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.