Thursday, March 31, 2005
Anyway, there I was, and there was the coffee, and there were the cool 11th and 12 graders drinking the coffee, and who was I to resist? Luckily I did manage to resist the cigarettes because I thought they were disgusting. But coffee was an easy cool, especially when my friends and I discovered coffee shops (long before cafes, and even longer before Starbucks) where I soon found myself spending lots of Friday afternoons and weekends and even (sorry, Mom) the occasional weekday when I was supposed to be at school.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college. More coffee. A dining hall where I thought I was being healthy because all I ate was salad bar, bread and butter, and yogurt, granola, and maple syrup. Margaritas on Friday and Saturday nights. Fifteen more pounds.
I went home the summer after freshman year determined to be healthy and thin. I cut out caffeine and sugar and I started seriously running. (Don't worry, this story is not going anorexic. That's a place, thank goodness, that I have never even remotely approached.) I lost my fifteen pounds. I looked great. I felt great. Eventually I started eating sugar again, and sometimes I gained weight and sometimes I lost, and usually I ran and sometimes I didn't, but I never went back to caffeine.
The thing was, I didn't feel like caffeine had ever done anything for me. It didn't keep me awake; it was just something social and warm to drink. So when I needed warm and social, I had decaf. In the morning, I drank a big glass of water (I still do). It wasn't a big deal, even when I married Mr. Caffeine himself. He had coffee, all the time; I didn't.
These days I have a lot of work. I also have a lot of crazy days at work, the kinds of days where what with the phone calls and email and appointments and meetings, actual work hardly gets done. Then I always try to leave early to get the girls, and in fact I have to leave to get the girls because childcare ends. So I end up bringing a lot of work home with me. A lot. Like hang out with the girls, dinner, baths, bedtime, bed, and it's 9:30 and I have three or four or five hours of work to do.
So one night last fall, I asked Sam to make me a latte so I could do my work. A real latte. With caffeine. And all of a sudden, I got it. I got why people love caffeine.
I worked for four hours straight with total clarity. I didn't get distracted, I didn't get frustrated, I didn't do bad work because it was late at night. I rocked. I was the queen of work. Then I lay in bed and couldn't fall asleep. But oh my god it was so worth it because the work had gone so well.
A few weeks later, I did it again. The work went well again. But then I lay in bed for hours, unable to sleep. The next day I had a headache and a stomachache and felt all twisted and wrung out. And I decided I couldn't do it, that the aftereffects weren't worth it.
Last night, I had so much work I thought my head would explode. And it had to be done by today. I said to S that I guessed I shouldn't have a latte. He, fully aware of the breadth and depth of the work, said he would just make me a small one. Knowing, in my heart, that I could not possibly achieve the work on my own, I agreed.
So I drank the small latte. I stayed up really late. I got the work done. I didn't need to eat my usual late-night half carton of Ben and Jerry's. But it wasn't the same. I wasn't the super-efficient dynamo of work. I didn't have that sense of superwoman wellbeing. Sure I was awake, but I felt kind of disgusting the whole time, and I was my usual checking-email-too-often slacker self. Then of course I couldn't sleep. This morning I still feel kind of disgusting.
Only three times and already the effect is wearing off.
Forget coffee--next time I'm going straight to meth.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Some of my readers are aware of my Ayelet thing. Ayelet and I have about one degree of separation. She went to summer camp with my college roommate. We went to college not 30 miles from each other at the same time. She lives in the city where I used to live. Among her close friends are another woman I went to college with and a close friend of a close friend who used to eat at S’s restaurant when we lived in that city (which of course would be
Once Ayelet started blogging, I realized that she knew other friends of friends (how? because she blogged about them). Her older daughter--in the blog and as Ruby, her fictional doppelganger in Ayelet’s Mommy-Track Mysteries--bears a striking resemblance to my older daughter. We even started blogging around the same time, though she quickly became a blog superstar and then just as quickly stopped, and I have not become a blog superstar and have not stopped. Then there is the fact that we are both 40-year-old short Jewish women with medium-length brown hair, like a lot of other people I’m sure we both know.
Of course, there are significant differences between us, like she’s a novelist and I’m not, and she's married to a famous novelist and I'm not, and she has a column in Salon and I don’t. Which means I know a fair amount about her and she doesn’t know I exist. But that's not my point here.
I thought about Ayelet when I wrote about M ignoring me because I was never quite comfortable with how she wrote about her kids in her blog. Once I started reading the blog regularly, my conviction that Ayelet and I were meant to be best friends only we haven’t met yet waned. I was still impressed with how smart she is and I still think we have a lot in common, but she’s crazier than I am--and takes the medications to prove it, and talks loudly about the medications that prove it. Basically, I found her degree of self-exposure discomfiting. I’m fine with her doing it, but I wouldn’t do it myself.
I was more disturbed by the way she exposed her kids. She wrote about how her younger daughter is the pretty dumb one and about how ugly her youngest son is. The tone was obviously loving and joking, but still, there it was, on the internet, for anyone, including her kids, to find. She also wrote about being mean, really mean, to her oldest daughter, and there she wasn’t joking, though she was loving and sad.
In her first column for Salon, Ayelet wrote about why she stopped blogging. She says that she didn’t let her kids see the blog, although she also continues to write about them in the column, again in ways that feel pretty exposed to me. Subsequently she was flayed and then defended by Salon’s readers, with a vituperation that amazed me, even given my own unease with her choices. There’s no question that it’s still hard to be an honest woman. (Though my sympathy was definitely pushed to its limit by her essay in last Sunday's Times about how she loves her husband more than her kids. Sometimes honesty is the best advertisement for silence as the best policy.)
The thing is, I do let my kids read my blog, though usually they’re not interested. And whenever I write about them, I think first about whether I’d be ok with them reading what I’m going to write. If I wouldn’t want them to see it, I don’t write it. Same thing with S. Same thing with my mom (which means, alas, that my teenage sexual escapades will remain unblogged, which is probably for the best). This is how I choose to blog, and it works for me and my family.
I have been very upfront with M about how her behavior is driving me crazy. I’ve yelled at her in the moment, and, once I’ve calmed down, I’ve explained to her why I respond the way I do. It’s not really helping, but at least she knows how I feel. That’s why I can blog it. I’m not saying this to be prescriptive, because I try to respect other people’s choices. I just wanted to share my thoughts because, well, because I had them.
[And if you want hilarious snark on Ayelet loving her husband more than her kids, this is the place (link from Andi). Make sure you read the Salon column and the Times essay first, if you haven't already. Mom, you can skip this one too.]
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
I didn't even wear a sweater when I picked E up from preschool.
I did wear my sunglasses when I picked E up from preschool.
Green things poking up all over my yard.
The fact that my 4:00 meeting is supposed to be brief so I can go home and go running.
I think I may have hope.
I’m one of you, I want to explain to children, mine included. I’m one with you, I feel your pain, I know your oppression, I share in the unjust absurdities of the world and I resist them too. Except when I don’t, and I suddenly realize that I am the Mother, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
M is a reader. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It should be perfectly clear to anyone who regularly peruses this blog that reading is big in the Becca-S-M-E household. Indeed, I believe that recently I myself was heard to blog about how I loved books almost as much as S, M, and E, and more than just about anything else. So I’m happy that M is a reader.
But M is an oblivious reader, the kind who, once the book is in front of her, does not look up. For anything. I have a feeling that I might have been this kind of reader once, the kind who reads until the room is practically dark, who reads no matter what is going on around her, who reads and does not hear her name being called, and called again, and again, and again.
But now I am no longer that reader. Instead I am the Mother of that reader. And that reader is driving me [expletive] nuts.
For a while I thought it was hereditary. S’s father--another reader--can ignore the entire world if he is engrossed in his reading, or his thinking, for that matter. When I want to get S’s attention away from a newspaper or book, I need to say his name over and over, loudly, ask him if he is paying attention, and often kick him for good measure. It makes me crazy when E stands in front of him calling “Daddy! Daddy! DADDY!” and he doesn’t look up. But it’s their relationship and there’s nothing I can do about him, besides occasionally yell, even louder, “S!! E IS TALKING TO YOU!” So I thought M was just being like her father and grandfather in reading right through me, and it was hopeless.
But then the other day she admitted the truth: she hears me call her name (and really, I only try to get her attention for things like, oh, dinner) and she is more interested in her book, so she ignores me. That is to say, in case you haven’t fully grasped what’s going on here: she purposefully does not respond when I call her. She wants to read and she doesn’t want to answer me, so she keeps reading. [Insert steam coming out of my ears and an intense desire to physically abuse offspring.]
And here’s where I just can’t help being the Mother. If I were still the child, this would seem perfectly reasonable. If I were simply a reader, this would seem perfectly reasonable. After all, to a reader, what could be more important than reading? But no, I am the Mother, and I think coming to the table for dinner is important, and choosing between leftover pasta and a roast beef sandwich so that you will actually eat your lunch is important, and the question of whether you’ve done your homework is important too. And I just want to break her neck.
But I don’t. I call her. I call her again. I call her again. I call her again really loudly. Then I take the book away. After all, I am the Mother.
Monday, March 28, 2005
So though Saturday night at 8 is not good TV time for us--we're usually out and about or heading for bed--we were determined to remember to watch the new version of Little House on the Prairie.
Alas, M lasted only five minutes. She was indignant that Laura's hair was not brown enough and that the whole thing did not look like she imagined it. Which I suppose is positive testimony to the power of her imagination. So she went downstairs to play Scrabble with Grandma, and E and I watched the rest.
A few thoughts:
Pa was the ultimate babely frontier hero dude. I'll take him.
Ma had too much of the Nicole-Kidman-in-Cold-Mountain hair thing going on. Don't you think those long blonde tresses would have gotten just a bit mussed out there on the frontier? And wasn't Ma's hair always in a bun in the book?
Laura was clearly cast on the basis of her resemblance to Melissa Gilbert, not the Laura of the book. (And there was definitely some Karen Grassle going on with Ma.) (And what useful information--like, say, how nuclear power works--can find no space in my brain because I remember the name of the actress who played Ma in the 1970s Little House in the Prairie?)
Mary was perfect. Looks and attitude.
Way too scary for kids, at least my kids. Even the fearless E had to cover her eyes a couple of times (ice breaking up, Pa fighting the wolf).
The Indian racism thing is just hard to reconcile with contemporary mores--and they didn't do a very good job of it.
But hey, I watched the whole thing, which is rare for me, and I must say I enjoyed it. Stuck pretty much with the book (aside from the deletion of Carrie), added some gritty realism, and still looked good. Thumbs up.
[This one was for Sandra.]
Saturday, March 26, 2005
We were supposed to leave Thursday morning. I checked the weather Wednesday afternoon and it said there would be ten inches of wet heavy snow in Blue State starting at midnight. I panicked, because getting from Red State Capital City to East Coast Big City is notoriously impossible at the best of times. S switched my flight to Wednesday night, and I picked up the girls, packed in 30 minutes, and got us to the airport with time to spare.
The flight was cancelled due to weather (though there was not a speck of snow anywhere in the vicinity of anywhere). They rescheduled us for the next morning on the plane we were originally supposed to take. We stayed at a hotel by the airport because I couldn't bear to drive the up-to-now-impeccably-well-behaved-but-getting-understandably-frustrated children back to Red State Capital City Suburb only to turn around ten hours later to drive back to the airport. Children were happy. I was stressed.
In the morning we got bumped. A moron spent 45 minutes reticketing us on another airline which was vastly superior to the first upon which we will never travel again, except to use up the vouchers we got for enduring this catastrophe. We finally arrived at our destination just 22 hours and 15 minutes after we'd left home. There was no snow. Luckily my 1:00 meeting was organized by an angelic assistant who rescheduled it for 3:00. Even more luckily I had long since reached the zen state of no resistance, so I was not stressed.
I tried to blog yesterday, or maybe the day before, but forgot my password. Oh, and in the rush of leaving I left the computer in my office on, so all my email downloaded there and I couldn't access it until my secretary, another angel, went into my office, read me my email, and turned off the computer.
This morning I remembered my password. So here I am, but now I'm signing off to return to the pleasures of East Coast Big City. Actually, I'm signing off to work while the girls and S--who arrived last night in the appropriate 3 1/2 hours door to door--enjoy the pleasures of East Coast Big City, Uncle J, and Cousin T. But I'll get pleasures later.
Back on Monday with more exciting blogging. Unless more bad things happen. Which seems likely.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Why do I like Dave Eggers?
Because the first several chapters of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius are brilliant writing, even if the book gets boring and self-absorbed when he gets to Might (ok, it’s self-absorbed all along, but I submit that there is a difference between brilliant self-absorption and boring self-absorption).
Because when we were in
Because he started 826 Valencia which is simply a great thing.
Because he is working on a non-fiction book about teacher’s salaries, an oral history book about exonerated prisoners, and a novel about the war in Sudan.
Because when he is funny, he is really funny.
How was dinner? Dave Eggers was lovely: softspoken, attentive, funny, though he did drop more names in one evening than I will probably ever drop in my life. We had a nice conversation about the growing 826 movement (coming soon in
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
I don’t even dislike pumping gas that much, though I don’t particularly enjoy it. I just find it an annoying waste of time, and I usually manage not to get around to it. My tank always goes down to empty, and S drives my car frequently enough that somewhere around empty he fills the tank.
The other day, though, it was hitting empty and I was driving and there was no choice but to fill it so I did, and I was shocked, shocked I tell you, at the price of gas. $2.19 a gallon?! Last time I remember (which may have been quite a while ago, given my tank-filling frequency) it was somewhere around $1.89. What happened?!
S has a theory, a conspiracy theory. He thinks that W and Cheney talked to their pals at the oil companies and told them to hold up production or delivery or whatever causes gas shortages, so that right around now prices would spike, just in time for the vote on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I’m generally not a conspiracy theorist, but I can get behind that one. And I guess it worked.
So the cost of filling my tank better plummet as soon as we start that drilling, because it’s supposed to solve all our energy problems, right?
Monday, March 21, 2005
Topic A: Women bloggers. This is going on and on, and you can read all about it at feministe and Bitch Ph.D. (here and here and here and here and in a bunch of other posts--dang that is one prolific political woman blogger). Basically it boils down to questions that I seem to have heard before: Are there women bloggers? Do women bloggers write about politics? Are women bloggers worth reading? This one seems pretty simple to me: Yes. Yes. Yes. Now please shut up and go away (not you, Bitch Ph.D.).
Topic B: Terri Schiavo.
The main thing that strikes me about the Terri Schiavo case is how sad it is: how sad that she has been in this condition for so long, how sad that the disagreement between her husband and parents has reached this point, how sad that one family’s tragedy has become grist for American demagogic politics as usual.
For Schiavo’s parents to want their daughter alive seems eminently reasonable, and I hate to see that desire demonized. But I would definitely have more sympathy for them if they hadn’t turned this into a pro-life test case (when you ask Randall Terry to be your spokesman, you’re definitely playing the game) and weren’t colluding in outrageously bogus political maneuvering (for Congress to subpoena a woman who hasn’t left her hospital bed in 15 years is to degrade its own powers beyond belief--though these days the limits of belief seem to be taken further every day).
I wonder, too, what drives Michael Schiavo. He claims he is trying to honor his wife’s wishes. His opponents say he wants to take the money from her malpractice settlement and marry his girlfriend, but apparently the money has almost all been spent on Terri’s care, and he could have married the girlfriend by divorcing Terri and letting her parents take over her custody and care--which certainly would have been easier and hardly unethical.
Maybe I’m proving the lameness of women bloggers on politics here, because while it’s inconceivable that I would align myself with the pro-Terri camp, I also have little to say about the medical case that Terri is brain dead, or even the large-scale implications for patients’ rights. Mainly I just want to point out what nobody seems to be talking about: how sad it is on every front. If Michael Schiavo “wins,” Terri dies; if her parents “win,” she lives on in this state, which may, for them, and even, who knows, for her, be better than nothing, but not much better, certainly not what anyone would have wanted for their daughter when they first held her, newborn, in their arms.
There, see, I’m being just like a woman: all maternal and emotional and wishy-washy, while the big boys are staying up late on Sunday night to pass big boy legislation. Maybe I should just go back to baking cakes.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
This one was stressful. You beat SIX eggs with the sugar and vanilla until it is “thick, pale, and moussey,” in Nigella’s accurately descriptive terms. That takes a while, and I was skeptical it would happen, but finally it did. Then you have to fold in HALF A CUP of flour and some instant espresso powder (S told me it was ok to use finely ground French Roast beans, so I did). Anyway, that’s a lot of “thick, pale, and moussey” egg stuff and not very much flour, and the folding was a bit challenging. But I managed.
The big problem, though, was taking it out of the oven. Nigella said 35-40 minutes and “the top of the cake should be firm, and the underneath still a bit gooey” (don’t these quotes just epitomize why Nigella is so hateable and lovable all at once?). So at 35 minutes the top was hard and underneath was jiggly, and since the Chocolate Guinness Cake was ready right on time, I confidently pulled it out. But then, after it cooled, it was quite evident that there was liquid batter beneath the hard top. At that point I panicked and turned it over to the expert. S audaciously PUT THE CAKE BACK IN THE OVEN (would you have dared?! I wouldn’t). I couldn’t bear the pressure and left the house (M needed Mommy time, so we went off for a lovely rainy afternoon of reading at a café). When we came back, the cake looked great.
I put the Café Latte Cream together (melted white chocolate, heavy cream, and more coffee--another one of those simple Nigella marvels that you would never think of because you’re not Nigella) and M whipped it with the balloon whisk, all by herself, to a most excellent degree of whippedness. We served the cream alongside the cake.
How was it? Well, it was indeed a dinner party cake, albeit a dinner party of the familial sort--just J and J and the boys (and I must interject here that the children were all TERRIBLE--J said that she used to worry about whose kids were worse till she realized that sometimes it was theirs, sometimes ours, sometimes the younger ones, sometimes the older ones, and sometimes ALL FOUR ARE SIMPLY MONSTERS, like last night. Luckily the grown-ups had QUITE A LOT TO DRINK, and by the end of the evening all of us, children and adults, were rolling around on the living room floor playing Jenga and listening to the Beatles and having a grand old time, until the children became monstrous again and the evening ground to a halt.)
But the cake, you plead, enough of these parenthetical asides and please don’t tell us that you drink in the presence of your children so we don’t need to call D.S.S. on you, just tell us how the cake was! Well, I’m not quite sure. Everyone else loved it, and said it was ideally moist, chocolatey and coffee-ey. S said it tasted like chocolate-covered coffee beans. I liked it, but it didn’t make a very strong impression. Now whether this is because I remain besotted with the Chocolate Guinness Cake or because of the home-made Meyer Lemon Drops and the wine, I couldn’t say. But I think I’ll reserve final judgment till I’ve eaten some more.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
I ask her what she is scared of. She says she’s scared of being hit by the ball.
I don’t know what to tell her. I was always scared of being hit by the ball. In fact, I still am. I don’t play ball.
I’m pretty much over my fear of dogs, largely because I was determined that my children would not be scared of dogs. So every time we came across a dog, I steeled myself and pretended not to be scared. It pretty much worked. They fight over who gets to walk S’s pug, and they roll around with Sarah, J and J’s golden lab. M even wants to get a dog, but I won’t go that far.
I can’t do it for balls, though. And somehow balls don’t seem as serious as dogs. Aside from elementary school gym class, which must be endured, one can go through life choosing not to encounter balls, whereas dogs will show up when you least expect, terrifyingly if you are scared of them. M bikes, ice skates, rock climbs, hikes, and swims on a swim team. She’s athletic, healthy. There’s no need for her to worry about balls if she doesn’t want to. After all, my life without balls has been fine (pun unintentional, but I’ll go with it).
I tell M she has two choices: learn not to be afraid of balls, or ignore both balls and the kids who tease her. I tell her she’s not alone: I was scared of balls and so was Grandma. She says she will ignore them. I hope it works.
Friday, March 18, 2005
While she gives lip service to mothers who can’t afford not to work and repeatedly (even obsessively) refers to the “middle class,” her definition of middle class so clearly encompasses only educated, professional women like herself, the ones who inhabit “middle and upper middle class enclaves where there was time and money to spend,” a phrase she neatly tucks away inside parenthetical dashes, as if the obviousness that that is where “we” live hardly need be acknowledged. Sorry, babe, but I’m your age, educated, and professional, and I was never one of those “good daughters of the Reagan Revolution” who “disdained social activism and cultivated our own gardens with a kind of muscle-bound, tightly wound, uber-achieving, all-encompassing, never-failing self control that passed, in the 1980s, for female empowerment.” Neither were my friends and neighbors, in all the true diversity of their class backgrounds. In fact, a lot of us spent the 1980s problematizing precisely the scary pseudo-feminist “we” Warner relies upon so heavily, apparently unaware that the pronoun excludes as fiercely as it includes.
But lots of people have pointed out Warner’s class bias. Time for some original ranting.
The thing that really got me going was a photograph of a
Sorry, but we are post-Foucauldian now, and I believe in agency, at least when it comes to the small stuff. You are a grown-up. There are two kids back there. They can keep each other company. Someone else is driving. From the passenger seat you can reach around and get whatever they need. And they’re asleep. They don’t need you. What the hell are you doing back there? Get in the front seat right now!
I know people who do this, who sit in the back seat with their kids, and (sorry, have to go Dooce on you) I. Just. Do. Not. Get. It. What is achieved by this, besides making your kids believe they are the center of the universe, infantilizing you (and have you noticed that it is always the mom who sits in the back seat?), and creating a barrier between the parents? I’d really love to know why people do this. Children have been fine alone in the back seat since the invention of cars. Why on earth they need their parents there--besides on that first drive home from the hospital, when I must admit that I sat with M, though when we brought E home, M sat with her and I sat in front where I belonged--is beyond me.
And while we’re at it, the other thing I don’t get? Not taking a shower. When I was pregnant with M and I heard new mothers complaining that they never got around to taking a shower, I vowed that would never happen to me. And it didn’t. And it was easy. Put child in carseat (because we were too cheap for one of those little bouncy seats, though that would work too). Put carseat in door of bathroom. Take off clothes. Get in shower. Peek around shower curtain and wave at baby. Soap. Peek around shower curtain and wave at baby. Shampoo. Peek around shower curtain and wave at baby. Rinse. Get out. Give baby a kiss. Dry off. Give baby another kiss. Get dressed. Take baby out of carseat and go on with your life. It took five minutes. The baby was fine. Or she cried. For five minutes. And when I got out, I stuck her on the boob and she was fine. End of story.
I tell you, I just don’t get it.
[Edited to remove the Princeton grad's name since there's no need for her to google herself and have to read my criticism of her, especially as I don't know her at all and am simply using her as a vehicle for a rant. Also to add that mothers of twins and mothers with post-partum depression are exempt from the shower rant.]
[Edited to remove the Princeton grad's name since there's no need for her to google herself and have to read my criticism of her, especially as I don't know her at all and am simply using her as a vehicle for a rant. Also to add that mothers of twins and mothers with post-partum depression are exempt from the shower rant.]
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Like, say, the beige skirt and burgundy sweater I wore yesterday. Only yesterday I discovered, as I pawed through my drawer, that I was out of tan/nude-for-white-people. That’s what happens when you buy cheap stockings: you wear them, they run, you throw them out, you run out, you don’t make it to the mall, and there you are, staring at a drawer of black stockings, with the occasional dash of gray, green, and purple. And, at the very bottom of the drawer, white.
White? White stockings? Why on earth would I have white stockings? In another life, back in the 80s, I did that look, unfortunately, though it didn’t seem so at the time. I’m sure I wore white stockings to my wedding. But now I know that white stockings, especially sheer white stockings, cannot be good, unless you are a nurse or going for some kind of elaborate Goth Schoolgirl thing, neither of which categories I occupy. Still, there they were, and they seemed marginally better than the other options, so on they went.
I knew it was a mistake almost immediately, but the morning was moving rapidly along, with girls to dress and feed, lunches to make, backpacks and bags to pack, so I just went with it.
Like I said: mistake.
I felt hideous all morning, even in my perfectly nice beige skirt and burgundy sweater. I decided to work at home in the afternoon, because I could, and because I knew I could take off the white stockings as soon as I walked in the door. Which I did, and then put them straight in the trash.
I learned a while ago that if I had a piece of clothing that seemed perfectly reasonable on the hanger or shelf but made me feel ghastly whenever I wore it, I needed to get rid of it--so that I wouldn’t be tempted to wear it just one more time and see if it could possibly work. It was a pleasure to throw those stockings in the trash. Now I just need to get to the mall and buy a couple of pairs of tan/nude-for-white-people to stuff in the bottom of the drawer for next time.
[Now that I know D is out there writing smart things about politics AND reading my blog, I feel kind of superficial writing about white stockings. But, hey, it’s my blog and I just gotta be me.]
[Though I’m disgusted with the idea of Wolfowitz at the World Bank. So there.]
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
And on a food-related note, I'm finding E's waffle-eating technique quite disturbing. E loves frozen waffles. Usually she has two. First she eats a frozen one (yes, frozen, she's weird, deal with it, we do). Then she has another, toasted with butter and cinnamon-sugar and cut into fourths "like a pizza," as she reminds us each time. She arranges the four pieces on the plate and decides which is the kitty, the baby, the mommy, and the daddy (sometimes there's a sister--I haven't tracked the frequency of the sister's appearance alongside her shifting feelings about M). Then she talks to her waffle as she eats it: "Ok, time to eat daddy so he can go hang out with the baby," and "I'm going to eat you now, kitty." Am I wrong to feel apprehensive about future familial homicidal instincts?
And in blog news, D, of our best friends K and D, has started blogging which I must crow about since D spends a lot of time teasing me for basically everything I do. But he's smart and should be running the country, so it will probably be worth reading, if you're into the political end of things (though who knows, they're off to San Francisco today, so he could start writing about Meyer Lemon Drops at any moment).
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Here are pictures from the always reliable Nigella Forum, and they look just like Nigella’s, and mine looked just like theirs.
[And if you’ve only recently joined us here at Not Quite Sure, I’m baking my way through Nigella’s Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame. This is cake #6 and it’s up there in the top tier with Chocolate Gingerbread and Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake.]
Edited to add: The Nigella Forum has requested that I remove all links to their site because they are a private group, which I don't quite understand, given that they are on the internet, but I'm happy to oblige. Here are some replacement pictures.
Monday, March 14, 2005
What should she do when Skylar resists doing chores? Should there be limits on how he spends his allowance? Should Forrest get dessert if he does not eat a healthy dinner?
Let's see: 1) Don't let him play until they're done. 2) No.* 3) No.**
* Their allowance is their money and their (developmentally necessary) opportunity to escape your rules. If you don't want them to learn to make their own choices, why give them an allowance?
** Though it is your right as a parent to define a healthy meal as a bowl of noodles, three bites of chicken and three baby carrots.
That was easy. Maybe I should go into business.
[M and E amended my answer to the allowance question to say that he should be able to spend his money on whatever he likes, so long as it is appropriate to his age, but they both let out a resounding "No!" in response to the dessert question. M was significantly more draconian than I am on the question of chores--she thought his allowance should be cut: "If his allowance is a dollar and he has seven chores, they should cut his allowance seven cents, or maybe seventy cents."]
Sunday, March 13, 2005
I finally finished a book. I’m in the middle of Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate, Michel Faber’s The Courage Consort, Meg Wolitzer’s The Position, Nancy and Lawrence Goldstone’s Used and Rare, and I’m sure there are lots more that I put down too long ago to remember I’m in the middle of them. And the thing is, each of those books is perfectly good and I’m enjoying them all; I just don’t seem to pick them up often enough.
I want from books what I long since realized was not so great with men: to be swept away in a devouring passion, the kind where you don’t think about anything else, where you can’t sleep or eat, where you sneak away from your responsibilities to grab a moment that stretches into way too long because you just can’t get away. Those relationships never quite worked out for me with men, but they have with books.
I think the last book I fell for so hard was Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White: 920 pages and I must have read them in half a week; then I gave the book, hardcover, to J for her birthday; then I recommended it to everyone I know who has the least interest in brilliant writing and Victorian London; and I still look at it on the shelf and sigh in recollections of pleasure. Now that’s a book relationship.
But then there are the books that I devour and they’re over and that’s it. I read The Time Traveler’s Wife in two days, after a number of people told me it was the best book they’d ever read, but mainly I read so fast because there was so much plot, and when it was over I wondered what the big deal was. The writing was sentimental, the characters were pedestrian, and the plot was dazzling, but mainly in a technical kind of way. Clearly just a two-night stand.
This weekend I read Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty: A Friendship in 24 hours, sneaking a few paragraphs when I went upstairs to get the laundry, and finishing it in one burst sitting at the kitchen table yesterday afternoon while M read Searching for Laura Ingalls: A Reader’s Journey and E pored over Franklin’s Halloween. The book is a memoir of Patchett’s friendship with Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face, who died at 39 in 2002 from a toxic combination of depression, heroin, and alcohol, following a thirty-year struggle with the after-effects of childhood cancer. Patchett’s a great writer, it was a compelling narrative, and it pushed my buttons, since I’m obsessed with both writers and untimely death. But there was something lacking: Patchett communicates her passionate love for Grealy in a way that makes you remember how significant women’s friendships can be, but Grealy herself comes across as a neurotic, impossible brat. The reader has to take her incredible appeal--which must have been incredible, given the incredible number of devoted friends she had--on faith, and ultimately that seems like a failure on the book’s part (I’m not the only one who felt this way). So I’m glad I found something I wanted to read, but this one will not be a lasting passion.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Well, to put it briefly, the French Laundry is, depending on who you ask, either the best restaurant in
So I expected to blog about the food, and S even left the menu home with me (instead of bringing it straight to the salivating chefs at work) so that I could remember the details. The food was great. There are three prix fixe menus (and what a prix it is): the seven course dinner menu, the nine course “Chef’s Tasting Menu,” and the nine course “Tasting of Vegetables.” S had the nine courses and I had the nine vegetable courses, though some of them were fruit and chocolate. We had champagne and white wine and red wine. I had an amuse bouche of a tiny cracker cone filled with eggplant and topped with a scoop of chopped tomato that was one of the best things I ever put in my mouth (chef/owner Thomas Keller is known for culinary jokes: he invented the coffee and doughnuts dessert that has become semi-ubiquitous at copycat upscale restaurants, and the little faux ice cream cones are one of his standards--S’s had red onion crème fraiche inside and a scoop of salmon tartare on top, and it was mighty tasty as well). Also beyond sublime was the green apple sorbet that came with my apple tart and tasted like the essence of ur-appleness.
I could go on, but if you click here you’ll find a sample menu that pretty much sums it up, even if it doesn’t specify the “Warm salad of Dutch white asparagus, with Meyer lemon ‘confit,’ Meyer lemon ‘mousseline’ and shaved Piedmont hazelnuts” and the “Roasted globe artichokes, creamed arrowleaf spinach, fennel bulb, pearl onions, sweet garlic ‘en cocotte’ and saffron-scented onion broth” that were the highlights of my meal (though it probably will include the “‘Oysters and Pearls’: ‘Sabayon’ of pearl tapioca with ‘Beau Soleil” oysters and Russian sevruga caviar” and the “‘Fricassee’ of Maine lobster mitts with caramelized Belgian endive, glazed chestnuts, Perigord truffles, and creamy lobster ‘broth’” that were the highlights of S’s, because they are menu regulars these days).
But delicious as it was, the food was not what preoccupied me as I thought about the French Laundry, both during our meal and over the next few days. In fact, I found the whole experience somewhat disturbing.
First, there was a way in which it was like being at the most high-end McDonald’s ever. Counter-intuitive, I know, but stick with me here. The French Laundry has seventeen tables. They seat three or four tables every half hour, starting at 5:30 (when we arrived), and everyone tells you that dinner will take three hours. Which it did--precisely. When you sit down, your primary server (who will be backed up by about a dozen other servers), gives you a little speech about the menu and urges you to begin with champagne or sparkling wine, which you do. You feel very special and cared for, secure in the knowledge that your very own server is really looking out for your individual and unique French Laundry experience. Then you notice, at 6:00, when the next tables are seated, that their very own servers are giving them the exact same speech, and they too are obediently ordering champagne to start. At the 6:00 table adjacent to ours sat a couple very much like us: fortysomething, low-key, and clearly at the French Laundry for a huge treat. The man had the nine courses and the woman had the vegetable nine courses. I kept track, and they stayed exactly two courses behind us for the entire evening--exactly. Even as the food was delicious and the service impeccable (when S blew out our candle by mistake, I watched to see if our server would notice, and sure enough, he was soon there with a match), the whole experience felt totally programmed, and I kind of missed the convivial chaos of Zuni the night before.
Then there’s the money issue. Which usually I don’t get too worked up about. Yes, it was a ridiculous amount of money to pay for food, but people pay ridiculous amounts of money for things all the time, and it’s one of the issues I choose not to worry about, especially since I’m hardly ever in the ridiculous amount of money realm. I’ve been to expensive restaurants before, and I’ll certainly go again.
But there was something about the elitism of the French Laundry that just took me over the edge. It’s not just all the money. It’s that you have to drive all the way up to Yountville, which means you need to spend the night in Yountville, unless you take a limo, which somebody clearly had, as one was parked outside when we left to walk back to our bed and breakfast. Then there is the seventeen tables piece and the fighting to get a reservation. Then there is the fact that all this effort, yours and theirs, is exhausted on a few plates of food that are gone as soon as you eat them. S suggested that I think about it as art. But the thing is, I’m just not that into the idea of an evanescent art available only to a privileged very few.
I keep thinking about Alice Waters. Alice Waters is the Mother Theresa of American food (without the abortion problem). The last 30 years of American food are due to her, both theoretically, through the model she established at Chez Panisse, and genealogically, through all the chefs who worked for her and then started their own restaurants [if I were really devoted I’d link a bunch of them, but I’ve already spent way too much time on this post]. She also jumpstarted the organic farm movement in Northern California, which in turn has had a major influence on the organic farm movement across the country. And Chez Panisse is all about community. Besides the people who make pilgrimages there, there are hordes of regulars. You don’t need a reservation upstairs, and you can eat a fabulous meal without breaking the bank. And now that she’s famous,
So put Thomas Keller and Alice Waters in Celebrity Chef Smackdown, and I’ll take
Friday, March 11, 2005
For instance, there’s a little health food store in Red State Capital City Suburb, just the kind of place you’d think you’d want to patronize, with a grandmotherly proprietor, a small but workable selection of natural food and household items, and a wall of vitamins and herbal remedies (which I’m not particularly interested in, but I’m glad they’re there). The thing is, though, they rarely have anything I’m actually looking for and, more importantly, the proprietor is a bitch. She’s always rude and often downright nasty. Once she accused M of breaking something and lying about it, and while I’m very open to the possibility of malfeasance on the part of my children, M hadn’t done it. So I’m sorry, but when I need something natural that I can’t get at the supermarket (which has an increasingly good selection, especially considering that we’re in Red State Capital City Suburb), I head down to the Wild Oats in
It was the same thing with bookstores. Red State Capital City Suburb had a little independent bookstore when we moved here. Very sweet, nice little children’s section, and a great selection of John Grisham, self-help, and Oprah books. And that was it. Far from Cody’s and Black Oak, Borders became my mecca: poetry! books without happy endings! an entire case of gay and lesbian lit! I knew about the diverse, vibrant small-town bookshops crushed by the Borders juggernaut, but in
[Abrupt shift in position.]
Lately, though, Borders has just been making me depressed. I walk in, hoping to be inspired, and all I see on the front tables are pink-covered chick lit (which I’ve vowed to read no more, as every pink chick lit book I’ve picked up in the last three years has been boring and badly-written), books about war and W (which occupy enough of my consciousness as it is, so I’d rather not read books about them, thank you very much), and self-help books (just not my thing). I walk out of the store not even wanting to read, which is beyond depressing, since reading is…well, putting aside S, M, and E, reading might very well be my favorite thing in the entire world.
[Abrupt shift in geography.]
So what a pleasure it was to be in
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Like: “Several years ago, when we still lived in
Then there was: “I turned 40 last summer, and if I’d been blogging, much would have been blogged.” That one would have gone on to explain why I decided to have a big birthday party (to tackle 40 head on and prove that I have a life in Red State Capital City Suburb), how much fun we had at my birthday party (think children sleeping over at the babysitter’s, Japanese lanterns in the garden, ginger daiquiris, and sending the last guest home at three in the morning), and the excellent 40th birthday present that sent us to San Francisco seven months later.
I think there were a few more that I’ve forgotten
But I’ve kind of lost motivation on the cute openings, which is what happens when you blog in your head for too long without getting near a computer. So I’ll just say that S and I went to the Bay Area for a long weekend--two nights in
It simply couldn’t be helped. The weather was perfect (sunshine-filled blue skies and temperatures in the 60s), the coffee was strong (at the little Royal café in the Richmond, in North Beach, at the café in Glen Ellen, etc.), and the children were home with Grandma (the funny thing about traveling without children is that you spend half your time marveling at your freedom and the other half pointing out things the children would love).
I have posts written in my head about art, bookstores, the French Laundry, and public space. Hopefully they will dribble out my fingers through the keyboard and into Blogger at some point in the next few days. But for now, a few highlights:
- Running on the Embarcadero and in
- Walking the city streets, the hills, the path at Land’s End, and Drake’s Beach and the trail out to Chimney Rock at
- Dim sum in the
- Record stores (that would be S)
- Reading entire newspapers without interruption
- An old-style barber-shop haircut (that would be S again)
- Medjool dates and dried persimmon, kiwi, and apples from the farmer’s market
- The bakery serendipitously encountered on the road from Sebastopol to
- Baby D and her ridiculous head of hair
- Blue skies
- Zuni Cafe
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Back in the early 90s, Zuni Café was one of our favorite restaurants. It had the Best Oysters, the Best Caesar Salad, the Best Roast Chicken (that one I can’t attest to personally, but its Bestness is a truth universally acknowledged), the Best Espresso Granita, and the Best Adorable Bartenders. One night around 1993, we were waiting for a table at the bar with K and D. K and I were flirting with that night’s Adorable Bartender, as was our wont, and we asked him to make us something fun to drink. He told us we needed to try this great new cocktail called a Cosmopolitan, and that’s how we ended up drinking Cosmopolitans long before Carrie Bradshaw was even a gleam in Darren Star’s eye.
The other night S and I were hanging out at the bar at Zuni, waiting for a table, and for once I was flirting with my husband instead of the Adorable Bartender (who looked a lot like the Adorable Cosmopolitan Bartender, though I, alas, look a lot older). But I did get intrigued by the drink the Adorable Bartender was mixing, and when I asked him what it was, he gave me a taste, and that’s how the Meyer Lemon Drop officially entered the pantheon of Best Cocktails Ever.
[Fresh-squeezed Meyer lemon juice, Cointreau, and vodka, with super-fine sugar on the rim.]
Friday, March 04, 2005
Thursday, March 03, 2005
And check out another one of my smart friends, writer Barbara Card Atkinson, for an incisive account of the personal toll of Bush's economic policies. Yeah, let's spend more money on Iraq and less on food for poor women and children at home!
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Oh, and did I mention that E's sitter is sick? And one of S's line cooks totalled his car--the cook's car, not S's. (What does this have to do with me, you wonder. Nothing, it just means that S is even less available. Luckily my intact humanity was confirmed by the fact that I responded to the news with "Is he ok?" not "How could he do this to me?") Needless to say, work remains a catastrophe. In successive phone calls yesterday, poor S got yelled at, then sulked at, then lectured and instructed to bring me something nice--which he did: orange cake with chocolate glaze and marmalade filling on white chocolate Grand Marnier cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and garnished with raspberries. The upside of marriage to a chef.
But though all I really want to do is whine and weep, instead I'm going to write about the one positive thing that has come out of being house-bound with the flu forever.
We spent part of last year in London. I worked and S hung with the girls. We didn't know anyone and didn't really make any effort to meet anyone, since we were just there for a few months. M and E would play with other kids at the playground, but that was about the extent of our social life. We didn't mind our isolation a bit, though. We had a great time, the four of us, or three of us, or two of us, depending on the day's configuration.
M and E got along like a house on fire (ok, there's another one of those phrases that just popped out of the ends of my fingers--I have no idea whether it means what I want it to mean, or what it means, for that matter, but there it is). We had rented a house from a family with a five-year-old boy, so there were lots of unfamiliar toys and videos, and they played for hours: blocks, grocery store, restaurant, hospital. In the morning, they would snuggle up in bed and M would read to E. They pretended to be puppies and ate bowls of cereal on the floor without using their hands. After dinner, S and I would sit at the table and drink wine and talk, while they ran off to play for hours.
Then we returned to America and M went back to school and E went back to her sitter, and then it was summer and M joined the swim team and they hung out with the gang of kids on the block, and it all kind of dissipated. They squabbled some, but mainly M had no time for E and E was pretty sad about it. It's hard when the big sister who rocks your world is 4 1/2 years older than you.
But now they've been alone in the house together for over a week. At first they just lay limply next to each other in the bed, barely able to summon up the energy to argue over the remote control. Then they squabbled a lot, blasting each other with the frustrations of slow recuperation. For the last three days, though, they have been bosom buddies: playing school, drawing, dressing up in each other's clothes, moving furniture for reasons unbeknownst to me. It won't last, I'm sure, but seeing it return gives me faith that it will return again.
[Oh god, please don't let me turn into a cheesy mom blog. Though perhaps that would be preferable to a whiny mom blog.]
[That was god as expletive, not god as interlocutor.]
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Then there are rules we follow because they make a lot of sense. When we tell other people about such rules, they nod and are impressed that we are such sensible beings. Sometimes they even decide to implement the rules themselves. This kind of rule includes packing a fruit or vegetable in M's lunch every day, or going to bed by 9:30 when you have to get up at 5:00 for work (that last one is S's rule, not mine).
Then there are the idiosyncratic rules that are just your own private nutty thing. The ones that would make other people raise their eyebrows and wonder why you are such a freak. (I'm not talking about people with OCD--I'm talking about all of us. Come on, you know you have some weird rules.) For instance, I have a problem getting out of the shower. I love the shower. I could stay in a hot shower forever. So I made a rule to get myself out of the shower: I count to 25, and then I get out of the shower. I must get out of the shower at 25. And I do. It's the rule. (Though sometimes I count really slow.)
When I started blogging, I made a rule that I had to post every day, except when I'm out of town (thank god I'm going out of town this weekend). I don't know why I follow this rule--actually, I kind of do: because Dawn said that I needed to post every day if I wanted people to read my blog, and because the blog itself is meant to be an exercise in writing discipline.
So anyways, I'm posting, and to make having read this worth your while, I strongly urge you to check out get your war on because it's much more entertaining that I am today.