Saturday, September 29, 2007

Kicking at the Bad Guys, Beating Up a Monster, Fighting Against Evil, I Rescue the People!

I finished the Steve Almond, and am in love for the first time all over again, as they say. I will buy it and give the sweet man my money just as soon as I can.

Almond wrote in Candyfreak that he used to roll around in piles of candy when he was a kid. Now that he’s (chronologically, anyway) an adult, I think he’d like to roll around in piles of words. He’s the kind of writer who sees and feels and loves and hates with abandon, and it’s clear that if he couldn’t put the words on the page, he’d explode. I like that in a man.

This collection of essays includes among other things, a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, an explanation as to why Almond would like the Red Sox Nation to SHUT UP (which is engaging even if, like me, you don’t care at all about baseball), some of Almond’s early experiences with sex (to paraphrase Elaine from Seinfeld, I don’t know how guys walk around with those things), and an account of the first few days of his daughter’s life, in which he was sure he had killed her at least a dozen times—and which made me have to take off my glasses and wipe tears from my eyes, because I couldn’t stop laughing.

I like Almond’s essays much better than his short stories, and if you like essays at all, you should at least grab this from the library.

I’m in a bit of a reading slump now, though. I started MT Anderson’s Feed, which was recommended by a woman I work with (she has a 7th grader), and it’s mildly amusing, and okay . . . but I don’t like the feeling of doom the whole thing gives me. It’s not hard to imagine that (should humanity continue to exist, anyway) we’re moving in that direction more quickly than we think. And anyway, I left the book at work, so I don’t have it for the weekend.

I started Christopher Moore’s Island of the Sequined Love Nun, but as much as I live him (and that title), the book isn’t grabbing me. This is my second attempt, and I think I might give it up as a bad job.

I have two books to pick up from the library when I finish my shift. I think I requested Alison Pace’s Through Thick and Thin based on a Jen Lancaster recommendation. The other book is Joe Haldeman’s The Accidental Time Machine, and I can’t remember where I heard of it or why I requested it. I guess I’ll find out.

I watched Knocked Up last night after The Boy went to bed. I enjoyed it very much—I like nearly everyone in the cast a lot, and it’s got its sweet, funny, or sweetly funny moments, but I was expecting it to be hilarious. I laughed a lot more at The 40 Year Old Virgin—maybe because I’m so much closer to 40 myself? I’m not even entertaining the though of seeing Superbad, because I’m clearly too old.

That’s about it for me. I’m making the journey to my parents’ house tonight to see some out-of-state relatives, and then it’s back to work at the library tomorrow. And I have to fit cleaning the bathroom and doing some laundry in there. And getting some groceries. Ugh.

That is all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." *

My sweet Terzo is two today.
Happy birthday, love.

I went birthday-present-shopping for him today.
While today is his actual birthday, we will be postponing his party till tomorrow evening when H finally returns.
But he will receive this, which I am fairly certain he will love:

And an Elmo book and this, because he does like his Brown Bear book:

And a Teletubbies DVD because he really digs his Teletubbies books and has never actually seen the TV show, and a cool shirt I found on sale.
A fine birthday haul.

While I was out and about, look what I picked up:

And this! I didn’t even know she had a new book coming out!

Then I came home and ate half a pineapple, leaving my mouth a sore, swollen mess, followed by a chicken sandwich and a Coke.
All of which will stay down.
It is to be hoped.
Because this puking thing is getting waaaaaay old.
I have dropped ten pounds.
Pregnancy as weight loss strategy.
Not obvious, but certainly effective.

In other exciting news, I am now reading y’all via GoogleReader, and I love it.
Why did I not do this ages ago?
Oh, because Bloglines bites, and won’t let me sign into my own account.
I forgot.

It takes a little of the excitement out of checking blogs, but on the other hand, it saves a fair amount of time, both in knowing who has new stuff for me to read, and commenting (since I am already signed in).


* Elizabeth Stone

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Eighth time's the charm!" *

I am not much of a television watcher.

Sometimes if H brings home a movie he wants to see, I’ll watch with him. Sometimes he’ll be interested in a (usually long-cancelled) television series, and bring home a DVD of a season or so.
Sometimes during hockey season I’ll sit and watch a period or two of a game.

But generally I would say that, left to my own devices, I would rather read or quilt or noodle around on the computer.

I haven’t watched a show regularly since I freaked out on H for not taping an episode of ‘Ally McBeal.’ The freaking-out over little things was yet another symptom of my depression and OCD; the Zoloft tones that down, and Ally McBeal got stupid and I never really got sucked into a show again, and certainly never screamed at my husband that I hated him just because he forgot to tape something for me. (After all, aren’t there plenty of valid reasons for hating your spouse?)

But even though I am used to being home by myself, this week I am lonely.
There’s a different feel to H’s absence this week.
Maybe it’s because I am not subconsciously, even in sleep, listening for the car door slam, the beep of the alarm, the key in the lock.
Maybe it’s because I know Punto isn’t barking at H arriving home, but some unseen, possibly menacing something outside.

For whatever reason, this week, after the boys go to bed, I have been switching on the television and finding something to watch.

Last night I watched the first half hour of a program about a family that adopted 23 special-needs children. Then I flicked around and watched bits of a President Bush speech, and some real estate show on TLC, and some baseball. There were numerous repeated commercials for a show called “Lincoln Place,” and a funny preview for Peter Krause’s new series, “Dirty Sexy Money.” I eventually settled on a movie on The Disney Channel called “The Prince and Me.” It starred Julia Stiles as an American premed student who unwittingly falls in love with the Prince of Denmark who has come to her college masquerading as an exchange student. Despite her numerous and very large teeth, I find Stiles engaging and adorable. The prince, played by Luke Mably, grew on me eventually. The romance was gentle and sweet, and built up gradually to some minor sexual situations and a predictable if not terribly typical happy ending.

Tonight, I was unfortunate enough to turn the TV on at 755. Everything that looked any good was just ending. I watched bits and pieces of programs – “Family Guy,” some more baseball, the news, until I came across the last half hour of a show called “Bones.”

Those of you who have read this blog for a while probably are aware of my admiration of Quincy. I wanted to be Quincy when I grew up. This perhaps abnormal and morbid interest in medical detection and the accompanying biological gore translates now into reading anything I can get my hands on about forensic pathology and anthropology, and crime scene analysis. This show should have hit my sweet spot, but it was too scattered. There was too much action and not enough explanation. I suppose I really prefer documentaries.

“House” was on next. I’ve never watched this before, and I really don’t get Hugh Laurie’s sex appeal, but some of you love this show, so I figured, what the hell.

Forgive me, Blackbird, but I really hated it.
He’s an egomaniacal asshole who can’t be bothered to actually think about something, and the plot leapt all over the place. There was no thought, no detection, no debate – and judging from the past show synopses I found on, this is typical. House seems to stumble his way through a myriad of mistaken diagnoses until he happens to hit upon the accurate diagnosis, by which time you are so thoroughly sick of him you wish he would drop dead along with the patient he invariably almost kills.
His isn’t the deserved arrogance of Daniel Craig, the brilliant if irascible heart surgeon on my beloved “St Elsewhere,” or the passion of a young Doug Ross whose brashness is driven by concern for his patient’s wellbeing; House is lazy, annoying, careless, and thoroughly unlikeable.

I remember now why I don’t watch TV.

And in case I really needed a reminder, I watched the first couple minutes of the local ten o’clock news.

“A beloved family pet falls down a well in Kittaning, details after these messages...”

Or not.


* Dr Gregory House

I'm Hot Blooded, Check it and See

I just had a wonderful interview for a full-time job at my library. Things are looking up. And speaking of looking, I got to see our illustrious Steeler quarterback, Ben Roethlesberger, who was at the library to read to kids. Aw! He's much cuter (and bigger) in person, and he was all smiles for the kids. I think I want to get myself a #7 jersey now. :-)

I Have Grown Older, and You Have Grown Colder, and Nothing is Very Much Fun . . . Anymore

Can you tell I'm not feeling well? I have some raging, horrible, toothache-like pain in my right wrist, and it shoots the whole way up past my elbow. It's been creeping up on me for a while, getting worse and worse so that I've finally made an appointment to see my doctor on Thursday. I assume it's carpal tunnel, and I'm not thrilled.

In other news, I'm reading the brand spanking new Steve Almond, Rants, Exploits, and Observations (Not That You Asked). I am even more in love than I was when I read Candy Freak, and that was a lot of love. Now he's even sweeter and better, because he and his wife just had a baby daughter (Josephine! One of my choices had The Boy been The Girl!), and he's besotted. YUM!

I had been reading The Half-Life of Happiness, which I was enjoying, but I dropped it for my Stevie. I'll go back to it, though. I also just read Dancing with Einstein, which I totally recommend if you're in the mood for something kind of stark (but oddly detailed) and sad.

That's it, though. I'm working, I'm reading, I'm hanging with The Boy, and I'm bitching about my wrist. (And singing songs from The Wall in my head: Either I need to go back to high school so I can dig up some Old Mil Pounders and recreational drugs, or I need to take a nap.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"You can spit shine your shoes, the Pens are going dancing with Lord Stanley." *

It was a hockey night in Pittsburgh!
Even though I was adamantly against the new football and baseball stadiums, I am thrilled to death that the Pens signed a lease till 2040 in the new arena. Heck, I could be dead by 2040. Having watched hockey all the way.

It’s only pre-season, but the Pens played their best line-ups.
Including the inestimable Sidney Crosby, the boys’ new favorite, impossibly clean-cut Jordan Staal, and my sweetie Marc-Andre Fleury (I know, I am old enough to be his mother, shut up.)

The boys wore their special Pens shirts: Seg his Malkin shirt, and Primo his Crosby shirt. By the end of the second period, they sported NEW shirts: Seg, Staal’s 11: And Primo a fancy schmancy Penguins logo shirt.
I treated myself to a Fleury t-shirt. I know it makes me look like a linebacker, but I don’t care.

Very exciting for the boys: Iceburgh put in a close-up appearance, obscured partially by the big-haired teenager in front of me. She reminded me of nothing so much as the hockey groupies from the eighties when I was in high school: the blue eyeshadow, the teased and bleached hair, the tight jeans – only they all wore Tocchet jerseys; she sported a signed Colby Armstrong jersey.

Primo spent the evening kicking the poor girl’s seatback; I spent the evening with my leg in front of Primo’s. This morning my shins were all black and blue. And for some reason, her mother. a perfect stranger, saw fit to tell me that she's just had surgery (a - shhhh! - hysterectomy) two weeks ago, and was on disability from work for two months. And yet there she was, at the hockey game. What possesses people to reveal these sorts of secrets to me? It happens ALL the time. Do I look trustworthy? Do you not know I am going to go home and write about you on my blog?

The boys are as thrilled by the Zambonis as they are by the actual game, I think.

This guy?
Looks so much like my high school boyfriend would look now that it literally took my breath away. I spent many minutes staring at him, waiting for him to smile, because Frank had an unmistakable smile. He was sitting with his blonde, gum-chewing wife and two kids, a tweenaged daughter and a younger son. I didn’t quite have the guts to go up to him and ask if it was indeed him; I kind of wish now I had.

The game's end result was disappointing – especially after the Pens scored with less than two minutes left - but it was a good, fast game, and a lot of fun to watch.

It did seem unfair that the walk back to the car was all uphill.
And Seg had to pee.

Everyone was in bed by eleven, and the boys slept in this morning.

It wasn’t quite the relaxing evening a normal hockey game attended just by H and me would be: some beer, a great game, maybe dinner after.
But it was fun nonetheless.

Hockey season proper starts October 6; we are one-fifth owners of two season tickets this year, so I am already lining up babysitters for the Devils and the Sabres games.

We didn’t get the tix to the Flyers game, or I’d have had to break out my Peter Zezel jersey.


* Mike Lange, the Voice of the Pittsburgh Penguins

"Crazy is as crazy does." *

H leaves this afternoon for Europe for a week.
His trip is to a conference, wholly work-related, and with minimal –absolutely minimal, as in, he will have time to sleep but that’s probably about it – free time.
Which is one good reason I am not accompanying him.
Well, that, and the minor issue of having someone care for three small, incorrigible boys for a week while I gallivant my pregnant self off to London and Cambridge.
The fact that I have an ironclad excuse not to board a plane crossing the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t hurt either. I REALLY don’t like to fly.

However, being at home by myself for a week with three small boys is no picnic, either.
And I must have forgotten my Zoloft this morning because suddenly some mania is setting in and I am considering doing ALL of the following in the coming week (when really, it will be all I can do to simply SURVIVE):
Buy a couch
Scrape and paint two windows
Start demolishing the kitchen walls
Paint the front porch
Finish my nephew’s quilt
Finish the living room curtains

Really? I am going to order pizza and Chinese for dinners, take the boys to the park, and read as much as I can.
I will go buy the new Richard Russo novel.
I might rake some leaves and put the outdoor summer toys in the basement.
I've already hired someone to walk the dog for the week.
Maybe I'll do some editing work in there somewhere, and a load or two of laundry.

I might be crazy, but I’m not CRAZY.


UPDATED: You know, I didn't think I would especially miss H. I mean, we've been married forEVER and honestly, there are times when I think life would be easier without him around all the time. But he's only been gone for eight hours, and maybe the boys' sadness is rubbing off on me, but I do miss him. Not just because I had to put the boys to bed by myself, either. (And if *someone* cranked them all up on pizza and ice cream, well, I have no one to blame but myself, hmmm?)(And no one to thank for them not being worse but Gina - who came to meet us at the park with a football and The Boy, who was insanely patient with three small and annoying boys and pretty much wore them out for me, bless him.)
(Also, Gina? Has quite the throwing arm on her. Most impressive.)

* I made this up. I have never understood that proverb, "Pretty is as pretty does," so I cribbed it for my own. It makes as much sense as anything else, I suppose.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Dear little baby Jesus, who's sittin' in his crib watchin' the Baby Einstein videos, learnin' 'bout shapes and colors..." *

Wanna know what I watched last night?

Sure ya do.

"Talladega Nights."

H and I laughed ourselves simple(r).

I think Will Ferrell is, if not a genius, at least very funny AND willing to make a total fool of himself in the name of comedy.
He seems to like to run around in his underwear, and dammit it, I love it when he does that because it's so freaking funny. Why is Will Ferrell in his underwear so damn funny? Why? Why, why, why? Because it really is. But I have no idea WHY.

(And I have a wee tiny little bit of a crush on Sacha Baron Cohen, but let's not talk about that.)

The movie made it even harder for me to understand how people take NASCAR seriously.
I mean, c'mon, it’s like WWF, only
(I actually know someone who named his daughter Talladega, I kid you not; they call her Tallie for short. God help the poor child.)

I forced myself to bite my tongue last week when Primo expressed interest in car-racing, after attending an especially exciting NASCAR-themed birthday party.
“Primo, it’s not a sport.” I asserted.
“It’s in the Sports page,” he replied.
So are the ads for strip clubs and no one ever suggests that pole-dancing is a sport. (Oh. Wait a minute...)
Fortunately his fascination with weird superheroes trumped, and I don’t expect to ever have to learn the names, makes, or models of cars or drivers.

I do know what every superhero’s weakness is, now, but that might actually come in handy someday, no?


* Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell), in "Talladega Nights"

Friday, September 21, 2007

"One, two! One, two! And through and through, The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead and with its head he went galumphing back." *

I have just requested the following three books from the library:

1) Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon - Leonard Marcus. Inspired by this new-to-me blog I found, Crooked House, via...via Bookslut, I think, and Jessa’s post on Steph’s post on Beckett for Babies which made me cry laughing and be shiveringly delighted by her genius. I mean, seriously, how awesome is it? Think about it. It’s BRILLIANT.

And in reading Steph's archives, I found another clever and oh-so-smart post on Goodnight Moon, which I too have come to appreciate in the past year, and now I am hooked and am requesting her book recommendations.
It’s a slippery slope, my friends.

2) I also had to request Jess Walter’s Citizen Vince again. Because I am a dork and didn’t pick it up in time, and it was sent back from whence it came. But in ascertaining this fact, I called my local branch library and the librarian-whom-Gina-and-I-love answered the phone and recognized my voice and well, SWOON. I know, you have to be a pretty big dork to be thrilled that your librarian recognizes your voice, but that’s just the kind of dork I am.
And don’t pretend to be surprised, you knew it, too.

3) And last but not least, Josh Swiller’s The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa. H spent two years in the Peace Corps, and I am actually sort of fascinated, in a car-wreck sort of way, by the Peace Corps. And what could be more interesting than a deaf person’s take on life in a foreign country, working for the Peace Corps? Rife with possibility, that. Apparently he’s a good writer – it was the reviews on Amazon that actually sucked me in.

And last but not least – wait, I said that already – oh frabjous day! Richard Russo has a new book coming out on September 25. I will hie to the bookstore that day to purchase it. Even with his weak outing last book (Empire Falls) and his redundant short story collection, however brilliantly titled The Whore’s Child, I still think he’s a terrific writer who excels in the slice-of-life style that I tend to fall in love with. Nobody’s Fool is one of my favorite books, and his other novels are no slouches, either. (Oh, and wait: did you know – I did NOT – that Ann Patchett has a new novel, Run, coming out on September 25 also? Calloo callay!)

And in a lovely email this morning, Nutmeg gave me a list of other books I might find interesting. I must stop all this silly eating and breathing and showering and school-dropping-off and school-picking-up and grocery-shopping and working fliff-flaff - I must READ!


* "Jabberwocky," Lewis Carroll

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"I believe public education must help restore the daily ritual of the table in all our childrens' lives." *

I am having one of my (not really that frequent, despite what some may believe) I HATE PEOPLE days.

Hate #1:
My behind-us neighbors, very nice (and very frequently not even there) people, have had their nasty dogs outside all morning, and they’re barking their heads off. Annoying creatures.

It also means that Punto is not as content to hang out in our backyard when we go somewhere for an hour or two as he usually is, as the two dogs stand at the fence and snarl and growl at him.

Hate #2:
Dropping Primo off at school is never easy, as there is no official drop-off point, the parking is limited, and the school is on a fairly busy street (read: people flagrantly ignore the “Slow: School: 15mph” signs). This morning I was lucky enough to get a spot where I could watch for Primo to get into school and wave goodbye. Another mother wasn’t, so she took two minutes to stop, let her child out of the car, and watch him walk into school.

You’d have thought the three or four people behind her were on their way to emergency brain surgery.

When one construction-type guy in a huge white pickup truck honked his horn and shouted at her angrily, I snapped at him, “Cut her a break! She’s watching to make sure her kid gets in!”
“Gets in where?” he asked.
“The school, right there.”
To his credit, he shut up then, and looked suitably abashed.

The fat woman in the SUV behind him wasn’t so nice: “She can pull over! That’s just rude!”
I said, “Do you see anywhere obvious for her to pull over? She’ll just be a minute.”

Note that neither of these people was dropping a child off at school.
Forgive me for not being more understanding.
Fat-Woman zoomed off to her surgery in disgust.
I hope she crashed.

Hate #3:
Paxson is one of two schools in this city’s public school system participating in the Edible Schoolyard program. Founded and directed nationally by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame, the program works to teach urban school children where the food they eat comes from, and allows them to participate in its planting, care, harvesting, and preparation – from seed to table. A lot of hard work (parents, teachers, and kids) went into all the grant-writing, fundraising, and then the actual preparation of the schoolyard where the gardens are. Farmer Josh is an integral part of the school faculty now, and the kids greet him happily each morning, asking what’s ready to picked that day and how things are coming along.

One of the school parents is a chef, and is doing several cooking demos for the kids, using produce grown in their schoolyard gardens.

It’s an incredible thing, really – it’s exciting and educational and as many parents here are actively involved in ensuring their families eat more organically and more locally, there’s a huge amount of support for the program.

Last week the kids arrived at school to find several of their watermelons smashed all over the sidewalk. They took it in stride, and Farmer Josh handled it well.
But this morning I noticed that some hoodlum(s) had knocked over all the staked tomato plants, which were just about ready for major harvesting, and messed up the compost and its bin.

Do these derelicts have nothing better to do with their time than be destructive and horrible?
I hope they get hit by the fat lady in the SUV.

(It’s a damn good thing there are so many nice, wonderful, loving people in my life, or I just might lose all faith in the future of humanity.)

* Alice Waters, in Slow Food, Slow Schools

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"I'm so ugly, my mother had morning sickness...after I was born."

OK, this nausea and vomiting can stop ANYTIME now.
I know I said it means a healthy baby, etc., but oh. my. god.
I would like to eat something now.
Heck, I would like to like to eat something now.
Six pounds (lost) and counting...

* Rodney Dangerfield

"...just because we don't understand doesn't mean that the explanation doesn't exist." *

So it turns out it’s not as bad as all that – Primo himself does not miss his enrichment while he is at the Gifted Center. He does miss gym. Or at least, he may. Still not ideal, for my antsy, high-energy, athletically-inclined boy. Although it seems enough parents have expressed concern that rescheduling and juggling will take place, so maybe kids will miss…reading for reading enrichment. Ah. Yes. Now THAT makes more sense. I know we are truly blessed to have such problems – the gifted program is really extraordinary, especially for a public school. But I still feel I must be vigilant at all times. It gets wearing, but it’s so worth it.


I have been quite remiss in reading and commenting on blogs lately; it doesn’t mean I don’t love you all, yo. (Channeling Badger, there…) I have just been very nauseated and have a major case of what I call “the systemic blahs.” (Also an excellent name for a garage band.) But for all the lousy-feeling (I felt awful enough at work yesterday that I went home early – an almost unprecedented occurrence for me), I am grateful for the nausea and whatnot. It signifies that the baby is growing and hanging in there and continuing to be healthy. My friend M miscarried this weekend (in her 12th week), and I just found out this morning. My heart breaks for her. Send some good energy her way today if you think of it.


I am rereading A Wind in the Door now, and enjoying it also. Although, having a six-year-old of my own, am finding Charles Wallace just a LEETLE unrealistic, no matter how genius-like he is mean to be. Still, suspending that disbelief, am loving this book.

I want to be Mrs. Murry, God, she is so together. I love that she cooks dinner on a Bunsen burner while proving the existence of farandolae and putting herself in the running for the Nobel Prize. I thought *I* was a decent multi-tasker...

One of the letter-writers to Salon on the article published in the days after l’Engle’s death summed up perfectly my feelings about Mrs Murry:

The main character in A Wrinkle in Time's mother was a scientist. And a mother. She cooked food on the Bunsen burner in their home's basement lab. I don't remember much of the book, but I remember this. Very much so. How a throw-away few lines in just one book managed to counteract every societal message about women and science that I'd been internalizing, I don't know. I sit typing my doctoral thesis, pausing to look up from the laptop and say "Wow!! you made a sandcastle!" and "Grrr! I'm a tiger" to my 2-year-old twins. Madeline L'Engle made this possible.

This unfortunately makes me that much sadder that L’Engle’s books written for adults are proving so disappointing upon rereading.


I am off to pack up some lunches and assorted play paraphernalia, so that when The Baby and I pick up Seg from preschool, we can head straight to the park. It’s a gorgeous day today, and I want to take advantage of the sunshine and moderate temps.


Paraphernalia is the word on which I won the fifth-grade spelling bee.
I will NEVER forget that crazy R in there.


* Mrs Murry, A Wrinkle in Time

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Monday, Monday, can't trust that day..."*

I am rereading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and enjoying it far more than I recall enjoying it the first time round. I am not much of a scifi person, so perhaps that why it didn’t do it for me as a child. But it’s very good. I love Aunt Beast, and want to marry Calvin. I am pleased I am liking it, as my reread of The Small Rain was disappointing. I found it a tad on the histrionic side, and spent much of the novel wanting to slap Katherine Forrester upside her head. Which of course didn’t stop me from putting A Severed Wasp on the reread pile as well.

I had a really – not lousy – it wasn’t BAD – it was just….not GOOD day. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was premenstrual. You know, stupid little things like ordering a black iced tea and the lady making me a green tea and then arguing with me when I questioned her. That kind of stupidity. Nothing awful. But I am very ready for the boys to go to bed and leave me in some peace. I did manage to cook a scrummy dinner – mini penne in alfredo sauce with sautéed-in-olive-oil sliced red peppers and arugula, and topped with toasted pine nuts. The boys’ mac-and-cheese was made with heavy cream because I forgot to buy milk at the grocery store. (See, that kind of day. But with penne alfredo-with-yummies for dinner, I can’t complain…)

A legit gripe: Primo tested into the gifted program at school this year (am I permitted to call it that, or is there some other more politically correct name?) This means that one day a week he rides a bus to the Gifted Center to do extra-special advanced math and science. Also, this year, there is a full-time on-site gifted programming teacher who works with the kids during the rest of the week which pleased me and H very much because it means that their gifted programming is not limited to six hours once a week. Primo picked “You Be the Author” since his other gifted stuff is math and science. They get pulled out of their usual class to do this program. The Author program meets twice – once on the day that the gifted kids go to the Gifted Center. Am I insane that this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to me? The parents of some of the kids involved in the on-site program have chosen not to have their child tested for the out-of-school program, but it seems really unfair to me that my child is going to miss one of his on-site sessions. This seems like very very poor planning. Shit. And this school year was going so well so far. Off I go to peruse private school websites and suburban real estate. Per my usual panicked response. Sigh.

Oh, and the inappropriate book? A YA novel by Mary Steele called The Life (and death) of Sarah Elizabeth Howard which may or may not be a very fine book, but regardless, just not appropriate for a sensitive eight-year-old.

*"Monday Monday," The Mamas & the Papas

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Home is the sailor from the sea, The hunter from the hill."*

I am working.
Working, working, working, working, every free moment.
As Suse would say, flat out like a lizard drinking, which for the longest time I thought meant a lizard, you know, imbibing.
Alcoholic beverages.
Sometimes I am not very bright.

I have this fascinating freelance gig and I am loving it.
It’s a tremendous amount of work, though, and I feel as if every free moment I have, I have to get something done on this project.
Even though the people I am working for are totally laidback and cool.
I just get engrossed and want to keep going.

And I realized today that being a research librarian is just about the perfect job for an antisocial person with OCD tendencies.

Yesterday evening, though, burnt out on research databases, I did a little sleuthing for my friend E whose eight-year-old daughter had brought home from school what E thought might be an age-inappropriate book. (Approved by our (previously evidenced) rather less-than-impressive school librarian. Ahem.)
While neither E nor I believe in censorship, her daughter is a very very bright girl, and very sensitive and a leetle highstrung (have I got any children like that? Hmmm, let me think….) and E was a tad concerned about the effect this book might have on her.
I did some poking through Novelist and WorldCat, and wound up concurring – much more suitable for a middle-schooler - but then felt like I wanted to recommend a few appropriate books that might address the same subject this semi-questionable book thought to address (death).

I wound up emailing E a list of about a dozen books – some dealing with death and how children deal with death (Madeleine L’Engle’s Meet the Austins seemed like a good suggestion, followed with A Ring of Endless Light when E’s daughter is older. Beautifully written and thoughtful, but still good reads. (She has already read Bridge to Terabithia.))

Then I found some books I just thought she’d like. Like me when I was a child, she seems to like many of the old-fashioned children’s books such as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and lots of LM Montgomery. So I had some fun with those kind of proper English boarding-school type books (you know you know what I mean), even though my favorite reccs were for Kaye Umansky’s The Silver Spoon of Solomon Snow and Michael Buckley’s The Fairytale Detectives.

And then I went upstairs and raided my shelves for a pile of books I thought she might enjoy, based on what I have lent her to read previously: Susan Coolidge’s Katy books, LM Montgomery’s Emily books, The Gift of the Golden Cup, Heidi, Lois Duncan’s Motel for Dogs, Theodore Taylor’s heartwrenching The Cay, and a book I had never read called Catherine, Called Birdy, which I promptly took to bed with me and devoured, staying up far too late to finish.

Wonderful book. Funny and smart and honest, with the most endearing heroine I have encountered in quite some time, a heroine with whom, were I a medieval maiden, I would want to hang out.
I added it to E’s daughter’s pile when I finished.

And now I am back to Mirabilis, and stalled a bit on Map of Love, because frankly, I don’t know nearly enough (as in, NOTHING) about British colonialism in Egypt to not have to look stuff up constantly, and it’s somewhat tough going.

And now my boys are home, home from the NASCAR-themed birthday party.


*AE Housman - UPDATED: Ok, the quote I really wanted was, as Suse pointed out, "Home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill." Which are the first lines of Robert Louis Stevenson's Requiem, and which Housman later used, apparently in honor of Stevenson. Thank you, dear Suse.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

“If your house is really a mess and a stranger comes to the door greet him with, 'Who could have done this? We have no enemies.'”*

My children leave cars all over the steps and trains all over the floor.

I step on Legos in the middle of the night and more than once have nearly wiped out flat on my ass from stepping on a book.

Their hockey sticks and baseball gloves are scattered all over my back porch.

Their dirty clothes land everywhere but in their laundry basket.

When they eat, sometimes I think the dog actually gets more food than they do, they drop so much on the floor.

My bathtub is full of plastic boats and rubber fish.
My sink is cluttered with Cars toothbrushes and Winnie the Pooh toothpaste and little cardboard cups with animals on them.
My thirsty, thick blue towels are crowded on the rack by Nemo and Thomas.

None of this really bothers me.
I straighten up at the end of each day, and try to keep the place as uncluttered as possible for my own sanity.

But The Baby’s favorite thing in the whole wide world to do?
Is to take fistfuls of crayons, fling them into the air, and laugh uproariously.

And THIS drives me OVER THE EDGE.

* Phyllis Diller

Monday, September 10, 2007

Even in Hell the peasant will have to serve the landlord, for, while the landlord is boiling in a cauldron the peasant will have to put wood under it.

I tried to go to sleep early last night but there was a fire alarm going off all night in the vacant house across the street and I woke up with a headache and my fan had stopped working and I forgot to take my Zoloft and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

At breakfast Seg ate the last banana on his cereal and Primo cried because he wanted banana in his Cheerios and Terzo fed the dog his Puffins which is going to give him gas.

I think I’ll move to Australia.

Four times I told Primo to put his socks and shoes on, and at 835 when everyone else was ready to leave he still only had one sock on and I yelled at him so loudly the neighbors must have heard. It made The Baby cry.

I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

The Baby wouldn’t get in his carseat because he didn’t like his shorts.

At the preschool Seg couldn’t open the door and I had to call the teacher on my cell phone to let him in because I couldn’t leave the other boys in the running car by themselves.

At Paxson Primo pouted because I had to pack his lunch in his dorky turquoise lunch box and not his cool grey lunchbox because he’d left his cool grey lunchbox at school yesterday. Who needs lunch anyway? All I need is a drink.
I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I could tell because my friend E’s son said to me that my car was as filthy as my house, and I needed to vacuum my car too.
I hope you trip on your shoelaces, I said.
I hope you drop your Rice Krispie treat, and all the dog hair in the car gets all over the marshmallow and you can’t eat it, I said.
I hope it lands in Australia. (Ok, I didn’t say ANY of those things.)

Seg got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple for lunch, and The Baby got leftover rice pilaf and grilled chicken for his lunch, but all I got was two stupid poached eggs on toast because guess whose stomach couldn’t handle anything else?
It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

That’s what it was, because when we returned from the Cheese Expedition, that alarm was still going off and my headache got worse and I hadn’t had nearly enough caffeine anyway. I called the landlord but his secretary said he’d gone to Australia. (Not really.)

At naptime The Baby sat in his crib and threw cars around, and Seg lay in his bed and sang tunelessly to himself for forty-five minutes, and the dog lay in the hallway and panted at me. And when I finally fell asleep, I slept through my alarm and I am supposed to pick Primo up at 330 and it was already a quarter to four and my poor guy was sitting patiently in the school office waiting for me and I had left the house in such a rush I had no bra on and grotty flip-flops and I hadn’t brushed my hair and I looked like one of those mothers you see on the news who have their children taken away by CYS.
I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I told everybody.
No one even answered. (They only wanted to know what was for snack.)

So then we went home and I made macaroni and cheese for the boys for supper, and tuna macaroni salad and cucumber sambal with Italian bread for H for supper, and all I could even consider eating was another (goddamn) poached egg.
Well, I made one but I still couldn’t eat it.

When H came home, the boys were screaming at each other, and The Baby was covered in mud from the backyard, and the dog wanted a walk, and I was frantically trying to edit a paper I had a deadline on. I didn’t even come close to finishing, and H clearly had second thoughts about having come home at all.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Seg wanted his Magnemite Poekmon card and I couldn’t find his Magnemite Pokemon card.

It was bath night, and I hate bath night.

The lights were too bright, the boy were too loud, the air conditioner was making an ominous rattling sound, and Seg made me read a Pokemon book for story. I hate Pokemon books.

When I finally went to bed (with my computer and my book), my wireless was out and the cats were chasing each other like lunatics all over the second floor.

Primo came crying into my room because he’s scared of tsunamis, and wanted me to come sleep with him.

It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

My mom’s gone but I am sure Suse or Lazy Cow would say that some days are like that.

Even in Australia.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

“The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” - GK Chesterton

Yesterday at home, while I was at work, H was searching for the stapler.

Unbeknownst to him, I had organized all my office supplies in a cute little basket that lives on the bottom shelf of a table in my room, so that they would be close to hand when needed. He thought they might be in the drawer of that table, which, to be fair, is where they used to live. But when he opened the drawer, he discovered my deep, dark secret – my chocolate stash.

The lovely and kind Lazy Cow had sent me a bag of peppermint M&Ms, and a mint Aero bar, and various other minty and chocolaty delicacies from Down Under (and some books and a cool postcard, and some neat stickie-notes, the wonderful woman. Thank you, thank you!). Her chocolates were in the drawer, along with a bag of almond M&Ms, a roll of caramel chocolates from IKEA, and a box of chocolate-covered pretzels.

In MY defense, I will say that due to pregnancy hormones or some such crazy thing, my taste for chocolate has waned, and most of these have been in there for at least a week, some longer. The very fact that the pretzels were unopened, and that half a bag remained of an OPEN bag of M&Ms, is not only amazing but in my house, nothing short of miraculous.

Primo happened to be standing close by when H made this gruesome discovery.
According to H, he surveyed the treasure and solemnly said, “Dad, she LIKES chocolate.”


I idly picked up Nick Hornby’s Housekeeping vs. the Dirt this afternoon, and while leafing through it, read an excerpt from Jess Walter’s book Citizen Vince.

I was under the mistaken impression that Walter’s books were YA – maybe because he first came to my attention via Garish and Tweed, and Jess does enjoy her YA lit.
(EXCEPT, I just went and searched Jess’s archives and no where does Jess Walter appear. Huh. Which blogger raved about The Zero? Who was it, ‘fess up...)
Anyhoo – I thoroughly enjoyed this three-page excerpt and promptly requested Citizen Vince from the library. His books are billed as both novels and thrillers, or mysteries. So right up my alley.

In non-thriller land, I am loving the leisurely reading of Ahdaf Soueif’s Map of Love, but I do wish I knew more about late-19th-century British colonialism in Egypt. Fortunately I happen to know an excellent reference librarian...

I am reading, between-times, Susan Cokal’s Mirabilis, which is odd and disturbing but for all that, incredibly engaging. I am trying to figure out just how Bonne the heroine is twisted, or if she will turn out to be very normal. The book so far has a Year of Wonders feel to it: Gina said, when I told her what I was reading, “Oh, you and your Black Plague!”


The school year begins in earnest tomorrow – Primo in school all day, Seg at preschool the full time (three hours), and The Baby and I will commence the cleaning and vacuuming that have been woefully neglected this summer, because H’s wine-tasting club is coming here Wednesday. And it would not be good if they stuck to the furniture.

But first I must go buy them cheese. Lots and lots of delicious cheese. And some crackers and olives and nuts and things. But mostly cheese. The Baby and I embark upon a Cheese Expedition tomorrow morning. And if the cheese store just HAPPENS to stock Kinder Bueno as well...well, no one will be any the wiser.
Especially since I have relocated my chocolate stash. Just between you and me, I have placed it in the Chocolate Protection Program and it is safely hidden once again.
Shhhh...don’t tell anyone...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mirrors on the Celing, and Pink Champagne on Ice

Do you guys know of a comedian* named Rita Rudner? My sister and I had a thing for her years ago, when she was in an HBO special with Ellen Degenerous, Paula Poundstone, and Judy Tanuda called "Women of the Night". One our favorite lines from that show was, "Yes, we can have dinner at my place. What kind of cold cereal interests you?" Another was when she was talking about how expensive movie theater food is, when she mentioned that, "Popcorn costs 13 cents a silo." Maybe you had to be there, but my sister and I still laugh when we say them to each other, nearly 20 years later.

I haven't really thought about Rita Rudner in any other context since then, but it turns out that, among other things (like being a very successful Vegas comedian), she's an author. I just read Turning the Tables, which smiled out at me from among the newer fiction at the library, and I have to say it's quick and funny and definitely worth a read.

The story is set in Vegas (and veers off into Thailand and Australia), and is filled with sex, scandal, plotting, betrayal, and other such fun things that rarely happen to people who aren't fictional. I liked the main character a lot, and I laughed out loud more than once.

It's not great lit-ra-cha or anything, but it's great fun.

*[My first footnote!] I hate the word comedienne, and refuse to use it. I don't care if you're a man or woman--if you get paid to make me laugh, you're a comedian.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle is Dead

I am so, so sad. She was my very first favorite writer. A moment of silence, if you will.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"School days, school days, dear old Golden Rule days..."

Today was the first day both older boys were back at school.

I have laundry to do.
Sheets to buy.
Food to cook.
The dishwasher to empty.
Bananas and dog treats and razors and all manner of other things – including a pencil box and his very own personal box of tissues to take to school for Primo – to shop for at the grocery store.
I need to bake something for us to have around to munch on. Because we all like our desserts.
I have a picture to hang in the bathroom, books to transfer to the bedroom, and tile to pull off the wall in the powder room – although that may wait as we may be ripping it out in the kitchen renovation we just decided on.
I have to call the vet, the boys’ doctor, the ultrasound lab, and the dogsitter.
I have two birthdays coming up for which I must send at least cards, and I totally zoned on my poor nephew’s birthday last month.
I have Terzo’s party to plan, and have to figure out what presents to get him for his second birthday.
I have three packages awaiting a trip to the post office, and a carton of overdue library books to return.
I have more freelance work than I know what to do with – a paper that needs to be edited by tomorrow, references to check, articles to upload, and a database to update.
My kitchen floor is disgusting, and I have cobwebs all over the underside of my staircase.
I am working an extra day this week as I am covering Friday for a coworker.

And so what did Terzo and I do with our first free morning?

We took a long leisurely walk to the coffee shop, where we ate chocolate croissants and I drank a big cup of Irish Breakfast tea, and we kibbutzed with our favorite barista, who made Terzo a big chocolate milk, and then we chatted with all the other regulars, catching up on our summers. Long walk back, throwing pebbles and resting by a tree and dancing on tree stumps and zooming Hot Wheels down driveways.


What a Good Boy, What a Smart Boy, What a Strong Boy

Things I like about my kid:

- While reading over something he'd written for homework last night, he said aloud to himself, "No. That's such a lame sentence."
- He gave said piece of writing for me to read, and when I broke into a grin and raised a hand for a high-five saying, "Woo! Excellent use of the semi-colon," he confessed that he'd run Word's Spelling & Grammer check before finishing. At least he's honest.
- We haven't finished listening to HP & the Deathly Hallows yet (so very close), but yesterday one of the kids in his class deliberately told him one of the major things from the end. The boy said, "I never say this, but I really felt like punching him." While I'm glad he didn't punch anyone, I'm delighted that he can care so violently about a book.

Man, he's a good kid. :-)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

"Where would we be without our painful childhoods?" - Dr Finch, "Running with Scissors"

Why did I pick up Running with Scissors? Somebody's reading it – someone in the blogosphere- can’t recall who – and so at work on Saturday, I went downstairs and picked up a copy and took it home.
Dudes – it’s WILDLY entertaining.
Every single time you think it can’t possibly get more outrageous – it does.
It’s twisted and odd and downright insane, but hilarious.
And I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone believed this was true.
I am sure parts of it are; I am sure much of this stuff happened in some form.
But did Burroughs colorfully embellish and detail and embroider? Oh yeah.
He does it so well, I don’t even care, though.
It’s the most entertaining book I have read in a very long time.

At the other end of the spectrum, I began The Map of Love.
It’s gorgeous – dense, fractured prose; emotionally tormented and heartbroken characters; cross-cultural love affairs, all wrapped up in Middle Eastern mystique.
It’s not the sort of book you sit down with for ten minutes at a clip though – its reading requires some work, some serious concentration. I look forward to next having a chunk of time to keep going with it.

But it won’t be tomorrow. Tomorrow I have to bake a pineapple walnut cake and then take said cake to a Labor Day picnic at which fifty people – almost half of them children – are expected. I am looking forward to the gathering but relaxing it will NOT be. Just keeping The Baby out of the fish pond ought to be an adventure.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

"In a black and far off corner of my mind, there's a box of something I can't quite define..." - "Cigarette," by The Clarks

Just finished Anne Tyler’s Digging to America on my lunch hour. A very enjoyable book. Fans of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf should like this. The cover blurb makes it sound as if it’s about the adoption of two little Korean girls, and while that is the catalyst for the story, it’s really about Maryam, the Iranian-American adoptive grandmother of one of the two orphans. Maryam came to the United States as a young bride, and many decades on, she still feels like an outsider. Her search for and journey to belonging forms the crux of the story; she is a strong and complex character whom I liked very much. Sometimes Tyler can be a bit wishy-washy for me, but this was a well-crafted novel that I hated to see end.


John Connolly’s Book of Lost Things spawned a flurry of emails between me and dear Suse, who apparently is as intrigued by fairy tales as I am; as many readers are, I think. My list of additional reading if you liked Book of Lost Things, in one place rather than sixteen different emails, for your perusal:

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales – Bruno Bettelheim. Part of the canon.

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales - edited by Kate Bernheimer; also Bernheimer’s forthcoming (October 2007) Brothers and Beasts: An Anthology of Men on Fairy Tales.

AS Byatt’s Little Black Book of Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, and Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice. Byatt in her usual brilliant, lush, and enigmatic form.

Blood Red, Snow White by Ellen Datlow. Datlow has several anthologies, but this is the only one I have read. Entertaining enough.

The Outspoken Princess and the Gentle Knight - edited by Jack Zipes. Fun twists on old tales. Worth reading for Patricia Coombs’ "Molly Mullet" alone. Primo has made me read him this particular story so many times I could probably recite it verbatim.

Although I admit to abusing my professional status and searching scholarly databases for interesting articles to read, honestly, the best resource I have found, one that provided hours of fun, was this one: Sur La Lune Fairy Tales.


I am trying to like The Last Witchfinder but it’s just a wee bit precious for me. Badger suggests maybe sticking with it till the protagonist gets to America; I may try that. Or I may pick up my copy of Susann Cokal’s Mirabilis at the library and read that instead. Hmmm...witches, wet nurses, witches, wet nurses...


In other news: the dog is still here. He sleeps outside or in his crate at night now. So far, so good. I don’t mind picking up dog poop OUTSIDE.

I am in my sixteenth week and heartily sick of being sick. Excedrin and regular daily doses of Coca Cola (both okayed by my OB) have stemmed the migraines, but the nausea continues unabated. In fact, it grows worse. I don’t want to eat ANYTHING right now. It is at this point in my previous pregnancies that I wound up in the hospital, dehydrated and dizzy. I am hoping to avoid that this time.

I sat down with the official refrigerator family calendar this morning and finally filled in everything for the month of September. September is looking KEE-RAZY. I am exhausted already. In fact, I could really use a nap...