Thursday, December 28, 2006

A bargain

Earlier this week my brother took the boys for the day (such a good uncle). During the day-long love fest he took them to the major league ballpark and bought them items from the shop.

One guy ended up with 50 playing cards (the other got a miniature mascot). When they came to my office he started to show a colleague the entire pack. This colleague patiently commented on each player ("He was good." "He wasn't so good." "He started off not so good but then got better.") when they came upon a card for Jose Melendez.

Jose was a marginal pitcher for the town team in 1993 and 1994. He is also the nom de plum for my colleague's blog. He's had to use a playing card on the web site from the Padres era which doesn't work for the overall feel of the blog.

Until my son stood with a Jose Melendez card. Jose Melendez wrote about the grueling negotiations. It was quite suspenseful.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

One more voter

This morning I spent three hours talking about advocacy with a group of women enrolled in a computer training and job skills program. Part of the tactic is to get the group to realize that the personal advocacy they have done (e.g. getting their kids into the day care of choice, helping someone get health care) uses the skills involved in systems change (e.g. baggering people, caring about issues). The morning session hopefully changes the collective perception of a group of low-income women that they can make a difference. I hope that because I believe it.

The morning definitely started with some skeptics, some very tired skeptics (it was two days after Christmas). "What difference can I make?" "It seems there was more stuff going on in the '70's and that it mattered." "If Congress controlls the money, then why do they keep voting to give the President money for the war?"

I didn't touch that last one.

But I did tell stories about finding funds to expand children's health care coverage. About this year's successful fight to increase our state's minimum wage but how we lost the chance to link the minimum wage to a cost of living index. They talked about CORI, health care, gun violence and housing. They know how hard their lives are and how the broader system is not responding to their needs. They just need a few simple tools to know how to change that system.

And one of those tools is voting.

At the beginning several participants insisted the vote was meaningless. They acknowledged they weren't even registered. They rolled their eyes as I handed out a voter registration card.

At the end, one of those skeptics handed me a filled-out registration card and told me this was the first time she had registered to vote. I hugged her.

I hope she uses her new found tool to make system change.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


We actually had a kindergarten basketball practice/game on the eve of Christmas Eve. Mr Reluctant didn't make it again and there were no relatives campaigning that he really is enthusiastic. In fact we only had 6 players. One of the two girls and probably the five most intense of the ten boys (my sons on either end of that spectrum).

Today I asked the team to focus on rebounding and dribbling. Dribbling will be the constant reminder ("hey folks, is this basketball or football?"). Rebounding clearly became every player's obsession. One guy got the "rebound" after the ball successfully went into the basket only to shoot again. Much to the other team's angst.

I had to stifle a laugh when the purple team's coach laid out some ground rules including no reaching in to take the ball while someone was dribbling. Even the timid girl on our team looked confused. Our opposition seemed to be younger kindergartners. We kept getting shots in. One of our guys would get the rebound under the basket, take the ball out and keep making three-point shots. He's six years old.

Then we came to the realization our basket was shorter. By at least a foot. The other coach accused me of rigging the game. I do feel bad about the discrepancy but come on - I sneak onto the court and lowered the net?

The net was raised to the same height. The White Ghosts kept making baskets, even the three-point shots.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas letters

My mom has written an annual Christmas (now Holiday) letter since the 1970's. It is always one page and sometimes printed on red or green paper. Through the years the margins and font would get smaller to accomodate the packed lives we lived.

Its funny how the general concept of these letters are derided. Some should. The saccharine perfect people. Then there are the families that skip a year because of a death or divorce. One family we know wrote in painstaking detail about how the death of his elderly mother was complicated due to her mental illness. My husband has a friend who for years did the anti-holiday letter, sent around New Years, full of his death poetry and gruesome images. People often asked to be taken off his holiday letter list. Now he is married and the New Years letter is full of little ditties about their dog and living on the beach. I kind of miss getting a piece of mail on January 2nd with a picture of someone's eyeball hanging out of their socket.

As a child I looked forward to getting the Christmas letters from my parents' friends. For the most part they were people I didn't know. People my parents were close to years ago, before they were parents. I'm finding that there are many people in my life - people I adore and have wonderful memories with - who are just vague names to my kids.

Like the graduate school friend that let me crash at her apartment between classes and my overnight shift at the battered women's shelter.

Or the college buddy whose mom paid for my trip to Italy. She didn't want her daughter to travel alone for a month and thought I was a suitable companion. Insert laughter here.

Or the two guys I drove across country with. In a 1973 Dodge Dart. With no air conditioning. And only an AM radio.

I miss that consistent check-in holiday letters provided. I miss reading between the lines of what people were trying to say. Very few people write holiday letters now. I guess they are all blogging.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


When I was 8 and 9 years old I would lip-sync to Donna Summers in the living room. The record player was in one room and there was a speaker in the living room (how cool was that). I would strut, croon and wiggle to my heart's content.

I have no memories of anyone watching me. It was my own private performance. There were no doors so various family members probably watched but they have kept quiet for all of these years.

I rarely can see my 2 year old sing in her car seat since I am usually driving and she sits behind the driver's seat. On one of those rare times we were all in the car together, I was in the passenger seat. She was singing to the song on the CD (Erasure, of course) and looking out the window. Then she broke into a perfect

You got to believe!

Complete with eyes closed, head back and teeth bared. When she opened her eyes, she saw me staring at her. I was smiling because while she was 6 years early, I knew exactly where she was in her creative mind.

"No mommy! Don't watch me!"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Change sisters

To pick up the boys at extended day, my daughter and I push a buzzer at the main entrance of the school. A teacher lets us in then uses a walkie-talkie to some subterranean place asking that the boys be brought up. We wait for a few minutes at a door for them to come up a set of stairs down the hallway.

Usually my girl does an initial walk down the hallway, asks if I want her to come back and then returns to wait next to me.

The other day an older boy we see during pick-up was greeted by his mom and little sister who is about 15 months old.

"I wish she was my sister" he lamented pointing at my daughter. "She runs down the hall and gives her brothers hugs. I wish she would do that" he says motioning towards his sister.

Then, the boys arrived and their little sister ran down the hallway yelling "BRUDDERS!!!" The three of them did a big group hug and she announced "I missed you!" One guy rubbed her back while the other showed her his latest art project.

"See?" said the third grader to his little sister. "Why can't you do that?"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

One of those Commandments

Thou shall not steal. Especially times two.

After church on Sunday my husband charges up to me. "Did you buy the boys gum?" with a panicked intensity that seemed pretty silly.

"No. We don't let them chew gum. Why would I buy it?"

One of our guys had orange gum in his coat pocket. The packet was still in its clear wrapper. Now, if it was mint gum I would have thought he may have pilfered one of my packets. I've been known to buy gum from time to time. However, I don't like orange gum.

After standing like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar, he admitted that he took the gum from a little convenience store. I couldn't believe my kid would steal from someone else. I trooped both boys into the store and they handed the pack over the counter. They had to apologize. The guy behind the counter said it wasn't a big deal and they could have it.

Thanks for helping with the big life lesson.

I declined his offer.

Later in the day, while goofing around in their room, I found another pack of gum still in the wrapper in the other guy's bed. He never admitted to having his own pack.

Back to the store we went. This time, the owner was behind the counter and was incredulous we returned it. Then he got that he was part of a life lesson and went into stern don't-do-it-again mode. A customer waiting to buy a lottery ticket pitched in with "Oh NO! And with Santa coming? How could you?" My little guy was so mortified he looked like he would melt right there.

Much better.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Girl Coach

This Saturday's match-up for the kindergarten league's "White Ghosts" (the team voted for that name) was much more even than last week's game. The "Red Sox" were more our size and equally comfortable with the ball. It was a good game.

The two girls finally played. Last week they spent nearly the entire game on their respective mothers' laps, usually in tears. This week, they were still a bit nervous but they played. One even got a basket and a few rebounds. By the end of the game, they acted like they owned the court.

Last week's less-than-thrilled newcomer didn't make it. He had strep throat according to his mom's email. But his aunt found me on the court to tell me he's excited to play. Seems there is a campaign to convince the kid, and me, that he should be playing basketball.

I met the other newcomer's mom. Even as a kindergartner he is a guy's guy. He's got the name of a future drinking buddy. I told her he was a terrific player and I was glad to have him on the team.

She said "Yeah, he told me 'Ma, I got a girl coach. But she's good.'"

Friday, December 15, 2006

What is she thinking?

I try not to judge other parents. I really, really do. I'm so painfully not perfect that I am in no place to judge anyone. I lost it with the boys in the middle of a gift shop at the Kennedy Space Center a few summers ago. It was so bad my husband commented the people were staring at me. I was blind with rage. No one was hit but I can still remember my fury from the constant complaining and nagging. Of course, I should have been the grown-up and stayed in control. I admit this because I know I wouldn't win any best parenting awards.

Two boys joined the basketball team this past Saturday. One seemed to have played before and was very comfortable handling the ball. He consistently made baskets, passed the ball to other players and played defense with confidence.

The other guy was sobbing as his mother brought him onto the court. He cried as she put on his team t-shirt. He sobbed as she sat him down in the team circle. "He's afraid he doesn't know anything and will make mistakes".

Uhhhhh...... you're kidding, right? I'm thinking.

She then walks out of the room. Leaving me with 10 other kids and her sobbing son. After explaining we would practice for 1/2 an hour then play our first game for 1/2 hour, everyone lined up with a basketball to practice dribbling. The other kids start bouncing the balls. Some lost control of the balls while others banged into their teammates. All done with earnest seriousness and concentration. It was beyond adorable.

The sobbing kid let go of the ball to dribble and it bounced off his foot. He simply crumbled. He couldn't see through the tears. Where was his mother? In another room talking to a parent. I scooped him up and charged out of the gym. The mother looked at me like I was doing something wrong.

"I'm alone with ten other kids. I cannot give him the attention he needs especially since he doesn't seem to want to be on the court. You need to keep him until he's ready to join us."

What I really wanted to say was:

If you were a better mother you would have stayed near him and not put me and the other kids in this awkward situation. Maybe you wouldn't have signed him up since he has been a basket case on other sports teams (we coaches talk to each other). Why don't you find something he's comfortable with. A different sport. A completely different activity. Don't make him suffer.

Of course, I didn't say any of that. Before the game I went back into the other room to check on him and he was rolling the ball with a friend's younger sibling. He looked really happy. When I asked if he wanted to come and join us his lip started to quiver. And I bolted.

Let's see how tomorrow goes.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Barbie went too far

Last night we took the kids to a large toy store. It was to prepare for their New Orleans grandparents annual trek to this store to buy them gifts. It is a thing my father-in-law loves to do. He's a guy with little joy in his life and if this gives him some, so be it.

I however, hate these huge stores. And the Barbie section didn't help.

I have nothing against Barbie. In fact, I desperately wanted a Barbie doll for years as a kid but my mother stood her feminist-ground and refused to get me one. So did Santa Claus. Apparently after yet another Christmas with no Barbie under the tree, my forlorn face made mom call my aunt for all of an older cousin's beat-up Barbie dolls. I'll never forget that box full of half-dressed, ratty haired Barbies. I was in heaven.

So I was wandering the store with my two-year-old daughter. She was more interested in the objects (a kitchen, a phone, a CD player which she knows "makes music") then the characters plastered on them. Then I saw it. Or rather her.

Barbie was wearing a cropped top, micro-mini skirt, CFM boots and holding a funky bag. Not a big deal since she is competing with Bratz these days.

However, the tiny shirt had Elmo's face. The itty-bitty skirt was topped with an Elmo belt buckle. The boots had Elmo socks sticking out. The bag had Elmo's face as well. And Mz. Thing had her very own mini Elmo that did something. I'm not sure what it did (dance, sing, poop) because I wanted to get away from it as fast as possible before she saw it.

It would be one thing if she were Preschool Teacher Barbie and had Elmo helping her. Or even Sesame Street Barbie with a bunch of characters. Or even pair her with Elmo but have Barbie wear a track suit.

With everything going on about girls body image, how could Sesame Street knowingly let a beloved character's face adorn a doll dressed as a slut.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More tales from parochial school

One of my sons keeps asking me how Jesus died. He asks how he ended up on the cross and how they got him away from Mary and Joseph. Its been going on for days. The same questions, the same responses.

Finally, while in the tub taking a bath, he asked again about Jesus being taken from his parents. Then it dawned on me, he thought Jesus was hung on the crucifix as a baby.

"Honey, Jesus was a grown man when he was hung. I know it is only a few months between Christmas and Easter but he got to grow up and become an adult."

He visibly relaxed in the bath and hasn't asked again.

I'm looking forward to when this year is over. Then we can focus on living, not obsessing about death.

Monday, December 11, 2006

First basketball game

Last year we were the Bad News Bears of kindergarten basketball. All the other teams were pretty much guaranteed a "win" (not that anyone kept score of course) when they played against our team. One of the only baskets we scored all year was because the coach for the other team told his players to back off and let our team get a basket.

Saturday, we were the taller team. The one with the kindergartners who look like 3rd graders compared to the other team. Several guys (my two sons included) were playing for the second year. One guy showed up for the first time yesterday. Aside from not dribbling the kid could shoot, pass the ball accurately, play defense and rebound. He's six years old. After 20 minutes we had 12 baskets while the green team had none. My guys were responsible for half of them.

This time I was the coach telling the kids to back off. You should have heard the green team parents cheer after the ball went into the basket. It was the sweet sound of "you did it!". One of my sons though was devastated that first of all I told them to back off and then I cheered for the green team. He was so upset he started to cry.

After the game, I had a little pow-wow with the team to congratulate them and remind them to practice dribbling ("People this is basketball, not football"). As we were talking, a really small boy in a too big green shirt was circling our team with tears streaming down his face calling us "the yucky white team". He was so upset (where were his parents to help him through this?) that it broke my heart. Which led to a stern conversation in the car.

"We'll play well this year and probably get a lot of baskets. I'll cheer for you and celebrate your good plays. Do not, though, under any circumstances be mean to the other team. Remember how sad you were after every game last year? It is hard to not get a basket. O.k.?"

One guy "yes Mom."

The other one "just don't cheer for the other team."

I've got some work to do.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Happy Birthday

As I was walking into the house from dropping the boys off at school my husband yells,

"Don't come upstairs!"

Then I hear quietly,

"Let's finish putting it on. She'll be so surprised. Be sure to say 'Happy Birthday'".

"I say 'Happy Birthday'? To Mommy?"

"Yes, to Mommy."

Then, "O.k you can come up!" and who comes barreling around the corner but my daughter. In a dress! A dress that was too small with marker stains. She picked it out herself. If you recall she had been boycotting dresses all fall.

"I pretty!" she declared. "Mommy, don't cry."

Truly a happy birthday.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wedding songs

My daughter is the family DJ. She has discovered the stack of CDs that were taken out of the 300 disc player years ago. There is a group of 15 CDs that are just being destroyed as she plays them, rips them out of the kitchen player while they are still playing, drops them on the floor, and "cooks" with them in the toy kitchen.

She has decided that a Lionel Ritchie CD is "daddy's favorite music" which is appropriate since I didn't bring this into our marriage.

Tonight while playing Ritchie's "Hello", she stood on a stool saying "I'm dancing with daddy" and pretended to dance with him. He's working late, as he does most nights, but she didn't seemed sad or upset. Just matter-of-fact as she danced with her daddy in her head.

Then a brother stepped up and offered to dance with her. They took each others hands and swung around the kitchen, doing twirls and coaching each other through intricate moves.

Now you'll know why I'll be balling at my daughter's wedding. To who ever it is. I hope she finds the devotion from one person that she has from us four.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Boughs of Holly

I'll admit it. I just love the carol Deck the Halls. There is something about a rousing Fa-La-La that just makes me get into the Christmas spirit.

I was raised Unitarian. When I went off to college I didn't think being part of a congregation was all that important. Then my junior year, while studying in Italy, a family was in a car accident. The three children were killed instantly and the mother died five days later. The father survived. They were one of the first families I babysat for. My mom and the mother were friends. I'll never forget which phone booth I was in when my parents told me the news.

It was then that I figured out that for me religion wasn't the creed, it was the community. It was the people who saw you on a fairly regular basis that weren't family or co-workers or the parents of other children. So I joined a church in New Orleans while teaching. And we joined a church when we moved to town.

The first Sunday in December is the Hanging of the Greens service. Older children and teenagers wait around the stately meeting house until the congregation sings Deck the Halls. Then they hang wreaths in the windows surrounding the sanctuary and place electric candles underneath. They race up to the balconies and drap long garland over the sides and drop down others to be wrapped around the columns. My 6-year-olds were struggling to watch it all. And I was struggling not to cry.

Christmas for me is the traditions and wonder. The yummy treats and combining of pagan, secular and religious. It is music, color and finding warmth in the cold. It is finding the absolute perfect gift for someone and, yes, getting one too.

So Deck your Halls. And Fa-la-la.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My work is done

I put Laurie Berkner in the mini-van CD player.

From the carseat behind me,

"Um, um, um, no, No, NO, NO! I don't want Laurie Berkner!"

There's nothing else to teach her.

Monday, December 04, 2006

That first practice

There were suppose to be 13 kids on the team this Saturday. Four girls, eight boys and one name I couldn't figure out. Leaving that message was strategic. "Hi, this is Coach. I'm looking forward to having 'Pat' on the team. So, 'Pat', come on to the school gym at 11 am this Friday." Turns out he is a boy.

For basketball there had been a kindergarten boys division and a 1st/2nd grade division. For girls they were all combined into one division - meaning little kindergarteners who had never dribbled a ball were trying to keep up with players who were entering their third year of playing.

Our town has finally smartened up that kindergarten boys and girls can play sports together. I could never figure out why they were separated for soccer and basketball but play together in baseball. Not that there are any girls playing baseball past 2nd grade.

Earlier in the week a girl who thought she would be on her mom's team asked for permission to be a kindergartener on a 1st/2nd grade team. I couldn't argue with that. Who doesn't want to be with their mom? Now we've got three girls.

Friday before I got two phone calls from a different mother. She kept telling me her daughter was shy and scared to play with boys. But then her language would change and it sounded like she- the mom herself - was afraid to have her daughter play with the boys.

My first thought was well why did you sign her up if you knew she would be uncomfortable?

My next thought was how dare you let her be a wimp. Get her out there. Break the Princess-spell and let her mix it up with the boys.

What did I really say? "Oh gee. Whatever she's comfortable with."

Of course, she didn't show up.

So two girls are on a team with seven guys (two didn't show up). They both were scrappy chicks who ran, jumped, and threw the ball with gusto. One was doing a good job putting the ball in the basket after 38 minutes of practice. Afterwards they both said they looked forward to next week. Their moms said it too.

It's going to be a great season.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Season starts

Me and 13 kids. As if mothering three weren't enough.

I'm starting my second year as a basketball coach. I do think it is completely ridiculous that our town starts basketball at kindergarten. How long have these kids been walking? Who in their right mind thinks kindergarteners can dribble a ball, pass it, deal with defense, and get the ball in the basket? Without crying? I didn't start basketball until I was in 3rd grade.

My guys' birthday is right at the cut-off for kindergarten so they are in their second year of kindergarten. This means they'll be those kids who play pretty well compared to the ones who have never touched a basketball. Last year, half of the green team were repeat kindergarteners (we were the red team). Compared to my team, they played like 8th grade stringers. At one point, the coach graciously told his kids to back off and let our team score. It was our only basket for the entire game.

If we end up being a team with some skill, I hope we are as gracious as the green coach last year. And don't worry, there will be weekly updates about this year's white team.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

How it ends

I survived McEwan's Saturday. Another memorable novel. Not nearly as infuriating as Atonement. However, having a young woman strip naked in a threatening scene at the end was just gratuitous. No need for it.

I find that since having kids I'm super sensitive about violent or horrific things done to children or offspring. Reading Alice Sebold's Lovely Bones was just torture. As was Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper.

Anything that is just painful now due to having kids, growing older, or being somewhere new in life?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sugar cereal for lunch

I'm bordering on apopletic.

Every Wednesday I give each boy $1.75 to buy pizza and milk at school. While they think this is a huge treat, the treat is really for me because it means one day a week that I don't have to make their lunch.

Tonight when I picked them up, they proudly announced they had cereal for lunch. Not Raisin Bran or Muslix. No. One guy announced he had Cocoa Crisps while the other had Lucky Charms. Dry. They drank chocolate milk. No fruit. No vegetable. Pure sugar cereal. With chocolate milk.

This parochial school has to be kidding. There is an obesity problem in this country and they are serving Cocoa Crisps as a meal?

So, while I commend my guys for their honestly, there was no treat after dinner. They had more than enough sugary treats for one day. They had extra helpings of green beans and plain skim milk. I am writing a note to both of their teachers and plan to complain to the principal. The school is suppose to be part of the team to help kids learn good eating habits.

I will be eating my dinner after they all go to bed. It'll be my favorite. A bowl of Mini-Wheats. With plain skim milk. Then I'll write the letters.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Six years ago, several women I know started a bookgroup. It was held a few days after the boys came home from the NICU so I didn't go to that first meeting. Graciously they consider me an honorary founder.

Membership has grown and shrunk. We had a professor with us for a while but she agonized when she didn't read a book. Several women used moving away as a reason to join other bookgroups. One was quietly suffering that we were, well, women who liked to talk about our lives, drink and eat more than either read or talk about the books. She graciously joined another bookgroup and explained it was just easier since everyone lived in her town. The other suffering soul was a bit more vocal, even going so far as to tell that her new book group didn't allow alcohol. To me that defeats the purpose.

Tonight we met up at the home of a woman who is 38 weeks pregnant with her second child. She went into labor the day after hosting us 2 1/2 years ago and hopes we'll bring her "the same luck" again. The book this month was Saturday by Ian McEwan. We read another novel of his, Atonement, a couple of years ago. I have less than 100 pages to go in Saturday and it feels like plodding through mud. I remember the visceral, angry reaction I had to Atonement. Three years later I can still recall the him marching through the French country side, fighting the war, waiting in the cafe. To have it end the way it did was infuriating. I feel like I'm walking the plank again.

But then, what did our group talk about tonight? Two of us had finished the book and loved it (neither of them had read Atonement), two of us were in the midst and two hadn't picked it up (there are 4 other regulars who all had conflicts tonight). We talked about babies, movies, work, the new Governor (oh we are SO excited about that one), food, birth stories, twins, other books, Thanksgiving, wine....

It is what I wish for all of us. A group of friends who get together regularly to talk, laugh, support and sustain. And if a book is involved, you feel literary. But if you walk out feeling like you can face another month, even better.

Monday, November 27, 2006

To the moon

Tonight the guys took all the pillows and cushions off the sofa. They created various walls and after turning off all the downstairs lights announced we were going into space. There was a "wall" dividing the boys from the girls so my two year old and I were on one side while the 6 year olds were on the other.

I yelled loudly "We're going to the moon!"

To which the toddler announced "NO! We're going to Costco!"

Must get provisions first.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Chicks with Happy Feet

I went to the movie theater twice today. I spent $40+ this morning to take three kids to see the latest movie cartoon Happy Feet. Then I spent nearly $40 this evening to take myself to see Shut Up and Sing. $9 for the movie ticket, $26 for the babysitter and $2 for the big box of Junior Mints that I didn't have to share with anyone.

While eating lunch I asked the boys what they thought of all those penguins. Of course, Robin Williams saying something about butts to a penguin-eating seal received most of the conversation. I fixated on how the little dancing penguin was forced to leave because he couldn't sing. I started talking about how there are some religions that do that to people, forcing them to leave or making them feel horrible because they don't agree with the teachings. I didn't start on Fundamentalists (take your pick which religion - Christian, Islamic, Jewish, etc), anti-gays or our President. I'll wait until they can really understand that. When they're 8.

Before the babysitter showed up, the guys asked what my "grown-up" movie was about. I explained it was a lot like this morning's movie. These women in a band said they didn't support the war and a bunch of people gave them a hard time, similar to Mumbles the penguin getting a hard time for being more Savion Glover than Stevie Wonder.

I sat in a darkened theater (inhaling my Junior Mints with glee) watching three women be turned out by what seemed to be most of country music. I have never been a fan of country music and the movie certainly reinforced my stereotypes of stupid, rednecks who blindly follow the government 'cuz that's what you're suppose to do. Plus, the only song I knew by the Dixie Chicks before the "embarrassed to be from Texas" line was about killing an abusive husband.

They talked in the movie about reaching a new audience, starting anew, since they were not being played on country stations. I guess I am that new audience. I proudly listen to them on my iPod (I can't listening to Silent House, about a grandparent suffering from Alzheimers, without crying). Plus, two of them are the mothers of twins. I'm a sucker for anyone that understands what it is like to mother twins.

And I've got the boots to wear to a concert.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Malign the gyros

As I bit into my lunch today, I bit down on some bone. At first I thought it was from the gyros. Then, feeling my back molar with my tongue, I thought it was my filling with some tooth because the tooth felt really sharp.

I got the gyros from a place recommended by a colleague. He asked me what I thought of the gyros. I told him it was a little dry and that I initially suspected bone in the meat (pretty odd for a gyros) but then figured it was my tooth.

Don't malign the gyros. He said. He's a fan of this place.

So I left work early, dragged my dad to the dentist since I couldn't go to her office and get to my kids in time. He sat in the car to finish listening to Terry Gross on NPR (I do love this man) while I went in. I fully expected to be in her chair for an hour getting novocain, drilled and slapped with metal.

I thought that I had crossed that old folk line. It always seemed to me that old people had problems with their teeth - a cracked tooth from biting something, a filling coming out, general teeth woes - and having a filling break on a gyros seemed to signal I was ready to sign up for an honorary AARP membership (for the record, I'm 37).

However, my tooth was fine. Apparently that back molar is particularly sharp (which I never noticed).

Guess what colleague - I get to malign the gyros.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Confusing childhood

I feel terrible.

Everyone sings perfectly in the van to Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend.

A kiss on the hand may be quite continental
But diamonds are a girl's best friend

Unfortunately it is Nicole Kidman singing from the Moulin Rogue soundtrack.

That's when those louses
Go back to their spouses.

I'm sorry. To them. And to Marilyn. She does it so much better.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Little Miss woke up at 4:45 this morning. I left her to talk, moan, yell, yelp and generally growl for 25 minutes. It was the scream "I wanna go potty!" that got me up. Somehow denying a person access to the toilet seems cruel.

Ever since the boys were babies I would use those little moments when we are close to give an "extra" hug (is there such a thing as too many hugs?). Putting them in their car seats, lifting them into their high chairs, putting on their shoes would elicit a hug, kiss, "I love you" or "you're so smart".

With my daughter there is the extra issue of how will she perceive herself as she gets older. She is such a confident, happy girl. I worry about growing up as a girl in our culture. Will she like her curly hair when she's older? Will she have the "right" body type? Will she have the confidence in herself to weather the mean, nasty and ugly barbs thrown by some of her peers?

So I snuggled with her this morning, after 5am, and told her she is beautiful. Not in the "you're like a model" or "this part of you is so perfect" but as in "you are a gorgeous person, inside and outside".

Her response?


You mean I'm your friend?


And you're my friend.


With that I gave her a big hug and kiss on the cheek. She climbed on my stomach, held my cheeks and planted a big kiss on my lips.

That's right. I'm your friend. Not that I'll abdicate my parental duties to keep you safe, embarrass you in public and insist you behave yourself. But I will stand by you. When you are ugly. And when you are beautiful.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Singing bugs

No, our house hasn't been infested. I took the boys to The Bug Opera. It was created to introduce children, and their parents, to opera.

So we drove 45 minutes from home, across a state line, to an evening performance in an old theater built in the 1920's complete with a flashing marquee board.

A caterpillar was afraid to change into a butterfly and a mosquito didn't want to try to drink blood after watching her friend be squashed to death. There was a mambo dancing spider, groovy fireflies and a beautiful luna moth. I'm partial to the luna moth. She was a high school classmate of mine and wrote the words to the opera. And she was beautiful. My boys were losing focus when she arrived and her voice and presence brought them back.

And what did they think as we left? One guy, as he skipped out of the theater declared,

"That was a big, great show!"


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Call her

Apparently the blonde actress in the Republican ad against Tennessee Senate candidate, Harold Ford, didn't think the ad was racist.

According to Texas Politics, she said "I didn't see it as racist at all. I don't see a single couple that is not mixed."

With all the attention she's worried she'll be typecasted as a blonde bimbo.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Silence of the Lambs

When it is quiet during the day - too quiet - we call it Silence of the Lambs.

Early last month I found the boys in the attic. This is a dangerous place in our house. The stairs are steep and the attic is unfinished with exposed insulation, unfinished wood floors and boxes piled everywhere just waiting to fall. They were going through their dad's saved Star Wars figures and baseball cards

More recently, I came upstairs to find one son fly out of the bathroom and crawl under the covers on his bed. The other was sitting on the toilet with this big I've-been-caught-but-maybe-you-won't-notice grin.

He had a big clump of hair on his shoulder.

They had been cutting each other's hair with nail scissors.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Red Snake Skin Cowboy Boots

I've got these boots.

They were given to me by a friend who, since she was coming out of the closet, decided to clean out her closet. According to her, lesbians didn't wear red snake skin cowboy boots. I took advantage of her fashion misstep.

However, I didn't wear them for a year. I kept them in the closet.

Then one Sunday I wore them. I ran into one of my least favorite classmates from graduate school. She was judgmental with a fake happy veneer. She was looking down and saw the boots first. She was horrified. Then she looked up and saw me. Immediately she had a big, fake smile "Oh HI!"

I fell in love with the boots.

And I judge a person based on their response to the boots. Guess I'm judgmental too.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I don't make a big deal about having twins. My sons are individuals who happened to have been born 10 minutes apart and look alike. I rarely call them "the twins". They are "the boys".

When I am asked about my kids I reply "I have two boys and a girl". The next question is always "How old are they?" to which I say "The boys are 6 years old and my daughter is 2 1/2."


Yes. They are twins.

Now we've got another set in the family. My bother-in-law and his wife called us with the news that they are pregnant with twin girls. Somehow this woman managed to get to her 20 week ultrasound without any indication of the growing litter inside of her. Which means she is carrying "small" (grrrr - lucky). I looked 20 weeks pregnant at 12 weeks. I kid you not. It's why I got an ultrasound at 14 weeks. Because I was that big.

My boys were also born 10 weeks early and spent 8 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. While obviously they were sickly - how can you not be if you left the womb 10 weeks early - one guy in particularly had a frightening time. That and they both contracted an infection that quarantined them with other preemies. So in order to visit our kids, we had to wear gowns and gloves while other parents were getting to put their babies on their bare chests to bond.

But those are the stories I don't want to tell my sister-in-law. When people heard I was pregnant with twins, I was inundated with stories of sick babies, children with severe developmental delays, babies who died. Rarely did someone say to me "Oh wow! Congratulations. You are part of an awesome club."

In fact, when my boys came early, someone asked my office if they should send a condolence card. For when someone dies. A condolence card.

So congratulations dear brother and sister. You are part of an awesome club. It is mind-numbingly hard the first year but gets easier and easier as the years pass. The bond these two children will have will exceed your expectation. Your nephews are soccer-playing, insightful, caring, talented little guys who are tall for their age. They talk about politics, poverty and poop. And it is a privilege to be their mom.

And when you nurse, you will not only lose all the pregnancy weight, you will also lose another 10 pounds. I guarantee it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Professional singers don't perform with colds

Not that I in any way claim to be professional but, I have a nasty cough and shouldn't have attempted the low alto in my trio for this evening's performance in the church musical review. However, it was Gilbert and Sullivan.

My love of G&S predates my fag-hag-ness. In fact, I don't know many gay men with a fondness for G&S. I'm also quarantined in the suburbs so contact with gay men are pretty scarce these days. Married lesbians with kids - I meet plenty of those.

I was in four children's musicals in the church I grew up in. The second through fourth productions were G&S. I was the tallest kid in the youth choir and therefore got to play male roles. Not only male roles but the arrogant male roles. So in 7th grade I was Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore ("When I was a lad...") and in 8th I was Pooh-Bah in The Mikado ("I am so proud if I allowed..."). In 9th grade I put my foot down and insisted that I not be the arrogant male. I got to play the romantic male in Iolanthe and can't remember a single tune from that production. Clearly I have a thing for arrogant males.

Fast forward to a phone call this summer asking me if I would be in a musical review at church. I was bathing someone and my response was "No". Life is too crazy, my husband is never home, I couldn't manage it. "But we're thinking of doing some G&S in the future and will include a song or two."

"Will I get to sing a girl part?"

Which is how I ended up being Pitti-Sing in "Three little maids from school are we" from The Mikado. I have been attempting to sing the low female voice, with little success thanks to not singing in public for over 20 years, a nasty cough and little time to practice. During rehearsals other performers were turning away to stifle their embarrassment.

Tonight I wasn't that bad. I even got the "you finally got it" line from the director. She was being kind. I just wore the kimono and waved the fan with gusto.

And to update you from yesterday's post, I didn't cry too hard during "For Good". And he did great. The best Do-Re-Me ever performed, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

For Good

There is a song in the musical Wicked called For Good. It is sung by Glinda and the "Wicked Witch". In case you've lived under a pop-culture hole or don't embrace your inner fag hag (or fag), Wicked the musical is based on Wicked the book - a wonderful story about Oz before Dorothy. I bet you didn't know that Glinda and the Witch were college roommates and one of their professors was a talking goat (I think) who is murdered. Not sure how that all plays out on stage but the book was fun.

I have now sung For Good four times and will be singing it with a chorus this weekend in a musical revue. One of my sons is also in the production which involves songs from the last ten years of musicals done at our church and songs from productions that are being considered for the future. He's part of a group of children singing Inchworm from Radio Days and Do-Re-Me.

The first time we sang For Good it was near the end of a rehearsal and my little guy was lying on the floor, under the folding chair, clearly at the end of his rope. I looked down at him as I sang

Because I knew you
I've been changed for the better

and I haven't been able to sing this song without tearing up and cracking my voice. So wish me luck this weekend. If only he understood how a sappy Broadway show tune can turn me into a puddle of grateful emotions. My life is so much better with him, his brother and their sister.

Who can say if I've been changed for the better,
I do believe I have been changed for the better
Because I knew you
I have been changed
For good.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Back of envelopes

I love it when information is written on the back of envelopes. Not because it reminds me of getting phone numbers on the back of napkins. Because it reminds me of learning the difference between boys and girls.

My dad came home at bedtime when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I remember him walking into my bedroom to give me a goodnight kiss. He was in a grey suit, still with his tie on and a white shirt. As he leaned over to kiss me, I asked him what was the difference between boys and girls.

Did he bring up anatomy? Sugar and spice vs. snakes and snails? Peeing standing up? No.

He pulled out an envelope from the inside pocket of his suit coat and a pen. He wrote XX and XY at the top then four arrows pointing down. He explained the mother and father, zygotes and embryos. I felt so grown-up. Like he believed I would understand what he was talking about. I never forgot that and was well equipped for that part of sex ed and biology years later.

Last night the boys couldn't understand why this election was important if it wasn't about voting for president. I grabbed an envelope and explained the (theoretical) checks and balance of power in our government. While my simple triangle wasn't as complex as dad's genetic explanation of gender, it made me smile that my lesson was on the back of an envelope.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Wish he was running

Last night I was explaining all the things I thought the President has done wrong (among other things Iraq, destruction of New Orleans, wasted world leadership, rising gap between rich and poor) to which one son replied,

"When I'm president I will take money from the rich and give it to the poor so its more equit... equit..."


"Yeah, equitable. So it's more fair."

I wish my Robin Hood was on the ballot.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Now he's mad

"The president has done it now. I'm really mad."

Wow. What could make my husband so upset? The 100+ dead US soldiers in Iraq in October? The literally depressed state of New Orleans? The rising gap between rich and poor? The ridiculous go-it-alone stance that is making the United States a laughing stock and therefore incapable of providing leadership in Darfur or North Korea?


"I can't get onto my poker site. He's going after my poker site."


Friday, November 03, 2006

Interoffice mail

My husband's secretary thought the contents were a joke.

A sippy cup and a couple of diapers (size 6).

Our daughter had to spend the morning in the back-up day care at his office. I had one of those high profile meetings I simply couldn't get out of. The staff are incredibly kind to our children but it was suppose to be Mommy Day and I wanted to dash away with her.

I clearly dashed too fast and left a few things behind.

Which the center staff put into an inter-office mailer and sent up to the 20-odd floor.

Good thing there wasn't a soil pair of pants.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gift bags

It is getting out of hand.

My guys were picked up from school for a playdate with a friend. The mom graciously fed them dinner (well, McDonald's) and brought them to soccer practice where I met them. They ran to our van with gift bags filled with candy and plastic toys. Like they need candy. Or more plastic crap.

This was a playdate. I'm already of the belief that birthday party goody bags are completely out of hand. One family insisted we bring our toddler to their 7-year-old's party. As we were leaving the mom handed her a gift bag with a large Care Bear in it. She wasn't even an invited guest.

The boys' soccer coach gave every player a Halloween gift bag. She spends every Monday evening and Saturday morning with 9 boys, none of whom are related to her. Her own son had to drop out due to knee problems. I sincerely think she is amazing. She does not need to give the kids anything more.

Gift bags are just ridiculous.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Benefits of uniforms

While I am not a convert to parochial schools, uniforms are good. I don't have to worry about their outfits during the week. Turquoise polo shirts emblazoned with the school name and a cross paired with navy pants.

However, uniforms are also lousy. They are expensive (two pairs of pants, two shirts, a set of gym clothes - all times two). I try to make an outfit last two days before washing. That means still having to pull together a respectable outfit for extended day so there is a chance the boys will come home with uniforms that are only a little dirty.

This is not the exchange I wanted this morning while furiously making lunch.

"Mom is the other short sleeve shirt clean?"

"No. Why?"

"I dropped the slime from the coffin and tried to wipe the dirt off."

"With your shirt?"

He stood before me with a huge chunk of Halloween slime (given to him by his soccer coach) sticking on his shirt. I brushed and rubbed off as much as I could while informing he cannot play with slime again until he is 27 years old.

He went to school with some orange substance still on his shirt.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Benefits of global warming

I have painful childhood memories of cold Halloweens. One particular year, I carefully planned a princess costume. Correctly, my mother insisted I wear a big, bulky winter coat that did not in any way go with my dress so I wouldn't catch pneumonia. To this day I still remember being bitterly disappointed.

I have yet to put my kids in thick winter coats on Halloween. Not because I am determine to not be my mother. I'm the first to put extra layers on them when the temperature goes into the 50's.

This year's costumes, consisting of a police man, a Red Power Ranger and a soccer fan, did not involve any coats since the temperatures this evening was in the 60's. In New England. On October 31st.

So while I fervently believe we need to address global warming, having another warm Hallows Eve has been a treat.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Changing professions

While trying to get the news off the television so we could watch a TiVo'ed show, we heard the news report about four California firefighters dying and one still in the hospital. I was grilled about what happened. I explained the tragedy then ended that firefighting is a dangerous but important job. One of my guys for years has declared he will be a firefighter while the other will be a policeman.

The future firefighter suddenly announced, "Yeah I'm not going to be a firefighter because it is too dangerous. I'm going to be a race car driver."

Friday, October 27, 2006


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Damn Halloween Costume

One of my guys desperately wants to be a Red Power Ranger for Halloween this year.

Mind you he has only seen the show a handful of times, and certainly not with me (that leaves babysitters, friends' houses and unsuspecting grandparents). He talks about his friends who have Power Ranger toys and other related merchandise but I've held out. However there is something about Halloween, the fantasy of it, that let's me bend my no violent characters rule. Plus I never got to dress up like Wonder Woman as a little kid.

We finally got the box in the mail after waiting for a week. As I was zipping him into the padded red suit I said to him that it was funny the zipper didn't have one of those metal thingies to keep the zipper from slipping off the bottom.

Funny indeed.

Next evening he stood facing me in horror as he handed me the bright red zipper to his costume. Visions of returning the costume only to have the replacement come after Halloween filled me with dread. I had to fix it.

Do you know how hard it is thread the two zipper sides through the zipper? Really really hard. Especially with two boys and a toddler wanting to watch, hang on my arms and offer to help.

After half an hour, I finally got it on both sides, only to find one side had fabric in the zipper. No problem, just cut the fabric and slip the zipper through the cut.

I cut the zipper track too.

I finally did it. And he hasn't put it back on. Good move.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More tales from parochial school

From the back of the van:

"Mom, I don't like our church."

Oh no, I think, he is rejecting the holistic think-for-yourself approach I've taken to their religious upbringing.


"Yeah. The church at school makes us get up, sit down, kneel." he exclaims with much hand motion.

"Yeah!" agrees his brother. "And when grown-ups sit in front of us, we can't SEE!"


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Paris 1990 Part Deux

I arrived in Paris in May, 1990 after a difficult overnight train ride and near miss with falling pigeon turd.

My college buddy, Mimi, was living with a host family. In Italy, all of my neighbors were up by 6am and the stores were open before 7am. I thought that calling after 7:30am from a pay phone was reasonable. When I called, her host father barked into the phone "It is too early!" and hung up on me.

I had the address of the school where she was taking classes so I planned to find Mimi later. I found a youth hostel listed in Let's Go and went to get a bed. I found the neighborhood pretty quickly and realized I was in the red light district. I trudged on and got in line for a bed. When I got to the window, the clerk informed me the last bed was taken. She handed me a flyer for a week old place called The Three Ducks Hostel. It was in a completely different part of the city.

I got to a subway stop and practiced saying in French please help me, I don't speak French. I got to the tourist booth planning to ask how to take the subway to the station near the Three Ducks. After fumbling through je ne parle pas francais the attendant loudly said, in perfect American English, "You're in France. Speak French."

I stumbled away and became, simply put, a blubbering sobbing mess. After a sleepless night on the craziest train ride, not reaching my friend and feeling utterly alone, I lost it. I don't remember getting into the subway station but a subway employee came up to me. Clutching the flyer, I showed him the address and he walked me to a platform, waited for the train to arrive, pointed at the map until I acknowledged the station stop I needed and got me settled into a seat.

The hostel was in a residential neighborhood. As I walked up, a group of Australians were drinking beer around an empty concrete pool. By now it was 10am.

I finally found Mimi and we had wonderful time trapsing through Luxemburg Gardens, eating bread and cheese, and wondering around the city.

Early the next morning I was heading north to Normandy. As I waited for the train to depart I saw movement in the next train over. A man in a full suit with a tie had his pants unzipped and was jerking off in the window staring right at me. I sighed, pulled the window curtain and continued to read.

The City of Lights was the city to forget.

Monday, October 23, 2006

In training

My daughter's favorite t-shirt to sleep in is too small for her but she loves it. She looks for it in the dirty clothes basket and has to be convinced to wear a different shirt until it is clean. In case you can't read the font it says:

My Mum's an Erasure Fan
That's right. My daughter is a fag-hag-in-training. She's singing tunes from the Moulin Rogue soundtrack. We'll work our way up to Wonderland.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

He made me cry

My 93-year-old grandfather drove his big Cadillac over 1000 miles to visit my mom (his daughter), me and my kids (his great-grandchildren). This is the man who taught himself how to downhill skill at 69 years old and is married to a woman over 20 years younger than him.

A few years ago, while standing in his apartment, Poppy showed me a painting of a waterfall over a dam. He told me it was Harper's Mills near Belton, SC where he grew up. His mother painted it as a young woman before she met her husband, my great-grandfather. Poppy said he only had a few of her paintings. He explained that while he planned to give it to me he would like to wait until he died because he likes to look at it.

Last night, Poppy and his wife brought from their car a bubble-wrapped package. Inside was the painting of the dam at Harper's Mills. He wanted me to have it now. I just burst into tears prompting one son to fly across the room in a panic, another to climb on top of me telling me to stop crying and my toddler saying "Mommy crying!" as she snuggled into my neck. All while my grandfather is trying to hand me a lovely painting by his mother.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mr. Potato Head comes to town

Last week while driving home, I saw a large representation of Mr. Potato Head on a rotary next to the Welcome to town sign. He had a construction barrel body with PVC pipe arms and various other parts made with foam core.

This morning he was next to the local coffee shop, about a quarter of a mile from where I had seen him before. "No one knows who made him or how he got here" said the coffee shop owner. "And it is heavy" he said with a laugh.

I like to think of Mr. Potato Head as a cross between surprise installation art and a wandering/kidnapped garden nome.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Paris 1990

After spending my junior year in Florence, Italy I backpacked alone for a month through Europe.

I spent an initially lonely time in the South of France. It was hard to get used to traveling alone. Although visiting the hospital in Arles where Van Gogh was confined was amazing. It was repainted the colors of a painting. You can only imagine how blinding it was in the bright, spring sun. Later, a woman from Texas also traveling alone convinced me to join her at the Roman amphitheater to watch a bull chase. A group of men dressed in all white chased around a bull with tassels around its horns. They tried to pull off the tassels. And Van Gogh was considered the crazy one.

Then I headed to Paris (note violence, sex and guns follow so stop reading aloud to children).

The overnight train ride was in a large car with chairs, not compartments like were on the Italian rail system. Late into the night the two passengers across from me, who I thought didn't know each other when they got on the train, consummated whatever was between them. In front of me and all the other passengers. Not passionate kissing with serious petting. Full blown sex in which I saw privates. Stunned, I changed seats but couldn't switch cars.

The new found lovers finally went to sleep (or more likely passed out) and the car was quiet. Not that I can sleep sitting up so I watched lights go by and kept track of station names. I was pretty relieved when we were about 3 or 4 stations outside of Paris. The train started to pull out of that station as the sky was getting lighter.

Then it jerked to a stop. Then went backwards.

In case you are not an avid train rider, trains don't go backwards. Ever.

A young man ran through our car. Immediately behind were men who looked like police with their guns drawn. An elderly woman got up and started yelling. One of the men turned, pointed his gun at her, and yelled back. She sat down.

By then I had found someone near by who spoke both French and English. He explained that there had been a stabbing in a car behind us. Shortly thereafter an ambulance pulled up. We waited for a while then pulled out.

We finally got to Paris, later than scheduled but still 7:00 am. As I climbed the stairs looking for a pay phone to call my college friend, a bird just missed landing crap on my head. I could smell the crap as it passed in front of my face.

I love Paris in the springtime.
I love Paris in the fall.
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.
I love Paris in the winter.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What does he think of me?

Some time back, I was walking the boys into City Hall Plaza heading towards my office. There was some type of event going on which is usually the case in a truly public space. I've seen rallies, ethnic celebrations, a tented circus, farmers' market and many more. This time it was a small gathering, less than 30 people, milling around a podium waving a flag I didn't recognize. The speeches were all in a Slavic sounding language.

In a total panic, one of my guys pulls my hand and begs "Don't go up there!"

Last week we went to the circus. I explained there would be clowns, acrobats, animals, animal trainers and probably a ring leader. The same guy who worries that I will spontaneously lead Slavic chants in City Hall Plaza asked what a ring leader does. After explaining this leadership role I was asked, "are you the ring leader of the circus?"

What does this kid think of me?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Training America's Future Liberals

If you drive by my dirty, smelly van, complete with a mesh bag full of soccer balls, you would hear my kids loudly singing the following:

Now I don't want your Rolls-Royce mister
I don't want your pleasure yacht
All I want is just food for my babies
Give to me my old job back

We worked to build this country mister
While you enjoyed a life of ease
You've stolen all we built mister
Now our children starve and freeze

Now I don't want your millions mister
I don't want your diamond ring
All I want is the right to live mister
Give me back my job again.

I haven't been asked who they are signing to, or who mister is. When it does happen, I will explain Halliburton. And that this song was written in the 1930's. But it sounds tragically right today.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Unitarians in Parochial School

"I love Jesus! I love Jesus! I love Jesus! I'm going to marry him!" declares one 6-year old boy.

"I need my grocery beads" says the other. When corrected, "they are rosary beads" he replies, "Well, sounds like grocery to me."

Thursday, October 12, 2006


My daughter panics at the thought of dresses.

She loves to pick out her clothes and the outfit usually involves a t-shirt and leggings or tights. You should see her face as she rubs her hands over her legs in tights. The oh-its-smooth look.

Her favorite shoes are bright red and too small for her feet. Add patterned socks and she's pretty much a visual mess but inside very, very happy.

My aunt told me during a recent visit that she wishes she had let her daughter pick her clothes more often. As a mother in the 1960's she worked hard to have my cousin in hand-smocked dresses and pretty outfits.

A few days later my mother declared "Who would let a 2-year-old pick out her clothes?" with that sting only a mother can pull off.

So I put my daughter in a dress last week since we were seeing a friend of mine for the first time in over a year and I certainly wouldn't let a 2-year-old pick her clothes. She fought a hard and strong fight while getting the dress on. Then she ran to a wall, crouched into a ball and sobbed - heaving, gut-wrenching sobs - as she pulled and tugged at the dress. I promptly scooped her up, apologized over and over, and took off the dress. She wore a t-shirt for the visit.

I promised her then and there that she can pick her clothes. I'll make sure there are layers when appropriate so she doesn't catch pneumonia. A dress doesn't have to go on her body until she wants to wear one.

And she is the most stylish, forward thinking dresser in the family.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Miss American Beauty

Our boys are not in public kindergarten because there were not enough full-day slots. We are spending money to send them to a parochial school down the street.

I am Unitarian (read religious liberal who believes women make terrific ministers) so sending them to a faith-based school that is counter to my being was hard. But I thought the education would be sound and their classmates well-behaved.

I've tolerated lengthy explanations of a statue of Mary that's doing the tour of parish churches. I've received instruction on how to make the sign of the cross. The boys have decided our little grace we say before meals ("We love our family. Amen.") isn't a real prayer.

This is what the boys sang tonight during dinner, taught to them by a girl named Katie:

Mailman, mailman do your duty
Here comes Miss American Beauty
She can do the Pom-Pom
She can do the Twist
But most of all
She can kiss, kiss, kiss

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Apple Picking

Monday, October 09, 2006

Keep the old

We went to New Jersey to stay with a college friend of mine. We also spent part of Saturday with a friend of the boys who moved to Princeton with his family. It was a contrast of friendships.

Adults who have been friends for a long time have the benefit of shared history they can remember together (most of the time). One of my earliest visions of this friend is her dancing into my dorm room singing to Toni Childs' Walk and Talk Like Angels. We've visited each other in the various towns and cities where we were living (I would only go to Cleveland to be with her). There is an ease to our friendship that forgives those forgotten birthdays, weeks without talking and brief conversations that end with an abrupt "I'm grumpy now" or "gotta go, kids killing each other". We trust that the other will be there.

Six-year-olds don't have that trust. The boys have been friends with this other 6-year-old since they were all 13-months-old. But they can't exactly sit around recalling those great times spitting up their lunches, learning to walk or how to pronounce "tomorrow". They are really just getting the concept now of a future life. And with that concept comes the realization that their daily interaction as friends is over. What basis do they have to believe they'll stay friends?

So I watched them get reacquainted. At first I was shocked to watch their friend go play with someone else at the playground, someone he just met. My guys were completely content to play with each other and their little sister. I thought their friend had given up on them. Then back at the house it was like old times. We went apple picking and drove him in our van. The singing and dancing to Country Roads was supplemented with my friend laughing at the volume in the van.

Friday, October 06, 2006

On the road again

This morning I piled the kids into the car after their half day at school and we drove to visit a college friend. The trip should've taken 4 1/2 hours (not counting potty breaks). It took nearly 8 hours.

And through it all, the three of them were beyond amazing. This isn't delusional or Pollyanna or my-kids-are-so-perfect. Really. Three borderline fussing by the boys. One serious yelling for something by the toddler. I got to listen to some Talking Heads and Sylvester on the radio between Dan Zanes and Laurie Berkner.

We were stuck in some of the worst traffic I have ever seen. At one point, it took one hour to drive five miles.

My friend is worth it. And my kids are too.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What's for dinner?

After putting the whole wheat pasta in the boiling water I went hunting for tomato sauce. There was none. It was after 6pm, perilously close to hunger melt-down among the little threesome. We do have 3 open jars of salsa in the fridge.

"Hey kids! We're having Mexican pasta!"

Two of them loved it. Ate more pasta than usual.

One didn't buy it so he ate his favorite, peanut butter and pepperoni.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


The following was previously posted on the internal blog at my office. I actually threw down the gauntlet:


In the [local paper last week], the top story was about the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation which is focused on work-family issues. It is one of those ask question then print the response type articles. Kathleen Christensen talks about changes in society's views of balancing:

"Prior to our starting this work, the issue of balancing work and family was really seen as the problem of an individual family and the solutions were seen as private and individual. This wasn't a compelling public issue. "

I would argue it still is seen as private. Take my moaning (admittedly, moaning) to a colleague about tough drop-offs (scheduling, crying, constantly running) which led to "You should really think about not working and just be home." A simple "it is tough to be you" would have sufficed.

I also believe this continues to be the public angst of middle- and upper-class women and those of us with (blessedly) jobs that allow us some flexibility. Those with less money, fewer family resources and inflexible jobs it is still a private and difficult balance.

What could [our organization] do to broaden the discussion to include all working women, regardless of income?


And what could I have said in reply to my colleague's oh-so-supportive comment?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fluff festival

Yesterday we took the kids, in honor of our 11th wedding anniversary, to the Union Square "What the Fluff" festival. Fluff - that white, marshmallow spread often paired with peanut butter to make a fluffernutter sandwich - was invented in Somerville.

I would like to note the kid in the photo isn't one of mine. Blessedly the last thing they would want to do is jump into a kiddie pool full of melted marshmallows, particularly with a crowd watching. While waiting in line to buy a fluffernutter sandwich on Wonderbread the mother of said kid asked for trash bags to cover her all her Fluff-covered kids so she could "get them home in the car".

Should've thought of that before you gave them permission to jump in.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dancing with Pak and Newt

We went to the Martini Memorial Shell a few miles from our house the other day. I've been wanting to go with the kids for years in part because it looks like a mini-Hatch Shell along the Charles River with cool murals but also to give them the chance to run on a stage.

We were too late for the cool murals part. I am a fan of graffitti (hello before you jump down my throat where did Keith Haring get his start?) but not on top of other people's art work. I can picture kids working all summer a few years ago painting the various birds, foliage and other scenes of nature. Now Newt, Styles, Pak and V.S.C. rule the Shell.

However, the performance was first rate. Dancing, singing, a performance piece, more dancing, marching and strange karate moves. It was the perfect day for a show.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Cultured girl

This is the last weekend the Americans in Paris exhibit will be at the big city museum. I missed another wonderful exhibit over the summer at a different museum and was determined to get us to this one.

We got ahead of the crowd and walked into a gallery. Before us was Sargent's The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, one of my favorite paintings when I was a little girl. Here we were, all alone, me and my daughter, with this grand painting of four sisters. It was a moment to tear up for.

Accept all she wanted to do was "swim" on the bench in front of the painting. And yell. Loudly.

It is so easy to forget, especially with a kid as good-natured as this one, that she is a kid. A typical two-year-old. And while I wasn't expecting a lengthy discussion contrasting the brushstrokes of Mary Cassatt to Sargent, I was hoping for a bit more "Look for the dog on the blue chair" or "What colors are in that painting?"

Nope. Swimming on the bench.

At least I got a 54-piece puzzle with the Boit daughters (on sale). I can look at that.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Read the books

Last week USA Today ran an article about how parents can show movies to teach their kids about history. For instance the Holocaust section included Diary of Anne Frank and Civil Rights included To Kill a Mocking Bird.

What about reading the books? Actually getting them out of the library, buying them used at a bookstore, borrowing from a friend or family member?

Not that this book should even be considered in the same posting but while on vacation last month Craig put in The Princess Bride DVD one evening for the kids to watch. I flipped. Admittedly not the most rational or mature response but I've been waiting to read that book (yes, it started as a book before the lovely Cary Elwes starred as Wesley) to my kids since I first read the book - as a 14 year old.

I can't enjoy a book after I've seen a movie version. I think it would be the same for my kids. So Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Princess Bride will all be read before seen.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Jazz, blues and soup

While in St. Louis, I was determined to find a local place to hear music. And have a grown-up night out involving grown-up conversations, grown-up drinks, and grown-up music.

So I convinced 12 people from the conference to walk 1/2 a mile in a strange city towards the highway and the baseball stadium, during a Cardinals game, into a stand-alone building in the middle of parking lots. We walked into BB's and a gentleman who had to have learned the piano during the Great Depression was playing the keyboards. It was exactly what I hoped for.

When a place has under its name (and in its domain name) soup, it makes sense to order it. A bunch of folks ordered gumbo and complained later that it wasn't very good. Hello? As my friend in New Orleans says "If the state don't border an ocean, don't order seafood!" My chicken soup with rice and corn bread was very filling and much more appropriate fare for the state of Missouri.

Now the music. After 9:00 the band came on (we heavily tipped our gentleman piano player) playing old standards and awesome covers (Sitting on the Dock of the Bay will never be the same). Then the dancing. We all cut loose and before I knew it, it was 1:00 in the morning!

Before we left, the band invited a guest singer. A very, very large man, he sang without a microphone over a saxophone, electric guitar, base and drums. He got off the stage (we all worried he would fall) and proceeded to walk down the long length of the club. We could still hear him. He sang with passion, sweat and presence. It was a sight to behold.

If you're ever in St. Louis go to BB's. If you live in or near St. Louis, go there. I was so impressed I bought two hats emblazon with BB's - Jazz, Blues and Soup. One for me and one for my dad's birthday present. This is a place to patronize.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What is love?

Start reading this by singing Howard Jones' 1984 song.

My guys pretend to be on a Zoom cafe segment as they make their favorite meal on earth - peanut butter and pepperoni sandwiches. I kid you not. For a while they added Cheerios for extra crunch. They talk through the steps ("Now you put your knife in the peanut butter and spread it over the bread. Wheat is the best." with a knowing nod to the invisible camera) and start eating with an enthusiastic "Bon appetite!"

This week one guy has decided that the ultimate addition to peanut butter and pepperoni is grated cheese, either cheddar or Mexican combo. And today he insisted I make a sandwich for myself.

Now, I didn't want to squelch his creativity or discourage his limited protein intake. So, with Howard in my head I ate a very small peanut butter, pepperoni and cheese sandwich. With lots of milk.

It wasn't too bad. Bon appetite!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Na-no na-no

I can't take credit for this but it was funny.

My guilt-inducing work trip was to, drum roll, St. Louis. I'll write about a night of jazz, blues and soup another time. But when in St. Louis, especially when the trip didn't inspire me to return with the family, I used a break during the conference to go visit the Gateway Arch along the Mississippi River (yes, this whole time I thought it spanned across the river).

I found it fun to be up so high even on a cloudy day.

However, in addition to not knowing that the Arch didn't span water, I also didn't know how one got to the top.

I rode a little, bitty pod-like elevator that jerked, tilted and groaned up the Arch. It had no windows, was bright white and had little 60's mod seats.

When the doors opened for the first time, one of my counterparts declared "Look, Mork's spaceship!"

Monday, September 11, 2006

Guilty as charged

I love to travel. I actually tear-up when they show the pre-flight film about how to deal with emergencies. Not out of fear but from excitement. Excitement about the possibilities this journey will bring.

While I enjoy taking my kids all over in any mode of transportation (one hasn't lived until you've flown with 18-month-old twins to a foreign country in which you don't speak the language) I love to travel without them.

Yes, I feel guilty about not being with them at the end of their first day of kindergarten II (today) or taking them to yet another soccer practice. I feel rotten that my daughter doesn't understand I will be back. Somehow Thursday doesn't make sense to her.

But I will get to read, uninterrupted, for hours. I read all of Lovely Bones on one solo flight. I have Geraldine Brook's March packed and ready to break open. I have my iPod charged and set on Pet Shop Boys. I'll get to be in the company of grown-ups for several days and not worry about peanut butter on my clothes. I'll get to sleep until I need to get up, not because someone woke me up.

And while I am guilty because I'll enjoy it, I'll feel guilty too.

Friday, September 08, 2006


And not the CeCe Peniston song.

So often older people talk about the days when kids would be sent out of the house with no more direction than "go play". We live on a state highway across from a gas station so there is no chance of sending the boys out there. But we're lucky enough to have a large enclosed backyard. The best I can get out of these two boys is 10-15 minutes of soccer before someone offends, hurts, upsets, etc the other.

Today, today, they played for over two hours outside. Uninterrupted. Needing no guidance or mediation from me. They even asked for their lunch out there. Now, a chunk of that time involved using the garden hose and causing a minor flood in the basement but I'm not complaining.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Denial officially begins

There I was tonight, sitting on wet grass with my 2-year-old as her "brudders" played soccer with 7 other boys. I've now got 10 games to look forward to and another 10 or so practices. The dads stand around, at times helping the truly amazing coach, while moms either talk on their cell phones or go off to gossip. I'm not cut out for this.

However, watching my boys run around and really happy for an hour is an alright exchange for the discomfort, both physically and socially. That and watching a kid who was new to soccer try to show one of my guys how to kick. "Watch this!" this boy yelled as he threw the ball in the air and missed kicking it.

My guy just silently turned around, dropped the ball and solidly kicked it in a graceful arc. Then did it again. His new teammate dropped his jaw.

How sick am I that I loved watching that?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Remembering vacation

Always the first question I'm asked upon returning is "So, how was your vacation?"

Should I respond with "Oh it was great. So relaxing and nice to get-away."

Or do I say, "Honestly? It was fun and incredibly stressful. The kids can be really hard to be with for such long periods of time. But then they do or say something priceless that just blows me away."

"Oh, and it rained a lot during the end of the week."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Riding away

This morning I stood in the empty parking lot of a municipal pool and watched one of my sons finally master riding a bike. For several weeks he had been able to ride long distances but needed me to hold him to get started. Today, he could go from standing to starting.

As he was marveling at his ability to hold both feet off the peddles and make quick turns ("Look Mommy!" was yelled often this morning) I kept wiping away tears. There he was, going farther and farther away on his own. I told him since he was old enough to ride a bike, he was old enough to pay attention to cars (within reason. I have no plans to take him riding along a major highway).

Old enough to ride a bike. Watch for cars. My little man, growing up.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Funny thing

So, we go on vacation to escape - work, our dirty house, routine, endless Katrina-themed retrospectives - to what?

A new friend named Ernesto. Now we're under a tornado watch until 5 am tomorrow morning. One kid was still awake when we learned this so we just explained that if need be we'll be using the bathtub next to the boys' room to hide from the wind.

Just what I want him to remember from his vacation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Baby Girl

A year ago, we awoke to hear Craig's home town was drowning.

As our then 16 month old daughter was sitting in her high chair, singing to her breakfast, he looked over at her.

"I never got you to my hometown, Baby Girl."

She kept singing, oblivious to her daddy's sadness. He had never called her that. I walked out of the room to cry.

We've been calling her Baby Girl since that day.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Not so bad

As I was standing next to the van waiting for the men to return from yet another potty break on this drive to a different part of our glorious nation, a woman who was smoking with some other women asked me if the boys were twins. She told me she was the mother of 14-year-old twin girls and that they would fight in the car when they were little.

She said that years ago their fighting was so bad she pulled over the car, made them walk to the front of the car, "bungy-corded them to the grill" and threatened to drive like that if they didn't stop fighting.

"I don't know why I just told you that. But then it's not like you know me."

I'm not sure why she told me but it sure made me feel like I deserve the mother medal of the year for not having tied the kids to the front of the car during the previous 15 hours of driving. And don't worry, I didn't the last 2 hours either. The bungy cord was busy keeping the portable crib together.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Traveling Man

Why traveling with my husband is such fun.

As we drove past a sign that said "Welcome to town name. Where traditions meet the future."

His reply was "well, it looks like they met in a seedy bar."

Yup, we've been on the road. 17 hours over two days (lots and lots of potty breaks for the boys). Now we're hanging in a house by the beach. The boys spent tonight figuring out their new boogie boards. Harper is not too happy with the sound of the ocean. Or the sand. Or the general discomfort of hanging at the beach.

But at least Craig can make funny jokes about it all.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Elevator ad

My husband tells me about an ad that plays on the television in his office building (yeah, it is one of those buildings). It shows a fence with a guy in a backyard wearing a bathrobe acting like he's got bugs in his pajamas. The camera angle switches to the other side of the fence and he is furiously fencing with sticks with a little boy.

I had to wait with my daughter for a prescription this evening. I found myself in the school supply aisle with both of us clutching a day-glow roll of something in each hand. She was doing an interpretive dance complete with falling down and rolling to James Taylor singing "In my mind I'm going to Carolina...".

Then she ordered me to dance.

So I waved the day-glow things over my head. But I didn't roll around in the aisle.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Yaz: music or medicine?

This is horrible. I love '80's music too much. Particularly angst ridden techo.

Midnight it's raining outside he must be soakin' wet

And not because it is some hip retro funny thing to listen to at clubs. Like, oh, 70's music.

Everyone is sleeping tight, God knows I tried my best

No, because I actually remember when the songs came out, on radio, and we bought the records (funny vinyl things) that we flipped over when we wanted to listen to the other 5 songs on the second side.

Darling you know, it looks bad, just I lost the best thing that I ever had...

So much to my horror, I found in this month's Jane magazine an ad for Yaz. I thought it was about Yaz, as in Yazoo, the British band with singer Allison Moyet and keyboardist extraordinaire Vince Clark (now with Erasure).

No, it is a birth control pill.

What's next - a condom named Depeche Mode? A diaphragm called Spandau Ballet?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Red Balloon

A little girl pointed to a red balloon high up in a very tall tree. Neither the little girl nor her mother had a balloon with them that day so they didn't know where it came from.

"Balloon come down" she told her mother.

"No dear," her mother said knowingly. "Balloons like that only float up. That balloon won't come back down."

A while later the mother looked over and saw the balloon floating along the ground near where they were sitting.

"Oh my! That balloon did come down! You were telling me what you saw" the mother excitedly said to her daughter.

The little girl pulled the balloon behind her, held it over her head and called it "an umbrella" and dropped it to the ground to chase it. At one point she sat on the balloon.

Suddenly the red balloon started to rise off the ground. The girl and her mother watched as it went up and over the fence. It disappeared.

"Where did it go?" asked the mother.

"It come back," declared the little girl.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Birthday party

My boys had their 6th birthday party this weekend. While wanting a Power Ranger theme party, I still try to fight the total commercialism of childhood. Instead they designed medallions for capes. While the designs were either images or variations on their names, every boy pretended to be an established character - we had two Supermans, a Batman and a Robin - rather be one of their own creation.

I figure this will be my last year of giving a CD of their favorite songs from the past year. I've been making CDs since they were two years old. It was a way to remember what songs they loved and at the time be a different guest gift after the birthday party ended.

Last night I stayed up to burn the following:

  1. Roll Away - Papa Grows Funk
  2. Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
  3. Country Roads - John Denver
  4. Tomorrow - Annie the Musical
  5. Hard Knock Life - Annie the Musical
  6. We are Family - Sister Sledge
  7. Four White Horses - from their camp CD
  8. I love the Mountains - same camp CD
  9. Right By Your Side - Eurythmics

Of course, while I am trying to avoid a completely character-themed life for my kids, I still have very fond memories of watching Wonder Woman on television. And I probably would have begged my parents for the Wonder Woman cereal, underwear, flashlight, books, toothbrush and nail polish if it existed. In fact, at 37 I still keep a look out for a good t-shirt.

And if I buy one, each boy will get a character t-shirt.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

National (Public Radio) Exposure

O.k. So Melissa Block said my last name wrong during All Things Considered tonight.

And was the quote about something meaningful like low-income women's needs for adequate job skill training to be economically self-sufficient? Or the importance of world peace?

No - it was a "letter" to NPR about how I listened to English Beat at work.

On Tuesday, Robert Krulwich reported on how people lose their sense of adventure, or willingness to try new things, as we get older. Get older as in past age 35. I'm 37. Krulwich's piece mentioned that part of the reason we stick with what we liked as 19 and 20 year olds (or in my case 14 years old) is that it brings back pleasant memories of being young and adventurous.

For me, while writing a project workplan I was having flashbacks of drama club dances in a church. A good memory. Really.

And there I had been, the morning before the story ran, listening to English Beat on my iPod (at least it was an iPod and not mixed-cassette tape on a Walkman) writing a project workplan. One of my colleagues came in, one who is 7 years younger than me, to ask something. Of course he inquired, "What are you listening to?"

"English Beat"

"Oh" with that tone that it might as well have been Jack Benny.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Orange peel mouth guards (plus yogurt)

Says it all...