Saturday, August 30, 2008

"I sincerely miss those heavy metal bands, I used to go see on the landing in the summer."*


The pool closes this weekend. And the temps go up to 85+ on Wednesday. Of course.

Reading Maisie Dobbs (still), Laura Lippman (still), and Cynthia Kaplan, who I may be just the eensiest bit in love with. Her essays ring so true (the one about her grandma with Alzheimer's is pure genius).

Following political stuff pretty closely right now, and am so proud of Obama. I think he is going to win, and I think that his presidency will be historic in more ways than just the one that gets touted in the mass media.

Wanting coconut ice cream. And a few consecutive hours to read and think and write. And maybe some Chex Mix. Also, a few limes (which I also forgot at the grocery store) to try my hand at mojitos.

Spent the day yesterday sorting game and puzzle pieces and putting them away in the new closet storage system (read: milk crates), moving books onto the boys' new bookshelves and culling the collection, washing, sorting, and putting away laundry, finding uniform pants and shirts, scrubbing the brick and mortar dust off the porch and porch furniture, calling the shrub removal guy/the water department/the plumber, all the household tasks that little sick guys who want to be held have prevented me from doing the past week.

Could I be any more boring? It's been much the same here on this blog for several weeks and I apologize. Sick starting...Labor Day festivities (ha! I was smart enough to decide against the giant party here, sometimes I am not as dumb as I think)...migraine...check back in another week. The babysitter will be here on a regular basis, two of the four will be in school all day, I will have active clients again, my brain may begin to function on other than a reptile level again, and I might be more interesting. Don't worry, it's all fine, just not a lot of brainpower or time...have a lovely, long weekend.

*Wilco. But of course.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Tweedly dee..."*

I totally forgot my little brother's birthday. By DAYS. I am a rotten sister.

Two of my four little guys have fevers, and one of the other two has a weird rash, completely putting the kibosh on all those "Last week of summer" fun plans, or even just a jaunt to the duck pond or pool. This SUCKS. (Seriously, they all look awful and sick enough that I don't even want to drag them to the grocery store, but man, I need some limes. Mama needs her mojitos, yo.)

We had dinner guests Sunday evening. I threw together a meal - tomato tart, Italian bread, steamed yellow squash, a cold roast chicken, and a big dish of homemade aioli. There were no vampires getting near any of us that night. Well, except the boys who saw fit to drown their chicken in ketchup rather than garlic. What does ketchup keep away, werewolves?

I made a batch of lemon curd, folded in stiff whipped cream, and piled it into a butter-and-amaretti-cookie crust. That was dessert. YUM.

I have been conversing with the inimitable Joke regarding cocktail shakers, and have adopted the procurement of a Boston shaker as my thrift shop goal of the moment. (In the meantime, I am mixing my Bacardi cocktails using a Sam Adams pint glass and a giant plastic McDonald's cup - I ooze class, I know.) Lately I have been thrifting lotsa books, some neat old linens (and a set of superhero sheets), baking ramekins, a pair of pretty pewter lamps, and some terrific skirts. I even discovered a new thrift shop on the other side of the river, while on the hunt for a breakfast place. I found the breakfast place, too, and had a delicious plate of eggs over easy, home fries, and toasted ciabatta. Plus lashings of hot, fresh coffee. Heaven.

I started the newest Maisie Dobbs while guzzling lovely coffee - it is just like all the other Maisie Dobbs books, that is, comforting and charmingly archaic and NICE.

I am also reading another Tess Monaghan mystery, The Sugar House. I whizzed through The Lace Reader; all you guys who like Amanda Eyre Ward and Joshilyn Jackson might enjoy this. I think The Gargoyle is going back until a later time, I just don't seem to have the brainpower for this right now. I really enjoyed Jincy Willett's The Writing Class; clever and funny. I have a few review copies of a few books floating around to tackle next, so keep your eye peeled for those reviews...

School starts Thursday; kindergarten the Thursday after. THANK GOD.

That's it, my 'nettie friends. Not a whole lotta shaking going on at all.

Oh, but I am busy being inspired by this post; I ran Sunday, did yoga this morning and weight training after, and have runs planned for the next two days. My goal is the Turkey Trot Thanksgiving Day. After that, who knows? I still have yet to complete that half-marathon...although I HAVE been playing lots of TETRIS Marathon on Facebook...

*The Backyardigans, "Tale of the Mighty Knights"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road..."*

Every good adventure begins with – climbing in the minivan and driving to a starting point? Uh, not necessarily, but in this case, yes, yes, we did just that.

The picnic pavilion in a city park that was the TECHNICAL starting point. Primo insisted that we walk the twenty yards to the pavilion to “begin properly.” (And yes, the little pedant actually said just that.)

Then, we had to go under the road, via tunnel. A smelly, graffitied tunnel, in which the boys had a very good time screaming for echo effect.

The fork in the road.

At the big rock, turn left. (I kept saying to myself, because there was no one else there to appreciate my cleverness, “Go that way, really fast...if anything gets in your way, TURN!”)

Find the stonework “bridge.” Strangely enough, it sorta was an ACTUAL bridge. No quotemarks needed. Huh. Funny, that.

Counting paces. I lost count around 90 somewhere, but I winged it and the boys didn’t seem to notice. Given that they were counting, too.

Primo: “Twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven...(continuing to walk) blah blah blah...thirty...(still walking) blah blah blah blahbeddy blah blah....thirty-one, thirty-two...(still walking) blah blah more blah blahblahblah....thirty-three, thirty-four...”
Seg (very quiet and serious, concentrating): “One hundred and two, one hundred and three, one hundred and four, one hundred and stop) Mom? What comes after one hundred and five?”

The tree with branches that look like a 4. I was not convinced, but it was the closest we could find, and it turned out to be correct.

More counting, and a search for a fallen log and a rocky cave. Primo found it, not quite so far as ninety steps, and not quite so rocky OR cavelike as we’d expected. In utter disregard for spiders or snakes, he stuck a skinny hand into the most obvious fallen log and felt around. The rocks were really broken cinderblock, but we coped admirably, as all intrepid explorers do when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. Or something like that.

We checked out earlier signatures and stamps, and the boys finally grasped the significance of my insisting on their bringing their new markers, which have little stamps on the ends. I used green footprints, Primo used black spiders, Seg used turquoise squiggles, Terzo used yellow moons – er, yellow suns, and we stamped the bottom with the pad in the Tupperware, for Quarto and good measure. Then we carefully sealed the whole shebang back up and Primo tucked it back into its hiding spot for the next travellers.

I was forced to discourage further exploration into the woods, as the ravine on one side was a fairly steep and densely wooded downhill, and the other side rose precipitously overhead, and I had the baby in the snugli so was unable to follow offroad. Terzo admired a fuzzy white caterpillar, and a cicada shell, and a giant daddy-long-legs. Sadly, much dog poop was sighted and commented upon. The boys insisted on pulling a Shawn Johnson and treading carefully, if not gracefully, atop the stone quote-bridge-unquote, over a gully full of branches and rocks and an eensy little trickling creek.

And this is where revelation struck. Like a lightbulb switching on, or more like, blowing out.

I spent my suburban eighties childhood running free. My mother pushed us outdoors early every summer morning and we didn’t come back – hell, we weren’t ALLOWED to come back - until it got dark. (I would swear to you that she locked the door behind us but she denied it to her dying day.) We were allowed to ride our bikes as far as we physically could pedal – to the 7-11 for Slurpees, or the corner store for candy and popsicles, or to my friend Stacie’s house to play Atari. We fished in the pond down the road and swam in our little pool in our huge, grassy backyard and built giant cities and intricate buildings in the sandpile. I perfected my sandpie, baked in a carefully constructed giant sand oven and decorated with flowers from my mom’s garden, one long summer when I was eight or so. We built tree forts in the woods at the end of our street and conducted long drawn-out rubberband gun battles from them. In the evenings, while the adults sat on the porches and smoked and talked, we played kick-the-can and Red Rover, Red Rover, and Jailbreak. We were allowed to hide anywhere we liked, except Old Lady Weston’s yard, because she’d sic her dog on you. (Granted, the dog was only a yappy little terrier, but it added an exciting frisson of fear to our night games...) We caught fireflies and climbed trees and played hockey in the street, everyone scrambling for the safety of the curb when a car turned down our cul-de-sac. My mother lamented the lack of grass on the base path we’d worn into her front yard playing wiffleball.

In many ways, my childhood was enchanted. It had fireworks, and trips down the shore, and all the popsicles we could eat. It featured ice cream trucks and endless afternoons playing Barbies in my friend Rosanne’s basement and hot sunny days cheering my All-Star older brother on at the Little League field. I was part of a tribe of children, all running loose and wild and free in the suburban paradise of South Jersey.

And my children? They are growing up in the city. We teach them to ride their bikes and rollerskate and play kickball and hockey in the brick alley. We tramp through the parks and play t-ball at the baseball field and swim in the lovely neighbourhood pool. But they do not, nor will they ever, have the glorious freedom to go where they like, when they like, with whomever they like, all the livelong hot summer days. Their playdates are structured and arranged and, more often than not, chauffeured and chaperoned. Our yard is fenced and I can’t imagine being comfortable with it any other way.

But the boys climb our huge old magnolia tree and I force myself to let them. I let them get stuck and let them yell and let them fall off their bikes or skates, and try to relax. I let them teeter across the stone “bridge” and run ahead around the bend in the path and try to swing themselves across the monkey bars over and over again, without helping, without hovering, without even seemingly paying attention (but I am, oh, I am). Because, in this age of dark panel vans cruising our school zones, and Amber Alerts issued on a daily basis, and entitled drivers disregarding crosswalks and stop signs, my children are having a very different childhood than I had. It is much more structured and sheltered, and while it is still as fun and exciting and unrushed as I can make it, it is not and can’t be the blissfully unfettered, free-range loveliness that my childhood summers were.

Although we did wrap up our adventure with big bowls of ice cream, as is only right and proper.

Some things never change.

*"Time of Your Life," Green Day

Saturday, August 16, 2008

“Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn't illegal.”*

This is Me
[I stole this from Joke, and Suse, and Poppy, and, um, everybody else....]

Eye Color: Blue
Hair Color: Brown with lots of grey
Dyed or Natural: Natural – who has time to maintain color?
Curly or Straight: Stick straight except for a weird wave at the back that ruins the line of every bob I’ve ever had cut
Right- or Left-handed: Right
Tan or Pale: Ghostly pale
Jeans or Khakis: Khakis. Although I prefer skirts.
Country, Rap, or Rock: Rock, I guess
Car: Honda Odyssey minivan – and I LOVE it
Place in order of preference--T.V., book, movie, music: Books, Music, Movies,
Your heritage: Pure eastern European peasant stock
Shoes you're wearing today: None at the moment but Keen Berkeley clogs previously. New and in love…
Your weakness(es): Blue cheese, watching womens’ gymnastics, Terzo saying ‘ice keem’
Your perfect pizza: Pizza Sola’s blanco (thin, crispy crust, lots of garlic)
Favorite color: Grey
Favorite place: My bed
Goal you'd like to achieve: To get back down to a size eight (due to being able to run four miles without dying)
Your most overused phrase(s): I am NOT the maid!
Your thoughts first waking up: Goddamnit.
Your best physical feature(s): My feet and my wrists
Your bedtime: Later than it should be
Your most missed memory: I don’t remember.
Pepsi or Coke: Coke.
McDonald's or Burger King: McDonald’s
Single or group dates: I don’t date
Adidas or Nike: Adidas. I tried New Balance and Nike, but I stick with Adidas now.
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Neither, unless you count the tea bags, in which case, Lipton Cold Brew bags
Chocolate or vanilla: Chocolate
Cappuccino or coffee: Nonfat double-shot latte

Smoke: Not anymore
Cuss: Too much
Have a boyfriend/girlfriend: Not anymore
Take a shower: Occasionally.
Have a crush(es): Yep.
Think you've been in love: Yeah, pretty sure.
Want to get married: Never again
Believe in yourself: I guess so.
Believe in God: I guess so.
Believe in your government: No
Get motion sickness: Yes. One of my abiding regrets is that I cannot read in a moving vehicle, thereby wasting lots of prime reading time
Think you're attractive: If I weren’t so fat…
Think you're a health freak: No
Get along with your parents: It’s hard to NOT get along with a dead person, you know?
Like thunderstorms: Yes

Drank alcohol: Hells, yeah!
Gone on a date: Yes.
Gone to the mall: God, yes, for the stupid family portrait my SILs insist upon
Been on stage: No, I don’t do stages
Eaten an entire box of Oreos: No
Eaten sushi: Yes
Been dumped: Uh, no
Gone skating: Rollerblading, yes. I save ice skating for winter.
Gone skinny dipping: No
Stolen anything: No. Unless you count this meme

Played a game that required removal of clothing: Hasn’t everyone?
Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: I try not to think about it.
Been caught "doing something": I am too tired to “do anything”
Been called a tease: He’s too tired to call me a tease
Gotten beaten up: Only if you count my three-year-old kicking the crap out of me while trying to climb me like a tree
Age you hope to be married: I am married. Thank you.
Number of children you'd like: Four is enough for anyone.
Describe your dream wedding: Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
What do you want to be when you grow up: A grown-up

Best eye color?: Doesn’t matter
Best hair color?: Dark
Short or long hair: Clean
Height: Tall tall TALL. The taller, the better. I love long, lanky guys.
Best first date location: Just a normal restaurant will do. I hate cutesy first dates.
Best first kiss location: Lips?

Number of people I could trust with my life: 1
Number of CDs: Don’t know. Lots, but most are H’s.
Number of piercings: Active: Four, two in each ear. I let the third hole in my left ear close up.
Number of tattoos: None and doesn’t that make me cool?
Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper: A few, I am an unrepentant letter-to-the-editor writer
Number of scars on my body: Three, I think


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Whatever is here, is found elsewhere. But what is not here, is nowhere else.*

I am NOT dead. I am not even crazy. The week went remarkably well, helped along by many friends, planning of activities to wear the boys out, and copious amounts of alcohol (for me). My babysitter returned (although this prompted new issues which are a story for another post).

We had a pizza party, went to the pool, took in a jazz concert in the park (complete with a planned kids’ scavenger hunt), had the grandparents over for dinner and cards, enjoyed a trip with a group of friends to Idlewild Amusement Park, watched movies, and generally just treated the week like a little vacation.

Did I have time to read or run or write blog posts? I did NOT. So now that I’ve given the activity roundup, here’s the book roundup:

Library books sitting in a pile waiting to be read:
People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks. I am almost done this and enjoyed it immensely, although I agree with Suse’s thoughts about the protagonist. I will definitely reread it, to more fully appreciate the back story now that I have absorbed all the plot twists.

Whatever Makes You Happy - William Sutcliffe. Gina read it. And liked it well enough.

An Incomplete Revenge - Jacqueline Winspear. I really like the Maisie Dobbs series, and I do want to buy this (but in paperback so it matches my other ones –I’m a weirdo, I know. No need to tell me) but I don’t want to wait that long to actually read it.

Good-bye and Amen - Beth Gutcheon. I am a huge Gutcheon fan, although this is a sequel to one of her weaker novels, Leeway Cottage.

The Palace of Illusions - Chitra Lekha Banerjee Divakaruni. There’s a good chance I won’t get to this one. I like Divakaruni’s books in theory, but seldom are they as enjoyable as I think they will be. This is a retelling of the Mahabarata, and I am just not that compelled. And yet I checked it out and brought it home. It’s a sickness, I tell you.

The Writing Class - Jincy Willett. I think Willett is a funny and talented writer, and yet I always seem to forget that. I am looking forward to this one.

City of Thieves - David Benioff. A recommendation from my Shalom-Auslander-loving librarian.

Leave the Building Quickly - Cynthia Kaplan. I think I like Kaplan. I know I’ve read her other stuff. I’ll let you know...

The Plague of Doves - Louise Erdrich. Recommended by one of my latest crushes, Lauren Groff, of Monsters of Templeton fame...I’ve never read any Erdrich and her books look interesting. In fact, I just picked up The Master Butcher’s Singing Club for fifty cents at the library sale...

Don't You Forget About Me - Jancee Dunn. Dunn’s But Enough About Me: How a Small-Town Girl Went from Shag Carpet to the Red Carpet felt like a nostalgic trip back to my 1980s Jersey roots (like the ones I teased into that wall o’ bangs look). I am halfway through and this is very much the same feel. Funny and sweet and light. Even if MY mother never sprung for TWO Swatches...

The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson. This book is suddenly EVERYWHERE, and while it looks decidedly odd, I thought I’d give it a shot.

In Big Trouble - Laura Lippman. The next Tess Monaghan.

Nice Big American Baby - Judy Budnitz. I thought I'd check out the rest of her stuff after the weird but compelling story "Miracle." But I couldn't get engrossed. Oh well, maybe another time. This might be one to buy so I can pick it up and put it down when I like...her writing is indeed wonderful, if mightily odd.

Books I picked up at Goodwill, all for a total of less than ten dollars:

A Taxonomy of Barnacles - Galt Niederhoffer. I liked the title? I feel like I have read this before, but I can‘t quite recall.

A Voyage for Madmen - Peter Nichols. You are all aware, I believe, of my bizarre penchant for accounts of exploits I myself would never attempt – climbing Mount Everest, canoeing the Amazon, living in the Antarctic to study penguins for six months. Yet another...singlehandedly circumnavigating the globe in a yacht. Yeah. I’ll never do it – I don’t even want to do it. But I’ll sure get a kick out of reading about it.

Heartburn - Nora Ephron. In hardback. A nice addition to my foodie books and novels.

An America Childhood - Annie Dillard. Everyone tells me that since I live in Pittsburgh, this is a must-read.

Family Happiness - Laurie Colwin. A nice trade paperback edition. The one I have is a little grungy mass market paperback; and we’ve already established that I like my books to match...

The Virgin Blue - Tracy Chevalier. I liked Girl with a Pearl Earring well enough, I guess, and Suse likes this book. And I love Suse. So I am going to read it.

Goblin Market and other poems - Christina Rossetti. I first became aware of Christina Rossetti due to Ellen Raskin’s The Tattooed Potato, which I loved even more than The Westing Game if that’s possible. And then for some reason relatively recently, I listened to a reading of “The Goblin Market” and oh boy, is it creepy. This is one of those adorable little Dover Thrift editions.

In the Land of White Death: An epic story of survival in the Siberian Arctic - Valerian Albanov. See above.

Plus a bunch of kids’ books for Primo – Junior Illustrated Classics of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, some random Encyclopedia Browns and and Animorph novelizations – anything to keep him semi-occupied in the two weeks before school begins again. Oh, and The Jolly Christmas Postman in pristine condition, to add to the Christmas basket of seasonal tales.

I’ve been reading:

People of the Book

Don’t You Forget About Me

The Condition. I finally finished this. I liked it but I feel as if the title and the plot description is misleading. The book is only peripherally about a character’s medical issues and how they affect all members of her family; and that’s ok, because it is a detailed, insightful, and nicely written exploration of the dynamic of a fairly typical American family. But the title should have been different. Nitpicky. I know.

Otherwise, I have been keeping the boys from killing each other, dealing with the brickpointers (my entire house, inside and out, despite my best efforts, is covered with a fine layer of gritty red dust) and the plumber, and contemplating my next quilting project (inspired by Duvyken).

The summer is almost over, H’s product release date is almost here, and I have emerged mostly unscathed.

Yay, me.

*The Book of the Beginning, The Mahabharata

Sunday, August 03, 2008

"Up to my ears in bitter tears, can't believe I've sunk this low..."

So tonight H left for a week.

For a very important conference for work. At which he will present a project for which he has been responsible. Which will, no exaggeration, change some people's lives drastically for the better, and also improve others' dying days. (So, you know, when you say, Why can't H take a week off? THAT'S why.)

At first he wanted me to go with him, but the conference is in a location fraught with not-good memories for us as a couple. Better he should go alone. Trust me.

He leaves me at home with four boys who are really beginning to be out of control.
At lunch today, at a fairly - shall we say plebian - dining establishment - our children's behavior caused him to rest his head in his hands and sigh deeply. I said, "Shouldn't *I* be the one doing that? Since, you know, you get to LEAVE in three hours." And he looked at me and simply said, "Yes."

He merrily hopped on an airplane and doesn't return for DAYS.

So, on the way home from the airport, we didn't even stop at the house first. I drove directly to the neighborhood park which hosts an outdoor jazz concert every Sunday evening in August. The three older boys made bracelets (Primo made me a huge, ugly beaded anklet with my name on it which I am more than happy to wear). Then they played Twister and beanbag tic-tac-toe, and participated in a scavenger hunt. *I* sat on my butt and listened to live jazz music and sponged limoncello martinis off my friend A and then I lost Terzo (but we knew so many people at the concert, and I found him again rather quickly) so it was time to go home. Where I dropped the baby into his crib, and the three older boys into bed, and poured myself another rather strong cocktail.

It's going to be a very long week.

PS Did I mention my babysitter's mom died, so she won't be coming this week either? I mean, I understand, her MOM died (she WAS 94), but I would've planned this H-less week differently had I the slightest inkling. All I can say is, pray for me.

*"In the Belly of the Whale," The Newsboys