Me: "Cookie Monster!"
Jude, calming a bit, gulping and huffing for air, choking back sobs: "Elmo!"
Me, realizing at last that he is just fine and I do not need to rush home like a bat out of hell, but rethinking any plan I ever had to send him to kindergarten and get a full-time job: "Cookie Monster!"
and so on...conversation about his day at school. Seems he had "manky chee" for lunch and "Nemo" (goldfish crackers) for snack and did indeed go for a walk. He was tired, and yes, he was getting ready for bed.
My husband, taking the phone from slightly calmer Jude: "We were just calling to say hi. Want to say good-bye to Mama, Jude?"
Jude, immediately commencing wailing again: "Bye-bye, Mama!" Then in a little broken whisper, "Bye-bye, Mommeeee...." Hiccup.

If my husband ever does that to me again, I will come straight home and bash him over the head with a frying pan, I swear to God. Ohmigod, the guilt, the GUILT.

Schlagobers und Blut

I did not think it was possible for a human being to be this tired. And it’s not as if I didn’t sleep last night, *or* catch a nap this morning before work. It’s The Alien within, I know it is. All that growing of fingernails and kidneys and spinal columns is wiping out its host!


I finished The Hotel New Hampshire last night. What a read. John Irving has such a good touch with all the weirdness in this book – you never feel as if he’s being weird just to *be* weird. Every last bit of weirdness is 1) completely believable in the context of the story, and 2) absolutely necessary in the context of the story. That said, though, I do think his earlier stuff – Garp, Hotel New Hampshire - is his brilliant stuff. His later stuff – esp. Fourth Hand – is straining to be weird because that’s what his readers have come to expect. Cider House Rules and Owen Meany are good books, but dancing on that hairy edge, to mix my metaphors. I will indeed read his new one coming out this summer, though.

I must see the movie now, if only to see Jodie Foster as Franny, although apparently it's a really bad movie. It's probably because there's *so much* in the book and it cannot possibly all be captured or dealt with in a two-hour film - like trying to make a decent movie out of something like Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides and destroying it in the process.

I realized I have never read Son of the Circus. I tend to enjoy novels about India, as its culture and history fascinate me – Midnight’s Children ranks right up there, as does A Fine Balance. So I should probably read this, although this Publishers’ Weekly review from Amazon does give me pause for thought:
Though there are flashes here of the dramatic verve of The World According to Garp and Cider House Rules , Irving's long-awaited eighth novel is generally a tedious affair: rambling; lacking suspense; devoid of energetic or lyric prose; sometimes verging on farce and other times almost as lethargic as the sultry atmosphere of Bombay, where it is set.

I want to wait just a bit though – two John Irving novels in the space of three months is enough.


The guilt of motherhood:

This morning I dropped the boys off at daycare and Jude CRIED and CRIED. He loves his teacher, he only goes two days a week, and those two days are not very long days. But his separation anxiety phase must be kicking in. He cried “Mama! Mommy! Mommy!” while doing that little motion with his hands – arms outstretched towards me, fingers beckoning me back to him – I thought I’d implode with guilt right there. Even the idea of a picnic lunch and a trip to Dairy Queen to celebrate the first day of summer did nothing to assuage his grief. I left, knowing it must be really bad though, if the mention of ice cream didn’t help. How do full-time working moms do it? Thank God I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to – my guilt gland couldn’t stand anymore. It’s six hours later and I still feel awful.


Remember: Sorrow floats.

Monday, June 20, 2005

blueberry, blueberry, blueberry pie

Man, I am just not sure life gets any better than this. We had leftover T-bone steak in steak salad for dinner, with devilled eggs, followed by leftovers of the best blueberry pie I have ever made (I have finally perfected the art of crust, I think) and Isaly’s vanilla ice cream, which came as a pleasant surprise – it tastes, indeed, just as Simon says, like “whipped cream from Tazza d’Oro.” Dan is off to play guitars, Jude is lying on the floor of the office/library playing with his trains, and Simon is upstairs playing his guitar. Life is good. Someone remind me of this when I need it, please. Which unfortunately is probably a lot more than I should, to be honest.


Yesterday was the big Father’s Day extravaganza. My husband’s family managed to be as uncharmingly dysfunctional as usual. (I say this with the smugness of a wife with two dead parents, and two brothers three hundred miles away who visit occasionally, help us with the kids when they do visit, send them exorbitant amounts of money, and don’t ever really create problems - probably due to the foregoing factors.)

Dan tried his hand at grilling steaks, and God, were they good! But in true fashion, his father pointed out that Dan should consult with Stephanie-the-Perfect-sister-in-law, since she had a “real touch” with filet. I may be overly defensive, but I know Dan took this as he had grilled them wrong somehow. And I must tell you that these were the best steaks I have ever eaten, in a restaurant or no. All his studying paid off with someone at least. He can cook filet mignon for me anytime he likes.

Then his mother got bitten by a mosquito. You’d have thought I personally directed the mosquito to her legs and arm and shown it exactly where to bite for maximum itch. Jesus Christ – as if she had never in her life been bitten by a mosquito before! It’s because I have all these slovenly habits like leaving my windows open for the fresh air, and sitting out on my porch with a glass of bug-attracting wine in hand. Have you ever seen that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Cheryl has dermatitis? That’s what this was like by the end of the evening. Must have been one hell of a mosquito. Of course it’s probably nesting in the dust elephants under my couch or harboring itself in the cats’ favorite pillows. Lying in wait for the next time…

And then – how I do not know – the subject of our enormous Christmas tree came up. But apparently my in-laws had never seen said tree. Why ever not? Had they not been in my house for the two weeks preceding Christmas and the week after? Guilt and anxiety flicked across Dan’s face before realization dawned – and bless him, he actually said something – we had invited the various combos of the family over at least three times during the Christmas season and every time, they were busy with something the Perfects had to do. The Perfects reside out-of-state but when they come into town, all must stop and accommodate the Perfects’ schedule. Yes, I am bitter and bitchy, but ten years of marriage has only proved to me that my Perfect-sister-in-law sends me over the edge. (I could probably cope with the Perfect brother and the four Perfect sons, if not for the Perfect sister-in-law. )


In much happier news:

  • There’s an excellent article on Salon today about Jane Eyre, written by a man who finally read it in adulthood. I mentioned before how odd it was to me that Dan loved The Eyre Affair but had never read Jane Eyre so probably missed some plot twists/points. Maybe if I can get him to read this article, I can get him to read Jane Eyre.

  • I finally got the quilt sandwich together for my brother’s baby’s quilt. It’s the part of quilting I hate. I mostly enjoy the rest of the procedure, even the math required in the design phase. But God I hate crawling around the floor on my knees, in this case dragging the pregnant belly with me, sticking my various fingers with needles and pins, and telling the boys every three seconds not to walk on the quilt.

  • When I tell my toddlers that we have watched enough TV today, do they really think I am being mean to them? I have news for them – I am being mean to ME. Of course they don’t realize how much easier my life would be if I were not filled with guilt every time we clicked on the TV. If I could just drop them in front of the damn thing for four hours a day, I could nap and shower and read in relative peace. But NOOOOOOO, I have to worry about their development and do things like read to them and dig in the dirt and take them to the park and the zoo. Darn kids.

  • I read somewhere recently that the average American watches four hours of television a day. At the risk of sounding superior, I cannot fathom that. My brain would explode; I would develop epilepsy; my eyes would permanently cross. And that’s before we even broach the subject of the content of the shows.
Exactly what sort of “scientific research can be performed upon these whales? I am just curious. Anyone?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

forget eHarmony...

Connect Via Books doesn't tout itself as a dating service, thank God, but it could certainly be as effective, if not more so, than one.

I never know what to use as a title....

All hail to the Mimi! I know, I am getting tiresome, but I love her so. Not just for who she is but for who she introduces me to. This is my new current blog-reading obsession: finslippy. I laugh out loud. A lot. I was laughing so hard I was crying, which is ok except I was at work. At the library. The nice quiet library. Where people were presumably trying to study. No wonder no one asked me any questions all morning. They want to avoid the crazy lady.

Although on the down side, blogs like these totally giver me an inferiority complex. I am not sure that I have ever in my life made anyone laugh so hard they cried, let alone spit Pepsi Slurpee out their nose.


I have gone on record before with my opinion that the perfect breakfast is a Coca-Cola Slurpee and a Philadelphia soft pretzel. But now – I stopped at the only 7-11 in Pittsburgh that I know of, to get myself a Slurpee this morning, because I am pregnant and so can justify my usual bizarre food cravings with less guilt – and find that the devil has taken over the Slurpee machine! 7-11 sells PEPSI Slurpees now. Wrong, this is so wrong! I HATE the taste of Pepsi. Coca Cola with scads of ice is the drink of the gods, and Pepsi is just…ick. You cannot mix a Pepsi with rum; you MUST have Coke. The perfect drink with mushroom and green pepper pizza? You got it – Coke! And Coke even cures my migraines! I know it’s the caffeine, but it cures my migraines! I wanted to curl up in the backseat of my car and weep like a child. I tried to be brave and so I bought a Pepsi Slurpee, but it was just…ick. It even *melted* all wrong; all the syrup is meant to sink to the bottom so you have icy-cold delicious crushed ice on top and sweet, delicious Coke syrup on the bottom. I can see that an era is over. My drinking-Slurpees-for-breakfast era is long past, but the wonderful-Coca-Cola-Slurpee era is ended forever. I feel as if I should hold a memorial service or something of equal solemnity. Isn’t it bad enough I cannot get a panzarotti in this godforsaken city? Next they’ll be telling me you have to put mayonnaise on a cheese steak. Oh, the heartbreak of it all!


I am halfway through Hotel New Hampshire. Man, is that a messed-up book. I had forgotten. Where does Irving come up with this stuff?

Next up: Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down.

A colleague has emailed me a job description for a local full-time job. Is this a hint? Am I that bad a reference librarian? Did my boss pull him aside one morning and say, "For the love of God and all that is holy, get her out of our library, and I don't care how you do it!"? When I patiently explained that I have two small children and another on the way in a few months, he patiently pointed out that "some people do it." OK, some people do. And that's fine and great and dandy. But I wish to parent my own children, regardless of how haphazard and half-assed said parenting may be. At least it's their very own haphazard and half-assed mommy.


I took the boys to the Children’s Museum yesterday morning. I know they love it but yesterday was a particularly good day because we finally made it up to the third floor, where the “water play” is. (I love that title, but it does sound vaguely pornographic.) There are two big pools with fountains and a lock and whirlpools. You can build your own little boats, and play with the various plastic sea creatures floating around the pools. There’s an area with all these pipes sticking up out of the floor with water gushing out of them, which you are meant to rearrange as you wish to make cool water squirty things. They supply slickers and boots, but frankly, they wound up being useless. Next time we are bringing either swimsuits or a complete change of clothes. My boys stripped in the parking lot on the way out and rode home wrapped in two shirts I happened to have sitting in my car - Si looked quite fetching in the pink maternity oxford; Jude was styling in an enormous and very ugly bright blue Pitt sweatshirt. It was way more fun than the plooping, plopping clay pits out back. They just annoyed me. But the water play – that was cool. Although Gina’s son Ted seemed to totally dig the clay – maybe it’s easier to be calm about getting messy when you’re eight? Or maybe I am just a freak.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

OK, now to the OTHER side of the street...

Michael Schaub of Bookslut regularly cracks me up; right now it’s his take on people who don’t have books in their houses. Here's what he says on Bookslut today:

"I can't imagine living without books. If I go out to dinner at someone else's home, and they don't have books visible, I wonder if I want them as friends," said Barbara Farnsworth, an antiquarian bookseller in West Cornwall, Conn.
OK, so I'm not the only one. Thank God. I was beginning to feel like a total snob (which I am, I just don't want to feel like one).

Whew! I also breathe a sigh of relief. I often have this feeling. If I am in someone’s house and there are no books, I immediately begin to wonder if I really ever want to hang out with this person again. However, I *am* comfortable admitting that I am a book snob.

When I'm done parenting, what I'll have is a human being every bit as complex and flawed as I am but in new and surprising ways.

Read the whole article, especially if you are a parent; it’s terrific. It’s from one of my favorite magazines, Brain, Child.

This reiterates what my beloved therapist has always told me: "Val, you will fuck up your children in completely different ways than your parents fucked you up. So try to stop worrying so much."

Ergh. The Patriot Act tussle continues. I’m a librarian *and* a liberal – I realize that pretty much puts me in the terrorist-loving camp. Sigh.

One provision of the Patriot Act makes it possible for the FBI to obtain a wide variety of personal records about a suspected terrorist -- including library transactions -- with an order from a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, where the government must meet a lower threshold of proof than in criminal courts.
Under the House change, officials would have to get search warrants from a judge or subpoenas from a grand jury to seize records about a suspect's reading habits.

Fine, go get a subpoena. You have to have some proof that it is necessary. It’s working within the laws of this country, not stepping out of bounds because you CAN, in your big bad fight against terrorists. If I felt one iota safer or more secure in this country now than I did four years ago, perhaps I’d feel differently. I doubt it, but I suppose it’s a possibility. But the fact remains that the US has abused the civil and human rights of any number of “suspected terrorists,” and lied to its citizens. It has waged a “war against terror” using the most feeble of trumped-up excuses to justify satisfying what is essentially a personal vendetta. I don’t trust this government not to trample on my or anyone else’s civil rights; I don’t trust them at all. And I believe it’s the gradual erosion of “little” civil liberties that put us at risk ultimately.

I leave you with this oft-quoted thought:

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” -- Benjamin Franklin

(Of course there’s this version too:
They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.

Either way, you get the idea. And he’s right. )

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Move your car to the other side of the street, it's street cleaning day!

You don’t need a psych degree to figure out these dreams:

There’s some terrorist or maniac or whatever loose in the football stadium. I can *see* Jude, in the top row of bleachers, but as I run towards him, yelling and shouting his name, he keeps moving away from me. Simon is with his cousin Connor on his way out of the stadium, and I know he is safe, but Jude…I have to get to Jude. And in his typical Jude way, he is oblivious. He’s hanging out on the top row of the bleachers (let’s not even think about if he falls over backwards…) and just sort of climbing up and down.

This one was preceded by a dream in which my 7th grade math teacher figured prominently. Mr. Colby was this nice, soft-spoken guy with the typical Boston accent (“Pahk the cahr in Hahvahd Yahd”) and cute, floppy brown hair. I was wildly in love with him. In my usual immature fashion, this meant I alternately could not speak to him at all or I was so belligerent and rebellious that I consistently got myself kicked out of class. I think, in some way, he knew and was fairly understanding; but still, the poor man...

Sandwiched in between was the usual Dan dream in which we cannot communicate at all, it’s as if we are speaking two different foreign languages – and if course the end point is always, “That’s it, we are getting divorced, but how do we divvy up the kids’ time?” I always wake up from this one feeling sick to my stomach. And then I am all affectionate with Dan and he says, “You had that dream again, didn’t you?” God, I hate when he’s so smart : )

I was keeping a reading journal when I started this blog with Gina. I don’t think I’ve touched it in a while -- although I do still have a sheaf of index cards scribbled with book titles in my wallet for when I am at the bookstore or library and can’t think of anything I want to buy or read. I used to keep an actual personal journal and still possess those scribbled-up, falling-apart notebooks recording my years of teen angst and college love affairs. I can’t bear the thought of destroying them even if I never ever want another living soul to lay eyes on them. I like the idea of keeping a journal, but find that I am increasingly uncomfortable with the thought that I may get hit by a bus one day and someone will find my journal. And READ it. And even if it’s just thoughts on what I am reading, it makes me cringe. Yet here I am, recording my thoughts, life events, and reading tastes on the Internet, the most public of forums. I know, a curious paradox. But I find I self-censor in these posts, which is fine – I don’t need a brain vomit, I just need an outlet. And I just spent three minutes organizing my blog entry directory into chronological folder/archives (I compose in Word first since Blogger has eaten more posts than I care to remember). It occurred to me that I can stop feeling guilty for not recording these things in a pretty little book with a wonderful pen – typing them into Word and sharing them with people I know (and don’t) is ok too. It constitutes a perfectly valid record of my present life, one that I am ok with people reading…obviously. Could it really be just me that has this sort of guilt over something as innocuous as blogging?

We were halfway up Baum Blvd this morning when Simon says, “Mom! I am supposed to bring a picture of me and Daddy to school today.” Now I know it’s for a Father’s Day craft/gift, and I am not completely heartless, but I wanted to get them there in time for them to eat breakfast. I foresee years of this coming, anyway: "Mom, I forgot my permission slip...I forgot my lunch money...I forgot my clarinet…I am not wearing any shoes...I am wearing two different shoes…I need two egg cartons and a pair of old eyeglasses this morning for art class…I need brownies for the bake sale this afternoon…" ad infinitum. I called Dan who mercifully was still at home and he brought the photos with him, since he conveniently works four blocks from the daycare. Yet again, I love my cell phone. Whatever did we do before them?

Then I went to run a zillion errands, all of which have been on my list forever:

  • Went to Target - where I found a pair of perfectly fine brown leather sandals for 20 bucks on clearance. Decided to keep the pink maternity shirt I'd bought a week ago since the medium didn't fit my stomach (shirt too small) and the large didn't fit my boobs (boobs too small) -- but my stomach is only going to get bigger.

  • Returned the too-narrow Birkenstocks I’d bought while shopping with the boys last week (hey, you try shoes on with two little guys running around the shoe store…).

  • Shipped back the extra Guinness glasses.

  • Returned as many library books as I could find, including the Beatles one that the library is threatening to have us pay replacement costs on since it’s been gone so long, and two of Gina’s books – both late (I paid the fine, Gina, sorry!).

Now it looks like rain so I don’t think I’ll get to the porch painting. Will start some laundry and clean the bathroom so I feel somewhat come it’s eleven thirty and I feel as if I have accomplished exactly nothing?

I don’t understand this latest update in the Terri Schiavo saga. I thought the story was that she had suffered a heart attack due to potassium imbalances created by her eating disorders. Of course she died from dehydration after the removal of the feeding tube; the question, I thought, was, did she have a chance at a real life, was her brain viable, was it possible she could recover? Not, if we remove her feeding tube and she is not nourished for thirteen days, will she die? Having been witness firsthand to my mother's death, I can vouch for the resounding Yes to *this* question, without benefit of an autopsy.


Mind dribbles:

I read nothing last night. I sat on the porch in the post-rain cool air, sipped half a glass of a delicious, fruity red wine Dan brought home a few nights ago, and then went to bed at nine.

Every morning as I fire up IE, I have a fleeting moment of, “Oh my God, something horrific happened overnight in the world, and I slept through it. This may be my last moment of innocence.” Like if you woke up at noon on September 11, 2001, and had no inkling until you turned on your computer.

I heard the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song as a cell phone ring tone in the library the other day. I want it! I am a convert to the show so my zeal knows no bounds.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

chance of thunderstorms

I picked up Hotel New Hampshire yesterday because…well, frankly, because I was lying on the couch and it was within easy reach. I had forgotten how very similar many of John Irving’s books are – not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but he has such a distinctive style that it leaps out. I have never seen the movie, but the combo of Jodie Foster as Franny and Seth Green as Egg makes me want to watch it. Not to mention Paul McCrane, the ridiculous Dr Romano of ER helicopter fame, as Frank, and smaller parts covered by the likes of Joely Richardson, Nastasia Kinski, Matthew Modine, and Amanda Plummer.

Well, that’s a freaking relief, anyway. Geezum!

OK, the last report (in last Friday’s Post Gazette) on this housing standoff was that the Urban Redevelopment Authority settled on a $33,000 lump sum payment to Gwendolyn Venay, so that she will move out of her federally-subsidized townhouse, thereby clearing the way for demolition of the old project and construction of a new housing complex. So let me get this straight – the URA is paying a woman thousands of dollars to leave the public housing that…they were paying for in the first place. Sometimes it pains me greatly to remain the bleeding-heart liberal I pride myself on being.

Monday, June 13, 2005

In the high nineties today...

Last night after their baths, the naked boys were jumping on the beds like crazy people (their normal routine). Simon stopped jumping and asked Jude, “Jude! Do you know who you look like?” Jude stopped jumping too, stood for a moment considering, and replied solemnly, “Jude!” The kid slays me.

As a treat sometimes, the boys get to watch a few songs from one of Dan’s music DVDs – a couple songs from Yellow Submarine, or, last night, a couple of songs from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We watched By the Way and Scar Tissue (as they get older, I can see we are going to have to censor, but at the moment no one seems able to understand the lyrics – or am I kidding myself?). Although, due to More Cowbell and Simon, I am becoming increasingly familiar with their music (which I like very much), I have never, not once, seen the Red Hot Chili Peppers in any sort of live performance – until last night. Can I just tell you that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are the *sexiest* band I have EVER seen? I don’t mean good-looking or individually sexy – their performance is just incredibly breathtakingly sexy. Yowzah! I found myself quite uncomfortable watching with my two boys.

I am reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman. It’s on one of Anna Quindlen’s infamous lists of books – this one was her list of Ten Modern Novels That Made Me Proud To Be A Writer. It was written by John Fowles in 1970, but it reads like one of the 19th-century novels near and dear to my heart. It’s a strange sensation to read a book you know was written in the past thirty years, but which is skillfully and perfectly written to read like a Thomas Hardy novel.

I finished Crescent last night, and I cried and cried. It bogged down in the middle but I picked it back up after a week off and finished it in one sitting.

I think for the moment I have given up on trying out new books and will just concentrate on reading oldies but goodies, or rereading things I liked the first time. I don’t have the concentration or the patience right now to try to find a newly published book that engrosses me. It does seem a waste of perfectly good reading time, but it seems to be working. And did I second-guess myself when, during my first maternity leave, I spent all those weeks gobbling up every single simple-minded Ed McBain written? No, I did not, and it was ok. My brain did not completely shrivel, and it was perfectly entertaining.

So after TFLW, I may reread another Robertson Davies, or Atwood's The Blind Assassin. We'll see.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Mensa Invitational

This came to me in an e-mail, so I don't know whether it's legit, but it's funny either way:

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing of one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's (2005) winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

11. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

12. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

13. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

14. Glibido: All talk and no action.

15. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

16. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

17. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

18. Caterpallor (n): The color you turn after finding half of a worm in the fruit your eating.

Helplessly Hoping

So yeah, maybe someday I'd like to have a man in my life. I'm not exactly anxious to run out and find a new husband, but I do miss kissing, sex, and just . . . manliness in general. I read Rebecca Traister's Salon article about eHarmony with great interest, and then nearly stopped when I got to this:

As for my romantic prospects, Warren had some grim news. He said that because I was bright, I "lose at least 95 percent of candidates because of IQ." Great. Apparently, I also need someone articulate, ambitious and energetic. In short, as Warren said, I am "looking for a rare, rare, rare person."

Super: Confirmation that there aren't many (straight) men around who are interested in spending time with smart, slightly crazy women. Just what I needed.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

a veritable smorgasbord

Something salty:
The Cunning Man – Robertson Davies. An old-fashioned complex novel that will engross you. You already know I love anything Robertson Davies wrote, but this is easily his most accessible work so won’t require much brain work. If you’ve already read this (I know you’ve read some of his stuff), try Fifth Business. I just reread it and it’s brilliant. Once I’ve reread the last novel in the Deptford trilogy, I am going to reread his Cornish trilogy.

East of Eden – I know it was an Oprah book. I don’t care. It’s terrific. Damn Oprah for sullying Steinbeck.
Six of One/ Bingo/Loose Lips – Rita Mae Brown. Laugh-out-loud funny.

Pepperoni roll:
BethGutcheon’s The New Girls.
Miss Pym Disposes – Josephine Tey or The Franchise Affair – also Tey
Hitchhiker’s Guide – Douglas Adams
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
Ship Fever – Andrea Barrett
Or reread Stones from the River. (I adore that book, that’s patently obvious…)

Try some nonfiction:
Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life, or How I Learned to Love the House, the Man, the Child – Faulkner Fox
The Big Rumpus: A Mother’s Tale from the Trenches – Ayun Halliday
Ambulance Girl – Jane Stern

Nice sharp cheese spread:
Reread Possession, or try Byatt’s Virgin in the Garden trilogy.
The Pirate’s Daughter – Robert Girardi
The Buccaneers – Edith Wharton
The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

Super light lemon cookie that seems to dissolve on the tongue:
Rosamunde Pilcher’s Coming Home, or September. I know her name makes her sound like utter fluff, but her “big” novels (Shell Seekers, September, Coming Home, and Winter Solstice) opposed to her little one-offs are fun and well-written and have great characters. They’re like *summer* comfort food. Does that make any sense?

Five Fortunes – Beth Gutcheon
Anything Elinor Lipman
Jennifer Chiaverini’s Elm Creek Quilt series (any, the order doesn’t *really* matter) – entertaining and sort of on par with Jan Karon but not nearly so sappy
Bestseller – Olivia Goldsmith

Or reread Gone with the Wind. The best beach book I ever read that wasn’t a beach book.

I LOVE this idea of books as food. I think it’s fabulous. I can just hear me now: “I am in the mood for perhaps a salad as a starter, with a light but sharp vinaigrette dressing, followed by a big plate of fettucine alfredo.” (AS Byatt’s short stories, possibly Elementals or even better, Litle Black Book of Stories, followed by something like Anna Karenina or Doctor Zhivago. I think.) Anyone else have any ideas? This might turn out to be a great party game!

A Public Service Announcement

I love the smell of asphalt in the morning.

I spent the summers between my sophomore and senior years of college working for the road construction company that is now paving some of the streets here on campus at Duquesne. Every Monday through Thursday (we worked four ten-hour days unless we got rained out), I woke up at 4:30 in the morning, packed a lunch in a small cooler, donned three pairs of socks and steel-toed boots, braided my hair, grabbed my orange hard hat, and drove to the shop. From there I hopped into a dump truck or someone’s pick up for a ride to the job site where I would spend eternal hours baking in the sun and rain, “flagging.”

Know this, all ye who read on: Flagging is hard, hot, awful, sometimes dangerous work. Please do not disparage those people whom you may feel are there for no other reason than to frustrate you. The flaggers are there to prevent accidents and to minimize traffic frustration (really!), but their biggest job is to protect the other workers and the machines and equipment. Flaggers only get breaks when other workers can stop to relieve them, because there must be someone flagging whenever there are machines on the road. Those STOP/SLOW signs are heavy. Fresh asphalt is very, very hot. The dirt and grit are everywhere and penetrate everything. The job is no picnic—and there is no mercy for those who may be menstruating. Just think about that, ladies.

Still, though. The work is concrete. (Ha!) You get to see tasks through from start to finish. The job is important. The machines are cool, and some of the people who operate them are highly skilled. You can smoke at work.

Working with the road crew was sometimes fun and very satisfying, but it served well in reminding me that college was a good thing. I learned the first day on the job that I wouldn’t want to flag for a living.

But I digress . . . In conclusion: Be nice to flaggers. Do not throw things at them, run them off the road, wave your fist, shout obscenities, or be otherwise mean or threatening. Flaggers are people too!

Stuff and Nonsense

Val and I have been chastised before for caring about celebrity marriages, but just like Rebecca Traister on Salon, I am so very, very sad for Mel Brooks. I can’t imagine his sense of sadness and loss; he must be truly bereft, and I’m so sorry for him. I felt the same way when June Carter Cash died, and I was correct in assuming that Johnny wouldn’t last long without her. I hope that won’t be the case with Brooks, but I admit that I’ll think it’s romantic if it does.


What am I reading? Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue. I think there should be a National Treasure award, and I think Bryson should get one. I have repeatedly laughed out loud while reading a book about language. Bryson’s books should be required reading for people in teacher certification programs.

What am I going to read next? A guy from school gave me a collection of X-Men comics that begins with the very first edition (these are crappy reprints on crappy paper—nothing valuable), so I’m excited to dig into the real history of the X-Men and compare it to what I’ve put together from the movies and that cartoon that aired when I was in college.

Other than that, I’m not sure what I’ll pick up next. I started Peace Like a River, and I liked it, but I didn’t feel like reading it. I’m about sixty pages in, and I have time to pick it up again, but I’m just not in the mood for something filled with angst. In fact, I think I’ve been a little too filled with general angst lately to want to read anything that isn’t funny and lighthearted. Give me some suggestions, please. I’d like the literary equivalent of party foods: I’d like a nice sharp cheese spread, or a pepperoni roll. Or how about a super light lemon cookie that seems to dissolve on the tongue? Maybe something salty? You get the picture.


My son is officially in third grade—his Moving Up Day ceremony was Tuesday, and his class sang a song, answered a few questions the head of the lower school directed at them to make sure they were “ready”, and then trouped down from the stage into the newly-emptied seats in the third-grade section of the auditorium.

I might be a scrooge, but I think this is a little too much fanfare. Sure I’m proud of the growing and learning Teddy has done this year, but if completing second grade is worthy of hoopla . . . Oh, I should shut up. It’s cute.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

grapes and raspberry yogurt

This is the craziest thing. I don’t know why but these sentences seemed particularly bizarre, like candidates for Top Ten Sentences No Reporter Ever Thought They’d Write:
The leg, with hip and spine attached, dented the shingled roof of her garage before bouncing into the lawn.
Peters said a Customs agent that met the flight at the airport found another leg hanging from the wheel well.

Also this weirdo thing, which is kinda cool in a morbid, grotesque sort of way, just like the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, which I am dying to visit….ahahhahahhhaaaaaaaa!
My favorite letter responding to this story was this one, and why it made me laugh out loud I still am not sure:
I hate the corpse you decided to put at the top of the front page this weekend. It is extremely grotesque. Salon is my start-up page, and every time I have opened Internet Explorer this weekend I see a flayed corpse. Gahhh!
Please, never, ever, ever, ever put a corpse at the top of the front page again.
-- Paul N. Henry

Again, sentences most people probably never thought they’d write. I can just hear the editors at Salon saying, “OK, we’ll try not to…”

And this sentence, too, from the Guardian’s article on the Judy Blume classic Forever:
Fortunately, not even Margaret Drabble's poor grasp of belly button jargon has been enough to put the book-buying public off.

Again, I love, love, LOVE Mimi. And Nora and her croutons (number three under the Virtual Nora Scrapbook section). I’ll bet the library patrons thought I’d lost my mind – I was reading this and laughing out loud at the reference desk all by myself the other night.

I *really* have to read We Have to Talk About Kevin. Especially with it winning the Orange Prize and all. Which is, for those of you who don’t know, the prize for best fiction written by a woman. Although none of Shriver’s other books look remotely interesting to me.

I am about a third of the way through Peter Rushforth’s Kindergarten. I like it but feel that the kids in it are too clever by half. Even though I think they are really cool kids that I would like to be around. But I don’t know any fourteen- or sixteen-year-olds that talk the way these kids do. Perhaps I am just sadly deficient in my intellectual teenager category of acquaintances?

This article about books for children ages 4-7 is terrific. I can’t wait to get some at the library for Simon. We’ve been having fun with Amelia Bedelia and Toad and Frog, but it’s nice to have more choices. And some of these seem like they will definitely appeal to my son’s quirky and quick sense of humor, especially the Neil Gaiman and the Roger McGough. I just hope they’re available in the States; many books I read reviews of in the Guardian are not yet available here. Boo hiss.

What is it with these women - Joolz, Jools…why not just spell it Jules? Like your parents intended. Because you know, the double O just makes me think of words like drools and fools and Kools.

I am clearly still in a foul mood from 1) having the twit at McDonalds give me the wrong change, 2) having him give me diet Coke instead of regular, and I can’t drink diet when I am pregnant, and 3) not even noticing either of these things until I was already halfway to work and it was too late to do a thing about them. Ah, the vagaries of pregnancy hormones!

Here is Dan’s response to the Stroller Bitch. I really wish I’d sent this one to the editor:
Dear Sirs,
In response to Nicole Mullen's letter of 6/8/05, I would like to say that her suggestion to ban strollers is completely out of proportion to the problem at hand. Her remedy is to inconvenience all parents of young children in order to make sure she punishes the one parent who upset her. In fact, I was that parent. Nicole was waddling in front of me at the Arts Festival last week for the better part of a city block. I had said, "Excuse me", "Pardon me" and "Beep! Beep!" several times to no avail. (Apparently the clogging capacity of corn dogs and fried dough reaches immediately to the blood vessels in the ear canal.) At a break in the sidewalk, between buildings, I attempted to circumnavigate her planetary mass, but unfortunately the gravitational pull overwhelmed my helmsmanship, and my poor toddler went crashing into her like a meteorite into a mesa.

There is no need to prohibit others still willing to play Jedi Knight with the Death Stars of the city. I've put my ship in dry dock.

And last but not least – where do I stand on cord blood banking? My brother and his wife are due any minute now, and it’s their first, and they are considering this option. Understandably, since my brother obviously emerged from the same overcautious – some might say “nervous” – gene pool as me. Here was my somewhat casual reply to his query:
My personal feeling, for what it's worth, is that you can only protect and prepare so much. Sometimes you have to prioritize what you can and can't do. You simply cannot prepare for every eventuality, much as you'd like to. And my gut feeling is that the cash could be put to better use for an education or whatever. Simplistic, but there you have it. That said, it's probably because so far my kids are pretty healthy that I feel this way.
Of course on the other hand and on a smaller scale: I breastfeed because it prevents ear infections; I am religious about car seats because I worry for my kids' safety even though I have never ever had an accident; I do draw the line at peeling grapes, but my kids are not allowed to have balloons because of horror stories I have heard, just as I worry constantly that they are going to fall out of one of our windows. You can't help what your personal bugaboo is going to be. If it happens to be cancer, and cord blood banking will give you peace of mind, it might be worth the money.

But I will do some reading and try to develop a more scientific reason to be for or against it. That said, there will be no cord blood banking for my kid. Sorry, Charlie.

idiots and their idiotic writings

Scroll down to the second letter, or as Gina so eloquently put it, to the Stroller Bitch. I was so livid I couldn't see straight but managed to breathe deeply and take ten minutes to vent my vitriol in my own letter to the editor. (OK, I know it doesn't exactly *flow* but I was PISSED.) I hope, oh I hope, they print my letter, so stupid Nicole sees how intelligent rational people feel about idiots like her. But in case they don't, here's MY letter: Take that, Stroller Bitch!

As the mother of a four-year-old and a two-year-old, I have to reply to Nicole Mullen's idiotic letter. Most parents try to be very careful with their strollers and pay attention to who is where on the sidewalks. However, some adults feel entitled to take up the entire sidewalk, or walk into your child without paying any attention to who is around them. I can't tell you how many times my four-year-old has been knocked into or bumped by an adult who is not paying any attention to their surroundings. Secondly, a backpack carrier is not a feasible option for an active, thirty-pound two-year-old, or frankly, any child over twenty pounds. I'd be in my way to the chiropractor within ten minutes. Thirdly, you try taking a two-year-old anywhere like the Arts Festival without a stroller. Then when they are tired and want to be carried, you heft that thirty pounds around the festival and blocks back to the car. Then you'd probably be too exhausted to write inane letters to the newspaper regarding subjects about which you clearly know nothing. So sorry that my desire to get my boys outside, enjoy the sunshine, and support downtown Pittsburgh is getting in the way of your good time.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Salon's summer book picks, etc.

Here are the ones that interest me:

Wesley Stace’s Misfortune looks interesting. I am a fan of Stace’s music, in his guise of John Wesley Harding. But the phrase that did it for me: "The cross-dressing love child of Great Expectations and A. S. Byatt's Possession." How can I not be intrigued?

I never finished John Burdett’s Bangkok 8, but remain convinced that I should, so I can then go on to read Bangkok Tattoo.

I thought I might look at Charles Stross’ Merchant Princes series, the second of which is on this list, because I hoped it would be somewhat Jasper FForde-ish from the tone of the review. But after reading the Amazon review, I am not sure. Does anyone know anything about these books?


Am still plowing through the Deptford trilogy.

At Highland Park’s giant yard sale this weekend, I scored a copy of Janson’s History of Art (sans dust jacket but still…) for 2 bucks (!!!!!) and yet another copy of Stones From the River for a buck. I know it was an Oprah pick but get past that. It’s a wonderful book. I love it, so I buy it cheaply whenever I find it so I can give it away – but it’s time for me to reread it.

I had to stop reading All In My Head – it was giving me a headache. Seriously. And my migraines don’t need any outside help, especially with our barometric pressure all over the freaking place these days.


Also at the yard sale, I bought an old desk for fifteen bucks that is going to be just perfect for all my sewing stuff and my machine to sit on. Also some random little china saucers (five for a dollar), for putting under candles, etc. (I have a serious china fetish.)

The boys had a dollar each, from Dan, to spend. I had decided I would supplement as needed, if necessary. So all the hinky little action figure-y, car-type thingeys I bought for them, for the grand total of a dollar, at one house where they were really giving them away for free, but since my boys took two each, I felt obliged to hand over some cash.

Jude adopted another baby doll – this one is quite bald and he named her Lucy. He also scored a bendable Woody from Toy Story, and a little M&M car. Simon wound up with an apple on wheels, with Lowly Worm inside; a Spiderman action figure; and his big expenditure: artwork! I do not know why! The guy selling it wanted ten bucks each for these pictures he had in a box. Some were prints, a few were bad original oils, and this one which Simon glommed onto – a fairly crude yarn-and-plastic-canvas rendering of a boat and some trees in a cheap frame. Maybe someone’s camp project or something?

Me: Si, it’s too much. It’s ten dollars.
Si: I have a dollar.
Guy: You can have it for five.
Me: Si, it’s just too much.
Si (lower lip quivering): But I have a dollar.
Guy: He can have it for a dollar.
Me: Thank you so much!

He was so happy. I suppose I am rotten for not just sucking it up and paying the five bucks for it, but it was crap! I just couldn’t do it. I am glad he got it for his dollar, though; we hung it up in his room today and he seems very happy with it. I suppose it’s not so awful, it’s just---ten bucks! I mean!

I also bought the boys Perfection. I paid a quarter for it and they’ve been playing nonstop since we brought it home.

Friday, June 03, 2005

where oh where had my little blogger gone?

All right, Wednesday night was fairly relaxing – a nice leisurely dinner at a great restaurant (Café Sam); a nice clean hotel room; two episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway?; sleeping in the next morning; a trip to Bryn Mawr-Vassar to poke through their books and buy a few --- all that lovely de-stressing wore off pretty much half an hour after we got home. Oh well. It was nice while it lasted!


Now I begin to tackle the Great Plaster Dust Clean-Up. Our wonderful electrician not only rewired our entire second floor, thereby making our house NOT a firetrap and enabling me to both blow dry my hair and iron clothes on the second floor, but he also plastered and sanded all of the dozens of holes he had to punch in the walls and ceiling. Apparently this is *not* de rigueur behavior for an electrician. But the holes were patched, the floors vacuumed, and all my lovely new outlets work. That was the big spring project completed – an eight-day plan which wound up taking almost three weeks. Our house is close to a hundred years old, with double walls and cross-bracing all over the place. Out of pure necessity, the electricians did more demolition work than actual rewiring. Next up – rebuilding porch railings and scraping and painting the back porch. And I’ll start to think about recovering our ancient sofa.


Have I had time to read? Surprisingly, yes. I am almost done Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent. She is a lovely, lyrical writer; she could have written the newspaper classifieds and I’d be interested in reading them. I finished off Katie Fforde’s predictable but fun bit of fluff, Life Skills, last night at 230 am, along with two slices of sausage pizza. I am resting on the Robertson Davies for a bit; I still have several library books I have not even cracked (Mulberry Empire, Kindergarten, Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy, Paula Kamen’s All in my Head); and Gina and I are convinced that we missed a volume of Y: The Last Man somewhere along the way because this fourth one is not making much sense.


Added to our farm co-op haul this week: honey and some new potatoes.


The baby is beginning to kick the crap out of me, generally in the vicinity of my bladder. Which I suppose means s/he’s still right-side-up instead of properly upside down. Turn, baby, turn!

Oh, and by the way, my blessed next-door neighbor came to my rescue with her XL Old Navy maternity tankini. It fits, and will still fit in September, and is a pleasant enough navy and red floral print. Here's a bonus I hadn't considered: my stomach is so big that it makes my thighs look positively svelte.