Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Coolest Piece of Furniture EVER

Do you see this? Susie Sunshine has a link to this site on her blog, and I found this picture there. I want this more than anyone can possibly want a piece of old furniture.

karma...or something like it

Primo got into the magnet school we wanted.

There was an article in the newspaper today about something else public-school-related and it said you could call for lottery results.

and i did, chewing fingernails.

and Primo got in.

So at least we have a viable kindergarten option.

who knows what may come in first grade, but that's more than a year away...


sorry, i am too sick and too relieved to even try to be clever, i just wanted to let anyone who cared know.

although I will share this with you - a girl just walked into the library and walked up to the circ desk and said, "Can I have a room?" She means a study carrel - but am I the only loony who finds this amusing?

Joke, You Have Been Warned

Presenting . . . The Diva Cup. Essentially it's a soft plastic receptacle, about the size of a shot glass, that collects the menstrual flow so other implements of feminine hygiene are rendered unnecessary. The benefits are supposed to be personal (no leaks, no need to spend money on products each month, no need to carry products with you) and environmental (no trash generated, nothing to flush and damage pipes with).

I haven't tried it yet, but I'm anxious to give it a go. I won't say I think it will change my life or anything, but it *may* make me feel less bad about my period.

PS--Have any of you ever seen the Kids in the Hall skit where Dave Foley talks about having "A Good Attitude Toward Menstruation"? HILARIOUS!

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Whole Bunch of Stuff

Howdy, y’all!

Here are several things I’ve been meaning to talk to you about, in no particular order:

I watched The 40-Year-Old Virgin Friday night, and Must Love Dogs Saturday morning. I thought 40YOV was funnier than I’d expected, and I was surprised by what a “girl movie” it was, even with all the gross boy-type jokes. There certainly is a large degree of belief that must be suspended, but it’s a really fun movie. I laughed like a fool several times.

Must Love Dogs is cute and sweet. We all know how I dig John Cusack (I really think I’d pay to watch him eat his breakfast), and I liked Diane Lane too. I think I’d be a lot more optimistic about love/partnership/marriage if I were as elegant and pretty as Diane Lane. (I’m writing this in Microsoft Word, and Bill Gates and his Grammar Goons think “Diane Lane” is an address. Ha!)


Teddy took some sort of crazy standardized test this weekend. Have I mentioned it? It’s organized through Carnegie Mellon University, and they call it a Talent Search, or something to that effect. Kids in grades three through five who score well on the standardized tests their schools give them are invited to take this test, which is essentially a standardized test designed for eighth graders.

I asked him if he wanted to take the test when we got the invitation thing a few months ago, and I explained that it was for eighth graders, and that it’s my thought that Carnegie Mellon uses the scores more for gathering information than anything else; I told him it would be REALLY hard, but that it didn’t matter. I also told him that his taking this test would be like my being in library school and taking a medical school test—just something of a curiosity.

So he took the test, and told me he thought it was pretty fun, and that he thought he did well in English (grammar/usage), Reading (comprehension) and Science (which seemed mostly to be about reading charts and graphs, according to the boy). The math part, however, presented Teddy with algebra and geometry far beyond anything he’d seen before. He did his best, and didn’t seem traumatized at all, but he did think it was unfair of the test people to present him with letters and symbols (like for pi and those squiggly lines that mean “approximately”) that he’d never seen before. We went to lunch right after, and he drew πr2 and asked what the heck that was all about. :-)

We went to the library after lunch, so I could learn a bit about Federal Depository libraries for my Government Documents class. I had fun browsing through The World Fact Book 2005, which is an annual published by the CIA. Did you know that only about 1% of the US population is Jewish? I’d have thought it was a lot higher than that.

Speaking of Jewish, I took Teddy for a haircut after the library, where he was seen to after the owner finished brushing out the set of a little old lady’s hair. The lady was bent totally in half and used a walker, and was probably about four-foot-nine if she stood straight. She made her way to the lobby area to wait for her ride, and I helped her sit next to me. She explained that her arthritis made it difficult for her to walk after sitting for a while. I mentioned that my mother’s hands are starting to bother her, and that she likes washing dishes because the hot water feels so nice . . . just small talk. The lady, though, proceeded to tell me that she believes she has such bad arthritis because she spent five years in a CONCENTRATION CAMP.

What is the etiquette in this situation? I tried not to look aghast, but I think I looked suitably sobered and impressed, and maybe sympathetic. As if I can IN ANY WAY sympathize with a woman who lost her parents and sister in the Holocaust. I listened to her talk about them, and about sleeping on concrete, and never having shoes—even in the winter—and I patted her little hand and kept sneaking looks at my beautiful, healthy, vibrant son and thought about my pitiful little divorce “tragedy” and tried not to think about how my “misery” can really never, ever compare to something like that.



And finally, because I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding something to really read and enjoy, I gave in and picked up The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter. I am a complete and total dork, yes. It’s been fun reading, though, even if the writing itself is less than stellar. (Oh, and I think the author is a total homophobe, which comes out in all of her references to Gilderoy Lockhart.)

Here’s something I learned that I am embarrassed to not have thought of on my own: It’s very likely that Harry is a direct descendent of Godric Gryffindor. His parents live in Godric’s Hollow. He’s a Leo. Red and gold sparks shot out of his wand at Ollivander’s when he finally found the right one. Cool. :-)

And here’s something I came up with while reading the book—something the book people haven’t said and so is right now my own brilliant theory: I think Dumbledore might be a phoenix (somehow). According to the book’s quote from the Rowling book about magical creatures, phoenixes are VERY hard to domesticate, so very, very few live among people. Fawkes is dark red; Dumbledore had dark red hair when he was young. Also, Dumbledore was the Transfiguration teacher before becoming Headmaster, yet we’ve never read of his turning into anything like we’ve seen McGonigall turn into a cat.

I admit there are myriad holes in this theory, but I think I’m on to something. Anyone?


Finally, let’s talk about hygiene products. I got a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (the one that’s mild enough to use on babies), and Ted and I have been using it for several days as both a shampoo and soap. It smells clean and wonderful, and my hair seems to be just fine—with no conditioner!

And . . . has anyone ever heard of a feminine hygiene product called the Diva Cup? I bought one this weekend, mostly because of the rave reviews on the web site. Do any of you have any experience with this kind of thing? Just curious.


I think that’s about it. Sorry for the long post, but I am without work e-mail. I’m lonely!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Meddle not in the affairs of dragon; for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”

Tomorrow is the public school lottery.
Much as I despise word problems, allow me to pose this one for you.

Each kindergarten class is allowed 17 pupils.
That's a total of 34 kindergartners in the desired school.

Let's say 12 of the spots are automatically reserved for siblings
(This number varies, obviously, from year to year).
That leaves 22 spots open.

Half of those spots are automatically reserved for African-American pupils (I've never checked the "Other" checkbox before, it was a strange feeling).

That leaves 11 spots.

For the remaining 29 applicants.

Of which we are one.

H. has known this since the beginning of December but only informed me of the exact numbers Friday evening. Smart man.

I will not be sleeping tonight, just like Christmas when I was little, only in this case, I am not sure that what I will be receiving at the end of all this stomach-churning is going to be a good thing.


Literary snippets:

I finished Caleb Carr's The Alienist. I was underwhelmed. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but I thought it was going to be amazing, I thought it was going to be overwhelmingly good. It was not. I was not even whelmed. I was underwhelmed.

I gave up on On the Ice after one too many "Ruth and I exchanged our shirts, warm flannel scented with her, on my bare skin" sorts of moments, interpolated with facts about Scott's fatal expedition to the Pole and interesting history about the McMurdo research station. I was interested in the latter bits but the former were so weirdly out of place among the latter that it pissed me off. If she'd even just been making a point about the oddity of relationships developed by people wintering over at the Pole, fine, but she wasn't. She was exploring and mending a broken heart, so sad, I know, I'm heartless, but that's not what I signed up for.

I am so moving to Chicago. The Bookslut book/author series is consistently interesting.

Gina, here’s your virtual birthday gift. I do believe it’s waterproof so it might come in very handy in the bathtub. (It’s for a *book*, you sickos!)

My librarian hero, protecting her constituents. I hope I would have those kind of cajones.

I am not generally a huge poetry fan. I do like Louis MacNeice, and I enjoy Pablo Neruda well enough, and Dorothy Parker (does she count as poetry even?). But upon Mary Doria Russell’s website urging, I signed up for an emailing of Gary Wilkens’ poetry. And the guy is GOOD. I look forward to getting his poems. I like reading them. Some of them make me stop and go, “Huh.” Or “Wow.” Or something equally heartfelt if inane. He’s just finished a cycle called “Molly and Dupree” and I think it’s great.

Since Gina got me reading comic books a little, what with Y: The Last Man and all, I find that every once in a while I enjoy them. I need to read Persepolis, and I would like to check out Alias. Mostly because I dig that Jessa likes the heroine pre-"shiny, manageable hair."

I like early Gail Godwin well enough. I remember enjoying very much Father Melancholy’s Daughter and A Mother and Two Daughters; but she got a tad melodramatic in later years - started sounding like Anne Rivers Siddons – ouch! - so I stopped reading her. Her new one, The Queen of the Underworld looks pretty good, enough that I will get it from the library at least. And isn’t that a great title? Actually, isn’t it in a Springsteen song?

Does anyone else think of Optimus Prime whenever they see the heading on Amazon about a particular title not being eligible for Amazon Prime? (And, no, I have no freaking clue what the Pepsi convoy has to do with OP. Curiouser and curiouser.) Of course now I am thinking "Octopus Prime"...because I am reading Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, which you must all immediately go read. You know how when you read in public and start laughing, you feel a little silly and self-conscious? I spent my whole lunch break feeling that way, and then feeling mildly horrible (is that possible?) for laughing so hard at a character who suffers from Tourette’s. (But he’s such a bright and complex character. And he's so damn funny.)

The fact that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is done writing is a shame. Love in the Time of Cholera is a book everyone should read.

So if we simply ignore and pretend certain derogatory terms don’t even exist, we are teaching our children….what? Tolerance, enlightenment, equality…wouldn’t want to do that now, would we?

Hilary Spurling just won the Whitbread Award for her biography of Matisse. I wonder how much of it she made up? I sure hope those Whitbread folks aren’t going to be embarrassed by her now.

Give Dooce a rest, people! I wonder if she’ll actually win a Bloggie. I personally nominated Badger and Blackbird, dammit. But the only one I need to vote for in the finalists is Finslippy, whom I find amusing. I have a few issues with her son, but nothing for which his cuteness doesn’t make up.

Did you know there are two Graham Greenes? See the kinds of things I learn at work?


Joke’s “To know me is to love me” meme

Movies You Need To See To Understand Me Better
Love Actually
Roman Holiday
Sixteen Candles
Pretty in Pink
Breakfast Club
Some Kind of Wonderful
10 Things I Hate About You
The Godfather
Kenneth Brannagh’s Henry V
To Kill a Mockingbird

Albums You Need To Listen To Understand Me Better
An Innocent Man – Billy Joel
The River – Bruce Springsteen
Bless the Beasts and Children/Nadia's Theme
A Quiet Normal Life - Warren Zevon
Saint Dominic's Preview - Van Morrison
Kid A - Radiohead
OK Computer - Radiohead
everything Dar Williams, but especially Mortal City
everything Chris Smither
Singles 45's and Under - Squeeze
Philadelphia Chickens
La Boheme - the version with Victoria de los Angeles, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham
just about anything Sibelius
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash - The Pogues
If I Should Fall From Grace With God - The Pogues

TV Shows You Need to (Have) Watch(ed) To Understand Me Better
Love Boat/Fantasy Island duo on Saturday nights
Facts of Life
Melrose Place
Ally McBeal
Freaks and Geeks
Sports Night
Family Guy
Curb Your Enthusiasm

Books You Need To Read To Understand Me Better
Roller Skates - Rith Sawyer
all of LM Montgomery
most of Madeleine L'Engle
Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Farmer Boy - Laura Ingalls Wilder
all of Laurie Colwin
Jitterbug Perfume - Tom Robbins
In Watermelon Sugar - Richard Brautigan
The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde
Jane Austen - any and all
Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton
Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell
all of the Trixie Belden mysteries
Stones from the River - Ursula Hegi
The Salterton Trilogy - Robertson Davies (really, all of Davies)
Miss Buncle - DE Stevenson

Games You Need To Play To Understand Me Better

Musicals/Plays You Need To See To Understand Me Better
Arcadia - Tom Stoppard
Red Noses - Peter Barnes
Guys and Dolls (a poirson can develop a cold...)
La Boheme
Uncle Vanya - Chekhov
No Exit - Sartre
110 Degrees in the Shade
Jesus Christ Superstar (also the movie)
Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf? - Edward Albee
Seventy Scenes of Halloween - Jeffrey Jones
The Bakkhai - Euripides

Periodicals You Need To Read To Understand Me Better
House and Garden
Brain, Child
Runner's World
Fine Cooking
my alumni magazine
the sadly-now-defunct Book

Catalogs You Need To Get--not necessarily order from--To Understand Me Better
LL Bean
Title 9
Pottery Barn
King Arthur Flour

Places You Need To Visit To Understand Me Better
South Jersey
the shore
Twinsburgh, Ohio
York, England
London, England
New Orleans
Florence, Italy

Comestibles & Libations Of Which You Must Partake To Understand Me Better
Bacardi and Coke, no lime
Starbucks peppermint mocha
sushi - especially yellowtail and red snapper
blue cheeseburgers, preferably with bacon - the ones at Tessaro's and the Sharp Edge are the best
buffalo bites from the Sharp Edge with blue cheese dipping sauce and celery
the Cobb salad at Gullifteys; ditto their chocolate coconut pie
any kind of pie
Giant Eagle's Gorgonzola dip
fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes
salt and vinegar potato chips
dark chocolate
Breadworks' green olive foccaccia
steamed crabs at Grabbe's
McDonald's French fries
Zitner's Butter Krak eggs
Philadelphia soft pretzels and a Coca-Cola Slurpee

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mom


Yes, Mom, I *know* it's a crappy picture but I am really sick so couldn't go to work so did not have access to a scanner. Isn't it the thought that counts? No? Ergh.

And no, I am NOT wearing some pink, no matter how pretty I'd be if I would just...

My mom and I had a classic love-hate relationship.
Nonetheless, I miss her like crazy.
I loved her a lot.


1933 - 1998

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Portable Urinal . . . For the Ladies

Wow. Can you imagine using this in the car? Like when you've just had a liter of water and you're stuck in traffic on the highway? And then a guy driving a semi pulls up next to you? AND CAN TOTALLY SEE WHAT YOU'RE DOING?

Playing Along With Joke's Meme

Movies You Need To See To Understand Me Better (Note that I’m not necessarily proud of all these—it’s just that I’ve seen them an awful lot, and they’ve made their marks, for better or worse.)

16 Candles
Revenge of the Nerds
Better Off Dead
Pink Floyd’s The Wall
The Iron Giant
The Philadelphia Story
The Breakfast Club
The Evil Dead
Say Anything
High Fidelity

Albums You Need To Listen To to Understand Me Better

BNL – Gordon
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Live Rust
Counting Crows – August and Everything After
Hole – Live Through This
The Powerpuff Girls Soundtrack
The Pulp Fiction Sound Track
The White Stripes – Elephant
Green Day – American Idiot

TV Shows You Need to (Have) Watch(ed) To Understand Me Better

Happy Days
Laverne & Shirley
Mork & Mindy
Full House
Sesame Street
The Simpsons
Mystery Science Theater 3000 (before the migration to the Sci-Fi Channel)

Books You Need To Read To Understand Me Better

(See the disclaimer from the Movies section.)
Go Ask Alice
Crime & Punishment
Flowers in the Attic (the collection)
Harriet the Spy
The Age of Reason
The Diary of Ann Frank
Harry Potter 1-6
All of Judy Blume
Most of Beverly Cleary
All of LM Montgomery
All of Madeleine L’Engle
Roosevelt & Hitler
Fast Food Nation

Games You Need To Play To Understand Me Better

6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon
Trivial Pursuit
Phase Ten
Four Square

Musicals/Plays You Need To See To Understand Me Better

Westside Story
An Ideal Husband
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
No Exit

Periodicals You Need To Read To Understand Me Better

Atlantic Monthly
Magazine of the ALA

Catalogs You Need To Get--not necessarily order from--To Understand Me Better

(These are the ones I get, anyway.)
Pottery Barn
Griot's Garage
LL Bean
Title 9 Sports

Places You Need To Visit To Understand Me Better

One place explains so very much: Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania.

If You Ever Needed a Reason

To avoid Abercrombie & Fitch and its Hollister and Abercrombie little siblings, here it is.

This is Mike Jeffries, the man behind A&F. He is 61 years old. If you read the Salon article, you might agree with me that he's even creepier/more insidious than he looks. I avoid A&F like the plague for lots of reasons, but this just takes the cake.

Monday, January 23, 2006

All right, I took the quiz, and it turns out, I do put career before men.

You Are a Caramel Crunch Donut

You're a complex creature, and you're guilty of complicating things for fun.

You've been known to sit around pondering the meaning of life...

Or at times, pondering the meaning of your doughnut.

To frost or not to frost? To fill or not to fill? These are your eternal questions.

Why are these stupid quizzes so intriguing?
See, like I couldn’t have lived without knowing which of Santa’s reindeer I am (although I admit I am pleased by which one I wound up with:

You Are Dasher

You're an independent minded reindeer who never plays by the rules.

Why You're Naughty: That little coup you tried to stage against Santa last year

Why You're Nice: You secretly give naughty children presents.

And this quiz to determine who you were in a past life – by asking my current profession (librarian), and the sort of code I prefer (although I sincerely doubt this factors in), they conjure up this freakish result:

In a Past Life...

You Were: A Gentle Magician.

Where You Lived: Quebec.

How You Died: Suicide.

But wait – they can’t be all full of crap. See?

You Should Get a MD (Doctor of Medicine)

You're both compassionate and brilliant - a rare combination.

You were born to be a doctor.

OK, I do have a stomach of iron, and when I was a child I wanted to be Quincy when I grew up, but that’s as far as I got once I realized there would be chemistry classes involved before I even took the MCATs – and I’m a lousy test-taker.

Now, this one is more or less accurate as far as my FOOD preferences go, but am I the only one whose filthy mind descended directly into the gutter, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars?

You Are Japanese Food

Strange yet delicious.

Contrary to popular belief, you're not always eaten raw.

and this – just what in hell is an inner blood type? And I think Leonardo DiCaprio is unwashed and weaselly-eyed and yucky.

Your Inner Blood Type is Type B

You follow your own rules in life, even if you change the rules every day.

Sure, you tend to be off the wall and unpredictable, but that's what makes you lovable.

And even though you're a wild child, you have the tools to be a great success.

You are able to concentrate intently - and make the impossible possible.

You are most compatible with: B and AB

Famous Type B's: Leonardo Di Caprio and

But it is in the end just shocking the amount of time you can waste determining your Irish name, your porn star name, what kind of cocktail you are, and what sort of animal you were in a former life. And even more shocking – that you find you care. Sigh. I did not *want* to be a wombat in a former life, I was hoping for the echidna.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Great movie quotes become part of our cultural vocabulary. - Jean Picker Furstenberg

OK, these are in no particular order. At all.
And I probably missed a lot. Which I may or may not post as they come to my attention.

Check out this very cool and exceptionally-time-wasting site:
Useless Movie Quotes.com.

And this site from the American Film Institute. 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes.


“Yes, Your Blueness!” - Which I prefer to Yes, Mom.
“Push a Button!” - Generally in an elevator but occasionally just out of the blue, as it were.
Both from “Yellow Submarine.”

From “Moonstruck,” my favorite movie of all time:
Your life’s goin’ down the toilet! – Accompanied with hand-shaking
When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can.
It’s Cosmo’s moon. – Said whenever anyone notes the full moon.
Snap out of it! – Useful for any number of occasions, try it and see.
I just want you to know no matter what you do, you're gonna die, just like everybody else. – I say this to H. a lot.
Then, there's copper, which is the only pipe I use. It costs money. It costs money because it saves money. – Used recently to my roof/gutter guy
We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*. So come upstairs and get in my bed! – Uh, I say this to H. but not as often as the “You’re gonna die” line.
I have a feeling this is going to be just delicious - Most often used by my little brother as he is sitting down to eat; also, he likes, I ain’t no friggin’ monument to justice!

What was the part in the middle?
Avoid the green ones, they’re not ripe yet. – Used in the appropriate food-consuming context
Look, Mr. Manfredjinsinjin…- used when we meet someone with a crazy-ass last name
- “A Fish Called Wanda”

Is it …raining?
- “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” when we are noting 1) an incredibly stupid person or 2) an incredibly stupid movie moment

How d’ye mean, funny-looking? – “Fargo” (We love this movie for its accents. We dig accents.)

The steps are treacherous. - Used before we shovel the snow, from “Young Frankenstein”

"I'll be takin' these Huggies and whatever you got in the register." - "Raising Arizona," used whenever we realize exactly what we spend in diapers each year...about once a week after grocery shopping

Not swallowing my tongue – Used in answer to any ridiculous What are you doing? question. Sadly, it’s a Jean-Claude Van Damme quote from “Time Cop.”

It has raisins in it. You like raisins. - Used whenever my kids say they don’t like something.
Go that way really fast. If anything gets in your way, turn! - Used when directions are asked for.
-both from that classic John Cusack vehicle, “Better Off Dead.”

Huge tracts of land…It had teeth like this…Get back here and I’ll bite your kneecaps off…She’s a witch! Burn her!...Spank me! Spank me! – all from that holy grail, “Monty Python’s Holy Grail”

I’ve been mostly dead all day… “The Princess Bride,” used when H. asks how I am feeling.
Or this quote, by Lily Von Schtupp in “Blazing Saddles”:
I’m tired…tired of playing the game.

Leave the gun, take the cannoli. “The Godfather” Just because I enjoy saying it.

Uhhhh, yeeeeaaahhhh… I’m gonna need you to…- from “Office Space”

I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies! Used upon the occasion of each of my son’s births. The nurses probably thought I was nuts.

Assume away. - Max Bialystock, from the original “Producers.”

You can't handle the truth! - From "A Few Good Men."

Ralphie lay there like a slug…Generally used when someone is lollygagging.
Fra-gee-lay. Must be Italian – both from “A Christmas Story.”

We’re gonna need a bigger boat. – “Jaws”; I said this a lot when we were car-shopping.

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore! – “Network.”
Randomly. Often.

It’s like Africa hot. – “Biloxi Blues” Only used in the summer.

Yeah, she was in great pain! Then we cut off her head, and drove a stake through her heart, and burned it, and then she found peace. - I use this more often than you would think. From "Bram Stoker's Dracula," in answer to the question, "Was she in pain?"

Would you like to play Global Thermonuclear War?
-also more useful than you might think. From "War Games."

At least he’s not a book burner, you Nazi cow! – Just because I like it.
Is this heaven? No it’s Iowa.
- “Field of Dreams”
- I also like the “You’re a pacifist!” line when Kevin Costner is trying to stop James Earl Jones from hitting him. I use it when I am expressing surprise whenever H. is leaning away from his bleeding-heart-liberal tendencies.

Checking my presents. Making sure I'm getting everything on my list. I found one present. All it had was stupid underwear.
“Polar Express,” spouted by the boys for general merriment purposes. The Know-It-All boys says it in his nasal voice and it cracks them up no end.

You codfish! Used as a general expletive, or to make the boys laugh. From the classic Disney “Peter Pan.”

I'm tired and I'm hungry and my tail's froze and my nose is froze and my ears are froze. And my toes are froze. - Used almost only in the winter when kids are whining about how cold it is outside.

You idiots! You fools! You imbeciles! - Used whenever necessary.

-Both from the classic Disney “101 Dalmatians.”

One I am going to *start* using, from the remake of “101 Dalmatians:”
Uh... what kind of sycophant would you like me to be?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Leon the Professional

Several weeks ago a guy spotted me reading a comic and chatted me up. Somehow we got on the subject of Star Wars and then Natalie Portman, and he told me he will love and respect her forever because of her role in Leon the Professional, which I'd never heard of. Anyone?

I requested it from the library, and I just finished watching it. My glasses are a disaster, thanks to the little tear explosions. I can't remember the last time I saw something like this, so touching, thrilling and awful all at the same time.

I doubt that I can do any justice here, but I'll try to summarize: Leon is a hit-man who made his way from (I'm guessing from the accent) an Eastern European country to NYC to escape his past. He lives a lonely life in a shabby apartment, working jobs for Danny Aiello and caring devotedly for a potted plant. Natalie Portman is Mathilda, a 12-13 year old girl who lives in the same building as Leon; she lives with her drug-doing/stealing dad and awful step-family, and would be as lonely as Leon if it weren't for her 4 year old brother.

The dad steals drugs he's hiding for crooked DA Gary Oldman, and Oldman and his crew massacre the family--including the baby brother--while Portman is buying groceries. Leon opens his door to her as she returns, and literally saves her life.

The movie becomes a sort of buddy flick, but it's never trite or cheesy. There's some comedy, and lots of action, but Portman and Jean Reno, the guy who plays Leon, help to make this film something much more than that. It's well written, directed and acted. It's interesting (in that way that learning about being a hit-man is interesting), and very stressful. And it's honestly heartbreaking.

I don't think I've seen Portman in anything other than the Star Wars movies, and I can't understand what happened to her between this movie in 1994 and the Phantom Menace five years later. Can puberty really turn an actress to wood?

Anyway, if you get a chance to rent a movie you can watch without little kids around, try this one. And then we can talk about it, because I'm *dying* to!

Here we go...

As you may know, there are VERY important football games happening this weekend.

So these are not only very *important* hats, they are "very good hats."

Friday Show-and-Tell, courtesy of Blackbird

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Kanine Krunchies can't be beat, they make each meal a special treat. Happy dogs are those who eat nutritious Kanine Krunchies.

Yet another productive Thursday running errands sans the hoodlums.

I finally managed to mail my little brother’s Christmas presents, which since most of the box is actually for my six-month-old nephew really doesn’t matter that it’s a month late. Because what does he know? He can barely sit up by himself. What’s he know from Christmas? Bah!

I also managed to stop at the dry cleaner’s. This is roughly eight blocks from my house, and for some reason I find it almost impossible to get there. I put it off and put it off and one of these days the dude is going to just donate my clothes to Goodwill.

Speaking of donation, I finally cleaned up the playroom. I threw away about six bags of trash – all those little McDonald’s toys (how did we accumulate FOUR Country Bear stuffed toys? Did I really allow my children to eat McDonald’s that often in the space of a month? I am clearly a BAD parent. Broccoli and broiled salmon from now on!), and the gajillion colored-in Thomas coloring pictures and broken crayons (never again, as now we only buy Twistables) and broken toys that I have decided I will never fix -- if indeed you can fix broken plastic anyway. (Secret: I also pitched the hideous broken ceramic reindeer. Because they laid around with their pathetic broken-off ears for a month and a half, and I couldn’t get the top off the crazy glue tube, so I finally just threw them away. And it was so freeing. I felt liberated and fresh – like one of those panty-liner commercials.) And I packed up all the annoying-noise-making cars (who thought it a good idea to give us a tractor that growls??) and that are obviously possessed by the devil anyway as they make all this noise when they are ALL ALONE in the playroom, and left them out on the porch this morning for the Vietnam Vets, along with all of my size-eight jeans and tapered-leg khakis. Which DESERVE to be growled at by tractors.

I kept all the Legos and TinkerToys and Magnetix and Lincoln Logs and Matchbox cars – multi-function toys. Toys that require you to build things and use your imagination. Things that really really hurt when you step on them in the middle of the night. If a toy hurts when you step on it in the middle of the night, it’s a safe bet that it is educational and imagination-provoking. Big ugly plastic things that only do one thing never hurt when you step on them. That’s IF you can step on them.

Oh, and of course we kept the Thomas trains. (If we ever decide to get rid of them, oh, say, when the boys are forty, we will sell them on eBay to fund our grandchildren’s education.)
Because Thomas trains are our life. See? The tracks surround the volcanoes Primo built when he was obsessed with volcanoes a few months ago and we finally blew them up yesterday with the measly four tablespoons of vinegar left in the jar. What a freaking time to run out of vinegar, honestly! And don’t those volcanoes look more like roadkill than anything?

Oh, but back to my fascinating errand-running. Because I had to take back my black 9-1/2 sized Skechers. Except the nines were way too small. So I kept the others. Because I am a freak who can’t decide if a shoe fits her or not. But I can decide if pants fit me or not which is how I wound up with a pair of straight-leg chocolate-brown side-zip pants from the Fat Girl Shop which are just a weensy bit too big but look so great that I bought them anyway. Unfortunately the FGS only starts at size 14, so I can’t get them in size 12. If these had belt loops it wouldn’t be a problem but they don’t and I’d hate for my pants to fall down. So I may have to return them. And then I bought a pair of grayish/brownish straight-leg pants at Old Navy for 10 bucks that look great but need to be hemmed. Even though I am 5’9”. But they are a size 12. So the only thing we know for sure is that my ass is big – we are just not sure how big.

Then I had to go pick up H.’s shoes that had to be special-ordered. And the toy store right next to the shoe store? Had the Polar Express engine, and the Hot Chocolate car that PLAYS that damn Hot Cocoa song?
I bought them, gentle reader.
Even though NEXT Christmas is, um, roughly 340 days away.
Aren’t I…well, *I* like to call it organized.
Although others may prefer different terms.


I started to read this really good book I think I was going to like very much, that was going to affect me deeply, called A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards. But I had to stop. Because it is about a little boy who is autistic. Or actually, the process of him becoming autistic, which in his case was not a process at all, but a sudden descent into silence and strangeness. In the words of his novel-mother, one day he was a laughing, singing boy and the next day he was cold and grey and mute. And I have a wonderful, beautiful, laughing, singing 2-1/2 year-old and I am terrified by the specter of autism. We even toyed with the idea of not giving Primo his immunizations, but we did, although we made the pediatrician split them up instead of shooting him up all at once. Segundo has had his immunizations as directed, as it were. The threat has passed for Primo – true, he may turn out to be a psychopath, or bipolar, or clinically depressed, or even, God forbid, contract some sort of cancer (a friend’s four-year-old daughter died from a glioblastoma, and I still have nightmares about it. I can only imagine what *they* go through.) But the autism threat is past for his five-year-old self. But Segundo at almost three, and Terzo at a measly four months – the threat still lies ahead, and I am terrified by it. I know some of you guys have kids who have autism, or Asperger’s, and I would be happy to hear from you anything you want to tell me, and I KNOW I am being irrational. But I felt as if I was tempting fate by continuing to read this book, so I put it down and picked up The Alienist instead. Because I worry less about mutilating serial killers. Not much less, but somewhat.


Book Snippets:

About the non-fiction finalists for the National Book Critics Awards…I have not read any of the other books but I HAVE read Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster and it should win. I can’t imagine a better book. It was amazing and sad and well-written and everything a non-fiction book can and should be.

The Morning News Tournament of Books, sponsored by Powell’s Books, is a cool thing. And they at least got it right last year even if the Booker people did not – David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas won the 2005 Tournament of Books. This year’s tournament is gearing up and they need books (published in 2005) to be nominated. I nominated Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace.
In my words: Because there is no shot clock, this is much more fun than collegiate March Madness.
In their words: This is going to be fun. Bloodthirsty, but fun.

Primo will be delighted to discover this comic strip all about the Moomins, as he is a huge Moomintroll fan. I might as well get it for next Christmas NOW. See? How organized I am? Again? Ha!

The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis has crossed my radar several times in the past few weeks. I am going to request it from the library. Which, I might mention, is about the same distance from my house as my dry cleaner’s and yet I manage to get myself *there* at least once a week.

This blurb-y article on reading over other people’s shoulders in the subway...I can totally relate. If someone is reading a book in a public place, I go nuts until I see what it is. But for the record, I have never ever encountered someone else reading anything in French or Hebrew. Not that I can read either one of those languages.

Today’s Boondocks comic strip made me to laugh and laugh. (It's the Jan. 19th strip.)



In line with the Barrymore Boob Disaster Gina posted about: I love this crap. It entertains me to no end. But then again, I CARE that Jennifer Anniston was dumped by Brad Pitt.
Go Fug Yourself also has a good piece on this particular fashion Debacle of the Stars.

I am wearing tan pantyhose with black shoes and grey pants. The epitome of frump. Which I did not realize until I got to work and looked down at my feet and they screamed "Fru-mmmpy!" at me.

My eye-candy patron whom I have mentioned before? I realized today that, gorgeous as he may be, he has enormous gums. So sad.

Just Some Stuff

Did you all see the picture of Drew Barrymore from the Golden Globes? What is *up* with her?


Consider the Lobster. Really. Consider it. I can't find the article to link to, but you should read it.


Did you see that a group of parents is trying to sue Nickelodeon and Kelloggs? Because, you know, Kelloggs makes junky cereals and Nick advertises them and does product tie-ins? This makes me want to start smacking people. If you have enough time on your hands to take on legal battles against these kinds of giants, you probably have enough time to PARENT, and control most of what your kids eat and watch. I'm just saying.


Confession: I can't stick to the macrobiotics. I have no problem at all with being a vegetarian, but I don't like enough vegetables to survive on what is essentially a vegan diet. I'm going to allow myself to eat Garden Burgers and things of that ilk, and I'm going to return to eggs and cheese. And just so I know, this makes me neither a bad person nor a bad friend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Whole Lotta Healthy Goin’ On

Remember my friend with Sclerderma? She met a woman on-line who has Sclerderma as well, and was featured on 60 Minutes a few years ago because she’d reversed her symptoms using macrobiotics (Whole foods, especially vegetables and grains, eaten in a proper balance. Some fish is allowed, but no other meats and no dairy, and no white flour or sugar. Wine and beer are okay in moderation, but no hard liquor.). The woman has been symptom-free for fourteen years, all thanks, she claims, to eating this way.

With nothing to lose and much to gain from giving this a try, my friend asked me if I’d do it with her—she wants a woman’s support. (Her husband will help all he can, but she feels like she’ll do better if she has a woman going through it at the same time.) I am the queen of junk food, but what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t give it a try? Right?

So we got some books and did some reading, and we think we have a vague grasp of what we’re supposed to be doing. Suffice it to say that for the last two days I have eaten lots of brown rice. It’s not that bad, though, although going without Diet Coke has been a bit of a struggle. If I can manage to live this way, I will be very, very thin. I’m hoping that getting all of the preservatives/toxins/general crap out of my body will make me feel so great that I won’t miss junk food. In the meantime, I’m probably going to cheat a little. I’m having people over Saturday night, and I just can’t see offering them nothing more than raw veg and hummus. It doesn’t seem right.

In other news, I turned 35 yesterday. I’ve always preferred odd-numbered years, fives and sevens in particular, so I’m hoping this year will bring lots of happiness. Diet Coke-withdrawal aside, things are pointing in that direction.

Happily, I got lots of books for my birthday. My mom tried to take me to the mall and buy me something, but I talked her into meeting me at Barnes & Noble and footing the bill for some books. I got The Accidental, Thread of Grace (because Val loves it so), and Consider the Lobster. Hooray! I’m reading Lobster now, and . . . I’m starting to feel about David Foster Wallace like I did about Eddie Vedder/Kurt Cobain/Jim Morrison back in the day (Morrison was way, WAY back in the day, by the way, but I went through the phase. Sue me.) Anyway, I would be very, very happy to let DFW spend hours talking to me, whispering those foot-noted asides in my ear. Sigh. He’s dreamy. And SO SMART.

Ahem. I’ll try to contain myself.

Books: Teddy (and his dad) got me The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005 (Beck wrote the intro, which makes me happy). My friend Kate sent me two books, London Bridges and Doomsday Book. And my sister gave me a signed, first edition copy of A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Woo hoo! (My friend Suzanne gave me a signed, first edition copy of Certain Women for Christmas, which means I now have three MLE first editions, two of which are signed.)

So it’s been a very bookish birthday, and I like it.

One last thing: You know those ThermaCare Menstrual Patches? Well, they really work, and I love them. You should get some of you have cramp issues. HOWEVER, I am living proof that you shouldn’t abuse them. I can back up that statement with a rash on my stomach that’s shaped like the patch. I took a sick day on Friday so I wouldn’t have to wear clothes. Heed my warning and use, but don’t abuse.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.


I wanted to get you a Jack Lalanne juicer, but maybe I'll just plant you some wheatgrass instead.

(That is a macrobiotic cake, by the way.)

Monday, January 16, 2006

No purses! There's no time for purses!

Carolyn had an MLK celebratory dinner– but we are eating halupchi (Ukrainian stuffed cabbage) and biscuits for dinner this evening, and banana bread for dessert. It’s all about diversity, I suppose.
Happy MLK Day, and aren’t we all glad the kids are back in school tomorrow?


I finished A Thread of Grace last night. As I expected, I cried. What a heartbreaking, wonderful book. I have an astounding amount of respect for Mary Doria Russell and her talent. And if she recommends these books – well, I’ll read ‘em. Weirdly enough, I was transferring all the lists of books/authors/topics I need to research and check out from all the little scraps of paper on which they generally live into a blank book, and Simon Mawer was on the list. So I’ll probably start with Mendel’s Dwarf.

But immediately next up: Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, recommended by Andrea.


My blogging habits may change – today H. worked from home thereby forcing me to do chores in the morning, and shower, and take the kids to run errands. In other words, to be wildly productive. Because I could not get to the computer.
But this worked out well because I spent the dreaded "quality" time with them all, eating lunch at the mall and letting them run rampant around the playground, and they are all now sleeping or having quiet time and I can write in peace. This works much better for all concerned, including – especially - my overactive guilt gland. So you may want to look for new posts in the evenings instead from now on...we’ll see how that goes.


Segundo: I like you, Mama.
Me: I like you, too, Seggie.
Segundo: I love you, Mama.
Me: I love you, too, Seggie.
Segundo: I like peanut butter, Mama.

We can all see where this is going, can’t we?
You must NEVER let down your parental guard!


My brother made the mistake of dissing Segundo’s favorite hockey player the last time he visited. He kept saying, "Sidney Crosby, Schmidney Schmosby..."
Segundo now refers to Uncle Curt as Uncle Dirt.


I bought a new purse yesterday – at the grocery store. Isn’t that bizarre? Never would’ve thought to shop for accessories at the Giant Eagle, but there you are. Bananas, yogurt, whole-wheat bread, Balance bars...and a purse. Isn’t it cute?
It replaces my beloved Tibetan black-silk-with-silver-embroidery bag. Which I loved literally to bits. I generally just need enough purse for wallet, phone, keys, lip goop, and a pen, so this fits the bill perfectly. They had them in pink and lime green, too, and they were adorable, but black makes the most sense for me. If only buying shoes were this simple.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Wouldn't it be luverly?

This is the view from my bed. (The bed used to be in front of the window, but in the winter that blocks the radiator, not to mention that the windows are fairly drafty.)

View 2 from the bed, with my dresser I bought at the flea market for a hundred bucks last summer.

My nightstand. I am working through the pile of books, but there are more underneath. And I like to have a glass of water handy. Numerous though the times may be that I have knocked it over.


Why is this my favorite room? Yes, it is only half-painted; the carpet needs to be ripped up; the window needs to be rebuilt; the curtains need to be hemmed; and it is generally the dumping ground for all clean laundry to be sorted and folded.

But it is mine, mine, mine, ALL MINE.

H. and I have a very Victorian arrangement in that we have separate bedrooms. This is mine; I scored the master bedroom because it is on the same floor as the boys' bedrooms and I am the one that gets up with them if necessary.

H.'s bedroom doubles as the second guest room, and is on the third floor. As he needs to be fully functioning at work everyday seeing as how he supports us, I thought it necessary that his room be somewhere he can get some sleep. I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Now our marriage is - while unique - stable, strong, and fairly pleasing to us both, but there was a time when it was not. Due in part to financial restraints and children, but mostly to sheer stubbornness on both of our parts, we determined to stay married. But our marriage has been crafted and remade into something that works for us, and that includes a separate, private space for each of us.

His bedroom looks - and always has - like a college dorm room.

I like my sheets to match, the surfaces to be minimally cluttered, my bed to be made, my lighting soft but bright enough to be inviting. I prefer to live like a grown-up.

So this is my favorite room - my private space, my retreat, the space that saved my marriage, saves my sanity, and soothes me. Now if I could actually get some sleep in it, it would be perfect.

Friday Show-and-Tell, courtesy of Blackbird

Thursday, January 12, 2006

"A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants."

Random House is granting refunds to people who were stupid enough to purchase an Oprah book (apologies to both Stones from the River and Poisonwood Bible; you two were obviously anomalies). I mean, what’s next, Eckerd accepting returns of lipstick because you bought the wrong color for your skin tone? (Oh, wait...they...do?)

I am waiting on The Accidental from the library. Very impatiently. Because it is getting KILLER reviews. Although let’s hope it’s better than the opening sentence of its Amazon review: "Amber is the catalyst who makes the novel happen."
And I am the blogger who writes this weblog.

Oh man, Salman Rushdie is so freaking brilliant that it makes my head hurt. His thoughtful essay discussing the power of words, read upon the heels of Mary Doria Russell’s extraordinary novel, A Thread of Grace, makes me so mad I could spit. In a good way re: Rushdie. In a bad way re: Cheney.

I love Andrea Barrett. And I am vindicated. Not that anyone ever argued with me. Speaking of, Peg, I have a copy of Voyage of the Narwhal I have to mail you. Sort of a quid pro quo for SOTC.

A relief to know
that I am not the only person who HATED Vernon God Little. I found it unreadable, which is not to say I won’t try again some day. But annoying note to DBC Pierre (other than, what’s up with the three stupid initials, man? And no periods in between? Huh?): the word is "fuckING," not "fuckEN." I suppose I could deal with "fuckIN’" because that would be dialectical, but that "en" just distracted me so much I couldn’t pay attention to what was going on elsewhere.

Please discuss among yourselves the nominated books for the Caldecott and Newbery Medals. You can go to Jess’s blog, Garish and Tweed and read her take on the nominees - she's actually read them. The only one I have read is The Penderwicks which was cute, but I am not sure it’s really award-worthy.

Yet another perfect reason to breastfeed your baby. I will protect Terzo from Da Vinci Code for as long as any good mother can. (And in that vein – Segundo has decided that his Thomas the Tank engine is now his "Baby Thomas" and I caught him feeding Thomas via navel-to-smoke-box-nose contact, sorta more like something out of a Star Trek episode than any kind of nursing I’ve ever seen. Or participated in.)

2 new blogs I check (and need to read archives so my already-ginormous list of must-read books can grow ever more ginormouser) – 50 Books and Chasing Ray. Many of you already know about these; if you don’t, now you do. (And I believe I've mentioned "50 Books" previously...)


I have decided that I am not really a lipstick kind of gal. The Maybelline Moisture Extreme lipstick, while lovely in theory, is 1) the wrong color (I bought Rosy Glow, very orange-y despite the name, and it makes my yellow teeth look even worse) and 2) too creamy. I think I prefer a gloss. The Cover Girl Lip Tints in Barely Berry is still perfect however. Although according to the Cover Girl website’s Color Match Beauty Experts, it is also completely the wrong shade. Much as I like it. What the hell do they know anyway? I should just ask Badger instead...


I went for a half-hour walk this morning and actually broke a sweat. You know how your legs itch when you are walking or running? What IS that? Is that the fat burning off? That’s what I tell myself but I fear I am mistaken. I felt really good afterwards, and might even reach the 10,000-steps goal my pedometer is pushing me towards.
At any rate, Gina and I are aiming for a 5K in the late spring – St Margaret’s has a flat-loop 5K that seems just perfect (anything flat in this city is wonderful – and rare). Then we will aim for The Great Race, a nice, cushy, pretty-much-all-downhill 10K in September. Perhaps someday we will run our longed-for half-marathon, if her arches and my knees hold up. But right now – I am starting with some nice fast walking and working up from there, starting at the very bottom of the training plan outlined in The Runner’s Handbook; yes, I will begin with the walk-1-minute, run-1-minute, for twenty minutes, plan. Now how to find the time to run...that’s a harder proposition.


The photo gallery:

Run away! Run away!

Mom, there's something in my nose.

"Can’t a person just get a lousy cup of cocoa?"

Wall o’ penguins. Just because.

Yeah, I am going to party HEARTY with parents of other preschoolers. If I can get someone at work to switch with me. H. and I are livin’ it up that evening - *he* has a wine-tasting to go to, while I will be sucking down beer and wings. We are so well-matched, oh yes.

Although what I will really be sucking down, but wasn’t as poetic, are Bacardi-rum-and-Cokes and "Buffalo Bites," the restaurant’s white-meat, boneless chunks o’ chicken coated in wing sauce and served with blue cheese dressing and celery. This removes all the stress and difficulty – and er, awkwardness, from eating wings, without sacrificing any flavor. Good Lord, I could be a commercial. I did just eat an order of them for dinner tonight. At the ref desk. So you can see how very not messy they can be.


If someone could please share the secret of how to get my seltzer bottles home from the grocery store without all the agitation that causes each and every one to explode upon opening, I would be ever so grateful...and a whole lot drier.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"The only reason I made an American Express commercial was to pay for my American Express bill." - Peter Ustinov

Swiped from Blackbird

My name....Wouldn’t you like to know? Probably not, it’s not really that exciting

childhood memory...bringing my little brother home from the hospital, me “holding” him in the backseat

fondest memory...this past Christmas morning with my boys

soundtrack...the Wiggles singing

retreat... a bookstore/library – someplace with books

wildest dream...having the energy to really live, not just working up enough energy to get out of bed and slog through each day

proudest moment...giving birth to my oldest son

biggest challenge...not losing my temper with my boys so much

alarm clock...Timex running watch

perfect day...hanging out with my brother, his wife, and her parents; or skiing – or both

first job...salesperson at the Gap

indulgence...coffee shop, be it Starbucks or the little neighborhood one

last purchase...sixteen bucks worth of organic chocolate

favorite movie...Moonstruck


My life...really could not be much better

My card is...sorry, Visa

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I'll fix it up there, then I'll bring it back here.

This was the scene this morning on my front porch.

After Emmy and Septimus knocked over the Christmas tree.

And H. dragged it outside, because of course we had just refilled the water so it wouldn't burn down until I got around to taking it down.

And there was water all over the hardwood floor of the entryway. And pine needles everywhere. Terzo had pine needles in his diiaper when I changed him. Honest to God.

I was supposed to take it down Sunday but I wasn't feeling well. Cough, cough.

I planned to take it down yesterday afternoon but it was warm here so I took the boys out for a walk instead. And then had to get dinner ready.

So the stupid cats did it for me. Oh thank you so much, my helpful Emmy and my useful Septimus.

I also then had to calm down a sobbing Primo and Segundo who believed me when I snarled at the cats, "I hate you! I am going to KILL you! I am giving you away! And Emmy, I wish that car had finished you off!"

I explained to Primo, by way of consolation, as I walked him to preschool, that in ten years, when I am hanging the glued-together ornaments on the tree, he will say, "Hey, Mama, do you remember the year the cats knocked over the tree?" and we will all LAUGH ABOUT THIS. Ha. Ha. Ha.

I am not sure that H. didn't actually do more damage to the ornaments as he dragged it out the front door, but what can I say about that? I would've probably done the same thing.

Only three ornaments were irreparably broken - two of a set of three Ukrainian eggs, and Primo's glass dragonfly ornament I bought him when he was a baby. A horse came off my Cinderella coach. Part of the loop broke off an old glass ball. I don't think any are missing. So it could have been oh so much worse. At least the heirloom cardboard-and tin-foil-star survived intact. The ornaments are all gathered in a laundry basket for triage when I get home.

And so Christmas 2005 ends.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

I Want to Be the Girl With the Most Cake

Say what you will about that train wreck of a woman, but Live Through This rocks hard.

This is for Badger.

And speaking of Badger, let’s talk about make-up: I rarely wear it. And NOT because I have some sort of feminist objection to it (though I did indeed dig The Beauty Myth), but because I like wearing it for special occasions, so people will say, “You look great!” Conversely, if you wear make-up all the time and then are seen without it, people will think (if not say), “You look like hell!” This way I just look like what I look like, whether I’ve just woken up, or just got out of the pool, or just left for work. Does that make sense?

Your thoughts on this? I do keep make-up in my bag in case I find myself needing to get gussied up on the fly: I have brown eye-liner, black mascara, an Origins powder that covers beautifully, and a Burt’s Bees lip shimmer that is unfortunately named Rhubarb. Putting those things on my face takes about three minutes, and makes a vast improvement. Am I foolish to not do it all the time? Do you think my life would improve if I never left the house without first applying those four things? What about the looking-like-hell potential?

Let’s talk about books, which never make me look like hell. I read Terry Pratchett’s Thud over the weekend, and I really, really liked it. It’s a fairly simple story that I’m pretty sure has to do with others of Pratchett’s books/characters (but I don’t really know because this is the first of his Discworld novels I’ve read). The book was funny and surprisingly sweet and gentle, and I thought more than once of Jasper Fforde, which surprised me. I think Pratchett must be a very smart man, and someone I’d like to know.

I’m also reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and Photoshop CS 2 for Dummies. Last Child in the Woods is okay, I guess. So far the author is bemoaning the fact that kids rarely get to wander around alone, just exploring woods and creeks and what-not. This is true, but . . . I don’t know. I can’t see myself letting Teddy just take off after breakfast and disappear until dinner. Wouldn’t Child Services take him away? (That’s assuming he weren’t kidnapped or worse, of course.)

Happily, Ted spends hours a day during the summer playing in a creek at his day camp. He and his friends build dams, catch fish and frogs, collect all manner of things, and generally do whatever it takes that makes them smell like crap. There are adults around, but the kids are playing on their own. He and I walk through the wonderful trails at our fantastic city park all the time, and I often take him and a friend or two to the park and let them wander and play—as long as they don’t get too far away.

So he gets a nature fix fairly often. But I think much of what Louv worries about is that kids are never playing/wandering around in the woods alone. As in without supervision. He worries that kids aren’t learning to rely on themselves, that they’re being cheated out of something they need to become happy adults.

I worry about this too. Am I doing Teddy a disservice by not letting him go into the woods alone? Am I crazy because I’d be terrified that he’d run into a pedophile? What do you guys think? What do you do with your kids? I know not all of you live in a city, and I suppose that makes a difference, but I’d still like to know what other parents are doing.

Oh, and one last thing: Teddy’s working on an independent math project having to do with tessellations. I didn’t even know that was a word! I thought Madeleine L’Engle just made up tesseracts from scratch. She is a brilliant woman. I, however, am not as smart as my third grader.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I live by a man's code...yet at the same time I never forget that a woman's first job is to choose the right shade of lipstick. - Carole Lombard

Don't you all think I should probably just buy my nephew some crack for Christmas instead?

Hey y’all, H. has taken all three boys down to his sister’s for my nephew’s birthday party/Steeler game. Diabolical me has been exaggerating my illness the past two days so as to opt out guilt-free of this little all-Perfect-family activity but wouldn’t you know this morning I woke up actually sick. Ask and ye shall receive, or something like that. My head is full of sludge, my throat is sore, and I have a lurking headache. So am I resting in bed with hot fluids and a really good book? Noooo, my sweet Internet ones, I am sitting at the computer writing a blog entry. Because I am ADDICTED. I am impressed that both Badger and Poppy (among others, but I have been voraciously reading about beauty products and clothing on theirs) maintain multiple blogs…I can barely keep up with this one and I am lucky enough to have Gina as my partner in this enterprise.

Consider this my stream-of-consciousness post as I want to post but I also want to go loll in bed with my book.

I thought to have a Bacardi-and-Coke and some almond-stuffed olives that my brother’s wife sent me for Christmas, but I believe I will stick to the pistachios I for some reason bought like six pounds of at the store this week, and then indulge in a Stouffer’s French Bread pizza for dinner. Isn’t it sad that frozen pizza is one of my indulgences? I clearly need to work on my sybaritism.

Yesterday was Ukrainian Christmas – which I always thought was actually the 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, but after some minor research I concluded that it is actually Orthodox Christmas, the 7th. As if it matters. It just means my tree generally stays up till then; if I am up to it (and I was not), I make some incredibly time-consuming Ukrainian meal like halupchis (stuffed cabbage rolls to all you non-hunkies); and the boys each get a token gift from me, almost always a book. (Because it’s MY idea of a great Christmas, that’s why!) Happy Ukrainian Christmas. (I know I *look* Irish, but I AM NOT. Dammit.)

Yesterday evening, the mood was finally right and I began Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace. It is wonderful and sad and exhilarating, and I did not want to put it down but at the same time, I know sad things are going to happen to characters I like very much and I am going to sob and sob and so I am avoiding picking it back up.

My brother sent me A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian for Christmas, and I am looking forward to that. Not to mention, I never really get gifts anymore. My kids throw bath products picked out by their dad my way, and H. will occasionally come up with something terrific like a cashmere sweater, but not in years, but to actually receive some incredibly luxurious item – like a hardback book I really want to read – only my little bro. God bless him and his wonderful wife. Because they love me. Sob.

I finished Alison Lurie’s Truth or Consequences on Friday. I liked it enough to check out other Lurie books.

Andrea was explaining to me and Marisa Tuesday night about the deleterious effects of bootcut jeans on people’s butts. Her info came from the gods of fashion, Stacy and Clinton from “What Not to Wear” (the ONLY reason I miss advanced basic cable…); apparently you are setting yourself up to look like an ice cream cone from the knees up and you should only ever wear straight-leg pants. Which I prefer anyway. But if your butt is too big – as mine is – don’t you then wind up with all sorts of flapping fabric around your ankles? Shouldn’t there be some pants-fitting rule relating the proportions of the size of your butt to the cut of your pants leg? Couldn’t we mathematically figure out the best width for someone in particular and have all our clothes custom made? Or we could just follow Dave Barry’’s advice: “Just call everything a size two and wear whatever fits.”

If a baby and a half poops a diaper and a half in a day and half, how many babies does it take to…oh, never mind. Terzo has been pooping a whole lot lately. Poop-continued-on-next-baby sorts of poops. Bath-requiring poops. I am sorry to go all Dooce on you guys but it had to be said. Thank you.

Do you know in the movie "Bridget Jones II" (what was that really called?) when Mark Darcy keeps telling Bridget, “Bridget? Stop staring at me when I am asleep”? I keep expecting Terzo to say that to me any day now. But he’s so sweet – those little purple-veined eyelids and long lashes, and plump cheeks, and that pointy little chin…and his lower lip! I just want to BITE his lower lip. It looks so luscious!

I was in Starbucks (should it scare me that Microsoft Word’s spellcheck recognizes Starbucks?) last Thursday during my lunch break and sat down next to three girls who were just chatting. The more I listened, the more I wanted to pipe up and say, “Can I be friends with you?” In particular, the heavier one with the green embroidered peasant shirt and lovely reddish long hair. (If you’re reading this, will you please come find me?) They were discussing Romanticism (I know! You see?! And yes, I took notes so I wouldn’t forget…) and she said, “Forget poetry! Blake, Shelley, Wordsworth – I don’t get it. Where’s the story? I want the story! Just write a novel. All that poetry is, is men wandering around considering profundity and themselves. Coleridge – please! The abstemious Milton…don’t get me started on Milton! (Oh, please, PLEASE, start on Milton!)I posted signs all over the prof’s door first day of my Milton class that said, 'Eve was framed!'"

I want her to be my friend! I miss those pretentious Eng Lit types sometimes, and she had such a healthy dose of self-deprecation that I want her to be my friend. Can we add her to the list, Gina, like Susie the East Liberty librarian?

Ok, on the shoe front:

H. went to the nice little neighborhood-ish shoe store yesterday and spent four hundred bucks on two pairs of beautiful and supportive (just like me, ahem) shoes that will last him for the next five years, for work and casual-dress occasions. You have NO IDEA what a huge step this is for Mr. I-lived-in–Africa-in-the-eighties-and-still-think-that-a-gallon-of-milk-costs

I am returning the Wallaby wannabes (“Willowby wallaby whoo, an elephant sat on you…”) and the Clarks. Really, all I want…is a nice pair of boring old Bass Weejun penny loafers like I wore all through high school. Is that acceptable? I am so frumpy it is beyond hope. You can wear these with jeans and skirts, they look nice…At least I am not buying Bean Blucher Moccasins. Although if they had any arch support at all, I would.

You know, for all the frumpiness discussion going on here, I do admit to a serious lipstick weakness. What is it about buying a new lipstick that can make you feel instantly glamorous? I went on a binge at the drug store Thursday night – I needed new moisturizer and some new blush and pantyhose, and girl stuff like that. Thanks to Badger’s recc, I bought Softsoap’s Milk and Honey Body wash and you should all go out right now and buy some. It smells like the beach. Oh, yeah, and my skin is nice and soft, but mostly it smells like the beach. And I bought two new lipsticks: Cover Girl Smoothwear Lip Tints in Barely Berry, and Maybelline Moisture Extreme (thanks for the recc again, Badge) in Rosy Glow, which not only looks nice and has a sleek little case, it smells all citrus-y so I really like it. Perhaps there is hope after all.

If I hadn’t eaten two Green and Black’s milk chocolate with almond and milk choc with caramel bars for dinner last night, I might even be getting skinny again sometime soon. (Don’t normally like milk, but this was smooth and full; the milk choc and caramel was too sweet though. The caramel needs the bitterness of dark chocolate. IM-O-S-HO.)

Some nice Swedish woman at the coffee shop on Friday told me how delightful my boys were, and how nice it was to see such a family, full of laughter and energy. And here I thought they were just being loud, whiny, and annoying.

And my third child is destined to be prime minister of Great Britain someday.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Uh oh!

Maybe I shouldn't have bought the Photoshop. Because I don't know what I'm doing, but I can't stop! Check this out, though!

See that? It's my nephew. I took the picture at the Children's Museum this summer . . . and I just photoshopped it. Now I feel like it's ART. Like I should frame it and give it to my sister as a gift. I can't draw--I'm not really artsy in any way, but THIS! This makes me feel like I should slap on a beret and a smock and get down to business as an artiste!

Can Photoshopping Count as Crafting?

I scanned my third grade school picture. Have a gander at me when I'm the same age as the boy.

Those who sleep under a quilt sleep under a blanket of love.

Primo's quilt, hand-pieced and hand-quilted using the 1/4" quilting method. It was finished for his first birthday.

Segundo's quilt, hand-pieced and hand-quilted using the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting method. It was finished for his second birthday.

My nephew's quilt, machine-pieced and hand-quilted, about a quarter done, using a meandering quilting method. The pattern is from an old issue of Quilter's Newsletter magazine.

Terzo's quilt-to-be. I hope to finish it before he goes to college. I will machine-piece it and hand-quilt it, using a pattern called Card Trick. I picked the colors before he was born, but I do like the yellow similarities among all three of my boys' quilts.


I find quilting - the whole process of design, cutting, piecing, quilting - very soothing. The design and color aspects appeal greatly to the artist in me, but the utilitarian nature of the craft satisfies my practical, child-of-Depression-era-parents side.

Friday Show-and-Tell, courtesy of Blackbird

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Well, Hello There!

Where the hell have I been? I don’t know, I suppose that like Mr. Ed (whom I never really cared for—I thought it was mean that he would only talk to Wilbur), I never speak unless I have something to say. No, that’s not entirely true. I often blather on and on, just because I like the sound of my own words.

The truth is that I’ve been avoiding the computer—I guess I just needed a break. What have I been doing, you ask? Well, a fair bit of reading: Seventeenth Summer (which I hadn’t read since grade school), Dangerous Angels (I was too old for Weetzie Bat when she made her debut, but these are good stories), God-shaped Hole (the clerk at B&N raved over it, so I picked it up—it’s high quality chick-lit.), and Storm Front (which was a gift—a little too manly for me, but still a neat story. Check this author photo though—yikes!).

Do you guys know of this? Nick and Cartoon Network both pushed it pretty hard over the break, so of course the songs have snuck into the boy’s head (this also happened when they were pushing an Ann Murray CD, and Teddy got mad every time we teased him that she was his girlfriend). Anyway, I heard him singing one of those Christian “rock” songs from the back seat while we drove to the guitar store on Monday. You may not be surprised to learn that we aren’t really Christian Rock people. I turned to give him a look, and he totally deadpanned, “What? A boy can’t worship the Lord with rock music?” Should I feel pleased or guilty that he’s as sarcastic as I am?

Okay, so I spent the post-Christmas break reading a bit, hanging out with and harassing my boy, and . . . Playing with his new Xbox. I completely suck with it, which I expected, but I really like it, which I hadn’t expected at all. Teddy can’t stand to play with me because I’m so bad, but he’s kind about it.

A friend loaned me her Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets game, because she’s beaten it, and I have been spending hours at a time leading Harry though quests and challenges. I’m terrible, as I said, but I just keep plugging away. Addicted? Yes, a little. Ted went to the Steeler game with his grandfather on Sunday, and I spent the entire afternoon playing with HP instead of taking down the Christmas stuff. Oy!

That’s all for me, really. Ted and I spent New Year’s Eve at my parents’, playing board games and waiting for the ball to drop. It wasn’t terribly exciting, but we all had a good time. What more can a girl ask for? School starts back up tonight, and I can’t really say I’m looking forward to it. I’ve had too much fun slacking off.

Oh, also: I’m planning a vacation for Teddy and me in March. Anyone have any good tips on visiting London for cheap? I’d love some help . . .

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Someday - and that day may never come - I'll call upon you to do a service for me.

I finished The House with a Clock in its Walls, by John Bellairs, yesterday at the coffee shop. I had gone for a refreshing walk in the pouring rain which I then cancelled out by snarfing down a grilled turkey panini, salad, cheese croissant, and a latte. I love the Edward Gorey illustrations – I am a huge Gorey fan. Last year I read his biography, Ascending Peculiarity, with all his books at hand to refer back to, and had a grand old time. THWACIIW had likeable, quirky characters, but not a whole heck of a lot of plot.

I also wrapped up Everybody into the Pool which was not all that funny and felt fairly interchangeable with many of the same type books, like Ayun Halliday’s. I really just want someone to write a book telling how they have everything together, not how they are as much a mess as I am. I’m tired of empathizing, I want to aspire.

I started Cheryl Mendelson’s Work, Love, Children. Yawn. But – ack! It’s on Nancy Pearl’s list of best fiction of 2005. And I had been following her Rule of 50: "If you still don't like a book after slogging through the first 50 pages, set it aside. If you're more than 50 years old, subtract your age from 100 and only grant it that many pages." But now maybe I need to keep slogging. Meanwhile, on my lunch, I began Alison Lurie’s Truth or Consequences. I am enjoying the deliberate and delicate character development. I picked up this book because its premise is the exploration of the chaos wrought on a relationship by illness, in this case, a bad back. This is an issue H. and I discuss often. Between my migraines and his wracked-up back. I thought perhaps some light could be shed on the issues and how to deal with them, even though it is only a novel.

Last night I *started* Wolves of Willoughby Chase, with its insipid Jane Eyre-like beginning. Here’s what I say: Kill off the parents if you must, but don’t let them just hand over their children to known child abusers with nary a doubt or hesitation and trot off to the seaside. I couldn’t get past that. And the wolves kept making me think of the wolves in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Why would you own a house with small children in an area with crazy wolves like this? “Hey, kids, we are leaving you with this malicious, sadistic governess, and while we’re at it, go play in the yard but watch out for the carnivorous wolves that live here! Tata! Be good! Mummy and Daddy love you!”

Hallelujah, glory hallelujah! David Mitchell has a new novel coming out in 2006. It is called Black Swan Green and is due out in May. Check this story in The Guardian for more releases to look forward to in the new year.


My adorable co-worker just came out to say Happy New Year. Not only is she sweet and smart, she’s this tiny little slip of a woman who is wearing this glamorous, furry-trimmed plum-colored sweater, with beautiful wool pants that MIGHT be a size two and that are hanging just ever so slightly on her, and sleek pointy-toed high-heeled black boots. Her blonde hair is gorgeous, her make-up impeccable, her freaking nails are even done.
AND she has two children – 3 and 5. And I HATE her. I mean, I love her, but I hate her.

*I* am wearing a long black skirt - that I was also able to wear all through my pregnancies; a black-and-grey striped shirt I think of as my pirate shirt and that makes me look like a linebacker – of course, all my clothes make me look like a linebacker as I am built like one; black tights that are ripped - but at least the ripped part is under my skirt; and my I-thought-they-were-cute black shoes but now I feel like they are just frumpy. And I think they’re too big. Since I spend most of my life in running shoes which tend to need to be bigger, I now buy all my shoes that much bigger. I probably look like a bag lady, despite my best intentions and efforts. None of my blacks match. I blow-dried my hair this morning but it looks the same as it always does – stick straight, and boring. I tend to stuff it behind my ears to keep it out of my face. I like my ears to show. God knows why. My make-up? Moisturizer and lip balm. Oh wait, today was a dress-up day so I put on mascara. Even when I put on blush and what-have-you, I tend to touch my face a lot and run my fingers thru my hair, so nothing lasts. It’s not that I really want to fuss, but even if I did, I can’t maintain it.

Once, in a fit of femininity and skinniness (I was running four to six miles a day and down to size eight but who the hell has time for that now?), I bought some really slick business clothes and some fancy make-up. I was wearing this gorgeous black trouser suit with a nipped-in waist and some tasteful cleavage, high heels, and bright red lipstick. I had just had my hair cut and it was all bouncy and full. Some friends and I were downtown, heading to tea at the Westin William Penn, and we passed some construction-worker types on the street. I heard one of them say, “Look at the smile on that one!” and I realized he was talking about me.

Me, with my shiny, bouncy hair (that took half an hour to style and some hairspray and required constant touch-ups throughout the day and a strict ban on hands-running-through), and beautiful clothes (that were cat-hair and spit-up free since I did not have kids yet and had time to de-lint all the black clothes I own), and clickity-clackety sexy high heels (that hurt my used-to-running-shoes feet), and slick, deep red lipstick (that I had to constantly monitor and/or reapply because otherwise I ate it off or it wound up on my teeth) and oh my god, it was just too much trouble to maintain that image so within a few months I went back to my sensible loafers and lip balm and my usual frumpy, disheveled self. And every once in a great while, I will make a huge effort and get up early and blow-dry my hair and pick out a nice outfit and apply blush and foundation…and within an hour, I look JUST LIKE I ALWAYS DO. A frumpy, size-twelve, straight-haired, nail-bitten, glasses-wearing, sleep-deprived, 35-year-old woman. (With, to be fair, lovely nursing bosoms - that can’t really be put to their full advantage as I need easy access to them at all times for the babe. But at least for the moment they balance out my hips and butt.)

I do manage, most days, to at least *smell* good. See, I do have my strengths. I almost always smell good, because I am hopelessly addicted to yummy-smelling bath and skincare products, and French perfume. But oh some days I long to be glamorous and sleek and beautiful. Or at least beautifully maintained.

This morning Primo was wearing Batman Underoos and those nasty red sweatpants; Segundo was wearing red pants that are a size or two too large and an orange-and-blue-striped shirt, and the baby was clad in a beige “Give Peas a Chance” sleeper. The second half of the disastrous parental fashion equation was wearing bright green sweatpants, paired with a different-shade-of-green sweatshirt, white sweat socks, and tan slippers. So really, already, my poor children have no chance, sartorially speaking. Thank God I didn’t have girls.


  • My high score on Jewel Quest is 3 hundred and 49 thousand and change. I really need to get a life.

  • Uncle C. got Primo Battleship for Christmas. Has a more boring game EVER been invented? I am tempted to start swallowing the little red and white pegs myself, before the baby can get his hands on them, just so I never have to play it again.

  • Has everyone here seen “The Godfather”? It has recently come to my attention that there are people alive who consider themselves relatively well-educated and worldly who have not. Scandal! And you can’t just watch it once, my friends. The first time you will invariably say, or at least think, “What’s all the fuss?” But upon the fourth or fifth viewing, its genius will become apparent. And you too will be converted. Go forth and view. And remember: “It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.”

  • This linked story is the creation of a fellow librarian, which I thought was cute and perfect for the season. She gave me permission to share. Enjoy.