Saturday, March 31, 2007

Posh: Good Trash

No, not that Posh.

Posh, the new novel by mysterious pseudonymous author, Lucy Jackson, whose high Amazon ratings I find myself, to my surprise, agreeing with.

I used to have a bad trashy novel habit, but the problem is, I also have high aesthetic standards, and eventually I just found it too frustrating to be all excited to sink into some flimsy piece of seemingly desirable chick lit, only to find myself driven mad by the terrible writing. So when I saw Posh on the library shelf, I reminded myself to read a few pages before I even considered taking it out, and they were quite readable, so into my pile it went.

Posh is about a fancy private school in New York--OK, it's obviously about Dalton. It follows the headmistress and a few seniors through the year, with various emotional and sexual dramas, and a lot of money. Short chapters, short novel, a reasonable amount of Manolo Blahnik and Prada, but nowhere near as much of the brand-names-as-an-excuse-for-style prose that generally characterizes such books (if you don't know what I mean, think Plum Sykes).

There's also some emotionally affecting narrative, an interesting side theme of motherhood and middle age, and quite capable writing. In fact, that's how I discovered the author was a literary novelist gone pseudonymous--I was surprised by how much better the book was than I expected, so I looked to see who had written it.

Anyway, I don't think this one will hit any Best Books of 2007 lists, but it was a nice diversion, and I enjoyed it, and even got a little teary at the end, which is unusual for me, so if you're looking for good trash, and the high school novel still works for you, I'd recommend it.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Let Pesky Sit

Major League Baseball, in all its wisdom, has decided that Johnny Pesky can no longer sit in the dugout during Red Sox games. Hello? Can we have a little respect? The man is 88 years old, and he IS the Red Sox. I get that they don't want teams sneaking in another coach, but couldn't we just have a Pesky clause? It's only going to be a few more years, at most.

The MLB suit in charge of this brilliant decision says it's about fairness:

Making an exception for an octogenarian icon, Garagiola said, is an example of the kind of distinctions MLB does not want to be drawing.

"Red Schoendienst is in uniform every night, down on the field, talking to players, hitting infield," Garagiola said, invoking the name of the Cardinals' Hall of Famer, who turned 84 last month. "But when the game starts, he's sitting upstairs with Walt [Jocketty, the Cardinals GM].

"Cardinals fans can say Red Schoendienst is as beloved [as Pesky]. If [Pesky] can be on the bench, why not Schoendienst?"

Why not? Let Schoendienst sit on the bench too. Call it the legendary old guys clause. Just remember that baseball is about sentiment too, and the suits place themselves in peril if they forget that.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Post About M

M is super-awesome great these days (I probably shouldn't even write this post--as soon as I hit Publish, she'll turn into a monster...oh well.) Here are some examples:

1. One or two days a week, she walks E home from school. Today I got done a little early, so I drove over to intercept them on their walk. They were walking along so happily: M was carrying E's backpack and holding her hand and smiling down at her with the sweetest of big sister gazes. I almost wanted to let them keep walking, but it was also nice to see how excited they got when they realized the person honking at them was me.

2. Last year M had one page of homework every night, and almost every night it was a teary battle to get that homework done (last year we also got home pretty late, so homework, dinner, play, and bedtime got cramped into a pretty small space of time, and it often got ugly). This year, she has a couple of different homework assignments every night, plus a weekly spelling assignment that consists of several parts. I was dreading homework, but she has totally turned it around. It's clearly a case of raised expectations = raised performance, because she does all her homework on her own, she never fusses, she plans in advance. It's great: homework is almost never an issue.

For the past two weeks she has been working on her first significant research project: an explorer report for which she needed to find three sources, answer a whole bunch of questions, draw a portrait and a map, write an essay, and there's probably more. The teacher scaffolded the assignment for them, with intermediary due dates for the bibliography, a draft of the map, etc., but M has been totally on top of it, working a bit every day, handing things in early, and doing more than the assignment called for. She insisted that we go to the library for books, she has added flags to her report, she has revised the draft of the essay. It's due tomorrow, and all she has to do is write the final copy of the essay in cursive. She's done a great job, and if you need to know anything about Jacques Cartier, you know where to go.

3. There is some serious mean girl action happening in M's class. A girl who she knows very well has anointed herself Queen Bee, and a lot of the other girls are falling for it. Queen Bee is being very manipulative, trying to turn girls against each other, and also trying to pull the others into teenage behavior that they just aren't ready for (nothing serious, no drugs or anything, just some serious boy obsession that is of a different tenor than the boy obsession we've been living with for the last 18 months). M is having none of it. She refuses to get sucked into any of this behavior, she talks back to Queen Bee, she is not interested in sitting at the cool table at lunch, and she is just going along with her life and being herself (luckily, she has one friend who is always with her, and a bunch of the others often hang with her, complaining about Queen Bee, even though at other times they are Queen Bee acolytes).

I am totally proud of her, and just a little bit pleased that she claims the reason she can handle all this is because she can talk to me about it and I explain why people act the way they do and how she ought to behave (and I do: I point out how the drive for domination is based on insecurity--OK, I don't use those exact words, though I do talk about being insecure--and I tell her that she is absolutely not allowed to behave as Queen Bee is behaving [for example, bailing on a birthday party 20 minutes before it begins, and then sending emails during the birthday party about how she is going to hang at the park with the boys, how other girls are mad at the girls at the party, etc.--I told M that I would never let her bail on a birthday party, and if she sent emails like that, she would lose computer privileges for a very long time (luckily this post is not about the behavior of other parents...)]). The thing is, it's nice that she thinks I'm the cause of her behavior, but really, she is so much more together than I am, because even as I am telling her to do the right thing, I am terrified about Queen Bee hurting her, and I have to squelch my urge to conciliate Queen Bee, an urge M doesn't have at all.

OK, end of bragginess. Tune in next week when I complain about how horrible M is.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Bat Mitzvah Whirl Begins

M has been invited to her first bat mitzvah on her own--her friend's big sister. Several of her friends at other synagogues already have their dates--for spring 2009. Hers should be May 2009, but I think we don't get our dates till the fall. Her cousin's is in June, there are two friends at our synagogue who are up next year, and then the deluge. I remember the years when K and D's kids went to bar mitzvahs every weekend. I don't think we will have quite so many, but there will certainly be a lot.

I'm not quite sure how we got here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Could it be

that America isn't as conservative as everyone thought? Combine that with Gonzales going down, and one could almost get in a good mood. (Can you tell that I'm avoiding work that needs to be done by reading things I don't need to read?)


I always forget to read Slate, but I'm loving the Gonzo-Meter which now pegs the chance of Gonzales' departure at 75% (I especially like the link on the front page which says "Gonzales Deathwatch: Bet He's Gone by Friday"). As soon as this story broke, I knew he was history. Thank goodness.

On Gentrification

I am completely immersed in Michael Patrick MacDonald. Now I'm reading Easter Rising, his second book, which is totally fascinating in relation to the first, as well as on its own merits, but I'll save my thoughts about that till I'm done. I'm also thinking a lot about identity and guilt, about which I may manage to pull together a post. But today gentrification is on my mind--though, now that I think about it, gentrification bleeds into identity and guilt...

We are gentrifiers. There is no doubt about it. We've spent an outrageous amount of money to move into a formerly working-class neighborhood. I can kind of fudge it by saying that S grew up in Town and had friends in this neighborhood when he was a kid, so we're not as much the outsiders as some people. Also, we immediately got involved in the school and the community and the neighborhood, so we're not the kind of yuppies who think we rule the world and the world should conform to us. Still, we displaced someone who'd lived in this house since he was a kid. And yet, he got more money out of this house than his grandparents could possibly have imagined when they bought it. It's complicated.

But it's even more complicated, because I have been gentrified out of the neighborhood where I grew up. That neighborhood was not working-class in any way, but it was my neighborhood, a neighborhood where families lived, and where I knew every kid on the block. Now it's the kind of neighborhood where my old drugstore is a Starbucks and blondes drink cocktails and every baby rides in a Bugaboo, and we couldn't afford to live there in our wildest dreams (the only reason we can afford to live in our neighborhood in Town is because of help from my parents--and we are quite well-off in the scheme of things).

So what are we to do? We have to live somewhere; we can't live where I grew up; displaced, we turn around and displace someone else. I'm not happy about it, being the liberal guilt type, but if we want to live in East Coast Big City, which it seems reasonable for us to want to do, given that we grew up here, this is the way it plays out. And I do appreciate the privilege entailed in the fact that, in 2007, we can choose to live in East Coast Big City, and lots of people can't. But should I not live here in principled solidarity? With whom? I can't come up with a good ending for this post, because there just isn't a good solution to this dilemma.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Hot Chocolate and Aquaphor

A while ago in the Food section I saw one of those taste tests they do about hot chocolate. A panel of judges tasted a bunch of hot chocolate mixes and, though one of them won, they all sounded pretty mediocre. I think about that article every morning when I make M's hot chocolate. I'm not so much of a cook, but there are certain things that are so easy to do from scratch, that I can't believe people use mixes, especially when the mixes are not very good.

Here's how we make hot chocolate: in a mug mix 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon cocoa, a pinch of salt, and a few drops of vanilla; add about an inch of boiling water (kettle is usually still hot from the coffee) and stir; fill cup with milk and stir again; microwave for two minutes. Add mini-marshmallows if you're feeling indulgent. So easy, so chemical-free, so delicious.

And while we're on the topic of products (we're not really, but I needed some kind of segue), I think we've finally found a lotion that effectively treats E's lizard-scaly skin: Aquaphor. Why didn't I know about this?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

All Souls

I don't know where I was in 1999, when All Souls came out, or in 2000, when it won an American Book Award. Actually, I do know where I was. I was in No Longer Red State, I was distracted by my personal life, and I wasn't reading a lot. So somehow I missed All Souls, never even heard of it until last fall when Easter Rising, Michael Patrick Macdonald's second book, came out. A friend loaned that one to S, and then I got him a copy of All Souls, and I even started it, but I put it down, part of my general difficulty in committing to books these days.

Well, I finally picked it up again and tore through it and I must concur with the superlative blurbs: All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, the story of Macdonald's family and South Boston in the 70s and 80s, is just an incredible book. In prose that burns with passion, even as it is beyond matter of fact, Macdonald transforms my understanding of something I lived and thought I knew. This book matters more than any book I've read in a long time.

You know, I want to go on and on here, about class and race and liberals, about the Tall Ships in 1976 and doing The Freak, about cocaine and busing and Whitey Bulger and gentrification, about how much everything has changed since the 80s, about the way the best books feel like they are speaking directly to you and to you alone, about survival and making a difference, but, really, I just want to say that this is a book that anyone who cares about any of those things must read.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Last night E fell asleep in my arms. She'd stayed up late watching her movie. I agreed to read her two pages of her book, so we sat down in the reading chair, I read, and then she snuggled against me, and within a moment she was asleep. I held the warm weight of her, and then I fell asleep too, and awoke, and fell asleep, and after a while I carried her to bed.

E still fits just perfectly, just barely, in my lap. Sitting sideways, her bottom nestles against my legs, and her head comes right to my shoulder. As I held her, I remembered 9/11. In the morning, I watched the towers fall at work, and then I didn't watch any more TV till M went to bed. I had friends who couldn't turn it off, who watched all day with their small children, but I knew I didn't want M to see, so I held my curiosity, aside from whispered conversations with friends after school, at dance class, on the phone. When M, oblivious, finally went to bed, I turned on the TV and sat there, watching the ash in the dark, nursing E. After a while she fell asleep, as she did every night, nursing, but I couldn't put her down. I clutched the warm weight of her, tiny and solid in my arms, and cried for her future, and her sister's.

Now E is big and barely fits. M still climbs into my lap, and it's sweet and snuggly, but also awkward and gangly as her long legs spill over me and her arms loop around me. Soon I will have no small child of my own to hold, not till my grandchildren, and I won't be able to hold them late into the night.

E is sick today, so I borrowed a neighbor's jog stroller to take her out in the sunshine. She fit, barely, but she was so heavy. The stroller was just a tiny bit imbalanced, so it kept veering to the right, and I'd have to shift it over to the left to go straight. My arms got tired from the pushing.

I'm OK with being done with strollers.

[M is reading over my shoulder as I type. She asks if I'm going to include her calves in this post. Her calves ache, and I've been telling her they are growing pains. This post is about growing, she says, and her calves are growing. Sure, I say, I'll include them.]

Friday, March 23, 2007

What a Relief

I don't know about you, but I slept better last night, knowing that Papelbon is going to be closing again. And it's kind of sweet: that he spent all of spring training being prepped to start, but wishing he could close. You know I love spring training and all, but I'm thinking it's just about time to Play Ball.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

We Interrupt This Blog to Get Really Pissed Off

Not about my kids getting on my nerves. Not about my husband's incapacity to put things away.

I'm pissed off about dead kids. So pissed off I want to scream and bust open this computer and the world wide narcissism it accesses.

I'm pissed off about the kids I know who know what it's like to go to their friends' funerals, and who are scared to walk home down their own streets.

I'm pissed off about kids who go off to war and come home maimed, with memories of their friends' dead bodies, or who don't come home at all.

I'm pissed off about kids in Iraq whose families, neighborhoods, and country have been destroyed.

I'm pissed off about Iraqi insurgents blowing up a car with kids in it. Dead kids.

I'm pissed off at people who abuse kids.

I'm just burning up with anger, and it seems such a pathetic response to pour it into this blog. I'm idealistic enough to feel like I need to be doing something, but cynical enough to feel like nothing I could do would make a real difference. Yes, S has a half dozen kids who are in his kitchen instead of on the street, and hopefully his support will help them escape becoming dead kids, though it might not. And my job, well, it's not exactly developing alternatives to napalm, and it makes some difference in an oblique kind of way. But there are so many kids, and they need so much, and I just can't imagine how to give it to them, to give them the world they deserve, and it just makes me crazy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Why I'm Being Kicked Off America's Best Feminist Mother

Because this is M and E's new obsession.

(Bet you didn't know there was a reality TV show for feminist moms. Our challenges? To get our daughters through Target without buying anything pink or sparkly. To keep the whole family from mentioning anything related to beauty or body image for 24 hours. To host a playdate in which the kids happily play with gender-neutral toys the whole time. No wonder I'm getting kicked off the show!)

Edited to add: Oh yeah, you can be a feminist mother of boys too, right?! Not that I would know, being a failed feminist mother of girls. So let's see, some more challenges...well, I suppose the challenges should have something to do with nurturing and avoiding guns, but clearly I'm running out of feminist parenting steam. Maybe I'll just go find a nice outfit for Eva Longoria.


Disobedience is another novel I warmed up to--sort of--in my final chunk of reading, even though for most of the time I was reading it, I was mainly quite certain that I would never be selected as an Orange Prize judge.

Disobedience is about the (semi-)lesbian daughter of a renowned British rabbi who has escaped her father and his Orthodox community in London to make a new life for herself as a secular New York businesswoman. After her father's death, she returns to London where her ex-lover is now married to her cousin who is expected to succeed her father. Difficulties ensue.

Sounded interesting, but for the most part, I found the book's two voices too annoying. One voice is a "we" located in the Orthodox community who begins each chapter with highfaluting rumination on some Jewish topic, and goes on to narrate events from the perspectives of Dovid, the cousin, who is afflicted with colorful (literally) migraines, and Esti, the former lover, who appears to be autistic but turns out to be (I think) enlightened. The other voice, in a more modern typeface, is Ronit, the rabbi's daughter, whose story reads like ex-Orthodox lesbian chick lit.

Along with the annoying voices, the characters were none too appealing, and also kind of incomprehensible. What was the importance of Dovid's migraines? Was Esti stupid or brilliant? Was Ronit really as much of a bitch as she seemed? If so, why was Esti so entranced with her?

In the last few chapters (which I read in one sitting, on a bench at the park, so maybe it had something to do with my mood, though I couldn't say what), I started to see that the book was trying to say something perhaps kind of interesting about compromise and the value of speech. No, I know it was trying to say something about those things, because even though it was a bit interesting, it was also quite heavy-handed.

Final word? Disobedience was not as good as I imagined it might be.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Truth

Sometimes I make my children cry.

Monday, March 19, 2007

On the Same Theme

The theme being the need to justify one's own choices as the best and/or only choices, rather than simply one's own choices. Case #2 in point being this article by Amanda Foreman, whose Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire I absolutely loved, but whom I am no longer quite so fond of, now that she has told me I am wrong for having only two children (case #1 in point--or should that be case in point #1?--being of course the aforementioned Rebecca Walker).

Why can't we just say "this is me," rather than "this is what everyone should be"? I mean, there are things I think everyone should be, like against the war, but mother of five? more in love with one's biological children? Who am I to say? (Meaning, really, who are you to say?)

Rebecca Walker

I always love it when Dawn announces that she doesn't have time to blog, because inevitably she goes on to blog prolifically, and there is no such thing as too much of Dawn's blog (see, in the minute it took me to write that sentence, she put up another post!). Of course she is eminently sensible on Rebecca Walker's silly assertion that biological parents love their children more. I mean, Rebecca Walker may very well love her biological child more, and that's OK for her (I hope), but does it necessarily mean that all parents feel as she does? I think, perhaps, not?

It really was Rebecca Walker NY Times overload, what with the Style Section AND the Book Review, and that was way more than enough Rebecca Walker for me. Yeah, yeah, you had a baby and it changed your life, and you're a writer so you had to write a book about it. Hopefully, if the review is any indication, the book will serve as another shovelful of dirt on the grave of parenting lit, a genre whose body is starting to reek.

(Though I would like to know more about why she hates her mother. Maybe it's time for the pendulum to swing back to daughter lit. Alice Dearest, anyone?)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

On the Value of Convalescence

Convalescence isn't something I've done much of. Like most adults, I deny that I'm sick until I can't, and then as soon as acute illness is over, I'm back at it. This time, though, I'm being forced to convalesce. The fevers are gone, and my head is clear again, but when I stand up I get dizzy and need to sit down, and I have a hard time at night, which only leaves me more exhausted than I already am. I think a piece of it might be short-term anemia, which is apparently a side effect for adults with Fifth Disease, and then of course there are the aching joints which come and go.

And I have no appetite, except that Friday I suddenly had a yen for rice pudding which S made for me yesterday, so that's what I've been eating, and suddenly I see why Madhur Jaffrey, in Climbing the Mango Trees, which I also read while sick, and which is absolutely wonderful, especially if you are at all interested in India or food, which I very much am, at any rate, in a high school domestic science class in Delhi ca. WWII, she complains about having to make English food for sick people, like blancmange, and while generally my sickbed yearnings are for Asian soup with noodles, right about now a nice white quivery blancmange sounds just about right.

At any rate, the children are no longer freaked out by my being sick, as I can sit up and engage with them, rather than lying back with my eyes closed, and I no longer feel the need to lie back with my eyes closed, but can sit up and engage and resume my usual directing of the household, albeit from the couch or bed, so it's really not so bad, this convalescence, especially since I have rice pudding.

Hopefully, though, it won't last too long.

Edited to add: Of course the context for this post, I realized, just after I hit Publish, is all of nineteenth-century fiction, and especially Little Women, the Katherine Hepburn version of which we are STILL watching, though I am determined to finish it off this evening, even if that means Beth must die, because it is overdue, and we've done multiple viewings of multiple portions of it, and this is just getting ridiculous.

My Little Non-Christian

E: Mommy, we don't have school on April 6. It's Good Luck Friday.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Being sick, I have realized how completely disengaged I am from television. Back in the day, I watched as much TV as anyone. The height of my habit occurred right before M was born with Melrose Place on Monday, NYPD Blue on Tuesday, 90210 on Wednesday, and of course NBC all the way through on Thursday (remember Mad About You? I loved Mad About You--I was recently married and while you couldn't quite call S Paul and me Jamie, there were enough similarities to bring it in close to home, plus that show was damn funny).

I remember exactly when I stopped watching TV: M was about six months old, and she started turning her head to the screen as I nursed her in front of my shows. Now that I think about it, that can't have been right, because it would have been incredibly painful, but basically once she started becoming aware of what was on the television, I stopped watching (this has nothing to do with keeping her from TV--witness our current Disney obsession--but everything to do with keeping her from adult TV, though why I would have thought Paul and Jamie's mild innuendo should be developmentally disturbing to an infant I have no idea).

I really haven't watched any TV since, aside from baseball, Olympics, Oscars, election nights, and, of course, Zack and Cody (which is really code for "whatever my children make me watch"). And somehow, I've become completely disinterested. I did watch Sex and the City on DVD, but even though I'm sure my life would be made better by Six Feet Under and The Sopranos, and even though I could participate more actively in water-cooler conversation if I watched Grey's Anatomy or American Idol (except that whenever I'm at the water cooler, there's nobody else there), I just haven't felt strongly enough about these positive outcomes to settle down to the actual watching. And while I know most people see being sick as the perfect opportunity to binge on junk TV, I tried to think about doing that, and it had zero appeal.

So instead I read old New Yorkers, and the real point of this post is to let you know that John McPhee's "Seasons on the Chalk" in the March 12 issue is superlatively sublime. This abstract is a perfect example of the inadequacy of the summary. Yes, the piece talks about geology, geography, champagne, grandchildren, and the M15, but it is so much more than the sum of its parts: just a marvelous piece of research and rumination, and beautifully written. Go read it right now!

(I assume any regular reader realizes that the high-brow impression given off by this post is completely inadequate to the complexities of my cultural leanings--if Star, People, or Vogue had been in the house, I would have so been reading them before The New Yorker.)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Silver Linings

I called S yesterday afternoon around 5, weeping, and asked if he could come home (I never ask if he can come home: unless the emergency room is involved, he can't come home). He said he was trying to leave by 7. I wept some more and said that would make no difference, because he'd just get home in time for E to go to bed. He said he'd see what he could do. 15 minutes later, he called and said he was leaving in 10 minutes. He got home around 6, brought M (who is now perfectly healthy, except for her slapped-cheek rash) dinner from the restaurant, and cajoled and consoled E (who is extremely stressed out by her sick mother). Then he played games with E while M got in bed with me and did her homework and chattered. It was almost like the kind of evening I imagine normal families have--except with a supine and fevered mother.

My kids are generally nice kids. They say please and thank you, they temper their developmentally appropriate gluttony with genuine concern for those who have less than they do, and they have the capacity to be enormously helpful. But they are not particularly interested in the feelings of their parents, which is also presumably developmentally appropriate.

Except that M seems just to be turning the corner into...not sure what to call it: empathy? altruism? When she went back to school yesterday, we agreed that I would come check on her at lunchtime and see if she was up for finishing the day. I found her in the cafeteria with her friends, checked out her slapped-cheek rash, discussed how her day was going, and we decided she would stay. Then, without any prompting, she asked, "And how are you feeling?" The day before she held me when I was shaking with fever, even though later on she said it had been scary (she didn't let on at the time). It's kind of exciting to think that someday all this hardcore parenting may result in a relationship of reciprocity!

M is off to her play. My parents have come out in the blizzard to take her to the theater, take E out to dinner, see the play, and bring them home. I am free to crawl into bed and shiver--and ache: I've reached the aching joints stage. I suppose I'm slipping away from silver linings here, but truly, it is a good thing to be sick alone rather than sick caring for children.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fifth Disease

The school nurse says M has Fifth Disease. She is back at school today, but she went to see the nurse for a headache, and apparently she has slapped-cheek rash which, following headaches and fever, means Fifth Disease. Which means I probably have Fifth Disease too, as I have had headaches and a barely controllable fever for almost two days now. Which means I could end up with months of joint pain. It's also highly likely that E will get Fifth Disease, though S thinks it's possible she's already had it, given the number of fevers she's had this year, and the fact that she always has a rash, so we wouldn't necessarily notice.

Who ever heard of Fifth Disease?! Then again, I'm the one who thought Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease was something cattle got--until my children came down with it.

Since Christmas, E has been sick four times, I have been sick three times, and M has been sick twice. S was only sick once, but it lasted for weeks. I'm tired of this.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Little Women

I heard Pure Prairie League's "Amy" on the radio, and it got stuck in my head, which is fine, because I like "Amy."

"Amy" always makes me think of Kiss and "Beth" which makes me think of the scene in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius where Eggers at his sister Beth's wedding is aghast when she walks down the aisle to "Beth."

Over the weekend we watched the most excellent Katherine-Hepburn-as-Jo Little Women which made me wonder if the reason "Amy" makes me think of "Beth" is Little Women.

That made me think about a Little Women mixtape which would include, besides "Amy" and "Beth," Beth Orton, the Indigo Girls, and the White Stripes. Only I can't come up with a Jo (though I must admit I didn't try too hard--this is all out of my head, no Google). "Visions of Joanna" might be OK, if nothing else comes to mind, though it's obviously a stretch. And I don't want to use Joe Henry or Joe Jackson. Then again, they might be kind of appropriate in a transgender sort of way.

Edited to add: Josie and the Pussycats!

Edited again to add: Josephine Baker! (I came up with Josie and the Pussycats myself, but I must admit I saw a reference to Josephine Baker.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Poor M

I'm not quite sure how M ended up in two plays and band this spring, but she did. So far it's been OK, but this is the killer week.

4-5:30 Rehearsal for Play 1
6-9 Dress Rehearsal for Play 2

3:45-5:45 Religious School

3-3:30 Dress Rehearsal for Band
6-9 Dress Rehearsal for Play 2

4-5:30 Rehearsal for Play 1
6:15 Call for Band Performance
7 Band Performance

5:30 Call for Play 2
7 Play 2 Performance

9 Call for Play 2
10:30 Play 2 Performance

And then at 2:00 on Saturday there is the reward: all-ages St. Patrick's Day Irish punk show that you Red Sox fans so wish you could attend.

At any rate, it looked ugly, but I sent a note to her teacher explaining why homework might get short shrift, and we were ready to go.

Then she got sick again. She was sick last week, a kind of not-so/whiny sick that drove me crazy but got her two days out of school. Only now she is really sick. 103.1 "Mommy, I can't move" in the middle of the night sick. Skipped rehearsal for Play 1 yesterday, made it to Dress Rehearsal for Play 2 double-dosed on Tylenol and Advil, and collapsed when she got home. Home sick and miserable with Daddy today. Forget religious school. Actually, I'm ready to forget everything, including school and band, so long as she can make her Friday and Saturday performances, because given her part, it's going to be a big problem for them if she can't do it, plus she will be so very very sad.

I think it's going to be a long week.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Early Daylight Savings

My kids had been getting up too early with the sun rising at six. Now it's light at seven, when we have to get up on schooldays. Yesterday the early evening light was glorious, especially conjoined with the day's sunshine and almost-warmth. Count me a supporter. (Though I might feel differently if I was still in No Longer Red State, which is at the other end of the time zone, but actually I don't think so, because late afternoon light would fully make up for early morning darkness.)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Women and Housework

I feel like I should have some feminist critique of this article, but actually I think it's spot on. Crux of the argument is that it's our own damn fault we do all the housework, and we should just insist that men do their share and suck it up if it doesn't get done, i.e. let go of our control issues.

Case in point: S can't do much of the day-to-day housework, or childcare, because he's never here. So he decided, when I was losing my mind one day, that he would do the laundry. Only he didn't do the laundry my way. I do it once a week, fold it all up, and put it away. He did a load here and a load there, left baskets of unfolded laundry around, and never put it away. This made me crazy, so I started doing the laundry again. Which is just stupid.

Plus, I feel really bad when he has to spend his rare time at home doing housework. Even though I spend enormous amounts of time at home doing housework, and taking care of the children. And I rationalize this on individual terms: he works so many more hours, I have more time to myself; he does so much more than most men. Which is just stupid again.

If we're thinking in terms of money, not hours, I've always made more until this year. Right now he has a bigger salary, but all told we make about the same. Within a few months I should be making more again, significantly more. So why am I the one who always feels guilty? For answers, see article.

Yoga Update

After last summer's yoga apogee, things trailed off. No more yoga outside, I stopped doing yoga on my own for no reason I can think of, S started working Saturday brunch which meant no Saturday morning yoga class, and much work made it hard to justify weekday yoga. I've been working out almost every day--running, treadmill, elliptical, walking to work--which is pretty miraculous, but yoga hasn't been in the picture so much.

Finally, though, S has stopped working Saturday brunch. Don't get too excited--this is mainly because he's been working Sunday brunch instead of having Sundays off, so on Saturday he goes in around ten a.m. instead of six a.m., which means at least I can go to yoga.

So a few weeks ago, off I went to Saturday morning yoga. And it was awful. Actually, I don't remember much about the class, so presumably the class was OK, but afterward I not only ached for days, but I was totally, completely, and irremediably grumpy. Which is the antithesis of the ideal yoga outcome, and was very upsetting.

But I do not give up easily, so last week, off I went again to Saturday morning yoga. And it was awful again. I felt completely wrong. See, I am extremely flexible. I can stand on my hands. Lotus is easy. My knees go straight down to the ground in Bound Angle pose. My head touches the ground in Double Pigeon. You get the picture (my flexibility is countered by my complete inability to balance, even on two feet). Anyway, the teacher would say "this is really hard" and tell us to do something like stick the left leg out, bend the right knee so the right foot is on the outside of the right hip, bend sideways over the left leg, slide the left hand under the thigh to grasp the right calf, put the right arm over the head, and grasp the left foot with the right hand. And most people would struggle and stretch and barely do the half of it, and I would just do it. Except that I would feel totally ungainly and like I couldn't possibly be doing it right if it seemed so easy when it was supposed to be hard. I purposefully position myself away from the mirror, so I don't get all achievement-oriented about my poses, but unable to see myself, I am always convinced that I am all out of whack, and I don't think it's my imagination, because often when I look down at stray body parts, like my hips, or my legs, they seem to stick out in odd angles and lumps. Or maybe that's just me. Needless to say, none of this is conducive to a yoga state of mind.

Can you tell that I was in a bit of a state?

The next day, I took E to a family yoga class. The woman who ran it had quite a nice concept, actually, but terrible execution. She had made a CD with songs that related to yoga poses--we did Downward Facing Dog to "Atomic Dog," and I can't remember any others, but take my word for it, they were fun. Only she was this awful Dorothy Hamill-coiffed tiny white woman stuck in the 70s with wiry glasses and a pinched face who had neither charisma nor gentle peacefulness and seemed to think that we would just understand what she wanted us to do and embrace the freedom of our inner yoga spirit, only we didn't, really. We would start doing some Downward Facing Dogs to "Atomic Dog" and then she would start sort of free-dancing yoga-posing, and we would try to follow along, when I think she really wanted us to just let it all hang out and do our own thing. Awkwardness ensued. Nevertheless, it was actually kind of fun to just rock out and yoga, without worrying about the quality of my poses, and I got a glimpse of yoga pleasure again, only I feared that I would be reduced to finding pleasure in my yoga only in rooms full of small children and George Clinton (as I said, her concept was indeed good, but she was kind of a problem).

Yesterday, though, I got it back. I'm not quite sure why, but I have a few theories. One is that--duh--I was out of practice from not doing yoga, and now I've done a little yoga, and I'm back in practice, which lets me enjoy yoga again. The other is that I've finally weaned myself of my winter eating habits which mainly consist of spending an enormous amount of time eating an enormous amount of every kind of edible food I can find in the house, and even some food which probably shouldn't be considered edible, and then feeling pretty much disgusted and disgusting. Having weaned myself of those habits, I am feeling a little less disgusting, which probably helps with the yoga, both physically and psychologically. Or maybe it was was just a miraculous confluence of me and the biosphere in the zone. At any rate, this Saturday I just flowed through my poses, and felt strong and powerful and adept, and even got into the weird snorty breathing.

So for anyone who's still here (Jenny, you're here, aren't you?), that's the update. I'm back in the yoga saddle. Let's hope I can stay on the horse.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Playground After Winter

I wonder if, when I am a grandmother, I will pay attention to my grandchildren at the playground. Will I stand next to them and cheer their feats of derring-do? Will I willingly, nay, happily push swings and wait at the bottoms of slides? Will I be right there to lift them up to the monkey bars, without even needing to be asked?

My children are big enough, finally, that they can do almost the entire playground by themselves (a few high-up sets of monkey bars excepted). So I sit on the bench and read my book (Sarah in Little Children), and no longer feel quite as resentful and guilty as I once did, when I had to stalk them across the playground, furiously bored.

But after a week of frigid cold, the ice and snow finally melting, in great rivulets and mud clotted with last autumn's dried grass, my children are in ecstasy. They run and stretch their arms above their heads, swing wildly across the monkey bars and throw themselves down the giant slide in all sorts of experimental contortions. They take off their sweatshirts, though I am still huddled in my parka, careful not to get chilled on my bench.

They are so ready for spring, and so am I. Even the playground is not so bad.

E's First Essay

The girls were playing school and asked me to give them assignments. E's assignment was to write an essay about Laura.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Gingrich on Clinton

This story just rubs me the wrong way, and I'm trying to think it through. Newt Gingrich has admitted that he was having an affair at the same time as he was leading the charge against Bill Clinton for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. But, he says, it wasn't a problem, because the issue was that Clinton lied about the affair, not that he had the affair:

Gingrich argued in the interview, however, that he should not be viewed as a hypocrite for pursuing Clinton's infidelity.

"The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge," the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton's 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

But see, Clinton wouldn't have lied if they weren't going after him about the affair, and there's no law against a president having extra-marital sex with an intern, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, so really the perjury charges were completely implicated in the affair, and this is bullshit.

I'm an agnostic on infidelity. It hasn't been part of my marriage, and I hope it never is (note my phrasing: I wouldn't dare say it never will be), but in earlier relationships, I've been the one who cheated, the one who was cheated on, and the one who someone was cheating with. And I've seen lots of people I like and respect in all three positions as well. It happens. People aren't perfect. Especially when it comes to love and sex. And when it does happen, it's a matter between three people. There are cases where I have a right to be emotionally involved--if my sister's husband cheated on her (only using that as an example because it's so highly unlikely), I would want to claw his eyes out--and I may have an opinion (you know me, of course I'll have an opinion). Honestly, though, I don't think I have any right to judge.

I am so over this hypocritical nitpicking. Perjury is not the issue. Sex is the issue. And people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Celebrities of Interest--or Not

I'm always slightly amazed at people who don't know who Tom Cruise is, or Anna Nicole, for that matter. People who have zero interest in the celebrity world. People who don't fall for CNN's top news stories on celebrities, which are so totally there only to raise their hits, and make me so annoyed, yet still I can't resist clicking.

I can't ask who are these people, because I know loads of them. But I can wonder what it's like. I think it must be a good thing, to keep one's mind on loftier topics, like the implications of Libby's conviction, or the best way to stew a rabbit, or whether Ozawa's Beethoven's 5th is better than...well, there you have it: I am so lowbrow that I cannot even name another living conductor--yes, I can: Barenboim (sp.)? am so not going to google so that I can say "oh yeah, I know him": let's face it, I'm a philistine.

And yet, I have my limits. As I peruse my crack dealers of choice, there are certain topics that hold absolutely zero interest for me. For instance: Rosie and Donald. For instance #2: American Idol. And I realize that what it's like not to be interested in celebrities is not to live always on a higher plane, but simply not to care. Like I don't care about football, or the boys in M's class, or the fact that the children of people who have lots of money are more likely to get into fancy schools (where did that one come from? I was trying to think of something that didn't interest me, but also that wasn't explicitly gendered, like football--really, you know, I'm interested in a ridiculous number of things) (oh, but of course:) or classical music.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Am I the only one who thinks Kate Middleton looks like Lindsay Lohan?

Or who can't tell the difference between Fall Out Boy and Badly Drawn Boy (oh yeah, Badly Drawn Boy's the one with the hat).

I Am In A Good Mood This Morning!

There are good things happening at work.

I am so close to being done with something I have been working on for longer than you could possibly imagine that I can smell it.

I got to go to the gym this morning.

Husband and children were delightful this morning, perhaps because I spent most of the morning routine at the gym, coming in just at the end for hair, coats, and kisses.

Then I got to walk to work.

It's not as cold as yesterday.

Baseball is almost here, and Almost Here is my very favorite part of baseball.

Dice-K threw three shut-out innings yesterday.

This article about Gabe Kapler could put anybody in a good mood.

I am getting my hair cut this afternoon.

I know what I'm making for dinner.

Tomorrow night Local K is coming over for dinner.

Friday we are going to A's for shabbat.

Sunday I get to go to an exhibit I really want to see, and I won't be alone with the kids, so I'll actually be able to see it.

OK, that's enough. Off to my day. Fingers crossed for the good mood lasting.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Great Miracle Happened Here

Completely of her own accord, E picked up all her dirty clothes from the floor of her room, picked up all HER SISTER'S dirty clothes, and put the dirty clothes in the laundry basket.

Perhaps there will come a day when I am not the only person who maintains this household, and what a glorious day that will be.

Too Much Winter

I am pale and dry: hair, face, hands, skin. I am thinking about hot oil treatments. Head to toe. Preferably with massage. Preferably here.

Monday, March 05, 2007


The other day I tried to actually imagine Hillary as president. In doing so, I realized that, so far, I've been thinking about her as a candidate, but candidacies can lead to presidencies, and what would that be like?

The Ohio State-Michigan game gets hit by terrorists. 25,000 Middle Americans die in their arena seats (seriously, I have thought since 9/11 that this would be the best next move for Al Qaeda: forget the predictable targets, forget Washington, ports, New York yet again--go for the heartland, where everyone thinks they're safe). Hillary gets on TV. How do I feel? Not so good. Hillary in Iran face to face with Mossadegh? Ugh. Hillary on the ground after the next hurricane? Blech. Hillary proposing a budget (does the president propose the budget? god, I should know that)? None of it is very palatable.

Then my internalized misogyny meter started flying code red (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds good). Could I really be just like those old white men who can't envision a woman president? Do I think she's not strong enough, not tough enough, not manly enough?

Not so much. I'm pretty down with the idea of Nancy Pelosi as president. Or Barbara Boxer. And I don't think it's just because I like their liberal politics better. I think it's because they are who they are, and we'd know what we were getting.

The fact that I was only thinking of Hillary as a candidate seems important: she's just presenting herself as the candidate, she's not standing up for anything, and that means we have no idea what she'd do as president.

I know none of this is very original. David says it at greater length and depth. Rob gets at it too, from a different angle, without mentioning her by name. But I've decided I really don't want Hillary to be the nominee or the president.

(I've been hearing nasty scuttlebutt about the Edwards campaign, and it has nothing to do with bloggers. I guess I should pay more attention to Obama, but there's a gubernatorial parallel that's got me a little cynical these days. Really, I just have to say, I'm pretty much waiting for Gore. Let's hope Beckett didn't write the screenplay [and I don't mean Melissa Etheridge's kid].)

Sunday, March 04, 2007


I loathe them.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Lottery

At the gym yesterday, I saw on TV that the lottery was up to 223 million dollars. I immediately started to spend the money.

First we would give $500,000 to a fundraising project I am working on.

Then we would pay off my sister-in-law's house-it's funny that I thought of paying off her house before I even considered our house, but she is the one most in need of money, and I think everyone else's house, besides ours, is paid off.

Then I started thinking about our house. I don't want to leave our neighborhood and move to a fancier neighborhood, or even a fancier town. So I first thought we'd just do our planned renovations, the ones we can't afford. Then I thought maybe we'd buy a bigger place, but stay in the neighborhood. It wasn't till later in the day that I figured out what we'll do: we'll buy out F and L, who are planning on moving within the next few years anyway, and we'll hire our architect friend to redesign the whole house as a one family. With lots of bookshelves and built-ins and skylights in an attic family room. And we'll rent something else while the renovations are being done, so we don't have to suffer.

Cars? Mine is fine, but S could use a new one. Maybe a Prius.

A clothes shopping spree for me and the girls. M wants solid-colored tights, patterned mini-dresses, a jeans mini-skirt, pink pants, bright green Mary Jane clogs, boots, and Marimekko. I want a personal shopper who will come up with exactly the hip, attractive, comfortable clothes I don't even know I want.

A vacation--later, when the girls and I were discussing what we'd do with the money, we decided on the Maldives, where M and I have wanted to go for years.

Put away money for the girls--for college and houses and a general safety net. I'm thinking a million each.

S can open his restaurant in Town without worrying about financing.

Maybe a vacation house.

Then I think we'd pretty much keep enough to live on comfortably and give the rest away. My first two ideas were education and public health (I know, how Gates of me), but then I thought maybe the arts too. I'm a little shocked that I didn't think politics, or the systemic eradication of poverty, but I didn't. I told the girls they could each have some money to give away to whatever they want. M wants to give to a foundation for women's rights and her school. E wants to give to poor people. All three of us want to give to Grown-up M's homeless shelters. We'll give some to Grandma's project too.

I bought seven lottery tickets. By that point it was up to $267 million.

We didn't win.

Easy come, easy go.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Chocolate Pudding Cake

The chocolate pudding cake is J's fault. I wish I could also blame her for the fact that I seem to be eating the entire cake.

J emailed me a few weeks ago asking for a chocolate pudding recipe. I said my regular recipe is Joy of Cooking, with the optional chopped chocolate, but there is also the chocolate banana creme brulee S makes, and did she want me to send her the recipes? She said yes, so I asked S where the chocolate banana creme brulee recipe is, and he said it was in the weird celebrity chefs cook kosher benefit cookbook that his parents gave us some years ago. So I was flipping through the weird celebrity chefs cook kosher benefit cookbook (the chefs aren't weird; the cookbook is) and I found the chocolate pudding cake recipe, by Chris Schlesinger, no less, and I thought I've got to make that. So Tuesday I did.

I just googled around a little to see if I could find the recipe, but I couldn't--there are plenty of chocolate pudding cake recipes but I got bored before I found one that looked as decadent as Chris's. They all follow basically the same methodology: make a thick batter and spread it in a pan, cover it with a sugar-cocoa mixture, then pour liquid over it (in this case 2 cups coffee and 1 cup water), and bake. You end up with brownie-like cake atop fudgy pudding-like sauce. I don't know why, but you do.

The cake was very easy to make, aside from my customary panic when the batter did not seem like the right consistency, according to the recipe description. But I persevered. I also used the Valrhona cocoa and French Roast coffee. Yum. Luckily I went to pick M up from religious school, so S took it out of the oven and I got to skip my usual is-it-baked-enough panic. Which was a good thing, especially because that is one ugly cake: lumpy and mottled, kind of like a dark moonscape, or perhaps Kelly's garden when it rains after the compost is dug in, but before anything starts to grow.

How was it? We had it warm on Tuesday night and it was quite delicious: kind of like a chewy cake with hot fudge sauce--on the bottom. But Wednesday? Cold? Spooned straight out of the pan? The sauce thickened to a puddingish consistency and the cake perfectly chewy? Really good. So good you have to take another spoonful. And another. And then take a break, and maybe go back for more. Because, after all, you know you're going to eat the whole thing eventually, because nobody else seems to be eating it, because that's how we are, we eat cake the first night and then we just leave it, which is why we give half of every cake to F and L downstairs, and even I am of this non-cake-finishing persuasion, for the most part, but this time, it's just too too good, and I know I will eat the whole thing eventually, so I might as well eat it now, because then I won't have to eat it later, no?

Happy to send the recipe to anyone who wants it, but you either need to have good willpower or be at peace with your lack of willpower.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

You Heard It Here First

Next Olympics, everyone will be talking about Canada's Alex Duckworth in women's snowboarding. I'm sure of it. And M and E will be especially excited. Because...well, just because.

Literary Fiction Redeems Itself

When I saw the title Special Topics in Calamity Physics*, I immediately decided I wasn't interested, because I'm that kind of a judge-a-book-by-its-cover girl. The reviews didn't grab me either. A novel organized as a Great Books in Western Literature survey? Huh? Even when the Times named it one of the ten best books of the year, I shrugged.

Mea culpa. I was wrong.

I don't know what made me pick it up at the library a few weeks ago, but I'm glad I did. I thought Special Topics in Calamity Physics was just great, and now that I've read it, I'm even down with the title. I mean, this is a novel with high school, books, and politics--what more could I want? Throw in pretty much all of Western literature and then some (yeah, the Great Books are chapter titles, but it's not as didactic as all that), much pop culture (three mentions of Grease! three!), and a mystery that's actually complex and ambiguous, and I'm a page-turning happy reader--happy enough to keep the book till I finished all 500+ pages, even though it was a one-week library book, no renewals, with a quarter a day fine (at least $2.25 is a lot less than it would have cost to buy it, even paperback, which still would have meant waiting till the end of April).

Really, what I liked most about this book was that it was smart and complicated, but also had an engaging narrative and characters I wanted to read about. And though it reminded me of The Secret History (I gather I'm not alone in that association), I loved that it wasn't predictable. Loved, loved, loved that.

Postacademic, I think you'll like this one. You too, Jackie. Mom, you can skip it.

*Link to Amazon for the diverse reader responses which I'd say are reasonable and justified. The book definitely has some of the flaws people identify, but in this case they didn't bother me.