Thursday, December 31, 2009

Just once, in a very blue moon

A quick post to wave out the month, the year, the decade.  I am delighted that this New Year's Eve coincides with a "blue moon" -- a thirteenth full moon in a year (which happens because the lunar cycle is 29ish days and our calendar months have mostly more days than that.  Same way you sometimes get three biweekly paydays in a month).

I will be making some changes to the blog in the New Year.  I've started getting a lot of spam in the comments -- especially on the older posts, it's getting insane -- and it's taking too much of my time to reject and/or delete them.  So I think that beginning soon, I'll have to implement that word verification thingy.  I will continue to accept anonymous comments because some of my favorite readers post anonymously (though it would help distinguish you from other anonymous commenters if you used a consistent initial, or something).  I do hope you won't stop commenting for the sake of the word verification.  I have little enough feedback as it is.  Sniffle.

So - My very best to each of you, friends in person and online, and who comment, or who don't.  I hope your holidays were all joyous, and that having them over with is joyous, and that the New Year brings you all good things.  Here's to a blue moon and a new decade -- second chances and fresh beginnings. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Obligatory spending, I mean merriment, chapter the nth

There's an editorial in today's Cape Cod Times about giving gifts to teachers. In brief: it says that some people go nuts with teacher gifts this time of year, but that gifts more than $50 in value to public employees, including teachers, are actually illegal.

I wish I'd seen this a month ago. Before Thanksgiving break, the mother of one of the Bean's classmates sent a notice home to all the parents saying that she sells Arbonne products (I won't provide a link, but it's skin care stuff), and that she thought it would be a great idea if every family in the class gave her some money ("$10-$20 would be great") so that she could fill a basket with some of these products for the teacher. We were instructed to call her if we didn't want to participate.

This little missive got on my nerves. First of all, coming in mid-November, it seemed like too soon to be getting on the whole buy-buy-buy treadmill that is Christmas in America. Second, how nice that this person saw a business opportunity for herself, but come on, $10-20/family? Really? We're going to give the classroom teacher a $200-$400 gift from your business? It just seemed wrong somehow.

Now I know why. According to the CCTimes piece, it doesn't matter if people pool their money, if the gift is worth more than $50, it's not legal.

The day the note came home, I left the enterprising parent a message saying no thanks, I didn't want to play. Probably there isn't much point in calling her again now to say, "oh by the way, it's against the law."

Still, what to do for teacher gifts? I just can't imagine anyone wants another World's Greatest Teacher mug/notepad/Christmas ornament/candle/fridge magnet/landfill fodder du jour, and frankly, most people need cookies like they need a hole in the head. I usually give a $15 gift card to a local bookstore with a note from the child whose teacher it is. Teachers are often people who like to read, and if not, it's an easy thing to give away. Seems to me the note from the child is the important part anyway, but what do I know. If I were more savvy about these things I'd be in business for myself.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Separate cells please! And make mine padded.

I'm angry with my daughters today.

Last night I went out to a party. With Mr. Sandyshoes hobnobbing with his fellow wizards on the other side of the continent, I hired a babysitter for a few hours so that I could attend. The girls were fed, teeth and hair brushed, in their pajamas and ready for bed when Christine arrived. They had 45 minutes to subject the poor girl to Uno or Sorry or Chinese Checkers, then they were to head upstairs for a story and then lights out.

After leaving my number and destination on the message board, a quick orientation to the TV controls for Christine and kisses and good-nights for the girls, I was out the door.

Party party. Lovely! However, I discovered that hiring a babysitter makes for internal meter-ticking and ka-CHING! sounds that drown out festive chit-chat, and that no $5 martini can subdue. I was also reluctant to get a teenage sitter in trouble by keeping her out late on a school night. So I skipped my usual routine of closing the bar and herding the party along to one that stays open later, and left after just a couple hours.

Home again, I asked the typical parent-to-babysitter question: How did it go?

"Well..." Christine began, "they were tired."


The long and short of it is that they were snippy and fighting all evening. They fought over the game, and were threatened with earlier bedtime. They fought over whose room in which to read the story, and ended up using my room, to which I had deliberately left the door closed. You know, to signify Do Not Go In Here. My room was a pre-party change of clothes MESS and I really, really did not want it in play.

Story completed, Christine was led to believe that the Bean is allowed to read with a flashlight for half an hour after bedtime. This sounds plausible and I can't fault Christine for going for it. The best lies have some truth to them, and Bean does sometimes get to do this. However, she knows absolutely damn well it doesn't happen on a school night. Wily little sneak.

Also, at some point the Bean told Christine she wishes she were an only child. I'm actually partly glad she did, because when I respond in the way that mothers do when one of their lovely offspring tells them this, I'm sure it falls on deaf ears. Such gentle words of wisdom about why not having a sister isn't as good as having one might have more influence coming from the intriguing, young and lovely Christine. (Admittedly, my own words of wisdom have become somewhat less gentle in the months since this complaint was first made, though I do manage to say "if you're feeling cranky, play by yourself" instead of "Really? Too fucking bad.") So it's good that the Bean got some feedback on that line of thought from a source other than her mother. But it still pisses me off that she pulls that peevish brat crap.

I don't know precisely what role the Peanut played in all this drama, but I know it takes two to fight, and that Peanut knows just what buttons to push to bring out the worst in her sister. I'm angry with both of them. I'm taking away the game they were fighting over, and they won't be allowed to play with each other at all today.

They'll be sad, they'll say they're sorry and that they won't do it again. But it won't work. As anyone with a sibling or more than one child knows, this bickering isn't going away. At what point am I perpetuating my anger to no purpose? One of the wonderful things about children is how quickly they let go. We plodding adults are always being encouraged to Live In The Moment, blah blah blah. Kids don't need reminding.

I don't want to be angry with them anymore. I don't want to take away their games or keep them apart. I do want them to stay the hell out of my room when the door's closed and not to behave like sneaky whining brats when a babysitter comes. Sigh.

(As usual, The Onion hits the nail on the head. Hee!)

Monday, December 07, 2009

I hear/The secrets that you keep...

I've written a little bit before about sharing a bed with my daughters. This isn't a routine thing. They've never been inclined (or encouraged) to join us in the middle of the night -- I'll go to them for a bit, if there's a scary storm or something -- or to come romp on our bed in the morning and fall back asleep there. We have been very successful with a Play Quietly In Your Room Until We Are Awake rule. But when we're traveling, it sometimes makes most sense to put one grownup and one child in each of a hotel room's two queen size beds, and at home, if Mr. Sandyshoes is away, I let the girls take turns sleeping in my bed with me.

Last night was the Peanut's turn. At bedtime she hauled in her gear and unpacked: feather and fleece pillows, fleece blanket with duckie, "taggie" blanket, stuffed lambie, stuffed doggies, and her music box. It is a good thing I have a King sized bed.

She arranged everything and fell asleep in no more time than it usually takes her. When I came to bed myself, I saw the taggie blanket had been draped carefully over lambie, and doggie was under the pillow. Peanut often sleeps on her back, limbs out like a capital X, but to my happy surprise, she was on her side and there was plenty of room for me.

We had a peaceful slumber until zero-dark thirty, when she hollered: "NO! You're looking at my cards!" Pause. "I said DON'T!!" We have been playing a lot of Uno at our house lately, so I assume this outburst was directed at her sister. I don't look at her cards, I swear. Yeeesh. Back to sleep.

When we woke at a decent hour, I asked if she remembered any of her dreams. Big smile, then "I dreamed of a bunny eating an apple pie." She had no memory of having loudly relived any injustices suffered during card games. It cracked her up to hear what she'd said.

My college roommate once sat straight up in bed and pronounced "I am a fine connoisseur of hams," then lay right back down and continued sleeping. That's probably the oddest thing I've heard of anyone saying in their sleep. Especially funny because she's Jewish, though not practicing. (Evidently.)

I don't think I talk much in my sleep anymore. I occasionally have crazy animal attack dreams, and thrash and holler until I wake myself. Mr. Sandyshoes has gotten as used to these as a person could be expected to, I guess. It's just what happens sometimes. I keep thinking I'll run out of animals because it's never the same species twice. Weirdest one (though not by far the most violent) was a deer chewing on my elbow.

What are you saying in your sleep?

I am now obligated to leave you with this primo bit of mid-80s pop culture. The hair, the hair!

Friday, December 04, 2009

NY Senator Diane Savino speaking truth to power

A disappointing vote by the New York State Senate. Who'd have thought that New York and Maine would have so much to learn from Iowa?

But here's hoping we haven't heard the last of Diane Savino:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Y'all are NUTS.

I have a crazy number of friends... by which I mean, way more than one... who WILLINGLY got up and went Christmas shopping before 6:00 this morning with crowds of other insane people. They did this on purpose! They were happy about it!

I'm sorry, but to my mind, something is really, really wrong with that.

Me? I slept late, played some board games, made turkey soup, listened to some Monty Python songs, watched some Marx Brothers, watched some rain out the window, watched some James Bond. Laid low, took it easy. Wouldn't change a thing.

Do you do the Black Friday madness? Do you like it? Please to explain.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Curse you, NPR! Well, sort of.

So I've recently made a change to my morning routine -- one that improves my mood, broadens my horizons, accentuates the positive, eliminates the negative, etc. etc.: When I turn on my bathroom radio, I don't listen to the whining, sneering blowhards on local commercial talk radio any more. I put their station on for the top-of-the-hour news and weather, then switch to NPR's Cape and Islands affiliate for the end of their local newscast (the self-proclaimed Cape Cod news station devotes so little time to actual news that you can listen to their entire newscast, switch stations, and still catch some of WCAI's) and then NPR's "Morning Edition."

I don't miss the local blowhards one bit. They are always annoying, and frequently stupid, and there is just no sense starting the day listening to them. Changing the station has been a good thing all 'round.

Today, Morning Edition had coverage of the White House state dinner for the Prime Minister of India. What a night that must've been! So I'm listening to the President's and Prime Minister's toasts, and to the reporting about the event (it was held in a giant tent with a transparent ceiling! which made me think of Hogwarts. Excellent.) The segment wrapped up, and my attention turned to getting the girls up-dressed-brushed.

The next thing my ear caught was some music between stories, or part of a story, I don't know. This is dreadful, awful, evil music. One wee measure of this song will plant the whole awful mess in my head for days. DAYS! If I even hear words that remind me of this song, I must immediately and with whatever mental strength I have left focus hard on something else -- anything else, to prevent this invasive, fast-growing, carnivorous vine of a tune from taking hold of my poor brain.

NPR played this song at my most vulnerable moment. I hadn't had my tea. I hadn't even dried my hair. My defenses were down and I was struck head-on. And now, friends, I am consumed with the fire of vengeance. I shall use this mighty blog (humor me) to perpetuate and amplify this horror, with video!

GAH!! The cheesiness, it burns! And yet, I can't look away. (Did that clarinet player wink?) And neither can you! And I bet you'll be singing that godforsaken song hours, maybe days from now, because NOTHING CAN ERASE IT.


And yet, even with this poison in my veins, I still have no regrets about the station change. That this is still progress shows just how bad the local blowhards are. Were. So long, blowhards.

On the day that you were born...

Friday, November 20, 2009

People watching: oil change edition.

As the person in charge of car maintenance for a two-Toyota family -- they never break, if well maintained -- I spend a fair bit of time in the service area waiting rooms of my local dealership. Some folks like to drop off their cars and pick them up later. For me, each oil change represents a chance to do some uninterrupted reading/writing/to-do-list updating. An opportunity to spend an hour without being asked for anything is not one to miss, even if it is in a waiting room.

I generally prefer the waiting area with tables, but this morning the man who sat down next to me smelled so bad that I had to move. Really. I imagined this memo:

TO: Revolting person who just sat down
FROM: The person you just sat down next to, who would really rather be minding her own business

RE: malodorousness

Sir: I regret to inform you that you stink. Yes, I said, YOU STINK. Would it have killed you to wash this morning? Really? How about brushing your teeth? Mouth breathers need to pay extra attention to that little chore, you know.


But because there's no good way to say any of that, I moved to the other room, which is usually intolerable because of a blaring television. Last time I was there, Regis and Kelly were screeching from the TV. Their guests were two English women whose self-appointed job it is to tell people what they ought to be wearing in order to look less like ordinary schlumps, and more like tarted-up schlumps with bunions and staggering dry cleaning bills. One of the examples shown of the fashion horrors these preening bitches had witnessed on the streets of Manhattan that very morning -- they were still recovering! -- was a woman wearing the exact same shoes that I had on my own feet as I stood at the coffee/tea counter beneath the infernal screen. Fuck you, English fashion police bitches, I thought. And fuck you, Regis and Kelly. My shoes are cute. Granted, they are maybe more appropriate for Cape Cod than Times Square, but still. Get stuffed.

Television sucks. I digress.

Thankfully, nobody had yet turned on the TV when I sat down this morning. We were all readers or writers, waiting for our cars. Hurray! So I got to work.

After a few moments a gangly woman with long stringy black hair clomped in on chunky square-heeled boots. She had the pigeon-toed, hunched posture of the self-consciously tall and broad shouldered. She wore skinny black leggings under a giant purple shirt, and her makeup was a tad clownish. Although she was about my own age, there was an affected carelessness about her that you'd associate more with teenagers. She definitely stood out in a room full of jeans and windbreakers.

Now, I like watching people, but sometimes what I like better is watching other people watch people. There was an unabashed observer, a casually well-dressed woman of about 60, in the waiting room this morning. (Well dressed, I say, except that she had one of those Coach handbags with a metallic gold strap and that big Coach "C" logo all over it. I hate those bags. Their primary purpose is to broadcast "Look! I have enough money to buy one of these hideously overpriced bags covered in the letter C!") The Observer had a good seat next to the coffee machine, and everyone who approached it got a most thorough once-over. Peering over reading glasses, she looked each of us over slowly, from hair to shoes and back up, staring as we took our seats. You could all but see her judgments pass across her forehead as she made them: some approval, some dismissal, quite a bit of disdain, some horror.

Her horror at the awkward, clomping woman in purple was poorly concealed. Lip curled in distaste, eyes wide, she didn't just do a double take and look away, but stared unrelentingly. I stared at her staring. I wanted her to know she was busted in her snottiness. She never looked my way, though. I suppose I had already been assessed and (I'm guessing) dismissed. Clomper clomped off with her coffee into the room with Smelly McStinkypants. The Observer went back to her novel. I went back to my writing.

Who should moments later appear to my wondering eyes but a dead ringer for George Costanza's mother, who, to my delight, scowled at everyone and sighed a big "well, what can you expect" sigh. I turned to The Observer, watched her take in this woman's plump countenance, her orange hair in newly set curls, her archly pencilled, agitated brows, her brown polyester stretch pants, her cheap shoes. The Observer registered predictable disdain. Mrs. Costanza sighed some more, got herself a blueberry muffin and sat down next to me.

The next woman to join us was carrying the brown version of that stupid "C" bag. This one actually rated a twitchy little smile of approval from The Observer. Acceptable. Her own kind.

As my name was called to pay up and get the heck out of there, in came a woman in a huge, safety-orange puffy coat and bright red lipstick. The Observer glared at the coat as the woman peeled it off and announced to us all that she was SOAKED to the SKIN, it's as if NOAH and the FLOOD are UPON US!

"As long as it isn't snow," grumbled Mrs. Costanza, scowling at her muffin.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The vaccine scene

Well, I probably shouldn't type this out loud, but the Sandyshoes family has thus far managed to avoid the flu, swine and otherwise. The vaccine situation has been frustrating. I will never understand the whole business of how flu shots -- just seasonal flu, mind -- are distributed to pediatricians' offices and thence to our kids. They tell me to call in October. Last year when I called in October, they said oh, we won't have any flu vaccine until mid-November. This year when I called in October, they had already held three vaccination clinics and were completely out of vaccine. So how am I supposed to know when they have it? Telepathy? Should I start making daily calls in August? It's effing ridiculous.

Yes, I understand that every year's flu is a different virus, so a new vaccine has to be developed, tested, manufactured, preserved, packaged, distributed, etc., and that every place doesn't get delivery at the same time. But, but! The at-risk population numbers don't change that much year to year. The equipment for manufacturing vaccine doesn't have to be re-invented every year. The distribution mechanisms are the same. It's not like any given flu season is the First Time Ever. Yet every year, there's the big mystery... when will the vaccine come? How much will there be? The doctors' offices don't know. The health departments don't know. Who DOES know?

Here on the end-user side of things, we are clearly on our own. The doctor's office is no help at all. Fend for yourselves, families! So we keep our ears and eyes open for sources. We'll pay cash if we have to. We'll drive miles away to clinics we've never been to before, clinics with no direct phone line to reach anyone who can tell us if there's any vaccine actually on hand. (CVS Minute Clinic, I'm looking at you. I tried to call the specific location "nearest" me, but the only number available is the national one. Without knowing what location I was even talking about the national number person told me "there was a delivery of flu vaccine at 2:00." "Really?" I asked her. "Every Minute Clinic in the country got a delivery at 2:00? Is that Eastern Standard Time?")

Add the H1N1 vaccine into the mix this year, and with the undersupply, and the long lines, and people going nuts for every imaginable reason (there's been hysteria about whether or not it's safe, and hysteria about whether we'll be able to get it at all. So which is it, folks -- are we scared because Big Bad Government is going to inject us with we know not what? or because we won't be able to get this poison into our veins soon enough?), you just have to use common sense and hope for the best. We wash our hands, we get enough rest, we cover our coughs, we use hand sanitizer, all that.

Meanwhile, the buzz all over town is about how many kids are sick. School attendance has dropped to levels not usually seen till flu season peaks in January/February. Parents are sending hand sanitizer into classrooms by the gallon. School nurses are being very cautious: The Peanut got sent home with a "fever" one day last week. Her face was flushed and felt warm, and I got the call to come get her. I'd been at the school all morning for something else, so I knew it was especially hot in the building that day, and that the Peanut's cheeks flush at the slightest over-warmth... still, I took her home, feeling perfectly well, if very confused at having been whisked to the nurse's office. "Mommy, they think I have SWINE FLU?!" I took her temperature every hour, and it never got over 97. Still, better safe than potentially infecting everyone else.

Turns out that the girls will be able to get the H1N1 vaccine via nasal mist today. Earlier this week, parents in town got a robo-call from the Superintendent of Schools saying vaccine is available from the Town Department of Health, whom we should call to make an appointment to receive it -- and which was, of course, closed at the time of the robo-call. Anticipating not being able to get through on the phone the next morning, Mr. Sandyshoes was on their doorstep as they opened for the day (not me, I had yoga. Yay! of which more later). There were people lined up before he even got there. The nurse said that indeed, the phone was ringing off the hook -- she'd just got off the line with someone who was railing that NOBODY should be vaccinated, and who didn't want to send her kid to school with other children that had been recently vaccinated. Really. So where do you go from there? How do you answer someone who is that emotionally committed to believing the vaccine is dangerous? As Mr. Sandyshoes said, these are the people you later hear about in the news, whose children have died on their living room couches for lack of medical attention.

Immunity is A Good Thing, folks. Get some if you can. And use good sense, in any case.

(For more reasoned discussion of the anti-vax hoopla, check out the discussions at

Monday, November 09, 2009

Waste paper much?

Number of items I bought at Stop & Shop this morning: 10
Length of my receipt: 36.5 inches.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

A wee heartbreak

The Peanut spent yesterday afternoon and evening digging through her bin of markers and drawing little orange pumpkin faces on pages from one of those pocket-sized spiral notebooks. Each one was different, and on each, she wrote one of her classmates' names. She counted carefully to be sure she hadn't forgotten anybody. Then she clipped them together and put them in her frog backpack, and today, she was going to hand them out to everyone.

When I met her bus after school, she waved to her friends as always, and as always on the walk back to the house, I said, "so Peanut! Tell me all about it! Did you learn anything today?" And she said "Yes, but Mommy, nobody wanted my pumpkin faces, Sienna drew all over hers, and I had to throw some of them away, because nobody wanted them! I worked so hard on them, and nobody wanted them!" And she cried and cried in my arms as I whispered "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," and fought back tears myself.

I hate other kids. I hate them.*

And I know that they just didn't understand that the Peanut was giving them a piece of her heart, and that it's a lot to expect of a kindergartner to say thank you when a friend gives them a little piece of paper that seems meaningless. But my heart breaks to think of the Peanut watching her classmates reject or wreck these little gifts, and bringing the rest of them to the trash.

Did you learn anything today, indeed.

It was, at least, good timing for something like this. Peanut's best friend Gina -- who kept her little paper pumpkin face -- is over to play. Her Mom brought her over just as Peanut and I were wiping our tears. The girls took off running immediately, and the pumpkin face fiasco is suddenly ancient history. As I write, they are zooming around the yard like maniacs in between bites of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (that'd be no-salt-no-sugar peanut butter and all fruit jelly on wheat bread, because I am That Mom) and sips of chocolate milk. We're going to make lemon cheese bars (they're better than they sound) and they can eat them at the top of the play gym and then scream their little heads off coming down the slide.

She'll forget about it, or get it in perspective, and bounce right back. Me? I'm still sad. Sad to see her realize that she can't just wear her love for everyone on her sleeve and receive it back in kind. My heart broke for the Bean when it happened to her in Kindergarten, and it's breaking for the Peanut now. It's a chip out of their innocence -- just a sad, sad feeling, for a parent who cares about that sort of thing in a world where plenty don't.

*no, not really. But still.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Things that are always around when you don't need them but are somehow hard to find when you do

pens or pencils
Chap stick
nail files
massage therapists
scrap paper
backs of earrings
gas stations
vacuum cleaner bags
little packets of ketchup/mustard/mayo/relish
napkins, in the car
complete thoughts

Friday, October 09, 2009

This post is toned down a notch from what I wanted to say after it happened.

A kid on a playground grabbed my daughter so hard that he left gouges in her arm. Asked how this came about, the woman watching him said, "oh, Todd needs redirecting sometimes, he's a special needs child, so we redirected him, and it's fine now."

Well, no, actually. It is not fine now.

I don't give a rat's skinny ass how "special" this kid's "needs" are. My girls have the evidently not-so-special need not to be injured by other children on playgrounds, and I'm sorry, but that trumps whatever he's got. Insensitive? Hell yes. My sensitivity ends where my daughters' safety begins. Call it whatever you like, but keep your kid's hands off my girls, or you'll experience a "redirection" you will never forget.

Have a nice day now.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I don't get it.

Roman Polanski drugged and raped a child.

Why is anyone -- ANYone -- upset that this is a serious punishable offense?

We're not talking blow-job-from-consenting-adult, censure and move on.

He drugged. And raped. A child.

Harrison Ford? Whoopi Goldberg? I love you both, but STFU.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Mountain Day!

I went to college in western Massachusetts, on one of the most beautiful campuses you'll ever see. This time of year is so gorgeous, so exhilarating, there. Fall is the best time of year on Cape Cod, and in many places, but out in western Massachusetts, it's cranked up a notch. It goes to 11.

My alma mater has a clock tower with bells heard on the hour all over campus. Every fall semester, on one day chosen from all the impossibly gorgeous fall days, the bells would toll the seven o'clock morning hour... and then keep ringing, and ringing, and ringing for five minutes. This was the signal for Mountain Day -- a college tradition since 1838. On Mountain Day, classes and meetings of all kinds were called off. The idea was that everyone should spend that day climbing the nearby hills.

Many students really did climb a little mountain on Mountain Day. Others turned off their alarms and got some more sleep before using the day as a reprieve from too-pressing deadlines, maybe giving a nod to the tradition by doing some work outside on the green instead of in the library. Either way, Mountain Day was a gift -- a day of sanctioned hooky (if there can be such a thing), or one more day to finish that paper you should've finished yesterday (as a practical measure, though taking a bit away from the pure joy of things, experienced professors would include Mountain Day deadline contingencies in their syllabus).

Mountain Day is a different calendar day every year, and part of the fun of it was guessing when it would come. On especially lovely days, we'd listen carefully at 7:00, and if the bells stopped at 7, the suspense would continue. Too early and it doesn't seem like enough of a gift -- the pressures of the semester haven't piled up enough. But left too late, we might run out of gorgeous days. Autumn's stunning reds, golds and greens give way to chilly greys and browns all too soon.

I can't remember a year when they didn't find the perfect balance.

Now of course we're all older, with jobs and/or children and whatever other adult obligations make it harder to just ditch everything on short notice and head for the hills with a picnic for the day. But today, at a lovely little college in western Massachusetts, it is Mountain Day, and as they've done for 170 years, students are ditching the books for a few hours and scrambling up a hillside to get a good look at their little corner of the world from up top. Perfect.

Plenty of college traditions haven't stayed with me. I never got into the one involving prancing 'round the Maypole, for example. But declaring a Mountain Day from time to time is good for the soul.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who the hell is Mitchell? I was writing to Pamela.

Lately, because I'm in charge of different stuff for different organizations, I've had to email a lot of people I don't know particularly well. I'm amazed at the number of women who use an email address with their husband's name on it, and not their own. For example say I'm writing to Daisy Popplebottom; her email addy won't be daisyp@___, or the gender-neutral dpopplebottom@____, or a family thing like CapeCodPopplebottoms@____, or even Daisy&Thirsty@____, or something completely unrelated to her name, say, naughtyzoot@___ (not that I have ever used "naughtyzoot" as a username for anything. Never you mind.) No, Daisy's email address is ThurstonQPopplebottom@_____. When she replies to my email, I have no idea who the hell this is or why he'd be writing to me, but I have to open it in case it's one of these women with their husband's email addresses.

Gah! Why would you do this? There's just no good reason not to have your own email address. Even if it's a "family" one, why attach only one person's name to it?

My own inclination to independence and not being thought of as adjunct to anyone else, particularly in business I'm conducting my own self, leads me to think of these women as somehow pathetic. But I'm obnoxious like that. Does it bother you the same way, or at all?

Friday, September 25, 2009

You know...

...seeing the occasional spider in my house does not really bother me.

What bothers me is that they are not starving to death.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

As promised, the schlocky sentimental post in which the Peanut goes to kindergarten.

Well, my Peanut's off on the big yellow bus with her sister. Our bus driver's been looking forward to this almost as much as she has. The two of them are buds, as she's been chattering to him at the bus stop since she was three and the Bean started school. So the girls got on the bus, and the Peanut immediately began walking the aisle, greeting her public.

That's my Peanut. She's got it goin' on.

And yes, I'm feeling the heartache of watching her go, and walking home from the bus stop without her for the first time. But what I'm mostly feeling is grateful to her.

I'm grateful that she still folds up small in my arms and lets me count her toes like I did when she was two, pretending to get it wrong so she can correct me. When we first started playing this game she would really check to be sure she had five toes and not six. AGAIN! she'd say, and we'd do it again.

I'm grateful that she still says AGAIN! like a toddler sometimes. Not for the toe-counting game, she purely indulges me there. But she likes a tickling game in which my hand is a spider who's scared of her and runs all around trying to find a place to hide. "AGAIN, Mommy!" I love that she's holding on to some baby-ness, even as she feels the pure joy of growing up.

I'm grateful that she's been exceptionally affectionate lately, even by her standards, and she's a very demonstrative little girl. All those extra kisses and I-love-you-Mommys and sudden joyous squeezes for no reason -- I'll take 'em. Every one. (But don't think, Peanut, that I don't notice that some of these are timed perfectly for when the Bean's in trouble for something.)

Yesterday in the car on the way to kindergarten orientation... kind of a dress rehearsal for today's real First Day... she said, unprompted, "I'm READY, Mommy! I'm REALLY READY!" And she is, she really is. She embraces changes with open arms, and a smile she can't repress even when she wants to, and a love of everything, just everything.

Oh, my baby. Off you go into this wider world. It's all yours!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Movie Night catch-up

Holy crow! I haven't posted about a movie all summer long. Partly it's because nothing has really wowed me in a long time, but for better or worse, here's some of what's been showing in the Sandy Shoes Home Theater.

Transporter 3 (2008). We really liked The Transporter, and moderately liked Transporter 2. Now, I don't ask much of sidekick characters in action star vehicle films. I just want them not to annoy me. Sadly, Transporter 3 is intolerable due to the crazy shrieking giggling silly bitch character played by Natalya Rudakova, whom I truly hope never to see again in any context. Jason Statham still rocks, but not enough to overcome this mess. Just watch the original again.

Being There. I thought it would be interesting to revisit this 1979 Peter Sellers classic. Sellers plays a child-like gardner who gets mistaken for a political genius. Eh, whatever. I think maybe this was a child-like movie which got mistaken for genius political satire. But I'm probably just missing a lot of the references.

The DaVinci Code (2006) is a completely improbable, ludicrous movie, based on a completely improbable, ludicrous novel, and I loved them both. Murder, ancient secret societies, intrigue, evil Catholics, suspenseful clue-following escapades -- what more could you ask for? I can't wait to see the next one (Angels and Demons), although I hope Tom Hanks's character has had a haircut since his adventures in Paris. Quiz question: what does this movie have in common with the Transporter films?

The Matador (2005) One night in Mexico City, Pierce Brosnan's kooky hit-man-of-uncertain-motives character runs into Greg Kinnear's sad, boring, dorkish businessman character. The movie is an attempt at ensuing wackiness, but it misses. It's not terrible, but it's not great by far. It did remind me how unappealing Hope Davis is.

Religulous (2008). Religious + ridiculous = see what he did there? Ha! Ha! Yes, this is Bill Mahr skewering religious wingnuts. He makes valid, relevant, necessary points, i.e. separation of church and state is important; crazy people are trying to erase the line, and it's scary how close they get. Agreed on both counts, Bill. But after a while, the skewering gets tiresome. Yeah it's funny, but it's also like shooting fish in a barrel.

Greenfingers (2000) is a feel-good British comedy, "loosely based on a true story," that I missed when it came out. Clive Owen's character is in jail, and finds himself placed in a progressive, low-security work camp style prison. He's completely closed off to everyone and everything, then lo and behold finds he has real talent at making things grow. The supporting cast, including Helen Mirren, is terrific, and this is a really enjoyable little film. Its flaws -- sentimentality and predictability -- are forgivable. Trivia: it was produced by Trudie Styler, who's married to Sting. I didn't know she was in the movie biz, but she's done several good ones (including Guy Ritchie's Lock Stock... and Snatch).

Idiocracy (2006) -- in which yer Average Joe gets put into hibernation and wakes up in the future to find that humans are all so stupid and disgusting that he is the smartest person on the planet -- comes from Mike Judge, of Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill fame. I thought that was a good sign. Sadly though, it's merely revolting, and too dull to work as satire except in a couple of details (Costco-as-city, that kind of thing). I do think Mike Judge has strokes of comedic genius, but they're not in evidence here. And yes, I know many people would describe Beavis and Butt-head, which made me laugh, as "merely revolting, and too dull to work as satire..." So why is that funny and this not? I think its being a live action comedy was a huge turnoff. Judge's animated works were funnier from the get-go because of the drawing. Episode length vs. movie length plays a role -- the B&B movie wasn't as good as the shorts. Also, maybe, just maybe, I am turning into a humorless old fart. Whatever the reason, Idiocracy plain sucked, and I urge you not to lose the hour and a half to it that I did.

More anon, though maybe I'll do books next.

What have you been watching?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who's walking by

Thirty years ago (yes) I walked home from school sometimes with a girl named Beth. When I'd first asked Beth where she lived, she told me the name of the street (Hugenot Court, I still remember). Figuring out where it was, I asked her "is it a dead end?" meaning only to determine whether there were there any other streets off of it. "NO," she said, turning up her pale, pinched little nose in her pale, pinched little face. "I HATE it when people call it a 'dead end.' It is a COURT." Hm. Maybe it was just the once that we walked home together.

If only she'd said it was a "cul-de-sac," which I could've told her meant "bottom of the bag." I was better at French than making friends, in those days.

Today, I live at the end of a CIRCLE. The street is named _____ Circle. So don't ask me if it's a DEAD END. 'Round these parts, the signs say "NO OUTLET," anyhow, much friendlier and less judgmental than "DEAD END." And streets that are named ____ Circle or _____ Court don't have those signs because most people are smart enough to know that that's what Circle and Court MEAN. Take THAT, 12-year-old self.

I digress. Before I've even started, I digress.

Some people live in places where passers-by are too many to count; for others, a single passer-by would be the news of the day. Our little circle falls in the suburban in-between. We're part of a large-ish neighborhood of mostly year-round residents (a lot of Cape Cod homes, particularly in outer Cape towns, stand empty most of the year). Lots of walkers and joggers make our street part of their loops. Through the window over my desk, I've gotten to recognize the regulars. Here are some of them:

There is a guy about my age, fit, with a head of thick dark brown hair that bounces as he runs. I have no idea who he is but I look forward to his runs. I have started calling him George Stephanopoulos and imagining that he is listening to political news on his ipod.

There's an older man, a wiry fellow, brisk walker. He carries a stick, but doesn't use it for walking support. He just swings it around as he goes. We have some flowers planted at the base of our mailbox at the end of the driveway. As he walks past, Stick Man swats at the flowers. It doesn't seem a malicious gesture, more that he's swinging the stick around and he just can't help trying to make contact. He pulls the punch at the last second and hasn't yet wrecked the flowers. It's the kind of thing I would do, if I walked around swinging a stick.

There are several walkers who always make the rounds in pairs. One pair is of an elderly woman, her back bent at a severe, improbable angle, and a younger one -- daughter? niece? neighbor, companion? They go at a good clip. Bent as she is, that old lady can go. She'll be all right.

There's a young woman, lycra-sporting, ponytailed, who power walks laps around the circle, all the while SHOUTING cheerfully into her phone. Really, shouting.

There's a husky guy with a curly mop of hair and a mustache who used to walk/run around the circle with his German Shepherd. His run seemed more of a play-run than an exercise run. He'd do it in workboots. The dog would be loose and romping around all the yards, and when I'd see him I'd say to myself, dude, if that dog shits on my lawn, you will regret it. (Because I'm just like that about dog shit. Whack my flowers if you must, and I'll probably say "well. That was odd." But do not under any circumstances let your dog crap on my grass.) But the dog never did; he'd just run around like a maniac, following his owner, who'd sometimes run backwards to laugh at him playing. Last time I saw them, the guy was with a young woman pushing a stroller, and the dog was leashed. Happens to the best of us, big dog.

Sometimes my neighbor across the street will stroll around, drink occasionally in hand, to see what Mr. Sandyshoes has been up to. Mr. Sandyshoes is always up to something; it usually involves intriguing noises from power tools, and it's hardly ever possible to tell from the front of the house what it is. I felt for this neighbor. I knew how curious he must be, watching lumber being unloaded, listening to various noises of major projects underway. I was glad when eventually he just came up the driveway and said "so what's all this then?" Sometimes he scares the crap out of me by appearing out of nowhere while I am in my lawn-mowing trance, but that's my own fault. Mr. Sandy startles me just by coming in the room sometimes, and I'll jump damn near out of my skin, and he'll say, "hello, yes, it's me... I live here, remember?"

Who's walking around where you live?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

This is why my life goes down the intertubes

You know, I try to be an informed citizen. I do. Television news being what it is, I do this through teh interwebz. However, this has its own hazards. Who has the discipline to read Real News Stories when the headline "MAN STRIPS FOR GEORGE CLOONEY" is staring them down? So yeah, I click, I click. And then I share, so, you're welcome.

For your (mild, safe for work - sorry) amusement:

Well, dang. CNN's embed code isn't working. But I'm too far into the post to quit now, so here's the link to the video I was hoping to put here.

I bet George Clooney gets a lot of that.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

In which I resume blogging, with no promises not to start all my posts with "in which."

I am back.

Thanks for the touching inquiries after my health and safety, as well as for amusing speculations that I might have ditched my lovely family on vacation and run off to parts unknown, never to be heard from again.

I am fine, and ditched nobody. Vacation went well; a nice mix of sightseeing and friend visiting. We had heavy rain and bad traffic on the way down and back, but otherwise perfect weather and smooth travels. Observations from Amish country and (sigh) Sesame Place possibly to be shared later.

Since our return, my online time has been sucked up with noodling around on Facebook, and other stuff well-suited to a low attention span. Hard to write with people asking you things every fifteen seconds - go figure.

But now! Labor Day took most of the excess traffic off our fair peninsula for another nine blissful months. The Bean is an hour or so into her first day of 2nd grade as I type, Mr. Sandyshoes is back to the lab and classroom as another semester takes off for him as well, Peanut starts kindergarten next Monday, and I am happily getting back into the general scheduled-ness of things.

Stay tuned for the obligatory sentimental, schlocky post after the Peanut boards the school bus with her sister next week, because her home with Mommy days are really, really, really All Done, and I'm going to miss her. But for now, I'm opening the windows wide to the cool, crisp September air, fine-tuning the school day routine, and savoring another new beginning.

Friday, August 21, 2009

In which I am a spoiled brat about going on vacation.

It's hella hot and humid here, so guess what? We're leaving on "vacation" to somewhere hotter and more humid.

We'll be in the car for hours, along with everyone else on the eastern seaboard who isn't smart enough to stay the hell home and/or lucky enough to live somewhere not worth fleeing.

But wait, we DO live somewhere not worth fleeing. Everywhere is worse than Cape Cod, in the summertime. Everywhere. Why can't we go away in February? Huh? HUH?


Things I would've done at home:
  • picked more awesome cherry tomatoes from the garden, which is going gangbusters;
  • maybe taken a drive to the outer Cape to check out the Hurricane Bill surf, which looks like it could be really cool.
Oh well. The New Jersey Turnpike seems like much more fun than either of those things.

On the up side, I do love license plate games. And the people we're going to see are as totally cool as the weather won't be.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I take it all back...

...about the swimming lessons.

The last few times I've been down to the lake with the girls, the Bean in particular has really impressed me with her comfort level and eagerness to "swim." She has her head in the water and her arms and legs moving around, and somehow makes forward progress for several seconds at a time. I can't call it swimming, exactly, and Lord help her if she were to discover she was in over her head during the attempt. But still: progress, when I thought there had been none. So, yay Bean!

The Peanut? She still prefers to just roll around in the wet sand, shake her paws off, and have people call her "Simba." But she'll get there.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Food for thought (to be chewed with our mouths closed)

I saw this months and months ago, but it keeps coming back to mind, so I thought I'd share it here.

This is Dan Savage, presumably at a forum or workshop somewhere, answering relationship questions from the audience:

This answer of his clarified something I've observed over the years, in both my own and friends' romantic relationships: that in dealing with the inevitable bumps in the road, it can be useful -- critical, even -- to distinguish between "roommate" issues and "relationship" issues.

Roommate issues include differences of opinion on what constitutes ideal summer and winter room temperature; who leaves too much stuff lying around; when the garage is going to be cleaned out; who squeezes the toothpaste tube where; whether it's OK to bring the car home running on fumes and not mention it to the other person who needs to drive it; whether a single hall light can be left on throughout the evening or whether every single bulb in the house must be extinguished if there isn't a sentient being doing something productive directly beneath it; and whether the cucumber turning to mush in the crisper is just a cucumber that didn't make it this week, or an indicator of an unacceptable and shameful pattern of food waste in the household. Just some examples, you know, from thin air.

Relationship issues are the tougher ones -- questions of trust, power, sex, communication, philosophies of life, personalities, and tons more. I'm not nearly so fluent in any of that, because I Don't Want To Talk About It. In many ways, I'm ill-suited to being half of a pair; it can be very hard for me to get into any of this, even when something's fairly begging to be discussed.

And sure, there's overlap between these broad categories. I've just noticed that the distinction can be helpful, as "roommate" stuff can easily obscure "relationship" stuff. Sometimes what seems to be the problem is immaterial, and the problem itself is buried somewhere underneath aggravation over the way the dishwasher's being loaded, or whatever.

ANYway. I think "the price of admission" is a great concept -- such a helpful way to think about those roommate issues that can annoy us to death, or not, as ultimately we choose. It's a nice mental box to put that stuff in, clearing room to think about the hard stuff, which is where there's relationship paydirt to be hit in bringing out each other's best self, or, as Dan says, in willfully ignoring that that person doesn't really exist.

Monday, August 10, 2009

UPS Next Day Air: You're Welcome.

I just lined up everything I needed for today's errands (a check for the bank; the shopping list and tote bags for a Trader Joe's run; a couple items and their receipt to make a return at AC Moore; money and empty egg cartons for the family from whom we buy fresh eggs), and...

...after a (mercifully brief) search, realized that I'd left my keys in my brother's car, which... now in New Jersey, where he returned last night after a weekend visit up here.

That's a wee bit out of range of the beeping key finder device I had a while back, which, though it did help locate my keys if they were on my desk or in a coat pocket instead of on their hook, turned into something of an embarrassment when it wouldn't stop beeping, unprompted, no matter which battery got replaced or how often.

So I had to call my egg-selling friend back and say I wouldn't be coming after all, because I had no keys. She must think I'm losing my mind. The last time I bought eggs, I was $3 short because I'd left my wallet at home and didn't realize it until I was in her doorway. She was very cheerful about that, and very cheerful about this. I think it must be something of a relief to see there's someone who has her shit less together than you. I guess I don't mind being that person once in a while.

However, a firm Note To Self: Don't take critical items out of their usual places. Just don't. Even if it means bringing the whole handbag when all you need with you is a single key -- bring it. Also: saying out loud, "I AM PUTTING MY KEYS HERE," is not a reliable safeguard against forgetting to pick them back up, though it will help you remember where you left them, once it's too late.


Thursday, August 06, 2009


I'm watching out the window as the Bean and her friend J., who's moving away tomorrow, play on their scooters around the circle at the end of our street. The Peanut is on her scooter too -- a littler one, with two wheels in the back instead of just the one -- and she just can't keep up with the bigger girls zooming around. They're only a year and a half apart, but sometimes it really shows. Peanut, left in the proverbial dust at the end of the driveway, is watching for them to come around again. Her helmet makes her appear all top-heavy, and her legs are so skinny, sticking out the bottom of her skirt. She looks like a cartoon.

Oh, my little Peanut.

In a month and a bit, she'll get on the school bus with her sister for the first time. What am I going to do, with nobody to walk home with from the bus stop?

Cry like a baby, is what.

"Invalidating legitimate presidencies since 2009!"

Now you, too, can be fantasized by crackpots to have been born in Kenya.

Get yer proof right here! Make it accessible, but not too easily accessible -- maybe a bribe should come into play -- and they're sure to fall for it, and possibly submit it as evidence in a lawsuit!

Good times.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Money down the drain: swimming lesson edition

Yeah. So I've been sitting in the goddamn pool area bleachers, where the air is conveniently heated to approximately six thousand goddamn degrees for your viewing comfort, for an hour twice a week all effing summer long. This is for the distinctly faked pleasure of oohing and aaahing in pride every time one of my girls keeps her face in the water for more than a tenth of a second, and enduring excruciating small talk from the parents who aren't faking it. The novelty wore off before the experience even started.

Today was their last swimming lesson of the session (thank God). Progress made, in all these weeks: NONE. Zero. They've spent lesson after lesson after lesson being toted around the pool by lovely young women posing as swimming instructors, who coo "GOOOOD JOB!" at them every time they make any kind of motion; their reports indicate, to nobody's surprise, that neither of the girls has accomplished a single thing, and the next level they should register for is the level they've just supposedly finished.

Screw that. Frankly, I'm in the mood to throw them in the deep end and let them figure it out themselves.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

It's hard to say good-bye.

Imagine you have new neighbors a few houses up the street. They're about your age and stage in life and they seem pretty cool. After seeing each other in passing a few times, you invite them over for a cookout. Turns out you have similar educations and interests, hobbies and politics, all that. Cool! We should do this again!

Some time goes by, and you worry that maybe they didn't like you as much as you like them - ack! (Remember that episode of Friends, when Chandler and Monica met another couple who they thought they hit it off with, but the other couple totally blew them off? Gah!!!! If only Mr. Sandyshoes didn't have answers for everything! If only I didn't pepper my conversation with so many Star Wars and/or Monty Python references!)

But then they do invite you over. It's all good. And it keeps happening. As the years go by, you get together often, spontaneously or planned, with children or, too rarely, without.

The kids are close in age, and all like each other and play well together, even as they go through their various phases and stages. At Thanksgivings, when their teachers ask them what they're thankful for, they name each other. It's lovely to see that they're constants in each other's lives, as they learn to swim and read, as tricycles give way to training wheels, to be cast aside in triumph soon enough. It just feels good to know they'll eventually be getting on the school bus all together every day. There's no guaranteeing they'll always want to hang out together, but they'll have the comfort of having known each other virtually all their lives, and the security of knowing they are always loved and welcome in each other's homes.

Traditions begin to form around shared activities and holidays and maybe an annual summer camping trip. You trust each other's judgment and outlook; you know that you'll be there for each other, whatever need arises.

Now imagine that these cool neighbors, these friends who now seem more like family (in a good way!), have to move almost a thousand miles away.

We've known for months that it's happening, and now the moving van is coming in just a few days. Still, it doesn't seem real.

All of us have lived enough years in enough places to know that distance does not break friendship. But we're sad, just now.

Holy crap!

July is gone!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jimmy Carter is awesome.

He's leaving his church because of how it treats women and girls.

Say what you will about the man, he is no hypocrite.

Would that more public figures would follow. Shoot, would that *anyone* would follow. I just don't get why people tolerate -- let alone fork over their money to support -- the institutionalized misogyny in their religions.

People talk a lot about trying to change things from within. I would buy that line if things were, you know, changing.

Kudos to President Carter for voting with his feet. Thank you, sir.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

How do you feed a flock of kids in the summertime?

Make roughly a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut up a watermelon, and put it all outside the back door. Repeat as needed.

Life is good.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hurrah for Johnny; Angie, not so much.

No, not Depp and Jolie. I'm just taking an opportunity to publicly dis, and publicly praise, a couple of restaurants.

Last month the Sandyshoes family spent a weekend in Mystic, CT. We usually head down there for the first weekend in June, which we chose because it's not too awfully hot yet, and with school still in session, the crowds are manageable. Our routine has been to get into town for dinner Friday night, settle in, then visit the Mystic Aquarium on Saturday morning. Always looking to avoid the high cost and poor nutrition of "attraction food," we bring a simple picnic lunch to eat in the grass near the car, then go back in to spend more time at any exhibits we feel we shortchanged in the morning. Then it's back to the hotel for some quiet time before we go out to dinner.

For a few years now we've been going to Angie's Pizza -- a very basic family restaurant, easy parking, large-portioned pasta dishes and the like. This year we ordered a pizza. And waited. And waited. And waited. And finally asked what was going on? We were told it was coming right out... and still we waited. And waited. Then our server came out and said, "I'm so sorry, but they just dropped your pizza..." ...and the girls burst into tears, and we got up to leave. But not before being charged $5.50 for a bowl of pale lettuce that they called a "garden salad." Now if you're in the restaurant business, do you keep customers waiting almost an hour for a pizza, then drop it, and still charge them for a pathetic salad? I didn't think so. We won't be back. It was adequate in years past, but not so great that it's worth recommending or returning to anymore.

Unfortunately, it was now later than we'd wanted to be out, and we were now quite hungry. Earlier that day we'd noticed a Chinese and Japanese restaurant, Johnny's Peking Tokyo, in a strip mall near our hotel. From the outside it didn't look like anything special, but Chinese food is usually pretty quick to come to table, so we gave it a shot. What a pleasant surprise. If you like sushi, there's a bustling sushi bar. But with the hungry, cranky girls to think about first, we opted for simple, familiar dishes... cold sesame noodles (people seem to love or hate these -- I love them a lot), steamed dumplings, chicken with garlic sauce. Everything was very tasty, and the service was fast and friendly. We'll be back, at a more leisurely pace and with a more adventurous spirit, menu-wise, though I'm not big on sushi. An odd little bonus: the place was playing Latin dance music. This made the Peanut very happy. We don't know who Johnny is, but we're grateful to him.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Wait, what's this? I actually have a half hour to write?!

Well hello there! Summer is fully underway. Countdown enthusiasts will note that we're at T-57 days till school starts. Between piano lessons (mine and theirs), tennis lessons (mine), swimming lessons (theirs), playgrounds and play dates and various other activities -- including In Which The Bean Swallows a Nickel and We Go To The Hospital, and In Which I Dye My Hair An Alarming and Unintended Shade of Orange, and the popular favorite, In Which I Mow The Lawn Yet Again -- I've let blogging take a back seat for a while. But we are still here, and all is well, despite the rare screaming fit that gets one of us exiled to the deck in the rain.

Ah, the rain. I think I'm the only person on Cape Cod who truly savored our cool, cloudy June, and who is still loving the not-too-hot temperatures -- and occasional sun, even! -- in July. We haven't turned on the air conditioning even once! That's so great. I just don't get the craving for hot hot hot in summertime, though I could always use a brief dose of it midwinter.

Actually, summer in general can have me feeling a bit lonesome and out of sorts. It feels a bit like Christmas, in that everyone likes it except me, and I get to feeling even more out of place than usual. I especially dislike long days sitting at the beach, squinting under the searing sun and surrounded by littering tourists and their whining brats. No, thanks. You can have the beach in summertime. I'll wait till Labor Day.

In the meantime, there's lots of other cool stuff to do, and we're doing a fair bit of it and having a grand old time. Hope you're having a terrific summer too, whatever shape that takes for you!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Not our finest hour.

The Bean is outside screaming her head off. It is raining outside, and she is in her socks. I'm sure that upsets her. However, moments ago, she was inside screaming her head off, and I have decided to drive home the point that I won't listen to it.

Is this perfect parenting? Probably not. But at least it's not wintertime. I have been known to plop her down in a snowbank and go back in the house rather than let her throw a tantrum. I just. Won't. Put up with it. And when she calls my bluff, she's got an outdoor experience coming.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Appalachia, Argentina... let's call the whole thing off.

If only the Republicans would quit being so gosh-darned preachy about [so-called] "family values," it wouldn't cause so many people to go "BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" every time another GOP leader cheats on his wife.

Who is it that the sanctity of marriage needs defending from, again?

Monday, June 22, 2009

What a difference a few years makes.

The other day, Mr. Sandyshoes and I stood together at the kitchen counter, opening our mail. His contained a decent check, which was payment for a consulting job he'd recently wrapped up. As I opened mine, out dropped a lone dollar bill and two coupons for goat cheese. Yes. That was to thank me for my time completing a survey about said goat cheese.

Now I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I have no regrets whatsoever about ditching my mediocre career to be with my babies as they've grown into girls. But I miss paychecks with my name on them. I really do.

I have realized during this hiatus from paid work (goat cheese surveys notwithstanding) that I truly don't want to go back into hazardous waste site cleanup (shocking, I know). However, I have no clue what's next for me professionally, and no idea how to figure it out. I have a Master's degree in Geology, but these days I can't remember a damn thing I learned in school. So what's going for me? Well, I'm reasonably intelligent. I can write clearly. I like to learn things and go places. I'm a good planner. I have common sense. I'm great at reading out loud. I'm an excellent driver. I can very quickly find a grammatical or spelling error in damn near any written work. I make really delicious banana bread.


Yeah, I'd better sign off. I've been invited to complete a survey on salad dressing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Movie Night: 88 Minutes

I don't have a lot to say about this movie, except:
  • It's been a long time since I willingly dozed off, without influence of wine or prescription muscle relaxant, during a film that calls itself a "thriller"
  • So that's what Leelee Sobieski looks like these days
  • Why does Al Pacino do stuff like this? I don't figure he needs the money, but
  • if he just said outright "yo, it's to show off my hair," then you couldn't blame the guy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Flag Day at The Bean's School

The Bean's school (which I should note, before I get ranting, that I really love) had a Flag Day ceremony this morning for grades K-4. Everyone was decked out in red, white and blue. There was an impressive performance by a local equestrian team (with horses in red, white and blue socks!), short addresses by our State Representative and one of our town Selectmen, children reading their essays and poems ("What The Flag Means To Me,") and singing songs.

So, a relatively big deal, as in-school events go. At least one newspaper photographer was there.

Oh, but parents? Weren't invited. The Bean had mentioned that there would be some Flag Day-related activity this week, but I only became aware of the date, time and scale (horses! elected officials! press!) of this specific event because I happened to be there yesterday helping with something else. I almost didn't go to see it this morning, but was driving by the school entrance at just the right moment, so figured what the hey. It makes the Bean really happy when I go to school stuff.

And: I love my country -- truly, I do. But if this proud American never hears Toby Keith singing that Lee Greenwood "Proud to be an American" tune again, it'll be too soon. Playing on the loudspeaker as the kids came out and got seated? Toby Keith singing "Proud to be an American!" Music to which the equestrian team performed their routine? Toby Keith singing "Proud to be an American!" Tune the music teacher chose to blare while the children supposedly sang along? "Proud to be an American!"

(Reading a close second on my vapid-country-music-annoy-o-meter (calibrated for patriotism) is "American Child" by Phil Vassar. Does nobody appreciate the irony of a heterosexual white male baby boomer crooning about how in America, "anyone's equal"? Really? No, really?)

Can't we do better than that? Think of the age-appropriate, relevant, reverent, beautiful, classic patriotic songs they didn't sing: America The Beautiful. My Country, 'Tis of Thee. This Land is Your Land. Maybe there aren't prefab CDs of other kids singing these songs already. Based on my (admittedly limited, possibly unfair) observation of our early music program, that seems to be a prerequisite. Canned music gets played, the kids sing along, or don't. Meh.

The highlight of the Selectman's speech was when he asked the kids how they thought the flag might have been different when he was in school. A child raised her hand: "Were the stars still all in a circle back then?" Heh.

Something in our State Representative's little address made me uneasy. He was talking about what the flag makes him think of, which is all well and good, if to my ear a bit heavy on the sacrifice-of-military-families theme for an elementary school audience. Evidently however, one of the things it makes him think of is how the children of today are going to (among other things) wear the military uniforms of tomorrow. Frankly, this gave me the creeps. My daughter is SIX. Leave her the hell alone.

But who am I to say. After all, I wasn't even invited to the thing in the first place.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

No, I hadn't been drinking.

Coming downstairs after putting the girls to bed last night, my left foot slipped out from under me and I fell hard, I mean f'ing HARD, on my ass, and slid the rest of the way down the stairs. It hurt a lot.

I was wearing tennis socks on bare wood stairs, which is plain stupid, and that hurts too.

I spent the rest of the evening on the couch with an ice pack on my butt. Took off my shorts for fear I wouldn't be able to get them off later due to major swelling. The bruising is substantial. Alarming, even.

Still, I'm glad I didn't hurt my back or break any bones. I'm glad I have pants loose enough to get over my still significantly swollen left butt cheek today.

The first aid book says to apply an ice pack for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 48 hours after the injury. Obviously I wasn't setting a timer to get this done overnight, but I'd better get back on it now. Off to the couch with me.

Be careful folks. It's the ordinary things that get ya.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Last Thing I Cooked That A Guest Said They Really Liked

I had a lovely houseguest last week, and as part of dinner one night I made this salad, which I adore and actually crave sometimes, which, given its significant broccoli content, is highly unusual.

Curried Couscous with Broccoli and Feta

1 cup Israeli couscous
2.5 (?*) cups vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water

2 cups small broccoli florets
0.5 cup finely chopped red onion
0.5 cup finely cut carrot
0.5 cup chopped roasted cashews
3 T white wine vinegar
2 T olive oil
2 T sugar
2 t curry powder
2 t minced fresh ginger
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

The recipe (like virtually everything I make that's any good) is modified from one I cut out of a long-ago issue of Cooking Light.

The original recipe calls for regular couscous. I'm new to Israeli couscous, but very excited about it. The regular stuff is tasty but it gets everywhere, sticks on everything, and the girls don't like its texture. Most importantly, Mr. Sandyshoes has indicated it is a royal pain in the ass to clean up, and I want Mr. Sandyshoes kept happy, or at least not actively displeased, where cleaning up is concerned. Without his doing the dishes... well. Let's not even think about that. It is too upsetting.

Back to Israeli couscous. It is bigger than the regular kind, so you get all the things you like about couscous and none of the aggravations. I just haven't yet mastered the liquid to couscous ratio for it. The directions on the tub I bought said 4:1, which was way too much, so I'm going to try 2.5:1 next time, which is what I've recommended here, but with question mark and asterisk and no warranty, expressed or implied.

The other issue with Israeli couscous is where to find it. I bought the tub with the faulty directions at Atkins Farms while visiting western Massachusetts, but much as I'd love to, I can't haul myself back there every time I want to make curried couscous with broccoli and feta cheese. I am hoping Trader Joe's will have it.

ANYWAY. Cook whatever couscous you're using in whatever liquid you like. Fluff with fork (that phrase cracks me up for some reason. I am easily amused). Let it cool down.

Steam the broccoli for 3 minutes. Getting the pre-cut broccoli you can microwave in the bag speeds things along quite a bit, but I'm usually too cheap to splurge on it.

Combine everything in a BIG bowl. Voila.

My friend will doubtless make this much spicier, and so can you. I sometimes put in a big handful of raisins, too.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin: Must-Read Nonfiction

I recently finished this terrific book about the United States Supreme Court: The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin (2007). It's being widely read at the moment, which is a good thing.

Having studied rocks in school, I don't know much about judicial philosophy. I had a general idea that on one hand there are "strict constructionists" -- people who believe the Constitution should be interpreted according to its words, period -- and that on the other, there are those who believe that the Constitution embodies the venerable principles on which our country was founded and on which it continues, but also note (at the risk of stating the obvious) that everything changes over time, so it makes good sense to apply those principles with that in mind.

I learned that there's a wacky branch of strict constructionists called "originalists," who believe, basically, that we should have only laws that the Founding Fathers would have made, and no others. Never mind all the world experience, social change, and technological advances that have occurred since 1787 -- not to mention the impossibility of communing with the Founders to elucidate their precise opinions on matters before the Court. To oversimplify and editorialize: the originalists, substantially backed by religous wingnuts, are hoping to take over the Supreme Court -- and they might, in fact, do it.

The Nine sheds much light on this and other issues, through a mix of legal history and exposition of the character, values and personal stories of the Justices of the Rehnquist and Roberts courts. Some in my reading group found it too heavy on the case history . We all loved reading about the personalities involved, which are complex and fascinating, and not nearly as easy to like or dislike as you might hope. Tidbits: Did you know that Justices Scalia and Ginsburg have a close friendship born of a shared love of opera, and that their families celebrate New Year's together each year? That Clarence Thomas drives around to NASCAR races (a venue at which you may be unsurprised to learn he is rarely recognized) in his RV during the summer recesses? That Justice O'Connor did her best to get Justice Souter married off during their years on the bench?

The whole thing makes for fascinating reading.

The likelihood of Supreme Court appointments to be made by this administration had my 2008 vote for POTUS decided long before a single candidate had even formed an exploratory committee. If you have any doubt whatsoever about the importance of the current nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Court, this book will dispel it. Prepare, too, to do some thinking about what the phrase "activist judge" really means.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sleeping with the Offspring

I'm writing tonight from the Holiday Inn Express in Mystic, Connecticut, a half-step up from the Best Western around the block, where we had been staying for the last couple times we'd come down to visit the aquarium here. This year, after a weekend trip to my beloved western Massachusetts, I made a solemn vow: no more staying at the absolute cheapest (decent) place in town, if only because that's where kids' sports teams and the like end up. Plenty of people my age have long since sworn off mediocre hotels. I was late to adopt the policy myself, as it seemed needlessly overindulgent. However, one night at the Comfort Inn in Hadley, MA, besieged by preteen boys with lacrosse sticks and not an adult to be seen, is all it took to solidify my resolution. Never again. I still can't justify staying at the Hilton, but two stars is no longer enough.

So here I sit, with wine and wifi; life is good. The rest of my lovely family is asleep behind me, but I'm not ready to hit the hay myself. I'm going to stay up sipping red wine till I'm bound to sleep heavily enough not to be bothered by the Bean's knees in my back, or her elbow in my gut, or whatever it turns out to be tonight. You wouldn't think it'd be such a challenge, sharing a double bed with someone not yet 50 lbs heavy and only yay tall. You'd be wrong. The Peanut is even worse... she sleeps on her back with her limbs splayed like a giant capital X. Plus she talks in her sleep -- alarming, senseless little declarations that leave you uncertain what might come next. Oh sure, she looks all kinds of cute and snuggly, with her little blankie and whatever stuffed animal is currently in highest favor. What could go wrong? Ha. I've let her share my king-sized bed at home, when Mr. Sandyshoes is traveling. Somehow I always end up cowering crosswise across the bottom of the bed, barely out of reach of her cute little feet, while visions of whatever dance in her cute little head up where mine is supposed to be.

Anyway. The girls were really hard to settle down last night... the first night of a weekend trip always seems to be a tough one... and we had to threaten them with turning around and coming right back home. That Bean just wouldn't go to sleep. This morning, the Peanut wouldn't *stay* asleep. Another thing I've learned about staying in hotels: you should always bring one of those enormous binder clips along, in case the light-blocking curtains don't completely close on their own. It's surprising how often this is a problem, what with hotel rooms being intended specifically for sleeping in. Our present room is big enough and has most of the things we need, but there's a five-foot gap between where the heavy drapes end. That's plenty of space to allow the entire bright insult of early daylight to fill the room, adding to the injury of hours spent next to one of the offspring. Naturally Mr. Sandyshoes has rigged up something ingenious to correct the curtain problem, but I'm thinking for future reference, one of those binder clips would save a lot of rigging.

Our most successful hotel sleeping strategy has been to split the girls up. They don't share a room at home, and it doesn't seem to help them settle down if they're set up right next to each other in a hotel room. So we get a room with two double beds, divide and conquer. We stack pillows so they can't look over at each other, then we say goodnight and retreat with a book to whatever space is left us in the nook between the door and the bathroom, until we're ready to go to bed ourselves. Tonight's room has quite a bit of space, so that's nice. Sometimes there isn't anywhere to go... which is why I ended up reading Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell* in the bathroom of our room at the Comfort Inn in Hadley, which actually seems sort of appropriate in retrospect.

I should sleep. More on the aquarium etc. in another post. In the meantime, what hotel chains have you found are best for staying with your kids? Any hints (besides "get a suite") for making it more restful? How about hints (besides "drug them") for settling excited kiddos?

*If even half the things Tucker Max says about himself are true, he is a genuine asshole, but a sometimes-funny one. My college roommate said she read this book and thought of me. I don't know what to make of that. I'm assuming she thought "sandy shoes will laugh at this book," not "this asshole reminds me of sandy shoes in earlier days," but I am afraid to ask.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

I'm a little disconnected from Memorial Day this year. I just got home from a few days away, which were so good for the soul. There is meal planning and grocery shopping to do. I need to feed my friends' cats while they're away, and decide how best to suggest to my mother that she please not ever cut my daughter's hair again. It is laundry day, and I have to mow the lawn. There are preparations to make for a friend coming to visit this week.

Haircut aside, it's all good. I feel great.

I know, too, that my happy busy-ness and disconnection from the meaning of this day are a luxury. Many families today are remembering loved ones lost in battles. "Happy Memorial Day!" seems like a strange thing to say to someone, frankly.

As I type this, one daughter has been sent to her room for punching the other one. Like so many parents, we teach our children not to use physical violence out of frustration, or to get what they want. It seems a lesson worth imparting.

Somewhere along the line they, like most adults, will probably become disconnected from that idea. No, they won't go around punching people on subways or in grocery stores, but they might see some justifications for violence against other people, other nations. When the numbers are big, the personal stories anonymous and hard to understand, the problems complex and overlapping, maybe it doesn't seem like simple common sense anymore, not to hurt or kill other people.

I don't know. I feel disconnected from the premise, even as I lay a mental wreath for those fallen, and do, truly, appreciate their sacrifice.

To our veterans and current military: Thank you for the risks you took, and take, to life, limb, and peace of mind, in service of our country.

To all who lost loved ones in military service: thank you, and, I'm sorry.

I'm sorry we humans, for all our greatness, still haven't figured out a better way to solve our problems than to maim and kill each other over them.

Let's keep working on it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lunch with the first grade.

Because Mr. Sandyshoes works at home on Tuesdays, I can sometimes go to the Bean's school to have lunch with her. This is a mixed blessing. On one hand, as long as it's allowed for parents to join their kids for lunch, and as long as the Bean wants me to, I'm glad that I can. On the other... it's lunch in the cafeteria with the whole first grade, and all the noise and mayhem that entails. Take your Advil before you get there so it's kicking in in plenty of time. Still, once a week, I can hack it. The Bean is a nice kid with nice friends, so overall, it's cool to hang with them for a bit. Her class is used to seeing me around; that's cool too. It's definitely a different perspective than seeing them in the classroom.

One day I looked up from talking with the Bean and her friend and noticed that the boy sitting across the table from me was trembling, and his bottom lip was quivering, and he was having a hard time holding it together. "Ted? Are you hurt?" I asked, and he just lost it. He told me he was upset because he hadn't finished some of his work so he'd had to have "time off" his recess.

Now, their teacher is very clear about the rules of the classroom, and the consequences for choosing to do other than follow them. One consequence of not finishing what you're supposed to finish is that you miss some recess to get it done. I don't know if he didn't finish because he was goofing around, or because the work was too hard or too much for him, or because he didn't listen, or because he forgot. I do know that he was stressed to the point of tears because of it, and his friends were starting to notice. Just what every kid wants: to be the bawling center of attention at lunchtime.

Fortunately he was sitting next to Marcus, a kid I've come to really like. Without skipping a beat, he took the spotlight, even while throwing a comforting arm around Ted's shoulders. "OH WOW," he said. "I'VE had to stay in TONS of times!" (Marcus talks in all caps, blue eyes wide as if he can't even believe it himself.) I nudged the Bean to tell about when she didn't finish and had to miss recess. She nodded, and Marcus remembered that day too: "YEAH! EVEN THE BEAN!" They all started talking about the times they got "time off recess." Ted forgot his tears, listening to his pals spin their tales of woe. Marcus had commanded a whole audience to another story of his own, by that point. The whole thing was just a moment, and the moment passed, and very soon it was time to pretend it never happened. I went back to talking with the Bean. From across the table I heard Ted mumble something to Marcus, and his reply, "no, it's not bad. You just look like you were running around. MY face gets REALLY red when I cry..." I peeked up at them, heads bent together, in damage control mode.

What a good kid. Sometimes, they are really all right. I felt happy to be there that day, to get that little glimpse of the kind people some of them are growing up to be.

It almost made up for all the times I've had to tell them to please not empty the last of their chocolate milk on each other's shirts.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

One kind of liberation.

The other night I had dinner out with two friends -- like me, mothers of young children, though we knew each other Before All That -- who live a couple of towns away. Family schedules can make it tough to find an evening we're all available, but we make it happen every couple of months. This time we met at Bopha's Stir Crazy, a Cambodian restaurant which, Cape Cod/southeastern Massachusetts readers, you should absolutely visit if you haven't. (Note to self: remember this place when next lamenting the relative lack of really good, fairly casual, not-American-pub-food restaurants on the Cape, as compared to the Pioneer Valley from whence I moved, which has a giddy and delicious abundance thereof and which I sometimes heartily miss.) (Another note to self: who the hell uses "from whence" and "thereof" in casual writing?)


Anyway one of my friends arrived a few minutes late. Sitting down, she said she'd just come from the garden center, where she'd had to exchange one kind of hose for another, and that it had taken much longer than she'd thought it would because the cashier didn't know how to conduct the transaction, got the register all muddled up, had to call a manager over, etc., etc. Evidently the cashier behaved very rudely, as well. My mild-mannered, good-natured friend eventually said to her, "hey, there's no need to be that way with me. I didn't mess up the register," and that the cashier, while still gritting her teeth, at least knocked off the overt snippiness.

We all agreed that ten years ago -- even five -- none of us would've likely said anything, however justified. There's something about... what, turning 40? being somebody's mother? ... that has kicked in, and we just don't put up with stuff like that any more.

Looking at the menu, we thought about getting three different entrees to share. "Actually, I'd like to have that to myself," my friend said. Fair enough. If a mommy gets a night out with her friends, the last thing she should have is someone taking unwelcome bites of her dinner. Another thing we're not going to feel sheepish about. There are lots of things like this. I won't share popcorn at the movies. I never liked to, but I won't fake it any more. I want it all myself, and I want to eat it with my tongue, like a frog, if frogs ate popcorn. It's a small thing, but it makes me happy.

So we're feeling changes in our sense of self as we move into middle adulthood. But it's not just about rude strangers and popcorn. Although I still worry about it sometimes, if I'm perfectly honest I have to say I care less and less about whether people in general like me or not. I've realized that the things people might not like about me are really unlikely to change, at this stage of the game. I am who I am. There are six billion people on the planet to choose your friends from... don't choose me, if you don't want to. It's okay. We're both better off. Peace.

(My inner puppy would like to interject at this point that none of this means I'm not a likeable person or a good friend, and that you'd probably like me if we met. OK, puppy. Back in your crate now.)

However, I must not be all grown up yet because I'm still taking crap from people in doctors' offices. For example, take my recent annual ob-gyn appointments. The medical assistant who does the initial stuff -- weight, blood pressure, asking if anything's changed since last time, saying "you can get undressed, the doctor will be with you shortly" -- has become pointedly unfriendly to me. She didn't smile, didn't respond when spoken to, didn't look at me or call me by name. It is weird and unpleasant, and I was really taken aback by it. I have been a patient of this practice (is that the dumbest home page ever? No links!) for ten years now, through two pregnancies and various other bumps in the road that I won't bore you with (you're welcome). That assistant has been there for many of those years, herself, and she hasn't always been such a sourpuss. Something has distinctly changed. I have to wonder, and I'm tempted to ask her, "did I do something to piss you off? or is there just something uncomfortable up your ass?" -- because I don't deserve that.

But I haven't, and I probably won't, because 1) I would probably word it just like that, and become Part of the Problem; and 2) it's very hard to find a new doctor, and I'd hate to burn that bridge. There are only a few places to storm out of in high dudgeon (!) before I'd be out of local options altogether. Doctors around here have really got patients over a barrel. Still, basic civility doesn't seem like it should be too much to ask.

At any rate, this knowing who you are, and not feeling apologetic about it must be what people mean, in part, when they talk about how aging is "liberating." I suppose there's a fine line between "What you think won't hurt me because I'm OK with who I am" and "I don't care what you think because I'm kind of an asshole that way." Here's to achieving the former without coming off as the latter.