Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

A quick post before festivities get underway, to wish one and all a happy, healthy 2009.

Thanks for reading :).

(Festivities = watching The Dark Knight! Woo hoo!)

Monday, December 29, 2008


So we got the family a digital piano this Christmas. We'd been thinking about a piano for a while... at least one of the girls shows strong signs of musical inclination ("talent" might be a bit braggy, but she floors me sometimes).

This morning the Peanut sat down on the bench with a flourish, in her deep rose velvet dress and matching cape, and I said "and now she's going to play you a little something she wrote herself." We went back to what we'd been doing while the Peanut noodled around on the keyboard, playing about six minutes of not-unpleasant nonsense. After she'd finished, she turned to the family and said "that was called Runaway Snail."

I think she's a genius.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yep, this thing's still on.

On the off chance I still have readers, I thought I'd check in:

Hi there.

Things are OK. Looking up a bit, even. I always get in a foul mood before Christmas, and it always lifts eventually. Knowing it goes away doesn't stop it from coming, though. I still think that someday I'd like for my very own Christmas tradition to consist of getting the hell out of town about 15 December, and returning after the New Year. It would be nice to have this few weeks surgically removed from Real Life.

In the meantime, here I am. The Card is sent. We don't subject our loved ones to a dressed-up list of everything we've bought and accomplished over the year (honestly, I'm glad you love your new car or whatever, but doesn't a Christmas letter strike you as a peculiar place for that sort of news?), but we do subject them to a picture of the girls. As luck would have it, most of the people we love in this world live hundreds of miles away, and still more are headed that way. We don't see some of them even annually. Hence, The Christmas Picture of The Offspring. I've taken some great ones over the years, so the bar's set pretty high. And of course the photo card places keep discontinuing the template I like best, resulting in an hours-long online research project involving multiple, overlapping and largely forgotten usernames and passwords (about which rant forthcoming, if I have the energy, which is to say insert your own rant here because I'm probably not going to bother, except to say that I have HAD IT with having to have usernames and passwords for every damn thing I do). It can add up to an ordeal, albeit self-imposed and potentially bizarre to outside observers (thank you Catherine, it did help). This year Mr. S. figured out a very simple (now that it's set up) way to get it done precisely how we like it to be. He's good at that sort of thing. I think I'll keep him. Why he'd keep me, who the hell knows.

I digress.

In the other room, the Peanut is singing, to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb:

I'm grateful for my family, family, famILY
I'm grateful for my family
And for my friends at school.

Must be a preschool Thanksgiving song. Works for me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm trying, really I am.

Another heavy gray day -- basically dark by 4:00 PM, again.

There are so many stupid little things I have to get done; even with no paying day job, I have not much opportunity (or motivation, frankly) to do them.

My calendar is full of one obligatory event after another. Not that any one of these is unpleasant... actually, they're mostly all fun... but they are obligatory, and they are one after another after another.

Sort of a manic treadmill o'fun. Which, you know, isn't.

Christmas cards are rolling in, and instead of delight at the greetings they represent, I feel the weight of obligation to take the Christmas photo and get my own cards ordered, written, addressed, sent.

Merry, merry, fa la la...

... this really, really isn't my favorite time of year.

I'm trying hard not to say out loud that I hate it... but I do.

(Yes, I know the real Meaning of Christmas isn't about any of the stuff that I hate. But since it seems Jesus was actually born in June, I'd happily dump all the crap that has to happen in December.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oooh, look!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is especially gorgeous. I'm not posting it directly because it's not a NASA picture, so the copyright is private. Go see! Of course, that link will be to a different picture tomorrow, so if for some VERY odd reason you don't check this blog daily, go find the APOD for December 12 2008.

Nice, hm?

Tonight's full moon will be lovely too, if we can see it, which seems unlikely because it's been overcast and raining for about six months now. OK, a few days. But still.

The good ole days weren't always good, and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems...

Recently I went to my ophthalmologist for a regular exam. It's a large, busy office, with a dozen different doctors providing everything from basic services like my contact lens prescriptions to LASIK and other surgical procedures. I go there because it's in town, I like the doctor I've been seeing, and, above all, they take my insurance.

Looking around for a place to sit in the expansive but full waiting room, I realized with sudden minor anxiety that I hadn't brought a book. I hate having nothing to read. In the same moment I remembered that though I like this doctor, it's always at least 45 minutes' wait to see him. With a book, the built in reading time is actually a bonus. Without, it can be a frustrating waste of time.

As you'd expect, ophthalmology practices are particularly busy with elderly patients. Every table in the place had multiple copies of the AARP magazine ("world's largest circulation." Really? wow) and precious little else. Sitting at one end of an empty couch, I scanned the room to see what people had in hand. I would've circled a People magazine like a buzzard, but didn’t see one. A gentleman across the room perused something I didn't recognize. I squinted (note to self: mention to eye doc that I am unable to read titles of other people's magazines from across a large waiting room). Aha! Wait that can't be right. Reminisce magazine -- really? Is that a spoof thing -- The Onion for octagenarians? Well no, actually. It's the real deal.

It’s real, and it isn't even one of a kind. The magazine I eventually got my hands on is called Good Old Days ("featuring stories, photos, illustrations of the happy days gone by"). Between its covers lies more sap than I've ever seen in a publication aimed at people over, say, 6. It is childhood tale after childhood tale, black-and-white photographs and deeply rose-colored memories. Pictures and stories of kids sledding on streets ("before 'global warming,' some of those streets stayed snow-covered for days...") and of couples embracing, reunited after World War II. Lots of wistful statements about how much simpler, happier, more loving and better tasting things were, back in the 30s and 40s. All this between advertisements with aggressive taglines such as “HAVING TROUBLE WIPING?”. I'd never seen anything like it, and for a good while, I was hooked. “Every night when Sis and I walked into our bedroom, there it was – a lid of melted skunk grease on top of that old heating stove.” Fascinating.

Eventually a woman and her elderly mother sat down with me. The mother was there for eyelid surgery. She wasn't looking forward to it, she said, but planned to have a nice big muffin in the car on the way home. I told her that sounded delicious, and that I hoped everything would go very well. She said she had some good music to listen to while recovering, and I told her about some books on tape she might like. All very pleasant. Then she leaned in and whispered "my doctor is Japanese, but really she's very good."

Now, this lady was clearly in her 80s, about to undergo surgery and anxious about it, so it wasn't the time or place for "Um, why would being Japanese interfere with her being a very good doctor?" I just agreed that it's great to have a doctor you trust. Then my name was called, and we said good-byes.

The magazine and the conversation both left me with mixed feelings.

Some of the stories in Good Old Days, including a woman’s account of visiting her old childhood home, long abandoned and about to be demolished to make way for a new subdivision, were really touching. Most of them, though, were pure deluded saccharine.

Then here’s this nice lady, bearing up for something scary, then assuming total sympathy in revealing her Good Old Days era prejudice to another white person. It would be less dispiriting if I didn’t hear versions of the same statement so often -- "s/he's [race/ethnicity], but [positive attribute]" -- from people I know much too well to make excuses for.

Good Old Days has a website. On it, a letter from the editor:

The era of the Great Depression and the war years could really teach life lessons to younger folks in these tough economic times of the 21st century. I call it the lesson of Daddy's Belt.

I'm not talking about the times Daddy's belt was applied amply to my well-deserving posterior. I assure you that I learned plenty of life lessons from that use of Daddy's belt, but I'm talking about a more abstract application...

Ah, yes. Beating children was so simple then.

Subdivisions notwithstanding, I think we've come a long way since the good old days, thank you very much.

We have Japanese eye surgeons right here on Cape Cod, for one thing.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

How Dangerous a Driver Are You?

I guess the premise is that you can't be a totally safe driver, but you can be less dangerous than everyone else.

How dangerous of a driver are you?

Created by The Car Connection

I think I scored "above average" instead of "excellent" because I answered honestly the "have you ever driven under the influence" question. Not in the last 20 years or so, but....ever? I'd have to guess, if I'm perfectly honest, that there was one time in my very early 20s when I maybe shouldn't have driven home.

As to speeding... not so much anymore. Before marriage and kids and the overall transformation to Boring Middle-aged Person, I did like to drive pretty fast. Even then, though, I didn't tailgate or weave in and out of lanes or pass people on the right without giving them ample opportunity to move over first. Tailgaters all suck, and the tailgaters who come up close behind you and flash their lights when it's perfectly clear to anyone paying attention that there is absolutely no opportunity to move out of their way -- they suck most of all.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

It's Thursday. What Day Is It? I don't know. (!!!)

This afternoon my four year-old Peanut was sitting in the next room drawing a picture for her daddy and singing "I'm a teeenaaaaager in love." She gets it from Connie Stevens singing "Why Must I Be A Teenager In Love" on The Muppet Show, but she hasn't seen that in a long while, so the tune was coming out rather differently. Better, I think.

She really is unbearably cute sometimes.

Earlier today, I was beyond angry with her, over something really, really dumb: She knows the days of the week. She knows which of the days are her preschool days. This morning I asked her, what day is it? Dunno, she said. I told her: it's Thursday. What days do you have school? Dunno, she said. I reminded her: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

So, do you have preschool today?


What day is today?


I tell her, again.

What days do you have preschool?

Monday, Tuesday...

Wait, do you remember what we just said?


Repeat, repeat, repeat, and despite an inner voice that said let it go, leave her alone, for whatever reason she can't handle this simple thing right now, I just could not. A louder voice said what the FUCK, she KNOWS this, and even if she didn't, I just TOLD HER, and she needs to PAY ATTENTION! And I got really angry. I don't know why this simple, inconsequential thing just set me off. I tell her something, and then two seconds later she's incapable of repeating it back to me? I am probably not getting across how infuriating it was in the moment, but even if I could get it across, there is no reason it should make sense. There's no getting around that my feelings were out of proportion to this stupid interaction we were having.

When I got back from bringing Bean to the bus, Peanut was happily reciting the days of the week with her Daddy, and I apologized for being too mad at her, and we forgot about it. That is, she forgot about it. I'm blogging about it. In any case, all is well.

I take small consolation from the fact that I'm still a better mommy than the one I saw dragging her little girl into the liquor store tonight (wine is 20% off on the first Thursday of the month, dontcha know) so she could get a bottle of vodka. It was 8:30; both of them were in pajamas. I guess there's fucking up, and Fucking Up.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Words and Phrases Forbidden for 2009

In the forehead-slapping, how-could-I-forget department:

6. "maverick"
Never again. Unless in "team of mavericks," used in context of faux nostalgia.

7. "Drill, baby, drill."
It was dumb, baby, dumb, and now it can be done, baby, done.


Words and Phrases Forbidden for 2009

I'm going to think of more, but it's not too soon to get started. What words or phrases should we ditch with the year 2008?

(Granted, some of these should've been banned in 2008 or earlier, but have stuck around like Owen Wilson in You, Me and Dupree.)

1. "threw up in my mouth a little"
or any of its revolting equivalents

2. "baby bump"
This has caused me to bring back the phrase "gag me," which was originally and righteously banned sometime in the late 1980s.

3. "[media, Hollywood, anything] elites"
Oh, please.

4. "purity ball"
Let's ban the phrase, the events, the pretext... the whole creepy concept, shall we?

5. "beeyotch," "biaaatch," &c.
Quit it. Just... quit it.

OK, that's my first five. More to come. Add your own!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rest in peace, Jimmy Damour.

Early yesterday morning, a man was trampled to death by people breaking down the door at the Valley Stream, NY Wal-Mart.

That's right: a young man is dead now, because a crowd of people stomped on his body as it lay between them and Big Savings.

Christmas spirit - yay!

(WTF is inside a Wal-Mart that's worth trampling over someone for? Really, what?)

Wal-Mart called it a "tragic situation," swept up the broken glass and reopened the store at 1:00 PM. Nobody from the company bothered to call the man's family to tell them he'd been killed. His father heard it from a friend, and went to identify the body.

I don't think it's being overdramatic to say there's something evil about that.

Something is very, very wrong with this culture. Buy stuff, buy stuff, buy stuff, buy stuff. Buy cheapest, buy most, buy first.

"Black Friday" has been perverse for a long time already. Now there's a death count.

Oh, but who doesn't love a bargain?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Dinner tonight was quick and simple: whole wheat penne with cherry tomatoes, garlic and spinach in a gorgonzola cream sauce. Both girls ate without complaint. Later, saying goodnight to the Peanut, she got a dreamy look and said "I can't wait for Thanksgiving dinner... of course we won't have tomatoes or spinach with Thanksgiving dinner."

Hm. Actually, Peanut, that can be arranged. Mwahahahaha.

Nah, I wouldn't. Those little onions in cream sauce that her Daddy loves so much -- he is peeling them as I write, and I can smell them from here -- will be surprise enough.
Those little creamed onions some people dig so much.
Photo by Lisa Scanlon, Mr. S's are bound to be similar.

Anyway, I'm not cooking this Thanksgiving. We will be over the river -- that is, several rivers and a honkin' canal -- and through the woods, to spend a couple of days with family in Connecticut. My sister in law pulls off Thanksgiving like it is no big deal, which just amazes me. Even when I enjoy doing it, it always feels like a Big Deal. I admire how she makes it look effortless; truly doesn't stress, and the more family around, the better.

We have much to be thankful for, this year as always. High on the list of Important Things I hope to teach my children is to be grateful -- for family and friends, house and home, good health and good food -- and mindful, too, that so many others don't have these things to be thankful for.

Based on reports back from the Bean, the story of the First Thanksgiving appears to have been kept pretty simple in school, which is fine. Basically, she understands that the Pilgrims came to this land, met the Native Americans, and at first the groups weren't sure about each other but the Indians taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn, and they had a turkey and corn dinner together to celebrate.

In the car tomorrow (captive audience!), we might talk a bit more about what it must have been like. I'll tell her they also ate deer, and ducks, and probably fish; that all of it was cooked over fires, and that people ate with their fingers, sitting on the ground. Oh, and they didn't have pie. Or indoor plumbing.

We'll leave it at that, even though having just read Mayflower, I've had Pilgrims on my mind lately. Says Nathaniel Philbrick:
The First Thanksgiving marked the conclusion of a remarkable year. Eleven months earlier the Pilgrims had arrived at the tip of Cape Cod, fearful and uninformed. They had spent the next month alienating and angering every Native American they happened to come across. By all rights, none of the Pilgrims should have emerged from the first winter alive. Like the French sailors before them, they all might have been either killed or taken captive by the Indians.

That it had worked out differently was a testament not only to the Pilgrims' grit, resolve and faith, but to their ability to take advantage of an extraordinary opportunity. During the winter of 1621, the survival of the English settlement had been in the balance. Massasoit's decision to offer them assistance had saved the Pilgrims' lives in the short term, but there had already been several instances in which the sachem's generosity could all have gone for naught. Placing their faith in God, the Pilgrims might have insisted on a policy of arrogant isolationism. But by becoming an active part of the diplomatic process in southern New England... they had taken charge of their own destiny in the region.
Granted, their destiny included King Philip's War just a few years after this, but hey, it was a good start.

Another thing to be thankful for this year: a change in our government, and hope that some of the world's conflicts might be better managed because of it.

Happy Thanksgiving, all, and safe travels.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Couldn't happen to a nicer person.

If this is true, then I have to do something I don't usually do as a result of someone's having been hurt:


That is all.

While we're on textiles, sort of...

I don't buy towels very often; good ones last a long time. However, with the going out of business sale at Linens & Things, it seemed like time to get the next set. It takes many, many wash/dry cycles to get towels in their best shape. The towels I got a few years ago are at their peak now... they've retained their thickness, but lost that horrid slippery soft feel that new towels all have. Why must this be? What the hell substance are towels treated with to make them soft as blankets, but completely inabsorbent? And why do people like that?

I got two different brands, both 100% cotton, same price range and thickness. Each had that mushy-soft brand new feeling, but one set seems to be shaping up after a wash, while trying to use the other is still like drying your hands on a fleece blanket: ineffective and annoying. Back in the wash they go, until they're tolerable.

I am beginning to understand why people might pinch towels from good hotels. It's not because they don't have money for new towels of their own; it's because new towels take so long to get as awesome as good quality hotel towels that are basically boiled every night and dried without fabric softener.

Soft towels, pffft. If I want a blanket, I'll get a blanket, damnit. I want my towels to DRY ME.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thumbs up, thumbs down, and a question for ya.

Saw the new Bond movie last weekend, and it did not disappoint. The theme music, as feared, is unpleasant (enough with the goddamn wailing already). But the movie rocked, and must be seen again ASAP. I really, really like how they've reinvigorated the Bond character. Go, see. Report back.

On the home screen (that is to say, the home wall... eventually we'll get a screen, and probably kick ourselves for not having done it sooner), we had A History of Violence (2005). Briefly, for the five Americans who haven't yet seen it: A small town family man owns a diner. When bad guys come and try to rob it, he reacts so spectacularly that it makes big news, drawing the attention of mobsters who believe him to be someone he claims he isn't. Trouble ensues.

I know a lot of people really liked this movie. I didn't. Not even a little bit. The performances were either oddly wooden (Viggo Mortensen as Our Hero) or caricatures (Ed Harris and William Hurt as the mobsters). The script was stupid. The sex was gratuitous -- these scenes were really just, ahem, stuck in there, and completely lacked the chemistry they were supposed to be showing. Yeah, we get it, they're connecting -- but how come it doesn't look like they're having any fun? Yeah, we get it, they're conflicted but still attracted -- do we have to watch them pounding it out on the stairs for five freakin' minutes? Yawn. (Can we stipulate that I'm not a prude? I guess you'll have to take my word for it, and/or I'll have to come up with a post of great sex scenes.)

Anyway. The whole thing was predictable and tiresome and, even at 1 hr. 40 min., probably a half hour too long. Better suited to cable.

It did serve one purpose: the friend who recommended it to me and I can reasonably conclude that we usually hate what the other one loves, and ignore each other's recommendations henceforth. We only see each other a couple times a year, but she'll often tell me, essentially, "that book/movie you said six months ago that you loved? was really, really bad!" and I sort of shrug and change the subject, because I can't even remember recommending whatever it was. When I hate something she loved, I usually don't bring it up; I can express opinions pretty strongly sometimes, and don't want to be misinterpreted as insulting her.

When someone tells you a book or movie is a must-read or -see, and you hate it, do you make a point of telling them so? If they do, are you insulted?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Walking the Shores of Cape Cod

Six years ago, when the Bean was new and tiny and I carried her everywhere on my chest, I thought it would be fun if we walked around Cape Cod. Literally. I thought it would be a good idea for me and the babe to hoof it around our fair peninsula's every mile of shoreline. Double distance, because we had to walk back to the car on our every excursion.

Well, maybe it was and maybe it wasn't a good idea, but one thing's for sure: the Bean grew a lot faster than I had opportunity to hike. Over time, we did walk every mile of beach in Sandwich, from the northeast end of the canal out to Sandy Neck in Barnstable. And I looked out at Sandy Neck, a lovely six mile stretch of barrier beach with a parking lot at one end, and I thought, hm. Twelve miles, averaging, say, two miles an hour, is six hours walking - a long time for a baby. I knew I wasn't going to do the whole thing.

My inner purist protested. I sympathize with Appalachian Trail purists, thru-hikers who won't take side trails to cut off even a quarter mile here or there of the AT proper. The compulsion to walk only and exactly along The Path, be it marked in the physical world or just in the mind -- I get that. However, motherhood forces all kinds of compromise, and flexibility is growth, right? Right. It was time to modify the grand plan.

It made more sense to go 'round the Cape walking only as much as we felt like of every reasonably accessible beach, instead of every single inch of shoreline, be it sand or muck, public or private. Walking mucky marshes is unpleasant and potentially dangerous; people do get stuck. We'll stick to sand. Public beach access points can be hard to find along some stretches. I'm not above walking on private beaches in wintertime when nobody's there to care, but I'm not going to sneak through people's yards for the sake of not missing a hundred yards of otherwise inaccessible shoreline.

With our newly flexible guiding principles, we did an incomplete but still long walk down Sandy Neck, and have since walked the north side beaches of the rest of Barnstable, then Yarmouth, Dennis and Brewster. We don't go in summertime because of the crowds, and because I'm too cheap to pay for beach parking. These aren't issues after Labor Day, but soon enough the weather interferes. Sometimes I'll think it's a great day for a beach walk, pack a lunch, get to where we left off, get the girls out of the car, and in approximately 90 seconds they want to go home. (Grrr. Whose children are these?) Needless to say, the goal is now both flexible and long-term. I could easily be in my 60s by the time we reach Monument Beach in Bourne. At least, if I need to be wheeled along after that, there's the paved bike path along the canal that'll bring us back to the Sandwich end, where I started with the baby Bean.

The baby Bean, after one of our walks. Good for a couple hours, but not six.
Salt marsh out the window.

Sometimes when I tell people about this back-burner hobby of mine, they say, "oh, someone did that and wrote a book..." and the small part of me that ever considers writing anything for publication thinks well shit, someone did it already, but another part thinks, hm, maybe he knows how to avoid guard dogs in Osterville -- that could come in handy. So I found the book. It is Walking The Shores of Cape Cod, by Elliott Carr (1997).

Without little ones in tow, and with someone to do car shuttling, Mr. Carr was free to undertake the route of the purist, braving the muck and swimming channels when necessary. (Shoot, his wife even swam across Falmouth Harbor, in the path of incoming vessels. That's just nuts.) The book has a chapter for each segment of his walk, with helpful maps and tips about when to walk (low tide, if possible). He did Thoreau's famous hike along the outer Atlantic beaches -- a trek I imagine we will significantly abbreviate -- and concludes, essentially: eh... don't do this unless you really have to. All that walking on a sloped beach, one leg higher up than the other, eventually gets really uncomfortable.

There's a fine line between "long satisfying hike" and "pointless forced march." In my experience, you don't find the line until you've already committed to completing whichever character-building experience it turns out to be.

Carr's book is more than a hiker's log. He reflects on many of the fundamental problems facing Cape Cod, as he walks areas where they're especially evident. Development and private vs. public interests are common themes. People come here to enjoy the shore, right? Nobody vacations here because the Cape Cod Mall is a unique or wonderful shopping environment, or moves here because Yarmouth has a world-renowned school system. Yet much of our beautiful shoreline is inaccessible or not used to best advantage. Clearly we've lacked planning, where development's concerned. Beach erosion is another issue; even if counter-erosion measures were effective, and there's plenty of evidence that they're not, is this a worthwhile use of public money... particularly to protect private beaches whose owners refuse public access?

Whereas beaches in most coastal states belong to everyone, Massachusetts still operates under a 360 year-old ordinance that allows private ownership of the area between high and low tides (wading in an inch of water at low tide is fair game). Cape Cod has 427 miles of shoreline, two thirds of which are private. Here, as elsewhere, we struggle to balance public good and individual rights. Carr sees this contest manifested on many segments of his walk. His observations are at once sharp and gentle:
I never saw a new house that looked as good as the open space which it replaced. That, in a nutshell, is the Cape's dilemma. Every time another house is built, a seller realizes the value from the land, a buyer is made happy to be the latest to cross the bridge, and a realtor, a banker, a lawyer, and a builder all make a little money. But, another piece of Cape Cod is gone, particularly if the new home is on the shore and the owner chooses to close the beach.
As to guard dogs, I didn't get any practical advice. However, to their almost-amusement, Carr and his wife were physically removed from a Nantucket Sound beach by local police, who arrived in two cruisers, having been summoned by neighborhood security guards in their two cruisers. Nice, huh? I suppose a middle-aged couple taking a walk represents a huge threat to the quality of life of the mansion set. Four cars and flashing lights required, pronto.

I'm almost looking forward to that part, myself. By then the Bean might be a teenager, prone to total embarrassment every time I say or do anything, and there I'll be with my feet wet and a copy of the 1641-1647 Colonial Ordinances in hand. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two and a Half Books

My book groups and I have been reading some interesting stuff.

I can't say enough good about Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower. It is, yes, the story of the Pilgrims' establishment of Plymouth Colony in 1620, and its growth and struggles in the decades that followed -- but this is a story most of us probably don't know very well, obscured as it’s been by centuries of myth and sentimental overlay. I knew that the Pilgrims arrived near wintertime, and had a tough go of it... after reading Mayflower, I'm amazed any of them lived to procreate. I had a general sense that the region's Native populations had a more complicated political structure than the traditional telling of this story has us believe, and it was fascinating to learn those details. And I had a very hazy recollection of King Philip's War from high school American History -- that is to say, I'd heard the words "King Philip's War" before -- but, wow. Now I know. And so should you -- but even though you'll feel all virtuous and wicked smaht afterwards, reading Mayflower isn't like taking medicine. Philbrick has a real gift for telling history through different, compelling points of view. It makes for a richly informative work, and a reading experience like delving into a fat, complicated novel. This is not a book to scan in short bursts, though, so give it a couple hours at a time. It's a fascinating read. Southern New England residents especially will love the maps.

The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany, is an Egyptian novel, a best seller there since its publication in 2002. It’s kind of a soap opera centered on a Cairo building, from the poorest, who crowd its roof, to the aristocrats, businessmen and politicians who occupy its spacious, elegant apartments. If you can keep the characters’ names straight, then this is a book that can be read in short sessions, though you won’t necessarily have to, as it keeps its pace, and it’s not too long. It isn’t an especially well-written novel – he’s no Khaled Hosseini -- though translation may account for some clumsiness of phrase. Still, The Yacoubian Building is engaging, and its characters’ relationships are interesting, if sort of dismal. We follow the coming of age of the doorman’s son and his sweetheart (and learn what different things that means, for a young man and a young woman), the scheming servants of an aging aristocrat, the sexual exploits of the aristocrat and others, the corruption of “elected” officials, and a homosexual romance. Most of these stories have tragic arcs, as if the author is trying to show that life in Cairo causes people to bring out the absolute worst in each other. The novel has a curiously depressing effect that isn’t entirely abated by the happy note on which it ends. I would be very curious to hear if Egyptians find it that way too.

Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation is just terrific -- also, sadly, I’m just not going to finish it. Inspired in part by the intensity of her despair during the Bush administration (almost over! almost over!), the author goes on a mission to find out as much as she can about the people who were unbalanced and dangerous enough to kill Presidents. (“Hello there!” she waves from the pages of her prologue to the FBI agents who will doubtless be assigned to read her book.) Assassination Vacation is the wacky account of her dragging people along on trips to scores of historical sites, some world famous, some bizarrely obscure, connected to the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Vowell is funny and insightful; the perfect historical tour guide. The Lincoln stuff, which I loved, takes about half the book. For whatever reason I couldn’t get to Garfield. After many months I admitted defeat; it appears I’m just not going to get to Garfield. But I recommend you take this jaunt at least as far as I did. It’s a hoot, and you’ll learn stuff.

Phew. What's on your nightstand? The books, I mean. The books.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A 5 Things Meme (mostly different from the other 5, 2, 7, 8, n- things memes)

JLK at Pieces of Me has tagged me for this Five Things meme. I enjoyed reading her responses to it, which include that she was, among other things, a teenager a decade ago. Why, when I was a teenager +10, blogging hadn't even been invented yet. I was signing on to AOL via a sporadic dialup connection with a 2400 bps modem attached to my PowerMac 6500, for which I'm not even going to say how much I paid, but thinking about it makes my stomach turn.

Also, I had a mobile phone that weighed about 40 pounds and had to be carried around in a little suitcase. It made a handy free weight, but using it to make actual phone calls cost approximately $748/minute.

But enough reminiscing. Or maybe not! Our very first 5 things question brings me just to teenager +12.

5 Things I was Doing 10 years Ago

1. Applying to law schools. Yes.
2. Hating my job so intensely, and doing it so badly, that I was prone to periods of intense despair -- the kind of despair that makes a person think, hey, spending my 30s in law school and the rest of my life in debt might actually be fun, or at the very least, the LSAT oughtta be an ego boost. Which it was. What can I say, I test well.
3. Living in a really great little loft apartment. The longer ago it gets, the better it was.
4. Eating mostly spaghetti. I didn't exactly cook in those days.
5. Dating a handsome oceanographer fella.

5 Things On My To-Do List Today:

1. Deliver children to bus stop and preschool, and retrieve them from same at the appropriate times.
2. Make packing list for weekend trip to the leafy suburb of my misspent youth.
3. Pack for weekend trip to the leafy suburb of my misspent youth.
4. Make lasagna for family to eat while I am visiting the... yeah, that.
5. Get car inspected. I just noticed the "10" sticker on it, and I do try to get it done every 13 months. -ish.
6. Who the hell has a to-do list with only 5 things on it? Whaddya mean, you don't care anymore? Fine.

5 Snacks I Love:

1. Cereal.
2. Dark chocolate nonpareils melted onto Italian bread. Don't knock it till you try it.
3. Cheddar and Triscuits.
4. Clementines.
5. Those ridgy little chips that are green and orange and yellow to make you think they're made of Real Vegetables, but they really are just potato chips.

5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire:

1. Build a substantial addition to the house, which would include: a mud room, a large casual dining room, a guest room with bath, and my own bathroom, baby. Also solar panels, and some expansions/reconfigurations of kitchen/baths. Why not just move? Meh. I hate moving.
2. Build an entire barn for Mr. S's automotive restoration and woodworking projects in progress, and where he can put a wood stove, since he loves wood stoves so much.
3. Give a bunch of money away. Get on some boards of directors of things, and start directing.
4. Never fly coach again.
5. Hire cleaning and landscaping services.

These last two are repeats from the other Five Things Meme I did a while back:

5 Places I've Lived:

1) NYC, briefly
2) northern NJ
3) southern CA
4) western MA
5) Cape Cod, MA

5 Jobs I've Had:

1) clerk in a nurses' uniform store
2) library page
3) locksmith's assistant
4) teaching assistant (oceanography)
5) environmental consultant

5 People I'll Tag That I Don't Know Enough About:

Well, here is where I breach blog etiquette. Even online, I am much too socially awkward to tag people. But I encourage you (you!) to do this and let me know where you did.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans' Day

A happy Veterans' Day, and heartfelt thanks, to all who have served our country with honor and courage.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ten things I feel like I'm supposed to like, but I just don't.

1. The Counting Crows. I can't stand that guy's voice. Ditto Elton John.
2. Breakfast in bed. Hate it. You can't sit up properly, everything wobbles on the tray, it's just awkward and annoying and gah, don't bother, I'll get up.
3. Scarecrows. Why do people love making scarecrows? I can't wait to get rid of the one in my front yard. I half jump every time I catch it in my peripheral vision. Why yes, I am wound that tightly.
4. I'd say clowns, but I think it's pretty well-established that nobody really likes clowns. Why aren't scarecrows covered by that clause too?
5. Fried clams. I live on Cape Cod, I'm supposed to dig fried clams, but I just don't. Ditto lobster. Lobster is revolting. Would you eat a giant insect? Of course you wouldn't. Same thing.
6. Beer. I used to drink it, but I never loved it.
7. Music recorded live. The concert experience is one thing, but for listening, the sound's better from a studio.
8. Exercise. People are always on about how great it feels. Seriously? Where the HELL are these endorphins I keep hearing about? Where?
9. Opera. I love classical music, but opera still sends me running for the door.
10. Fruit flavored ice cream. Meh.

Your turn.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The day after

At long last, here we have it.

A lot of sap and schlock is being written today about tears of joy shed last night. While neither of those things is especially my style, I have to say that where politics are concerned, I'm very pleased this morning. Moved, inspired, proud. Relieved. Hopeful.

All things it's been very, very hard to be for years now.

Those of us who lost a lot of respect for John McCain over these past months due to everything from his foisting Sarah Palin onto the national stage (thanks - not!) to putting dismissive air quotes around "women's health" (I'll never forget that revealing little gem - never) have reason to see much of it restored, after his gracious concession speech. Concession speeches can't be easy. They can't feel good. Senator McCain's showed real class, even if his booing audience could not.

Do I think Barack Obama will be a perfect President? Of course not. But he's going to be an extraordinary one.

At the very least, State of the Union addresses will no longer rank up there with dental surgery as unpleasant experiences go. Frankly, I'll shed tears of joy on that score alone.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008



My polling place is the Bean's school; Mr. S. works home on Tuesdays, so I'm usually there anyhow to have lunch with her (and the rest of the first grade, omg) and do some stuff for her teacher. Today I snagged us some cookies from the bake sale, bought an obligatory raffle ticket for something, and joined her in the cafeteria.

The kids are choosing sides, in their own way. Overheard:
"Obama's going to give us like TEN MORE HOURS of recess!"
"Who do you like? PLEASE don't say Obama!"
And my personal favorite, "I'd vote for Obama 'cause it rhymes with my favorite animal: llama."

After lunch I led her class back to their classroom, pausing to let elderly voters make their way through the line o'kiddos to get to the polls across the hall. It was a good day to have another grownup there as shepherd.

Returning to vote myself, I asked the poll workers how the day's gone. (It's the same old ladies every time; they always tell me (unasked) whether or not my husband has been in yet, as if he bears watching. Hm.) Steadily busy, they said. In this small town, that means no wait, but a constant flow of voters. They had a bit of a line in the pre-commute rush, and they'll have more in the after-work rush. But they much prefer that to knitting all day while hardly anybody comes, which also happens.

We use the old-fashioned, fill-in-the-arrow style ballots, which I really like. It's hard to do the wrong thing by mistake, but if you do, you can get a new ballot. No worries.

In addition to the national race, we in Massachusetts have someone trying to unseat Senator John Kerry (late of the Kerry-Edwards '04 ticket). Political views notwithstanding, I do think it's good for a long-time incumbent to have reason to at least pay attention around election time. The same thing's happening with our local state representative race, though the parties are reversed.

We also have ballot questions. One aims to eliminate the state income tax. Supporters of this wacky proposal say that doing so will not result in higher local (property) taxes, or an increased sales tax. They also don't think cops, schools, libraries, roads, etc. are essential government services. (In short, they are either patently stupid, or crazier than shithouse rats.) But they have an enthusiastic if short-sighted following, because the Massachusetts legislature was (by binding referendum just like this ballot question) supposed to have lowered our income tax years ago, and just never did it. People don't like to be ignored.

Question 2 seeks to decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. It'd still be illegal, but wouldn't result in a criminal record. I'm inclined to favor this one.

Question 3 would abolish greyhound racing. This question has come up before, and if it doesn't pass, it'll probably come up again. I can't think of a reason why NOT to abolish greyhound racing, frankly. If half the things people say about how greyhounds are treated are true, then good riddance.

So there you have it.

How's voting gone in your neck of the woods? What's the buzz?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pegging the irony meter this week:

Most people are probably already familiar with the whole American Girl phenomenon. Briefly, American Girl makes pretty dolls with names and detailed stories that go with them. They're from all different times and places in American history, and you can get clothes and accessories and furniture and story books and all kinds of other stuff to go with each one. There is clothing for real girls to match their dolls' outfits -- really, it never ends.

A while back I read about an American Girl doll beauty salon (yes), which a girl with another brand of doll, maybe even - gasp - an imitation, was asked to leave, even though she was part of a birthday party there. This made me sad, but not surprised. One more way for mean, snobbish grownups to pass their meanness and snobbery down to the next generation. I hadn't given American Girl another thought since that story. Hard as it is to believe, I have gone lo these many months without American Girl dolls crossing my mind at all.

Then one day last week, an unsolicited American Girl catalog arrived in the mail. Now, I prefer not to be on snail mail lists in general. Catalogs in particular represent a huge waste of resources. It's not just paper. There's ink, bleach, solvents, fuel, electricity, etc., and the total pointless waste of all these things makes me cranky. So there are just a couple of catalogs that I get, and needless to say American Girl isn't one of 'em.

First thing I did after bringing the mail in was call them to get off their mailing list. If they know how they got my name, they aren't telling, but they are agreeable about not sending me more catalogs, so, good. That done, I put down the phone, and flipped through the big glossy pages of the one I'd received. Its featured doll is Kit Kittredge, growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1934. I guess there's a movie of this story that came out this past summer, with Abigail Breslin as Kit? Anyway, from the catalog:
Growing up during the Great Depression means a lot of change for Kit Kittredge. When her family turns their home into a boarding house, she must move into a drafty attic bedroom. She has to start wearing dresses made from feed sacks to save money. And when her dad loses his business, she worries that he may have to move away to find another job. But Kit is clever and resourceful, and she works hard to help her family make ends meet. Life is not all hard work, though. Kit learns how to have lots of fun with little money and, most important, to treasure the things that money can't buy -- family and friends.
Well that's nice, I think as I read, though the feed sack thing is perhaps a tad incongruous, since the Kit doll comes wearing a pretty twinset and skirt, and I notice that oddly enough, none of the other outfits you can buy for her are made from feed sacks.

So how much do you figure it costs, this pretty dolly with her Depression story and heartwarming message about things in life more precious than money? I look to the bottom of the page to find out...

...$90.00. Yes indeed. That's for one doll, and one paperback book.

I laughed out loud.

Good thing my girls already manage to have lots of fun with little money -- saves me buying them a $90 doll to explain how it's done.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Um... they're resting?

We had our first freeze last night, and the impatiens have given up the ghost. We had pots and hangers, boxes and beds of 'em; there was no point bringing them into the garage (or the shed! Mr. S. finished the shed!) to save them for the sake of another week. Annuals come, and eventually, annuals go. These are gone.

Backyard carnage. Sad, but wachagonnado.

Out of nowhere, the Peanut had a complete meltdown about it. She cried, and cried, and cried. "I don't WANT them to be dead!" she wailed, and "I wish flowers lived until PEOPLE were dead!" and "now every time Bean wears her doggie pajamas I'm going to think that the flowers are DEAD!" This last made me laugh, but it makes childlike sense because Bean's doggie pjs (pink fleece with a white scottie dog on the front) are for cold, cold nights - flower killing nights.

Holy cow, the kid was inconsolable. Neither sympathy, nor reasoned explanation, nor pointing out that the pretty purple asters are doing fine, had any effect. "I don't want to see them drooping!" she cried, surveying the carnage.

This from the child who last weekend single handedly pulled all the tomato and basil and pepper plants out of the garden by the roots - and boy was she proud of all that hard work! The tomatoes gave us all they had; we ate the last of them yesterday, and I was kind of sad. Flowers strike a different nerve, I guess.

Now it's 60 F and sunny, but she refuses to play outside. Too horrific.

I have parked her in front of a movie: Charlotte's Web, which is all about life and death and the natural way of things, more gently told than I can manage when she's wailing in my ear and getting snot all over my shoulder.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

foodstuff and food stuff

Tonight's dinner, which the girls either outright loved (Bean) or at least ate without too much complaining or actual tears (Peanut), was tasty for the grown-ups as well, and very, very quick and easy to make.

Chicken Thighs with Honey-Ginger Glaze

4 chicken thighs, boneless & skinless
1/4 c. honey
1 T lemon juice
1 T soy sauce
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 T bottled ground fresh ginger (not the dry spice)

Cook the chicken in a bit of canola oil about 5 minutes/side.

Mix the other ingredients with a whisk. I adore my little whisk. Here it is:
Ah, the perfect whisk.

Anyhow whisk all that stuff together. Add it to the skillet when the chicken's browned. Simmer 10 minutes.

In that 10 minutes, microwave some baby carrots and cook some egg noodles.

Voila, dinner.

In other food news, we have determined that the Peanut has a shellfish allergy. With a toddler or preschooler, it can be hard to tell if occasional throwing up is due to a virus or something they ate. When Peanut was 2 and 3, I had the vague sense that a couple of her stomach bugs followed our having had shrimp for dinner, but the association wasn't crystal clear. Then we had scallops one evening this summer, and although the doctors at both hospitals (!) later said it was probably a bad virus, I had a sneaking suspicion that what had the Peanut purging her digestive system to such a frightening extent all that night was the shellfish. Mr. S. and I agreed it wasn't worth testing the case - no more shellfish for her.

Two weeks later (!!) he forgot, and gave her a tiny piece of a clam cake, which arguably didn't even contain any actual clams. And: she threw up in the middle of the night. So really now, NO SHELLFISH for that Peanut. I'm typing it out loud, because I'm so used to writing "none known" on official forms that ask if the girls have any allergies, that it's easy to forget this one. It's odd - she doesn't break out in hives or have trouble breathing - but she distinctly rejects anything of that kind, and it appears that her reaction is becoming more pronounced with even less of the offending food. She only had a bite of that clam cake. Scary.

I really feel for parents whose kids have peanut allergies. Holy crap! Peanut butter is everywhere. Let alone dairy, eggs, wheat, even! If I got a letter home from school saying a child in one of the girls' classes had a peanut allergy, I'd be up a creek for what to make them for lunch, but I'd damn sure think of something. Who wants to be responsible for a kid having a true medical scare... that is, if they're lucky it'd be just a scare and nothing worse? I just can't imagine being unwilling to help try to avoid that. Disappointed, yeah, but to refuse to cooperate? To be the jackass parent who says it isn't my problem, you can't tell me what not to give my kid for lunch, blah blah blah? That takes selfish to new heights, no?

More of the genius that's

Friday, October 17, 2008

I should still get to bed on time, though.

I've started reading in bed again lately, and I've noticed that when I stay up late reading a book, I never wake up feeling as horrible as when I stay up late on the computer. I think it's because the light from the monitor keeps my brain jumpy after I've gone to bed. Putting a book down seems a gentler transition to sleep.

Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs is this month's book group selection. It's pleasant enough, but I really hope I want to spend 528 pages with these characters. That I checked does not bode well. It's like looking at my watch during a movie...

... which I didn't do even once during Burn After Reading, the newish Coen brothers caper starring John Malkovitch, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt. Malkovitch plays a pompous ass washed up CIA analyst who loses his job... you can't fire me, I quit... and starts living in his bathrobe, drinking too much, and writing his memoirs, a cd of which is found on a locker room floor by two cash-and-brains-poor gym employees (Pitt and McDormand, both funny), who try to sell it to the Russians (of course! Wouldn't you?). Affairs are had, schemes are schemed, entanglements ensue. As happens with other Coen brothers films, I laughed out loud in places nobody else did, and sometimes didn't laugh when everyone else did. Weird. At any rate, engaging wackiness, good performances, go see it.

What's entertaining you these days, or keeping you up late?

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Prestige, and, Jackman or Bale?

So I haven't posted about movies in a while. Partly this is because we haven't been screening as many movies at the Sandy Shoes Home Theater since Mr. Sandy and I got into The Sopranos and have been sucking down those DVDs like milkshakes every chance we get. ("You wanna watch someone get whacked?" we say. "Sure, just let me finish this email...") I can't say enough good about the show. I was completely hooked from the first bars of opening music in the first episode of Season 1. The writing, the acting, the characters... ah, well, it's all been said before, and old news at that. You can't say it's a joy, exactly, what with the sociopaths and the whacking and the baseness of it all -- note I don't say the foul language, which I actively enjoy -- but it is definitely deeply satisfying on some level. So, we're into Season 5, and movie-watching has lagged accordingly.

Last night though, we watched The Prestige (2006- hey, not that long ago for us!), a very dark drama based on the 1995 Christopher Priest novel of the same name. It's about two turn-of-the-century London illusionists who become bitter, obsessed rivals. (Hugh Jackman and Christan Bale... ooh la la. Who's easier on your eyes? I lean toward Jackman, myself, despite evidence that Christian Bale is Kermit the Frog, whom I adore. Bale's looks make me think of a petulant teenage brat, especially when his hair's this short. However, I do prefer Batman to Wolverine.... hm? Oh, all right. Enough, already.)

It's a compelling story with twists and turns and flashbacks aplenty, and I recommend it if you haven't yet seen it. However, when it came down to asking ourselves "do we want to own this one?" both Mr. Sandy and I said um... no, because it's creepy to the point of horrid. But do see it once, because it's creepy to the point of horrid! if you know what I mean.

Monday, October 06, 2008

You have to be 18 to vote, but evidently you don't have to be a grownup.

Massachusetts isn't exactly a swing state, but the occasional McCain/Palin lawn sign is popping up amid the Obama '08 ones round these parts. To me it seems weird, like a few people declaring "YES! TAX MY HEALTH BENEFITS! STAY AT WAR! DRILL BABY DRILL!" -- and they're not even joking.

Whatever. People have different views. I get my vote, you get yours. It'll be done soon, and whatever the outcome, it's a safe bet most people will be glad the whole thing's behind us. Live and let live, all that.

Today though, when I saw a "NOBAMA" sign in a yard across from the Peanut's preschool, it kind of bummed me out. I think it reflects badly on whoever placed it (as would a "McLame" or "McSame" sign, btw). I know I'm not the only one who reads it to mean "this particular McCain supporter also seems like kind of an asshole."

We don't have enough negative ads -- now we need negative lawn signs?


The states that could go either way must be political sign hell these days. Reports, anyone?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thomas, Henry and the Bean

Yesterday after dinner, the Bean made an announcement: "I am going to write my phone number on a piece of paper to give to Henry on the bus, and maybe he will call me some day!"

Henry and the Bean are six (6) years old. Their friendship, begun last year in kindergarten, is built on a firm foundation of mutual, abiding love for all things Thomas and Friends. They used to sit next to each other on the bus and discuss the engines in their respective toy collections. There was a lot to talk about. For a long time, engines were all the Bean ever wanted for Christmas and birthday presents. She wore a Thomas the Tank Engine costume for Halloween two years in a row. (The Peanut loves Thomas stuff too, though she's refusing to wear the costume a second time - dang.) We have accumulated a whole bin full of engines, each with a different name and personality. Henry groks this. He has a Thomas-themed playroom.

I see Henry's mother around town from time to time. When we first met, she said she hoped Henry wasn't bothering the Bean... evidently he used to come home from school and report "Bean smiled at me today!" or, sighing, "Bean didn't smile at me today," leading her to think maybe he had too much riding on the Bean's attentions and might make a nuisance of himself. I told her not to worry on Bean's account; they seemed to be having a great time.

One day soon after the Bean started taking karate, she got off the bus giggling like mad. "I karate chopped Henry," she said, "and we can't stop laughing."

How cool, to have a friend like that.

They're in different classes this year, but I've seen them smile at each other across the cafeteria at lunchtime. It is adorable.

It occurred to me that it's a little soon to get into the whole waiting-for-the-phone-to-ring dynamic, but it seems we don't have to worry about that just yet. After declaring her intention, Bean went off for a piece of paper and a pencil, but came back with the box of magnetic letters to play with on the side of the fridge with her sister. "What about writing your phone number, Bean?" I asked. "Oh, I forgot," she said, but didn't go back to it.

Still, we'll have Henry over to play trains, while they're still little enough to find pure joy in it. And Mr. Sandy's made a mental note to keep a veeeerrry close eye on that boy over the years...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Come back baby, you'll find a change in me.

Arguably, one of the changes I should make is to get to know more music that was produced after, say, 1983. Whatever. I love this tune, and I'm declaring it Song of the Day even though it wasn't the morning earworm (a song stuck in my head from before my eyes even opened). Au contraire - the morning earworm was the theme song to Star Trek: TNG. Yeah, I don't understand it either.


Everybody oughta make a change
(by sleepy john estes)

Change in the weather, change in the sea,
Come back baby, you'll find a change in me.
Everybody, they ought to change sometime,
Because sooner or later we have to go down in that lonesome ground.

I changed suits, I changed shirts,
I changed, baby, just to get shed of the dirt.
Everybody, we ought to change sometime,
Because sooner or later we're going down in that lonesome ground.

I changed honey, I changed money,
I changed, people, just to keep from being funny.
Everybody, they ought to change sometime,
Because sooner or later we're going down in that lonesome ground.

Change in the ocean, change in the sea,
Come back baby, you'll find a change in me.
Everybody, we ought to change sometime,
Because sooner or later we're going down in that lonesome ground.


I don't know where to begin. This is just so awesome, from the title, to the hair, to the smiles, to the shirts...

More wacky lp covers at

h/t: The Presurfer

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Who knows, maybe hollering at 'em worked after all.

Since my last post, the girls have been playing together happily, the way they usually do. I sent them out in the rain ... out out out out OUT! They went up the street a bit -- sisters in pink raincoats, under a ladybug umbrella -- to watch rainwater flow into the storm drain (I tried not to recall Stephen King's It too vividly). Now they are back, playing "garden." Whatever that means. They get into these lengthy pretend scenarios, and replay and replay them. This is a new one. Hopefully it doesn't include whatever power imbalance had them screaming at each other earlier.

So I have time for some free association. Play along every Sunday at Unconscious Mutterings...
she said ____ :: I thought _____.
  1. Hearing :: impaired
  2. Aggression :: channel
  3. Charged :: ion
  4. Traveler :: airport
  5. Hydrate :: water
  6. Detox :: rehab
  7. Qualify :: pass
  8. Prison :: cell
  9. Frontal :: nudity
  10. Pep talk :: bullshit

Hm. I guess I'm not open to pep talks. I was thinking especially of the business environment pep talk. I so don't miss consulting... shudder.

Rainy weekend.

My throat is sore. Not from the latest virus making its nasty way through the children's snot-filled classrooms, though I'm sure that joy is not far off.

(Deleted: a rant about people who cough into their hands rather than their elbows)

(Deleted: a rant about antibacterial soap, which people buy even though it's proven no more effective than normal soap and may instead be contributing to the rise of truly scary, resistant strains of bacteria -- and about the staggering arrogance of those who keep buying it even though they know that)

No. My throat is sore from yelling at my squabbling daughters. Because I am Mother of the Year.

I don't care which of them wasn't being nice. I don't care who walked away from the game; I don't care who touched what of whose; I don't care who said what, took what, did what, wanted and didn't get what.

I. Don't. Care.

Today I heard myself yell, among other things, "STOP YELLING!" And one of the less emotional voices in my head said, "well. That was dumb."

Ladies n' germs, I have lost my freakin' mind.

Monday's coming, Monday's coming, Monday's coming.

In the meantime, I feel a movie coming on.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What's *wrong* with people?

And by "people," I certainly mean "me," as well.

So yesterday? After the dog shit incident? I went to the closest grocery store to grab some mozzarella for the awesome spinach-and-ricotta stuffed shells I was making for dinner. I thought I already had the cheese in the freezer -- you can do that you know, buy a huge bag of shredded cheese and freeze it. In theory this saves money and time. In practice that's usually true, except there I was on my way to the store at the last minute, so draw your own conclusions -- but either I didn't have any, or the freezer is so unworkably full of other things (mostly overripe bananas waiting to become banana bread) and the mozzarella so deeply buried as to functionally not exist, which is a separate problem, and should probably be a separate post.

I digress.

I went to the closest grocery store, instead of the best grocery store. I only do this under duress, because the closer store is horrid, from its awkward parking lot to its layout and stock and vacant-eyed employees. I parked, ran in. Got the cheese. Headed to the checkout -- express line for me, with my one item.

And I landed right behind a cheater. It's one thing to go through the express line when you have 13 items instead of 12... by mistake, or just trying to squeak by, I guess we've all done it. But to do it with several more than 12 items, most of which are produce? And it's one of the self-check lines where you have to look up the produce items individually and key them in on the touch screen? Which takes forever, especially if you're not really up on how to do it? Sorry, but that's rude. Rude rude rude.

But whatever. I just scrubbed dog poop off my kitchen floor -- I've experienced more than my fair share of rudeness today, and this isn't going to make it any worse.

But she's still a cheater. And a thief! Look! She just scanned through some of those tiny hot peppers, and the register announces "move your GREEN BELL PEPPERS to the belt... TWENTY TWO CENTS." HEY! If those are green bell peppers, lady, I'm Miley Cyrus. And if little hot peppers are less expensive than bell peppers, I'm Billy Ray Cyrus. THIEF!

She scrambles through the rest of her stuff... including a bag of three limes, which she counts as one lime. I can't watch any more. She goes forward to bag her loot, I step up to scan my cheese. "DON'T FORGET TO TAKE YOUR RECEIPT," says the machine to the lady. Back she comes.

"Green bell peppers are getting smaller every day," I say, before I can stop myself. She has the decency to look sheepish and scuttle away.

So why do I include myself in "what's wrong with people?" Because I don't want to be a finger-wagging busybody. I just want to get my cheese and go home. But these things get to me, when I see them. What's the point of playing by the rules if well-dressed middle-aged ladies are shamelessly stealing limes and jalapeno peppers in broad daylight? Who do these people think they are?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

poop for brains

They're much more polite about this in Vancouver than I can manage to be here.

TO: The person who let their dog crap on the sidewalk where the Bean's school bus stops.

Fuck you very much.

I so appreciate having dog shit on my shoes and in my home.

My family and I wish you the same pleasure, many times over.

Have a nice day.


What do you do when your kid's misbehaving with a toy? You take it away, right? Of course you do. My girls write somewhere they're not supposed to -- in a book, say, or on furniture or a wall? The markers/crayons/pencils are gone for up to a week, depending what it was they defaced and how recently the last time they were reminded not to. Leave a toy out after I've told them and told them to put it away? Same story - the toy disappears for a while, and they've no one but themselves to blame.

In an ideal world, I would get to do this with all the selfish, lazy dog walkers in the neighborhood. I see your dog shit where people walk, and you don't pick it up? I'm taking your dog for a week. Not to mistreat it, good heavens no. The problem isn't the dog's fault -- there is only a problem because you, dog owner, are an inconsiderate jackass, and probably don't deserve your loyal friend's company anyhow.

The world would be different if I were Queen, I tell ya.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another Way to Cringe

Listen to Another Way to Die, the new Bond song (for the movie Quantum of Solace, which is coming out either October 31 or November 17, depending which trailer you believe, and to which I am looking forward with a greater than reasonable intensity),

here. I'll wait.

So, what did you think?

Me, I'm prepared to be pleasantly surprised if it rocks as a theme song/movie credit music, but on its own, I am tentatively leaning toward the "things that suck" category. Starts out OK, but on balance, too much wailing.

Probably too soon to judge.

I read that the original preference was for Amy Winehouse to write and perform a song for the movie, but she's such a train wreck she can't even sing Happy Birthday these days. Still, maybe they should've let her try.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Of all the states to mess with...

Posted at wonkette a couple days ago (what can I say, I don't blog professionally, y'know), under the heading "DINGUSES": Ralph Nader is on the Florida ballot.

Goddamnit, Ralph. This is not a game.

Ahoy me hearties, &c.

It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day, matey!

Avast! There be a pirate joke on the horizon!

Q. What's a pirate's favorite kind of music?

A. Arrrrrrr&B.

And, just because I like saying it: poopdeck. So there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chase Rooster Palin

The Palin kids have kooky names. You can find out what your name would've been, if Sarah Palin had been your mommy. Go to the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator. Good times.

Then, read Anne Lamott's latest essay at I love her.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Purple Pinot" does have kind of a superhero ring to it.

The Name Game

1. Your rock star name (first pet, current car)
Sophie 4Runner

2. Your gangsta name (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe)
Chocolate Mary Jane

3. Your soap opera name (middle name, city where you were born)
Leslie New York

4. Your Star Wars name (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 of your first name)

5. Superhero name (favorite color, favorite drink)
Purple Pinot

6. NASCAR name (the first names of your grandfathers)
Walter Elmer

7. Dancer name (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy)
Jasmine Toffee

8.TV weather anchor name (your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter)
Flegler Flagstaff

9.Spy name (your favorite season/holiday, flower)
Labor Daisy

10.Cartoon name:(favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now)
Clementine Capris

11.Hippie name (what you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree)
Bagel Willow

12.Movie star name (first pet, first street where you lived)
Sophie Summit

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday free association

Play along at Unconscious Mutterings.
She said _______ :: I thought _______
  1. House :: home

  2. Think :: , dammit!

  3. Clot :: aneurysm

  4. Believe me :: , I know

  5. Fumigation :: cloud

  6. Bore :: drone

  7. Luck :: good

  8. Patient :: hospital

  9. Tremors :: earthquake

  10. Pickles :: my girls, who dig 'em

Friday, September 05, 2008

So young, they learn to sacrifice for Science...

My husband is upstairs giving the girls their bath, and explaining that tomorrow, he is leaving town for a week or so to do some fieldwork.

He's an oceanographer. Fieldwork means going to sea. (Yes, it's hurricane season. Details, details. He's not explaining that part.)

Anyway I just heard him ask our daughters if he can take their little backyard baby pool on his Big Trip, and solemnly promise to get them a new one "if it gets wrecked." It will help him in his research, he said. (I think he wants to use it to mix a special fluorescent dye, which he'll then dump into the ocean, and track its vertical and horizontal diffusion by measuring its concentrations as it spreads. Some of the measurements will be made using a laser which will be aimed at the dye patch from a small plane flying overhead. It's cool stuff, and none of it can happen without the little plastic pool!)

"So would that be OK, if I borrowed your kiddie pool?"
"Can the new one be pink?" they asked.
"I don't know what color."
"We want it to be pink."
"I don't know what color the new one would be."
"OK, you can take it, but if we need a new one, it should be pink."

Actually, if it's to be used the way I assume it is, the old one will be extraordinarily pink when he's done with it -- and "wrecked" won't quite cover its condition.

Hey, this could be a Teachable Moment... I should sell them baby pool insurance with fine print that excludes damage incurred during use in scientific research by grown-ups. It'll be a tough lesson when they try to collect, but on the up side, they'll be totally prepared to buy homeowner's insurance on Cape Cod.

Update: He's not using the pool to mix the dye; evidently that's done in big barrels. He'll be using it to pre-soak certain instruments in sea water before they get dropped in the ocean. So the old pool will still probably be beat up, but it won't be fluorescent pink. Pity.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

T minus... oh wait. Here we are, already.

Hm. I guess my countdown kind of fizzled.

The Bean's first day of first grade, yesterday, went very well. The big change for her is that it's a full school day. Kindergarten was a half day. She's ready, but I think she may also be tired for a couple of weeks. It's longer than she usually has to focus, or sit, or interact with new people.

Actually, the biggest change for all of us is getting going in the morning! We didn't have many planned morning activities this summer, and the girls got used to hanging out in their pajamas, reading and playing quietly before breakfast. I don't think we got downstairs before 9:00 AM all summer long, until we did a week of nature classes at the natural history museum. Any discipline we gained from that was thrown off along with our internal clocks on our California trip. So we did a dry run on Monday to practice, set out clothes the night before to save morning time, things like that. It's working fine. (However! I have got to get to sleep earlier than I have been.)

I got the Bean a simple alarm clock so she won't worry about not waking up on time. We decided that if she gets up at 7:30, that's plenty of time. She set her alarm for 7:15, just in case.

Very early -- criminally early -- yesterday morning, I felt her staring down at me as I slept. I cracked an eye open. (Sometimes, standing completely still and staring at me like that, she briefly reminds me of those girls in The Shining. If she would just blink, or something!) Then a whisper: "Mommy did you forget about the first day of first grade?" "No, Bean," I whispered back. "Right now it is 5:52 on the first day of first grade. We don't have to get up until 7:30, remember?" "Oh." she went back to her room. I heard her alarm go off at 7:15, and heard her turn it off. At 7:18 she appeared, fully dressed, teeth brushed, and wondering if it wouldn't be helpful to wake up her sister? (Um, no. No thanks.)

So I guess we don't have a morning problem with the Bean, though the novelty will soon wear off.

After school, she took my hand as she got off the bus. I'm happy she still does that so naturally. "So BEAN!!!" I said. "How was your first day? TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT!" And she said, "good."

That's it.

I have learned that I will never get a linear narrative about how her school days go. So I turn it into a joke, and ask a thousand questions, most of them ridiculous, being a general pest until eventually she starts talking just to contradict me. "We did NOT ride an elephant at recess! We played good guys and bad guys!" "OHHHH, why didn't you say so! Who were the bad guys?" And so on. I would rather annoy her than have her think I'm not interested in the details :).

Today was the Peanut's turn -- she started preschool this morning. She's been psyched for it ever since her sister was going there and she'd cry because she couldn't stay, too. So the past few weeks have been a very exciting build-up, and she's been literally jumping up and down as she tells people she's going to PRESCHOOL! And she WIPES HER OWN BUM! Yeah, well, what can I say. It's a major accomplishment, and she's proud. It's all good.

So I wasn't expecting this from her, but last night, as I was lying in her bed with her to say goodnight, she burst into tears... full-blown, grieving, wailing, tears. "I DON'T WANT TO BE WITHOUT YOU!!!" she sobbed. We'd been talking about what a nice day we'd had together at the beach after the Bean went to school. She said that was her favorite part of the day, and then she just lost it. I held her close, murmuring about all the wonderful things she was going to get to do at preschool, and that if she felt homesick, she should say to herself, "Mommy loves me, and she'll be here soon," because preschool is only for the morning, and then we'll be together again. Eventually her sobs became shudders, then sighs, then she was asleep in my arms.

This morning: none of that. Everything went fine. But twelve hours after she cried her heart out at the thought of leaving me, I had my own sobfest in the car over leaving her. I don't want to be without her, either. Oh, my Peanut. I'm so glad we still have Tuesdays and Thursdays together. Oh yeah, and every afternoon. Preschool is a big step, but it really isn't a lot of time apart.

Now I'm off to pick her up... she'll tell me All About It. Later we'll meet the Bean's bus, ask her how the second day of first grade was, and she'll say, "good."

So it is, Bean. So it is.