Friday, February 29, 2008

I don't believe in jinxes, but...

...the other day at the library I ran into some friends who were saying how this and that person and/or their whole family and lots of other people they know have been sick in recent weeks. Asked how my family's been, I said something like "oddly, we've been really lucky so far." Which is true, we haven't had so much as a cold all winter.

So of course that evening the Peanut refused her dinner, and was up hourly through the night throwing up/dry heaving. Poor Peanut. Why do our bodies keep throwing up for hours and hours after there's nothing more TO throw up? Last night was a bit better, but we were still up multiple times.

Today she's held down some applesauce, sips of water, etc., and she's resting more comfortably. She's getting kind of cranky about it, which is a good sign, though it's grating on me something fierce. I know she's on the upswing because she had a total fit that I wouldn't let her eat a whole bunch of grapes. We'll take baby steps with food, but it's nice to see her showing an interest.

In the meantime, this sure has been tiring, and I am nearing the end of my rope.

I'd say "so far, so good" for the rest of us, but I don't want to be up all night with the Bean next. 'Course maybe the jinx elves are waiting to lay the stomach flu on the rest of us until Mr. S. is away at a conference all next week. Wouldn't that be fun?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Filed under "Things That Make Me Feel Old"

The artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince -- he of Delirious, and Little Red Corvette, and dozens of very sexy songs on the mix tapes (remember?) of my misspent youth -- needs a hip replacement.

No, you don't have to be cool, to rule my world. Shit, before long you won't even have to walk.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

latest movie roundup

With Netflix as my primary movie source I'm always a little clueless, or at least a year behind, at Oscar time. This year I have managed to see two first run movies in theaters: No Country for Old Men, and Juno.

Unlike my babbles about things I've gotten from Netflix, I am careful not to put spoilers in posts about films that are still in theaters. Given that, it's hard to know what to say about No Country. Was it good? Yes, I think it was. Did I enjoy it? Hm. I think so. Did I understand what the heck it was about? Probably not entirely. I can say about it what everyone else has: a guy hunting in the desert comes across the gruesome evidence of a drug deal gone violently wrong, and absconds with a bunch of money he's clearly not supposed to have, and for which really bad guys will be pursuing him. The movie is about what happens to that guy (Josh Brolin), the people who come after him (particularly Javier Bardem, who'll likely get the Oscar for his role as the film's most disturbing character), and the sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones, always compelling, and defining "craggy" these days) who's putting the pieces together but can't seem to get ahead of the events he'd like to prevent. It's violent. It's not funny, though at least twice I laughed out loud, maybe inappropriately, at interactions that were just plain bizarre. My one quibble with the movie is that it didn't end, so much as stop. But that's Coen Brothers' magic, and maybe it's genius I just didn't get. Wouldn't be the first time.

Juno is a "teen pregnancy comedy" (wtf?) getting a lot of buzz. The title character is a 16 year-old (really well-acted by Ellen Page) who becomes pregnant and finds she can't go through with an abortion. She's a mouthy, smartass and smart girl; sarcastic and opinionated and fun. Her friend and one-time, first-time lover is a boy on the track team who genuinely loves her, but is baffled, overwhelmed and all kinds of out of his depth. They both are. Juno knows it, but she's literally going to bear the consequences, so she steps up to the plate to figure out what to do. Now, I saw this movie as a parent, not as a teenager, so my first thoughts were not how hip, how edgy, how endearing, but: how YOUNG, and let's not make this seem like it's all okey-dokey, mkay? Juno makes an appointment for an abortion on a phone shaped like a plastic hamburger. She's a KID. But despite her mistake, she's got a good head on her shoulders, and good support from her parents, and comes through OK. Funny? I dunno. Yes, it's a feelgood movie, plenty of smiles, cute teenage soundtrack, but I like my comedies to make me, you know, laugh.

In other I-don't-see-what's-so-funny-about-unwanted-pregnancy news, we recently had Waitress on the home screen. Keri Russell hits all the right notes as Jenna, who works at a pie diner, becomes pregnant by her abusive husband, and is not at all happy about it. Predictably touching events ensue. This too was supposed to be a comedy, and I think it could've been -- the pies Jenna invents and names after whatever's on her mind are pretty funny -- had the husband not been such a thorough asshole. Some things are just too hard to laugh about. But it's cute I guess. Truly a chick flick, and I'm all done with that genre for a good while now. It's a small doses kind of thing for me; I always end up feeling a big "eh" afterwards.

Here's a story I knew next to nothing about before seeing the movie: Capote. Philip Seymour Hoffman's had all kinds of well-deserved praise for his performance of Truman Capote, so I'll just add: what a large head he has, no? Also, he was born the same year as me, in the same town as one of my grad school buddies, who I must now ask if they know each other. But I digress. Yes, he's a terrific actor. The movie is about Capote's research and writing of the much-celebrated In Cold Blood, the first "non-fiction novel," which chronicles the brutal 1959(?) murder of a small-town Kansas family. The research, including building relationships with the murderers, took its toll on Capote, who never finished another book. Interesting film; well-directed, well-acted, nary a false note*. Catherine Keener was superb as Harper Lee, a true friend to Capote (despite that her novel To Kill A Mockingbird was blatantly belittled by Capote and his sycophantic, all male cohorts, even as it achieved tremendous success and was made into a film. Fuck 'em, Harper, you wrote the better book). I gather that Capote was an intense, peculiar man, a huge talent, a huge ego, and a huge drinker. Not all that sympathetic a character, in retrospect. The real interest, for me, is in the character of Perry Smith, who murdered the family. Smith is played by Clifton Collins Jr., who says in the DVD extras that he had "breakdowns" from immersing himself in the role; that his childhood and Smith's weren't totally dissimilar. Wow. Looking forward to seeing more of Collins, not least in the Star Trek movie coming out next year (woo hoo!).

So that's the scoop. Now to catch some of the Oscars, and add a bunch of things I've never heard of to the Netflix queue...

*If Bob Balaban as Capote's publisher at the New Yorker brought immediately to mind his role in the Christopher Guest folk music "mocumentary" A Mighty Wind -- well, that's probably my fault.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Can't... get... to bed...


More of these funnies at xkcd.com.

February "vacation," hump day edition

Vacation, they call it. Ha. I keep looking at the calendar, hoping I've forgotten we have something wonderful and rejuvenating to do this week. Isn't that what "vacation" is supposed to entail? Or am I just feeling the contrast... this time last year, I was in Jamaica with a girlfriend. That was wonderful and rejuvenating, especially when my luggage caught up with me. (Note to self: cram everything in carry-on for next Caribbean jaunt. More important note to self: somehow make possible another Caribbean jaunt.)

Today... only Wednesday?!... we hit the Children's Museum. It's a great place; the girls always have fun there. They put on pink frilly skirts from the costume trunk and run around playing different games and making drawings or little craft projects. This is what they do at home, too, but it's nice to get out. Unfortunately, everyone else in southeastern Massachusetts was there this morning also. I whole-heartedly support the Museum's programs and maintain a membership there (it pays for itself in just a few visits at full admission price), but I hate when it feels like a germ-infested play factory overrun by screaming snot-nosed brats.

Yes, they keep the place clean. No, the kids are not all screaming, snot-nosed, or brats. Still, it's not my scene.

Today they had a storyteller there, with costumes from Bali. The Peanut didn't dig some of the masks, but the Bean held her close and took good care of her. It makes me feel good to see them looking out for each other when they don't know I'm watching. Sisters are forever, I told them on the way home. Friends are sometimes forever too, but sisters always are.

Tomorrow, we'll be at their grandparents' house. Friday, the Bean is having a friend over to play. Weather will determine what we can do over the weekend... and that'll wrap it up.

I have come to love Mondays in general, and Mondays after school vacations are beginning to feel like high holidays. I know I'm not alone in this. Am I alone in wondering what we need a February school vacation for? We just had one at the end of December! We're going to have another one in April! I know that teachers would rise up against this idea, but I'd like to scrap the February and April vacations, and have a single week off in March instead.

Won't I be a wet blanket if I start going to school committee meetings!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Astronomy Picture of the Day


Could you do this? --->











Not me... not in a million years, no matter how amazing and important it is. My body would not allow it.

I know this, because in my environmental consulting days, part of our hazardous materials training involved getting suited up in "level A" protection. Every part of your body is covered in a suit, and any zippers or seams are sealed with duct tape. Your face is covered with a mask, and the suit hood is duct taped to it. You breathe with an air tank and a respirator (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus -- add Underwater for SCUBA).

I couldn't hack it. I can't remember at what point I started to flip out... I think I made it through the duct tape and the mask, but the respirator was too much, and I panicked.

Subtract earth underfoot, add the endless yawning void of outer space, and... well, no. Just no.

But damn, how cool is it that some people CAN do it... that's Hans Schlegel up there, installing a laboratory on the space station... and that this kind of work is being done.

Awesome.

Monday, February 18, 2008

every morning

It's been a long while since I plagued you with the song that's currently plaguing me. Not that there haven't been some doozies.

I don't know how these songs get on endless loop in my brain, but they do, and sometimes I wish they would stop.

This one is of the recurring variety. When it comes, always unsolicited, it stays for days.

I like the song OK but the video's lame.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

And so it continues.

The girl in my Bean's kindergarten class who tried to get her to call another girl a dummy has struck again. What shall we call her? However apt, "that little bitch" seems harsh for a 5-year-old. For now we'll go with D.

Last night after bedtime, which which seems to be her moment for letting go anything that's making her sad, Bean told me that she'd been behind D. in the line for the bus after school, and D. pulled another girl in front of her, saying "sorry, but [other girl] is my friend, and you're not."

Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal. But my earnest, "I love everyone!" Bean thinks of all her classmates as friends until proven otherwise, not the other way around. She doesn't understand what she could have done to deserve such a pointed exclusion, and it stung her, hard. She thought she should now try harder to "show D. I am her friend," and wanted to invite D. over for a playdate to prove her worthiness.

It breaks my heart.

We talked about how it was not a nice thing that D. did. I rocked the sobbing Bean in my arms and told her that she doesn't have to try to be friends with people who are mean to her and to others; there are a lot of people to choose friends from, and maybe we'll wait to invite D. over until she isn't being so mean, because that's not the way friends are to each other. I felt her body relax as she agreed.

On hearing this little story, Mr. S. said of D., "that's an insecure child." He's right of course, but my fierce mommy self doesn't give the tiniest shit about D.'s insecurities. I just want her to leave my Bean the hell alone. And I want to smack her stupid mother. Where do girls this young learn to be this way? They mimic their cliquey bitch mommies and/or the crap they're allowed to soak up from television etc. Bratz, indeed.

Sigh. Maybe that's not fair. Hopefully it's just a phase that D. will grow out of. Unfortunately there will always be more where she came from.

The Bean is so wide open, emotionally. Her defense mechanisms just aren't formed yet. Her heart is right out there. I know she's going to have to learn to shrug off stuff like this; it just seems so soon to have to toughen up.

We can do it.

In the meantime, we're going to have nice friends over for some kick-ass playdates this week. I will squelch the part of me that (how shall we say?) really prefers not to be around most other people's offspring, and make it happen. Bean needs a boost, and she deserves to have fun with other good kids.

(Didn't we just have a school vacation? Oy.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love Me Tender

"Happy Valentine's Day, my love" says Mr. S. this morning on his way out to work. "I looked everywhere, but they appear to have discontinued the Elvis tins of chocolates you love so much..."

Sigh. We don't make a fuss over greeting card industry-propelled holidays. But for years now, Mr. S. has been giving me the Russell Stover "Elvis Presley (TM) Collector's Series" heart-shaped tin of chocolates on Valentine's Day. Every year, a different image of The King. Mr. S. thinks this is hilarious. I like Elvis about as much as the next New Englander, which is to say, there were no likenesses of the man in my home that were not on one single CD cover until Mr. S. started giving me these tins. Year 2 or 3, I said, "what's with the Elvis tins?" and he said "but my love! You collect them!"

So it would seem.

I'm half disappointed they didn't have one this year. I'd been thinking we'd make a great article for the local newspaper on our 75th wedding anniversary or something. I could bring the hapless reporter kid on a nostalgic journey through 75 years of Elvis tins, and Mr. S. could nudge the kid periodically and say "she collects them!"

MAY 22!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Not Three, not Four, but Five Things Meme

Five things, hm. Like two things, only more so. Okey dokey, but if this thing grows any more, I'm out.

Five names I go by:
1) short version of real name
2) full version of real name
3) Mommy
4) Sandy
5) My German in-laws tell me I am entitled to go by Frau Dr. S.. You never know when that might come in handy.

Five things I am wearing right now:
1) navy blue turtleneck
2) Swiss Army watch
3) blue hiking socks
4) blue jeans, wearing out but I haven't the heart, or the stomach, specifically, for jeans shopping
5) an expression of disbelief. Didn't we just have a big to-do with that Peanut during which she was punished for drawing on furniture? So why are there fresh marker marks where I just saw them? WHY?

Five things I want in a relationship:
1) independence
2) not to be the only one with common sense
3) companionship
4) trust
3) a sense of humor

Five of my favorite things to do:
1) hang with the Bean and the Peanut and Mr. S.
2) drive. I love to drive. Aimlessly, or roadtripping, it's all good.
3) beachcomb. I can't stop collecting little white rocks. I'd better think of a use for them. I keep coming across buckets of little white rocks in the garage. This is exceedingly minor in the face of the things Mr. S. accumulates in the garage, but that is a post for another day.
4) watch movies
5) blog, natch

Five things I want very badly at this moment:
1) SERENITY NOW!
2) A trust fund of staggering proportions.
3) Charisma.
4) New bedroom decor. I'm 40 years old and I've lived in dorms that were more attractively furnished than my current bedroom, for cryin' out loud.
5) Some warm sunshine.

Five things I did last night:
1) made pork chops in an onion and thyme sauce. Not bad, but there are pork recipes I like better.
2) put the girls to bed
3) laundry
4) more laundry
5) it isn't going to fold itself, you know

Five things I ate today:
1) pear
2) Kashi Heart to Heart cereal
3) whole wheat pasta with Trader Joe's alfredo sauce (not bad, and not too fatty or salty)
4) chocolate chip cookie
5) tortellini with marinara (tomato sauce is a vegetable, right? Sigh. Some days are better than others.)

Last five people I talked to:
1) Mr. Sandy; we've been watching election results come in.
2) The Bean; she called me back upstairs after bedtime because she was "having trouble with my cut, every time I move my finger from straight, it hurts A LOT!" She gets paper cuts, she wants band-aids, she takes them off, she wants them again.
3) The Peanut; at bedtime I ask if I can sleep in her bed with her, and she says "you have your OWN bed!" Then I say OK, I'll go, but I need a kiss first. We have the same conversation every night. She likes kicking me out.
4) The bus driver who dropped off the Bean after school. Not the regular driver, who had jury duty today. The regular guy is a really nice man. The Bean draws him pictures... most recently of me, wearing my "pretty black dress." Hm.
5) Condoleezza Rice. Just girl stuff.

Five things I am doing tomorrow:
1) walking on the treadmill
2) visiting the Bean's old preschool, which will be the Peanut's new one next fall.
3) filing some of this CRAP on my desk
4) scheduling the annual service on the oil burner (it's a glamorous life, no?)
5) sending someone to their room

Five longest car rides:
1) Northern NJ to southern CA. Grad school bound. It was a great trip.
2) Southern CA to western MA, three years later. Not as great. I should've turned around in Denver.
3) A fifteen minute drive home from a restaurant with my ex on our anniversary, during which I realized we wouldn't last till our next one.
4) For a time, I had an hour-plus commute from South Hadley, MA to Brattleboro, VT. It represents many hours of my life I'll never have back. On the up side, it was an unparalleled opportunity to listen to the entire Old Testament on cassette. Yes.
5) I suppose the unanticipated ambulance ride to Boston, 35 weeks pregnant with the Peanut, goes in this category, though it probably felt even longer to Mr. S. following behind. Everything ended well though, so you sort of block that stuff.

Five of my favorite beverages:
1) water
2) Lately I'm digging Bigelow's Vanilla Caramel Tea.
3) red wine
4) cherry juice
5) pina coladas

Five things about me that you may not have known:
1) I was on General Hospital. Briefly. Just as an extra, but that's why you may not have known ;).
2) My eighth grade class voted me "most sophisticated." I still don't know what they meant. What is "sophisticated" to a 14 year-old?
3) I used to (really) wish I'd been born a boy, and as a younger adult still had the occasional feeling that perhaps there had been some mistake in that regard. It didn't totally let up until I got pregnant.
4) For years, I had recurring nightmares about the George Washington Bridge. In my dreams I have been chased across it by gangsters; forced to get across on the cables; found myself marooned atop one of its towers; had to swing underneath it monkey-bar style. My hands and feet are sweating just thinking about it.
5) I don't like to eat yogurt with a metal spoon. For some reason, yogurt tastes better on plastic.

Five jobs that I have had:
1) clerk in a nurses' uniform store
2) library page
3) locksmith's assistant
4) teaching assistant (oceanography)
5) environmental consultant

Five movies that I could watch over and over:
1) Star Wars. All of them, even Episode I with that fucking JarJar Binks.
2) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
3) Horse Feathers
4) A Mighty Wind. No, Best in Show. No, Waiting for Guffman. You get it.
5) The Wizard of Oz

Five places I have lived:
1) NYC, briefly
2) northern NJ
3) southern CA
4) western MA
5) Cape Cod, MA

Five of my favorite foods:
1) soft boiled eggs with an English muffin
2) spaghetti and meatballs
3) chocolate cake
4) Hungarian goulash
5) caprese salad, if the tomatoes are *perfect*

Five places I would rather be right now:
1) On a brief tropical vacation.
2) Or in Tucson, AZ. Never been there, and I like to visit the desert.
3) Hm.
4) Nowhere, I guess. I really like it here. Except:
5) In bed asleep. Goodnight.

I won't make you (as if!), but let me know if you do the Five Things Meme on your own blog. S'fun.

Monday, February 11, 2008

12008

If you are moved by this piece:


Then you might be amused by this one:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Get ye to the polls.

Super Tuesday states, there's still time.

Remember the bumper sticker of a few years back: Regime change begins at home :).

Me, I'm sailin' on the good ship Obama. Do I wonder where he'll get the money for all the stuff he wants to do? Oh yes. But we won't be spending $275 million a day in Iraq anymore, and that's a damn good start.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What is this, 1930?

Not caring about the Super Bowl, I didn't have it on. Mr. S. was watching downstairs, and I went down to ask him something during a commercial, but stopped short when I saw this:

So what do you think... can we expect blackface gags during next year's Big Game? Should we take bets on which racist archetype gets the most airtime?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

How can you think of blogging at a time like this?

Actually there's nothing really going on. And by "nothing," I mean "the Super Bowl," about which "who gives a rat's ass." (Waving to the other person who doesn't give a rat's ass... why hello there!)

The real reason I have slacked off here is because the Bean switched to afternoon kindergarten last week -- she has half-day kindergarten, and the morning and afternoon classes switch midway through the year -- and it is well established that I don't love changes in my schedule. Takes me a while to settle into a routine that I like. When do I blog now? When, I ask you?!

It might be just because I'm not quite used to it, but I think I don't love the afternoon K schedule so much. Oh well. In mere months she'll be out for the summer, and I really don't want to think about that just yet.

I hear a lot of rumblings and grumblings that our town really ought to have full day kindergarten. The push for it comes mostly from households in which both parents have paying jobs. Their kids have been in full days of preschool/daycare for years already, so to get to kindergarten and have just a half day of school is kind of a step back. I can see that. Also, the point is often made, children learn SO MUCH MORE in a full day and they can GET AHEAD. Ahead of whom, I don't know. Presumably kids who don't have full day kindergarten.

I stay out of these arguments... they do become arguments, which is a bummer... because I'm quietly delighted that the Bean didn't go to school for the whole day this year. She's ready for it now. But in September, she was barely 5, she'd only had half days in preschool and "science camp" (a summer program at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History), and some days when she got home after her morning in kindergarten, she was really tired. It showed in her eyes, in her demeanor, in her emotions. She was processing a lot of social information and new school routines, and her downtime was more critical than ever.

As to the kids "learning more?" I don't know if I buy that. Maybe they do, and maybe it shows on standardized tests that I don't care about anyway. But I can't believe that more time in school at that age is something to push for on purely academic grounds, given no special learning challenges. Part of what makes my job so tiring is that the girls are learning things every minute, whether it's through books we read or places we go or just running errands and interacting with people. Things come up. Something as simple as "look at the pretty sky" can generate a whole conversation about how the Earth goes around the sun and the moon around the Earth, or how clouds are made of water, or how light is different colors. Learning happens all the time, and while doing worksheets to improve her writing is definitely valuable, twice the worksheets wouldn't be twice the value.

Plus, I'd have plain missed having her around.

Times like this I'm especially glad to have "stayed home" with the girls. It sucks to have lost my part of the family income. It sucks how stupid I have become by many adult standards (including my own). It sucks how unemployable I will be when I do try to find a paying job again, and how little I am likely to earn if I find one. But for all that, it rocks to be home with them, and I'm so glad we could make it work.

I must be sure to pencil in my blog time in any case. Some days, it's all that passes for adult conversation, even if I'm the only one conversing. Which may account for the above referenced stupidity problem. Hm.