Monday, December 31, 2007

The Last Self-Pitying Blog Post of 2007

Please do not send me anonymous comments telling me to make my choices and go to garage sales. Despite some lows, I have had a great year. Everyone is healthy and happy. We were so lucky to spend the summer in the country. We had an amazing extended-family vacation. I have ended up in a better work situation than I could ever imagine--really (KNOCK WOOD) beyond ideal (except for the out-of-pocket health insurance thing). Everything's good, and I'm planning to call contractors next week to get started on the renovation.
But the prospects for the evening suck (NOT YOUR FAULT, M--M has just discovered Google Reader and her feeds are People, Go Fug Yourself, Red Sox News, and me, which means I can no longer hope that she'll miss a post).
I am the original New Year's Eve optimist. I rarely have plans; I always have a good time. Even when M, E, and I are home alone, we have fun (remember the backdrop: New Year's Eve is S's biggest night of the year--I believe there has been one New Year's Eve in the last 15 years when he didn't work, and E was 10 days old and M had a fever and we all went to bed). For tonight we had three sets of lovely plans, and they all have fallen through (NOT YOUR FAULT, Lucy). This means that I am stuck doing the one thing I did not want to do. The one thing that has serious potential to put me over the edge. Unfortunately I can't go into what it is, to protect other people's privacy (this sounds like a joke, but it actually isn't--don't worry, though, it's not anything dire, just something I really don't want to do, especially given what has been going on in my life for the last month, and if you think you know what it is, you probably do).
Oh, we have treats and we'll have movies and there will be a nice dinner, and I know I'm lucky and please don't tell me so, but right now I am furious at my husband for his stupid career that ruins my New Year's Eves, and I am furious at the person who is causing me problems, and if I could just go to bed with a book, I would be fine, but I can't (DON'T WORRY, M, we will have fun, and I will be a nice mommy once this is out of my system).
So I hope everyone out there is having a better New Year's Eve than I will, and feel free to share the fun you are planning or the fun you had, as truly it will make me feel better, and if your New Year's Eve looks bleak, feel free to share that too, and we can commiserate.
And now I'm off to be a nice person. I hope.

World Leaders: Tragedy, Comedy

Pakistan: That poor kid. It's like his death is being ordained. Though I suppose he has no choice. (The Guardian remains the best place for Pakistan news.)

France: I'd go out with Carla Bruni too, if I were Sarkozy! And imagine living in a country where the president would date Carla Bruni! (Not that I have any interest in living in France, and of course a French president would date Carla Bruni, because that's France, but the contrast is eternally illuminating.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Post for Aunt M

In New York the clementines are better.

Modern Love

Can we all agree that this one is the weirdest ever? What's with getting married to someone whose language you don't even speak? And if the driving thing is supposed to be a metaphor, what's the tenor?

Hating My Demographic

How depressing is it to sit in Starbucks and hear my favorite Amy Winehouse and Wilco songs?

I wonder if there are people who are thrilled to sit in Starbucks and hear their favorite Amy Winehouse and Wilco songs.

Edited to add: Of course there are, otherwise it wouldn't happen!

The Linguistic Value of the Internet

A lot of times I come up with idioms and then I'm not quite sure if they're real. I don't know if anyone else has this experience, but when I look at or think about a word or phrase for too long, it inevitably starts to look weird to me, and I can't believe it's right. Once this happened with the word "petticoat." Think about petticoat. Is that a weird word, or what? Why is it spelled like that? What does it mean? (No need to respond to those questions, because I know the answers, but the word, isolated on the page, or screen, can become a disembodied entity, detached from etymology and the laws of spelling, and if you're a word kind of person, this can be profoundly disconcerting.)

The internet has been, as in so many realms, a great help in this area. When a phrase starts to seem odd to me, I can google it and see if it is out there in the shared discourse. Where did I come up with "strike new ground"? No idea, but it is not right. Neither is "blaze new ground." "New ground" was not useful, but my brain took over at that point: of course, "break new ground," which is both idiomatic and logical, because that's what you're doing: breaking new ground, and of course you wouldn't be striking or blazing new ground, though (my brain at work as I write this), you would be blazing a trail, and in fact (just checked), one could "blaze new trail," so now I have to decide whether to break new ground or blaze a new trail. And, yes, this is a moment where cliches are appropriate.

Friday, December 28, 2007


There are things that I would like--to be Julia Rogers (yes, still), to have our house renovations done (which would entail having them begun), to be successful at all that I attempt and make lots of money along the way--but there really isn't much I want. Oh, I want peace and quiet and time and for S to be a wildly successful chef who is home every night (yeah, right), but most of those things--Julia Roberts, peace, quiet--are in the realm of pie in the sky, and truly I do fine (mostly) without them.

But that still leaves the question of what I want, and lately I haven't wanted much. When I try to think about gifts and treats, I can't get much past new running shoes (which I need) and dinner at that new restaurant we forgot we even wanted to go to. I'll take books and jewelry and CDs and sweaters, and I do, but I could just as easily do without them.

Today, though, I thought of something that I really, truly want. This is something I could have, but it would be a challenge, financially and logistically (and, yes, many other people could have it without a second thought, and, yes, this makes me a bit...annoyed? frustrated? self-pitying?) (a long conversation last night with B and J about having and not having--B being someone who has, J and I being people who, in the larger context of things, have, but don't have quite enough, and both of us said that what we want, besides a certain dollar amount without sacrificing time with our kids, is to do what we want without having to think about it).

I want to go, by myself, to visit L in Tucson and J in Santa Fe and maybe even hang out for a while alone in some canyon somewhere. That's all I want.

Edited to add: The joke about S is not the successful part, for he is very successful, really, as successful as we can handle, but the idea of a successful chef being home every night.

There are many reasons not to vote for John McCain,

but this is surely another:

Mr. McCain, speaking in New Hampshire, also sought to convey leader-to-leader chemistry when he called Mr. Musharraf a “personally scrupulously honest” man who deserved “the benefit of the doubt” on uniting Pakistan. [link]

Thursday, December 27, 2007


There is no point to this post. This post exemplifies the narcissistic empty noise of the blogosphere (read this if you want something worthwhile). And yet, I feel compelled to note, for the record, that I am thinking about Benazir (which my fingers persist in typing Benazier), though my thoughts will illuminate nothing for anyone.

I turned on the computer to check my email perhaps an hour after she died. My homepage is the NY Times, and I gasped "oh my god, Benazir [Benazier again] was assassinated!" My cousin came over to look over my shoulder, and then she went into the living room to tell her boyfriend, who came in (to the bedroom) and started reading the news on the other laptop. I went to the Independent, and to the blog of the Pakistan Times, and there wasn't really much more news--a dozen hours later there isn't much more news, except for more people dead, and the inevitable uncertainty, which will turn, inevitably, to another, probably more horrific, certainty.

It's not that I have much love lost for Benazir. A journalist I knew was working on a biography of Benazir when she (the journalist) died a while ago, so Benazir has been on my radar screen for a long time--I think she must have been on my radar even before that, as a young woman politician, which is my kind of thing. She was no goddess savior, that's for sure, but whether she was killed by terrorists or the army (and in this case I lean toward the army, as you would too if you've read Shame and any recent Pakistan news), this is just a terrible, terrible thing.

So that was the non-contribution to the discourse that I'd arrived at, but then I started thinking about why I was so shaken up, why I scoured the internet for news when there wasn't any, why I was thinking about it all day, as I went about my vacation business, and I realized that I can't really think of assassinations that I've been so aware of. And of course that's not true: I remember when Indira Gandhi was assassinated, and Yitzhak Rabin, and, oh, lots of people, Theo van Gogh, I know there are more but I don't feel like figuring it out. Still, something about Benazir's assassination, coming as it did in the midst of political turmoil and an election, made me think about what it must have been like in the 60s--even though I have no idea what it was like--especially when Robert Kennedy was assassinated right after Martin Luther King Jr., and how it must have felt like the bottom of the world had opened up and everything was in free fall. And now I'm realizing I must have made this connection because of the book I'm reading, a memoir which begins in the 60s and lists events alongside the personal narration. And of course I've felt that sense of free fall, like we all did, on 9/11, but there's something about an assassination, about someone who could make a difference, perhaps, being alive, and then all of a sudden dead, that is just insistently horrifying.

So that's the rest of my non-contribution to the discourse.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Notes and Questions: Arts Edition

Is the list of musicians from the I'm Not There soundtrack an indie/alt multiple orgasm or what? Then again, we're talking Dylan and his influencees (yes, two e's, not one), so I suppose it makes sense. Listened to the CD once, on a long car trip, and like it, don't love it (yet), but am definitely impressed.

Are Bee Movie and Ratatouille basically the same thing, or does it just seem that way when you watch them both on the same day?

And speaking of Bee Movie, could it be the first-ever pro-sweat shop animated film? Not sure how that message gels with the Graduate and Romeo and Juliet--or maybe that should be Romeo and Jew-liet--influences (that would be one e) (here's Seinfeld on The Graduate).

And while we're on the subject of Jews, I assume you've seen this (credit to M) (E sang it all day yesterday, while we did exactly that).

And while we're on the subject of influence, I see why Noah Baumbach turned to Woody Allen and 70s French film for Margot at the Wedding, but what's with the sudden eruption of Deliverance next door in the Hamptons? Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh were quite great, but I don't know who cooked all that lovely food everyone kept eating out on the terrace (see 70s French film), and the plot ran quite amok by the end. I don't regret seeing it, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

After watching Hairspray out of the corner of my eye every day since Saturday (thanks, Mom), I think I can put my finger on one of the things that bugs me: I just don't think Tracy is that great a dancer.

What magical force of serendipity put Michael Tolliver Lives in my line of sight at the library on Saturday? Whatever it was, thanks: a delight to revisit the Tales of the City folk three decades later and remember what a love song to San Francisco the whole series is.

That's it, for now, though I'm in the middle of another good book, and hopefully will get in a few more movies.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Talking Meat

In case you don't have time for a long post today, the punchline (money shot?) is "nudgels of giving wobbly pig's trotter captured in a splendid jelly."


It began with ribs. S and I arrived home at the same time last night, him from work and me from hanging with the moms at C's house, where we consumed wine and chocolate--I believe there were cheese and crackers before I arrived, but I was late because I'd forgotten, when I said "yes, how exciting, would love to hang with the moms tonight," that we were having Lucy et al over for pizza and ice cream sundaes as the final birthday celebration, but it all worked out, and my evening's comestibles consisted of pizza, salad, sundae, wine, and chocolate. No ribs.

S always eats when he gets home, leftovers from our dinner, or food he brings home from the restaurant, or a sandwich because we always have bread, cheese, and some kind of meat (I say some kind because I have no idea about the meat, as will become clear). Last night it was a slice of pizza left over from our dinner and a rack of ribs he brought home from the restaurant.

I am, perhaps, the most low-key vegetarian on the planet. Nobody even remembers--or knows--that I'm a vegetarian except my family, K, and J. I don't even have much of a rationale for being a vegetarian: I don't care about killing animals, and while I have vague instincts that being a vegetarian is healthier and better for the environment, I don't really have the information to take a stand. I just always knew that eventually I would be a vegetarian, and then when I was sixteen I became a vegetarian, and I have been ever since, to the point that now it's a fundamental habit. I also do not make more claims for my vegetarianism than it deserves (I don't even particularly claim my vegetarianism): I eat fish, I don't care if there's chicken broth in the soup, I've been known to eat the stuffing from inside the turkey.

All that said, meat--the stuff that comes off cows, sheep, and pigs--is something I do not eat. It has no appeal to me, but at the same time it exerts a kind of fascination. Which is how I came to be staring at S's ribs last night, wondering what it would be like to eat them, and finding it impossible to imagine, since to eat something, or even imagine eating something, one must want to eat it, and I simply didn't, even though word on the street is that S's ribs are to die for.

Nevertheless, I became very interested in those ribs, as I looked at their pale pink textured edge, with the whitish/brownish bone sticking out the end. Were they beef or pork? Pork. What kind of ribs? St. Louis. What's the difference between different kinds of ribs? That led us to The River Cottage Meat Book (yes, we own it), pictures of pigs and cows, a handmade (by me) diagram of a pig skeleton, and the difference between spare (on the bottom) and baby back (on the top, attached to the spine) ribs. Which led to the difference between chops and ribs (chops are ribs with more meat on them, basically), as well as rib roasts, and joints, all discussion illustrated by the book. Which led to further discussion of the exploits of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who is clearly quite maniacal, as his looks suggest.

Along the way, I wondered if he was the guy with the offal restaurant by the market near Guildhall, which was truly all I remembered, though St. John rang a vague bell. When I googled "offal London" (the computer had been brought into play by this point), I discovered that St. John was indeed the name of the restaurant, and I was thinking of Fergus Henderson (and when I googled his book Beyond Nose to Tail, I was delighted to find that the third item listed was a post of Jenny's).

To my surprise, S had never heard of Fergus Henderson, so we checked out the restaurant website, which has a nicely terse menu that isn't really all that off(al)-putting. Then, of course, we had to explore Unctuous Potential, because how could you not, with a name like that? It turns out that Unctuous Potential is "nudgels of giving wobbly pig's trotter captured in a splendid jelly," which kind of blew my mind, and at that point I realized I'd had enough of meat, and it was time to go to bed.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Birthday Highlight

(one of many)

Me (nervously): Could you wish my daughter a happy birthday?

The governor (genially): Happy Birthday! How old are you?

E (beaming): Seven.

Me (pushing it): Her daddy's the chef.

The governor (leaning in confidentially): Your daddy sure cooks good.

(And speaking of birthday highlights, M informs me that it is not a Gameboy, it's a Nintendo DS.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Romney and the Problem of Speech

Is "saw" the new "is"?

E Day

I woke up this morning with E pressed close against my side, as she is pretty much every morning. After M, the snuggliest baby in history, we assumed that E would want to sleep with us, and we set up the bassinet pretty much as a pro forma exercise. But, no, E made her own path from the beginning. She liked us well enough, but she wanted to sleep on her own and her bassinet was perfect, thank you very much. She also was, for quite some time, one of those miraculous babies whom you put down and they go to sleep. That all changed in her second year, the year of the ear infections. She slept with us when she was sick, she needed to be snuggled to sleep, and by the end of the year she was as bad as M at falling asleep and sleeping on her own. M fell asleep on her own by 7 or 8, and has been sleeping through the night in her own bed for going on two years now (I really did think it would never happen, but now I can say, with all confidence, eventually they do it). E mastered falling asleep on her own last year, but most nights she still comes in, some time between 1 and 3, though occasionally 5 or 6. She bypasses her dad on the outside of the bed and comes right up the bottom of the bed to me, pressing in against me, whether she encounters my back, side, or front. When she and S are both pushing against me, and I feel like the cheese in a panini, I get claustrophobic and escape to her bed, but mostly I like it. She is warm and snuggly (after her standoffish beginning, she has become the world's most snuggly child) and I know she won't be there for much longer.

Sometimes E still plays that she is a baby. She also plays that she is a bear cub, and I am her bear mommy. She is obsessed with the soundtrack from Hairspray--she plays the songs over and over, staring at the iTunes songlist like it is the Mona Lisa. She makes up complicated dances that nobody but she can follow, and she loves to play dancing school with her sister. At swimming, she no longer looks like she will drown before she reaches the end of the lane, but she is still absurdly slow. When I ask why she doesn't move her arms faster, she says if she goes faster she will mess up her stroke. E likes to do things right. She also likes to write: her stories at school are six pages long and filled with detail, both remembered and imagined. She is fascinated with words: how they sound, what they mean. We've been talking about homonyms this week, and there is much discussion of the oddities of spelling. She reads Beacon Street Girls, but she still likes me to read picture books aloud to her. She desperately wants a best friend, but she is settling into some nice friendships with the girls in her class (finally) and for now that suffices. She loves the computer and her new Gameboy, and she adores her sister, when she isn't the meanest girl in the world. While she has made significant sleep progress, she has not, alas, diversified her eating habits, and she still gets psychotic when she is hungry, tired, or sick (it's good that I'm writing this post this week, because it would have been hard to say anything nice about her last week). When she wants to, though, she can be a perfect angel.

I basically think my kids are the most remarkable beings on this earth, but I try not to say it too often. Today, however, it is justified, because as of today, and for the next 365 days, E is the most remarkable seven year old on this earth.

I'm trying not to talk about Jamie Lynn

because goodness knows there's more than enough talk out there. But this is spot on: E now knows that if you get pregnant (or preg-a-nant, as she terms it), you don't have to have the baby, and "birth control" is something that keeps you from getting pregnant. Of course, I have no problem with her knowing those things, and going around on this for the second time, I know that the simple answer is enough: that's all I needed to say and she was satisfied. M, on the other hand, is fully aware of the whole thing (as she should be--those people who hope the 11 year olds don't find out because it would disillusion them? uh, have they hung out with any real-life 11 year olds lately?) (I don't mean she should be aware of Jamie Lynn's pregnancy, though of course she is, being my daughter, but she should be aware that teenagers can get pregnant, abortion is an option, and birth control a necessity--and she is) (and it's not just high school girls talking about this in the cafeteria--M's friends were all over it by the next morning). What I've learned from M is that "Zoey 101," which I'd barely heard of--I asked if it was the one with the computer, but that's "iCarly," which I've actually seen--anyway, M says "Zoey 101" is great, though she does acknowledge that it is the stereotypical school show with all the stereotypical kids (have I mentioned lately how awesome M is? because she is).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Must Face the Facts

My new computer is a lemon. I love its lightness, love its dimensions, but...

1) It has this ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, problem of hibernating as soon as I turn it on. It was doing this all the time, so I took it in and they replaced the computer, keeping the hard drive, and it stopped doing it quite as often, but still does it randomly, but I didn't have time to take it in again, plus I don't know that they would have replaced it again, plus by now it is probably too late, but really it is the most annoying thing, and I can't believe I am just living with it.

2) The space bar started sticking and I brought it in and they replaced the keyboard, which did solve that problem (as well as the annoying click on the down arrow).

3) The screen seems to have gotten permanently smudged, though that is more of an aesthetic issue when the computer is off as, say, right now when I am typing in Blogger, I can't see the smudges.

4) Programs freeze and hiccup way more than I think they should in such a new computer.

Now please don't say Mac, you Mac-obsessed folk, because S got a Mac for his birthday and, really, the only thing I like about it is that you open it and it's on. It's quite slow, and I don't like not being able to double-touch on the touchpad or right click, and it's got way too many bells and whistles for me, so that would not be the solution. Plus, while I have been known to buy a second datebook because I did not like the first, and this year I hedged against that possibility by buying two datebooks (luckily S wants the second), when it comes to computers, we are definitely in it for the long-term--the Mac replaced a desktop that was at least five years old, maybe six, and that was so slow and shaky I couldn't bear to use it. So, basically, I am stuck with this one, and it's often fine, but when it's not, I'm annoyed--with it and myself.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best Headline of the Day

Lynne Spear's Parenting Book 'Delayed Indefinitely'

Telling Tales

For many years I have made a point of telling people when someone else says something good about them. I figure spreading compliments is an easy way to make the world a tiny bit better. By the same token, I never tell people when others say bad things about them. This seems like a no-brainer: if spreading positives makes the world better, wouldn't spreading negatives make it worse?

Case in point: the other day I had dinner with a friend, and in the course of the conversation it turned out that she is not so hot on someone I like a lot. Both these facts emerged organically, and they didn't bother me at all: the things she dislikes about the other person are things I fully acknowledge, but in my case they are trumped by things I like; in her case they aren't. No problem: to each her own. But at the end of the evening, she anxiously said to me, "You won't tell [other person] what I said, will you? I mean, I know you're her friend." I assured her--and it was true--that it had never occurred to me to tell the other person, that this was just something I don't do.

I have a friend who loves to tell me when other people dislike me or say mean things about me. It used to get me very upset. "X says Y doesn't like me!" I'd wail to S. "I must be a terrible person! I need to change everything about me, especially the things Y doesn't like!" because X would inevitably fully detail the dislike and its causes. After a while--and this has been going on for many years--I realized that this was X's issue. X (who doesn't read this blog) and I go way way back, and I've always been older and several steps ahead. She adores me and has also called me up to tell me that in a workshop she realized that I was one of the most influential people in her life--in fact, she's told me many times how important I have been to her, and she still turns to me for advice and commiseration. But as she's gotten older (though never as old as me) and gained her own power and influence, I think it's been hard for her to share space with me, and thus the need to cut me down. It still hurts when she says these things, and probably I should tell her not to, but my issue is not being willing to cause conflict in this relationship, so I live with it.

Yesterday I was having a drink with Local K, and she was telling me about a friend who had told her that a lot of people were having problems with another friend, and how she felt terrible and like she needed to tell that person (these are all people I know peripherally and Local K knows well). I immediately told her I would never do that (thinking how odd it was that this topic was coming up for the second time in three days), but she pointed out that the people who are having the problems all work for the other person, and it was a professional issue. I agreed that in that case it might be useful to tell her: if you hear bad things about someone that might affect them negatively, perhaps you have the moral responsibility to tell them? In that case, does countering the negative by exposing it become a small positive?

Need to think about it, but meanwhile this whole topic makes me feel slightly squeegy, so I must be sure to find lots of compliments to give today. That shouldn't be too hard.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

They Couldn't Make This Shit Up!

Britney's 16-year-old sister is pregnant. And if her network and her mom are confirming it, she's presumably keeping the baby (abortion is not the kind of thing you go public with if you're a starlet, or a Spears). I'm not quite sure why I feel the need to blog this, because, frankly, it's hard not to go into insulting race-and-class terminology, and I don't really want to go there, for reasons of political correctness, though obviously I do want to go there, for reasons of, well, obviousness.

Earlier this fall I read an issue of Vanity Fair, maybe October, and it was actually really good. I was going to blog about it: it had this incredible piece about corruption in Iraq, a month before the story hit the papers (now I'm thinking maybe it wasn't corruption? it was something unbelievable in Iraq--unbelievable, but true, of course--only I'm too tired to remember what it was) (too tired may be the basis of this entire post). And there were a bunch of great articles, and then there was this totally gossipy irresistible piece about Paris, Lindsay, and Britney's mothers. Basically it said Kathy Hilton is a total sleaze who is in it for the money even though she should have enough money, Dina Lohan has had a very tough life and needs the money, and Lynne Spears is a good mother who doesn't deserve this.

Huh. Well, that's one interpretation. And I should probably stop now, because I'm about to fall down the slippery slope of mommy-bashing, which I theoretically don't want to fall down, but don't you think one of the most important things today's mothers need to do for their daughters is make sure they know about birth control?

Card Update

I've found a picture. I've figured out text (always a sticking point). I've decided on a card.

But I can't get Snapfish to load the picture onto the card without cutting off M's head. Is this a sign? (A sign about cards, not a sign about M.) (And, yes, I've tried to resize the picture, but it doesn't seem to care.)

I do love the text, though, so I might need to keep at it. Somehow. Maybe without Snapfish. Though that would be a lot more work.

Monday, December 17, 2007

You Know, He's Right

OK, so Mike Huckabee thinks the Bible is the literal truth, and opposes abortion, and various other scary things, but the Bush administration DOES have an "arrogant bunker mentality," and I call bullshit on Mitt Romney (who is so unspeakably heinous I can't even speak about him).

A Sad and Pathetic Tale

Today I had four meetings in three places. This involved walk to public transportation to first two meetings to public transportation to third meeting to walk to fourth meeting to walk to public transportation to walk to home. All this took place upon a landscape covered with copiousness of ice and snow. But everything went swimmingly--good meetings, effective and timely transport--with the exception of the boots.

The boots? you ask, with surprise. But aren't you the queen of boots? Why, yes, I am. There are, as you will remember, the five pairs of black boots, including the styling goretex ones, and then there are the hiking boots, the turquoise and green rainboots S gave me for my birthday, the warm and waterproof lace-up snowboots, and then there are the Timberlands. Or rather, I should say, there were the Timberlands.

I decided, upon contemplating the copiousness of ice and snow, that the styling goretex boots were too high-heeled, the warm and waterproof lace-up snowboots were too warm for a day of meetings, and the Timberlands were ideal. The Timberlands are so old I'm not even going to search for a link, but they are (were) (can you tell where this is going?) the perfect femme-butch boots: brown with solid Vibram soles but a nice point to the toes that gave them a certain je ne sais quois. And they seemed perfect for the conditions of the day.

Off I went in the Timberlands (and parka, hat, and gloves, because I have reached my mid-40s and am no longer vain) (that is, am no longer vain when it is freezing cold, which would be about 1% of the time). And then my foot started to feel funny. Both feet, actually. And I looked down and the solid Vibram soles were somewhat askew. And there was a little chunk taken out of one of them, like it had been bitten.

To make a long story short, as I walked the frozen tundra of city streets, my boots FELL APART ON MY VERY FEET. The entire front half of the left sole dissolved, and the middle of the right sole dissolved, and I left pieces of sole all over the city, and soon I was walking on thin leather, and did I mention the frozen tundra? Luckily I was wearing wool socks, and luckily I had a sense of humor, but by the end of the last piece of walk, in the dark, on the tundra, my feet were very very cold. And wet.

The delightful butch-femme Timberlands are now in the trash.

(Both S and my dad were quite indignant, but the fact is that I bought the boots round about 1992, so I really have no grounds upon which to complain, except that my feet were so incredibly cold. And wet. Which means the aftermath is simply a blog post, not a lawsuit.)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Not the Steroids Post

I feel like I should have something to say about the Mitchell report, but I really don't. I mean, I could wax indignant about steroid-abusing baseball players being above-the-fold front-page news when people are dying in Iraq, icecaps are melting, the price of oil means poor people can't heat their homes, blah blah blah, but that's pretty obvious. And, frankly, I don't particularly care about steroids, aside from the role model thing and the health risks for teens. It wasn't even illegal back when they were doing it (I think), so who cares?

S argued that it doesn't matter for bodybuilders, who admit that what they do is just entertainment, but in baseball there is competition! and records! to which I replied, uh, isn't baseball just entertainment? to which he did not have much of a reply. I will admit to a touch of schadenfreude at the number of high-profile, championship-team Yankees named, especially in comparison to the Red Sox (Eric Gagne? by the time we got him the steroids were definitely not relevant, unless they were addling his capacity). But that's about it. Really, I've barely paid attention.

And speaking of sports and not paying attention, I lost M yesterday. It was during her swim meet warm-up. There were about 60 kids in identical suits and caps. She wasn't a boy, she wasn't a tall kid or a heavy kid, but that left...maybe 30 possibilities? She wasn't super fast and she wasn't one of those little ones who barely know their strokes. That left...maybe a dozen, scattered across the lanes, in motion. And it didn't help that I was looking for her old purple goggles when it turned out she was wearing her new blue ones. I scoured the lanes, but there was no way. It turned out I was even focusing on the lane where she was swimming--they were divided vaguely by speed, and I know how fast she is, though apparently I don't recognize her stroke, which made me feel terrible, like when some random child cries and I look up, certain it is M or E, because I am one of those unnatural mothers that doesn't recognize her own child's cry. Though I knew I was being silly, the whole experience of not being able to spot her was quite horrifying.

Eventually they got out and I located her, though it took me a couple of tries. She was usually the one chewing her goggle straps. She did better at this meet than last--won a heat, cut 16 seconds off her 100 back, only got DQed once, for not touching the wall on a flip turn (i.e. a stupid error, not a personal inadequacy). I got a fair amount of work done up in the stands, though it was hot, loud, and full of swim parents who are a fairly unpleasant breed, the loud ones spanning the range of competitive to boring, the quiet ones, like me, perhaps interesting, but in no mood to interact, having gotten up at 5:20 to drive an hour in the cold dark and have the kids on deck by 6:40. That's A.M. We took naps when we got home.

Friday, December 14, 2007

To Card or Not To Card: The Annual Debate

Pro: There are so many people out there that we love, and the holiday card is a great way to keep in touch.

Con: Well, they don't seem to love us so much. Last year we sent out maybe 80 cards and received maybe 20. So far this year: 3.

Pro: The children are beautiful and we need to show them off.

Con: Who cares if the children are beautiful, and isn't it self-aggrandizing to show them off?

Pro: We always have this debate, and we always end up sending a card, even if sometimes it's a Valentine's card.

Con: Well, this year we are very busy and not in a particularly cardly mood.

Pro: But then we'll feel bad about not being in touch with all those people we loved in my first sally.

Con: We always feel bad about something, so we can just put that on the list.

Con seems to be in the lead, but will Pro suddenly strike forth? Will inspiration strike? What will happen with the writer's strike? And how about all those baseball players who recovered from their long-ago strike with steroids? Tune in sometime in the next few months to discover How the Card Turns.

My Little Mountaineer

for Postacademic

E (in parka, snowpants, snowboots, and nylon gloves, preparing to climb the pile of snow at the end of the block that is as tall as she is): I've got my ice axe! I'm climbing the Jungfrau!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Crank That Kosher Boy

According to M, her friend A's brother G's friend from camp made this video. After watching it, I find that very hard to believe (clearly it was made by adults of some sort), but Hebrew school gossip is Hebrew school gossip, so what's a Jewish mother to do?

Here's a Question

Why don't men write confessional essays about the pain of having an enormous penis? Or having a tiny penis, for that matter.

Certainly the essay about the burden of having enormous breasts has been written way more times than it needs to be. It's even been turned into a book. And it always features the Town Shop and Orchard Corset Center (along with Wacoal), which makes me wonder what one does with enormous breasts if one lives in Duluth. Or maybe no one has enormous breasts in Duluth (and now I'm also wondering why the Wacoal website starts with a modernist couch, and how many modernist couches there are in Duluth, and whether perhaps the modernist couch suggests to the large-breasted in Duluth that if they buy Wacoal bras, it will be almost the same as living the glamorous life in New York).

But putting aside breasts and bras to focus on form--narrative form, that is--we can turn to my question. Let me propose a few answers:

The confessional essay in the mainstream media has become thoroughly feminized--witness the ratio of women to men in Modern Love which, over the last several months, tracks precisely at 4:1.

The breast, unlike the penis, is a visible signifier, so the essayist draws attention to what is already noticeable, rather than revealing the hidden. Certainly fashion, to which writing might be compared, works hard to reveal the breast, but leaves the penis alone. And women do not seem prone to catcalls at the sight of penises--perhaps, going back two sentences, because of the visibility aspect.

We are, as a culture, singularly interested in breasts (see fashion, above).

Penises take us too close, generically speaking, to pornography (I'm sure Ron Jeremy's autobiography covers the topic, or rather, uncovers it).

Surely, though, there must be something of interest to say in what one does with one's enormous penis, how one feels about it, how one's partners react to it--or maybe, as in the case of enormous breasts, not.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Benefits of Family Dinner

M (as E is being particularly annoying at dinner): Don't even say we're not going to do drugs because of this. This would make someone do drugs.

How Much Do You Think They Paid Her?

Because the best way to contact your daughter is through an open letter in News of the World.

More Adventures with Babka

I now have babka down. I finally typed out the recipe for all the people who asked me for it (because it is THAT good). When they look at it, gasp, and exclaim, "but it's so COMPLICATED," I shake my head with assurance, and say "oh no, really, once you get into it, it's not that hard, and it's so worth it" (refer to the link above for my first time, when I was very much not assured) (and send me an email, or put your email address in a comment, if you want the recipe).

One of the people who wanted the recipe was Local J, only when I sent it to her, she realized she already had the cookbook. And she took the daring step of turning the page, and discovered the most decadent recipe ever. I think it's called something like kuchem-buchem. Basically, you mix cocoa, sugar, and melted butter. Then you take some babka dough and make it into little balls. The recipe says to make a dent in the ball and fill it with a teaspoon of the chocolate mixture, but that didn't work at all. By the third ball I had the technique figured out: flatten the ball into a disk, put a teaspoon of the chocolate mixture in the middle of the disk, and close it up like a beggar's purse. Then roll the ball in the chocolate mixture (yes, chocolate on the inside and outside--I told you it was decadent) and arrange the balls in a buttered baking dish. At that point, I took the liberty of pouring the leftover chocolate mixture over the whole thing. Then you bake it.

It is, simply, outrageously delicious. So from now on, it will be one round babka and one pan of outrageous, decadent chocolate balls. Bring on your Jewish holidays--I'm ready for them! (Though after two parties, two missed parties, trays of latkes, and bushels of presents, I'm about ready for this one to be over.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Here's Looking at Me

I have the most ridiculous smile. It stretches across my face like a watermelon slice, crinkling my eyes, puffing my cheeks, and making the already-round front of my head wider than it is tall. The problem is I just can't stop it. Once, in college, my friend and I were profiled by a magazine that accompanied its profiles with caricatures. They sent their caricaturist over to sketch us in our daily lives, and he produced picture after picture with that smile dominating my visage. I asked him to try one without the smile, because, truly, I looked ridiculous, and he couldn't do it. I appear to have no face without the smile.

I need a photograph of myself by the end of today. It needs to be a serious photograph--not serious in that I can't be smiling, but serious in that I can't be on top of an Alp, eating a just-picked apple, or standing on one foot making a face in the middle of a field. I woke up yesterday morning in a panic, remembering the photo need, and made S take pictures of me. Don't ever take pictures of yourself first thing in the morning, especially in winter. Enough said about that.

In the evening he took a few more, and general consensus is that they are fine (note: I speak only to general consensus, reserving my own opinion for my self-image support group). Two, in fact, have been deemed thoroughly acceptable, even "adorable" and "great" by the peeps without whom I can make no meaningless decisions (K, reliably, did note that "just your smile is big").

So now, of course, I am stuck with deciding between these two fine photographs, one of which has good color and lacks the smile, but makes my eyes look squinchy and my chin recede (note: the peeps who proffered "adorable" and "great" chose this one). We've adjusted the color on the other, so it's fine, but it features...the smile.

Luckily, I am very busy this morning, so I can't obsess. Then I have maybe an hour in which I can obsess and get about six other things done, and then I am busy again. So the decision will be made one way or another, though I don't think it will make me smile.

Did I mention that I'm also ridiculously vain?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Recent Cooking

Yesterday I made 14 apples (Fuji, Cortland, and Braeburn) worth of applesauce, which was supposed to be sufficient for two Hanukkah parties this weekend, but it's only two quarts, and I have a feeling I'm going to be making more applesauce come Saturday. I'm sure that last year I made many fewer apples worth, planning enough for two events, and it wasn't enough, so I made more this year, only it seems still not to be enough. Is there some law of insufficent apple returns?

On the chocolate cake front, I appear to have been usurped, at least in the case of S's birthday, for which M made the cake 97% on her own (I handled oven duties and layer manipulation during the frosting process). In case you were wondering, it was the devil's food cake from Gourmet, but she chickened out on the brown sugar butter cream and went for chocolate sour cream frosting. It was delicious, but I'm not quite sure I'm ready to give up my mixer.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Today's Post

I've had maybe half a dozen posts in my head today.

There's the Iran post. Isn't this deja vu all over again? The president seems determined not to learn from his mistakes, and this shit makes me CRAZY.

There's the conference update post. E's conference was, as predicted, lovely. M's was fine too--we walked into her history teacher's room, he said "I think she needs a challenge," and we said "oh, you are so insightful, that would be great." I also told the math teacher about my substitute concerns. She told me to tell the guidance counselor. He told me to tell the assistant principal. He nodded sympathetically and non-committally, though he did admit the school's fault in not notifying parents of the original teacher's long-term absence. Ah, bureaucracy.

Then there's the Hanukkah-so-far post. Last night's present was computer games (fashion design for M; Spanish and French adventures for E) which were a theoretical hit, but posed some practical problems. M set up on my computer, which took forever, and E set up on the girls' computer, which wouldn't load the game, so E ended up going to bed in tears for the second night in a row. But today she is getting double screen time and all is well. This morning's present (when S works at night we give presents in the morning when he is home, though we still light candles at night) was Town flannel pajama pants, the plaid ones the girls' hockey team and every girl in middle school wears. M had actually asked for these, to my great annoyance, as I'd already decided to give them to her, so she was thrilled and went off to school in them. E at first said she was NOT going to wear them to school because they were PAJAMAS, but then she did.

OK, what else, oh, there's the two-career family/cultural history/Maslow's hierarchy post, but I think I'll hold off on that one.

And then there's the post I'm actually going to write : the one about kids' clothes. Dawn has been writing about trying to find clothes for Madison, and my friend A was talking about this recently too. They have big daughters (sorry, Dawn, you've written yourself out of any more handmedowns, because it sounds like Madison is as big as E) who don't fit into the current styles. I have tiny daughters who, until recently, barely fit into the current styles either.

M couldn't wear Lands End, Gap, or Target--you've never seen anything as ridiculous as the waistband of a pair of leggings gaping around a little girl's waist. Eventually we discovered Old Navy Slim, the ones with the elastic and the buttons, and with the elastic pulled to the last button, her pants barely stayed up. But finding her pants was a constant problem.

I'm not trying to chime in that thin kids have it tough too--on the one hand they do, but on the other hand to have it tough because your body is at the extreme end of a culturally approved norm is completely different from, well, the opposite (kind of like the white people can be discriminated against, but it's not racism thing) (kind of).

Actually, what interested me as I thought about Dawn's post was standardization, and its impetus, industrialization. 100, 200 years ago, neither Dawn nor I would have had these problems because we would have been measuring our daughters and making clothes that fit their exact bodies (if we were rich, other people would have done the sewing; if we'd been poor, our kids would have worn whatever we could scrounge, regardless of size). Now we have been freed from this labor of fitting the clothes to our daughter, but instead we have to do the work of fitting our daughters to the clothes.

Usually I think about the inadequacy of standardization in terms of education: no one educational system works for every kid; age- and grade-based standards and benchmarks neglect the fact that every kid develops at her own rate; etc. But it's interesting to think about the myriad ways we have been standardized (Big Mac, anyone? McMansion?). And then, of course, there's the fact that standardization also generates choices, so we can spend hours on websites exploring different clothing options, or make excruciating educational choices between Waldorf, Montessori, KIPP, International Baccalaureate, ad infinitum, not to mention plain old one-size-fits-all public school.

I won't wax grandiose about the benefits and costs of industrialization and standardization--that's too predictable. It's just interesting to see one more area in which it's played out. And it's interesting too that when I went back to Dawn's post for the link, several people had offered to sew clothes for Madison.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Did you know

that the thesaurus in Microsoft Word offers no options for "obscene"? And I don't quite want obscene, I want a word similar enough that it would probably be in a thesaurus, but I can't quite think of what it is. And now that I've written obscene twice, the spelling looks totally odd--I wonder if obscene is in spellcheck...

Edited to add: Hooray for I went for profane, which isn't exactly right either, but is better. Maybe it will just come to me.

As We Say In Our Family

Happy Chanuka Monica!

(usually I spell it with the H, but for some reason this calls for the Ch)

Exercise Addiction

I believe I have exercised every day for at least the last six months, probably longer, though the farthest back would be January or February, because I was so sick last winter and couldn't possibly have exercised. Lately I've been running five or six days a week, and walking or going to yoga on days I don't run. Over the summer I only ran two or three times a week, at best, but I swam every day and walked, oh, countless miles. The walking is my default: last spring I would walk to work and back, half an hour each way, and this fall I've walked all sorts of places--to the subway, instead of taking the bus; downtown, instead of driving. I walk to yoga, take a yoga class, and walk back. Really, I'm quite obsessed, and, besides the fitness and weight implications that are always there, my biggest concern is that if I don't work out, I'll lose my mind.

I feel this in general, but usually it's more tempered: I must work out most days so I can keep myself in a general state of sanity. But lately the idea of not working out is itself anxiety-producing. So yesterday, when it was snowy in the morning, and I had to drive to work in the middle of the day, and be a mother at the end of the day, I tried to tell myself it was OK to take a day off, I mean, I hadn't taken a day off since I could recall, but at 9 p.m., post-children, I found myself googling "free yoga" and "yoga video online" and "free yoga video online," and that's how I found this class, which was easy and relaxing (and dissolved into a bizarre cloud medley at the end), but taught me something new about child's pose and twists, and kept me sane for another day.

(This morning [cold and ice] I went for the first time in months to the gym [treadmill and elliptical].)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Any Mindy Fans Out There?

If you love this book (and we do), you will be thrilled by this news item (and we are).

Teacher Conferences

Both of our teacher conferences are tomorrow and I am at the extremes.

Really, I have nothing to say to E's teacher except "We love you." She is totally tuned in to E. She differentiates beautifully (example: she had the kids drawing items for addition problems, but when it was obvious after three problems that E had this down, she had E write out how she came to her solutions, which showed that E is already, I'm not so down with the math terminology, but E adds 11 and 4 by taking 1 away from 11 to get 10, and then adding the 1 and 4 to get 15, which may not seem that exciting and important, but take my word for it, it is--basically it means she is thinking conceptually, not just counting units...anyway, that's just one example, but this teacher does it all the time: lets E take the next step, or as many steps as she wants to take). She also has clearly been tracking E's social movements, just as we have, and we are all pleased that E is finally engaging in a real way with the girls in her class. So, basically, there is no reason to even have this conference, except that it's always nice to hear someone praise your kid.

M's conference is another story. Basically I am in a suppressed rage about her school. This school has been the locus of significant community conflict over the last year, and now that we are actually in the school, I am just hornswoggled by the idea that anyone could defend it, let alone claim that it is a wonderful, kid-focused place. My anger begins with cluster placement: I try to support school decisions and believe that school staff are operating on knowledge I may not be privy to. I'm totally down with separating old cliques, but I have just not been able to come up with any justification for putting every single one of M's friends in one cluster, and her in another. She's surmounting this obstacle, but surmounting is not the best way to start off your middle school career, and it's definitely been a lot harder than it needed to be.

Then there's the sick teacher. M's favorite teacher, whom she has for homeroom, English, and science (we won't go into the ridiculous organization of the sixth grade clusters), has been out for weeks with pneumonia. There has been no communication from the school--when I emailed the principal, I got a two-line non-informative response which promised we'd hear as soon as there was news, and apparently the fact that the teacher is still out is not news. The substitute sucks. Last week the substitute was sick and the substitute for the substitute was great--had them draw cells as cities to understand the functions of the different parts of the cell--but presumably one doesn't get a substitute for a substitute forever.

Which brings me to my main complaint, and the one that I think I am going to bring up as carefully as possible in the conference--because the big issue here is that I can't go nuts on them, as I'd like to, because M is in the school, it's a very vindictive place, and the most important thing I need to do as a parent is help her have the easiest (not academically, but emotionally), most successful middle school experience she can. Anyway, she is bored. A lot of the work is actually fine, but she finishes it before the other kids do, and then she just reads. And if M is bored of reading, you know there is not enough happening in those classrooms. And the thing is: it would be so easy. She finishes the worksheet on pre-modern societies? Give her Clan of the Cave Bear and tell her to write a book report! Have her do research on the internet! Give her an art project! She WANTS to learn and to work. She's super-independent and responsible. If you can't meet the needs of that kind of kid, you really shouldn't be teaching (don't get me started on that one, and definitely don't get me started on the worst teacher, who is a psycho sadist from hell).

I'm painting an overly-bleak picture here. I'd say M's experience is generally on the OK-fine spectrum, and there have been projects she loved, classes she likes pretty much every day, and lots of new friends. But going into this conference is testing my capacity to be reasonable, and I hope I can achieve my best self, for her sake.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Modern Love Blah Blah Blah

Today's Modern Love is your typical, not-particularly-well-thought-out firestorm igniter. In case you don't feel like clicking: woman is hideously mistreated by her sorority sisters, comes to mistrust all women, finds her mistrust justified in every group of women she encounters.

I can already tell you the response to come: sorority sisters will protest that their sororities generated life-long bonds of love and support, people will say that this proves women suck, and eventually the author will blog about how dismayed she was by the response, and how once again her opinion of women has been proven (and Daniel Jones will rub his hands together and cackle with glee).

Could it be that, justifiably scarred by her terrible sorority experience, this woman has ever since approached other women with suspicion and a carefully-maintained wall of reserve? And perhaps other women have noticed this, and held back, leaving her feeling isolated and alone?

God, I sound terribly like a victim-blamer, which I do not mean to be. But I firmly believe that some people suck, lots of people don't, and, for the most part (not always, sometimes you are dealing with terrible people, and sometimes bad things just happen), what you get back has a lot to do with what you put out.

And now I can link to this Doonesbury cartoon, which I just loved, for every reason you can imagine.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Recent Movies

Enchanted (in the movie theater! today! with M and E!)
You just can't think about this one too much. Like, uh, what is the takeaway from choosing reality over fairy tale and getting to live happily ever after? Irony + Disney = confusion. Then there's the whole black/Asian/Latino people as scenery thing (shades of 90210). So don't think, just enjoy. Because aside from some dragginess about 3/4 of the way through, this year's loopy Disney princess option is thoroughly enjoyable, especially the opening animation sequence, the NY animals cleaning the apartment, and the Central-Park-goes-wild-for-romance number. And, man, I would love to see this one on gentle hallucinogens.

Hairspray (also in the movie theater! with M, E, and grandparents!)
As I write this, M is listening to "Hello Baltimore" on YouTube (while playing Stardoll). Grandparents and grandchildren loved this one. I liked it well enough. My favorite character was the white best friend with the racist mother who falls in love with the black boy (E just remembered that she is Penny). Of course I liked the John Waters cameo. My major analytic thought was that Hairspray shows what's wrong with Disney TV movies: they try to whitewash politics with bland diversity, which in turn makes for blandness uber alles. But the "let's just dance together" politics of Hairspray also irked me, though I felt hideously cynical for not just getting into the rhythm.

The Bourne Ultimatum (in the movie theater with S! on a Saturday night!)
In case you don't remember, I haven't done action since Face/Off where I was disgusted with the gratuitousness of the speedboat chase and swore off the genre with no regret. But everyone kept saying The Bourne Ultimatum was great, and I started to wonder if I should give action another try, and then it was playing at the corner, and there we were. And it was great. I was kind of blown away in sort of a Rip Van Winkle way, like when I saw Madagascar after not having seen an animated film since, maybe, Dumbo. How do they film that stuff? Can the CIA really watch us like that? Was such an anti-status-quo film really tops at the box office in George W. Bush's America? I think the reason I could stomach the action--really, I quite loved it, though I had to clench S's hand throughout--was that it was so seamless integral to the plot, which was itself seamlessly non-stop.

Dream Girls (DVD, with M and E)
Eh. I saw the show in previews, way back when--thanks Wikipedia, it was 1981, I was in high school, we were all blown away, and Jennifer Holliday absolutely ruled. The movie? Like I said, eh. Not in a bad way, it was fine, and I especially liked the roman a clef aspects--tracking Diana Ross's image, etc. But the film definitely falls into the trap of adapting a stage musical. That is, a musical is inherently anti-realist, because we don't go around breaking into song. Enchanted and Hairspray go with it by taking realism and imposing musical upon it, knowing full well that musical trumps realism, but winking at us and enjoying their merry business. Dream Girls tries to have it realist, with song, and no winks, and ends up with a stylized, I need a noun here, and I don't have it...I think because I am merging two points: one about music, the other about narrative, neither of which quite work in Dream Girls, and I think the failure is related, but I can't quite say why.

Fifty First Dates (DVD, with M and E)
My continued efforts to engage M with film via romantic comedies continue to fail. I think I need to give up on her and focus on E, who loved this one, despite the need for constant interpretive narration. Both girls found Adam Sandler's physical comedy hilarious, and I think M liked it more than she thought she did, because she kept talking about it the next day, but she didn't enjoy it much at the time. Oh well. I believe I quite liked it the first time; this time I was mildly amused.

I've also rented The Departed and Mystic River (in preparation for Gone Baby Gone) and not watched them. Which must mean something. Especially since when I eventually write my Recent Books post it will have a long section of abandoned books. And unfortunately I can't write about my favorite recent book because it won't be out till April. But I will be able to write about Pamela Des Barres's new book, which I'm currently in the middle of, and, wow, talk about a thoroughly enjoyable ideological mess!