Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"A polar bear is a rectangular bear after a coordinate transform."

Since June, the zoo has been promising us polar bears.
And since June, Segundo has been asking to go to the zoo to see the polar bears.

The polar bears have arrived, and with them, more than twice the usual zoo attendance over Thanksgiving Day weekend. Luckily, my boys were off school Monday, so we pretended like we were getting up for school and instead drove to the zoo, getting there as the gates opened at 9:02.

Thank God for the concession stands.

We cut up through Kids’ Kingdom (later manned by a zoo employee who directed traffic the other way, requiring wending one’s way through the entire zoo before you finally got to the polar bears’ exhibit). Yes, I am a scofflaw - fine example I set my children.

And we more or less had the polar bears to ourselves for close to half an hour.
They swam.

They played.

They posed.

I told the boys, when they started bickering, that the polar bears like tasty little boys for breakfast.

Although it seems that the little boy population is growing much more quickly than the polar bear population – probably because we don’t put little boys in cages on display for the pleasure of the viewing public (Yes, I am feeling guilty.)

At least we know it won't be the secondhand smoke that gets them. (I have absolutely no idea why it took so long for the zoo to go non-smoking.)

I was thinking of hanging a replica of this sign on my bedroom door.

Once the crowds started…crowding, we repaired to the aquarium.

Where Terzo was entranced by the sting rays.

And the rays appeared to be equally entranced by him.

And where I have yet to take a decent photo of the penguins.

Then we walked back through the zoo, past all the crowds standing in line, for the other exciting zoo attractions:

The sea lions (my favorite – I could stand there and watch them all afternoon. If, um, I didn’t have to wrangle three children under the age of six.)

The tigers – but their area was being cleaned, by someone who clearly took Take-Your-Child-to-Work day very seriously. How cool would that be, if your mom was the tiger-cleaner-upper? (Speaking of which, if you ask the boys, the second highlight of the day was watching the tiger poop on our way past the second time. We have been fighting the potty-mouth battle around our house lately, and I fear the prevailing forces suffered a serious and debilitating setback by that particular tiger tableau. Which I did NOT photograph.)

The rides (and I NEVER have quarters, but to be fair, until recently neither of the two older boys liked the vehicles to shake, rattle, or roll)

The tunnel, which is most excellent for echoes. (Sadly, the shouts of "Poopyhead!" were courtesy of my children, whom I really can't just pretend not to know.)
(I suppose it was more like "Poo-oo-oo-py-y-y-y-y-head-ead-ead-eaddddd-d-d-d-dd!")

By rights, this post should finish up with a rum-and-Coke while the boys all took late naps and I ordered out for pizza. Alas. You can’t have everything. And if I had, I probably wouldn't have photographs of it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation. - Vladimir Lenin

I have oodles to tell you regarding polar bears, and comic books, and what I have on deck to read, and the attack of the Hound of the Baskervilles, and, oh, all sorts of stuff. But today, I pause for this brief plug:

I adore, and you all know it.
But turns out, they are not always the cheapest.
You can now find out who has the cheapest edition of the book you are dying for by searching on, which compares multiple book prices at many major online bookstores.
Kind of like mySimon, but for books.
Which is all that's really important anyway.

It's got a simple and intuitive interface, and a clever little feature that lets you shop for several books at once and compare whether it's cheaper to buy them all from one place or from separate places (the answer might surprise you!). They compare shipping costs and link you directly to the stores themselves, should you decide to purchase then and there. You also can search for DVDs and CDs.

Over the course of about a dozen searches for everything from the Sandman books to cookbooks, was indeed cheapest, ten or so of the times. But the other couple times, they were not, and the discrepancy each time was almost four dollars.
Which could buy you another book.
Or at least a grande non-fat no-whip peppermint mocha.

Multiple Book Price Comparison
(yes, they COULD use a catchier, um, catchphrase...)

[No bloggers were harmed in the writing of this commercial.]

(And yes, they did send me a free book. But I only accepted AFTER I had thoroughly checked prices on their website...because, you know, I AM in the market for Neil Gaiman books...and I do have SOME standards. AND they did not ask for a plug, they asked merely for a link...which is also on my sidebar. Because it really is a cool and useful site. So there.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

We live in our expectations, not our experience.

The Sunday night blues are a well-documented, if anecdotal, phenomenon. Clearly, I am not the only person familiar with the malaise that creeps up on most people on the average Sunday. And it's been this way on Sundays for as long as I can remember, dating back to the Sunday evenings when The Wonderful World of Disney movie would end and I went reluctantly to bed.

And not that my weekends were any great shakes in high school, but at least they meant being with people I liked at my part-time job at the Gap, napping and reading, the comforting if sometimes suffocating ritual of Sunday school and church, and its attendant socializing with other church kids and the old ladies who patted your head and fed you icky supermarket cookies. Monday morning meant returning to school, not seeing my boyfriend (who was two years older than me and well done with school), not having enough time to read, and having to wrestle with nightly physics and chemistry homework. (Fortunately my mom was extremely laidback about sick days, and often all I had to say was, “I don’t feel like going to school,” and I got to stay home. Not that sick days referred to that dreadful weight I felt in my stomach every Sunday evening, but maybe my mom got that.)

Freshman year of college Monday morning meant Basic Design class. I hated this class – it was the core class of my major, and yet I seemed to just suck at it. No matter how inventive and creative I thought my projects were on Friday night, invariably my Monday morning class was preceded by a Sunday night drowning in tears, caffeine, cigarettes, and self-loathing, self-pity, or both.

Once I got out of school, I thought my Sunday night blues would disappear. I loved my job, even though it entailed rising at an insane hour to make a forty-five minute commute for a seven-thirty start. But alas, no. Loving my job did not mean Sunday night did not mean the end of a fun and nonstop weekend of partying. And even when I tried to take it easy on Sundays and hang out at home with my roommate and watch TV, Sunday night still meant the end of anticipation – you certainly were not going to meet the perfect guy or catch the perfect movie or throw the perfect party on a weeknight.

The only time I remember not feeling dread on a Sunday evening was when my mother was sick and I was driving back and forth to Philly every weekend. Sunday evenings meant sweet freedom from taking care of my sick, crotchety, terrified mother, dealing with doctors and the hospital and nurses and the drugs and the endless rounds of tests and then disappointment. Sunday evening meant I could get in my car and drive in solitude and silence for six hours, unthinking, unreachable, guilt-free. Those three and a half months were the only time in my life I haven't experienced the Sunday night blues; instead I welcomed Sunday evening's dull tranquility.

And now that I have kids, you’d think Sunday night would almost be a relief. The kids go back to preschool and school tomorrow, I have peace and quiet at work to look forward to, H is out of my hair for another couple days – and yet. That odd creeping melancholy begins late Sunday afternoon, perhaps after I have awoken from a lovely and long nap if I am very lucky. It grows during dinner – invariably leftovers from the more exciting meals of the previous weekend nights – and peaks right after I get the boys in bed for the night. It’s 8 p.m., and all I have to do is throw in that last load of laundry, pack lunches, and go to bed. Nothing to look forward to, except days of laundry and housework, grocery shopping and cooking, schlepping the boys to and fro and hither and yon… till next weekend. Not that I spend my weekends now doing anything all that exciting – sometimes I go out for a few beers with friends, sometimes I get to church, and I work almost every Saturday – but those Sunday night blues rear their ugly heads still.

Tonight I took a book to my little neighborhood bar, had a few beers and some buffalo bites, chatted with a few regulars, came home and crawled into bed with a cup of tea and my computer. I feel better now than I did at seven o’clock tonight. Maybe the trick all along has been not fighting the blues, but going along for the ride. Acknowledging that while the weekend may have been nothing particularly special, it’s nice to have some free time, time to daydream or watch stupid television or make some phone calls. Maybe all along I should have been making friends with the blues, saying, “You know, you have a point. A weekend is pleasant.” But now it’s time to be productive again, to get up Monday morning and throw myself into the routine and get something done. Maybe my hectic life caring for three small children and a decrepit house and a job and whatever is more fulfilling than I thought, or like to admit.

While it’s lovely to lounge on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea Sunday afternoon, there’s also something to be said for climbing up on a ladder and hanging Christmas lights and packing away porch furniture; something to be said for vacuuming and washing the car, and folding and putting away six loads of laundry, of preparing myself for the maelstrom of the week ahead.

So I suppose I’ll see you again next Sunday night, dear old reliable blues. Maybe I’ll buy you a beer. It might help. If not you, at least me.

Friday, November 24, 2006

"Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin." - Herman Hesse

Vase or profiles?

Library books or crack cocaine?

Alien life form or chocolate whipped cream roll?

Thanksgiving dinner dessert or Friday morning breakfast?

7 a.m.: Insanity or maternal love?

Rite of passage or necessary evil?

Salvation or the road to hell?

You be the judge.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit. - Robert Burns

Things for which I am thankful:

I have boys and not girls

We didn't name Seg "Lennon"

Seg firmly believes he is capable of nursing Mimi.

“You pitty, Mama.”

Terzo's chewable toes, belly, and fingers

Primo's newest song lyrics: "We all sunk in the black Titanic," sung to "Yellow Submarine"

Twistables crayons

Two of the three are potty-trained; also, disposable diapers

“Little Einsteins”

Working Saturdays

My house has not fallen down around my ears yet

The laundry chute

Three and a half bathrooms

Ceiling fans

The neighborhood coffee shop

The neighborhood coffee shop lets me run a tab

The United States post office, for giving me at least (if small) one thrill a day

My big brother, who is NOT coming for Thanksgiving after all but whom I suppose I love anyway even if he did push me down the stairs when I was sixteen

My little brother (who is just about my favorite (grown) person in the entire world) and the fact that he, the uber-conservative, has not yet cut his baby’s hair either

Cats who put up with toddlers who try to ride them


My therapist, my shrink, and the lovely drugs with which they provide me

That said, rum

Opposable thumbs

Colorsafe bleach

Softsoap milk & honey bodywash

Ragg wool socks

Coolmax, and Adidas running shoes


Jockey for Her string bikinis

Mens’ pajama pants

Thrift stores

Great Lash waterproof mascara

Electric toothbrushes, Glide dental floss, and my retainer


Irish breakfast tea

Frozen French bread pizza, and microwave popcorn

Hazelnut Five Star bars

Peppermint mochas

Buffalo bites with blue cheese

Rubber-tipped kitchen tongs

The whisk attachment on my Kitchenaid mixer

My Philadelphia Flyers coffee mug

40 mpg highway

The Atlantic City Expressway

James Taylor’s greatest hits album, Radiohead’s “OK Computer” album, and Dar Williams, especially “Mercy of the Fallen,” “Aleluia,” and the Mortal City album

Friends who recommend books

Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, and the Booker Prize shortlist

Simon James, Robert Munsch (except for Love You Forever), Patricia Coombs, and Hilary McKay

Interlibrary loan

OPACs, and especially electronic requesting and email notification

Flip phones

Text messaging

That happy little “Ding!” when you get a text

My laptop

That happy little “Ding!” when you get an email


Craig’s List, Tetris, Merriam Webster Online, Google & Google Scholar, PubMed, and Wikipedia

Oh, ok, fine, Blogger, too

My sweet little Internet ones (yes, that means you all)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

With stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain. - Friedrich von Schiller

When I was in the second grade, autograph books were very popular. (Because second-graders have many pithy bits of wisdom to share with their peers.) I still have mine somewhere in the boxes I brought back from my mom’s house. It’s a little rectangular book with multicolored pastel pages, its cover pearlized white paper, “Autographs” embossed in gold script across the front.

My favorite entry, written by a boy on whom I harbored a secret crush right up until I graduated from high school, reads, “Dear BB: You are Dum. Love, Ray”
It probably says something revealing about my psyche that I found this swoon-worthy. But everyone else in my family thought it was howlingly funny and it soon passed into family legend; it became a phrase used with alarming frequency. When you did something – let’s say, not very bright - OR when someone gave you a backhanded compliment (because it did apply to either situation) - one of us would thoughtfully say, “Dear BB, You are dum. D-U-M, Dum.”

My father was especially fond of this little bon mot; I suspect he empathized with the well-meaning, if ill-spoken, young man.

I seem to have surpassed my usual stupidity quotient this week; I feel as if there should be voices in my head (other than the usual ones) saying, “Dear BB, You are dum.”

1. I sold a pile of clothes on eBay. While I fully intend to stop at three children, selling maternity clothes would be tempting fate in the worst way, but I felt comfortable with selling my nursing clothes. I had them priced too low to start, not having had great success in the past with eBay listings, and then I miscalculated the shipping costs so that the buyer paid me six dollars for shipping that cost me twelve bucks. So for all the hassle of washing, ironing, packing the stuff, then loading children into the car, getting them in and out of the post office, and then realizing that by packing them (the clothes, not the children) in a recycled priority mail box, I had to send the package priority mail unless I wanted to drag it back home and repack it – all minor things but put together, a colossal pain in the ass – I made a profit of seven dollars. Stupidity Evidence Number One. Next time I’ll just donate to Goodwill, and write it off my taxes.

2. I was out of bagels this morning and I NEED my carbs. I ran through the McDonald’s drive-through for an Egg McMuffin and a cup of coffee. Except I then had to park the car and go in because the wrapper said sausage and while I happily will eat the greaseball that is an Egg McMuffin, God forbid it have sausage on it. The counterperson pulled it out of the bag and patiently pointed out that all four different types of breakfast sandwiches were printed on the wrapper; I had only seen the sausage one. I indeed had an Egg McMuffin. So much for getting to work early enough to make up the hour I was missing due to early departure so I could get to Primo’s art night on time.

3. Despite being up since six to run, scrambling around like a loony as usual to get Primo to school and myself to work, working all day and then jumping in my car and driving home at breakneck speed to swoop up Primo and get to school, to run the cash register for the book fair for three hours, without dinner (OK, that’s dumb right there), I am writing this rather than sleeping.

4. You cannot trust men. Ever. In any way. Any man. And yet I continue to do so.

“Dear BB, you are Dum. D-U-M.”

Monday, November 20, 2006

There's five to one; besides, they all are fresh.

Yesterday was St Andrew’s Day.

This would normally mean nothing to me except that, in honor of St Andrew and his day, the church on the corner has bagpipers come play for morning processional and service. Ostensibly Scots, in full kilt regalia. It’s very cool, very ceremonial, a nice thing to look forward to, as it more or less kicks off the holiday season. And if one must kick off the holiday season with anything, kicking it off with lots of noise and screeching is eminently appropriate.


In addition to it being St Andrew’s day, another momentous event took place yesterday morning: I taught Sunday school.

I know.


When you’re done laughing, I will explain.

Come on, it isn’t THAT funny.

OK, maybe it is. But get a grip.

You done?
You sure?

Sheesh. OK. Good.

The woman who runs Sunday school is a friend of mine, and she asked me to help out. Fortunately she was out of town this week. I did practice the lesson many times, and I KNOW the story of Jonah and the whale, but even in front of a dozen children I got nervous and stumbled all over my words. I also had to take great pains to not reveal my complete empathy with Jonah; the only difference between me and Jonah is that I would have gone much farther away to sulk than on a hill right outside Nineveh, and when the plant died, I’d have stomped off in high dudgeon, perhaps even going to far as to harrumph openly at God. As far as I am concerned, Jonah acted perfectly reasonably. I mean, God wipes out cities, hell, entire nations left and right, all over the Old Testament. What’s one more?

And this might be why my friend L gently suggested sprinkling me with holy water before I went on to corrupt – er, teach – young children. But come on – I may be a reprobate but even *I* know that Episcopalians don’t use holy water (unless by “holy water”, you mean “whiskey.”)


I have plowed through Sandman three and four, and am anxiously awaiting the next three from the library. I am planning on buying my own set – whether separate trade paperbacks or the lovely new compendium, I have not decided yet – but I do know I want to own them, and I want to give Neil Gaiman my money.

In the meantime, to satisfy my graphic novel jones, I started The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Imagine my delight when Mycroft Holmes is mentioned no more than half a dozen pages in. My first encounter with Mycroft was in the Mary Russell books, but he is a fascinating man and I am happy to get to know him better.

Is it warped that I am attracted to all these truly strange fictional characters? I mean, yeah, Neil Gaiman is hot hot hot, but really, Dream is who I lust for. I think it’s high time to compile my list of the ten sexiest fictional characters…listing Colin Firth as Darcy does NOT count, and Mr Rochester is just a freak. I seem to lean more towards the Lionel Essrog / Severus Snape / Emilio Sandoz type.

Or it might just be that I have a thing for the heroin-addict look: Tony Bourdain, the lovely and lanky Neil Gaiman, a young James Taylor, any-age Chris Smither, Laurie R. King's Sherlock Holmes, Dream (maybe even Death although she’s a little too perky for my tastes). But heck: tall, dark, look like you haven’t eaten in three weeks? Step right this way… and as I have established, if you don’t even really exist, not a problem in the least. In fact, in some cases, it might be the preferable state of affairs.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"You ain't a beauty but hey, you're all right."

Yes, yes, yes , yes, YES!

See page six, especially. (Scroll down to the last two entries.)

Oh, yeeesssssssss!

"Elizabeth Brown entered the world, dropping straight down from the sky..." - The Library, Sarah Stewart

I just ate a bagel.
And because I have several bad habits (only in regard to bagels; I have actually MILLIONS of generic bad habits), comprising the following: 1) liking my bagels soggy with butter (and NO WONDER I still weigh six hundred pounds!) and 2) eating in bed (BECAUSE I CAN, see previous bitter post about the institution of marriage), I just dripped a big splooge of butter on my favorite ratty grey t-shirt.
As Primo is fond of pointing out these days, it’s not fair.


Speaking of fair, Primo’s school’s Scholastic Book Fair is next week. And yours truly, ever ready to mold herself into the perfect-PTA mom, was the volunteer coordinator for the event. I have a few tips to share, garnered through my dedicated experience and hard work over the past two weeks.

First, if you signed up to be a parent volunteer, don’t ignore my emails. And phone calls. And second, third and fourth emails. And another phone call (in case your three-year-old erased your answering machine messages or your dog ate the tape or aliens abducted your husband/wife before he/she gave you my message). If you are going to punk out on me, please let me know in advance. Please also know that by punking out, you have relinquished all right to complain about how the entire affair is conducted. If you don’t like how we set up the books or organize the class visits, tough. You should have come and helped us staple Styrofoam jungle animals to the walls and string Christmas lights draped with fake moss all over the ceiling and arrange a thousand stupid little containers of stupid little “educational” geegaws and determine if indeed the Veriphone credit card doohickey needs a phone line while the nearest phone jack is 100 yards down the main school corridor and around the corner.

I pause here to acknowledge that the second-grade teacher did most of the planning and set-up other than volunteer coordinating, and she did a FABULOUS job, and I was blown away by her enthusiasm and her creative and fun ideas. I hope Primo is lucky enough to have her for second grade. Also, the fourth grade classes that made all the animal decorations under the tutelage of the art teachers deserve commendation; the beasts are quirky and bright, and I want the snake to take home with me.

Secondly, hide your credit cards, prepare to lie to your child about how many books Santa will be purchasing from the book fair, or arrange to be abducted by aliens prior to the event. Unfortunately my children know I am a big huge sucker when it comes to books. I can deny them most anything else with positive savoir faire, but if they ask me for a book, *especially* if they don’t whine? Immediate surrender. No matter that Primo’s birthday is in three weeks, and Christmas in a month and a half, and I have mostly finished the Christmas shopping already, including a substantial purchase at my library’s Scholastic book sale last spring.

Third, if you have to wear a name tag, don’t even bother with your real name. Just put ‘[insert appropriate child name]’s mom’ on it and be done. Because that is all anyone really cares about anyway, and it will save you a lot of breath. Which you can then expend in trying to deny your child books that he has asked for oh-so-nicely.


Speaking of books, I managed to get to the library today. The fourth Sandman was ready to pick up, and the blessed library clerk rooted through several bins of incoming interlibrary loans to give me the third Sandman which I was waiting on. I also had Louis Cataldie’s Coroner’s Journal waiting. Because I am currently on a graphic-novel (comics, for those of you who last time thought I was talking about, ahem, softcore porn) kick, I selected Mark Alan Stamaty’s Alia’s Mission: Saving the books of Iraq which was featured in the kids’ book review pages of the local newspaper recently. And when Terzo yanked The Inside Outside Book of Libraries off the shelf in his earnest efforts to rearrange the entire lower third of the alphabet in the nonfiction section, I fell immediately in love with the book’s concept and had to bring it home where I will reread it, hog it for the next few weeks, and eventually order my own copy from I have this little collection of books about and featuring libraries and librarians, and this has to be added to it. (My favorite book in this particular little group is Sarah Stewart’s charming The Library, with whose heroine I feel an incredible affinity.)


And speaking of too many books, I have The Book Thief sitting on my nightstand, half-read; I need to finish Perfume which I am about two-thirds of the way through; and acting upon the recommendation of the Rogue Librarian during a lovely, long conversation (via Skype messaging) last week, I just dug out from the stacks in the computer/family room The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

I have only recently discovered that while it’s not really cool for me to sit and read a novel at Perfect clan gatherings (never mind that everyone else is staring at the television), no one blinks if you are reading what is perceived as a comic book – it seems to be akin to doing the crossword puzzle or one of those infernal sudokus, which H’s brother does all the time at family events. So one more debt owed to Neil Gaiman and Sandman: rescuing me from mind-numbingly dull gatherings with people whom I really don’t like.

But I lurve you, Neil.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"I was at a bar nursing a beer. My nipple was getting quite soggy.” - Emo Phillips

In bed this morning, tucked under my toasty, sqooshy down comforter. Pouring rain outside, grey sky, and I am way too tired from last evening's carousing to think about running at all, let alone risk my neck jogging on wet, slippery leaves.

Seg comes stumbling in, heaves himself up onto the bed, and curls up next to me round about 5am. Thumb in mouth, arm wrapped around Mimi’s neck, he falls soundly asleep.

From his crib The Baby starts making his waking-up snuffling noises and I go get him, tucking him into bed next to me and Seg. He does the blind-mole head butt, and nurses. (Yes, I am STILL nursing him. I keep meaning to wean him but it really makes him happy, so I don’t have the heart. I promise I’ll wean him before I send him to kindergarten.) (Or college.)

Seg wakes up, and promptly, inadvertently, knocks me and then The Baby on the head with Mimi. Ouch.
Then he makes Mimi cry: “Waa waa!”
He looks at me. “She’s hungry. Waa waa!”
(I think, if he thinks *I* am going to nurse Mimi, he’s INSANE.)

But then he pulls up his shirt, smooshes Mimi’s face to his bellybutton, and pulls his t-shirt all the way over her head, trapping her securely against his body with the stretchy bottom of his shirt. (Why have I never thought to secure a nursing baby to myself this way? Think of how much I could accomplish with hands-free nursing. I’d have to be careful not to drag the dangling baby across the stove burners by accident, and I imagine such an arrangement would be a little tough on the poor baby’s delicate neck, but still – how useful would that be?)

And then – the best part? When he determines that Mimi is finished, he whips her out from beneath his shirt, proudly brandishing her by the neck and shouts, “TA DA!”

How cool is that?
Forget all those people who are uncomfortable with nursing mothers, breastfeeding in public, blah blah blah. I wish I had the guts to whip my kid off my breast and shout “Tada!” to the world at large. After all, breastfeeding a baby is one of the best things you can do for him/her, and it’s about damn time we all recognized – yeah, celebrated – that fact, with a self-congratulatory
“TA DA!”


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"'cause nothing matters in this whole wide world, when you're in love with a Jersey girl..." UPDATED!!!!

Here's why I posted this: it pegged me exactly, and I have NO IDEA how. I say with pride that I am a Jersey girl - I spent the first eighteen years of my life in Gloucester, NJ, right across the river from Philly (Walt Whitman Bridge, for those of you who know how important one's bridge preference is.)

I would love to see the programming bones behind this quiz...

What American accent do you have?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Like submarines speeding, engines set to full throttle, we'll shoot through the depths like corks from a bottle. - Louie-Bloo Raspberry

I find it amusing that the Pop Tarts generated so much chatter. Such vehement opinions for such a lightweight food. Just for the record, the chocolate ones with white frosting are my favorite, followed a close second by the frosted brown sugar ones. And they MUST be toasted.

Poptarts are a food of my childhood – along with Otter Pops, Hershey bars, cherry-flavored Kool-Aid, Wonder bread or Ritz crackers spread with Jif peanut butter, and hot tea with lemon and tons of sugar when we came home from swimming on Friday nights. Like the parents of most other children growing up in the seventies, my mom thought nothing of stocking the kitchen with Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms, and Corn Pops, bologna (fried bologna sandwiches were a Friday dinner staple), potato chips accompanied by Lipton’s onion dip, Tastykakes (the peanut butter TandyKakes were a particular favorite of mine, although my mom favored the butterscotch Krimpets and my dad liked the little rectangular pies that came in their own little paper sleeves), Entenmann’s chocolate donuts and raspberry cheese Danish, Keebler fudge striped cookies, M&Ms (plain or peanut, none of these fancy-schmancy flavors they have now) – all kinds of junk (and none of these things do I allow my children to eat on a regular basis).

Some of my childhood’s foods are nostalgia-in-a-wrapper, and I wouldn’t think to eat them just for their own sake – Cadbury cream eggs, red Swedish fish, butter cake with whipped cream icing, fudgsicles. Some of them I would love to still eat but they can’t be found or replicated– I have been unable to duplicate my childhood next-door neighbor’s butter brickle cookies, and I only make her cheesecake (really more of a sweet heavy quiche) when my little brother can come help me eat the thing. Rumor has it Coca-Cola Slurpees have returned, thank God for small favors; Pepsi ones are an unholy abomination. Uneeda Biscuits are well nigh impossible to find these days, but what else am I supposed to eat when I am nauseated? Dell’s Iced Tea frozen concentrate is no longer manufactured; I used to return to my apartment here with a cooler full of 40 or 50 cans in the trunk of my car. Sweetzel’s spiced wafers can be found but only on the East Coast. Same with Zitner’s Butter Krak eggs, an Easter staple. When I was pregnant with Primo, the Rite Aid near my job had these, next to the more typical Easter candy. I spied them and bought the entire box of twenty-four eggs – all the stock they had – at once. I can still mail order them from Zitner’s in Philly, but delicious as they are, they are no longer the candy of my childhood's Easters – the insides are not as creamy, the eggs are smaller and much more uniformly shaped, with less craggy sticky-outy toasted coconut bits.

Some confections I can still get, but I sort of prefer to keep them in my memory as the nectar I remember –
Duffy’s Fluffy Ruffles (Duffy’s Delicious Candies is a teeny candy store in my hometown that makes all their own candy, including these coconut-cream, rolled-in-chocolate, then rolled-in-coconut delights. My mother bought all of our Easter candy there, including gigantic 2-lb coconut cream eggs with our names iced on top, and solid milk chocolate airplanes and trains for my little brother who doesn’t like coconut. )
Bayard’s double-dipped mints (H found a chocolate store on the street where he works that makes a decent, if only single-dipped, substitute.)
I bought a case of Goldenberg Peanut Chews when we were down the shore last summer, and yes, they were ok, but not as good as I remember - lying on the couch on summer afternoons, in the dark, frigidly AC-ed house, reading and munching my way down a sleeve of peanut chews. (The Philadelphia soft pretzels washed down with a Slurpee, or a Wawa coffee, did hold up as close to the perfect breakfast, however. And if you think those rounded, plump pretzels you can get at carnivals are proper soft pretzels, you do not know what you are missing – Philly pretzels, preferably bought from a street vendor equipped with a cart and a big bottle of yellow mustard are doughy, and chewy, and substantial – they stick to your ribs!)
(Don’t even think of getting me started on what other parts of this country think passes for cheesesteaks!)

Holidays (especially Thanksgiving) are rife with pure comfort food, tasting EXACTLY the way (my) Mom made it, which includes slaving in the kitchen all day and then not eating a bite of her own cooking, so sick was she at that point of everything: wild rice (Uncle Ben’s boxed, doctored up with celery and onion and powdered sage); cranberry marshmallow salad (repulsive, don’t ask); also, straight-from-the-can Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce, dumped unceremoniously into the pretty pink Depression glass dish; turkey roasted and basted with white wine and brandy; candied sweet potatoes (complete with buckets of butter and a marshmallow top); pumpkin chiffon pie (made with a frozen crust and Dream Whip – just what the hell is Dream Whip anyway?); the skinny After Eight mints in their paper sleeves which my mom handed around after dinner, and the little pastel-colored jelly-filled dinner mints that stuck to your teeth with which she filled the cut-glass candy dish before every one showed up.

There are restaurant recipes I try to duplicate – the brownies they sell at Kiva Han that are baked by little nuns in the church basement of Church of the Crucified One (I’ve come very close to perfecting this recipe, and in fact, mine are better as they don’t suffer from even occasional freezer burn), the pad thai at the old Lulu’s Noodles, the raspberry shortbread bars at the now defunct Bunznudders, the bacon blue cheese burger at Tessaro’s. But I have all of my mom’s recipes, no need to attempt duplication there. She wrote everything down in excruciating detail, in a little notebook (sometimes I lose my patience and say Dammit, Mom, no wonder you hated to cook! and throw the basil into the beef stew right as it’s *beginning* to simmer. Gasp!) Good thing she wrote them down because someone has to be able to recreate my grandmom’s halupchis, my mom’s meatloaf and beer bread and rum cake and chicken with rice, for my brothers and their wives and kids. Not to mention the whipped cream icing for which I have found a suitable substitute recipe but never the original.

Then there was summer camp food – nine years of camp, several as a kitchen worker, the last one as a counselor. Our camp food was amazing; the cook was called Mother Knarr and she made an incredibly delicious coffee cake (in giant sheet pans, with a crunchy cinnamony top and yeasty underneath), cinnamon toast you’d have sold your mother for, and this sort of damp granola with Golden Grahams that she mixed up in fifty-five gallon plastic garbage cans and sold at the Trading Post (where you could also buy ice cream cones and candy bars if you weren’t lucky enough to have a parent stock you up for the weeks – but of course, I was). I have kept in touch with some of my summer camp buddies, but not one of us knows where Mother Knarr is - indeed, she must be close to ninety now, if she's even still alive.

Proust nailed it with his madeleine; there are very very few things that can fill me with nostalgic longing for my innocent suburban childhood like a taste - or even the remembered taste - of a beloved childhood food. Eggs-on-horseback; frozen custard with rainbow jimmies; toast limp with butter and rolled up on itself; purple cows and Ballpark franks cooked on the grill and devoured at the picnic table; red licorice laces bought from the Little League concession stand; Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum; egg-in-a-cup (looks revolting, tastes wonderful, and it’s the perfect sick food); potato salad made with Miracle Whip and sweet pickle; hoagies with salami and oil-and-vinegar on chewy Italian rolls from Del Buono’s; sweet Jersey corn; Shriver’s salt water taffy (my poor father was the only one who’d eat the peanut butter ones); Greenbriar’s clown fact, you might be surprised to learn that I was a sickly-skinny child, all elbows and knees and stick legs. They probably could have fattened me up if they’d just fed me some fruit and yogurt.

Now I am starving.

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Good luck with your layoffs, all right? I hope your firings go really well. " - Peter Gibbons, "Office Space"

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

I am engrossed in the second Sandman. It’s just like driving by a car wreck – it’s gruesome and vile and sickening, but you HAVE. TO. LOOK. You must keep reading. Turning page after page, blown away by some images, wincing at others, knowing there are creatures that are going to dance at the edges of your dreams tonight. It’ll make quite the change from the pleasant dreams of last night, in which I was a reader at some sort of book festival and Ron Livingston asked me out.

This afternoon I began Poppy Z. Brite’s newest book featuring Rickey and G-Man, Soul Food. A fun, quick read, the usual likeable characters – it’s relaxing. And I am halfway through The Book Thief, which I am liking but at the same time am finding incredibly self-conscious.

St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is just not doing it for me. I will read the title story since Hungry in LA liked it, but mostly I just feel like it’s being weird for the sake of being weird, which I know isn’t really fair. The writing is just fine, but I like my stories to be a bit more straightforward, a bit more classic in form; there’s a reason I have never gotten into any science fiction seriously.

I am pretty much reconciled to the fact that there is no way I am going to write 50,000 words this month. I have already failed at NaNoWriMo. I just don’t have any way to get any more time so I can write, and since H is being dickheaded about me “being glued to that computer,” it’s clear that no support will be forthcoming from that avenue. (Note here, bitterly and immaturely, that I have bent over backwards so he can practice for and perform his upcoming band gig.) However, I intend to continue to write the book – I have a good solid start of about 5000 words, and a detailed outline; I have some nice character development and have done some serious, in-depth research, so I will most definitely keep writing. It’s just that I will have a rough draft in months rather than a month.
And I appreciate very much everyone’s very kind words and support. It’s nice to know I am cared for, even if I am not going to be a rich and famous author.

And now some random thoughts, because that’s how my brain is working these days.

I know there's a meme-type thingey on "Corners of Your Home," sort of like Blackbird used to do show-and-tell. I have never participated in the official "Corners..." and don't intend to start now, but this one photo fits the theme. These are shells from Stone Harbor. The cats often play with them which drives me bonkers, but the shells make me happy, just sitting on the windowsill.

Is anyone else disturbed by the thought of organic Pop-Tarts? I mean, what is the point of that? I once dropped a hot-from-the-toaster chocolate Pop-Tart (the kind with the white frosting) on my hand and that white frosting melted into my skin. It was sort of like those shadows imprinted on concrete by radiation, you know, those tree leaf images seared onto walls by the atom bomb? Organic Pop-Tarts are JUST WRONG. Trust me on this one.

Bonus discovery at Trader Joe's the other day. When we order Chinese, we have to order three orders of dumplings, one for each boy. And they eat them all. It gets a bit pricey. I am hoping these will work out.

It was cold and grey and drizzly today, the perfect day for hot cocoa for lunch. Seg asked for "his" moose mug, but he doesn't have one since he was not yet born when H brought back Primo's moose mug from a Canadian business trip. Seg wailed his newest complaint: "That's not NICE." (Primo's in the "It's not fair!" stage.) I tried to explain that being nice had nothing to do with it, but he was having none of it, so I offered my dino mug and that made him happy.

I changed the goldfish's water. And boy, was he happy. Have you ever seen a relieved goldfish? I have now.

So that's all the news that's fit to print. And then some. And now to sleep, as I am going to attempt to get up early enough to run tomorrow morning. Mostly because I need some more clothes and if I could drop ten pounds, I could fit into most of my pre-baby stuff. But the endorphins are nice too.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

"A medium vodka dry martini - with a slice of lemon peel. Shaken and not stirred."- Ian Fleming's James Bond

L and I went out last night. She was pissed at this guy she’s been (casually, CASUALLY!) dating, I - well, yeah, I’d had a long day – week – with all three kids at home, but I am always ready to go drink. We required a gentlemanly escort, so we prevailed upon Hair-in-his-Eyes-Guy’s roommate (whom we shall call M, in my usual original naming conventions) to meet us for some beer and some darts.

The dart board was being hogged by two men who very well may have been professional darts players, so seriously did they take their game and their equipment. L put her flirt on and finagled her and M’s way into a game. They got demolished, but they had fun; I stood around, drank beer, and smoked the last of M’s cigarettes.

The bar we have been frequenting closed at midnight, so we made our way to another bar in a trendier part of town, one that should be open till at least two. Carnivale was crowded, but with an admirable ease and confidence M made his way to the bar, ordered us drinks, and found us a relatively quiet corner in which to drink and talk.

He had ordered us what turned out to be pretty much vodka on the rocks, with some lemon squeezed in to cut the alcohol a tad. I can drink a lot of the right stuff – for instance, I can slurp down rum like there’s no tomorrow, and with no ill effects, then or tomorrow. I can generally handle with equanimity several beers. But vodka, vodka is poison to me.

The first thing I think of when offered vodka is the Swedish – or was she Russian? – exchange student at my little brother’s high school. D thought it was soooo cute that Ms Swede pronounced that venerable alcohol ‘wodka.’
“I’d like some wodka, please.”
It may have had something to do with her long legs and blonde hair, but, gosh, he found that mispronunciation endearing and charming. The amount of wodka he had consumed prior to conversation with Ms. Swede may also have influenced his judgment

The second thing I think of is my in-laws’ thirty-fifth wedding anniversary party. Both the fact of the wedding anniversary, and the occasion of the party.

My father-in-law does not especially like my mother-in-law. I have to say, while I do not support his meanness and sarcasm, I do completely understand it. She’s not even close to as smart as he is, and she’s fucking annoying into the bargain. She must play the hostess wherever she is, and her sense of self-worth lies how she compares to her biddy friends: housecleaning, number of grandchildren, etc. I swear to God you’d think they tally points; who knows, perhaps they do.

She is perfect at saying exactly the wrong thing (about my wedding dress: “It’s plain, but…so are you.”); focusing on stupid things (fifteen minutes before a party at my house for forty-plus people: “Oh, the piano is dusty. Give me a rag and some polish and I’ll clean it.”); and making you feel like crap (six months after Terzo’s birth: “You should eat grapes. Grapes are supposed to flatten your stomach.”)

On the other side of the coin, however, my father-in-law does probably drink too much, and I would venture to say that he is clinically depressed, especially since his retirement.

But because most people of that generation do not get divorced, and especially not in my in-laws’ circle of friends, they are still married. In the years of their marriage, they have set a stellar example for their children re: marital bliss.
H’s younger brother H4 is married to a woman who is more or less my mother-in-law’s clone. They have four children and oodles of money, but H4 is never ever home. He travels a lot for work and for many years, he lived in another city during the week, coming home only on weekends. H’s sister H2 is sweet and kind and generous; however, her lack of self-esteem is astounding and she is married to a boorish idiot who treats her like she’s the moron. And the marriage of H’s youngest brother has already morphed into his parents’ marriage – they tolerate each other because getting divorced just is not done; it’s far better to live in misery or apathy.

And H and I? We thought we were the ones who were going to be different. We thought we had a passion for the ages. We thought we had it all figured out, we smug bastards. We met, got engaged, and married in a whirlwind eleven months. Yes, we fought like cats and dogs but oh, the making up was sweet and wonderful and oh, how we adored each other.
Except- we didn’t, after a while. After a while, all that effort and passion and feeling gets tiring. You wonder when the sweetness and content will begin, when you can be friends, when you can develop a healthy and communicative relationship. I thought it might be after my mother died, and I had spent almost a year in weekly therapy sessions. I felt strong and good and sure of myself. And it turns out that H wasn’t all that into that, not really. He said he was but when your spouse says to you, “I married you because I thought you were broken, and I could fix you” and then you fix yourself – it doesn’t work out as well as one might hope. We nearly divorced in 1999 - almost entirely my fault - but didn’t, and through months of intense marital counseling and heartfelt effort, made our marriage better and stronger and good. Truly good. Good enough that we considered having children a reasonable idea. But five years and three babies later, H is three years into what I consider the world’s longest ongoing midlife crisis and I am fed up to here with his distance, his meanness, his arrogance, his assumed superiority – in short, him.
During the crisis years, H pushed for trial separation – not in separate houses, but separate bedrooms. And I fought it. I saw it as the death knell. But when we bought our big old house, I gave in, because there was finally room and I thought it might help, that he would have more to give if I backed off. Now that we’ve had separate bedrooms – and as fast as we can renovate the third-floor bathroom, separate bathrooms – for three years, I would never ever go back to sharing my space.
I didn’t have my children to fix my marriage; at the time, it didn’t seem broken. And I adore my children and would not trade them for anything, not for all the romance of the perfect relationship, nothing. And never in a million years could I deal with not seeing them every day – not snuggling with them in my bed each morning, not kissing them goodnight every single night. (I’d even miss making their countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.) Plenty of people do deal with it, but I don’t want to. It is worth a lot to me to be able to be with them as much as I am; crazy as they make me, to not have to put them in daycare all day, or send them away for weeks or weekends with their father. And it is worth enough to me to make me stay in what is, at its best, an amicable roommate situation, and at its worst, a verbal and psychological battleground.

Every once in a while, H will make a clumsy attempt to make things better, to address his concerns and the issues that he feels impact our marriage. But when his idea of reasonable honesty is, “You’re 40 pounds overweight and I am not attracted to you when you are so fat” or “I can’t be excited for you that you are thinking of writing a novel because I am concerned that the house will not get cleaned, the laundry will not be done, and my meals will not get cooked,” I find it increasingly difficult to want to spend time with him, to put any effort into caring for him, to even consider spending the rest of my days with him. And it breaks my heart that a relationship entered into so optimistically, so idealistically (he would not live with me before we married, he wanted to “start out right” because he was convinced living with his previous girlfriend is what had ruined their marriage prospects) has evolved into a tired and sad cliché. One that his parents played out before us, one that his siblings seem to be playing out alongside us, and one that we will continue to play out until we figure out either how to fix it or how to be done.

So, then – the vodka. The in-laws’ thirty-fifth wedding anniversary party. Planned and thrown by the offspring and their spouses. A gathering of emotionally stunted and/or dysfunctional marital participants, celebrating what is in my eyes essentially a farce, a trick perpetuated knowingly upon the next generation. You’d have drunk too much vodka too. Although you might not have been so aggressive about it; you might have eaten something before sucking down countless Ketel One greyhounds, you might not have passed out on the bathroom floor at home after the party and awoken with the worst hangover you have ever had. You might have been mature enough to cope with all the hidden or ignored undercurrents flowing through that crazy and ill-conceived party, mature enough not to drink yourself defensively into oblivion, mature enough not to stare into the abyss of thirty-five years of apathy and antipathy and self-medicate accordingly. I wasn’t, I wasn’t nearly mature enough, and I paid for it in innumerable ways, a lesser one of which is my absolute inability to drink vodka in any way, shape, or form.

Probably, in the long run, a small price to pay for the insights garnered that evening, into coping mechanisms and survival strategies for the maritally challenged and the matrimonially crippled, God help me.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The one thing that unites all human that we ALL believe that we are above average drivers. - Dave Barry

The first car that was mine to drive was my older brother’s grey Hyundai hatchback. It was a stick, but that wasn’t enough to keep me from driving away to Maryland in it a mere two days after C told me I could use it for the summer. Of course, less than 48 hours after that, I was back, dumped for a namby-pamby girl named Beth (I HATE the name Beth), and heartbroken.

I made that car mine by slapping a bright red window decal from my college on the rear window, but when C moved home from Chicago, he wanted his car back, so then there I was, the summer after my senior year of college, transportationless. This became much more of an issue when I landed a great job, which happened to be a forty-five minute commute from my apartment. I whined and whinged and groused, and my mom lent, er, gave – let’s face it, she NEVER expected to be paid back – me some cash to buy a car. Instead, what I bought resembled nothing so much as the Great Pumpkin.

I was in love. I had bought for a thousand bucks a bright orange, full-size, Ford F150 pick-up truck, three-on-the-tree, open bed. God almighty, how I loved that truck. I happily drove it back and forth to work, it amused all the union stagehands and carpenters to see little 110-pound me driving a half-ton truck. I drove the beast back home for Christmas break, without a working heater, driving bundled up in mittens and scarves, a blanket over my lap. It got worse when the radiator sprung a leak on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and I had to run the fan full-blast to keep the truck from overheating. I followed a gas station attendant’s advice, dumped a tablespoon of ground pepper into the radiator, and managed to limp it back to Pittsburgh to replace it.

I could tackle anything on or in that truck – it had a straight-six engine and was incredibly forthright. Over the course of a year or so, I partially rebuilt the carburetor (my handy mechanic friend R taught me how), and replaced the timing belt, spark plugs, radio, exhaust system, and all four tires. What I couldn’t fix was the cracked frame.

One of my weird talents of which not many people are aware is that I can weld. I learned in college, and to this day, I swear I retain the muscle memory of lining up a bead, doing the quick sharp head nod to knock the helmet visor down over my eyes, touching the stick down to the metal, listening for the proper sizzle and watching for the pooling that indicates the proper angle and speed, and then knocking the slag away from the weld. There was a time I could have done it in my sleep. Jennifer Beals had nothing on me, baby. But what I could not even hope to do was weld my truck frame – that magnitude of welding was well beyond my skills. And paying an expert to do it, especially with no guarantee of success, was well beyond my financial means.

It was with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes that I sold my beloved Ford truck for scrap metal. And then I immediately purchased a smaller Nissan pick-up truck – still a manual, but only a four-cylinder. And not orange. My Nissan was tan, with a sporty little brown stripe on its sides. Other than the fact that it felt like it had no shock absorbers at all, it was wonderful and I loved it. It was cute. It was reliable – something that could not be said about the Ford. And it got terrific gas mileage. But eventually, as all good things do, this truck came to its end also. It began to give me trouble starting when it was damp outside – which in this city is round about 80 percent of the year. The carburetor needed to be rebuilt. And the body was rusting away, slowly at first and then increasingly faster and in larger patches. By this time H was on the scene, and he helped me trade it in. The car dealer gave us a thousand dollars, sight unseen, and of course, the morning I was meant to be picking up my new car, it was pouring rain. I finally, finally, got the truck’s engine to turn over, and left it running while I got ready and ate lunch and then I drove it to the dealer’s lot, turned it off, jumped in my new car, and drove away laughing maniacally.

The new car was a sedan. Sedate, sedan. See what getting married will do to you? I balked at a non-truck, but ultimately came to adore my cute little white Honda Civic, with its sharp little nose and pretty blue interior –and heat! and a radio with tape deck! – as much as I’d loved any car. It rarely needed anything – well, except some body work, which is typical of Japanese cars.

Seven years later, after a routine oil change/tire rotation/brake job, the front driver’s side tire fell off and rolled away down the street WHILE I WAS DRIVING. Fortunately I was going 25 on Smallman St in the Strip District, and not 75 on the Parkway (which I had been the night before), and no one was hurt. I was shaking and an anxious, gibbering mess, but physically I was fine, Primo was fine, the fetus-that-would-be-Seg was fine. I thought my mechanic friend R was going to commit hari-kari, however. He had neglected to tighten the lugnuts on the tire while replacing my brakes the previous weekend – in all the years of all his mechanic work, he had never ever committed such an error. He is one of the most methodical, detail-oriented, anal-retentive people I know, if not the most. I blame it on his pesky and troublesome girlfriend (who unfortunately is now his wife.)

But the accident had bent the frame, and what with two babies, and possibly more to come, it was time for a new vehicle. Perhaps I still feel guilty over the extravagance to follow as I am compelled to point out that in all these years, H was driving the same Geo Prizm he’d been driving when we met. But we bought a BRAND NEW CAR.

The salesman asked me what I was looking for in a car. I thought for a minute and said, “I want it to be a manual. I want air conditioning. I’d like a radio with a CD player. Power steering would be nice. That’s about it.” He looked at me. He cleared his throat, paused, and said slowly, “WHAT in the HELL have you been driving?”

We started out looking for a used Subaru or Honda CRV, but I fell in love with a souped-up Toyota Matrix the salesman had me test-drive for comparison with the CRV. And a new Matrix was thousands cheaper than a used Subaru. And it got fabulous gas mileage. It was cute, it was sporty, it was a glossy silver, it had room for two car seats AND a folded-up stroller. It had AC, a CD player, the rear defrost and heat worked, it boasted power steering and anti-lock brakes and even an airbag or two. I’ve had the Matrix for a little over three years now. I thought I’d keep it pristine since it was new and all, but I am just as slobby with this car as I was with all the others. I am manic about having oil changes and routine maintenance on time, however. I still get 25 mpg city, 40 highway. It sports a dent where an errant baseball bounced off the top of the car but otherwise the body is still in terrific shape. And H scraped off my Kerry window decal when he lost the election.
The only mistake I made was not springing for the power locks; you might think they’re unnecessary but they sure are nice when you are holding the baby with one arm, the toddler’s hand in the other, the diaper bag in your teeth, and the traffic is whizzing by.

I’ll bet this? Comes with power locks.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"I never vote for anyone. I always vote against." - WC Fields

I'm not proud of it but that is exactly what I did this election.

I didn't have time to get to the polls yesterday morning, between dropping Primo off at school and running to catch the bus to work. And in the evening, the thought of delaying my arrival home by even the ten extra minutes it would take to get off the bus, vote, and walk the three blocks home was incredibly wearying to me.
I had a rough reference day - a couple interlibrary loan requests I could NOT find - and I pride myself on NEVER admitting defeat; a mailed-in reference request which was more complicated than the ask-ee probably ever intended it to be; and another go-round with the harrassing crank caller. (Why oh why is she calling me to look up the spelling of Italian words, which she has to then SPELL in order for me to look them up? Argh!)

The last thing I wanted to do was go vote, but 1) I did want to go check out the new electronic voting machines, and 2) I wanted to go vote AGAINST Rick Santorum.

The new electronic machines did make voting so much easier, although there was something exciting about voting the old way, stepping into the booth, the mechanized curtain swooshing closed around you, clicking the little levers over to one side or the other, and the satisfying chhh-thunk of pulling the big lever to register your vote. (I felt for the poor pollworkers who were having to explain the electronic process to everyone, including a few old people who clearly were having a very tough time grasping the concept of a touchscreen.)

And Rick Santorum did lose, although of course the schmuck is going to contest the results based on faulty voting technology or some such twaddle. Whine, whine, whine. Sore loser. (He's just pissed because he'll actually have to pay for his kids' schooling now, taxes or tuition.)

I may be the world's biggest dork, but I still get excited that I can vote. I understand the political system, but I stil feel as if my one little vote is making some kind of difference. That I am putting my money where my (big) mouth is. That by registering my vote, my opinion, I am trying to leave the world a better, safer, and smarter place for my boys.

Speaking of - this is the best sight in the whole world:

Terzo up and about and smiley. Playing with his Trader Joe's balloon, which I think he thought was another kid. I am replete with joy to see that toothy grin again. (I won't go into detail about the green ooze coming out of his ears, though.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Children are given to us to discourage our better emotions. - Saki

This is how Terzo and I spent the better part of our weekend. If there were sound effects, you'd hear him whimpering and snoring.

The doctor, to whom we returned today, has diagnosed double ear infection topped off with a touch of pneumonia - we are awaiting the results of the chest x-rays. I have administered the first dose of kill-everything-that-moves antibiotic, and we have plowed through two bottles of Motrin and are ready to go through another.

It's hard to type with a limpet - er, baby in your arms, so I have gotten no writing done at all in the past 36 hours.
However, as I can't really move much with The Baby propped up on my shoulder, I did manage to get a lot of reading done. Haven't washed my hair, haven't cooked dinner, but by god, I read Black Swan Green and am halfway through The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

If you can't annoy somebody with what you write, I think there's little point in writing." - Kingsley Amis

I have never been much for comic books. I have always wanted to be that cool, but just don’t GET them the way some other people seem to.

I’ve read Maus and Maus II; Gina got me hooked on Y: The Last Man which I happily read until it got predictable round about the fifth volume, Ring of Truth.

I have never read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, but since I seem to be quickly developing an intense crush on the dark and lovely Mr Gaiman, I figured I should read the works for which he is most famous.

I wasn’t into it; I even said to a friend, “Mmmm, not in love, and I wanted to be.”
And then, suddenly, I was. Somewhere between Dream escaping the crystal and his encounter with John Constantine, I found that I was alternately terrified and horrified, but didn’t want to stop reading. Images from some of the more disturbing scenes haunted my dreams – as is only right and proper, I suppose, considering the book. Other characters were interesting – I especially like Death – but Dream was positively mesmerizing. I need to know more, I just requested Book 2, The Doll’s House, from the library.


I read Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale in two days, and would have read it even faster if not for having to care for my pesky family. I am going to say this, and you are going to say, “No! Hyperbole! Can’t be!” but I assure you this is my honest and considered opinion:
The Thirteenth Tale is our century’s Jane Eyre. It’s all there – devastating fires, crumbling ruins, family secrets, governesses, gardeners, and neglected children, love, lust, life, and scandal - skillfully paying homage to the Brontes, but at the same time inventive and fresh.

And let’s face it, it’s not as if Jane Eyre is spectacularly complex and erudite literature – it’s a classic Gothic novel, following nicely in the footsteps of the likes of The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho (all lampooned cleverly in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, easily the funniest of her books). In fact, I did not read Jane Eyre until I was out of college, and was surprised at how accessible, how readable, and especially how sensational it was. (I had much the same reaction to Gone with the Wind, which I picked up my first week of graduate school, thinking it would take me all semester to read; instead, I gobbled it down in about half a week, dreadfully neglecting my studies.)

The physical book of The Thirteenth Tale is lovely, and I have to own it in hardback. The only attribute that could make it better would be if I’d had to "sit with a letter opener and have the heretofore unknown pleasure of slitting the pages apart ourselves."

I ignore the fact that the author’s picture makes her look more than a little Suzanne Vega-ish. And she’s sporting Blackbird’s escapee bangs.


Onward then, to finish Perfume, begin Glyph, and continue trying to churn out words, words, words for NaNoWriMo. (1900 so far. Already I am behind.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

“It was a dark and stormy night, the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals..."

How many of you had to take your children out trick-or-treating for Halloween?
How many of you did this in the cold, driving rain?
How many of you nearly killed yourselves going up steep steps, slippery with wet leaves, in the dark?
How many of you almost got nailed by drivers going too fast on rain-slicked streets, paying no heed to small ghosts and Power Rangers and pumpkins?
And lastly, how many of you nearly choked to death on a roasted pumpkin seed?

Hmmm. I see.

I only had to deal with the last. Because my kids were all sick this Halloween. Sick enough to stay home from kindergarten, sick enough to forgo the preschool Halloween party, sick enough to have to go see the doctor TWICE in one day.

I never like it when my kids are sick; their hoarse little coughs and feverishly red cheeks wrench at my heart. I hate that when they are sick, they just want to lie around on the sofa, being read to and fed juice and ibuprofen, watching TV. They are too spiritless to even fight with each other; it’s heartbreaking.

But if I had to pick a day for them to be sick, the Halloween on which it poured rain all evening long would be, well, actually, my second pick. (My first would be Christmas Eve, specifically the one on which we all got the stomach bug and spent the holiday lying around the house, pale and wan, and completely unobligated to participate in the be-cheerful-goddamnit horror that is Christmas at the in-laws’ house.)


I started The Thirteenth Tale. I sat in the coffee shop all morning, reading, and nursing the first peppermint mocha of the winter, and chewing my fingernails. I plan to stop on the way home, have some buffalo bites, and finish it while I still have fingernails left. I have to buy it. Right after I pay off my laptop, and the phone bill upon which appears the phone call to Australia. I lurve you, Suse, it was worth every penny, H be damned!


I have watched the fifth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” over the past week. Not as funny as the season with the restaurant opening, but Larry David at his least funny is considerably more hilarious than most people at their funniest. And I say that with the zeal of the convert, as the first time I was made to watch, I had to keep getting up and leaving the room, it was just too PAINFUL. Now it’s painful but it’s funny. Humor that makes you cringe – it’s a good thing.


Has anyone out there read both Coraline and Brief History of the Dead? I need to discuss the similarities in those two books regarding the concept of one person’s consciousness creating existence/environment. With someone who has read both and might have a clue if what I am saying is even remotely interesting, or if my background as a post-bacc English major is rendering me insufferably…insufferable.


Why did I have an entire document in my blog drafts folder, with only one word typed in:
What the hell do you suppose I meant by THAT?


And speaking of food, I have a nice chunk of flank steak thawing in the fridge, awaiting an attempt at Joke’s Cuban Granny Pants (see also Bec’s version). I had a version of this, Ropa Vieja, at a baby shower recently (I know, not typical shower food, but neither were the gifts typical baby shower gifts; in fact, most of them were alcoholic in nature, which is fitting (and of course, only consumed safely, after delivery, so keep your hair on) since the baby was L’s SIXTH. She needed liquor WAY more than she needed another onesie or receiving blanket.)
I ate way more than my share of this delicious stuff, and have been craving it ever since. So we will see how it goes. Of course, I will be the only person in my household eating this, as it fails the acceptability criteria of everyone else but I think I will manage.


1020 words and counting...for those of you following along at home....