Monday, December 31, 2007

"Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to." *

So we were invited to a NYE party thrown by H’s wine-tasting club buddies – children invited, and perhaps even tolerated, but I know the woman throwing it, and her house? Well, I worry about the kids breaking crap in MY house and we have really nothing important left to break….and when I emailed my babysitter in NOVEMBER and by December 20th had not heard back? I rightly assumed she was unavailable (read: can babysit one or two kids who may or may not be easier than my three, for the same amount of money…) So.

Then I ran into my friend Alice in the grocery store (which is where all our social plans seem to begin, as I picked Alice up at the mall playground originally – two years ago - anyway…) and she invited us over, along with her husband’s brother and his wife and kids, and may be some other child-burdened couples, to hang out and watch movies and eat her delicious food, and then throw the kids in the guest room bed when they got tired and/or cranky…but she emailed me yesterday to tell me that the brother and wife and children had driven home, ill, to Ohio, and her husband and two oldest children were busy expelling the contents of their stomachs out both ends, and so she thought it best to cancel the festive evening. TOTALLY understandable, although if anyone now needs a drink tonight, I am sure it is Alice.


We were invited, sort of impromptu-like, to the house of other Paxson parents, with their two kids, and various other people and THEIR kids, but they are not even starting till nine or so, AND I have no intention of allowing any of my children to stay up till midnight, so while it sounded fun (and her husband is a professional chef so the food was bound to be good, AND M and I have very similar taste in books so I could have settled in for a nice chat about what we’re reading), I regretfully declined.

I offered to throw a little shindig of our own, off the cuff, as it were, but H fixed me with a beady eye and asked, “Are you INSANE?” or something along those lines. AND JUST NOW I discovered – H is going over to his friend F’s, to play guitars and drink lots. Sigh.

SO. The two older boys and I have just returned from ice skating and the library, and H and Terzo just returned from a nice brisk walk (why didn’t they take the dog? Hmmm?), and I will go throw some chicken and potatoes in the oven, and we will eat dinner and maybe I’ll let the boys watch a DVD or something, and I will put my children to bed as early as possible. And I suppose I will stay home and lie on the couch and read.

Because tomorrow? Pens play at one, and Grandma’s NY Day dinner at four, and then my children will go to bed early because Wednesday? Everyone returns to school and work. A moment for which I have been longing since about, oh, December 22.



* Bill Vaughn

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"By far the most common craving of pregnant women is not to be pregnant." *

We have been painting the room that was the office and will be the boys' room, you know, the one with the cable modem and the wireless router in it, which have been unplugged for three days now. I am a very fast and good painter, but alas, *I* am pregnant and not permitted to paint. So H has undertaken the ordeal and it will look lovely but sweet Jesus, I could do three rooms in the time it takes him to do one.

How many of you thought I'd gone into labor?
Yeah, well, I have been contracting all over the place, so it wouldn't have surprised me either...I am at thirty-four weeks, so anything is possible now. And now that Christmas is survived, I don't care when it happens. Especially if it means the god-awful heartburn goes away. I was wondering if traipsing through the damn zoo lights display tonight with the boys would trigger something, but alas, no, other than some whining (on their part, mostly).

I've been mostly doing laundry and cooking nonstop. I am sick UNTO DEATH of both feeding and clothing my family.

I escaped for an hour or so this afternoon to the bookstore, where I bought Haven Kimmel's She Got Up Off the Couch because I cruised through her enjoyable The Used World last week and decided I need to give her more of my money...well, actually, more of H's money, since he gave me a VERY generous B&N gift card for Christmas (along with some smelly (nice-smelly) lotions and stuff from Bath & Body Works, and a very pretty necklace). (I gave him two ties and a George Carlin book - such inequity. It's a wonder he stays married to me. It's probably just because he keeps knocking me up.)

In other news I am reading (still) Terra Incognita, and Jennifer Neisslein's Practically Perfect in Every Way, which is pretty entertaining. I also started R8chard Russo's Bridge of Sighs, so far, so good, but not blowing me away (not that Russo writes blow-you-away sorts of books...)

So that's it. Once the room is finished, we move all the furniture out of their current bedroom and into that one, and then all the crap out of MY bedroom into what will be the office. And I will be happy once again. Connected and happy.

More later, then....

*Phyllis Diller

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"The others were all brought up to be polite. I wasn't." *

You know, when we moved into this house, I thought, with its solid, double-brick-walled construction and metal-lath plaster walls, that I would not be able to hear anything between floors.

I thought that were I in the kitchen, I would not hear the boys screaming at each other in their third-floor playroom. Or if I were in the shower, I wouldn’t hear H practicing the Same. Goddamn. Guitar. Riff. over and over and over again, in the dining room. Alas, I was WRONG. Due either to the layout of the house, or the lack of insulation, or perhaps both, I can hear EVERYTHING -- EVERYWHERE.

Except, marginally, in the basement, which is where I hide, ostensibly doing laundry, when I can’t take one more minute of three-thousand-decibel level noise. Or the whining.

But Santa obligingly brought Primo a REAL, junior-size drum kit. (I know I am a fucking moron, you don't need to point that out, thankyouverymuch.) And Primo’s parents realized the most logical place for it to live, to survive the maulings of younger brothers, is IN THE BASEMENT. My sanctuary.

The kid is really talented. Like, blow-your-socks-off talented, for a seven-year-old. And I like music as much as the next person. I even like most of the music THEY like (although I could do without this new Radiohead album, frankly. Thom, darling, you disappoint).

But oh my god, WHO or WHAT did I piss off in a former life, to be condemned to life in a household of hardcore musicians? (And don’t kid yourself, they may be only 4 and 7 (and 44), but they ARE hardcore.)

And then there’s me, as tone-deaf and rhythm-less as they come.
And with serious sensory-overload issues.

Why am I being punished like this? Was I a slaveholder? The tyrannical dictator of an oppressed nation? An amoral prostitute without the heart of gold? A greedy, consuming despot’s wife with nary a care for her poor countrymen?

Whatever it is, I am SO SORRY.
I didn’t mean ANY of it.
I’ll NEVER do it again, whatever IT is.

Or have Santa bring me some heavy-duty industrial earplugs.


*Thom Yorke, Radiohead

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Give peace, O Lord, in all the world, for only in thee can we live in safety." *

Somewhat like giving a donation to buy a goat for an impoverished family in Africa or a water buffalo to a Filipino family (instead of yet another pair of gloves to Grandma or the new John Grisham novel to Uncle Max (Kidding! I have never in my life - nor do I intend to start now - given a John Grisham novel to anyone), this year I give all of you an intangible (and admittedly, not really-real-at-all) Christmas gift: peace.

Perhaps more accurately, I should term it a WISH for peace.

Peace in all the parts of the world in conflict: Iraq, Afghanistan, the Darfur region of Sudan, Burma, Pakistan, Somalia, Colombia…sadly, the list can go on and on.

And that doesn’t even include the need for peace in my own country; the need for peace and love and tolerance, instead of fear and hatred and violence against those different and poor and disenfranchised and in need of a helping hand.

I could go on and on, with a laundry list of values and attributes we all need to develop and demonstrate every day, in hopes of making at least our little part of the world a better place, but instead I leave you with a wish for a wonderful Christmas, and St Francis’s wise words which inspire me every day to at least TRY to be a better person:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Merry Christmas, and peace to you all, my dear Internet friends.


* Book of Common Prayer, The Episcopal Church

Friday, December 21, 2007

"What about Santa's cookies? I suppose parents eat those too? " *

Fudge, Glorious Fudge

3 cups sugar
¾ cup butter
2/3 cup undiluted evaporated milk
12-oz package semisweet chocolate chips
1 7-oz jar marshmallow crème
1 tsp vanilla

In 2-qt saucepan, combine sugar, milk, and butter. Heat over medium heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
Take pan off heat.
Add chocolate chips and stir till smooth.
Beat in vanilla and marshmallow crème.
Spread in greased 9x13 pan.
Let cool completely before cutting.

Makes 3 pounds.

I myself am not a huge fudge fan (if I were, I would be....get it?), but this fudge is exceptionally rich and creamy. If I eat fudge, this is the fudge I eat. And a pound of homemade fudge makes a nice gift for the chocoholic on your list, packaged up in a cute little Santa bucket from Big Lots...

Now, these biscotti, on the other hand?
I could eat an entire batch myself (and they are not even my favorite, I like my almond ones even better.) But the anise ones are H's favorites. And I figure if you have to pay anywhere from $1.25 to $2.00 for one biscotti (biscotte? biscotto?) at the local coffee shop or your Starbucks, then a dozen homemade biscotti wrapped up in parchment, tied with jute twine, and stuck with some holly or evergreen - nice enough teacher gift, yes? I mean, really, what teacher needs one more candle or mug or tree ornament or bottle of hand lotion? If I were a teacher (God forbid), I would like baked goods. You can eat them yourself, or feed them to other people, or whatever.

Anise biscotti

½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 TBSP Sambuca or some sort of anise liqueur
1 TBSP anise/fennel seeds
2 cups plus 2 TBSP flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup slivered almonds, chopped up just a bit

Mix 1 TBSP liqueur with anise seeds.
Microwave on high for 10-15 seconds, or put in 325 oven for about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in mixer until fluffy and light.
Add eggs one at a time.
Add seed/liqueur mixture and remaining TBSP of liqueur.

In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
Slowly add to egg/butter mixture, mixing just till combined.
Mix almonds in by hand.

Divide dough in half.
On a parchment-covered cookie sheet, form two logs, approximately 12 inches long, ½ inch high, and 2 inches wide. (This fluctuates, just do the best you can.)
Smooth with a spatula dipped in cold water, to make as even as possible.

Bake in preheated 325 oven for 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove logs from baking sheet (just slide the parchment over) and cool on rack for 5 minutes. Transfer each log to cutting board. Slice with sharp knife, on a 45-degree angle, into ½-inch slices. Line up on a cookie sheet and return to oven for 10 more minutes.

Cool on rack.

Recipe says this makes 3-1/2 to 4 dozen, but I have never gotten more than 3 dozen.


* Buddy (Will Ferrell), in "Elf"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash..." *

I baked a batch of anise biscotti this morning, wrapped a dozen in parchment, tied it with twine, and stuck a few sprigs of holly berries from my neighbor's bush in the knot - very festive. One teacher gift down (Seg's preschool), and only three of Primo's teachers (more biscotti), the mailman and the baby sitter (fudge), and the coffee shop (probably fudge as bringing them biscotti is like bringing coals to Newcastle...), to go.


I promised the boys I would put the lights on the tree today so we could decorate tonight. H brought home an adorable, chubby little, short little tree - the Janeane Garofalo of Christmas trees. I generally prefer Kate Winslet trees - bountiful and healthy and slightly taller. (You can keep your skinny little vacuous Uma Thurman trees - not interested here.) But Janeane smells wonderful.


I sent out my Christmas cards this morning - via email. If you didn't get one and want one, shoot me an email and I'll do what I can.


I am almost finished pulling up the carpet in the office. The floor under is completely trashed, so it's a good thing we didn't harbor visions of gleaming hardwood. I have a couple of area rugs we'll throw in there, and the bunk beds should cover the worst spots. Because it would suck to have to make the boys wear shoes in their own bedroom...


The funniest Christmas card I have ever received was from my high school boyfriend. On the front was a typical cartoony drawing of a man in a nightcap leaning out the window looking for Santa and the reindeer, captioned: "Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash..."
Inside was written, "I probably shouldn't have eaten so much sash."

Juvenile, I know, but it STILL makes me smile.


You know that line in "The Night Before Christmas" about settling in for a long winter's nap? I am about ready for mine.


* "The Night Before Christmas," by Clement Clark Moore

Monday, December 17, 2007

"On days when warmth is the most important need of the human heart, the kitchen is the place you can find it." *

Rice pudding is, to my mind, utter comfort food. I love it, and I love it so much that I make it even though no one else in my family will touch the stuff. More for me, is what I say! But it has to be my mom's rice pudding - the gelatinous crap from the deli case is NOT real rice pudding. It has to be my mom's eggy, custardy, nutmeggy, warm, comforting bowl of pure nostalgia. Yum.

My mom's rice pudding

3/4 cup uncooked rice
3 cups boiling water
2 TBSP butter
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups milk, scalded
1/2 cup raisins
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Bring water to a boil in large saucepan, then add rice, butter, and salt. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
Add scalded milk and raisins, simmer over low heat another 15 minutes.
Beat eggs up with sugar and vanilla.
Scoop some of the hot milk mixture into the eggs and mix together, then slowly add the egg mixture to the hot milk and rice, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
Pour into serving bowl and sprinkle generously with nutmeg.

This is delicious warm, but I often eat big bowls of it, cold, for breakfast.

Because, you know, it's GOOD for you - all that milk and eggs and rice.
Or at least no worse for you than peanut butter toast or bowls of Puffins.
At least that's what I tell myself (also what I tell myself before eating leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast...)


* EB White

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"O Lord, our God, arise, Scatter thine enemies, And make them fall..." *

When I was a younger teenager, I read this book to death. It was so funny and REAL, and I desperately wanted to be friends with Meg and her family, if not just like them. I read it so many times, my copy was in tatters.

The sequel, White House Autumn, was just as good, and developed the characters of Meg and her family further by exploring what it would be like to have your mother become the first woman President of the United States, and then having to cope with Presidential things like inaugural balls, State of the Union speeches, Secret Service agents, and oh, yes, assassination attempts.

I was worried that the third book, Long Live the Queen, could not possibly stand up to the other two. It was much darker (Meg is kidnapped by terrorists), but Meg’s indomitable, wry sense of humor shone through. She rises above her own expectations and proves to be brave, determined, and resourceful. In other words, even MORE likeable. It was suspenseful and harrowing, but also ridiculously funny, smart, and insightful.

I read some of Ellen Emerson White’s other books, and while they were good, none of them captured my heart and soul the way the Meg books did. (Although a character in the latest apparently features in a previous book, which I must go back and read now.) Meg was just so COOL, and I wanted to be her friend. I wanted her to like me. Can you really give a higher compliment to a YA novel’s protagonist?

Today, just before [media frenzy] THE SNOWSTORM OF THE CENTURY[/media frenzy], I braved all the crowds stocking up on toilet paper and milk, and went to B&N with several coupons clutched in my frozen little fingers.

I wanted to buy the First Anti-Coloring Book for my nephew, and some more Christmas books for the boys (Diego Saves Christmas for my little Seg, and Ezra Jack Keats’ Little Drummer Boy for Terzo, my Snowy Day fan). And ever since I had noted a comment about it on someone’s blog, I wanted to buy the fourth in the series of Ellen Emerson White’s Presidential series, the brand-new (well, October) Long May She Reign. The saga of Meg and her family in the White House continues, TWENTY YEARS LATER. My God. What took so damn long?! It’s a thick paperback (with a really boring cover), but I dove in pretty much as soon as I got home, a cheese sandwich and an apple balanced on my stomach, and only stopped to take a brief nap.

Meg is eighteen now, dealing with the aftermath of her horrific hostage experience along with the usual college/becoming-an-adult traumas, and oh, yes, her mother is still Leader of the Free World. The writing is for slightly more mature audiences, and just as funny, if the humor is slightly sharper in tone (which is saying something, as Meg has from the first book been the queen of deadpan sarcasm). I LOVE it and am sure I will reread it over and over again, just as I have the other three volumes. I was up till waaaaaay too late last night reading.

For just a little bit, I am sixteen again – totally in a good way.


* "God Save the Queen"

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Despite years of personal development, she still turned into her mother." *

Right now my two older boys share a room. Terzo has his own room across the hall. All three of them would like to be in the same room, and crazy as that will make an already crazy bedtime, I find it adorable that they want to be together (never mind that we live in a six-bedroom house…and I will stuff all three of my children in one…)

So about a month ago, I started shifting everything out of the big back room that we had been using as our TV room and office, into my bedroom. The TV had been moved, months ago, despite my vociferous opposition, down to the living room (into a nice, enclosed armoire, at least). It seemed silly to use the biggest room for…the computer. Especially since I only ever use my laptop, and almost never in that room. All the books and the computer and the dog crate can just as easily fit into the smaller front room where the boys are sleeping presently.

The back room needs to be painted – it remains a vibrant turquoise from the previous owners, and still sports nasty tan shag carpeting. I was under the delusion for the longest time that I was going to paint it, pregnant belly and all, but I finally came to my senses and decided to get our window-rebuilder-guy to paint it for me. He can’t fit us into until after the first of the year, so we sort of slacked. And then I realized the other night that the absolute mess of piles of books, various pieces of furniture, and odds and ends that don’t go anywhere else, all heaped in my bedroom, was making me nuts.

I was starting to feel like a cross between a bag lady who actually has a home, and my mother, whose house was crammed so full of crap that I took to staying in a hotel when I visited. And I mean true crap – not Antiques Roadshow contenders - piles of junk mail and unopened bills, plastic bags full of twisty-ties, tupperware containers, and more plastic bags, empty egg cartons, rinsed-out jars of all sizes and shapes, every catalog and magazine she had ever received, as well as all the Franklin Mint figurines and dolls and plates she had frittered away money on for years, still in their packing boxes…child of the Depression, coupled with some serious clinical depression, is my layman’s diagnosis.

After taking a month to clear out her house, I learned a valuable lesson, and I am relentless in throwing stuff out. I make weekly trips to the recycling center, have a monthly almost-standing appointment with the Vietnam Vets’ pickup truck, and routinely post stuff on Freecycle.

But when Terzo pushed one of my favorite mugs off the coffee table onto the tile fireplace hearth yesterday, and I picked up the chunks to throw them away, H stopped me: Wasn’t that your dad’s mug?

Yes, it was, and I loved it, but it’s broken.

Well, why don’t you glue it together, and find some use for it even if you can’t drink out of it anymore? he asked.

I looked at him like he was insane. What is the point of a coffee mug if you can’t drink coffee out of it?

Well, except that my dad died when I was seventeen, and I don’t have many things of his, and the mug makes me happy. He worked for RCA for years, and the mug sports the dog-and-gramophone RCA logo, and something about the Trident submarine translator with which RCA was involved, somehow. Maybe in the communication systems? I don’t know. It had a cool squared-off handle, and was shorter but wider than your average coffee mug. It was second in my affections only to my Philadelphia Flyers mug.

But then, of course, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away, and it sits on my kitchen window sill awaiting copious application of Crazy Glue. And now I am off to pull up carpeting in the back bedroom, under the theory that the painter can paint around the boys’ bedroom furniture just as easily as he can paint around the bookcases and dog crate and computer equipment, and so I can get the rest of the piles of STUFF out of my bedroom. So I can sleep at night again, knowing that I dodged at least ONE becoming-my-mother bullet.


*refrigerator magnet, from this site

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"...the fastest college-level reader will read, at best, twice as fast as the slowest college-level reader." *

I feel like I have been reading and reading and reading, but I suppose not really. I have only finished a few books in the past two weeks. Which is odd for me. However…

In no particular order, books I have been reading:

Outside In – Courtney Thorne-Smith. Yes, she of the dazzling white teeth and manly jaw. I was a devotee of “Melrose Place” AND “Ally McBeal.” (I am almost too ashamed to reveal this, but H and I once had a gigantic, screaming, howling (on my part) fight because he FORGOT TO TAPE ALLY MCBEAL FOR ME WHILE I WAS AT WORK. I know. Call the domestic abuse hotline! What can I say, I was a child bride in many regards.) Anyhoo – C T-S has written a novel about – surprise, surprise – a television actress. And you know what? It’s GOOD. Good as in, I stayed up way too late last night because I was really caught up in the story, good. She can actually write. She has an endearingly self-deprecating sense of humor, and a finely tuned sense of the ridiculous. I laughed out loud many times. I liked her sympathetic characters, hated the villains, and enjoyed the story.

Terra Incognita - Sara Wheeler. Entertaining, in a weirdly fragmented personal way, but also chockfull of bits of Antarctic history, biography, exploration, and geography.

Man Walks Into a Room - Nicole Krauss. Remember how much I loved History of Love, once I finally got into it? I love this book, too. Krauss is such an elegant writer. You want to savor each page. It begins with vaguely the same sort of premise as the mind-numbingly dull Echo Maker: man loses his memory…but under Krauss’ deft hand, you begin to understand how the main character begins to view this as a blessing, and you can’t wait to see what he does with his newfound freedom. How many of us haven’t at some point or another thought, “What if I just drove off and became someone else? Left everything behind and started over?’ Well, this book lets you explore that possibility (without having to suffer the brain tumor that afflicts the protagonist). I am not finished it yet, but if it really disappoints in the end, I’ll let you know. Somehow I don’t think I’m in any danger.

Mr Golightley’s Holiday - Salley Vickers. Suse turned me onto Vickers, and I am eternally grateful. Her books are just a little odd, and sort of hippie-dippie metaphysical, but also so true to life, so viscerally empathetic. This one has a twist that the flap copy of my edition totally gave away, so don’t read ANY reviews or the flap copy if you want to read this and get the whole experience. I enjoyed it despite my knowledge of the twist. And now I can say no more.

The Winter Rose - Jennifer Donnelly. Somehow I wound up with a review copy of A Northern Light’s author’s second novel. It’s a big, fat, sprawling epic which I don’t want to put down.

Mommies Who Drink - Brett Paesel. Did I forget to tell you guys about this book? Gina recommended it to me, and it was everything the sadly disappointing Confessions of a Slacker Mom was NOT. Paesel is hilarious, and even though I was never so wild that I snorted cocaine off naked men in the back of limos (I am not sure Paesel was either, honestly), I still could totally relate to her funny, somewhat bittersweet, and honest book about how much your life changes post-child.

Letters from Father Christmas - JRR Tolkien. One of you Aussie types turned me on to this, and I ordered it after last holiday season, so…I just now pulled it out. ‘Tis the season and all…it’s a fun book. The illustrations are amazing and charming and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. I can’t read it when the boys are around, however, since they still believe in Santa (of course) and so I can’t risk Primo reading it.

Books I have purchased:

Terror by Dan Simmons (to add to my always entertaining Ant/Arctic collection), Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett (although I found Autobiography of a Face (the book written by Lucy Grealy, whose complex and at times difficult friendship Patchett discusses in T&B) whiny, self-absorbed, and disappointing), and…I was sure there were more…maybe not. I bought Primo a couple of books for his birthday, so maybe that’s what threw me…oh, and George Carlin’s When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? for H for Christmas (but I am hoping to read it before I give it to him.)

Books I have given up on:

Mr Dixon Disappears - Ian Sansom. I wanted to finish this, but I just found Israel tiresome and pathetic (and not in the endearing way of the first book), and the plot line completely unbelievable, and so I stopped.

Books sitting in the TBR pile:

Restless - William Boyd, and Origin - Diana Abu-Jaber.

And damn that Lazy Cow, now I have to go request some MORE books from the library!


from "The 1,000-Word Dash" by Timothy Noah, Slate magazine

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

" Who-ville, they say, that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day!"

Yesterday was Primo’s seventh birthday. The cupcake party for the family wrapped up almost a week of celebrations: birthday party for friends (skating), family dinner, school treats, and finally the immediate family dinner, presents, and cupcakes yesterday. People, I love Primo but I am thrilled for it all to be over, and today we began tentative Christmas prep.

I pulled out the Christmas books, adding the new ones (a musical Jingle Bells (for Terzo who loves the song) and Grumpy Santa, for me) to the basket; I taped the handprint-Christmas tree and cutout gingerbread men paintings onto our front door, and positioned my soft trees from dear Suse in their tableau on the mantel with the reindeer. There is a cinnamon candle burning on the entryway windowsill. The received Christmas cards reside in their gold and silver sleigh basket next to the answering machine.

H will bring me home a tree sometime in the next week or so, and I will festoon it with unbreakable ornaments. The gorgeous glass balls and intricate crocheted ornaments will remain packed away until, oh, retirement or such time as we do not have three rambunctious boys playing catch in the living room; two crazy cats who have been known to knock over trees; or one clueless dog who might eat something tasty-looking like a silvery, sparkly, spiky snowflake.

I am not sending mailed cards this year. If I have your email, I will be sending e-greetings with photos of children (preferably mine). I tell myself I am saving the environment, but really, I am just lazy.

I have already turned down five invites to various holiday functions: cookie exchanges, potlucks, cocktail parties. I will continue to turn down invites to, oh, anything we don’t care to attend. Crazy idea, hmmmm?

The strands of lights wrapped around the front porch columns will get taped into place as soon as there’s a dry day. The wreath is already hanging in the entryway.

Most of the boys’ presents are bought, and my niece and nephews apparently desire only gift cards, which are easy-peasy AND add to my FuelPerks from the grocery store.

I used to make fifteen different kinds of cookies. But then I also weighed fifteen (or more) additional pounds. This year, it will be a pan of chocolate chip cookies for the boys, a batch or two of anise and almond biscotti for H, a batch of rum balls for my older brother who is coming here for Christmas, and my favorite no-bake oatmeal cookies for me. I confess I have laid in a supply of Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Jo-Jos, which are like peppermint Oreos, but better. I will throw together a few loaves of cranberry walnut bread to have on hand for visitors, and I will probably make a few batches of (delicious but easy) fudge to give to teachers and mail carriers and garbage men, oh my.

Christmas pageant dress rehearsal is this Saturday. Four years of conservatory theatre training stood me in good stead as the costumer – tonight I will festoon the Angel Gabriel’s halo with some silver stars and garland and call the costumes complete. I can’t even tell you how much fun this was. Seriously, the kids are so cute and excited, and most of the costumes consist of draped fabric and lots of shiny gold or silver cord and tinsel. I love the Christmas Eve service at church, with the pageant and the carols and the candles.

So, hey, haul out the holly, ring those silver bells, and, um, cue the boys of the NYPD choir…

Monday, December 10, 2007

But I think that the best reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends!
Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy (not forward) this entire email and paste into a new e-mail that you can send. Change all the answers so that they apply to you.

Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person that sent it to you... 'Tis the Season to be NICE!

Ok, here goes...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper. It's CHEAP. And so am I.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Real. Artificial trees are an abomination in the eyes of the little baby Jesus.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Anytime after Primo's Dec 11 birthday.

4. When do you take the tree down?
Immediately following Orthodox/Ukrainian Christmas, on January 7.

5. Do you like eggnog?
With real cream and raw eggs and lots of rum, sure. But I haven't had the real stuff in forever, and carton eggnog is an abomination in the eyes of the little baby Jesus.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I always got books, and was thrilled to get 'em. Boy, there's a shock, huh?

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yep, my mom gave it to me and H on our first Christmas

8. Hardest person to buy for?
H, hands down.

9. Easiest person to buy for?
My kids.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Nothing leaps out but it must have been something from my MIL who even after fifteen years has not the foggiest idea what sort of person I am.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Used to be devoted to mailed cards, but this year will only mail to people who are not online. I am pretending it's because I am being environmentally conscious but it's really that I am lazy.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. THE REAL ONE. The Jim Carrey one is an abomination in the eyes of the little baby Jesus.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I pick stuff up all year round but really kick in the first week of December (generally when I realize I have not one thing to give Primo for his birthday) for whatever's left to get.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
No. Stupid me.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Cruschchiki. My mom used to buy them in five-gallon buckets from some little old Slavic lady who made them very year for us, and then H's uncle the priest used to bring me a box from his little old Slavic lady in his parish, But I don't get them anymore now. Bummer.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Colored. What can I say, I might as well have grown up in a trailer park.

17.Favorite Christmas song?
The Pogues' Fairytale of New York.
Silver Bells, O Come All Ye Faithful

18. Travel for Christmas or stay home?
Stay home. Dead parents have their advantages.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
No. Isn't Grumpy one?

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Star I made, with the boys' photos on it.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas morning!
What sort of troglodyte do you take me for?!
Plus, people who open presents anytime other than Christmas morning are an abomination in the eyes of the little baby Jesus...

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
All the freaking invitations we get, from people we haven't heard from all year long. I know I sound ungrateful but come on, people. NOW is not the time to add more stress to anyone's schedule.

Also, the way people pile all their Christmas cookies in one tin, so they all taste exactly the same.

23. What I love most about Christmas?
I actually hate Christmas and could happily go to sleep in the beginning of December and not wake up till February. Bah humbug. But with kids, it's definitely gotten more bearable.

Friday, December 07, 2007

"I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!" *

Let’s do some math, shall we? (Because I was first a drama major, and then a post-bacc studying English lit, and then a librarian, so I am not very good at this and could use some input.)

Counting backwards:

February 8, 2008 – My due date (more or less, based upon my best guess, and lazy record-keeping from date of last period (sorry, Joke))

January 21-25, 2008: H’s Very Important Conference in sunny California (at least a six-hour flight, not counting security, check-in, etc., or possible weather delays on this end)

October 10, 2005: Terzo’s due date, for comparison’s sake
September 27, 2005: Terzo’s actual arrival date (almost 2 full weeks early, and after a scant five hours of labor, and thirty minutes pushing, so as you can see H has not a snowball's chance in hell of getting back in time for the actual birth even if I call him the second my water breaks (sorry, Joke).)

2: Number of friends who have graciously and sincerely volunteered to come to the delivery room with me should I go into labor while H is gone (and we all know that’s EXACTLY what will happen, yes?)

1: Number of husbands who may very well be told to just remain in CA for the rest of the conference as I will be in the hospital for a few days anyway (although I suppose someone has to watch the other three...)

To be completely fair and upfront:
Dec 6 or 7, 2000: Primo’s due date (again, more or less, due to faulty recordkeeping and general slackness on my part regarding recording either/both my menstrual cycles and my sex life)
December 11: Actual arrival, after twelve hours of labor and forty minutes pushing

March 23rdish, 2003: Segundo’s due date
April 1, 2003: Arrival date, after about ten hours of labor and fifteen minutes pushing

1: Number of mother-in-laws who will NOT be called until AFTER I have given birth
1: (Realized with great relief) Number of mother-in-laws who will be in Florida from January till March

As I read these stats:
1: Number of BabelBabes totally built for childbearing (good Eastern European peasant stock and all...)

Shame I am not as good at the actual mothering part. Oh well. That’s what therapists are for, right?

For those of you bored with me wittering away about my children (God knows *I* am...), a book post is forthcoming.
But first I get to go away from my children for something like 18 hours, as H has a gig tonight and we have a babysitter overnight. Yay, me! Would it be totally terrible to skip the gig altogether, call room service, and curl up in bed with one of the very good books I am currently reading?


* Prissy, in "Gone with the Wind"

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something BAD." *

I have no idea why there was not a school delay this morning. Or, you know, barring that, how about sending out the random salt truck or snow plow? Nice to see my tax dollars being used for…wait? What ARE they being used for, then? I ask, as I slide through an intersection…

Why are all three of my children obsessed with putting their feet on me? I am NOT an ottoman or a footstool. It makes me INSANE. Not to mention I have cute little toe-shaped bruises all over my rib cage.

I am watching my friend’s dog for her today and both dogs are conveniently lying in front of my entryway door, effectively blocking any drafts. I wonder if I could market this idea, somehow...the dogs are much more attractive, if slightly more work, than one of those bean-filled fabric tubes...

I am currently addicted to Trader Joe’s potato latkes – they come frozen, in a pack of eight, for 2 dollars. You heat them up in the oven, and they are downright yummy. I am having some (um, make that all as I just ate the last one) for lunch, with sour cream. It didn’t occur to me until later last night (duh!) that perhaps they are seasonal...must go stock up, I suppose. Just like their Candy Cane Jo-Jos, which are like peppermint Oreos but better.

Why must I tell my children Every. Single. Morning. what they must do to get out the door? We do the same EXACT thing every morning – dress, eat breakfast, brush teeth, put lunches in backpacks, put on jackets. Do they really need me to run through this litany every single goddamn morning? Must they really be reminded to put on their shoes? Do they really need me to tell them to put on their coats, hats, and gloves, as it is currently snowing and 25 degrees outside, a fact readily observable by looking out the window? (I am talking mostly about my almost-seven and almost-five-year-olds here, not Terzo.) And this morning I reached the point where I thought, if your hands were that cold, you would remember where the hell you left your third pair of mittens THIS week, and I sent them to school with no mittens. And some minor shrieking about how I don’t want to live my life like this either, so why are they making it so difficult, and what did I do to deserve children who never listen to a (horrible, shrieking, shrewish) word I say? (Hmmm, I wonder...also, one of those must be CYS-call-worthy.)


* paraphrased from "Something Good," from The Sound of Music

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

" I don't want a pickle, just want to ride on my motorsickle." *

This meme is sweeping the blogosphere. Ok, not really, but it provides content when I am feeling too lazy to think of actual things I want to say. Cut me a break. I'm PREGNANT. (Although I am ALWAYS lazy...)

What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now?
Soft Soap milk-and-honey. Thank you, Badger. I have never looked back.

Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?
No. It’s December.

What would you change about your living room?
I would like to finish and hang the curtains, and get the gas fireplace functional.

Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty?
Dirty. I just unloaded last night’s clean ones and started loading today’s dirty ones…

What is in your fridge?
Milk, eggs, breads, cold cuts (salami, provolone, American cheese, and cracked pepper turkey breast.) Beer (Guinness and Yuengling). Celery, carrots, apples, leftover Middle Eastern food (mostly baba ghanoush), yogurt, cider, apple juice, and OJ. A doorful of condiments, sesame seeds, salsa, pickles, etc. A thawing hunk o’ beef for stew.

White or wheat bread?
Wholegrain white for the boys, oatnut for me and H, English muffins and bagels for all of us.

What is on top of your refrigerator?
A basket of cereal boxes (you know, full of their cereal).

What color or design is on your shower curtain?
Clear but with prism-y designs on it.

How many plants are in your home?
I have a vase of dried hydrangea on the mantel. That’s it. I have a black thumb when it comes to houseplants.

Is your bed made right now?
Not yet. I am changing sheets, and so am waiting for my favorites to finish drying.

Comet or Soft Scrub?
Soft Scrub, orange scent only.

Is your closet organized?
As organized as I get.

Can you describe your flashlight?
I know we have a real one but I can only ever seem to find the boys’ flashlights, which are shaped like tigers and growl when you click them on.

Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?
Depends on what I am drinking.

Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now?

If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
No garage. No shed. My basement is a wreck.

Curtains or blinds?
Both, or none, depending.

How many pillows do you sleep with?
Three. I want another, but four for one person seems….unnecessarily decadent.

Do you sleep with any lights on at night?
A nightlight in the bathroom. Not that this stops the boys from peeing all over the seat anyway.

How often do you vacuum?
A few times a week.

Standard toothbrush or electric?
Standard upstairs, an old electric in powder room downstairs. I love my electric toothbrush but I was burning through thru batteries too fast.

What color is your toothbrush?
Standard is pink; electric is turquoise and white.

Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch?
Just some black runners so you don’t slip and kill yourself on the wet wood, and a matching mat in front of the door for same purpose.

What is in your oven right now?
Nothing. But lasagna for dinner soon.
And maybe a cake since the Madeira cake I baked Friday is almost all gone already.

Is there anything under your bed?
Some boxes of stuff from the office, since we are shifting the bedrooms. Normally, nothing other than dust bunnies and the cat. Have I mentioned my OCD?

Chore you hate doing the most?
Vacuuming. And carrying the laundry up from the basement.

What retro items are in your home?
Half my furniture is flea market stuff. Plus all my grandmother’s Depression glass.
I like old stuff, and shop at thrift stores and flea markets by choice.

Do you have a separate room that you use as an office?
Yes, although as mentioned previously, we are in the process of shifting rooms so thank god for the laptop…

How many mirrors are in your home?
Um. Hmmm. Eight. But not because I am vain. I just like the pretty, old fashioned frames.

What color are your walls?
Different color every room pretty much.

Do you keep any kind of protection weapons in your home?
Does a baseball bat count? Or the dog?

What does your home smell like right now?
Hot cocoa.

Favorite candle scent?
I don’t really care for scented candles.
I normally buy unscented ones.

What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now?
Gherkins and dill hamburger slices.

What color is your favorite Bible?
Um, this is such a weird question that I am skipping it. Although I do own about half a dozen different Bibles, various translations.

Ever been on your roof?
Yes. Who else do you think scraped, recaulked, and painted all the second floor windows?

Do you own a stereo?
Yes. Several, in varying degrees of functionality, including one turntable the boys use to play H’s old albums.

How many TVs do you have?

How many house phones?

Do you have a housekeeper?
Yes. Me.

What style do you decorate in?
Um, seriously? Anything that will withstand three boys. My house is very…eclectic.

Do you like solid colors in furniture or prints?
Solid. Although the editor in me is dying to pick apart the grammatical incorrectness of this question…

Is there a smoke detector in your home?
Yes, a couple. And they routinely go off when I am baking.

In case of fire, what are the items in your house which you’d grab if you only could make one quick trip?
My children, the cats, and yes, even the dog. The folder of important docs like passports, etc. The photo albums from before I got my digital camera (three or four). My laptop. But then my boys would probably make me put everything down to carry their Pokemon cards and stuffed animals.


* Arlo Guthrie

Monday, December 03, 2007

"I used to do my homework at one end of the kitchen table while [my grandfather] cooked at the other end." *

I just was compelled to clean the accumulated goop of a year out of the grout of my tiled kitchen table with a butter knife.

Either I need to up my Zoloft dose, or I am nesting.


* Vincent Schiavelli

Saturday, December 01, 2007

"Proper names are poetry in the raw. Like all poetry they are untranslatable." *

In case the fourth is a girl, by some odd twist of fate:

Abigail? I know an Abby I dislike, and several I like. Anne. I like Agnes, but only pronounced the French way, which isn’t going to happen here. Antonia (in homage to AS Byatt)? Amy? (I cannot see myself as the mother of an Amy.) Amanda. Wow, I sorta like Amanda.

Bertha? Beth? Britney! Blech.

Clare. “Clare – it’s a fat girl’s name” (I LOVE that movie.) I like Catherine, too, and it has the added appeal of being my grandmother’s name.

Diana? THE girl name in H’s family, for girls of his generation. I think there are six of them.

Eleanor. Ellen (No. Does anyone else remember Ellen Tebbits?) Elizabeth (one of our top choices for a while there.) Elise?

Frances. No. H’s first girlfriend was a Frances. Of course, my first boyfriend was a Francis. And that’s our boy middle name. Shhh, don’t tell.

G. Gloria. Pretty in theory. I used to adore Geraldine, can anyone tell me WHY?

Helen? No, H’s college girlfriend was a Helen. Crazy, neurotic, psychotic wench.

Igraine. Whoo hoo. Isabella? VERY popular these days. Most of the I names seem to be variations on Isabella. Except for Inez.

Jane. Like the name, but H does not. I think he’s right. Jessica is pretty. But I also cannot see myself as the mother of a Jessica. Jennifer? Does anyone name girl babies Jennifer anymore?

Kara. For Rogue Librarian’s sake, absolutely not.

Loretta. Look out, Loretta! Laura/el/en. Letitia. Lucinda (I LOVE, H hates.)

Merle. Mairead. The poor girl would never make it out of kindergarten. Madison, like the rest of the planet (I actually despise this name - forgive me if you named your daughter that, but I think it’s hideous. It’s like naming your kid Detroit. Or Pittsburgh.)

N. There are no decent N names. Think about it. Nancy. Nan. Nellie. Nettie. Nicole. Nothing. I got nothing. My next-door neighbor says Neveah is very popular right now. Yeah, well, so is Taylor and I am not going there either. But since we’re on that train of thought, why not Nivea? Neutragena? Noxzema? I mean, really, why the hell not?

Octavia. I really dig this name, but no, can't use it. For the same reason the CAT, and not one of my boys, is named Septimus.

Petrova, after my favorite character in Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes.

Q. Are there any good Q girl names? The website lists Queen, Quiana, and Quinn. The answer would be NO.

Riley. Reid. They sound like boy names. And Rachel and Rebecca don’t do a whole bunch for me. Too…Biblical. Or something. Which is downright laughable if you know my boys’ real names.

Susan? While I know and love several people named Susan, I don’t actually care for the name. And Sophia got knocked out of the running when it skyrocketed in popularity these past few years (Primo was Sophia, had he been a girl.)

Theodora. Teresa (too religious, although Tess is nice. However, we know a Tess whom I like very much, but too close.)

U. Una? Isn’t there an Una somewhere in children’s lit that I like? Sounds familiar. Maybe in the Anne books?

Valerie. Not.

W. Winnie. Wilhelmina. Wacky.

Xenia. I used to go to church with an old lady named Xenia.

Yvette. Yvonne. Y not?


Girl names are MUCH harder than boy names, there are many many fewer ones that I like.


*WH Auden