30 April 2010

On Fertility, or Infertility, as the case may be

The older I get, the less I care what others think. After seven years of infertility, I got pregnant with child #1 at the age of 42 via in vitro fertilization. I'm 49 - no more kids are coming down the pike. So when I get the question about more kids, I tell them I'm too old, it was too hard getting this one, and I usually I tell them it was an IVF pregnancy. And I find that by opening my mouth about the IVF, it usually results in something like "oh my friend, blah, blah, blah" or "my sister, blah, blah, blah" or "yeah, me too". The more I talk, the more other people talk, the more it's out in the open. I don't think that's a bad thing – infertility tends to run under the radar for the general population, yet it's a big issue. If I'd known, maybe it wouldn't have taken seven years to get pregnant, maybe I'd have gotten into treatment sooner. But I just didn't know.

Why this now? It's National Infertility Awareness Week. And I'm cleaning out my drafts folder.

29 April 2010

Eleven Into Fifty Minus Three Equals EIGHT

Crap. I'm not accomplishing very much. Or, not very much on my list anyway.

I have actually started item #4: running. I started on Easter Sunday, and have been out there two weekday mornings (at 6:30 thank you very much) and one weekend day (accompanied by small child thank you very much) each week since then - until Monday, that is. On Monday, I had failure:

The track, which has one of those synthetic surfaces, was COVERED with worms. Alive and moving, happy to be out in the drizzle. I went once around, and decided that I really didn't need to be out there avoiding worms in the rain, so I bailed. The high school track team probably squished them all later, but I haven't been back yet to see. Maybe tomorrow.

28 April 2010

The Ramps of Spring

We are, happily, swimming in ramps this spring - rampant with ramps, I dare say. I've been buying them at the Union Square Greenmarket, and we cook 'em up and toss 'em with pasta and are happy little clams. The other night, I augmented the sautéed greens with some potato "croutons" - cooked potatoes, diced and tossed with olive oil, and run under the broiler until they were crispy. They added a lovely rough crunchy texture to the otherwise unctuous dish. While I was slicing and dicing, my sister-in-law stopped by with a bag full of ramps that she'd dug up herself, somewhere up in the Berkshires. We might be going to try some pickled ramps next. Or grilled, alongside a hamburger. Or maybe scrambled eggs stirred into a pan of sautéed ramps. Or ramp marmalade (which sounds more like chutney than marmalade, but sounds good none-the-less)! And, when I remember to buy some sparrow grass, we'll have a bowl of ramps and asparagus.

What's your favorite thing to eat come spring? What greens do you pine for in January? What makes your heart sing when you find it in your garden, or at your farmer's market?

27 April 2010

Where Else You Might Want To Be

The funniest blog you aren't reading yet:
Queen Mediocretia of Suburbia

The wisest blog you aren't reading yet:
Lotsa Laundry

The tastiest blog you may or may not be reading already:
Smitten Kitchen

Tell Ellen and Julia I sent you. Find something on Smitten Kitchen and make it for dinner. Report back.

26 April 2010

Why Bribery Never Works

I resorted to bribery recently. Not the "if you eat your peas, you can have a brownie" kind of bribery. No, the real thing - with money.

My brother's kid was turning one, and they were having a birthday party, and I had a pile of toys in the basement that my kid never ever ever played with anymore, including an inflatable horse which I knew would be the hands-down perfect gift. So I said to my child "let's give Rody to your cousin for his birthday". And she burst into tears and refused. This went on for a week or so - I'd propose giving the horse away, she'd cry. My husband thought I was poking it with a stick, as I am wont to do, but I kept hoping she'd see reason. No dice.

So I offered her money. Ten dollars. She refused. "I love Rody; he's my favorite toy!" I tried to talk to her about what she could get for that ten dollars, like a Barbie, the Barbie that I flat out refuse to countenance. But she didn't want ten dollars; she wanted Rody.

Eventually, I had a brainstorm. I was willing to give her ten dollars which she could use to buy the Barbie of her dreams. So I cut out the ten dollar bill and offered to buy her a Barbie. "Mommy, let's go to Target now!"

Off we went to Target and she picked out a Barbie and we went home and made a tag for Rody and the next day she gave Rody to her cousin and showed her new Barbie to everyone else at the party.

And then she asked "if I give Big Elmo to Tiny, can I get another Barbie?"

Thin end of the damned wedge.

25 April 2010

The Mania

Hard on the heels of that garden talk I went to the other night, I ordered a whole mess of plants by mail:

  • Amelanchier stolonifera
  • Amsonia elliptica
  • Hylomecon japonicum
  • Ilex verticillata (two kinds, male & female)
  • Malus "Ralph Shay"

And bought others at a "native" plant sale:

  • Mertensia virginica
  • Phlox divaricata "Blue Elf"
  • Asarum canadense
  • Tiarella "Oak Leaf"
  • Dryopteris marginalis

And bookmarked a few others for purchase in the fall.

Clearly I've gone off the deep end, especially because the shipping on the Ralph Shay was more than the plant! Margaret Roach has a lot to answer for.

23 April 2010

Learning to Look

My day yesterday was bookended by gardens.

In the morning, I had a meeting right near one of the entrances to the High Line. I got there with a few minutes to kill, and instead of heading inside to eat soggy pastries with strangers, I climbed the stairs and reveled alone in the curious and beautiful meadow. Gazing downtown, taking in the whole of the vista, the plantings merge into a swath of green cutting through the industrial grit.

A closer look, though, reveals a multiplicity of color, texture, leaves, flowers. Blooming now, April, there were grape hyacinths and daffodils and salvia and little red species tulips. A fat bee was working the salvia, and but for him, I was alone in the glorious sunshine in my city of eight million people.

In the evening, I played suburban dowager (not really - 95% of the people in the room were older than I am) and went to a talk at my public library - a talk with slide show by Margaret Roach, gardener and blogger. It was packed, and she was excellent. Funny and self-deprecating, she tripped over the latin names of some of her plants and claimed to have buried old boyfriends in her compost heap. I'm ready to plant Ralph Shay and Molly The Witch, respectively, a crab apple and a species peony - but lord knows where I'll find either one. Esoteric garden material can be awfully hard to dig up (ha ha, I said dig up). The "title" of her talk was Nonstop Plants: A Garden for 365 Days - and it was really about looking at the little things, and at the big picture. Plant things that look good in the snow, plant things you can see from your bathroom. Plant tulips under the rhubarb so they peep through the big leaves.

Somehow, I think I'm going to be getting dirty this weekend.

16 April 2010

Dearth Minus R Equals Death

For me, as for many people, the impulse to post ebbs and flows. There are weeks when the posts just pour out of me, so much so that I've got them scheduled into the future and then I have to shuffle them because something comes up that's more timely. Then there are times like right this very minute when, despite a sheaf of clippings in my bag along with a dozen draft posts, I have nothing. Maybe it's because I just can't top the Popsicornian.

Those draft posts and scraps of paper are gnawing at me, though. I'm going to work through them, or toss them. I could use the room in my bag.

A year before my mother died, she entered hospice care. At the time, I didn't think she was going to last out the month; she'd become so very weak. Because death seemed so imminent, death was much on my mind, so much so that I dropped two "clippings" from the New York Times into Google docs.

The first was a heartbreaking story about a Chinese earthquake, one that claimed the lives of many children when their school collapsed.

The bodies are everywhere. Some are zipped inside white vinyl bags and strewn on the floor. Others have been covered in a favorite blanket or dressed in new clothes. There are so many bodies that undertakers want to cremate them in groups. They are all children...But the awful scene at this local morgue is a sad reminder that too many of the dead are children in a country where most families are allowed to have only one.

The other was a quote that appeared in an editorial "Appreciation" of Nuala O’Faolain, an Irish writer then unfamiliar to me, who'd just died.

"I know loads and loads of songs, and what’s the point of it all?" she said. "So much has happened, and it seems such a waste of creation, that with each death all that knowledge dies."

Why? Why do we live? Why do we die? In 100 years, will anyone remember me? Will my daughter remember my mother? My mother was never really the fun granny; she was diagnosed with cancer when my child was about 15 months old. Sure, the three of us went to California together, and she spent plenty of time at Granny's house, but recently we walked along the brick walkway at her old daycare, and when we came to the brick marked MOKY, she said "who's Moky?" And I died a little inside. Right now, she remembers Granny, but not Moky, and Granny's going to evaporate.

Obviously, it's a rhetorical question, but why? What's it all about, Alfie?

14 April 2010

Wardrobe Wednesday: New Popsicornian

Top to bottom:

  • New pink fire hat from the pancake breakfast at the fire house. This is the first time they've had pink hats, alongside the standard issue red ones. Honestly, does anyone actually need a pink plastic hat? Oy.
  • New onion goggles, so we don't cry when we're cutting up onions, thanks to Nintendo, who sent them along with an apron and a cutting board and a stockpot and an interactive DS version of America's Test Kitchen, with which we have not yet interacted.
  • New lavender bike shorts from eBay, because wearing shorts under a skirt means no one can taunt "I see your underpants". Of course, wearing them on your head means that your underpants might still show.
  • New hippie shirt from Target, because a girl can't have too many heart-shaped peace signs.

Oh, and when asked? She told me she was a Popsicornian.

13 April 2010


On Easter Sunday, faced with a beautiful day and nothing to do, the six year old and I put on our sneakers and headed to the high school track. It was my version of rebirth – the kick-off to my Couch to 5K - which, you may recall, is on my list of things to do before I turn fifty.

I didn’t really want to take the girl, but she really wanted to come, and as soon as we got there, she took off, iPod and all (she has a hand-me-down Shuffle, the tiny one, which I populated with songs of my choosing, as it is my prerogative to shape her musical education). Meanwhile, I cued up my C25K app, and set off at a brisk walk, half an oval behind the girl. To her credit, she went around and around - frontwards, backwards, dancing, skipping, singing – for the first 25 minutes of my 30 minute workout. And then she climbed up the bleachers to watch the tennis players doing their thwomp, thwomp, thwomp.

I walked and jogged and walked and jogged and danced a little while walking and jogged and made it through Week 1 Day 1 without falling over. And I did it again Tuesday, and Saturday, and again yesterday. With luck, I’ll be running that whole five kilometers sometime in June.

12 April 2010

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

I've never been to that Texas city pronounced "hugh-stun", the one that's spelled the same way as a street in my city pronounced "how-stun". The other day, I was confused when a lady asked me if the subway was going to "ho-stun". It wasn't until she showed me her hand-drawn map with a penciled "Houston" that I was able to tell her "no, you want the downtown train". I'd never imagined a third way to pronounce the word.

09 April 2010

Shoe Friday Filch

I have a hard time finding and buying some kinds of things. It took me years to find a wallet I liked, and then, when it wore out, took me years to find another. I mostly like the one I have now, but it’s infuriating in that it’s backwards, or left-handed, and even though I open it almost every day, I almost always open it with the cash pocket facing down. Somewhere out there, the perfect wallet exists, but I still haven’t found it.

It's the same thing with my travel coffee mug. Though I usually drink my morning coffee at home, about once a week, I want that extra cup on the way to the train. I don’t want a big cup, but I do want it to be well sealed, because when I’m done, I’m going to have to drop it in my bag and I don’t want those last few drops of coffee dribbling out into my imperfect wallet. And I don’t want a screw off top, because what do you do with the top while you’re drinking the coffee? Yeah, I’m picky. One day, wandering around in Barnes & Noble of all places, I found a great travel cup, but it’s meant for kids to drink cold beverages out of. I contacted the company and asked if hot beverages were okay; they wrote back with lawyer-vetted language about risks of burns, but did assure me that the plastic wouldn’t melt or leach nasty chemicals. So I use it anyway, even though it’s uninsulated and the middle does get hot, because it holds the perfect amount (9 ounces) and it’s completely leak-proof. It does beg the question: why aren't there any smaller, leak-proof travel mugs out there? And believe me, I've looked. Every time I'm in a store that sells any kind of travel cups, I examine each and every one of them with great attention to detail.

With all that said, why oh why did it take me two years to replace my Danskos? I had a pair of Dansko clogs for years and years and I wore them all the time until I wore them out, like completely worn out at the heel and toes poking through the front. I put the dead ones in the compost heap as an homage to my mother (who buried EVERYTHING in the name of the berm, and if anyone ever excavates the perimeters of her property, they’ll be flabbergasted), and I never got around to buying new ones. Finally, I piddled around on the internet, trying to find the perfect combination of price + shipping + rebate + tax, until I gave up and went to a local shoe store which was having a spring break sale where everything was 20% off. Win! And I put those shoes on and it was like coming home and I felt stupid for not having replaced them sooner and I will never be without a pair of Danskos ever again.

The moral of the story is that there are perfect things out there in the world, and when you find them, you should never ever turn your back on them.

"Shoe Friday" filched from Jodifur.

07 April 2010

Fun With Science for Susan

Every once in a while, the kid gets out of bed and says "let's do science experiments"! What she means by this is "let's mix baking soda and vinegar and see what happens", like we don't already know, but hey! Science!

Sometimes we carefully stand up a pill vial of baking soda in a ziploc, pour some vinegar in the bottom of the bag, zip the bag shut, and dump the baking soda into the vinegar. Ta da! The bag blows up like a balloon. I keep hoping one will really explode, with a bang and a mess, but so far no dice.

One day, I set out three glasses - water, pickle juice, white vinegar. I made her taste all three; peculiarly she decreed the vinegar to taste sweet. (Then again, this is a child who likes salt and vinegar potato chips.) She took notes on taste, color, smell - recording her observations, because if you're going to do science experiments, you need to act like a scientist. Then she dumped a tablespoon of baking soda in each one and we watched how differently they reacted.

Sometimes, she wants to make a volcano, using an erlenmeyer flask - the flask shape pumps the foam up nicely (and doesn't everyone have an erlenmeyer flask in the kitchen cabinets? I used to have a 250ml beaker, too, but it got broken. It was an integral part of beer croquet, along with the kangaroo foot bottle opener and a bamboo tray, but I digress).

Today, as an homage to WhyMommy, a female rocket scientist, we - me and my girl - made a volcano, but I added an experimental fillip: three drops of dish detergent mixed into the white vinegar.

Whoa baby! We made the best volcano ever! The only thing that would have made that volcano better was if it had pointed to a cure for cancer. We'll have to keep experimenting.

In the meantime, and because WhyMommy suggested it in her post about preparing for the surgery that she's having today, because her cancer came back, I joined the Army of Women. I'll be notified when a researcher is looking for people like me - women who are willing to participate, in person or online, with and without cancer, so that scientists can study what causes, and what cures, cancer.

Join the army. Teach your kids to experiment. And fuck cancer.

Also, go check out all of the other Team WhyMommy Virtual Science Fair posts that Stimey instigated.

02 April 2010

Thirteen Sights in Two Days

Remember when we went to Boston last summer, and played intense tourist for two days? We did it again, this time closer to home. My sister-in-law had given us a gift certificate for two nights at the Algonquin, and it was about to expire and the girl had spring break, and so we sprung.

We took the train to the city on Sunday, and walked the two blocks over to the hotel. Along the way, we learned that “there are three pigeons in New York and their names are Susie, John and Marissa”, in case you were wondering. The Algonquin is fabulous and antique and totally my idea of a hotel – it has character coming out of its ears. There are Dorothy Parker quotes on the doors to all the rooms, there’s a cat in the lobby, and the gloriously deep bathtub looks like it’s the 1902 original. The wallpaper in the halls is a pastiche of New Yorker cartoons, so you can say "No, Thursday's out. How about never - is never good for you?" while you wait for the elevator. I even liked the airshaft view out our back window, and the front window was good for peeping into some random offices across the way.

After a pause, we scarpered over to 42nd Street, which doesn’t look like 42nd Street anymore, it looks like a mall, but whatever. We had tickets to a fine little show – four Australians doing "46 Circus Acts in 45 Minutes" which was as madcap and charming as you can imagine; the girl was rapt throughout. Incidentally, if you’re in NY with children, you should take them to almost anything at the New Victory – it’s a little jewelbox of a theater "for kids and families", and you don’t even have ask for a booster seat – the ushers just know that six year olds need them. We had dinner at Bond 45 – a completely serviceable Italian restaurant between the theater and the hotel, where they treated the girl right: six cherries in her Shirley Temple, and a package of freshly baked chocolate cookies to go.

Monday, we got up and wore ourselves out:

  • Ate breakfast in the fabulously Victorian round table room
  • Rode the ferris wheel at the Times Square Toys R Us (because we’d accidently walked by it the night before and there was no way out)
  • Successfully bought nothing at the afore-mentioned Toys R Us
  • Took the subway up to the Museum of Natural History, where we saw live butterflies, dead rodents, American Indians, and the big whale
  • Successfully avoided every last gift shop at the afore-mentioned museum
  • Took the subway back down to Chinatown for a dumpling lunch
  • Agreed to purchase pink! silk! pajamas! at Pearl River Trading (though they’re really rayon)
  • Took the subway further downtown, and rode the Staten Island Ferry back and forth. Free! It’s free! We’d thought about going to the Statue of Liberty but rode the ferry instead. Did I mention that it’s free?
  • Headed uptown to Macy*s to see the flower show
  • Gave into demand that we buy something at Macy*s for the child, and got her a shirt and a denim dress, a/k/a useful souvenirs
  • Walked back to the hotel and crashed for a moment
  • Went out to dinner at a most excellent pizza place called Co, by the "no-knead bread" guy
  • Came back to the hotel, where I took a bath in peace and quiet

Tuesday, I went to work and the girl and her father traipsed around some more in the POURING rain. I think I might have gotten the better end of that stick, though she came home with bathroom fixtures for her dollhouse and a chocolate bunny.

And that, friends, is how to see New York. Bang zoom. Theater, museum, ferry, subway, restaurants, shops, hotel. Two days. Though you might need a vacation from your vacation. Luckily, it's still spring break.

01 April 2010

A Year

I was on the train home yesterday, when the Neville Brothers shuffled into position on my iPod:

I was standing by my window
On a cold and cloudy day
When I saw that hearse wheel rolling
It was taking my mother away

Undertaker, undertaker
Won't you please drive real slow?
That's my mother, my dear old mother
I sure hate to see her go

My heart stopped a little. I remember watching the hearse take my mother away, a year ago today.

And then, when I got to my house, there was a little white stone sitting in the gutter, right at the top of my driveway, about the size of a lima bean. It's not a piece of gravel, it's not a native rock. It's like the rocks my mother loved to pick up on the beach at Fire Island - perfect little surf tumbled stones, pure white shot through with tiny grey veins, flat and smooth in the hand.

She hasn't a headstone, she wasn't buried, so I can't mark my visits by putting pebbles on her tombstone. Instead, it's like she came to me, in the form of that little rock sitting in front of my house.

I can't believe it's been a year. It feels like just yesterday.