30 September 2008

Bookmaking Bookies

Periodically, the kid lapses into babytalk, and she'll ask me to read her a "bookie". Each and every time, I tell her "it's a book, a bookie is a person who takes bets." Think she's the only four year old who knows what a bookie is?

A bookie is another word for bookmaker - but a bookmaker can also be a person who makes books.

So, "bookmaking with kids": teaching the science of gambling or the fine craft of creating bound books?

I digress. I've plugged it before, but my sister-in-law has a blog on crafting books with children. Go visit. She's got great ideas.

29 September 2008

I feel...

Remorseful that I left my coffee cup under the seat on the train (I tried to reach it, but I think it got kicked away);

Chagrined to have (internally) sneered at a woman pushing a boy in a pink stroller (I don’t like to engage in gender-stereotyping, and maybe it was a hand-me-down stroller, or maybe the child loves pink);

Bemused to have been given a disdainful once-over by the two-year-old who I smiled at on the way up out of the subway;

And tickled that a snip from an old post was picked up on Blogtations, even though the meat of the quote is really my child’s, not mine.

28 September 2008

Kicking Ass All Over Town

Recently, or not that long ago anyway, two different people told me that I kick ass: Maggie of Okay Fine Dammit, and Angeline of All About Your Child. Thank you both!

I'm passing it on to the following:

Awesome food blogger/pron star Kelley of Magneto Bold, because she left this comment one day:

I carry around Boo's teeth. Only because he hasn't decided when the tooth fairy is allowed to come. SO I need them on hand at all times...

Is that not a kick ass mother?

The Momocrats, jointly and severally, because they just plain rock. And kick ass. My watching of the Presidential debate on Friday night was greatly enhanced by the live chat accompaniment clicking by on their site.

27 September 2008


1. According to today's Times, the Palin/Planned Parenthood "campaign" has raised more than $800,000 for Planned Parenthood. That, people, is real money.

2. I made a few calls about the housecleaner's daughter. I spoke to a friend of hers, someone she worked with at Kennedy Airport. The friend confirmed that there's a raffle to raise money; the catch is that the tickets are only available at the airport. I emailed the airline to see if there was some other way, because if I schlep out to Kennedy, I want to end up on a beach somewhere. I haven't heard back yet. I also called the lawyer - who, it turns out, used to live in the same building we used to live in. He was kind, and said that she'd just been letting people know. I haven't yet sent her a check, but I will, as soon as I get paid.

3. In some miracle, which I attribute to the stresses of kindergarten, the child has begun going to sleep in her own bed with a minimum of fuss nearly every night. Will wonders never cease? (I probably shouldn't have said that.)

26 September 2008

What To Do?

We got home the other night to a peculiar and difficult message on the answering machine. It was from the woman who’d been our housecleaner for many years, until we moved out of our apartment in the city four years ago. We haven’t spoken to her since then.

The message was very hard to understand, so much so that we listened to it three times, a perfect storm of English as a second language, a Guatemalan accent, and a scratchy cellphone connection. Eventually, I picked out “six weeks”, “Kennedy Airport”, a phone number, a reference to a lawyer, and her daughter’s name. I still had no idea what she was talking about, but something sent me to the computer to Google her daughter’s name.

Shock. About six weeks ago, a young woman was killed on the roof of a midtown club, where she’d gone to a birthday party for a rapper. It was our housecleaner’s daughter.

I spoke to her later, and I still don’t quite know what she wants or needs, or what she was asking us for. But it’s deeply saddening, and completely unsettling. And I don’t know what to do.

I know that there’s a court date in November. I know that there’s a raffle for an airplane ticket. I know that there’s a lawyer. I could call the lawyer. I could buy a raffle ticket or three. I could go to the court date and give her a hug. I could send her some money.

The daughter was a good daughter, supportive of her mother, a helpful kid who made phone calls for her mom (because the kid spoke better English). The daughter had a job – and while I don’t know if she was living with her mother, I’m sure she was helping to support her mother. Because her mother has another child. A severely handicapped Down syndrome boy who’s eight now. And that’s the piece of it that really pushes the envelope for me – that boy lost his sister. That boy lost the sister who might have been with him after their mother’s gone. What about that boy?

I think I'll put a check in the mail later, but it just doesn't feel like enough.

24 September 2008

It's The Economy, Stupid

There's a piece of me that feels like a patsy for having bought an affordable little house with a conventional thirty year fixed mortgage and 20% down. As I read about the crumbling of the country's financial infrastructure, I get pissed off. I did the right thing, so why do I have to pay for everyone else's mistakes?

But forget me, that's just selfish.

I've come across a couple of interesting posts on Daily Kos recently. The first is a sober and methodical look at the historical underpinnings of the current crisis, including John McCain's involvement at various times along the way. It's worth a read.

The second is about a firebrand Congresswoman from Ohio, who spoke out on the floor of the house the other night. She was spot-on, concise and pointed. There's video imbedded in that post, so read and/or watch.

The best thing about this financial crisis? I'm beginning to think that it's the straw to break the back of the Republican camel.

23 September 2008

Animal Classification

Me: how do you know you're human?

Her: we don't have tails.

21 September 2008

Ways to Make A Difference

I've been all fired up this week, mostly about Sarah Palin, but with no time to get on my soapbox.

So here goes, a little gentle exhortation.

Do you know about micro-lending? It's the kind of loan where $50 or $500 can make a difference in someone's life. It's not charity, because it's not an outright gift. Rather, the recipient is expected to pay back the loan, with interest. There are a handful of different organizations involved in micro-lending, one of which, the Grameen Bank, won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2006. Right now, American Express is running a competition where cardmembers get to vote on their favorite charitable project - the winner gets $1.5 million. Sure, it's tooting Amex's own horn, but I have to hand it to them, there are some good projects in there and $1.5M is real money. One of the projects in the running is Kiva - an online microlender. I've lent money via Kiva before, and I'm happy to have gotten to vote for them. If you have an American Express card, you can vote for them too.

How about Planned Parenthood? They do great work, and you were going to give them a charitable contribution anyway, right? Well, there's a stunningly subversive email going around suggesting that you make an ironic little gift to Planned Parenthood in honor of Sarah Palin. It's gotten a lot of on-line "ink", like on Daily Kos, and better, on the Huffington Post. If you read that HuffPost piece, you'll find that this idea originated back when Shrub took office in 2001, and it generated more than $1 million for Planned Parenthood. So, how about it? Here's the donation link, make the gift in honor of Sarah Palin, and have the acknowledgment be sent to her at the McCain headquarters:

McCain for President
1235 S. Clark Street
1st Floor
Arlington , VA 22202

I confess that I clicked the "in memory of" button, instead of "in honor of". Because I really hope that she's a distant memory come the 5th of November.

I'm very fond of doing things in threes. Superstitious? I don't know. Anyway - here's a third way to make a difference. Julie (who's displaced, not homeless, by the way) has a raft of ideas about how to help people displaced by Hurricane Ike. I sent a little bit to the Austin Food Bank.

Okay, stepping down now.

19 September 2008

How To Be A Mom

Carry Provisions
I keep a couple of Trader Joe’s fruit leather bars in my bag, for food emergencies. They’re pretty indestructible, unlike cereal bars (which turn into crumbs when banged around under the wallet and keys) or fresh fruit (which tends get dinged and leaky instantly), and they’re less likely to end up all over the car (like Cheerios or raisins).

Carry Tools
A carabiner is a godsend. When the child sheds a layer and expects you to carry it, you clip the offending garment to your belt-loop and progress. It’s also good for binding a mess of shopping bags together so you don’t keep dropping absolutely everything.

Carry Supplies
Yeah, the kid wipes her nose on her sleeve more often than not, but if I want to go after her dirty face with mother spit, I’d rather use a tissue. And for those times when she has to pee by the side of the road? Enough said.

Carry Distraction
Tucked in a Ziploc bag we’ve got a handful of crayons, a small notepad, and some Dover stencils. Waiting for dinner at a restaurant? Draw a picture.

Carry Entertainment
I love to listen to music in the car – love to put the (six) CD player on shuffle and be surprised at every turn. The child tends to want to listen to the same song over and over and over. So, make sure that one or two tracks of the sixty are things that she’ll like and that I find bearable, or even wonderful. Let’s put it this way: I love that she likes Springsteen’s Girls in Their Summer Clothes and k.d. lang’s rendition of Hallelujah.

Carry Tools that double as Entertainment
It’s always nice to have a flashlight handy – you never know when the power’s going to go out. But it can be great entertainment for a child too. I’ve got a penlight tucked into my bag, particularly fascinating because it makes green light.

Carry the Glow Necklace at All Times
Well, maybe that’s too idiosyncratic for a general “How to be a Mom” rule – but it’s on my list. Several months ago, she made me a “glow necklace” at school – “it’ll take away your bad dreams, Mommy”. It’s not even a necklace, it’s just a string of beads. It doesn’t glow. But it lives in my bag, and I run it through my fingers like a rosary, and think of the little girl who melts my heart every single day.

These few of my favorite things are brought to you by Yoplait and the Parent Bloggers Network, and I approved this message.

18 September 2008

Exhausted, part three

I guess the kid is exhausted too. We got home last night around 6:30. W. and I were in the kitchen making dinner; she was in the other room watching a movie. At about 7:15, before dinner was ready, we found her sound asleep in front of the TV, head and torso on the ottoman, feet on the couch, knees dangling.

Poor chicken. I carried her upstairs and put her to bed. She's still there, at 7:45 this morning. I think I need to go wake her up for breakfast. After all, she had no dinner last night.

(Yes, she dressed herself, competing stripes and all. And no, that's not a real dog. And yes, I hate the Palm Beach chintz, but it was a hand-me-down couch and we have to scrape some more money together before I get it reupholstered.)

16 September 2008

Martinis and Wry Chicken

Okay, enough moaning for the nonce.

Do you drink martinis?  I prefer scotch (on the rocks) or a gin & tonic, heavy on the lime.  But I loved this sentence from The Dud Avocado

We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air.

Kind of makes you want one, right?

A couple of pages later, they follow the martinis with some food:

We were very hungry but we didn't want to leave, so we ate there.  We had chicken sandwiches; boy, the chicken of the century.  Dry, wry, and tender, the dryness sort of rubbing against your tongue on soft, bouncy white bread with slivers of juicy wet pickles.  Then we had some very salty potato chips and some olives stuffed with pimentos and some Indian nuts and some tiny pearl onions and some more popcorn.  Then we washed the whole thing down with iced martinis and finished up with large cups of strong black coffee and cigarettes.  One of my really great meals.

I didn't love the book, and the first 2/3 was kind of a slog, but by the end she was sparkling right along.  And those couple of passages about food jumped right off the page and grabbed me by the tastebuds.  Imagine describing your chicken as "wry".  

Mmm.  I love food writing that really makes you taste the food.  Mmm.  It's especially nice to find such luscious descriptions of food in a novel.  Mmm.

15 September 2008

Exhausted, part two

Here we are, a little more than a week into the new regime, and I am exhausted. Bone weary, tired, spent, and wrung out.

What with kindergarten and all, I mapped out my schedule (and the girlie’s) as follows:

M – W – F
We get up and out of the house by 7:30, so I can drop her at before-school and make it to the train that gets me to the office by 9:00-ish. I run out of the office at 4:20, to get home and pick her up at after-school around 5:45.

Tu – Th

We sleep a tiny bit later; she gets on the bus to school at 8:50. I run down the hill to the 9:09 train, and get to the office around 10:20. Grandma picks her up at the bus in the afternoon, and keeps her until I get home. I work until 6:00, and the train pulls into my town at 7:15.

It sounds kind of, sort of doable, right?


Last week, the first full week of the school year, W. was out of town all day Monday and Tuesday (he just started a new job; he's had to drink the Kool-Aid and have the chip implanted in his head, and that's why he's really not factored into the day-to-day child pick-up and delivery). Wednesday night, I had a board meeting for an extracurricular non-profit board that I sit on. M. had a tantrum of staggering proportion getting on the bus on Thursday. The nurse called me early afternoon on Friday to tell me that M. was running a fever, so I ran out of the office and managed to pick her up at about 2:45. We left the house at 6:45 on Saturday morning to spend the weekend at my mother’s house, and didn’t get home until 7:15 Sunday evening.

This week, W. is out of town Tuesday & Wednesday, his parents are away and not available for the Tuesday afternoon shift, I’m under work pressure prepping for a Thursday meeting (among other things), and the kid didn’t want to get out of bed this morning.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, there was a note in the backpack on Friday afternoon that a child in her kindergarten class had LICE.

I want to run away and live in the woods, and home-school my child, and not ever have to get in the car again.

Because I’m tired and I feel like all the coffee in the world won't do a damned thing.

14 September 2008

Exhausted, part one

"She was tired. It was as simple as that. This life she loved so much had been lived, all along, with the greatest effort. She closed the door again. To hold herself still, she held her breath."
-Ann Beattie

I'm at my mother's house this weekend, and between the bursts of feeding her, cleaning her, moving her, and humoring her, she sleeps. And sleeps. And sleeps some more.

While she sleeps, I cook, I putter, I do the laundry, I amuse my child, I catch up on blog-reading. And I open cabinets and closets, desks and drawers, finding oddments at every turn.

This afternoon, I found a small metal box - like an oversized Altoids tin, but plain - and inside was a tiny clipping, just the last paragraph of an Ann Beattie story that ran in the New Yorker in 1983.

It floored me. I think my mother's been tired for her entire life. Tired being a good girl growing up, tired being a diligent college student. Tired getting married right after graduation, tired raising three children on no money while her husband was in the military and later in law school. Tired buying a fixer-upper of a house, tired being the bitterly divorced mother of three. Tired scrimping and saving, tired being a de facto single parent.

And now, she's tired because her body has turned on her. No longer battling exterior forces, she sleeps and sleeps while the silent inner demon gradually eats away her flesh, her brain, her life. Tired.

12 September 2008

My Head Is Full of Useless Information

You know what “every good boy does fine” means, right? It’s a mnemonic, a trick for remembering what note sits on what line of the treble clef: E G B D F.

And Roy G. Biv? He’s the way you remember the colors of the rainbow, in order: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

In high school biology, King Philip came over from great Spain to remind us that the order of taxonomy is Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

I was a music major in college, and when you learn the history of Western music, you start with Gregorian chant. Chant is intimately tied to the Church, and to the prayer services of the day, known as the canonical hours: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline.

In order to remember the canonical hours, one of my classmates – a cellist named Betsy – came up with a wonderful mnemonic.

My lady, please touch softly, not very clumsily.

As you can see, it’s a good mnemonic, because lo these many years later, I still know my canonical hours.

What’s your favorite mnemonic?

11 September 2008


I am irrationally glad that it’s overcast today.

That day, seven years ago, was such a clear and perfect September day – brilliant sunshine in a cloudless sky blue sky.

And then, our naivety stripped, the smoke plume arose from the crater where the tower fell, poisoning the air with its fetid opacity, a scar across the sky blue sky.

I was still home when the first plane hit the towers. We were getting ready for work with the television set idly on – both of us snapped to attention and watched the coverage. And watched, live, as the second plane hit.

I headed down to my office, near Union Square, where I climbed up out of the subway and turned to look downtown, towards the trade center. Both towers were still standing, and I could see a construction crane angled towards the tower. It looked almost like the extension ladder on a fire truck, reaching high in the air. But it was undoubtedly an optical illusion, a crane nowhere near the towers that just happened to be in the line of sight between me at Union Square and the downtown World Trade Center.

If there had been a tall tall ladder on a fire truck, could it have rescued even one person? Only in a fairy tale, or another universe.

It makes me heartsick.

10 September 2008

Hump Day? Hmm...

W. brought in the mail and said "now you're getting packages addressed to Magpie Musing?" He handed it to me; from the return address I could tell it was a book I'd agreed to review. I opened it and showed it to him. "Maybe we'll have some fun with this."

It was a book called Hump: True Tales of Sex After Kids.

He blushed and handed it back to me.

I read it. I read the whole thing. It was often amusing, and frequently provocative, but occasionally annoying and kind of unsettling. That may be more about prudish me, but then again, I don't know. I've never had "toys"; the book made me wonder whether I've been missing something (for that matter, so did Aurelia last year). And since I never learned how to be a real girl, I'm not about to start getting Brazilians (I have enough trouble keeping my legs shaved). Nor am I going to start hosting pole dancing parties in my living room.

The book went completely off the rails for me with her enthusiastic endorsement of pornography and Vegas lap dances. Call me old-fashioned, but to me, pornography and lap dancing are exploitative of women, degrading women, turning women into commodity. Thanks, but no thanks.

I kind of wanted to like the book more - after all, I am her demographic: the overextended married mother, in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship. But I didn't really get much out of it, beyond the rekindling of a vague curiosity about vibrators (my turn to blush).

Incidentally, it's all about monogamous sex between married men & women. No adultery, no same-sex relationships. None of that Little Children shacking up with the stay-at-home dad you met at the playground.

And peeps? This is as close as you'll get to me talking about my sex life on this here blog. Bacon? I can do bacon. I'll leave the blogger's sex life to Deb on the Rocks.

[Many apologies to Julie, who inspired the post title and who will receive a little something in the mail for her forbearance...yup, I mailed the book to her.]

09 September 2008

Actual Things That People Have Said To Me Today

I'm just sitting at my desk, minding my own business, and people have come over to tell me (ask me) the following:

1) "Johnny Law cut us some break."

2) "Her computer was making funny noises and she thought it was going to blow up. [dramatic pause] Her flowers were sitting on the escape key."

3) "Can I order some stilts?"

08 September 2008

The Omnivore's 100

This here meme-like post is a variant of the 100 books list; instead, it's a list of 100 foods which you are to edit as to eaten, not tried, and wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. I saw it first at Fond of Snape, and later at Queen Mediocretia.

The rules are:

1) Copy this list into your blog, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here linking to your results.
And the list:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp (I stand corrected; I've had gefilte fish, therefore I've had carp.)
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I've eaten 60 61 plus two halves (cognac, not cigar; bread bowl, not clam chowder). What does your list look like?

07 September 2008

Ode to Ruth

The doyenne of the neighborhood block party was an indomitable woman named Ruth.  Ruth put up her own jam, learned pottery in her 70s, hybridized day lilies and was always good for a glass of wine when you went over to borrow a cup of sugar. Ruth was well-educated and had been a working woman, but by the time I really knew her, she was retired and leading a life of cussed activism with a side of pioneer spirit.

Ruth had a grape arbor in her yard, and picked piles of Concord grapes each fall.  Some of them became jelly, but others went into the freezer for her grape pie, her recipe for which was once published in an AP story by Cecily Brownstone.

One year, Ruth had a bumper crop of grapes and invited us over to pick some. I got enough grapes for two pies so I made one and, channeling Ruth, stashed a container of the prepped grapes in my mother's freezer for a future pie.

My mother's frugal tendencies have made her a heavy freezer user, sometimes to the good, sometimes to the "what the hell is THIS doing in the freezer?". My siblings and I have been working on the freezer, fishing things out to use or discard as the case may be. Recently, the grapes surfaced. The grapes I'd stashed away in 1994. Yes, they were 14 years old. They pre-date my wedding.

Out of perversity more than anything else, I decided to make that concord grape pie with those 14 year old grapes. And you know what? It was just fine.

Ruth would have been pleased.

06 September 2008

Pullman :: Miyazaki

Some years ago, I read all three of the Philip Pullman books in the His Dark Materials trilogy. I love those books. It's a fascinating, erudite and entertaining world he creates, and I ought to re-read them because we finally watched The Golden Compass the other day.

For awhile now, the girl's been enamored of the Hayao Miyazaki movies. We have a pile of them: Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Nausicaa, Castle in the Sky, Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. They are, in a word, wonderful. All of them have strong girl characters at the center of the story - and even when they are princesses, they aren't "princesses". They are feisty, independent, sturdy girls - great role models for my girl child. The Miyazaki movies also move gently between reality and fantasy, are set in an often vague time period, frequently invoke our need to protect the world from greed and destruction, and often feature whimsical flying machines and airships.

While watching The Golden Compass, I was struck by the similarities to Miyazaki. Strong girl as lead character? Check. Vague time period? Yup. Clash between good and evil? Certainly. Flying machines? Oh yes, fabulous zeppelin-like airships and other wild contraptions.

Have you read the Pullman trilogy? If not, I have a set to give away. I bought paperbacks when I read them originally. But they seemed to me to be the kind of books that you'd want to have around for a while, to be able to pass along to your kid, so I replaced all three with hardcover copies. The paperbacks came out of one of the boxes from the cellar, and they're next up on the great book giveaway of 2008. And they're in great shape, because I'm gentle on my books. So, tell me in the comments if you want the trilogy and I'll do a random select at day's end on Monday the 8th. And I'd rather send all three to one person, so don't ask for a particular one of the three, please.

05 September 2008

Lunch: First steps on a road to obsolence

The girlie went off to school yesterday with grapes and cheese and a piece of bread and some homemade "cookies" (actually pie crust scraps baked with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar), and I stayed home and organized the lunch supplies into a plastic box, so all of the labor-saving snacks and plastic containers were in one place.

If I'm short on time in the morning, some of these things will help, right? Fruit leather, string cheese, juice boxes, applesauce, cereal bars, rice cakes, raisins and Fig Newtons. The problem is that there's so much trash involved with all of this stuff. But, baby steps. Eventually we'll get her eating out of one of those clever bento boxes.

And then someday, she'll be able to make her own lunch, and I'll be obsolete.

"This post was written for Parent Bloggers Network as an entry for a contest sponsored by Brothers-All-Natural."

04 September 2008

First Day of School

Yesterday, we met her teacher.  The girlie vacillated between clingy and outgoing; the teacher seemed fine, if a little saccharine.

Today, she got on the bus without looking back - she climbed those stairs so quickly that I didn't even get the requisite photo with big yellow bus.


It's the beginning of a great adventure.

And now we've got thirteen years to save for college.

03 September 2008

Last Day of Freedom

Yesterday was the girlie's last day of freedom, her last day as an unschooled person. We spent hours combing every corner of the Bronx Zoo, and followed that up with a late lunch on City Island. It was a damn near perfect end to the summer.

This morning, we go in to meet her kindergarten teacher. School starts on Thursday.

She's ready. She's got her backpack, she's got a new skirt. We didn't have to buy any school supplies, because "kindergarten: no supplies needed" (bless this district). She has three lunch boxes to choose from, though she's been using them as suitcases for dolls for weeks - she might cry if I try to put a sandwich in one. I've got name labels ready to apply (but, of course, not YET applied), and in a moment of complete geekiness, I ordered her some (cheap!) business cards with her name and phone number, and our names and cells and emails. You know, for play dates.

She'll be fine.

Me? I dunno.

People keep asking me if it's full day or half day. It's full day, but to me, a full day feels like a half day. Her daycare, where she spent the past three years, operated from 7 am to 6 pm though she was usually there from 7:30 to 5:30. Full day kindergarten means a bus pick-up at 8:50 and drop-off at 3:40. Big difference. In order to actually continue to go to work, we have to juggle a bit, because otherwise I'd only be able to be in the office from about 10:30 to 1:30 (nice work if you can get it). So three days a week, she'll go to a before-school and after-school program, and the other two days, I'll put her on the bus (and get to work around 10:30) and her grandmother will pick her up at the bus stop. It's a bit cobbled together but I think it'll work. I hope.

Lunch, on the other hand, is freaking me out. We've had the luxury of a daycare with a cook - no need to think about food. Period. Starting on Thursday, I have to fill up that lunch box every day (and she has to remember to bring it home). I've laid in a supply of little plastic containers and raisins and cheese cereal bars and rice cakes and Fig Newtons and even some lemonade in juice boxes. I've "borrowed" my father's bread machine; I can make bread without it, but the hands-free time-saving aspect of the machine may mean that I make bread more often. You know, for sandwiches. I think she'll eat an apple if I give her one. I made a mess of applesauce and froze it in half cup containers (though I boughte some prepackaged applesauce too). I keep thinking about stenciling her initials on cloth napkins - we've lots and lots of plain white napkins that came from a defunct hotel and I can figure out stencils and fabric paint, right?

What is the matter with me? I should just slam a jelly sandwich on Wonder Bread in a plastic bag, throw in a pre-packaged bag of junk, and call it a day, right? I can't. I just can't. It'll sort itself out, but it is the little voice in the back of my head these days: "what are you going to give her for lunch?"

On top of all the changes vis à vis the child's education, W. is starting a new job today, a job which will require some travel. So everything, all of it, the whole kit and caboodle feels unsettled - a castle built of spit and a prayer.

Wish me strength.

02 September 2008

The Grass Is Not Greener, Just Different: A Perfect Post

Periodically, there's a swirl of posts and writings and sniping and bitching about the great divide between stay-at-home mothers and work-out-of-the-house mothers. Someone feels dissed, someone else feels superior, and it's all just posturing and talk, because we're all mothers and we're all individuals and there's no right way to do anything.

I read a post recently from a woman, the mother of two little ones, who has just re-entered the workforce - so she's switched from the SAHM side to the WOHM side. And one paragraph in that post just blew me away:

And so, you stay at home moms out there, the ones who are desperately seeking the outlet of the working world, and thinking that that patch of grass will be so much greener than your own.....I have news for you. I have news for all of you, working and stay at home moms alike, neither side is greener. Neither is easier. Neither is better. In the end, they're just different patches of grass, equally difficult to navigate, equally demanding, but entirely different.

For just those few sentences, I'd like to award a Perfect Post to Danielle from Cacklin' from Cackalackie.

The Original Perfect Post Awards 08.08

For more Perfect Posts, vist Suburban Turmoil and/or Petroville.

01 September 2008

Block Party

The first house that I remember living in was one of four nearly identical little houses in a row. They were clearly built from the same plans, in about 1920, but each one was a little different. One had square porch columns, one had round ones. Ours was shingled, next door was stucco. One of the four houses was completely overgrown and rather neglected, and was owned and occupied by a pair of unwed brothers. We never saw them.

We moved out of that house, but only around the block. So the neighbors were all the same, the friends were still right there, the communal events continued. But we still never saw either of those brothers.

Eventually one of two died. The surviving brother started showing up at the neighborhood block party, the Labor Day party that everyone went to, including me, long after I'd graduated from college and moved into Manhattan. And because it was a communal pot-luck kind of block party, he always brought something. Amidst the seas of homemade salads and desserts and soups and potato pie, there'd be a package of Pecan Sandies or Fig Newtons. "Oh, the brother brought that."

Finally, the Labor Day party came to an end. The host got ALS, and they moved to an apartment and sold the house. But there was one last Labor Day, and one last block party, a big one, overflowing the backyard one last time. And the brother, for that last party, brought a pack of gum.

It was an utterly inept and completely charming thing to have done.

You know how one thing leads to another? Jen recently wrote about her daughter's birthday party, and how they encroached on their neighbor's lawn for the bouncy house. Her description of her neighbor forlorning cutting his lawn with scissors and lending them a solitary chair inspired this post in a roundabout way; I'd forgotten about the gum-bearing brother until I read that, and of course, today's Labor Day.

If you have eccentric neighbors, I hope they're the good kind of eccentric.