Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm OK With Not Being Jesse's Girl

I will not be watching General Hospital on Friday when Dr. Noah Drake returns. I'll be at work. And I was never so much of a Dr. Noah Drake fan anyway. I was more partial to Robert Scorpio and, yes, I'll admit it, Luke.

In fact, my term as a General Hospital fan began the day after Luke raped Laura. It was 1979, my sophomore year in high school, and, healthwise, not a good year, beginning with pneumonia in October, moving on to bronchitis in January, and climaxing with a case of mono that began the day before final exams started in May and did not fully abate until the end of July.

I remember my boyfriend sitting on the edge of the bed drumming "Not Fade Away" on my blanket-covered legs. I remember pain like knives slicing down the back of my throat. I remember finally learning how to take pills--because I had no choice, there were so many pills. And I remember a lot of TV.

I don't know what made me turn on General Hospital. I must have heard people talking about it and decided to see what it was like. A 3:00 soap opera worked for high school students--and college students, for I watched for maybe five or six years, well into college. And those were the heydays of General Hospital: Luke and Laura, Demi Moore, Elizabeth Taylor, more Luke and Laura, the Cassadines, Anna Devane, Luke and Laura again. Everyone watched General Hospital, even my mom, who was disgusted by the rape storyline, but seemed to find her way into the bedroom where I lay, right around 3:00 every day.

And of course I remember "Jesse's Girl," though being the Carly Simon fan that I am, it always segues in my mind right into "Jesse," which I do prefer.

I don't know why I lost interest in General Hospital. Probably it had something to do with getting a job. I also recall everything just getting too fantastical. But I maintained my attachment to the serial enactment of other people's lives. In the 90s, it was 90210 and Melrose Place. Now it's blogs and celebrity gossip. Which is how, of course, I learned that Dr. Noah Drake was returning to General Hospital. Not that I care...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On Cousins

When it comes to cousins, my kids have it made. Their seven cousins are 23, 16, 12, 11, 9, 9, and 5. The farthest one is just six hours away, four of them live in Blue State, and two are close enough for regular Friday nights at Grammy and Grandpa's.

On Thanksgiving they got to see everyone but T, who was at her dad's girlfriend's parents' house. First we went to Aunt E's house where they played in the snow (yes, there was snow) with LC. Then we went to my mom's where they romped madly with MM, R, N, EH, and LH (these cousins are testing my initials-only policy). There was a stirring rendition of "Three Blind Mice" on M's clarinet, R's bass clarinet, N's saxophone, and EH's glockenspiel, conducted by E and LH. There was dancing. There was climbing all over MM (the most patient oldest cousin ever). The next day M took EH to the park where she hangs out and he played soccer with the boys, while my sister took E and LH to the other park, so the big kids could hang out in independent peace. I tell you, it's cousin heaven.

My own cousinly childhood was not so heavenly. I loved my cousins dearly, but they were not age-appropriate, at least so I felt. On one side, the cousins were grown-ups--and they lived in Israel. At two, I was the guest of honor at my oldest cousin's wedding. Which is to say, we didn't exactly romp on the playground or spy on the grown-ups together, though they were excellent not-as-old-as-my-parents indulgent adults in my life, when they were around.

On the other side, well, let's just say that for most of my childhood--actually, all of my childhood--Uncle J proved inadequate on the cousin-providing front. But then he came up with Aunt M. And they came up with A.

A did not solve my age-appropriate cousin issues. I was 16 and she was a newborn baby. But she could be doted upon. And played with. And babysat. Then she grew older and she could be talked with and visited at camp and taken out for dinner at college. In other words, I tried to be an excellent not-as-old-as-her-parents indulgent adult in her life.

Then I had kids, and she truly came into her own as, yes, an excellent not-as-old-as-me indulgent adult in their lives. The playground? Sure. Another board game? No problem. Hand-me-down American Girl clothes, accessories, AND paper dolls? You got it. The funhouse at the fair? Of course. The funhouse again? Sure. And again? Why not?

I tell you, she's positively heavenly.

Happy Birthday A!

Nick, Jessica, and Dawn

Because Dawn has a serious blog that's all like adoption and race and important stuff like that, she needs me to do the dirty work of disseminating Nick and Jessica conspiracy theories. The things we do for friendship!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Another Round

Oh, we're playing the bad mother game? Awesome. I'll go first.

When we got home from brunch at S's restaurant and the Museum My Children Love That I Find More Boring Than Standardized Tests (and which I only agreed to go to when they said I could buy a magazine and read while they played, though I didn't really read much, but I didn't play with them either), I let M watch TV for the rest of the day, while E played her Clifford computer game upstairs and then played Spider Solitaire (easy version) on my laptop in front of the TV, and I fed them popcorn and soup and noodles and frozen peas in front of the TV and the computer, and really I did all this not because M had a tiny fever, though she did, or because E was worn out from Thanksgiving weekend socializing, though she was, but because I just wanted to read the paper and clean the house in peace.

Post-Walk the Line

A nice piece from the New York Times about why Johnny Cash matters.

Walk the Line

Joining the crowd much sooner than usual (first-run movie house! only out a week!), last night we saw Walk the Line.

The verdict in the women's room was "Fabulous!" "Terrific!" "Wonderful!"

Uh, no.

Sorry, folks, but we're talking cheesy music bio-pic, yet again.

Scene 1: The screaming prisoners at Folsom are waiting for Johnny Cash to come on stage, but he sits in the workshop, fondling a table saw.

Scene 2: Johnny's brother reads the Bible while Johnny listens to June Carter on the radio.

Scene 3: Father is abusive.

Scene 4: Johnny and brother go fishing.

Scene 5: Brother slaving away at the table saw to earn a dollar tells Johnny to go fishing.

Connect the dots and tell me what happens next.

Of course, brother dies in table saw accident while Johnny fishes. Father blames Johnny for being alive. From there it's pretty much a straight line to picking at the buttons on the mattress during detox, with much repetition of the fishing motif throughout.

As S pointed out, the problem is that Johnny Cash's story is fundamentally cheesy: poor boy becomes big star, falls victim to drugs and hard living, gets saved by the love of a good woman. Which makes it hard to escape the cheesiness of bio-pic conventions.

But it is still a good movie. Not great, but good. Why?

Because it does its cheesy bio-pic-ness well.

Because even though you never quite forget that Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are themselves, they are both excellent (Joaquin is not quite believable in the 50s, but comes into his own in the 60s; Reese is superb throughout).

And finally, because the chemistry between Joaquin and Reese (Johnny and June, that is), particularly when they are on stage, is electric.

And if nothing else, we're all about music, romance, and movies.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Not the Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

I know I'm supposed to blog about what I'm thankful for. And I am thankful, really, I am. For all the standard things. My family, the roof over our head, S's job, and, especially, the remarkable health of the entire extended family (knock a forestful of wood).

But there are a lot of other things I'd like to be thankful for, and I'm not in the mood to just be glad for what I've got.

I'd like to be thankful that the war is over.

I'd like to be thankful that this Republican interregnum has finally come to an end.

I'd like to be thankful that we have such wise and reasonable souls on the Supreme Court.

I'd like to be thankful that we responded to Hurricane Katrina, not just by caring adequately for the victims, but by addressing the fundamental issues of poverty and environmental depredation that made this natural disaster so much worse than it had to be.

I'd like to be thankful that the education establishment finally realized the limitations of standardized tests and the importance of art and creativity in the classroom.

I'd like to be thankful that the United States was joining with the rest of the world to combat global warming.

I'd like to be thankful for peace in the Middle East.

I'd like to be thankful that Nick and Jessica finally admitted it was over. Oh yeah, I can be thankful for that!

Today Nick and Jessica...tomorrow Britney and Kevin. And maybe the next day peace in the Middle East.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

It's a Boy!

No, no, no, I'm not having another baby (much as E wishes I would). I'm embarked on a much easier and more temporary task: blogging about the remarkable Andi Buchanan's new book, It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons, as today's stop on her fabulous Blog Book Tour (the problem with a BLOG book tour is that I don't get to have a long discussion with Andi about what she's going to wear before her reading, and then sit around and gossip with her after her reading, but I digress) (then again, I always digress) (and if you want to digress away from this post altogether, you can go read an interview with Andi about the book, or you can just say the hell with the book and go read Andi's blog--oops, except the blog is all about the book these days, but you should read it anyway!).

But let's talk about me, since this is my blog (I know you're wondering how I'm going to make this about me since I am most definitely not a woman writer raising a son, but just watch me). I am heavily into life writing: memoirs, letters, diaries, personal essays. Though it's something of a cliche, I think this interest stems from The Diary of Anne Frank, a book I read obsessively throughout my later childhood and early adolescence, imagining myself as Anne, in both the excitement of hiding and the horror of capture. My identification with Anne was so profound that I assumed everyone shared it. But at some point I started asking my friends, mainly Jewish women, like myself, and it turned out that a lot of them had no identification with Anne whatsoever, and in fact their experience of reading The Diary was one of profound disidentification. That is, the book engaged them (or, in some cases, didn't) not because Anne was so like them and they could affirm a shared identity, but because she was so different from them and they could affirm their independent identities apart from her experience (this may, in fact, be a healthier response to Anne Frank than my own, but this is not about Anne Frank, so I'll leave it at that).

What does Anne Frank have to do with It's a Boy? While many critics and book reviewers argue that we read memoirs and personal essays because we identify with their authors, I think disidentification is just as much of a draw. Perhaps blogs can be a good example.

OK, there was a whole bunch of non-typing between the previous sentence and this one in which I realized that blogs are not a good example: while I like Dawn's blog because she is a bookish, liberal, feminist, Jewish mom like me, I don't share her investment in adoption; and while I read Rob to understand what it's like to raise a "broken" child, an experience I don't have, we do share basic politics, as well as a deep commitment to our children.

More non-typing, but I think this is going to work, though it will lead me to my point down a different route than I expected.

I thought that reading It's a Boy was going to be a fascinating excursion into alien territory, an experience in readerly disidentification, as it were. I know nothing about raising boys: about penises and turning sticks into guns and teenagers with hair on their faces, god forbid. And I learned about those things from reading the book, and it was fascinating. But what I also realized is how much of all motherhood is about figuring out these alien little beings we are stuck with, who are at once as familiar as our own bodies and as bizarrely unknown as prehistoric giraffes. If you have a boy, you have a certain framework for understanding him as alien: he is not like you. But that only takes you so far, and then you have to account for him as himself. Just as I have to account for M and E as themselves, even though they are bright, bookish, little Jewish girls like me. In other words, even as It's a Boy set me up for disidentification, it also inspired a more meta identification, and a realization that of course I could have mothered a boy, for it all comes down to mothering, and that I know something about.

So go buy Andi's book! And read it! And give it to your friends for Hanukkah! Or Thanksgiving! And if enough people buy it then maybe Andi will come visit me and we can talk about clothes and gossip and mothering to our heart's content!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Book List

I don't have a Palm. Or a Blackberry. Or any such thing. I don't have a Dayrunner or Filofax or any such thing like that either. I have a datebook, maybe three by six inches, vertical, with a week to the two-page spread. Every year I get a new one and copy all my phone numbers and birthdays into it. I write my appointments in my datebook, but I also write addresses and notes and errands and movies to see and lists. Sometimes, when I haven't finished the lists, I need to copy them into the next year's datebook.

This year, I started a list of books I wanted to read in the space for notes at the end of the week of April 11-17. The list has grown upwards, covering April 17 and halfway through April 16. Here it is (the most recent entries at the top):

Marjorie Williams, The Woman at the Washington Zoo
Amanda Eyre Ward
Lynne Sharon Schwartz, The Writing on the Wall
Grazer, The Starter Wife
Jonathan Coe, The Rotter's Club & sequel
Patrick Hamilton
Lydia Davis
Christine Schutt
A.L. Kennedy, Paradise
Andrea Levy, Small Island
Ian McEwan, Saturday
Ruth Reichl
Sue Miller, Lost in the Forest
Wesley Stace, Misfortune
Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Donald Hall, The Best Day The Worst Day
Laura Waterman, Losing the Garden

I don't even know what some of these books are. Losing the Garden? Patrick Hamilton?

Since I started the list, I've read How to Be Lost (Amanda Eyre Ward), Paradise, and We Need to Talk About Kevin. I've also read Family Pictures (Sue Miller), On Beauty (Zadie Smith), and two novels by people I know that I'm not going to name because I don't want them to google themselves and find my blog. This weekend I took The Devil Wears Prada and Prep out of the library. The Devil Wears Prada is the current hot read at my work.

Clearly I'm into women authors. I'm also not so good at sticking to my list. And I don't know how Elizabeth manages to read a book a week.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Bleak Future

Now E has dropped out of ballet. They'll never get into college...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Showing Off for the Grandmothers

E wrote her first book. Here's how it goes:

Jack and Annie and the Class Mystery

One sunny day, Jack and Annie were walking through the woods to school and they saw a treehouse. They heard someone calling from the treehouse. They climbed up the rope ladder hanging from the treehouse and they saw a beautiful girl and they said, “What’s your name?” to the beautiful woman and she said back “Morgan Le Faye.”

The End

[Points for you if you get the allusion.]

M got an A+ for her essay test on how igneous rocks are formed. Here's how it goes:

There are two types of igneous rocks. One is formed on the earth's surface, the other deep underground. The starting material for an igneous rock formed on the earth's surface is lava. Yet for those formed underground it's magma. The magma cools slowly forming large crystals. The lava cools quickly forming rock. The rocks formed from lava sometimes are light in weight for their size, some have holes from which gases escaped. Some float in water, some have no visible crystals. Others have a glasslike apperence and no crystals. Rocks formed from magma have crysals of different shapes and colors. The crystals are not aranged in any particular order.

Moving Right Along 2

When we moved to East Coast Big City, I got a very posh job. If you knew what I did, you would have heard of the place where I work, and you would be impressed. I make lots of money and I hobnob with important people and my assistant gets me coffee (that’s kind of a joke: I get her coffee too, but whenever she gets me coffee, we laugh about how she’s my assistant and she’s getting me coffee).

But my job is a disaster, for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into because I don’t blog about work and I’m tired of thinking about it, and, in fact, it’s all slightly unbelievable, and I don’t want my readers to start doubting my veracity.

I am going to quit my job. This is huge. This could be professionally damaging. This is financially irresponsible. This is terrifying, given the numbers of stories I’ve heard about long-term unemployment.

On the other hand, there are serious ethical issues at stake. And professional issues. And personal issues. And I can’t stand crying all night. And I hate yelling at my kids because I had a bad day at work.

I feel very conscious of the privilege (link from Dawn who is my conscience on all things privilege-related) that enables me to do this. We can get by without me working for a little while. If a little while turns into a long while, we have family who can help us out. I don’t think a little while will turn into a long while because I have some skills that are very much in demand, and while a job using those skills is not my preference, I will certainly get one if I have to.

We are very lucky, and I know it.

Now I'm going to go try and have a good weekend.

[See? As soon as I gesture toward not blogging, there I go. Time to buy People, Star, AND US so I can do some really interesting blogging…]

Moving Right Along

Sorry for leaving the depressing cancer post up there for so long. Life is not conducive to blogging at the moment, for various reasons. I did come up with something delightfully fluffy and pop cultural to blog yesterday, but it's gone now.

I will say that both Sienna's short hair and her reunion with Jude are bad decisions. And Amanda Eyre Ward's How to Be Lost is a great book. And the new Wilco live CD rocks (it's basically the same show we saw in Red State Capital City last winter). And hearing "Hummingbird" on the radio on the way to work yesterday helped make the day better than the day before. And M has been sleeping through the night regularly, which is just huge. And E is ensconced in her allergy season, which is just pitiful. And S got home from work at one in the morning last night and cleaned the house, which is just heroic.

On November 23, I will be hosting Andi Buchanan's blog book tour for It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons, so definitely tune in then. Other than that, no promises (though of course whenever I say something like that, I am immediately filled with blogging inspiration) (though now that I've pointed that out, I've probably jinxed it) (maybe I'll corral M for some guest blogging).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Moms with Cancer

It is the season of moms with cancer. My college roommate's best friend from college is heading into hospice after seven years fighting a brain tumor (it's hard to avoid that heroic cancer language). Kids are 17, 15, and 13. A friend from Red State Capital City Suburb was just diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. Kids are 13 and 9 and hate each other. Dad has zero emotional intelligence. (These are not close friends, but we overlapped in so many areas--school, afterschool, swim team, pool--that we saw quite a lot of them.) Now my neighbor, the mother of M's first friend in Town, with whom I have gingerly been becoming friends, has breast cancer. Kids are 13 and 8.

I tell M, because she has to know. Not about A's college best friend, but about S's mom, because she plays with S every weekend, and how can she not know? And S's mom has already lost her hair, so she needs to know why that's happened. She doesn't want to talk about it. She says she's scared I'll get cancer. I say I hope I won't. She asks if cancer is contagious. I say no, and I give her the briefest sketch of cancer. She says she feels better, then, about going to S's house to play.

I talk about it with A, with E whose mother died of cancer when she was ten, with L's mother J who told me about our friend in Red State Capital City Suburb. We are all mothers too, and we watch with horror, trying to do whatever we can for our friends, doing everything we can to push away the thought that it could be us.

Kids in Cafes

Belated as usual, I'm still going to put in my two cents about "rowdy children in coffee shops." These days I don't have much time to track current debates through the blogosphere, and Technorati makes me tired. But I'm guessing (yes, I know I'm setting up straw men, or, more likely, women) that the childfree applauded the Chicago cafe that posted the sign saying "children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices," and the moms (I know I should say parents, but I'm guessing it's mainly moms) waxed indignant.

Well, for once, you can sign me up with the antis. Or maybe that would be the pros. The anti-children wreaking havoc in cafes contingent. And the pro-businesses have every right to make children unwelcome contingent.

Basically, it comes down to capitalism and parenting.

Let's take capitalism first. I am no big fan of capitalism, but it happens to be our system. And, being married to the restaurant business has given me a lot more sympathy with small businesses than I once might have had. Take health insurance, for example. What good is mandating that small businesses give their employees health insurance, when the profit margin of such businesses is often so thin that the owner barely gets paid, and adding the cost of health insurance to the expenses side of the ledger would make the business go under, so those employees would have neither health insurance nor jobs? (The answer to that one is, of course, universal health care, but this is about cafes, not health insurance.)

Here are two key points about businesses under capitalism: they need customers to survive, and customers can choose whether to patronize them. Obviously there are some givens. A business cannot discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, or disability (and in some places sexuality). But that does not mean that a business has to let customers do what they want and give them what they want. A restaurant can choose not to serve alcohol. A restaurant can choose to make men wear jackets and ties. By doing so, they will delineate their clientele, because just as they can choose what kind of place they want to be, we can choose whether or not we want to patronize such a place.

Having children is not the same as using a wheelchair or being an inter-racial couple. And besides, the guy in Chicago did not ban children; he simply stated that children need to behave in his cafe. Just like the French Laundry states that men need to wear jackets (at least I think they do--I'm too lazy to check, but you get the point). You don't want to wear a jacket? You don't want to make your children behave? Then go somewhere else. And his cafe will either survive on the business of those who like quiet with their coffee, or it will fail. Which is his problem.

But let's talk about making children behave (I've pontificated about this before, I'm sure, but once again, I'm too lazy to find a link). I'm at once pleased and dismayed when I get compliments about my children's behavior at restaurants, which happens all the time. I'm pleased because I want my children to behave and I like getting compliments about them. I'm dismayed because really, they are nothing special. They sit quietly, for the most part. They eat neatly, for the most part. They draw pictures or play with toys, quietly and neatly. If they are not quiet, we hush them. If they are not neat, we clean up after them. They say please and thank you, occasionally with a parental prompt. If E falls asleep, she does it without fanfare, in my lap or on the floor.

This seems to me like the baseline, not grounds for compliments. If they are getting compliments, it means that most children are not acting like this, and, well, then I don't know why those children are in restaurants. It's just not that hard to watch over your children, help them to behave, and, if they stop behaving, TAKE THEM OUT OF THE RESTAURANT. God knows I've done it more times than I can count (taken them out of the restaurant, that is, and for the case of my argument here, restaurant=cafe).

Yesterday I went to a cafe to work. A toddler screeched for an hour. An hour. First in agony, then in glee, but the whole time it was a piercing screech. His mother followed him around the cafe, and tried not to look anybody in the eye. One screech? Fine. A few intermittent screeches? OK. But what right do you think you have to inflict your child's screeches on a cafe full of people chatting and reading and working FOR AN HOUR? Sure I can come up with the sympathic interpretation: perhaps her child has been screeching for three weeks and she just had to get out of the house. Except that it was a beautiful day and that's what playgrounds are for. And if it wasn't a beautiful day, that's what parkas and mittens are for, or children's museums, or the children's room of the library (I know, libraries are supposed to be quiet, but I'm trying to come up with a low-cost alternative).

That cafe sure could have used a sign saying "children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dan Zanes Redux

You just haven't lived until you've rapped the alphabet song with Father Goose. I mean it. Dan and his crazy-dressed band rocked the house, and the middle-aged boho white people and their pampered offspring rocked it right back at him. Best time I've had since I can remember. Which may tell you something about my life.

Dan brought Tony Saletan on stage (and his daughter--Dan's daughter, that is--which made M unbearably jealous) (and then I showed her a picture of Madonna and Lourdes in US magazine and she was jealous again) (the child really could do with famous parents) (of course I wouldn't mind making that dream come true) (yes, at the ripe old age of 41, I still want to be famous) (and, remarkably, this run-on parenthetical digression has led me to where this anecdote is going: one of my brushes with fame) (sort of).

Way back in the day, at hippie private school, my fifth grade teacher--one of the best teachers I ever had--was a caller in a contra dance band. Her boyfriend was the...guitarist? He taught at old-style progressive private school, where P and B's kids went. And we just kind of knew them around town.

One day Tony Saletan called up S, my teacher (it was hippie private school and we called our teachers by their first names), and said he needed kids for two TV shows he was doing: one on singing games and one on contra-dancing. S rounded up me and a bunch of other kids, and we spent a day playing singing games and contra-dancing for the cameras with Tony Saletan. It was the first money I ever made: $25. Tony Saletan was lovely. And I got pretty into contra dancing for a few years, until I got into the Grateful Dead and other things that will go unmentioned for the benefit of the grand-maternal readership of the blog. But I still love a good contra dance, and Tony Saletan is still a great guy.

(And M was really jealous when I told her I'd been on TV.) (Though, now that I think of it, she too has been on TV, and she made much more money than I did.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

My Little Copy Editor

This one needs some background.

E is the quintessential pre-reader. She knows the sounds of all the letters and the letters of all the sounds. She recognizes words as units and reads her picture books by heart. As of last week, she had eight sight words: E, M, S, B, mommy, baby, book, and no.

The other day she picked up a pack of spelling flash cards M had made and wanted to read them. Since the top word was "experienced," I suggested that they weren't the best words for her, but we could make her her own flash cards. So we did. We made: E, M, B, S, R (her teacher's name), baby, the, went, I, ballet, class, dog, cat, bed, house, horse, and maybe a few others.

Both my kids have great memories--visual and verbal. M looks at a spelling word once and knows it. E learns to recognize words quickly, though often she simply knows the first letter. She learned all her sight words within an hour or so, except she kept mixing up house and horse. But that didn't really matter since her main activity was stringing all the words into long sentences for me to read to her: I ballet bed E class the house, etc.

The other night, though, she was playing with her cards at the kitchen table while I was making dinner. She called me over so she could read her sentence to me: S went to the horse. I told her it was a great sentence but she had used horse instead of house. She thought for a minute and then asked if I could make a card with is. I did. Then she fixed her sentence: S went to the horse is house.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I forgot to mention

that they found the Amber Alert kids later that night. It's so nice to see the government do something that actually works--oh no, I sound like a Republican! But I'll counter that by saying that I am pleased as punch about New Jersey, Virginia, and California (I know, they didn't get rid of him yet in California, but they did shoot down the special election referenda he spent so much unnecessary money on).

A Post for Catherine

Send me an email at my old address! I sent you one at yours a few weeks ago, but I fear you've given it up, and I had no way to get in touch with you (ok, I could have used the channels to find your mom, but I only just thought of that this minute).


Did everyone but us know about Dan Zanes's videos?!

How much do we love Dan Zanes? A lot. Let's start with S being the original Del Fuegos fan back in the day. I grew up immersed in the same Pete Seeger/Woody Guthrie/Leadbelly/Tony Saletan music as he did. Can we talk about his hair? We love it. And his suits. We love them too.

M says "You have to talk about the music, stupid. And about how B and B know his brother and live around the corner from him, which is just cool."

Me: So what about the music?

M: You aren't talking about how good it is. You're only talking about his suits and his hair. I mean, those things are cool, but would you go see a guy who had cool suits and hair but wasn't a good musician? He's a good musician. And the girls in his band have awesome clothes.

So there you have it: great hair, great clothes, great music...and now great videos!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Scary Things

I heard my first Amber Alert today. In the car on the way home from work. All of a sudden, a voice said "This is an Amber Alert," and then there were beeps, like those tests they used to do on the radio when I was a kid (maybe they still do? I don't listen to the radio so much, only in the car on the way to and from work). Then a scratchy voice like on a police scanner said the names of two kids, 3 and 5, who were believed to be with the name of a woman (I'm not protecting anyone's privacy, I just don't remember the names) in a white Cadillac, and then they gave the license plate number, twice. It was pretty gripping. I started looking for a white Cadillac with those plates, even though the kids were from a town pretty far away and it was highly unlikely that I'd see the white Cadillac in Main Street rush hour traffic. I wonder if they found them.

These days E is scared of hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. They learned about hurricanes in school, over a month ago, and she was very excited at the time. For the last few days, though, she's been saying that she can't stop thinking about hurricanes, especially at bedtime. She is very worried, especially about people dying. We've had lots of conversations about where hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes happen (in the south near the ocean, in the middle of the country where it's flat, in California). I've assured her that they won't happen here. Tonight she asked me what the worst storm we could have here was. I told her a nor'easter and we'd already had one and we were fine. She asked if people die in a nor'easter. I said no, curbing my natural instinct toward honesty and not telling her about stupid people who go surfing and drown.

I know I didn't convince her. I know she's still worried. I don't know what I'd do if we lived in the south near the ocean, or in the middle of the country where it's flat, or in California, places we could easily live, have in fact lived.

At least she doesn't know about Amber Alerts yet.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Ethics of Blog Reading

Lately I've been reading the blog of someone I know who doesn't know I'm reading her blog. She doesn't even know I know she has a blog. I see her quite often. I don't know why I don't tell her. Somehow, to have her know that I have been reading it without her knowing seems even more embarassing than the act of telling her that I'm reading. Plus I don't want to tell her that I have a blog, and somehow not telling her about my blog, if she knows that I know about her blog, seems even more duplicitous than not telling her I know about her blog. Did you follow that?

At any rate, it makes me wonder if there's anyone out there who knows me and is reading my blog even though I don't know it.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Do I Have Any Readers in Long Beach?

There's still time for you to catch X tonight. Some of the rest of us will get our chance in December!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Goodnight M

M is done with reading at bedtime. Or rather, M is done with being read to at bedtime.

We've had lots of iterations of bedtime reading over the last few years. When M got into chapter books, S and I would alternate reading to her from the same book. Once we got past the Little House series and into books we didn't know as well, that became a bit frustrating for us, so she would have two chapter books going, one with me and one with S. When S was home, we would switch off reading to each girl. When S was at work, I would read to E, then read to M, then put them to bed at the same time: the three of us would lie in M's bed for bedtime songs and questions (what was your favorite thing today? what did you learn today? what are you looking forward to tomorrow?); then I would take E to her bed.

Lately, though, E has been an adamant Mommy bedtime girl. And S is only home two evenings a week. And E and M are sharing a room. And M wants to read on her own. Or watch Emeril. And nine-year-old M can handle a later bedtime than four-year-old E whose eyes start to close around 8:30.

So we've evolved a new routine. Sometime between 8 and 8:30, I read to E while she eats her cereal snuggled up next to me on the couch (she did chapter books for a while, but now we're back with picture books). Then I put E to bed. Meanwhile, M is either reading or watching Emeril, and eating her cereal. After E falls asleep, if it's not too late, I hang out with M. Sometimes she wants me to read her a picture book, but more often she wants to keep reading her book or watching Emeril. I check my email or read the newspaper. Sometime around 9, I put her to bed.

This morning M announced that she now owned all the Anne books, since a friend gave her Anne of Ingleside the other day, and she's going to read the rest of them in order, starting with Anne of the Island (later she figured out that she has already read Anne of the Island and is thus ready to move on to Anne of Windy Poplars, but that is neither here nor there vis-à-vis the outcome of this narrative). Since we haven't had a bedtime book since we gave up on Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm a few months ago (only a few chapters from the end--I don't know what happened), I offered to read Anne of the Island to her. She gave me a look that I can only describe as a mixture of pity and annoyance. I asked if she'd rather read it herself. She would. Then I asked her if she was done with bedtime books. Yes, she said, she was, except sometimes she'd like me to read her a picture book, but she'd let me know when.

I feel like I should be choking back tears as I gently fold the memories of our cherished bedtime reading into my keepsake box. But I'm not.

It's done. We've moved on.

I fear that I am a failure at maternal sentiment.

But at least I can handle bedtime.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Can You Say Product Placement? or Another Reason Why I Love My Kid

Every week M has a reading assignment that we are supposed to do together. She reads a page-long story or article aloud to me (I suppose she could read it to S, but he's never home), and then we answer some questions. It's not the most challenging of assignments, for M at least, but it's kind of fun, especially listening to her read aloud, which she does with great drama.

This week, however, we were not very happy. The reading was called "Want Fries With That?" It's a newspaper article from the Orlando Sentinel, repackaged by Scholastic Books for Week-by-Week Homework for Building Reading Comprehension and Fluency (mmm, now that's a title to excite a developing reader). Really, though, it's a McDonald's ad.

The first two paragraphs describe the history of French fries. Apparently American G.I.s in World War I first had them in Belgium, "But because of poor geography skills, or because many Belgians spoke French, the GIs assumed they were in French territory." Good to know that we were as stupid back then as we are now.

The rest of the article describes how to make not French fries, but "the fries that made McDonald's famous," a process that ends "at your neighborhood McDonald's of course." Are we teaching reading comprehension and fluency, or are we teaching kids to go to McDonald's? How much do you think McDonald's paid Scholastic?

At least M saw right through it. She punctuated her reading with "yuck" and, upon finishing with a flourish, announced, "That was such a big ad and so stupid!"


Internet Activism

I just unsubscribed from the email lists for MoveOn, Act for Change, John Kerry, and the Democratic Party. I stopped looking at them on or around November 3, 2004, and now they just oppress me. Or depress me, depending on how narcissistic I'm feeling. (When I'm narcissistic they oppress; when I'm altruistic they depress.)

One of the unsubscribe pages asked why I was unsubscribing. I checked the box that said "Too many emails." If you email me every single day with another crisis, I'm going to stop paying attention. It's called Chicken Little. I know the sky really is falling. I just can't take you all telling me every single day. I appreciate your work, but I'm not going to give you any more money. And email petitions don't really do anything, whether they come from us or them.

Where's the group that will send me one email a week with a specific, easy, personalized step I can take to make a real difference? That I would read.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Private Lives

I'm trying to get my head around the judge with three wives (in Utah, of course). Aren't judges supposed to follow the laws they uphold? Aren't there laws against polygamy? Don't we have a bit of a contradiction here? Not, apparently, in the eyes of Utah's attorney general, who has refused to prosecute. The state's Judicial Conduct Commission appears to take the situation a bit more seriously: it has ordered the judge off the bench. He's appealing to the state Supreme Court, though. In the words of his attorney, Rod Parker, "There is no allegation that it's affecting his performance on the bench. It really is truly only about his private conduct."

Well, now, let's think about that. I'm against any kind of abuse of women, emotional or physical, and the women at Tapestry Against Polygamy are pretty convincing about the abusive nature of many of those polygamous marriages. But if consenting adults are happy to be in a polygamous marriage? Yes, indeedy, that's private conduct, so long as they don't try and get multiple marriage certificates (apparently the judge is only legally married to one of the wives, so you can make the case that he is following the letter of the law). And if polygamy is private, and thus ok, how about polyamory? It's not my thing, but if that's where you want to go, well, it's your private life. And homosexuality? Yup, private, so long as it doesn't affect anyone's performance on the bench, metaphorically speaking.

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking Lambda Legal Defense Fund should be filing a brief in support of this guy.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

A musical about anorexia? And it sounds like the execution is as bad as the concept. Not surprisingly.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

There Is No Joy in Mudville

Theo, Theo, Theo, say it ain't so. The hometown boy who embodied Red Sox Nation. The wunderkind who finally brought us what we'd thought would always remain a dream. The schemer who traded Nomar--and was right. Theo, how can you do this to us?

This is life as a Red Sox fan. The heights of elation and the depths of despair. Is this the beginning of the end? Are they going to trade Manny? Refuse to sign Johnny? What next?

More of the same, of course. They'll be bad again. They'll be good again. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and they never stay the same. It could only be October 2004 once. But someday it will be something else.

See, it's impossible to write about baseball without falling into cliche, nay, babble. Still, it's a sad morning at our house,as Theo Epstein leaves the Red Sox.

Bad Sentence of the Week

From a travel article about San Francisco's North Beach:

While the Italian flavor remains, the neighborhood today is not so much an ethnic enclave as a miraculous melange of cultural elements that encourages a visitor to choose from a multitude of cafes, shops, and parks for indulging the memories of the past while savoring the glorious present.

Alliteration, past and present, mediocre food imagery...make it go away!

[Blog guilt for not writing about Halloween--dreaded in anticipation, great in actuality--and Alito (does anyone else keep reading Alioto and thinking back to the old days in San Francisco?)--who clearly sucks and maybe we should have just sucked up Miers? Ugh. See why I'm not bloggin about it?]