Friday, February 29, 2008

She actually WANTS to do math?

Even before they’re born we try to find similarities between ourselves and our children. He’s a night owl, like his daddy. She never stops kicking; she’s going to be athletic just like me. We peer at their scrunchy newborn faces and look for family resemblances in noses, chins, eyes.

And then—lookalikes or not—they go ahead and prove how different they are every day. Still I’m amazed when my children display talents I never had. Where I was a skinny, weak klutz, my daughter is strong and athletic. My academic strengths were in reading, writing, foreign language; she finds Spanish class “boring.” She can read, but she prefers not to (although, thank goodness, she still likes to listen to read-aloud books).

But give her a page of math problems or tell her to count to 100 and she’s off to the races. Where did this child come from? I don’t know, but I’m pretty excited to find out where she’s going.

(Want to brag about your child? Blog blast today … or just tell me in the comments, because I am almost as proud of your little monkeys as I am of my own.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A case of flagrant wallpaper abuse

Many years ago my parents lived briefly in a house that contained three of the most hideous rooms I've seen before or since. In a remarkable sin of omission no one took any photos of these rooms before the family fled. So, a propos of absolutely nothing today (perhaps this is my effort to reclaim Wednesday for words), I present three reasons why wallpaper should be a controlled substance:

1. Ahoy, me hearties! This room predated today's pirate craze by at least 20 years. It was a large room of indefinite purpose -- on the same level with the garage and the powder room (coming up next) and nothing else. Family room? Office? Spare bedroom? It was a mystery. Also mysterious was the wallpaper, a blue-and-white pattern of foot-long clipper ships sailing the open seas. The vessels covered every inch of wall and carried right on over onto the matching curtains too. And on the floor, a nice blue shag carpet, of course.

2. Pledge your allegiance. Despite its small size, this half-bath again featured wallpaper with a ridiculously oversize pattern--one that celebrated the greatest hits of American patriotic music by reproducing its most garish sheet music covers, accented with brass trumpets and stern-looking eagles. The fixtures were a brilliant shade of royal blue. (Have you ever seen a royal-blue toilet? I hadn't.)

3. The woodland baby bathroom suite. In the basement, adjacent to an honest-to-god knotty pine-walled rec room with burnt orange shag carpet (and to think, that one didn't even make this top 3 ugly rooms list), was the WBBS. The nearest bedroom was two flights of stairs away from this large, nonsensical bathroom. It had dark wood trim throughout, a sauna, a huge vanity with double sinks and an imposing wooden chair, a big whirlpool tub set two steps up from the floor, and separate shower stall. Oh, and beige carpeting (squick) throughout, including on the steps surrounding the tub. Tying all this together, and inspiring the name, was the wallpaper. It featured nearly life-size, realistically rendered illustrations of baby woodland animals--rabbits, squirrels, and other Bambi contemporaries. Very much like these wallies, but monochromatic. So if, say, you decided to take a soak in the tub, you might be eyeball-to-eyeball with a chipmunk or a raccoon. Relaxing, no?

And you? Wallpaper horror stories? Let's hear them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Calling all you foodie types

I am looking for good food/mom blogs. Not so much for myself, but for a work project. Can you recommend any that you love -- not too gourmet; more about everyday cooking with/for kids who may or may not only eat their pasta without sauce, their apples peeled, their yogurt character-ized, and their pizza only is "someone else bakes it."

Merci bien.

Oh, and any grandmothers and mothers of middle schoolers would be magnifique as well.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Homecoming haiku

Four nights away from
home, husband, kids. Each day seems
longer than the last

In the airport on the way home I walked into the ladies' room behind a little girl and her mom singing the Hannah Montana theme song. Then the girl asked her mom to come in the stall and help her wipe.

Ah yes. I'm almost home.

(Composed on Friday for Haiku Friday but didn't make it to the big screen until today.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Snowman lineup

(Hers, his, hers)
Life imitates art. Or maybe it's the other way around.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Ferb-ily family tradition

I'm not sure how this started but we seem to have created a new evening ritual. Every night after the kids are fed, (occasionally) bathed, and PJ'd, we all snuggle in together to watch "Phineas and Ferb." It's on at 7 in our time zone and is less than 15 minutes long so it's the perfect last little thing to do before bed. The kids think it is a big treat to have the TV on after dinner and all four of us find the show hilarious. It's a testament to how a bit of structure encourages creativity, too; there are recurring themes, plot points, and even dialogue in every episode, yet each one is clever and funny.

All day long now we sing this song and imitate the villian, Doofenschmirtz, saying "Ah... Perry the Platypus!" Both kids can do a dead-on impression.

So that makes me smile. And so does Magpie, who gave me a You Make Me Smile award. Awww! Thanks M. I could pass this along to dozens of you, but I single out Lady M for her astonishing ability to post cheerfully every single day; and Christina and Jennifer for Haiku Friday. I love playing along--and reading--as often as I can.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Did we like it?

Like many other little boys (and girls) out there, my son is a fan of the round-headed, overall-clad, fix-it Brit. So we said "yes we can" to an offer from Parent Bloggers Network to check out Bob the Builder's latest DVD release, Bob the Builder On Site: Roads and Bridges. This one-hour show is a complete how-they-do-it explanation, in preschooler-friendly terms, of road- and bridge-building. As Bob spells it all out for his pal Roley and a collection of rabbits and squirrels (yeah, I didn't really get that, either), a combination of animated and live-action videos illustrate the steps.

Get the full review (with bonus Opie photo) at The Full Mommy. And if you like freebies--add the site to your reader! Contributor Leighann has tracked down all kinds of sweet goodies to share. The current giveaway ends today, but more are coming.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

In front of God and everyone

I don't normally post about religion, because holy lightning rod; and also, my feelings are nothing if not conflicted. I enjoy the ritual of it all and have found comfort there in times of grief. But if I am honest with myself, I haven't nearly the faith to swallow everything I should to be a true believer. And as a leftie, feminist type, I have Issues with a capital I about many teachings and dictates of the Roman Catholic church.

And yet, you'll find me at Mass nearly every Sunday, goosebumping up when the priest presents a newly baptized baby to the applauding congregation, beaming as if he bore that child himself. You'll notice tears leaking from the corner of my eyes during a soaring hymn. You'll see me volunteering to send valentines to homebound parishioners and organize the Sunday morning nursery co-op. You'll realize I'm sitting alongside almost all of my close friends in this community, the ones who'll watch one child while I chase the other or save a seat for us during coffee hour. On warm-weather days, the kids and I may be at church for two hours or more, including Mass, coffee talk, and a visit to the school's playground.

This year I am sponsoring a good friend as she goes through the RCIA process. I was honored to be asked, but hesitant. Was it really right for me to hold myself up as an example for her? In the end I decided that all I could do was tell her the truth. That I have questions, questions that will probably never be answered; but if she wanted to, we could seek together. And so we have. This Easter she will be baptized and I know I'll be proud to have been a part of this process with her.

I'm still out there wondering, but I know I have company. And that means a lot.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I can has valentinez?

Hope you all had a happy heart day.
Jo, Opie, and the dog

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


making gnocchiSome of you know that I have another blog on the site I work on. I don't link it here because, you know, I feel that I am the second coming of Dooce. My mother is the most faithful reader of that blog (probably the only reader. Even I am usually bored with it, and it's all about my kids). She checks compulsively for updates, never fails to mention what she's read, and even suggests topics.

So today, when I felt a bit of bloggers' block, I emailed my #1 fan. I usually can't keep track of where she is because she travels all the time, but she does check her Crackberry constantly. Sure enough, she called me from her cell phone within a half hour and reeled off four ideas.

Write about everything you have to prepare before you go out of town.
Too stressful. NEXT!

Write about how you embrace the winter season with the kids.
Ha. Ha ha ha ha. I only embrace the sturgeon-spearing. Pucker up, dino-fish. NEXT!

Write about Valentine's Day and all the learning opportunities that go with it [a lifetime ago Mom was a first-grade teacher].
Reasonable possibility. After Jo rejected my idea for homemade valentines (red construction paper hearts with cut-out pictures from other cards glued on top, and the text "You're cut out to be my valentine"), we bought a couple of packages of licensed-character goodness. She sat right down and addressed and signed them all in one fell swoop. No nagging, bribing, or even coaching. I was very proud. But: If I do this, I'll save it until after the school party, in case that yields any good stories. NEXT!

Write about how you cook with the kids, what they like about it, what they are learning from it.
Ding! I think we have a winner. Yes, I may be a kitchen lame-o but I am raising a boy who has an entire wardrobe of aprons and his very own whisk. Tonight: "Now you can help me mix up this stuff and make meatballs." "I can use my whisk?"

Next time, though, I may just hire Grandma as a ghost-blogger. I can pay her a percentage of my lucrative salary of $0.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


New mama Julie (not to be confused with Other New Mama Julie, or Word-Using Mama Julie, or do I have any other bloggy friends named Julie?) tagged me for a Top-5 meme. I am to tell you 5 things about myself, and then list 5 places in the world I'd like to see (or see again).

I've already revealed many miscellaneous things about myself so I'll just make up my own rules. Here are 5 random things I have been wondering lately:

1. How I manage to entirely fill the dining room table with crap every day between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., only to have to clear it off completely by 2:45. Right now: 4 piles of work papers; 1 cloth napkin; 1 binder clip; dirty lunch dishes; a bottle of tea; the phone; a ruler I found on the floor; a photo that fell off the refrigerator; two invitations to events I don't intend to attend; the recipes from last night's soup swap; my planner book. And the laptop.

2. If there are any "virtue" names for boys. I encountered a family recently with children named Hope, Grace, and Christian; the mother mentioned that the last one would've been Faith if he'd been a girl. Ever since I have been racking my brain trying to come up with alternative boy names. This is neither an attempt to name a child I'm not having nor a need to make some kind of point about the virtuousness of girls vs. boys. I'm just cat-killin' curious.

3. Why, if you invite me (see #1) to a fundraiser to be held at your home, you don't offer some kind of hint as to who on earth you are and how you know me or got my name.

4. Whether it's far too late to get a babysitter for this weekend, or to get my roots done before my next trip to New York.

5. If winter will ever. Ever, ever. Ever, ever end. (Forecasted for Mayberry for the next 5 days: Snow, clouds, snow, snow, clouds.)

Now, for part two! Oh, the places I'd go. Here are my top picks from the list we compiled last fall (fairly high on the conventional/cheese factor, but too bad; and I also cheated and added some that weren't on the list).
  • Hawaii
  • Spain
  • Turkey
  • Iceland
  • Patagonia

Oh, and here's another list of 5: The soups I now have chillin' in my freezer. How's that for meme miscellany?

  • Vegetable with meatballs
  • Chicken chili
  • Curried butternut squash
  • Wild rice
  • Potato-leek

Care to play? Join me in the comments or on your own blog.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Super-easy soup

Since I went ahead and confessed that I am a lousy cook, I thought now would be a good time to post a recipe. Right?

I am going to a Soup Swap on Monday. It's like a cookie exchange, but for soup. Here's what I'm going to bring (there is a contest for best soup name ... if you can think of a better one, I am all ears). I'm making 40 cups of it tonight (8 cups x 5 recipient swappers).

I Think I Can-nellini Bean Soup
Makes: A lot. At least 8 servings depending on who's eating. Probably about 35 servings if you are serving it to a small child.

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 16-oz cans cannellini (white) beans
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 head escarole (or kale I think would also work), chopped
4-5 cups chicken broth (sub veggie broth to make this vegan)
Shaved parmesan cheese for garnish

1. Heat the olive oil in a big soup pot or dutch oven. Throw in the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes.

2. Dump in everything else.

3. Bring to a boil.

4. Simmer for 20-25 minutes (or whatever. Until you are ready to eat it).

5. Top with shaved parmesan and serve.

See? If you can open a can and boil water you can make this.

My only problem is that my husband doesn't really like soup (weirdo). So I am going to have 40 cups of incoming soup to eat all by myself. Guess what I'll be eating for lunch for the next 40 days!

(When I was a poor editorial assistant, I always brown-bagged except on Fridays. Then I'd treat myself to lunch out. If I was feeling really flush I'd go to the Soup Nazi. I think it cost about $7 a serving [this was way back before the Seinfeld show even aired] but it came with bread, fruit, and a piece of chocolate and damn, this soup was so. good. It was entirely worth the anxiety and abuse and the very very long line.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

No longer cheering

My boss just called to tell me she resigned.

My reaction is unprintable here (because I checked off "no profanity" for my BlogHer ads).

Picture a long string of expletives and you will get the idea. I love my boss. I have been reporting to her since I came back from my maternity leave after Jo was born. (I probably wouldn't have even come back if I still had to report to my previous boss, a single man and pompous ass.) A working mom of three herself, she has been my champion while I transitioned back to work, got the hang of pumping, asked to work at home two days a week, moved away, had another baby.

She embraced my proposal to continue to work for her as a telecommuter after we moved to Mayberry, an arrangement we've had now for almost four years. Personally and professionally, she is extremely supportive and protective of her staff. Hands down, she is the best boss I've ever had. She's also a lot of fun--literally someone you'd want to sit down and have a beer with, which I've done often. She's a straight-talking Italian from Jersey and I will miss her very much.

For the foreseeable future I'll be reporting to her boss. She told him to keep me and let me continue what I've been doing, but who knows if he will (or if I'll be able to deal with him). I knew this wouldn't last forever but it still sucks to see it come to an end.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Gooooooo sturgeon!

Pom-Pom Girl 1963-1964 by Jann HaworthAhhh ... it's ice-fishing time again! I saw my first shanty today.

Currently cheering:
  • The New York Giants. Of course.

  • Barack Obama. Of course.

  • yogabeans!

  • Mayberry Moment #5: Me to stranger in supermarket parking lot: "Are you Jennifer's husband, by any chance?" After he said yes, I explained that I had gone skiiing with his wife the week before and had ridden in the very car he was driving, in which I had left my sunglasses. Why yes, there they were!

  • My husband's heroic snow-clearing efforts

  • My heroic cooking efforts

About which: I roasted my first chicken today. I know that's one of the easiest recipes ever but it was my first time and I am rather proud. Because although I can get by, I am really a pretty lousy cook.

Exhibit A: A few weeks ago I tried to make a steak rub from the Tea Diet* book. As I pawed through the cabinet looking for chili powder, I found some chipotle chili powder. "Must be about the same," methought. Yeah. The same hacking, coughing, sinus-clearing, tongue-numbing kind of thing. Amusingly, my husband rescued the beef by dousing it in ... tea (brewed; he had no idea there were crushed tea leaves in the rub). And a whole whole lot of butter.

The New York Times Sunday magazine yesterday contained an interview with poet laureate Charles Simic. Asked for advice for people looking to be happy, he replied "For starters, learn how to cook." Sigh. It really would be nice to enjoy a task you have to perform day in and day out for your entire life until you become superrich and can hire a cook to be at your beck and call.

(It's a good thing it's no longer NoMeatPoWeek, what with all the mentions of carnivorousness. Really, we only eat meat a few times a week at the most. The kids love tofu, eggs, and cheese and all of those I can make without poisoning anyone. Homemade pizza and Thai Kitchen stir fries are weekly staples, along with veggie pasta and grilled salmon.)

*I forgot to mention here that I am giving away a copy--a nice hardcover copy, not the bound galley I'm keeping for myself!--of the book over at The Full Mommy. Just post a comment by midnight Thursday to enter.

Art by Jann Haworth

Friday, February 01, 2008

Haiku Friday: Ode to the Big Boy Bed

You needed a bed
No one told me that it would
dwarf you like an oak

Seriously, this thing is huge. But the small boy loves it. He helped build it ...

and then dismantle the crib without a second look (saying goodbye to the nuks? not so much).

Big sister is also a big fan. She's been sleeping in that trundle every single night.

Now, for a nice book ...

And then snuggle under the quilt. My mother-in-law had these in her attic for the past 30 years--can you believe it? One of Jeff's aunts made them for him and his brother, but they were rarely used. Having a packrat in the family = priceless!

Yes, we are going to repaint, by the way. I'm thinking a warmish khaki but that was before I got the quilts. Suggestions welcome (I'd also love to do something fun with that dormer/slope thingie--what's that called? There's one on the opposite side of the room too).

Haiku Friday

It's a gosling! A pinkie?

A boy!

Anyway, the babygoosemouse is here!

Congratulations and lots of love to the whole family.