31 October 2008

Introducing Lava Girl!

I asked her what she wanted to be for Halloween. She said "Lava Girl". Behold the transformation of one suburban kindergartener into Lava Girl: Superhero with Super Powers!

By the end of the evening, she'd fallen down and ripped a hole in her tights, the fusing had failed causing the "L" to go missing, and the superhero crashed into her bed following a surfeit of Smarties.

The fusing failure not withstanding, and not to toot my own horn or anything, I think it wins a prize for best handmade costume. It certainly took enough hours of slaving over a hot iron, sewing seams at midnight, and figuring out how to improvise boning. Next year? Maybe I'll buy something.

(This post partially inspired by Parent Bloggers Network and Blurb - a really cool site where you can make your own books - and I approve this message.)

Obama for Pumpkin

Yup. Carved the Obama logo into my pumpkin, inspired by Yes We Carve.

30 October 2008

Playing the Flute

In my home town, most kids started playing an instrument in elementary school, in fourth or fifth grade.  My mother wanted me to excel at the piano, so she didn't let me start a band instrument with my peers.  Finally, in seventh grade (in junior high school), she relented and I started flute lessons. I continued with piano lessons until eleventh grade, but I did much better with the flute.  I ended up as a music major in college, performed a senior recital, and spent the summer after graduation at a conservatory in France. And then, for all intents and purposes, I dropped it. I’ve hardly played at all in the past 25 years. But unlike the piano, I could actually pick up the flute again, and someday I will.

And I just have to say that even today, with no chops, I could do better than Sarah Palin did in the talent piece of her pageant.  Oy.  She should have been a toe dancer.

28 October 2008

Playing the Piano

I started piano lessons when I was in first or second grade. I used to bicycle over to the old lady piano teacher’s house – until one day, when I got there and found a sign on the door: No Lessons Until Further Notice. It turned out she was dead. The next piano teacher drank. She'd offer you a little glass of juice, and she always had a little glass of juice for herself. But hers was laced with vodka. The third one was a short horrible woman with tiny hands. I have big hands – I can easily span an octave. She couldn’t. And she’d tell me to finger something the way she would, and my big hands would get all tangled up. I loathed her.

My fourth and last piano teacher was the music teacher in my junior high school. He was a metrosexual, long before that term was coined. He worked out at Jack La Lanne, drove a convertible, and created a clicque of personality around him. He also taught us a lot about music. His classroom was very close to the cafeteria, so it became a lunchtime hangout for the music theory nerds amongst us. Painted onto the blackboard was a thermometer shape – like the kind the Community Chest puts up in front of the post office each year to show how the fundraising is going – but in his classroom, it was the Hostility Meter. If too much sass and sarcasm started flying, someone would run up and increase the level of the Hostility Meter. He also dated the widowed mother of a classmate, and years later, was accused of impropriety in the classroom. I know he was verbally inappropriate in my day, but now it’s politically incorrect and therefore verboten.

All those years of piano lessons, and I can’t play a damned thing on the piano except the Bach Prelude in C where you never strike more than one note at a time.

27 October 2008

Your Questions Answered

So, here's the answer to twelve questions*:

emma said...Okay, tell me the story of how you met your husband and how you knew he was the one you wanted to marry.

He was working with my best friend from college. I went to visit her in her office, and she introduced us. The three of us ended up going out for Mexican food, and that was that. BUT, the getting married part? He had to twist my arm.

Mayberry said...If you could live anywhere in the US--ignoring family/career/financial barriers--where would it be? Would you stay in NY?

I feel a strong urge to be near the edge - specifically, near the Atlantic Ocean, like the beautiful coast of Maine.

Ree said...Here's a question - what is the sweetest thing your husband has ever done for you?

Buying me a first generation iPod was the cat's pajamas.

Furrow said...Are you annoyed by people who are not on time (for meetings, family gatherings, etc), or are you rarely on time, yourself?

I'm usually on time (often early), and I am vaguely annoyed by people who aren't.

FreshHell said...Question: favorite foods and least favorite foods - what are they?

Least favorite = seafood and mushrooms. Most favorite = cheese and breadstuff. And wine. Does wine count as food?  Oh, and potatoes.  And tomatoes.  And bacon.  And any form of dessert involving lemons as the main ingredient.

Janet said...Does he often do things like that?

Like sending poetry to my cell phone? No. Once upon a time, he was a poet and an English major; maybe texting will be the new frontier of poetry for him.

Library Lady said...Since you don't like eggplant, what DO you like to cook most of all?

I love cooking things that involve flour - like pie, pastry, dessert, bread.  I guess, technically, that's not cooking, it's baking.

Irish Goddess said...If I paid him, could your husband send me emails and/or texts like that once in a while?

I'll ask him!

painted maypole said...can your republican father do anything about the religious right and their crappy campaign that makes it sound like the US will fall apart in the next 8 years? yeesh.

Alas, I don't think so. But I don't think you really expected an answer...

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...What's your house like? Do you love it?

Our house is tiny - two bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, an unfinished (but very useable) cellar. It's stucco, with dormers, and it's very sweet. The first floor has high ceilings, and there are lots of windows - both features make the smallness seem less so. We learned recently that it was a kit house - built in 1920 from pre-cut lumber from Gordon-Van Tine - I find that charming.

Kelley said...Breakfast for dinner. Crime against humanity or full of awesome and win?

Awesome win, and often practical. Omelets make a great dinner - and what's an omelet but fancy scrambled eggs? My grandfather was a proponent of waffles and baked beans, which became a family joke.

Ozma said...Is it hard having a Republican parent if you are not Republican?

Nah. We agree to disagree. Besides, there are plenty of other things to argue about - like the Yankees. I hate the Yankees.

*Twelve = Six times two. So I'm considering that I'm off the hook for the next time someone tags me for six random things...

26 October 2008


I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about the election, edging towards the hope that Obama and Biden will win.

Last week's news that Colin Powell had endorsed Obama was good news indeed, and it produced the most sober op-ed piece from Maureen Dowd that I've seen in I can't remember how long. Usually Dowd is snarky to a fare-thee-well, but not this time. Her piece ends with a quote from Powell:

“Experience is helpful,” he says, “but it is judgment that matters.”

The other day, I had a conversation with my father about various things, including the Powell endorsement. My father has been on the Republican side of the fence for most of his life, save for most of the time that he was married to my mother (but not all, he voted for Nixon in 1960, because he was overseas and disconnected from the political scene.) We agree to disagree, and I avoid the TV room when the Sunday morning bloviators are on.

My father baffled me with a statement about turncoats - he seems to think that political loyalty trumps all, and that Powell's endorsement is suspect because he crossed the line. He wandered off onto a tangent about a Republican someone who endorsed JFK, and became persona non grata for having done so. "But," I said, "can't you change your mind?" I think he thinks that you're not allowed to change your political stripes.

So, though he told me he thought that Obama had the potential to be one of the best presidents we've ever had, and that he would help heal ingrained race-related wounds in the American soul, I actually don't know who he's voting for. Luckily it doesn't matter - the great state of New York will fall to Obama however my father votes.

23 October 2008


I got tagged the other day by Kate. She wants me to share six random things. I'm plumb out of random things, but my head is full of blog posts. They float around in there, taunting me with their wit and charm, their poignancy, their hope. But somehow, nothing recently has made it onto the virtual page. In the hopes of breaking out of my block, here's six of those nascent post ideas.

  1. My sick mother - she's kind of fallen off of another cliff, sleeps and sleeps and sleeps some more.

  2. My Republican father - who told me the other day that he thought Obama had the chance to be one of the best presidents ever.

  3. The fact that the heat is not yet on in our house: We were trying to hold out until the first of November, out of perversity and thrift, but it's going on this weekend because baby, it's cold in there.

  4. The plethora of books that come home from kindergarten - I love books, don't get me wrong, but this feels like misplaced suburban PTA do-goodism. The kids in this school district don't need these earnest book packs every week. The kids on the other side of the county do.

  5. Eggplant - I don't love eggplant - but I finally found a recipe that I really like. Roast an eggplant and some sweet red peppers, peel them, seed the peppers, throw all the flesh in the food processor, add salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, and the secret ingredient, pimentón (a/k/a smoked paprika). It's a pasta sauce or a dip. I even smeared it on chicken breasts to make the bread crumbs stick. 

  6. Last but not least - I woke up this morning to find that my husband had sent the following text to my cell phone:
Before first light this late
October morning a hoary frost
lays quietly on the beds of
fallen, orange maple leaves.

Hey, I've got an idea! Ask me a question; I'll answer six questions - that'll get me off the "six random things" hook, right?

And by the way? Tagged if you want to be.

21 October 2008

Overheard With a Frisson of Impending Doom

In the elevator, I overheard a young woman leaving a message for someone:

Mom, it sounds like your phone is frozen.  You'll have to take it to the Genius Bar, but you'll have to make an appointment first...

Why, you might ask, would this strike terror into my heart?  My luddite boss just bought himself an iPhone.  My luddite boss who doesn't own a computer or even an answering machine, who doesn't use a computer in the office, who says things like "don't fax the original".  He's been pecking at said iPhone for the past two days.  I finally printed out the 154 page manual from the Apple website. 

Give me strength.

18 October 2008

Just Posting Random Links

After I twittered about the earwax saga, Phantom sent me a link to a medical journal article on earwax removal. You might find it useful. Or amusing. Or both. I’ve already sent a copy to the school nurse; I’ll give a copy to the pediatrician next month.

* * * * * * * * *

If you are interested in or involved with the arts, you might like to check out the Americans for the Arts comparison of the presidential candidates' positions on arts issues.

* * * * * * * * *

I’ve been quite fascinated with Andrew Sullivan’s blog – mostly he’s posting snips and links to other stuff, but it’s good stuff I’m not seeing elsewhere and his point of view is interesting. He’s also got a “dead-tree” piece in the November issue of the Atlantic, which is also available in eco-friendly on-line form. It’s called “Why I Blog” and it’s worth a read.

* * * * * * * * *

On the subject of poverty and wealth (how's that for a segue?), I found (via Bitch PhD) a fascinating site called Global Rich List - in essence, it puts your money in perspective by showing you where you stand in comparison to EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD income-wise.

* * * * * * * * *

Last, but by no means least, Jen and Mad and Su rounded up another batch of Just Posts for September, and included one of mine - the one in which I suggested little ways to make a difference in the world.   Incidentally, Kiva came in third in the Amex voting, and will get a $300,000 grant.

17 October 2008

How to Feel Like a Bad Parent

I got a call from the school nurse the other day. She’d done a routine hearing test on the kindergartener, and was concerned that there were some frequencies at which her hearing wasn’t perfect. She thought it might just be a case of too much earwax, so I took her to the pediatrician.

He looked in her little ears and found that they looked clogged, so he told her “we can cut your ears off and wash them out in the sink, or we can bring the sink to you”. He had her lie down on the table, positioned one of those little kidney shaped basins alongside her head, and began squirting water in her ear with a beautiful stainless steel irrigation syringe.

Nothing happened.

He moved onto a curette, and a teensy special q-tip, and eventually little pieces starting coming out. He got out the syringe again, squirted some more, and finally dislodged the largest glob of earwax I have ever seen. It was so stunningly huge that I almost wanted to take it home to show my husband (but I restrained myself from fishing it out of the trash). The other ear contained an only slightly less impressive glob.

Luckily she giggled through the entire thing. Her ears seem to be fine, but they’ll repeat the hearing test at her five year old check-up next month.

16 October 2008

A Little Bit of Hope, and Food

Thank you all for coming by and commenting yesterday. As a result of the 44 comments I received on yesterday's Blog Action Day post, I put a check in the mail to the Food Bank for New York, in the amount of $44. (And yes, that includes $3 because Painted Maypole commented three times, and spare dollars for a couple of other multi-commenters!)

Extra thanks to Jennifer (ponderosa), who pledged to match my $44 with a gift of her own to Neighbor Impact (the feed-the-hungry program in her Oregon town).

And extra credit to Alejna and Ilina and Kyddryn for jumping in and making similar posts, and to Julie for Twittering about mine, and Catnip for Stumbling it.

Bit by bit, we can keep trying to make the world a better place. Bit by little bit.

15 October 2008

Healthy Eating

So, the child came home from school with a packet of "work", with a cover sheet that read:

The kindergarten classes had their first Health rotation. We learned about nutrition and how to keep ourselves safe and healthy.
Included was a page on which the child was to have drawn a healthy meal. I'm not sure what they're teaching because on that plate, counter-clockwise from the left, is butter, pasta, grapes, potato, and Tylenol.

Yes, those two pink things under the potato? Apparently, Tylenol is part of a healthy meal. Who knew?  (Let's not discuss the fact that the grapes are bigger than the potato, and there's no protein on the plate.)

Today - 15 October - is Blog Action Day and this year's theme is poverty. Notwithstanding the fact that my child doesn't seem to know what constitutes a healthy meal, she does have enough to eat. There are people, many people, who don't get enough to eat. It's a global problem and a local one.

In NYC, the posh and glittering home of dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants, 1.3 million people rely on soup kitchens and food pantries. To help some more people eat better, I will make a contribution to the Food Bank for New York of $1 for every comment made here before midnight EST tonight.  I don't know how many comments I get on average, but I know it's never been as many as 50 even though I regularly have more than 50 visitors a day.  So, lurkers, come out of the closet and help feed the hungry.  Regulars, be sure and comment today - it's for a good cause.


14 October 2008

Big Brother

Is text messaging is the modern day equivalent of passing notes in class? Nah, better, 'cause you can do it when you're hundreds of miles apart.

My husband recently started a new job at a mid-sized corporation, the kind of company that has headquarters and an HR department and rules and training. (I have never, ever worked at that kind of company. We barely have a holiday policy here.) He was required to spend some time at the headquarters, which is not in New York, being indoctrinated in the ways of the company.

I am at the moment learning about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Diversity Networking Group. The KoolAid is sweet and I’m drinking of it copiously.

And the chip? Have they implanted the chip yet?

What chip? I do not know what you are talking about. There is no chip.

There's definitely a chip. Where are they putting them these days?

I was never into texting until I got an iPhone - it was way too laborious on my old phone. The iPhone supports text beautifully, but with one tragic flaw: there's no way to download or forward the message strings. And the string I've had back and forth with W. is like some kind of found poetry. He's kept every last one of them. I delete mine from time to time but I wanted to save the above dialogue for posterity; I had to retype the whole damned thing.

12 October 2008


I married an Italian grandmother.

We went out to run errands yesterday, and ended up with a half bushel of the last of the local tomatoes. He protested that he had too many other things to do, but I reminded him of how much he would regret it in January if he didn't put up the tomatoes NOW.

We canvassed the house for mason jars, scored some more from his mother, laid in new lids from the hardware store, and he got to work.

It's a simple tomato sauce, he calls it pommarola (the way Bugialli spells it, it's more often spelled pomarola) - tomato, red onion, carrot, celery, parsley and basil - cooked gently for three hours, run through the food mill, cooked again briefly to amalgamate the goodness, and processed in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes. We ended up with fifteen and a half quarts.In mid-winter, it will be so worth it.

The tomatoes were local, the carrots were from our CSA, the parsley and basil came from our garden, and the celery and red onion came from the supermarket (and therefore from who knows where). And hours later, the house still smells divine.

11 October 2008

Lions and Tigers and Bats, Oh My!

The letter that came home from school yesterday was so much better than the head lice letter last month, so much better that I feel compelled to share a redacted copy of the letter with you.

I think, on close reading of this letter, that the principal has a sense of humor.

"...we hired a trapper to catch and sacrifice the bat...unfortunately, the bat escaped."

The last line is also divine:

"I feel the need to communicate with you, however, and thus I am notifying you."

On the other hand, maybe I have a warped sense of humor and no chiroptophobia, and the principal has too much time on his hands?

08 October 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Cousins

I was rooting around on the computer looking for something, and I ended up browsing through a mess of photos that I hadn't seen in a while.

Mir has a cousin, a girl cousin who is a year and three-quarters older than she is. For a long time, said girl cousin has been the source of nearly all of Mir's clothes. Now, today, at almost five and soon-to-be seven, the two girls are nearly the same size, and the hand-me-down supply channel is drying up.

But back when this photo was taken (by my sister), Mir fit into the little dress, and her cousin fit into the big dress (and her cousin had worn the little dress previously, and Mir wore the big dress later). The dresses aren't the same, aren't from the same company or anything, but they're birds of a feather. And the two little blonde girls, wearing them at the same time, might well have been sisters.

07 October 2008

Hot Lava

Don't ask me why, but the child has an obsession with lava. Walk down the sidewalk, "step over the hot lava, mama!". "Ooh, that's hot lava!" It comes up a lot.

So, I thought nothing of it when she told me she wanted to be Lava Girl for Halloween. Lava Girl, a superhero of her own devising. Lava Girl, to be attired in a red dress and pink cape and black tights and "oh, my pretty new shiny ballet slippers" and a red wig or "no, my own hair, mama" with a diamond crown. You know, Lava Girl.

On my way back into the office after lunch, I got off the elevator at the costume shop. When J. put down the phone, he asked "So, what's Mir going to be for Halloween?" "As a matter of fact, that's what I'm here about." I told him she wanted to be Lava Girl, and I was about to launch into the description of the costume, and he derailed me. "I know, Lavagirl and Sharkboy, she wears a jumpsuit".

Go figure. There actually is a Lavagirl. Not the Lava Girl of my child's invention, but a Lavagirl nonetheless.

Once we got past that, he took me to their wondrous cabinets of fabric, and gave me yards of stuff: sparkly fuchsia voile for the cape, luscious tangerine slubby satin for the "L" emblem and some accents, and persimmon taffeta for the dress.
I guess it's time to get out the sewing machine and turn myself into superhero Sewing Mom.

06 October 2008


One of the books I've read in the last year was Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days. It's a charming mish-mosh - a remembrance here, a recipe there, all short pieces organized by date. Because of the eclectic nature of the day book entries, there's no urgency to the reading of it. You can dip in and out because there's no thread to maintain.


The entry dated 6 October is titled "Gleaning" and it retells the story of Ruth (who picked up barley left behind after the harvest) and it talks of helping the poor through the salvage of potatoes left behind in the field and it moves on to how much food is wasted by supermarkets and restaurants and it finishes with the authors picking up potatoes fallen from trucks and taking them home for dinner. "It's just a way of allowing them to realize their true destiny."

"Gleaning" reminded me of the year that my brother was a senior in college and I was an impoverished graduate student, and he was living in a campus apartment, and his school had a field that they leased in little sections as a community garden to folks who'd drive out from Philadelphia to tend to their produce. By October, most of the "farmers" had abandoned their plots to the impending winter, and my brother and his roommate went foraging through the still productive plots. They filled up their freezer with tomato sauce made with vegetables they harvested, and I went to visit one weekend and came home on the train to NYC with tomatoes and leeks and beets and carrots, and filled up my freezer too.

Waste not, want not.

05 October 2008

Parsing the American Road System

The highway.

The slow way.

The medium sized way.

When we get in the car to go someplace, sometimes we have to get on the highway. If you want to be precise about it, it’s the parkway, as opposed to the Expressway or the Thruway (which ought to be the Dew Way, because after all it’s really the Thomas E. Dewey Thruway, and spelling it “thru” is an abomination, but I digress). Anyway, I call it the highway.

One day, Miss M. chirped up after I’d gotten off the highway and said “now we’re on the slow way?” Sure kid, local roads are slow, therefore “slow way” works for me.

Last week, we went to visit my mother. At some point, we were off the highway and the child was perturbed that I wasn’t going faster, stuck as I was behind a large yellow truck. Finally, the truck turned off, leaving the road in front of me free and clear. She encouraged me to speed up. I said “No, I really can’t, it’s not that kind of a road”, because it wasn’t.

Says she, “I wish we were on the medium-sized way. “

What slays me about this whole naming of roads is that she’s allocated three different measurement schemes to her one classification of the road system, mixing metaphors if you will.

Poetic license at age four? Because keeping all the measurements consistent is so boring:

Highway – Low Way
Fast Way – Slow Way
Large Way – Medium Sized Way – Small Way

What do you call the opposite of the highway?

03 October 2008

How Cats Move

Grandma's cat got out!  It went and hid under a bush!  And then Grandpa chased it while Grandma held the door open!  And it ran inside!  It fled like a shooting meatball!

02 October 2008

No, really, I was...

Another link I got from my book-loving sister-in-law was this, which led to this, which led to a constant gazing at our bookshelves to see what fabulous tales would jump out of the titles.

Really, before lunch, I was running around in flight goggles, acting like a grownup.

Fear not, gentle readers, there will be more of these. There will. And some of them, I feel sure, will come from your shelves. Tell me what you find.

01 October 2008

Those Awkward Conversations

Scene I - Yesterday morning, in my room

Her: Mommy, why do you have hair on your parts?
Me: Well, it's what happens to people when they grow up.
Her: When I'm not a girl, will I have hair on my parts?
Me: Yes.
Her: Does Mrs. A.1 have hair on her parts?
Me, out loud: I would think so.
Me, to myself: Unless she has a brazilian or something...

Scene II - One afternoon, in the car with her grandparents

Her: Grandpa, do you have a penis?
Grandpa, taken aback: Um, yes I do.
Her: Daddy has a big penis. But A.2 has a little one.

1 her kindergarten teacher
2 her cousin