Sunday, March 30, 2008

I'm a 10aire!

I know there are people who struggle with the whole 'ads on blogs' thing. I also know that there is nothing more boring than bloggers talking about their struggle with the whole 'ads on blogs' thing. I know that first statement is true because I often see bloggers struggling with it. I know that second statement is true because I'm one of those people who are bored with that struggle. It bores me because I cannot think of a single good reason why someone shouldn't put ads on a blog. Maybe that's because I have had a career in magazine journalism, where the number of ads was directly proportional to the stability of my job, and where lack thereof has meant my spending time in the career counseling center of my local unemployment office having my resume critiqued by a woman who can't pronounce the word 'ask.'

So it was with a complete lack of ambivalence that I recently received my first ad revenue check on Friday. My blog! Bringing in the bacon. A check with four figures on it...if you count the two that come after the decimal point. Four months of ad revenues, averaging well under $10 a month. And yet...I cannot tell you how much silly joy this teensy little check, currently displayed on my computer monitor in the same place of honor that was once occupied by my very first advance check from a publisher, has brought me. I told Baroy that I'm thinking about going to a different bank in our neighborhood and starting a mad money savings account just for me. (I gave up my individual account a few years back when things got too tight for it to seem fair to have money squirreled away.) Baroy pointed out that most banks no longer open accounts for the equivalent of pocket change, but I just stuck my tongue out at him. I'm mature that way.

Hey, do you think I can talk them into giving me my very own passbook, just like the one I had back at P.S. 26, where every week we'd deposit another dollar, and the teller would stamp the new balance for me? I really loved that passbook.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Crazy Walking Lady Jr.

We've been talking, for a while, about trying to find something physical for Em to do during the soccer off-season. She loves soccer, but is perfectly happy in AYSO and would rather not opt for a year-round club program, with all the extra practices and travel that means. (OK. I'm the one who objects to the travel. But the club teams around here go FAR. I know parents who drive hours every weekend, just to attend one tournament or another. Which is fine for them. They have kids who kick ass at soccer. My kid kicks a ball. And she kicks it well...but not so well that she's got a professional career ahead of her. Plus, I'd prefer to have real weekends, where more than one family member's needs are addressed. Which is not to say that if N starts playing golf tournaments I won't completely change my tune, but he's a different creature, and his golf talents are at a different level than Em's soccer talents.)

In any case...(damn, I can digress like nobody's business, huh?)

So we've talked about various sports, but none really interest her. We've talked about getting back into swimming, which she loves, but "not enough to do it as a SPORT, Mom." Baroy found her a drop-in dance class on Saturdays that was affordable for us, but Saturdays are horrendously busy, and she hasn't been to one yet. Etc., etc., etc. You no more want to hear the various financial and logistical issues than I want to write about them. Yawn.

What it comes down to is that we want--really, we need--to find her something that she can do more than just once a week for an hour, because the difference in her body from what it was during soccer season to what it is now is really starting to upset her.

And so it was with no small sense of pride that, a little over a week ago, as I was setting out for one of my walks, I heard Em say, "Hey, Mommy. Can I come along?"

Since then, she's joined me almost every other day or so for a walk. We've done a couple of walks down the hill to the grocery store in the late afternoon, to pick up stuff for dinner. We've done a couple of walks with Snug. And we've done a couple where we just head across our neighborhood along a tree-lined street for a mile or so, focusing on really keeping up the pace and getting our hearts pumping.

Already, we're looking for ways to up the ante a little, and we've decided to do it by taking on a few 5K walks in the next couple of months. We're going to do the local Revlon Run-Walk with the family of friends from our temple, whose daughter is one of Em's close friends from Hebrew school. And we're planning on doing the Memorial Day 5K Run-Walk in our neighborhood, the one Baroy always runs. I think she'll just ADORE doing those sorts of events, since there are t-shirts and goodie bags and people clapping added to the mix.

Anyway, even without all of the above, she's loving our walks, and I'm just crazy about the whole idea, not just because it's good for her and good for me and all that, but because walking leaves us little else to do but talk. I've been privy to at least a dozen little bits of 10-year-old gossip that I would never have heard about if we hadn't been walking. She has always had a lot to say, my Em, and now she has me all to herself to say it. Not to mention that I can't think of a better pattern for her to set for herself than to pick up a form of exercise that requires almost nothing in the way of equipment and can be done whenever you want to do it.

But of course, I would say that. Because I *am* the Original Crazy Walking Lady. And now I have spawned another.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Streak Free

My sister called this morning: "Is everything OK?" she asked, concern evident in her voice.

"Uhhhh, yeah. Why?"

"You missed a day! On your blog!"

"Oh, yeah. I did that on purpose."

"On purpose? WHY? What happened?"

"Oh, nothing. Except it was a miserable day work-wise, and I'd put in umpteen hours, and it was 11:30 when I finished and...I just couldn't face another 'I'm posting about why I can't post' post. So I just decided not to do it."

"But...But...You gave up anniversary sex to blog! Why quit now?"

She's right. (Not that I gave up anniversary sex, of course. But I did postpone it. Which is almost as sacrificial. Yes, Mom--and Deb--I know that's too much information.) It was a stupid reason not to post. But then again, what's the point in doing this if I open up my browser and stare resentfully at the blank "Create Post" page in Blogger? I still have plenty to say...just not last night.

And so I'm out of this, the first non-November NaBloPoMo challenge. I won't be doing next month, either, because we're going away with a group from our temple the first weekend of April (or at least Em, N and I are...Baroy has to stay behind) to 'family camp' where we won't have...gulp...internet access. (I KNOW! What is WRONG with these people? Making sure we properly observe Shabbat and EVERYthing. Sheesh.) But I'm toying with the idea of trying again in May. And it's not like I don't EVER post when I'm not NaBlowing. I just post a little less drivel is all.

So, in case you were wondering...I'm fine. Everyone's fine. I just got TIRED.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

We Really Can't Go Home Again

On the way to dinner last night, we passed the street where Baroy and I (and our friends M and G and another guy who we try not to think about) all lived together. Baroy and Guy We Try Not To Think About lived there for about six years, G had moved in a year or two after, and M moved in about eight months before I did. I was there a year and a half when the stress of having Guy We Try Not To Think About around all the time--plus G's hour-long commute and my and Baroy's impending marriage--caused us to decide to go the more conventional route and go out and get our 'own' places.

I could write long books about those 18 months. I've started to, several times. They were, in many ways, the true Best Time of My Life. We often talk about the 'what ifs' of having continued to live together (the four of us, only) and having been a less-conventional family; Em, in particular, likes to wonder what it would have been like to have so many much-loved people living in her house with her.

So it was a little bit upsetting, when I impulsively swerved across traffic to turn down that old street, to find that the house we lived in is gone. Like, completely. Like, it and the house next to ours--both duplexes--had been torn down, and in their place was the shell of a new 'luxury' apartment building that, from the drawings out front, is going to wind up looking more Vegas casino than most Vegas casinos.

The feeling was similar to that of seeing the photos my mom occasionally sends of the complete destruction of the house I lived in from ages 13 to 18--and which I visited or stayed in throughout the years thereafter. Except, in that case, I knew when my mom and stepdad sold the house, and I knew what was happening to all the other nice, modest houses on that block as they sold. So when the wrecking balls moved in, and when the nice modest house turned into a cement monstrosity, it wasn't much of a surprise.

But this house...I can't remember the last time I drove past it, but it's been years. At least three or four years, since my friend Tamar--the last person I still knew in that neighborhood, moved away in 2005. But probably more than that, because I don't actually recall visiting it when I visited her. All I know is that the last time I'd seen it, it was intact, and it has remained untouched in my memory all that time, and all the times we've sat with M and G and reminisced. So to see it gone...hurt, frankly. Hurt a lot. Because now I can't show it to the kids one day, like I'd always assumed we'd do. But also because now when I think about it, it's going to truly only be a memory, and not a reality...not sitting there, ready, waiting, holding on to my past for me.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Go Away and Leave Us Alone

Note to self: Don't ever again promise to write a post a day during your anniversary month, lest you find yourself
  • dropping the kids off with the lovely friends who offered to keep them overnight
  • going out to dinner and stuffing yourself full of as much smelly and delicious garlic as you could possible even consider ingesting (including a very dirty and very scrumptious garlic martini)
  • driving home to your empty home, laughing and holding hands
  • running to the computer so you can get a post in before midnight.
It's all about priorities, people!

And now I am done with you all for tonight. My husband is downstairs on the couch, waiting for me to come watch The Ten Commandments with him. (Garlic and Moses. We are bringing sexy *back*!)

Oh, and in case you were wondering...Of course I'm leaving my bra on the coffee table for Em to find tomorrow. How could I possibly pass up such a golden opportunity to mess with a 10-year-old's mind?

Friday, March 21, 2008

16-Year-Old Bubbles

I just poured the very last of a jar of bubble bath into the tub for N. You know how sometimes you hold an ordinary object in your hand, and suddenly it ceases to be an object, but it becomes an entire experience? That's what happened to this plastic jar as I reached over to drop it into the garbage pail. It stopped being a container, and became instead my friend Joyce and myself, giggling together as we shopped for lotions and potions at The Body Shop in the then-still-relatively-new Herald Center, a "vertical mall" built right across 34th Street from Macy's. I loved Joyce; she was fun and silly and she always made me laugh. And she was one of the few people in the world who simply refused to buy my "I'm not a girly-girl; I don't *do* cosmetics" schtick and instead dragged me from store to store spending money on frilly and fluffy things as if we had nothing else to do with it. (Which, mostly, we didn't. We were single and in our 20s, and aside from buying subway tokens and beer at Cedar Terrace on Friday nights, had very little in the way of financial obligations.)

I could still hear her laughter in my head as I started doing the math: I moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1993. Joyce, if I'm not mistaken, stopped working for ABigScienceMagazine well before that.

Those bubbles, in other words, have probably recently celebrated their Sweet 16.

Lesson of the day: I really need to take more bubble baths.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Poor Brown

Homework with N has been horrible lately. I'm short-tempered, he's in over his head and fidgety and unhappy. Yesterday was really bad. I was already feeling touchy, after his teacher had pulled me aside in the playground to tell me about some more problems he's having academically, and also to bemoan the fact that this same kid--the one who kicked butt as Star of the Week--is now the Pledge Leader, and is doing the measly little THREE LINES ("Put your right hand over your heart. Ready, begin. You may be seated.") with his hands over his eyes and his head pulled into his shirt collar and in a voice that is basically inaudible. "He's practically in tears by the end of it each day," she said, shaking her head. "I just don't understand."

To which I wanted to scream: I KNOW. THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN TRYING TO SAY FOR SEVEN YEARS NOW. There is no consistency; no using yesterday's gains to inform tomorrow's expectations. My child is like human quicksand, and every time I move, I get sucked deeper into the not-understanding.

But that's not my point. My point is, homework has been bad. And yesterday's was especially so. He was so not-there, and I was so on edge, that at one point I grabbed his arm...hard...with an intent to get his attention, and without an intent to be gentle with him. "N!" I snapped, loudly, getting right into his face. "You need to listen to me right now, or you're going to lose TV!" At he looked at me and grinned smugly, insultingly. I saw red and sent him to his room until I could calm down enough to finish working with him.

Today was less bad. Not good, but less bad. Still, by the end, he was twirling around a crayon and writing on the table inadvertently and simply not paying attention to the VERY LAST PROBLEM we had to get through. I could feel my composure slipping, and so--trying to pretened I'd something from the day before--I took my anger out on the crayon he was playing with, snapping it in half and throwing it into the garbage. I wasn't yelling, I didn't even raise my voice. I thought I'd done pretty well...until I looked at my son, who literally and immediately collapsed onto the couch in tears.

"That was my favorite brown!" he wailed.

"I'm sorry, but you were using it as a toy during homework, and I needed you to focus on what you were doing," I said.

"BUT YOU BROKE BROWN!" And thus ensued ten straight minutes of true, honest-to-goodness sobs, while I held him and rocked him and told him that I was sorry, that I didn't know the crayon was so special to him.

Finally, when he'd quieted down a bit, I said, "Are we OK now?"

"I don't know," he said, his head still in his hands. "I'm still so sad for brown."

Ten minutes later, after we'd finished the last homework problem, he came into the family room to find me. In his cupped hands were the two pieces of brown crayon.

"We're better now," he said. "I don't mind so much that brown is in two pieces."

I thought, for a microsecond, of being the model of consistency that every parenting book tells me I need to be, and insisting that he put the pieces back in the garbage: After all, that was the punishment I'd meted out, and I should stick to it. But I couldn't do that to his hopeful, newly happy face. I couldn't do that to a kid who could grin while his mom is yelling in his face one day, but who collapses in grief over a broken crayon. I couldn't be that mean.

Quicksand, I say. That child is pure quicksand. And he's totally sucked me in.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Death in the Cyberfamily

I joined my August '97 birthmonth list in January of 1997, less than two months after I got my positive pregnancy test. To say that it changed my life would be an understatement, considering that my bestest girlfriends--and more than half the people who comment here on any regular basis--come from that very same list. Our babies--or, as we call them, our Auggies--have been cybercousins since the days they were born, many of them to mothers who sent out emails to the list from labor and delivery (or from a birth center, or from their bedroom...). Em has met a number of the Auggies, and knows about many others from stories I tell her as events in their lives unfold.

We've been together for 11 years now, and there are still 60-some of us subscribed, I think. Or something like that.

Early today, one of our number was driving a car on a slick road in Texas when she lost control of her car, crossed a grassy median into oncoming traffic, and was hit by an oncoming passenger truck. Her daughter--her Auggie--was killed instantly. (She and her younger child were injured but seem not to be in serious danger, thank goodness.)

I can't untangle the tears for the little girl, who I've known since she was born, and the tears for her mom, and the tears for 'it could have been me, it could have been Em, I can't imagine the pain, I don't want to imagine the pain, I can't stop imagining the pain'. And really, it doesn't matter. This is an event worthy of tears, wherever they come from.

There's been a refrain in the shocked and horrified emails on our list since the news made its way to us, and it brings a fresh batch of sobbing each time I read it:

Rest in peace, Maeve.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Starring As...Myself

Tomorrow night Purim begins; Em is 'acting' the part of Queen Esther during the Megillah reading at our synagogue, and has been planning out her costume incessantly. N made himself about a dozen different masks at the Purim Carnival on Sunday, so he's covered, too.

"And what are *you* coming as?" my friend F asked me.

"An overworked, overcommitted, totally frazzled mother of two," I replied without hesitation. "And you?"

And with that, I hope you'll understand when I say that I have no time to write anything more tonight. I'm much too busy getting into costume.

Monday, March 17, 2008

You Don't Want to Know

Because Jane makes me feel bad about wearing comfy but crappy bras, I keep buying new ones recommended to me by lingerie salesladies. They always fit in the store, but after a washing or two, they twist and distort and they HURT. So, more often than not, I end up giving up halfway through the evening and taking my bra off wherever I am.

That is the prologue to the conversation I am about to relate, between myself and Em on our way home from school today. (Keep in mind that both of us laughed and giggled throughout this entire exchange; otherwise, I'd have to write, "she giggled," and "I laughed" after every identifier, and it would get dull.)

Em: Hey, Mom, I found your bra on the coffee table this morning.

Me: Yeah, I know.

Em: Yeah, I was thinkin', 'ooooh, what were YOU doing last night?'

Me: Uh, Em? Lemme give you some advice before you go any further. Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answers to. You're 10 years old. I'm betting you would be more embarrassed if I gave you the answer you're looking for than I could ever be.

Em: Yeah, but I was thinking, its was almost your anniversary, you guys were watching a movie, the lights were low, there was romantic music...

Me: Em! Let me say this again. You DON'T want to ask questions about stuff that will embarrass you way more than it would embarrass me.

Em: But..

Me: OK, fine. You want to know? You're right. Daddy and I did it, on the couch, right where you always sit. And we left my bra on the table as a clue.

Em, bright red: Really?

Me: No, of course not. My bra was bothering me, and I took it off. But you asked...

Em, still giggling: Don't tell Daddy about this conversation, OK?

Me: Are you kidding? Is the first thing I'm going to tell him when I get home. You'll be lucky if I don't blog about it.

Poor, unlucky Em.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Twelve years ago tomorrow, Baroy and I were married by a rabbi (my uncle--more specifically, my stepfather's brother) in a really lovely ceremony in New York. Two weeks later, for a variety of reasons, we had a second ceremony in Los Angeles, in Marina del Rey. That ceremony--and it was an equally lovely if less traditional ceremony, at which we exchanged rings again and said different-but-no-less-meaningful vows--was officiated by the brother of one of Baroy's friends, a truly wonderful man who is properly ordained to perform such rites of passage. Of course, within just a couple of years, life had done what it does, and we lost direct touch with him, though his sister--Baroy's friend-- has kept Baroy up to date on significant events in his life.

Last night, we went out with our havurah to celebrate our upcoming anniversary (as well as to celebrate another member's 50th birthday next week, and another's successful participation in a 100-mile bike ride for the second year in a row). We went to a place that holds a lot of memories for us: It was the restaurant that our friends M and G took us to the night before Em came home from the NICU, six days after she was born; it was the restaurant to which we took my father on one of his two or three visits to the area. And so we were sitting there, 14 of us in all, talking about all these milestones in our lives, when all of a sudden I noticed Baroy leap up from his seat, a huge smile on his face; seconds later, he was hugging the very man, M, who had done our second wedding ceremony a dozen years earlier.

I of course joined Baroy, laughing and exclaiming over M and his wife, and wondering how it was that they came to be in this restaurant, which is nowhere near where they live (and not so near where we live now, either). We re-introduced them to Em, whom they'd last seen when she was around two years old, and to N, whom they'd never met.

When they left, soon after (they were on their way to a theatrical performance and couldn't stay to catch up), we'd pledged to get together for real, real soon, and I fell back into my seat, shaking my head in amazement. Our friends, too, were open-mouthed over this coincidence. There we were, celebrating our marriage, only to have one of the men who put an official stamp on it walk right past our table, and back into our lives. That, we decided, called for yet another l'chaim. And so we drank to coincidence and love and fate and the people who play roles both large and small in making our lives what they are today.

Strange and mysterious ways, my friends. Strange and mysterious.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lion Days

There are dark, ominous clouds rolling in over the horizon. I know I shouldn't complain; I've seen the pictures from Atlanta. But there is little that I find more oppressive than heavy rain-laden clouds. I have never been one to enjoy 'weather.' Baroy loves rainy days, because he loves sleeping to the sound of rain on the roof. Me, I love nothing more than a blue sky and temps in the 80s. That's why I love Southern California. I didn't come here for the rain.

Em is a SoCal girl to the bottom of her heart; in fact, right now she's in her friend's pool, having the first swim of the season, even though it's maybe 65 degrees out. "They pool's all heated up," she whined when at first I told her I didn't think it was a good idea. "It may be cold outside, but it's warm in there." I trust the mom in question to pull them out when the clouds really start to cover us, so I gave in. Em's yearning for real summer, and so am I.

Just a few minutes ago, N looked out the back windows of the house (out front it's still sun and blue skies; out back it looks like an entirely different world) and exclaimed, "It's a lion day back here! Where it's sunny over there it's a lamb day, but here it's a lion day! That's weird!"

Me, I'm just going to wait these lions out--preferably under a warm comforter--and wait for the lambs to return.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I'll Love You Forever

The kids got out of school early today (report card prep for the teachers) and while Em went to play at a friend's house, N and I went to the library to see if we could find more of Tedd Arnold's Fly Guy books to read. (Any book that makes N say, "Let's get more of these!" gets an immediate response in my house. But we always try the library first. Because...Well, if you don't know why, you obviously didn't read about how I buy Chanukah presents at Goodwill.)

On the way back, we passed a construction site. "When I get to be a grownup, I'm going to work there," N said, pointing. "And then I'll come home at night and sleep in our house still, of course. Except Daddy will have to teach me to drive a car. Or a truck, maybe."

"So you're going to be a construction worker now?" I asked. "What happened to being a fireman?"

"Well, I might have a lot of jobs," he replied. "Like...Well, I don't want to be a soldier, because I don't want to die, but I might be a policeman, a fireman, an ambulance...Wait. Do policemen die?"

"Well, yes, sometimes," I admitted. "And sometimes firemen do, too. Those are all very important jobs, but sometimes they can be dangerous."

"Well, if I was made of metal I wouldn't die," he countered.

"Sure, but if you were made of metal, you'd be a robot and you wouldn't be a human. So you couldn't die, because you wouldn't be alive."

He pondered this for a minute, then moved on. "Where do policemen live?"

"They live in houses with their families, like everyone else," I said. "They go to the police station to do their job, then they come home."

"Good," he answered. "Because I still want to live with you and Daddy and sleep in my favorite bed with Snuggy as my guard." [Note: We really need to work on his pronounciation of 'guard,' because right now it comes out as 'god,' and it always takes me aback to hear him proclaim, when Snug settles down on the foot of his bed as he does every night, "Oh, good. There's Snuggy, my god."]

"Don't you want to live somewhere else when you grow up?"

"No way! Except..." and here he hesitates for a second, "well, one day I might see a girl I like and marry her."

"Right. And then what will you do?"

"It'll be OK, though. I'll just talk to her about it a lot and then we'll both live with you guys."

"In your same bed? With the Spongebob sheets?"

"In my favorite bed. With my favorite Spongebob sheets. And Snuggy as our god."

It's good to have a plan.

[Note number 1: I swear to Snuggy that this is an almost word-for-word transcript of what transpired. Check out those language skills. Note how the entire thing makes almost perfect sense. It would be almost freaky if it weren't so wonderful.]

[Note number 2: I swear to Snuggy as well that I have NO idea where he got the "I don't want to be a soldier because I don't want to die," thing. You'd think it would be obvious (here everyone looks meaningfully over at Baroy), but that is actually so NOT the kind of thing that ever gets discussed in this house, or at least not with the kids directly. So I haven't a clue, not really.]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

For All You Sad Pandas

For the record: I never said I had a new job. I have a new title, and I'm doing somewhat different things, but I'm doing them for the same people, from the same place (i.e., home sweet home). It's a good thing, because I'm feeling a little more useful and a little more secure; it's a less-good thing, because I'm constantly busy and haven't really had a chance to catch my breath since the day these duties were handed to me. But I can't say that in any way it's an actual bad thing, and overall, I'm happy about it. (Though not a happy panda, because...I have no idea what that means.) It's a positive change.

And that--being that this is the Internet, and one Does Not Discuss Work Specifics on the Internet if one wants to continue working--is all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Under the Wire

Dang; almost forgot to post today! Let's pretend I meant to wait until now, OK?

Know what would really suck? If I forgot to post until now and then added insult to injury by having nothing to say. Which, well...all I can say is, thank goodness for my mother. And why, might you ask? Because back in December, when I was posting those long lists of books I'd read throughout the year, she mentioned to me that she thought I was overwhelming everyone with so many books all at one time, and that's why nobody was really commenting on what I had to say. (Shhh. Don't anyone tell her that nobody EVER comments on what I have to say. I like that she thinks I'm popular. Hi, Mom!)

Her suggestion was that I post my reading lists more frequently throughout the year, at various intervals. But I didn't have the energy to do so...until now. Now, I have about 20 minutes until the end of the day, about 20 seconds' worth of imaginative thought, and the book stuff is already written. All I have to do is cut and paste. Score!

And so I give you...The Audiobooks I Listened To In January And February Of This Year. (Oh, stop that swooning with excitement, you over there...)


1. Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh: I keep this ongoing list of books I want to read. The list is comprised of titles from awards long- and short-lists, and end-of-year wrap-ups; it has titles from various 100 Best Books You Never Read or somesuch snooty pseudo-intellectual lists. It has books I heard about from friends, books recommended on other blogs, books reviewed in literary magazines. It has a lot of books on it, my list, and they all get thrown in together, so that after a fairly short period of time, I have no idea what came from where. All of which is to say that I have no idea where it was that I heard about this book. I had the feeling that it was supposed to be...weightier. More literary. Something. I had recently finished reading Mrs. Kimble when I started listening to this, and maybe that should have clued me in. In any case, wherever it came from, it was an OK book. A pleasant ‘read.’ Some interesting, if two-dimensional, characters. Fairly predictable. It was...just OK. But it’s really bugging me that I can’t remember where the recommendation that I read it came from.

2. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson: What it is about Bryson that hits my funny bone in just the right spot is beyond me. But hit he does. In fact, I actually found myself jotting down lines so I could share them with my brother-in-law, whose sense of humor matches me to a T. Overall, I’m not a huge fan of travel writing, so this book didn’t make me want to read it over and over. But there were lines that I am still chucking about now, days after finishing this book. This man, in other words, is fun-E.


3. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve: It just seems to me that, more often than not, when a writer feels the need to do one of these story-within-a-story plotlines, it’s because she doesn’t feel confident that one—or both—of the plots have enough heft to them to carry a book. The problem is, putting two not-strong-enough plots together doesn’t solve that issue. In this case, I actually think the subplot had the potential to be an intriguing story, had Shreve actually trusted in it enough. And given it a less obvious and insipid ending. And maybe had someone else write it. (No, I didn’t like this book. And yes, I’m totally over Shreve.)

4. The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro: Dear god, the narrator’s Scottish accent on this audiobook was abominable. Other than that, my hat is very far off. Munro is a true master. These are amazing stories, though I've read others of her I liked even better. You know a writer's good, though, when the work that isn't her all-time best still merits words like "master" and "amazing." Thank you, Ms. Munro, for totally taking the bad Shreve taste out of my mouth.

5. True North by Jim Harrison: His books are really, really good. There is no reason I should be reading him, because they are so very much not my general cup of tea, but they are really well written, and really compelling, not to mention often quite sensual (and simultaneously somewhat crass). All I can say is that as soon as I got about halfway through this book, I went to the library website to request some others. (I'd actually already listened to a book of his short stories, called The Summer He Didn't Die, back in 2006, and was two-third impressed. This time, it was well over three-quarters impressed. Maybe even five-sixths.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Artificial Sweeteners Make Me Angry

I've been fighting this conclusion for ages. It seems so New Age-y, and I'm not. I'm skeptical about these assertions that you can pin behavior directly on something like preservatives or sugar or Red Dye #348,985,875.

(On the other hand, I'm a huge believer in the idea that diet can *influence* behavior. My skepticism is based on the "get rid of this one specific preservative, and your ADHD child will be the calmest kid on the block" argument. I just don't buy it.)

Which is why, as I said, I've been fighting this conclusion for ages. But I can't fight it any more. Artificial sweeteners in general--and NutraSweet in particular--make me angry. I drink a diet soda, I yell at my kids. It's almost a one-to-one correlation. I don't know how it works, exactly, but I know I'm not alone...There's plenty out there in the Google world on anger and irritability (as well as depression and mood swings) and their link to sucralose and its pals.

Why am I suddenly so sure? I've been avoiding diet drinks of late, on purpose...a difficult thing to do in my house, since Baroy is a Diet Coke (and Diet Canada Dry and Diet Anything With Bubbles) addict, and my fridge is STUFFED full of the stuff. But I've done that before, testing the "is this stuff making me mean?" waters. The difference is, I've been in a really unusually calm mood of late. I mean, I'm totally stressed at work--I've got a new title, new position, new tasks to learn--but that's stress, not anger, and it's been really focused on work. I've been truly (and unusually) calm at home, dealing with the kids with an evenness that I often aspire to but rarely achieve, and bantering happily with Baroy without any unnecessary snarkiness. (I won't swear to the absence necessary snarkiness, of course...but that's a different ballgame entirely.)

And then, not even thinking about it, I grabbed a diet ginger ale at dinnertime. Within an hour, I was snapping at N for...well, for walking past me. (In my defense: He kept knocking into me as he came and went from the living room, and twice nearly knocked my laptop onto the floor. But still. He was walking past me. There were ways to deal with it that didn't have to involve a voice raised in anger.) And then I went to put him to bed, and found myself yelling at him for not paying complete and proper attention when I read to him, and then yelling into Em's room because she hadn't turned off her light the VERY SECOND I told her to, and then stomping out of N's room because he was wriggling around and making me insane. By wriggling. A little.

I stomped into the living room, huffing and puffing like I was the World's Most Put-Upon Mother, what with having to deal with all that wriggling! and all that not turning off the light! and all that, um, EXISTING. Sheesh. What about ME? What about MY NEEDS? And I plopped down on the couch next to Baroy, rolling my eyes at him when he asked me whether they'd gone down all right...because how DARE he? Now I was the World's Most Put-Upon Wife, what with having to deal with all these questions! and the expectation of answers! Sheesh.

To return to my story: I stomped. I huffed and puffed. And I grabbed my...can......of.......OHHHHHHHH. You're kidding me. Really? That direct a link? Shit.

So, um, yeah. That not believing? I'm going to have to rethink that and get back to you on it. But I can pretty much guarantee I won't be drinking a Diet Coke while I do that.

Monday, March 10, 2008


I've been doing a fair amount of cooking lately--fish! chicken! salads! veggies! sometimes even salads AND veggies on the same table during the same meal!--and there is that great satisfaction of knowing I'm actually giving my family "food," as opposed to "stuff from a box that sort of looks like food but maybe isn't."

But there's a problem. Those ingrates...they want to eat meals EVERY DAY. Sometimes THREE meals! And there is only so much sauteeing and slicing and browning and braising I'm willing to do. I'm only human!

And so our menus look a lot like this these days:

Sunday dinner: Catfish fillets and broccoli sauteed in butter and lemon; baguette; romaine lettuce and baby carrots with TJ's yummy low-fat cilantro dressing

Monday dinner: Frozen chicken taquitos thrown onto a paper plate; ramen noodles on the side, but only grudgingly, after the kids complain that they want more than taquitos

It's a little schizophrenic. Plus, all that happens is I rack up a few "good mommy" points on Sunday, only to blow them all on Monday's zero-nutritional-value preservative-fest. And trust me, it's all about racking up the good mommy points. But I just don't have the tiiiiiime! Or the enerrrrrrrgyyyyyy!

Bah. I was better off when I didn't realize that each trip through the McD's drive-through is the equivalent of shaving a month and a half off their life spans. Not that our car is never spotted there, mind you. I just feel a whole lot guiltier about it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What I Already Knew But Needed To Hear

I ran into a friend of ours at the Girl Scout Tasting Bee the other day, a guy who Baroy just adores, and who returns that regard. One of this guy's three kids is almost three years younger than N, and N's polar opposite. While N had to be almost literally dragged into the loud and bewildering Tasting Bee by his ear, my friend's boy was doing everything but rolling in the chaos, in an attempt to get more, hear more, feel more.

The funny thing is that these two boys, though separated by three years and miles of temperament, absolutely love hanging out together. As soon as little E saw N was there, he
started engaging him in a game of chase, and soon they were tearing up the place together, though N made frequent pitstops to bury his face in my legs and collect himself before heading into the melee again.

At one point I made an apologetic face at this friend, J, as N interrupted us once more while hiding from little E. "It's just too much for him in here," I said, "what with his sensory issues and all."

"What issues?" J shot back and, without waiting for me to respond, went on to elaborate. "N and little E don't have issues; they have ways of coping with their world. We're the ones with the issues, the ones doing all the fretting and wondering and worrying. They're just living their lives."

Later on, J wanted to take a picture of N and little E, and N grew suddenly shy, popping his thumb into his mouth. I told him to take it out, but he refused, and I became annoyed and a little embarrassed. J, noticing my upset, said to little E, "Hey, E, why don't you suck your thumb, too?" E, giggling, put his thumb in his mouth; this made N giggle, too, and J took a shot of two happy boys who happen to be sucking their thumbs. As he was putting his camera away, J looked at me and said, "Your son is going to own this world some day. Don't make him try to change to fit the world; let the world change to fit him."

Both of those scenes, and J's words, simplistic and even somewhat trite though they are, have stuck with me all week. Whether or not they're ultimately true, they've brought me seven days of calm and coping, and that alone is priceless.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Little Moments of Judaism

1. Last night, Em, N and I were watching the Canadian television version of Anne of Green Gables (which Em and I recently read together), when one of the characters said of another, "She's a real gimlet." At which point N suddenly burst out, "Huh? I didn't know she knows Hebrew!"

"Hebrew?" I asked, genuinely confused for about 30 seconds, at which point I burst out laughing. "Oh, no, sweetie. She said gimlet, not gimel."

My 7-year-old totally knows more Hebrew than I do, even if he's not quite so hot on English vocabulary. I love it.

2. We had a Religious School Saturday morning Shabbat service this morning (followed by a potluck luncheon organized and 'hosted' by yours truly that went very nicely, thank goodness, though the Critical Ladies made sure to let me know about everything I did that wasn't EXACTLY the way they would have done it). We have an exceptionally small religious school--fewer than 30 kids in grades K through 6--so each and every kid got to be a real part of the event. Even N, who is pretty shy when it comes to speaking Hebrew out loud, stood up front and paid attention when his class was asked to do the Shema.

Em's fourth-and-fifth-grade class (all girls) led us in a number of the songs and prayers, and then almost literally fought one another for the privilege of carrying the Torah around before and after the Torah service. In the end, the Religious School Director, who is also a rabbi, let the girls hand it off to one another as they proceeded around the social hall where we were holding the service. They all looked so proud; it was, for most if not all of them, the first time they've been allowed to hold a 'real' Torah.

Still, it came as a surprise to me when, during our nightly "Best and Worst" dinner conversation, Em announced that she had two bests, one being the fact that her friend E had come home with us after services for a playdate/sleepover and the other being "that I got to carry to Torah. That was one of the coolest things ever."

If I ever needed a sign to let me know that this religious education thing is having the sort of effect I hoped it would, it would be hearing my daughter use the words "Torah" and "coolest thing ever" in the same paragraph.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Monkey Boy

This is what happens when you leave your kids to their own devices on a teacher prep day when you still have to work: They create a game called Monkey Boy, which not only includes your little guy launching himself from the arm of the couch into his sister's arms while screaming "Monkey Boy like-eeeeeeeee," but also has theme music and a choreographed dance. Oh, and it includes Monkey Treats--a pocketful of Fruit Loops, which Em pops into N's mouth, doggie-treat style, each time he does a 'trick.'

In fact, I am typing this while listening to the two of them hopping around and singing, "Back, front, side to side. Back, front, side to side. Back, front, side to side. All along the monkey hop." No, it doesn't rhyme or make sense, but it also doesn't include either of them screaming at me to intervene because the other one breathed in an annoying it works for me.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


N's teacher waylaid me on our way to the car from the school yard today. It's Reading Night at the school, when the kids all come in PJs and various teachers come and read them bedtime stories. (It's also the culminating event of Book Fair week, which means the evening will end up costing me serious buckage. But all for a good cause, right? And what kind of meanie cheapo would I have to be to say no to kids who are begging me for JUST ONE MORE BOOK MOMMY?)

N's teacher is going to be reading tonight, and apparently she mentioned this to the class, and also reminded them to come in PJs. At which point, as she recalled when she pulled me aside this afternoon, N looked up and said, "But I only wear a big T-shirt for my PJs."

"That's OK," Mrs. N said. "Just wear whatever you usually wear."

"But I ONLY wear a big T-shirt for my PJs. No underwear."

It was at this point in the conversation that I buried my face in my hands. Mrs. N leaned in closer to me. "So I told him, 'That's too much information for me, N. I don't want to see you going commando to Reading Night. Make sure you put on some underwear and pants, OK?'"

One more time, so you can get the full effect: N's first grade teacher was forced to utter the words, "I don't want to see you going commando to Reading Night," to a 7-year-old. I'm pretty sure this is not one of the things they cover in those education courses.

I may eventually recover from the embarrassment, but it won't be any time soon.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

An Inconvenient Light Fixture

It's no secret to anyone who's been reading here a while that Em had taken an interest in environmental issues, especially the use of compact fluorescent lightbulbs. This is and was no fly-by-night thing, let me tell you. Since her 'correspondence' with Ahnold, she's decided to take matters into her own hands. She's attended two different talks with me at our synagogue--at which she was the youngest person by several decades, both times--about how to live greener lives, she's been reading 'green' books and articles, and she began a pretty persistent campaign to replace all our incandescent bulbs with CFLs.

And when I say persistent, I mean persistent. So persistent that I've had to get strict with her on a few occasions, explaining that I am not going to go through the house throwing out all those perfectly good regular least not until they've burned their last energy-wasting watt. But I'm not dashing all her eco hopes and dreams. When she got a new lamp in her bedroom, we got her a CFL to put in there. And when she began agitating to replace the bulb in her own room's overhead fan/fixture, I gave in quickly; it's her room, and her passion. But her hopes were dashed when we realized that the CFLs we have don't fit. They're too long, and won't allow the glass globe to be fitted back onto the fixture.

She accepted her fate, however reluctantly. Until, that is, the light in the fixture officially blew this evening. Faced with having to put--the horror!--another incandescent bulb into the fixture, my 10-year-old daughter began to cry actual tears. So Baroy went rooting around in our increasingly diverse CFL collection in the garage (I buy them when they're on sale, trying to find ones whose light isn't so bleak and sterile that it makes me want to weep) and unsuccessfully tried quite a few before finally unearthing a 'mini' CFL that fits the fixture perfectly.

When she saw her room illuminated with that weak, greenish glow (I really do hate the light from CFLs), Em came running over to Baroy and threw her arms around him. "Thank you, Daddy, thank you!" she declared. "I'm so happy now! I'm saving the world one lightbulb at a time!"

Somewhere out there, Al Gore is smiling.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Official Why I Can't Really Post Post

1. My head hurts from crying throughout the second half of this movie.

2. If I wait too much longer, it will be tomorrow and the NaBloPolice will come and give me a ticket or something. I'm not sure what they do to scofflaws, but I'm sure it's not pretty.

3. My glasses are upstairs, and I'm blind as a bat without them, so I have no idea if any of the words I'm typing are the words I mean them to be. I'm guessing I'm probably close--thank you, Mrs. High-School Typing Teacher Whose Name I Can't Currently Recall--but for all I know, I'm two keys off, and this is nothing but hpnn;rfuhppl.

4. God, I'm tired. And a little embarrassed. How sad is it to be resorting to this kind of post on DAY FOUR? Will you forgive me if I tell you that tomorrow will be better? I have no idea if it actually will be, but if it'll convince you to forgive me, I'm willing to lie to you.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Star of the Week

It is N's turn to be Star of the Week in his classroom this week. This means:

1. Bringing in photos of himself, which the teacher will put up on the bulletin board, along with the 'paper doll' version of N that we made earlier this year as a homework project;

2. Bringing in his favorite toy (a stuffed dog named Spotty that Em's friend Jen gave him a couple of years ago for his birthday) and his favorite book (Catwings Return by Ursula LeGuin--and if you haven't read the Catwings series to your child yet, stop RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE and go and do that immediately) to 'share' with the class when he tells them about himself later in the week.

3. Bringing in a baggie full of Fruit Loops of any number between 20 and 50, so that the class can play a guessing and estimating game with N as the leader...after which they will share the Fruit Loops.

Most importantly, being Star of the Week means being the Calendar Monitor, which itself means taking the class through almost all of its morning paces--figuring out the date and day of the week, charting the weather, determining how best to represent the number of days in school using various coins, and much, much more.

I had warned the teacher. "You might want to wait a little longer; you might want to let him go last," I told her. "Seriously. You might want to consider what happened last year." But she scoffed at me and said that he would be ready; that he WAS ready.

So all weekend I prepped him. "Wow, won't it be exciting to be Star of the Week?" I said.

"Yeah," he said. "But it'll be scary."

He wasn't the only one who was scared.

So imagine my surprise when Baroy called from the school yard after picking N up today to tell me that his teacher said N was absolutely PERFECT as Star of the Week. Not only did he get up there to do the calendar, she reported, but he announced, "I need a chair to stand on so I can reach everything." And so he got one, and stood on it, and he reached EVERYTHING. Didn't want to miss out on a second of this moment in the spotlight, apparently.

[When I asked him about how it went, he looked at me with wide, happy eyes and said, "I told Mrs. N that I was going to be scared. But I wasn't! I wasn't scared at all!"]

Baroy said that the teacher was a little smug in her recital of just how well it went (and well she should be). And he reported that when he tried to explain our worry by saying, "Well, after how hard it was to get him to do it last year..." she apparently interrupted him by saying, "I heard about last year. This is definitely not last year."

She is so right. This is not last year. This a whole new year, a whole new ball game. This is a whole new N. Emphasis, it seems, on the whole.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

By 2:30 on this Sunday afternoon

I have:

1. Ferried the kids to Religious School (a 20-minute drive)

2. Walked with another of the Religious School parents to the bank to take out some money for a donation to the Walkathon going on later in the day to raise money for our upcoming synagogue trip to a family camp (organized by the Religious School PTA, which normally would mean me, but this time means a committee into whose laps I have dumped the entire project)

3. Walked from the bank to a nearby Starbucks, where we ran into another Religious School parent and sat for an hour, schmoozing

4. Walked back to the Religious School early, in order to help round up all the kids for the once-around-the-nearby-park Walkathon

5. Walked around the park as the 'sweeper,' gathering up stray kids, and harassing parents about what they're going to bring to the potluck lunch we're having (and by 'we' I mean the Religious School, which means the Religious School PTA, which this time really does mean just me) after Saturday services next weekend

6. Ferried my kids back to our neighborhood and directly to a local church, so that Em could join her troop at the annual Girl Scout Tasting Bee

7. Dealt with the complete and total meltdown that N had as we entered the church's social hall/auditorium/whatever it was and the noise of about 73 bajillion shrieking Girl Scouts hit him (though saying I 'dealt' with it may be giving me more credit than I'm due, since part of the dealing included me grabbing him by the ear--the nearest fleshy appendage I could find--to stop him from dashing outside into the parking lot while I was exchanging money with the ticket-taker; I did later apologize and cuddle him and calm him down, though, so don't call Child Services on me just yet)

8. Took N around the room asking him to eat something, anything there, since he hadn't had lunch (two cookies from the Holland booth later, he was done trying)

9. Handed N off to Baroy when he arrived, only to go help out behind Em's troop's booth (Korea; serving slices of Asian pears and a really yummy "Korean Radish and Carrot Salad")

10. Did various Girl-Scout-eventish things (like singing "Make New Friends" and helping corral the girls onto the stage when their booth won an award) and then managed to piss off our troop's leader by saying something I knew I shouldn't have said, and in fact had actually warned Emily not to say (foot, meet mouth)

11. Chatted with the elementary school's PTA president (as opposed to the religious school's PTA president, which is me) about my position on the executive board next year

12. Helped break down the booth with one hand while collecting the receipts for salad ingredients and cups and paper tablecloths with the other (I'm troop treasurer, since I don't have enough else to do)

13. Came home, downed 6 ounces of Emergen-C (I am DEFinitely coming down the the cold Em seems to have developed over the past 24 hours) and checked my email for the first time today

Did you read that? It's 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon, and I JUST CHECKED MY EMAIL FOR THE FIRST TIME TODAY. *That* is how I know that my life is out of control.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Why I'm Doing Nablopomo in March

1. Because Eden says I can!

2. Because I am a site meter whore.

3. Because I am a comment whore.

4. Because the theme for the month is lists, and how hard can it be to come up with 31 lists? They don't even have to be whole paragraphs! Woo hoo!

I'll see y'all tomorrow, then, I guess.