Monday, December 22, 2008

Wrapping It Up

Most of the presents are wrapped. A few Christmas cards were mailed. The teachers' gifts have been bought (succulents...a nice houseplant in a pretty pot. Thank you, Ikea!). The tree is up, the house is decorated, the Christmas dinner menu has been planned, and the groceries have been bought. Just have to hunt down some fresh cranberries.

Tonight the cookies will be baked.

Renee and Jeff will come by tonight for a round of baking and, at least when it comes to Jeff and Ian, helping the kids with their new Lego kits. My ex-husband's father positively spoiled the kids this Christmas, taking them to Toys R Us yesterday and allowing them to PICK OUT what they wanted. Sean picked out the Star Wars Federation MTT. For the uninitiated, that means Sean picked out a $100 kit that contains 1,326 pieces.

Exhibit A:


Upon returning home yesterday from his trip to the store with Dad and Grandpa C., Sean walked through the door with the Lego box that is nearly as big as him, and he announced, "I got to pick out the MTT!!! Grandpa C. had more than a hundred bucks in his pocket!"

Obviously. I hope he at least said thank you.

Nolan picked out two smaller items, in addition to a Spider-Man Megablock kit.

After their dad deposited them in the kitchen, shared with us the horrors of the icy roads between New Haven and Woodbridge, and then split, Ian and I were called into action. Ian spent a fair amount of time helping Nolan assemble his Spider-Man kit. Sean simply required assistance locating pieces. He had more than 1,000 Legos on the living room floor, separated into piles and bowls by color. He was somewhat organized, but it was still tough to find some of the smaller pieces.

As of this morning, Sean was about 1/4 of the way done with his new ship. Normally he rocks through the Lego kits in a couple of hours. He literally worked on that one yesterday for close to five hours. Impressive. At least he can focus. And at least he and his brother were kept busy while Ian went to the Rudy's Christmas party and I hung out at home, sewing.

Back to tonight: It's cookie night. Renee is bringing a bottle of wine and I'm supplying a few pounds of butter. The kids' last day of school is tomorrow, when they'll go in for the morning, during which time they'll have Christmas parties and eat bucketloads of candy and cookies. At noon tomorrow, the Christmas holiday will have officially begun for them--and for me, sort of. At the end of my workday on Tuesday, I'm off until the 5th. It's my first real "vacation" in a while. The first time I will have taken any time off to do...nothing. I'll hang out. Eat. Sleep. Play with the kids. Enjoy new Christmas toys. Sew. Crochet. Hit a few yoga classes. Walk the dog. Go to a play (Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries"--thank you, Ian!). I will not be moving from one house to another, which I have done my past TWO vacations. Nor will I be out of work and looking for a job, as I was last Christmas.

Hold on a sec...lemme just knock on wood.

Tonight's cookies: Chocolate chip, gingerbread, and some simple Rice Krispie treats made with Skippers, which are nut-free candy-coated chocolate candies from the Vermont Nut-Free catalog. M&M's are decidely unsafe for Sean, since they are "processed in a facility that has peanuts". I actually like the Skippers better. They taste fresher and more chocolately than M&Ms. And they're from a regional merchant. Support your indy candymaker!

I have lots of pics I need to post, too. I've completed several sewing projects lately, and I'd love to share them here. Don't hold your breath, though. I'm swamped for the next few days. And I don't want to add a single thing to my to-do list right now. I'll be on VACATION. After that, it's the new year. And Ian and I have an upcoming wedding that needs attention.

Time for me to retreat into my Domestic Goddess bubble. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Stay safe & healthy, get your rest, enjoy the moment, and take deep breaths!

xo

Monday, December 15, 2008

Un-Planning

Sometimes the best thing you can do is stop right in your tracks. Last weekend--not this past weekend, but the one before--I did just that. I had purchased (surprise) tickets for me, Ian and the kids to the Polar Express on the Newport Dinner Train months ago. But when Sunday--the day of the event--arrived, I had absolutely no desire to make the four-hour round-trip in the Subaru for 90 minutes on a train.

This was unusual. I am normally fired up when it comes to day trips or long drives to just about anywhere.

Because this was out of character for me to feel completely and totally apathetic about the trip, and because the kids had no clue what we had planned for the day, I bagged it. Call it a hunch. Call it intution. Call it being totally ridiculous and wasting money, but it wasn't going to happen. I made the call mid-Sunday morning, as the kids rolled around in the snow with their friend Nicky oustide church, and Sean and Nolan told me they wanted to get a Christmas tree.

So I decided to go with the flow of things. In our highly scheduled lives, the boys and I enjoy lots of activities and events on a weekly, if not daily, basis. What's more, the kids spend almost every Friday night at their father's, and consequently some days they are burned out on "going" anywhere but home. Home is where the Legos are. Home is where the dogs are. Home is where they can play with good friends and neighbors. Home is...well, there's no place like it, right?

The kids and I went home after mass, and I quietly informed Ian in the other room that I had decided we'd skip out on Newport. He was surprised, but he was down with getting a tree. After all, we had just enjoyed our first snowfall of the season. What could be more idyllic than going to the tree farm to cut down our "first" tree together for the first Christmas together in our new house?

I threw together some lunch and called the Newport Dinner Train, encouraging them to "rehome" my tickets (which were will-call), if they could. Then we hopped into Ian's truck and took off for the tree farm in North Guilford, where the snow had accumulated a little more than in our shoreline neighborhood. The boys, Ian and I trekked through rows of trees, stomping through patches of snow and delighting in the fresh stuff that fell from the sky while we shopped around for the right tree. It seemed unbelievably perfect: fresh snow falling from the sky while two little boys ran amok, chasing rabbits and hiding behind trees. Once we found "the one", Ian got down to the business of sawing, and Sean helped. Later, home, we decorated the tree and enjoyed a long, quiet, relaxing night with a nice fire, cookies, hot chocolate and Christmas movies.

It beat sitting in a car for four hours on I-95.

As the boys headed upstairs to wash up for bed, Sean protested the end of the weekend. "I had so much fun today," he said. "I wish we could do today all over again."

And at that instant, I was completely and totally satisfied, at least for a moment. Sure, I had bailed on taking them on a fun Christmas train ride--a state away. But in doing so we all enjoyed the gift of each other's company on a relaxing, snowy Sunday. Instead of feeling hurried and racing down exits on the highway, we sat in our house by the light of our tree and felt completely content with each other at home. As my friend Cindy, the mother of Sean's best friend Nicky, said, "Sometimes we get so crazy planning to do stuff for the kids, and really, we're doing it for us. They're happy to just hang out, and sometimes it's better to just do that."

And so it was.

Happy Monday.

xo

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Little Sister is a Whore!

My 16-year-old sister Grace landed a role as "The Prostitute" in her high school's recent interpretation of the play "Father Knows Best" (the script from which the television show was born). The director wrote in 12 new parts in order for the play to be done, since high school plays usually require a large cast. (That's the reason high schools usually do musicals, because those casts are already huge...)

Grace had never officially "acted" before, although she spent two summers at camp doing performance art, including trapeze (how cool is that?). But her role as the unnamed hooker in last week's play was her first real role, and she rocked it. She received huge applause during her mid-scene stage exit during each of the play's three performances (none of the other actors snagged such a response, and those kids were all excellent). She was dry, funny, quick, and sassy--a sharp contrast to the teeny-bopper roles held by the other girls on stage. It was the perfect role for her, and she LOVED it. She loved it so much, in fact, that now she wants to go to Emerson College. And I want to help her get in there any way I can.

Tonight I head back out to my mom's shoreline town to see my brother perform in "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Jack is 12 and pretty shy, so I cannot wait to see him on stage tonight. He's never acted before. He was behind the lens of some shorts he filmed with friends up at camp this summer, and he also put together an animated Lego short that was pretty hilarious. This is new territory for him, though. I can't wait to cheer him on.

Tomorrow I'll cheer myself on--at yoga and at the pedal of my sewing machine. Most of the Christmas shopping is done; all that's left are some craft projects, wrapping, and lots of baking. I'm trying to slow it down this season and really enjoy the little moments, alone or with the kids. Of course, I'm never really "alone". That's impossible with two big, needy, affectionate dogs. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy Friday!
xo

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Better Mouse Trap

There is a new member of our household. Bingo is a taupe-colored tiny little field mouse who lives in our walls, eats crumbs the dogs missed, and leaves a trail of tiny mouse poop everywhere he goes.

Bingo. The kids named him. They haven't seen him, but they've named him. Sean said, "I think he wears a little sweater," and proceeded to draw an elaborate scene of what he imagined Bingo's little mouse hole looks like. As Sean sees it, Bingo has a full set-up, complete with a couch, books, and choice artwork on the walls.

It's cute, in a way, having a little field mouse take up residence in our walls. Or maybe we took up residence in his walls a few months ago when we bought the house. Still, cute as it is to hear the boys talk about Bingo the way they talk about the dogs or the fish or the turtle, it's also disgusting to find trails of mouse poop everywhere. So, Ian and I resolved, Bingo must go.

Let me be clear about something. "Bingo must go" does not mean "Bingo must die". In a previous life with a previous husband in a previous home, we had a few mice. According to the previous husband, the only effective way to get rid of them was to kill them with spine-breaking, old-school mousetraps laid out with cheese as the bait.

"Are you sure?" I whimpered, heartbroken.

"Trust me. We had tons of mice growing up. This is the only way."

I deferred. It was not a new pattern, however. I deferred a lot in that relationship. Silly me.

So the ex laid-out the traps in the basement, and within mere minutes we heard an undeniable "SNAP". I felt sick. He investigated. "Got 'em!" he yelled up the basement stairs. I started to cry.

That is not the scene I wanted played out again with Bingo. Poor little mouse. He's just cold and hungry and found this great place to shack up for the winter. I don't think that means he deserves to DIE, even if his little poop crumbs are so totally gross. Remembering my experience at the old house, I gasped when Ian mentioned the word "trap". He laughed and reassured me. "We're not going to kill him," he said. "They make no-kill traps." Phew. Of course!

Reason #1985928749287349238492389027 why this relationship makes sense.

So this weekend the traps were laid out. The first round didn't work, and we still had mouse poop on our counter in the morning. Smart little guy. So Ian bought a different style of no-kill trap, laced it with soy nut butter, and placed in our "spot" on the kitchen floor.

I forgot all about it. The kids went to bed, and Ian and I dozed on the couch, watching a few episodes from the first season of "Arrested Development". Suddenly, I heard a clear "CLICK" from the kitchen. I lifted my head.

"What is it?" Ian asked.

"I heard something in the kitchen."

We investigated. Ian took the trap and went out to the back porch with it. He peeked inside.

"He's in there!" he smiled. "And he is scared shitless."

"Let me see him!"

I tried to get a good look, but I could barely see the little guy.

I looked up at Ian. "You're going to set him free?"

"Yep."

I talked to the mouse. "I'm sorry to send you out on such a cold, wet night, little guy. Be safe." I felt terrible.

Ian let him go. "Don't worry. He'll probably find his way back in."

Before bed, we reset the trap in the hopes of catching one of the many cousins Bingo no doubt has living in our walls. Where there's one....

This morning we found the trap had been tripped again overnight. Sean was excited to finally meet Bingo. But when he and Ian opened the trap, it was empty.

I smiled. Bingo found his way back in alright.
xo

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What the Hell Am I Doing with My Life?

Beyond the scope of motherhood, marriage, being a good friend and dutiful daughter, I feel like my sense of purpose has fallen off track during the past three and a half years--at least when it comes to my career.

I am a desk-jockey at a small satellite office for an enormous corporation. I push around paper, handle bills, contracts, and site-related planning, and occasionally I even handle issues for my boss, who works out of Philadelphia and is only in my office about a half dozen times a year. It's a good job with excellent pay, decent benefits, and a ton of flexibility. I'm grateful to have this job (thank you, Heide!), in the wake of last winter's layoff from a struggling local non-profit. I can put food on the table, pay my mortgage, rest assured that my medical costs are covered, and even buy some new clothes once in a while.

Why would I want more than that? Aren't my basic needs being met?

Yes and no. I was happiest in my career when I was a staff writer for a Stamford-based trade magazine, a job I took after fleeing the sharp edges of a public relations job in New York City. I lasted roughly a year in New York before I quit, realizing that I am just way too sensitive of a person to spend my days cold-calling, lying, and exaggerating for the sake of some expensive clients. At the glittery midtown firm, we were expected to outfit ourselves at Bergdorf's and live in the city on a salary of $20k. The only person in the office to whom I could relate was Christina, a sweet girl from Queens who was friends with Q-Tip. We often ate our brown-bagged lunches together at Bryant Park, talked about music, and shopped for make-up at Duane Reade. I still think about her from time to time and hope she's happy.

My shift to the magazine was an immense relief. I started as an ed assistant and worked my way up to special projects manager and staff writer in the space of year. I loved the people with whom I worked, I enjoyed spending the day interviewing sources and following leads, I was thrilled to be writing for a living, and I enjoyed going to work with regular people in regular clothes who lived regular lives. The only reason I ever left that job after four years was to stay home with Sean after he was born. My salary, as decent as it was, would barely cover daycare. And the commute from New Haven to Stamford would have kept me away from my new baby from sun-up to sundown. I couldn't handle that, and my ex-husband and I were in a position to live, tightly, on one salary. So I left, scoring occasional freelance work through my friend Melissa (thanks, Miss!), having a second baby, and enjoying the stay-at-home life.

Until I cracked.

Suffice to say, my life and my marriage blew apart in a category five hurricane that had been threatening off-coast for about 13 years. I found myself in need of--and ready for--a job. The boys, then ages 3 and 15 months, went in to full-time pre-K and daycare programs. I went back to work as an office manager for a medical researcher downtown, and within a year the house was on the market and the divorce date had been set (and reset, and reset...ah, lawyers and judges). Ironically, I considered applying to law school. Then, my divorce behind me and keys to my new apartment in hand, I took a job with a local nonprofit--and considered applying to an Urban Studies graduate program. Then I lost my job, scored this one, and here I am: A mother of two amazing boys who have thrived despite their brief ride on the Titanic; engaged to a wonderful guy; proud owner of a sweet little house; and once again considering applying to graduate school.

But for what?

Nursing would be my first choice, but it presents serious challenges. Nevermind the competitiveness of the local nursing programs and the intensity of the class schedule in addition to my already piled plate of full-time work and full-time motherhood. The sheer nature of the field, as much I am drawn to it, might not be for me. In all honesty, I'm not certain I could handle a patient dying on me. And that will happen at some point in a nursing career. So (if I say so myself) while I have the smarts, drive, compassion, and adrenaline needed for the field, I also have a serious predisposition to anxiety and panic. In short, I would struggle to turn off the adrenaline when not on shift. I would make a good nurse, but a lousy Moira. And that wouldn't help anyone--especially my kids.

So right now I have resolved to keep any graduate school ambitions on the back-burner, at least through next summer. Ian and I will get married this spring, and I look forward to watching that garden of ours bloom next summer, with the kids running through the sprinkler in the backyard and me enjoying summer hours and plentiful vacation time with them. I might--might--enroll in a non-matriculated education course next fall, to test the waters of a teacher certification degree, a program I abandoned in favor of a regular English B.A. in college. My recent stint as a "mystery reader" in both Nolan and Sean's classes has reminded me how happy I am in school--as a student, parent, or visitor. I love the way children look at the world, and I love witnessing them understand new concepts and ideas. Could I teach? Absolutely. Do I want to teach? Sure--don't I already?

I think the big lesson in all of this planning and unplanning is simple: I need to enjoy the moment more, and spend less time planning my next transition/challenge/achievement. In lieu of an urban studies program, I have become a member of a couple of local landtrust and preservation socities. Instead of going to nursing school, I can teach another yoga class and continue to tend to my Grandmother, who has a dressing that must be changed each week. Instead of going to law school, I can just pay my lawyer to entertain me. And if I want to teach, the answer will come. That's my problem: I am always chasing down answers. If I would just sit still for a little while, they'll find their way to me when I least expect it.

I'm doing a lot with my life, really. My career might not be spiritually fulfilling, but the little moments are. As Heide knows, my office is the place where people stop by to talk--about anything and everything. They vent, they rage, they cry, they laugh, they share chocolate, they ask for my help, they seek my opinion, and if they actually want something done around here, they know I'll do my best to make it happen. I was the first person told about a coworker's pregnancy and the first one on "the scene" when a coworker found out a relative had unexpectedly died. I share hugs, tissues, and a lot of really tasteless jokes. Heide said I'm the "Office Mom".

So... I'm Mom, at home and at work. Honestly, being the one my children, friends and coworkers turn to first in good times and in bad is a pretty high honor. I've been so busy trying to find my calling that I haven't heard it speaking to me every day.


xo

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Marriage (or, Chocolate vs. Vanilla)

Holy Crap! The wedding is four months away!!!!


Okay--I've got the dress; the invitations; the save-the-date cards; the venue; the caterer; the music; the photographer; the JP; the attendants and such....we're pretty much good to go, with only about 6,000 other things to take care of in the next 16 or so weeks. Even smaller, simpler weddings are very "involved". Fortunately, I love to plan a party. However, as far as planning my own wedding is concerned, I learned a lot in the first round almost nine years ago, and I'm paying those lessons forward to this wedding.

More importantly, I'm paying those lessons foward to this MARRIAGE. Because that's what I'm doing...I'm getting ready for marriage. I'm not just throwing a party. I'm throwing a party to celebrate this deal Ian and I have struck with each other: I'll be there for you; you'll be there for me; and together we'll take care of ourselves. And keep the bills paid. And travel. And cook dinners. And raise kids. And enjoy a special friendship called marriage. And frustrate the hell out of each other. And love each other. And....

The thing is, marriage is work no matter who you're married to. It's not always easy. But some marriages present challenges that simply cannot be overcome for a myriad of reasons, most typically because only one person is working on overcoming them. Ian and I will face our ups and downs, no doubt. But if our solid friendship and experiences together over the past two years are any indication, we can ride out the bad and enjoy the good as a real team. This is mind-blowing to me. And I love it.

But enough of the heavy stuff! Let's get down to more immediate matters: THE HOLIDAYS!

Next week we're doing Turkey Day at my mom's, but I'll be roasting my own poultry at home so we have leftovers to return to at the end of the day. Pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes are on the list of things to bring to mom's. As for the green bean casserole, I found a great recipe on the Food Network the other night with Guy Fieri, and I think I might make that one instead. We'll see how it's received, though. My mom's Irish family really likes things to be the Same Way Every Year. I took liberties with last year's green bean casserole and put red pepper flakes in it (gasp!). My family was confused and flustered over the matter.

Honestly.

What I'm really looking forward to is Christmas, especially the baking. Each year Renee and I (usually) get together and whip up a bunch of cookies on some random Saturday night after Thanksgiving. Last year we had the pleasure of baking in my former, single-mom kick-ass apartment with its renovated, open kitchen and ample counter space. This year, it's back to reality because I own again. We'll be baking in my tiny kitchen, bumping into each other, dogs, kids, and our respective significant others as we manipulate dough and make ourselves sick from eating two of every dozen that emerges from the oven.

I'm going to try a few new recipes this year, too, in addition to the usual chocolate chip and sugar cookies. Bakerella's blog is amazing, and I've found several recipes on there worth sharing. The red velvet cake and Oreo truffles are two latest discoveries that I cannot wait to try. Today's item for sharing is the amazing Double Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes filled with Chocolate Ganache and Topped with Creamy Goat Cheese Frosting. Phew. It's a lot to say, but I cannot wait to make them. They're not just for dessert. In fact, they would be perfect for a cocktail party or as a pot-luck item for, say, your table of 10 at a BYOB holiday fundraiser with Vinnie Penn (who will host Guido Jeopardy) that you might be attending on Friday, December 5 at the Annex Club on Woodward Ave. Tickets are $25 and it goes to a good cause.

Just sayin'.

Anyway, here's the recipe. Check it out. I, for one, plan to make these. Ian will hate them--he hates chocolate. Communist.



Double Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes filled with Chocolate Ganache and Topped with Creamy Goat Cheese Frosting

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa, natural unsweetened
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 cup shredded zucchini
3.5 oz. Valrhona semi-sweet chocolate bar, chopped in chunks

Preheat oven to 350º F
Line cupcake trays with 18 baking cups.
Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.
Cream butter with a mixer in a large bowl. Add sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla one at a time, mixing well with each addition.
Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour)
Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chunks until combined.
Fill baking cups 2/3 full and place in oven immediately.
8. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Creamy Goat Cheese Frosting

5 oz. Ile de France goat cheese
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups confectioner's sugar, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla

Sift sugar and set aside.
Beat the goat cheese, cream cheese and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until creamy.
Gradually add the sugar, mixing and scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl in between additions.

Chocolate Ganache

2 oz. Valrhona semi-sweet chocolate bar, chopped in chunks
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Place chocolate and whipping cream in the microwave. Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until melted. Blend thoroughly.
Add sugar and stir until thoroughly combined.
Pour ganache into a small plastic squeeze bottle.

To assemble:

Insert opening of squeeze bottle halfway into cupcake center and squeeze ganache until you see it start to surface.
Then, spread creamy goat cheese frosting on top with a knife or small offset spatula.
Use any leftover semi-sweet chocolate pieces to sprinkle on top of cupcakes.
Enjoy!

***



Happy Thursday!
xo

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friendship

What is friendship anyway?

I think the definition varies from one relationship to the next, one stage of our lives versus another. It waxes and wanes...it comes and goes, and sometimes it returns. Sometimes it's the thing that keeps us going; sometimes it's the most important thing in our lives. Other times, it's empty or simply something we can't devote any time to until we take care of ourselves.

The worst kind of friendship is forced. Say, when a couple of people have one or two things in common--like children, or a friend--and they think on some level they must forge some bond. It's beautiful when that works out; ain't no big thang if it doesn't.

I've been thinking a lot about friendship during the past couple of weeks, since I went back into the occasionally soul-sucking vortex of online social networks. I created a Facebook account after being asked three times in one week if I had such an account. So I opened one and shazam! Yes, yes, I'm able to connect with fellow New Haveners and acquaintences. But the big bonus is that I've reconnected with so many friends from high school.

Let's get something straight: High school was not the best years of my life, and you couldn't pay me all the money in the world to return to it. (The only thing worse was 7th grade. And maybe 2005-2006, when I was going through a divorce. But anyway...) I went to an all-girl's Catholic "academy", which was a small school with small classes and close cliques of "nice", mostly Irish, Italian, and Polish Catholic girls. There were 400 of us total in school, with about 100 of us in each class. It was an enriching experience on many levels, but when I left I was done with it and didn't look back.

Until now.

Now I'm reconnecting with so many women I knew as girls, and it's beautiful to see what course each of our lives has taken in the 17 years since graduation. As a collective, we're doing quite well. To hear from my old friends and get updates on their lives is such a treat. We all knew each other during such formative years; we all knew a certain naïve aspect of each other, from when we were full of aspiration, hope, and hormones. (Most of us are still hopeful, aspiring, and maybe a bit too hormonal.) Basically, it's nice to reconnect with people who understand and accept each other with few words and much unconditional care and concern.

I am lucky. I have a few very close girlfriends--and quality is more important than quantity. People like Renee, Heide and Mary are forces of strength in my life that keep me up when I'm having trouble keeping myself up. I have plenty of acquaintences who are dear to me, too. But pure friendship is something that we cannot take for granted, nor is it something we can force. It either happens, or it doesn't. The fact that I have a pool of old friends with whom I can reconnect on a meaningful level is profound. It feels like home when I talk to them.

My grandmother has kept in touch with childhood and college girlfriends her entire life. Each month she meets up with friends from her days at Regis College, and all-women's Catholic college in Massachusetts. They lunch. They celebrate birthdays (this year they're all turning 80), and the keep each other laughing through whatever inevitable downs they must ride out in life.

I used to say that if I ever had a girl I wouldn't send her to the high school I attended. The point is moot: I don't have a daughter, and I likely never will. But I can't rule out the value of an all-women's education. As I lunched at Grandma's on Wednesday, she pulled out some photos of her mother's sister and family. They're all dead now, but Grandma's first cousins were, like Grandma, well-educated at esteemed private schools. Grandma pointed to the boys. "Jimmy died when he was 3. John went to West Point and then Yale, once the war was over. Then he married a DuPont." she said. "Edmund was drafted and died in France, where he's buried. The twins and Mary each had a debutante ball, and Mary went to Smith. She used to come by and visit on her way up to see her old college friends. Do you remember that?"

Of course I didn't.

But what I do know is that if you lined up the generations of women in my family, you'd find that the strongest ones had the best education, unbelievable loss and heartbreak, brilliant and beautiful children, and amazing girlfriends to whom they could always return to find missing pieces of themselves.

xo

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spicoli Lives On...in Pre-K

Nolan's nickname of late is "Noly Spicoli".

He's been known as "The Chugger" (he will drink an entire "thing" of [insert beverage here] in one sitting, without coming up for air). He has also been known as the "Howler Monkey" (his scream outdoes anything I've ever heard from a kid). And he's also proudly worn the title of "Cookie Monster," a nickname that requires no explanation.

But Noly Spicoli is perfect. Yes, he's only four, but he loves to say "dude", he refuses to wear anything except slip-on skater sneaks, and he likes to walk around while eating. He also likes to say, "Wouldn't that be so awesome?" about every idea that pops into his head. And he says it in his Dude voice, which is deep and goofy. The kid is hilarious.

So one day last week I picked up the boys from school, and it was like any other day. Nolan dragged his backpack along, scuffing down the hallway in his completely shot Simple slip-ons. (His Vans died a long, slow death, and giving up the Simples will only happen when his toes poke through them.) Sean chatted away about problems that need to be solved and projects that need to be built. And then Nolan shared that his class had begun to learn about Thanksgiving.

"Mo-ha-mom," he said in his Dude voice. "Do you know what I told my teacher today?"

"What, honey?"

"'I'm glad I'm not a turkey!'"

"That's pretty funny, Nolan."

"Cuz I don't want to be shot and stuffed," he laughed in his Dude voice. "Because that would NOT be so awesome!"

Word.

Happy Monday!
xo

Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama Mama

Obama won. And for the first time in many years, I feel really proud to be an American. I've always been proud...but this time it's different. It's not a defensive pride, as it was in the wake of 9/11. It is not a blind pride, as it was when I was a kid and thought our country was impervious to just about everything. Now, I just appreciate what it means to be an American. Yes, our country's kind of in the shitter. But it's also full of amazing idealism and integrity like no where else, and those two things will help our country rebound under the direction of a new president--one who does not set himself apart or above other Americans. I am proud to have voted for Obama. Yes we could, and yes we did.

In the meantime, I've got this funny life that I live with two kids, an amazing guy, and two dogs. I sometimes feel a disconnect from some of my girlfriends. I'm out of synch in a way, since I had my children either way after or way before some of them became moms. I've carved my own niche and have become close to a couple of moms whose children are the same age as mine. And my friend Mary and I were clearly related in a past life. I feel so blessed to be friends with her now. But as for some of my closest friends with kids, right now I get to enjoy their new babies and toddlers, wondering how those years went by so quickly with my own kids--and how on earth I ever did it by myself for almost three years.

I gotta say, though, it's pretty freakin' nice to be out of the diaper and baby-gate stage...




Happy Friday!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Liberty and Empathy

My elderly neighbor Florence just adopted a new dog, two weeks after her 16-year-old mutt Kelly finally gave up the ghost. Florence was upset as she informed me of Kelly's death, but immediately commented, "Don't worry. I won't wait. I'll get another one soon. I don't like not having a dog in the family. It's just not normal to me without a dog in the house."

True to her word, Florence brought Sweetie home yesterday. She is a one-year-old mutt, rescued from a high-kill shelter in North Carolina and adopted through a shelter in Newington. I stood in the driveway at 7:00 this morning, chilly in my socks and pajamas and happy to let Sweetie lick my hands and gain some trust in her environment. She seemed timid, but happy.

All of my animals have been rescues. With the exception of fish, I have never purchased an animal from a pet store or breeder. Even the turtle is a rescue, found injured and helpless by Ian's father on the side of the road in Milford. All of the cats I ever had "found" me; all of the dogs I've loved needed a family. Ditto for Ian. (Wait, that didn't come out right.)

As a young child, I even had a pet parakeet, Liberty, who was a rescue. Liberty was not long for this world, though. And in a way, I thought it was a good thing, since I never much liked keeping her locked behind bars. I often let her out of the cage to "be free!", and she would shit all over the curtains. Mom wasn't pleased.

But I loved the bird, and I was devastated when she had a heart attack during a thunderstorm. My mother was on the phone with the vet while pumping the little bird's chest with her index finger, using all of the techniques she could from her experience working in the ER (on people). But Liberty wouldn't revive. We cried. And then we lovingly placed her in a very pretty cookie tin, and my mom ceremoniously disposed of her in a trashcan in my grandmother's garage.

A few days later, my grandmother lugged a big bag of garbage out to the garage. Lifting the lid of the trashcan, she spotted the pretty cookie tin. "Strange," she wondered. "Why is that in there?" She had a collection of tins in the basement, and she never parted with a single one of them. She removed the tin from the heap, threw the bag of garbage into the can, and brought the tin inside. It sat in the sink for a couple of hours until she decided to wash it, at which point she discovered the dead bird, screamed, and nearly threw up.

I never had a bird after Liberty. Fish seem dumb enough to be apathetic about their watery confines, but birds? I just won't keep a bird in a cage. It doesn't seem right.

I've apparently passed on the empathy gene, too. On Friday, Sean burst into tears after watching an ASPCA commerical with Sarah McLachlan. He was SOBBING. "The animalth are THO THAD," he wailed through three missing teeth. "I want to help them!" I told him the world is a better place because of caring people like him, and he said he wanted to collect pet food and toys for the animal shelter this Christmas in addition to collecting canned goods for the hungry.

It was a great idea. And it didn't stop there.

Last night I finished a big lap quilt, which I had been working on all weekend. Sean and Nolan immediately wanted to snuggle under it while watching a movie. I told them I planned to make more, hoping to give some away as Christmas gifts.

Sean piped up, "Why don't you give them to the homeless who really need blankets?"

I guess I better buy more fabric.



xo

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Enjoy your night--I know I will. It's GORGEOUS out there today. Can't wait for the parade at the seawall....

And enjoy this:



xo

- Subaru-Outback-LL Bean-Edition-Drivin'-Lentil-Soup-Makin'-Malbec-and-Tea-Drinkin'-Down-Vest-Wearin'-Dog-Rescuin'-Blue-State-Stereotype-with-an-Obama-Sticker-on-Her-Car-Yoga-Mama

Go Obama! Let's take back what's left of our great nation and turn things around already.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Important Work

October 30, 2008
In One Section of Beth Israel Hospital, Some Patients Are Saying ‘Om,’ Not ‘Ah’

By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS
Medical advances sometimes happen in strange ways. Someone finds a fungus in dirty lab dishes and — eureka! — penicillin is born. Now a premier Manhattan hospital is turning a cancer-treatment floor over to a world-famous fashion designer in the hope that serendipity, science and intuition will strike again.

A foundation run by Donna Karan, creator of the “seven easy pieces” philosophy of women’s wardrobes and founder of the much-imitated DKNY line of clothing, has donated $850,000 for a yearlong experiment combining Eastern and Western healing methods at Beth Israel Medical Center. Instead of just letting a celebrated donor adopt a hospital wing, renovate it and have her name embossed on a plaque, the Karan-Beth Israel project will have a celebrated donor turn a hospital into a testing ground for a trendy, medically controversial notion: that yoga, meditation and aromatherapy can enhance regimens of chemotherapy and radiation.

“While we are giving patients traditional medicine, we are not going to exclude patients’ values and beliefs,” said Dr. David Shulkin, the chief executive of Beth Israel, noting that a third of Americans seek alternative treatments. “To make care accessible to these third of Americans, we’re trying to embrace care that makes them more comfortable.”

On Wednesday, Dr. Shulkin, who had never done yoga before, joined Ms. Karan and about 60 Beth Israel employees on the floor of her late husband’s West Village art studio for an hour of yoga poses, finishing off with “om” and the recorded sound of bells.

“They didn’t teach us that in medical school,” Dr. Shulkin said afterward, still sitting barefoot on his black mat, swearing he had put his BlackBerry on “meditation mode” and had not checked it. Asked if the yoga had worked, he formed his answer carefully: “I think the personal touch and the personal attention to a patient absolutely works.”

The husband-and-wife team leading Wednesday’s session — Ms. Karan’s yoga masters, Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee — will oversee the experiment. Fifteen yoga teachers will be sent to Beth Israel’s ninth-floor cancer ward starting in January to work with nonterminal patients, and nurses will be trained in relaxation techniques. Their salaries, as well as a cosmetic overhaul of the ward, are being paid for by Ms. Karan’s Urban Zen Foundation, created after her husband and business partner, Stephan Weiss, 62, died of lung cancer in 2001.

While other hospitals in New York and across the country have dabbled in yoga, the new Beth Israel project is broader, better financed and more integrated into the medical protocol, and because of Ms. Karan’s concern that it might be dismissed as touchy-feely nonsense, it includes a research component. Ms. Karan hopes to prove that the Urban Zen regime can reduce classic symptoms of cancer and its treatment, like pain, nausea and anxiety (thereby cutting hospital stays and costs) and serve as a model for replication elsewhere.

But Dr. Benjamin Kligler, the research director in integrative family medicine for the Beth Israel-affiliated Continuum Center for Health and Healing and the research project’s principal investigator, acknowledged that the experiment of yoga teachers and their interaction with patients did not lend itself to the random, double-blind placebo trials favored in the medical world.

“The truth is, from a very traditional research perspective, that’s a problem,” Dr. Kligler conceded, adding that it might be time for the medical establishment to consider a new research model for what he called “lifestyle interventions.”

Organizers are also wary of the halo effect: Will Ms. Karan’s fame taint the experiment? But they are cognizant of the value of stroking people with deep pockets and of celebrity branding: Someday the cancer ward’s plaque reading “Leo and Rachel Sussman Division of Hematology/Oncology” will be joined by one honoring Ms. Karan.

“You have your right-column energy and your left-column energy,” Ms. Karan said, suggesting that there is room for both.

She traces her commitment to integrative medicine to what she saw as the narrowly limited treatment of her husband, a sculptor, and of Lynn Kohlman, a photographer, model and DKNY fashion director who was still ravishing and dignified despite the staples in her head and scars on her chest when she died of brain and lung cancer in September.

Ms. Karan longed for the help of a Marcus Welby, the kind of friendly, wise doctor who seemed possible only on television, and even then in a more innocent era. “Today everybody’s a specialist,” she lamented in an interview. “We’re only one person, even though we have a lot of parts, but everybody takes a piece of us.”

Despite all his high-tech medical treatment, her husband could not breathe, she recalled, until a yoga teacher taught him to “open his lungs.” “He went from ah-ah-ah,” she said, mimicking his gasping for breath, “to aaaaahh.”

“Everybody was dealing with his disease,” she said of the doctors. “Nobody was looking at him holistically as a patient. How do you treat the patient at the mind-body level? Not only the patient but the loved one?”

Ms. Kohlman apparently sensed her illness before her doctors did. Lying on the floor during a yoga session at a beach resort on Parrot Cay, a tiny Caribbean island, she began to shake. “You’re having kundalini rising,” Mr. Yee, the yoga master who is partnering with Ms. Karan at Beth Israel, yelled, running to her side. Ms. Kohlman, who wrote about the experience for Vogue, insisted, “I have brain cancer.”

She intensified her yoga. “She asked for it in the hospital,” said Ms. Karan, who practices yoga daily. “She needed it, she wanted it.

“This works,” Ms. Karan insisted. “Now we have to prove it in the clinical setting.”

To do that, she turned to Beth Israel because it is among the handful of hospitals nationwide with full-fledged integrative medicine departments. Beth Israel’s department is headed by Woodson Merrell, known as Woody, who rides a silver Vespa to his Upper East Side office and who made the obligatory pilgrimage to India in the 1960s. Beth Israel has experimented with integrating mainstream and alternative therapies for eight years, mainly through the Continuum Center, which employs 10 doctors. In the spring, integrative medicine was elevated to department status, just like surgery, orthopedics and the rest.

“A lot of other hospitals have integrative medicine, but it’s kind of stuck away in the basement,” said Dr. Merrell, who, not coincidentally, is Ms. Karan’s internist. “People like to think it’s not there.” Starting in November, the cancer ward will be renovated by Ms. Karan, the architect David Fratianne and Alex Stark, a feng shui master. The dull beige walls and green linoleum tile floors will be replaced with bamboo wallpaper and cork floors. Nooks and crannies now used for brown-bag lunches and naps and crammed with a desultory selection of dusty books will be turned into yoga, prayer and meditation retreats for patients, their families and nurses.

Urban Zen will cover the salaries of a patient “navigator,” a sort of cancer-ward concierge, and a yoga coordinator. The Yees and Dr. Merrell expect that about half the eligible patients will decline to participate. Those who do will find a flexible definition of yoga, with some who are very ill simply getting help to breathe from a yogi who will also manipulate their limbs, rub their feet or simply listen to them.

Last week, two yoga teachers in Karan-designed black T-shirts printed with white block letters saying, “The Unstoppable PATH/Patient Awareness Towards Healing,” approached several patients for an impromptu workout.

Looking like a radiantly healthy creature from another planet, one of the teachers, Shana Kuhn-Siegel, sidled up to the bedside of an emaciated 34-year-old patient, Natoya Harrison, who insisted on eating her meal of chicken and potatoes before embarking on yoga. Ms. Harrison, who was formerly obese, was hospitalized in a coma caused by complications of a gastric bypass performed elsewhere. What did she miss about life outside the hospital? Ms. Kuhn-Siegel asked. “Not being able to participate in sex, church,” Ms. Harrison said, adding, “I shouldn’t have said those two things together.”

“You can say whatever you want,” Ms. Kuhn-Siegel replied. She prompted the woman to talk about her 15-year-old son, and asked if she would like to close her eyes. “I thought you were going to ask me questions,” Ms. Harrison said nervously. “Why are you trying to put me to sleep? What’s your M.O.?”

Noticing the T-shirt, she perked up, asking: “Where can I get one of those?” Ms. Kuhn-Siegel promised to tell Ms. Karan that Ms. Harrison would like a shirt, and tried to capitalize on the connection.

“There’s a position I can put you in to relieve the pain in your abdomen,” she said. “It’s a position called ‘bound angle.’ ”

Ms. Harrison let Ms. Kuhn-Siegel manipulate her scrawny limbs, bending and straightening her knees, propping up her head. “How about a cup of green tea?” Ms. Kuhn-Siegel asked.

“Nope,” Ms. Harrison said. “I think I’m going to throw up.”

Ms. Kuhn-Siegel handed her a wastebasket and backed away.


Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company









xo

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Gift to You

Just paying forward what I was lucky enough to read today:


Daily OM
October 27, 2008
Enjoying the Ride

The flow of the universe moves through everything. It’s in the rocks that form, get pounded into dust, and are blown away, the sprouting of a summer flower born from a seed planted in the spring, the growth cycle that every human being goes through, and the current that takes us down our life’s paths. When we move with the flow, rather than resisting it, we are riding on the universal current that allows us to flow with life.

Many people live their lives struggling against this current. They try to use force or resistance to will their lives into happening the way they think it should. Others move with this flow like a sailor using the wind, trusting that the universe is taking them exactly where they need to be at all times. This flow is accessible to everyone because it moves through and around us. We are always riding this flow. It’s just a matter of whether we are willing to go with it or resist it. Tapping into the flow is often a matter of letting go of the notion that we need to be in control at all times. The flow is always taking you where you need to go. It’s just a matter of deciding whether you plan on taking the ride or dragging your feet.

Learning to step into the flow can help you feel a connection to a force that is greater than you and is always there to support you. The decision to go with the flow can take courage because you are surrendering the notion that you need to do everything by yourself. Riding the flow of the universe can be effortless, exhilarating, and not like anything that you ever expected. When you are open to being in this flow, you open yourself to possibilities that exist beyond the grasp of your control. As a child, you were naturally swept by the flow. Tears of sadness falling down your face could just as quickly turn to tears of laughter. Just the tiniest wave carrying you forward off the shores of the ocean could carry you into peals of delight. Our souls feel good when we go with the flow of the universe. All we have to do is make the choice to ride its currents.


***

Happy Monday!
xo

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Summary

1. I found my wedding dress while out with my mom today. Funny how that happens. Five seconds with my mother and I was able to find something that has eluded me for months. And it's gorgeous yet understated--and not white.

2. While I was out, Ian informed me that Nolan and his best friend started a band. Nolan plays drums; his best friend plays guitar.

"So, Noly," I asked. "What's the name of your band?"

"Scary Poop!"

Of course.




Nine days til election day. I'm chompin' at the bit to cast my ballot for Obama.

Time to go get two very dirty little boys into the tub...


Before I go, a recipe for pumpkin muffins. I found it on a food blog, but I made a lot of changes:

2 cups of wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg -- fresh ground makes it so much better
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon...a pinch or two more if you want
1 tsp ground cloves
2 cups sugar -- half brown, half white
3 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
1/2 cup applesauce
1 15 oz can of pumpkin
3/4 cup of chocolate chips (in our case, nut free ones from VermontNutFree.com)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease muffin tin with canola oil spray. Mix all the dry ingredients together; add wet ingredients and chocolate chips (or raisins, or cranberries, or some evil nuts if you prefer), and spoon into muffin tins. Bake for 1/2 hour, testing the center after 20 minutes, since ovens vary.

The original recipe called for more flour and about half the spices. I can't imagine making anything pumpkin without ginger or vanilla, though...

Enjoy!


xo

Fright School

"Last night was incredibly awesome."

So said Nolan as he munched away on a pumpkin muffin this morning for breakfast, snuggled under a fleece blanket in front of Scooby-Doo.

He was referring to the big Halloween party hosted by his school last night. And he's not kidding: they do an incredibly awesome job. The main corridor of the school is transformed into a VERY scary haunted house, and upperclassmen dressed in gory costumes jump out from dark corners and enthusiastically scare the crap out of everyone.

The kids had a great time, dressed in their clone trooper costumes and running around with their friends. This morning, after almost 12 hours of sleep, Sean stumbled into my bedroom to wish me good morning.

"I'm dizzy," he said.

I was concerned. "Honey, why?"

"Because I had A BLAST last night!"

Of course, it came out more like, "Becauth I had a blatht latht night!", since he's missing three teeth on the top row of his mouth.

We all had a blast last night. I dressed up as a sock-hop girl; Ian dressed up as a prisoner. We played games and munched on baked goods and hung out with other parents--some of whom didn't realize I was a parent and not one of the 8th graders dressed up as a sock-hop girl. Pretty amusing. I guess I am that small.



It's Sunday. I'm spending the afternoon lunching and shopping with my mom. We don't do this very often, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Until then, I think I'll have another one of those pumpkin chocolate chip muffins I whipped up from scratch this morning. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back for being such a domestic goddess.

Here's my lil' troopers...




...and Cee Cee...




Happy Sunday!
xo

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gussy Up

*Sigh*

I had tried to keep the wedding dress situation simple. It's an early-Spring cocktail-hour wedding with a cocktail-party kind of informality to it, so one would think I could easily find an appropriate, festive, classy little number for the occasion.

That isn't working out.

Turns out a taste for simple elegance is pretty expensive. I have long had a knack for being attracted to clothing and jewelery that is so understated it breaks the bank. So in my search for an appropriate yet informal "bridal" dress that doesn't scream GO FOR BROKE or CREAM PUFF, I've struck out at J.Crew more than three times, and I've found nothing in subsequent searches elsewhere. There are a few issues at play:

1. I'm petite.
2. I'm petite with not-so-petite tits.
3. I don't want to wear anything strapless.
4. Most of the dresses I've found are either too informal, too formal, or simply just too ugly.

So today I decided to leave the task--and my credit line--to the professionals, and I booked an appointment with a bridal shop to help me narrow down the choices. During my lunchbreak one lucky day next week, I'll wander into the store with pictures and style numbers in my pocket, and I'll hand over my affianced soul to the old ladies who know a thing or two about understated elegance for grown-up petite chicks.

The shop carries Watters & Watters, so I should be in good shape.

Phew. Invitations? Check. We've already made those and the save-the-date cards. In fact, there is a lot we are handling ourselves for the wedding, from the cupcakes to the favors to the bar...

But dressing myself--the bride? I need to trust someone else with that.


Tonight: Noodles and bubble tea with my friend Rachel!

Happy Friday!
xo

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Everyone Makes Bad Decisions Once in a While

So remember that before you judge. But then be sure to laugh your ass off....






Police: fake cop pulled over real officer
Posted Oct. 21, 2008
3:56 PM

Hartford (AP) -- Hartford police say a city man picked the wrong time to impersonate a police officer.

Authorities told the Hartford Courant that they arrested 20-year-old Israel Gomez early Tuesday when he pulled over a motorist who just happened to be an off-duty Hartford police lieutenant. Another car driven by Gomez's alleged accomplice was also involved in the bogus traffic stop.

Police say Gomez turned on flashing lights on his 1994 Honda Civic, sounded a siren and used a loudspeaker to order Lt. Ronald Bair to pull over. Bair called for backup, and officers arrested Gomez and 20-year-old Esteban Cardona.

Gomez is charged with impersonating a police officer, reckless driving and improper use of red flashing lights. Cardona is charged with reckless driving. Both men were released and await court appearances.

****

Today is picture day at the kids' school. Lots of cowlicks were being smoothed out by mothers in the schoolyard before the bell rang. I don't recall seeing any dads doing that.


Happy Wednesday!
xo

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This is Getting Ridiculous

Sean lost a third tooth from the top row of his little mouth.

The kids are off school today so their teachers can attend a workshop, and they are spending the day with their father who has the flexibility to work from home a few days a week. A short while ago, my phone buzzed with a text message. There it was: A pic of Sean missing THREE teeth. Their dad wrote simply: Another tooth gone. Swallowed it.

The kid is GROWING. What's next? Will he start shaving next week?

Other things. I have a backlog of little things going on in my brain:

1. I've got a bunch of Moda fabric to get cracking on my next quilt project(s).
2. My lavender and rose of sharon plants have arrived from Spring Hill Nurseries for fall planting. Whee!
3. The squirrels are digging up my bulbs faster than you can say "shotgun".
4. I bought way too much at a Pampered Chef party the other night, including an avocado peeler. It might just be the best thing I ever purchased. Time will tell.
5. GO TAMPA BAY RAYS!
6. GO OBAMA!
7. Cee Cee had her first seizure in several months last night. She fell right off the bed when it started at 3:30 AM, making me thankful that I agreed to ditch my very high princess-and-the-pea bed and use Ian's more modern platform bed in the new house. My poor little Cee Cee. She's fine today.
8. My favorite thing about steam radiators is that I can heat my towel on the one in the bathroom while showering. Ditto for the kids' towels.
9. I finished the kids' Halloween pillowcases. It was a nice surprise for the kids to find them when they turned down their covers for the night. Next up, Turkey Day and Christmas ones. And a new Christmas tree skirt.
10. Flowers, flowers everywhere. In one day last week, Grandma gave me a bunch of daisies and Ian sent me a dozen roses. They're all still alive and beautiful in my office.
11. I bought a new flavor of Yogi Tea this weekend: Chai Redbush. Ian read the box and then said, "What is that--the name of a porn star?" I love him.
12. I have discovered a new yoga class, and I have immediately become a disciple.
13. I have a new pair of Ryka sneakers. They're super-comfy and blue and remind me of my old Zips that I had as a kid. Ryka actually makes a shoe called "Moira". How funny is that?
14. I'm not so fond of the shrinking daylight hours, but at least we're only a couple of months away from turning the corner in that department.
15. Highlights! I've got highlights and I chopped off a lot of my hair! I figure that we're using extensions to do my hair for the wedding anyway, so I might as well cut off a bunch of it. I feel....I dunno. I just feel better.
16. Question: What's better than coming in for hot chocolate and cookies after a brisk Sunday afternoon spent outside with two little boys in the leaves, making a scarecrow and riding scooters? Answer: Nothing.
17. One day at a time.
18. One hour at a time.
19. One breath at a time.
20. I need to get a copy of The Englishwoman in America. John Lienhard reported today on WSHU the story of Isabella Bird. I was captivated. Here's a little reading for you:

Isabella Bird Wikipedia


That's all for today. Not feeling very prosaic, I'm sorry to say.

Oh, and if you want to order any Yankee Candles for a good cause, my kids' school is selling them as a fundraiser right now. I'm happy to put in an order for ya! Wink, nudge...wink...nudge...wink...


Happy Tuesday!
xo

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Toothless

The four of us--the kids, Ian and I--sat around the dining table last night and dug into a pizza for dinner. Mid-week is often pizza time in our house, and last night was no different.

For a brief, blissful moment, the house was silent except for the sound of chewing. And then we heard a strange cracking sound coming from Sean's mouth.

We all stared at him. The look on Sean's face was awful, as if he was chewing on a piece of bone...

...which he was.

"Sean, honey, let me see your tooth," I said. I titled up his mouth toward me and he opened it. Sure enough, his remaining front tooth had fallen out. And he was chewing it.

"Spit it out!" I said.

"First let me finish chewing," he garbled.

"No, spit it out or you're going to swallow it!"

Sean leaned forward and spit out the tooth, which was bloodless but covered in pizza sauce. We all stared at it and then high-fived Sean. Sean smiled the broad smile of a kid with two missing front teeth and the Tooth Fairy on the way. Again.

He is beyond adorable without those teeth. I mean--it's ridiculous.

Tonight I head off to a Pampered Chef party with my friend Mary, who I'll probably drag to Rudy's for a nightcap, since Ian is working tonight. I hope I make it past 9PM. Nolan's been waking me up at 5:30 all week. Last night I was positively fried and fell asleep somewhere around John McCain's 95th reference to Joe the Plumber.

I dislike being tired. It throws me off. When my body is tired my brain gets tired, and I can't think straight or reason well, and I become more anxious and panicky. I've always needed lots of sleep, and I need even more now that I'm getting a little, uh, older.

Age. It's evidenced by so many things. For me, it's the need to be in bed no later than 10. I've also been treated to a few more kinky grey hairs the past year. It's not so bad; they're barely visible and, according to Ian, kind of cute. But tomorrow I'm taking a trip to Katherine, my beloved "stylist". Together we'll devise a plan to chop my locks a couple of inches and throw in some complimentary highlights.

But no blonde. Lord knows, if there is one thing I have never been nor wished to be, it's blonde.


And for your Thursday, "Profanity Prayers", my absolute favorite song from Beck's new album. Just some random YouTube video:



Happy Thursday!


xo

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Undeniable Truth

Heard this yesterday...



...and it made my week.

It's been stuck in my head ever since.


Happy Wednesday!
xo

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fresh Air

It was a whirlwind weekend of kids, pumpkins, gardens...all the good stuff. I'll post pics in a sec, but first I've gotta share this one with you:

About five minutes ago I was snuggling with Nolan as he twirled my hair and drifted off to dreamland. Sean sighed heavily and turned under the covers on the top bunk. Then he announced,

"I am going to need a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiig piece of paper for my Christmas list this year!"

I smiled. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah! My list is going to be as long as one of Obama's speeches!"

I kid you not. He said that.

I'm not surprised. There's lots of political talk in the house--and at their dad's house. And yesterday I rocked my Obama t-shirt for a morning of pumpkin picking. Tonight while watching the news, Nolan said, "John McCain is the evil team and Obama is with the good guys."

"You got that right!" I answered.

"Yeah!" he said. "And I want to be on the good guy's team! Do you want to be on the good guy's team, Mommy?"

"I sure do!"

At least we agree on something. After riding in Ian's new truck yesterday, Nolan plainly stated, "I never want to ride in you car again, Mommy! Ian's truck is AW-SOME!"

It was a packed weekend...a great weekend. We kicked it off at temple on Friday night. Me and Ian, bonafide goys, enjoyed a beautiful shabbat and naming ceremony for Josh and Heide's new baby, Mimi. It was a nice way to end a day of clearing out weeds and planting new perennials while Ian put up the new swing set in the backyard. On Saturday, I had the joy of hanging out with Ian's sister's son (and my nephew!) who is nine months old and just a love and a half.

Babies are so easy! I had forgotten how simple it can (sometimes) be to care for them. We hung out in the grass, watched the leaves on the tress blow in the breeze. We played with toys and ate lots of applesauce. And then he napped...forever. I scored two wicker porch rockers at a tag sale while on a walk with the little guy in Sean's old purple jogging stroller. And Sunday I got to hang with the little guy again. We picked pumpkins at Bishop's, and then Ian and I went home with the boys and spent the rest of the day outdoors.

All in all, I spent three whole days outside. I also cooked up pulled pork and apple crisp on Saturday and Shephard's Pie on Sunday. I watched lots of baseball and old episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Today? Full recalibration as a result of my long weekend of fresh air, general mellow-ness and hearty food. Awesome.

Tonight, baseball playoffs (go Dodgers!), yarn and a sick Ian on the couch. His cold from three weeks ago has no doubt manifested into nice little bronchial infection. My poor guy.

So here are some pics from punkin' pickin':

(From left to right) Ian's nephew, brother-in-law, my kids and Ian (wearing his Tigers hat as always):



Most awesome baby ever (next to my kids when they were babies, of course). I love this little guy:


Seany being Seany:


Noly being Noly:


The kids jumping around on haystacks with their uncle and most favorite baby cousin:


What we came for:


Dig Sean's lost tooth! He lost it last week. The second one on top is ready to go, too. He thinks we should carve the pumpkins to look like him.


Ah, fall....it's not summer. But that's the point, right? I finally understand that.


Happy Monday.
xo

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Baby, I Can Drive Your Car

Tomorrow I'll be gardening. Sewing and gardening. At least that's the plan for my day off with no plans. I have bulbs to shove in the ground and some new perennials I'd like to plant.

I also have a peony to transplant from its ostracized home on the far side of the garage, and I have some myrtle to transplant from my grandmother's yard. Grandma also has a spectacular Montauk Daisy that I'd like to split--but I don't know how to properly do that. And I'm afraid I'll kill it trying. If anyone has any tips on splitting Montauks or transplanting peonies, I'm all ears!

Tomorrow also marks the day we get rid of Ian's Benz. It's a great car that we've loved for the past 10 months or so. But the truth is, Ian only bought that car because his Volvo was stolen, and the insurance he received covered the purchase of Benz, which he adores (not to mention it was a big middle finger to the little shit who stole his car). While it's a great car that's been plagued with relatively few expensive issues and random check-engine lights, the bottom line is that Ian wants a truck. He's had lots of trucks in his life, and he misses driving one. Since the Benz is paid off, it gives him a really good trade-in value at the dealer, where he'll be picking up an '09 4x4 5-speed Tacoma.

Translation? I'LL FINALLY LEARN HOW TO DRIVE STICK!!!!!!!

I can't wait! It's about freakin' time. All the cars I've ever driven have been automatic--even my mom's little '79 Fiat Spider. All automatic. So I'll finally get my chance, and hopefully I won't burn out the clutch as we tool around the parking lot at Lighthouse.

I think the best thing about Ian buying the truck is that the kids are going to be stoked. They might miss the Benz--which they affectionately refer to as the blue starship. But once they hop into the truck's extended cab, their grade-school testosterone levels are sure to be sparkin'. I see many trips to the dump in their future.

And I get to keep my car, which I prefer over the Benz anyway. This half-pint just can't reach the pedal comfortably in that blue German behemoth.

Happy Thursday.
xo

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Pixies Do The Graduate

I've had "Mrs. Robinson" stuck in my head for a couple of days. Not sure why. Maybe it was the "cougar" golf ball on my bureau that triggered it. Maybe it was the VP debate. Or maybe it's just that I love The Graduate.

So in my Internet travels I found this...one of the best endings to one of the best movies ever. But set to the Pixies...



I'm tired today. Can't wait to take Friday off to just have a day to myself that doesn't involve the grocery store.

Happy Wednesday.
xo

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Happiness, As Defined by the Times

I've started crocheting again. Don't get excited--I don't make anything except scarves and the occasional baby blanket. But it's something to do while "watching" TV at night so I don't feel completely idle and useless as I sit like a lump on the couch. Truth be told, I've started several crochet projects and finished only a handful in the past few years. I am easily bored with the hobby, but occasionally the yarn bug bites. So lately, if I don't want to sew, I pick up the yarn. Sewing, though...that's my real love. I'm almost done with that quilt, and it's only because I've got 65 other balls in the air that I've not yet finished it.

Last night I was up late, working on a little pink and brown scarf while the Sox game played and Sparkles slept next to me on the couch, both of us huddled under a fleece blanket. I followed my up my long crochet session with a big glass of milk (I've practically given up booze completely) and some late night reading, burning the midnight oil before Ian came home from his shift at the bar. I weighed my options: domestic goddess magazines or the New York Times' latest issue of Key, its home-oriented magazine. I opted for the former.

But this morning, as I cupped a warm mug of tea (I've totally given up coffee at this point) in my hands and listened to the kids munch away on their cinnamon toast, I picked up Key and finally gave it a read. And lo! What did I find there?

My old neighborhood.

Mark Oppenheimer, writer for the Times, lives on West Rock Ave. Actually, he lives on one of the two more charming blocks of West Rock Ave in the Westville section of New Haven, where I lived in my former life with my former husband and my former friends and my former definitions of happiness and success. My former home on West Elm Street was just a couple of houses from the zone of West Rock on which Oppenheimer lives.

So, as I flipped the pages of the magazine and stumbled upon a photo of the neighborhood, I felt the blood go out of my face: There they were, all my old friends and neighborhors. Everyone I had so much trouble leaving behind when I kicked the dust of my marriage off my pants and moved out of Westville. In a two-page photo spread, I saw my Goddaughter, my old friends, people whose houses I knew inside and out--and vice-versa. I stared at the picture. For a minute, I didn't breathe. I only exhaled.



I didn't read the article. (I waited until I was at work for that.) I scanned it and let all the requisite emotions sprint their course, feeling wistful. I shook my head and closed the magazine.

West Rock Ave. "It's a Wonderful Block" is the article's headline. Indeed, it is. To a point. It has beautiful, early 20th century homes and sidewalks galore. The front yards are abbreviated and the backyards are large enough to have several neighbors over for a cookout. Many of the homes have wide front porches leaded-glass windows. My old block was very much the same. Charming. Idyllic. Pure Americana. Leafy and liberal, crowded with writers, college professors, politicians, community organizers, union workers, corporate jocks and stay-at-home moms. That is West Rock Ave--and Westville--in a nutshell. It's also pretty white.

The article honestly doesn't say much. It's really just a self-congratulatory piece by Oppenheimer about his decision to live in New Haven and the validation he feels every time he opens his front door. But I can't blame him. Don't I do the same, obsessively so, in this space? I don't fault the guy for loving his neighborhood--I loved it too, until I left. And now? My God, now I love this place even more.

Still, I felt a few twinges of regret and sadness when I looked at the pictures. Those were my friends--or were they? One photo shows a family who purchased my friend Ginna's house after Ginna and her husband moved out to Boulder in 2005. Ginna's house was my favorite in all of Westville. And when she left at the end of June 2005, I can honestly say, the axis of my entire world shifted. She and I spent many, many days together as stay-at-home moms with boys the same age. Looking at the picture of her house with another family in front of it--a nice family, all the same, for I got to know them before moving out--I realized: That's not my Westville. That's not even my neighborhood anymore. Sure my family were founding patrons of St. Aedan's Church in the 20s. Sure I thought I would live there forever, buying my old house from a lawyer who moved a few blocks away into what I later discovered was Ian's stepmother's old house.

Everything comes full circle.

So this morning, as I wrapped my scarf around my neck and threw my purse over my shoulder, Ian commented, "What are you huffing and puffing about?"

I hadn't realized I was huffing and puffing.

"I read that article in the Times' "Key" magazine about my old neighborhood."

"What?"

He hadn't seen it. I grabbed it and handed it to him. And Ian, for all of his WASPy lineage being the 13th direct descendent of William Bradford and proud card-carrying member of the Mayflower Society, groaned. "Ugh!" he said, looking that picture of neighborhood perfection. "Aren't you glad you don't live there anymore?"

He was right. After all, what did I have to miss? The article was about West Rock Avenue. That wasn't even my street. Besides, a mention in the Times carries with it the air of a Papal blessing of sorts. It's ridiculous. I can honestly say, I've been in the Times--my first marriage was annouced in the Styles section back when it was actually a mean feat to get in those pages. And you know what? It wasn't a blessing. It wasn't a guarantee of happiness. It wasn't a promise that things would always be idyllic.

And now?

Within six weeks I've spent more time chatting with my new neighbors than I did in the last six months at my old house. And we have sidewalks. And porches. And big back yards. We have neighborhood schools and neighborhood playgrounds, neighbors who invite us over for dinner and friends who walk our kids to or from school. We have it all and even more. Our block is more integrated than my little zone in Westville ever was. And, bonus, I don't have to deal with prostitutes giving blowjobs to Johns outside my livingroom window--a common occurance during work hours in Westville, especially on West Rock Ave and West Elm Street, since we were so close to Edgewood Park.

I don't miss that at all. And Tony, the old retired fireman who lives across the street from me now, would probably beat the living crap out of someone with a baseaball bat if he saw that on his block.

Ian was right: Wasn't I glad? I am. Before I could answer him, Sean walked into the foyer with his backpack on.

"Yeah, Mom. Stop your huffin' and puffin' or you're going to blow your own house down! Haha!"

The kid nailed it.


Happy Tuesday.

xo

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Birthday Nerf Fun Times

Before I get down to showing you a few pics of my handiwork around the house, first let me say that the kids are beside themselves with excitement for my brother Jack's 12th birthday party today. (My brother and I have 23 years between us.) The kids will join Jack and seven of his friends in a serious Nerf Gun Battle in the backyard of my mom's uber-American suburban house on a cul-de-sac in tony Madison.

I didn't grow up there, for the record.

But it really is a lovely place for kids to play, and the kids cannot wait. Bright and early this morning they were already "in training", practicing their tactics and shots. As I lay in bed, praying for five more minutes of sleep, I heard the kids downstairs, skidding around on the floors and taking shots at anything and everything. Something made Nolan laugh hysterically, and Sgt. Sean was not amused: "Nolan," he yelled. "There is NO LAUGHING during training! Do you understand?"

I'm not surprised he's the one who wants to join the Air Force. For real.




Anyway, I've got a few things to share with you. First, this is from my friend Bill, who forwarded this from the Huffington Post:



And really, while I could blog away about the VP debate, this flowchart just about sums it up. She said NOTHING about ANYTHING. She was coherently vacant. And that's all I have to say about that.

Enough of politics. Let's look at curtains and stuff!

First, the valances I made for the kids' room:





And the upstairs bathroom:



Wall decals on the stairs:




More shots of the stairs, because they are one of my favorite features of the house. These pics don't do them justice. But then again I never really claimed to be a photographer:







My awesome little guys on their first day of school:



My dogs, clearly understanding that we bought the new couch for them:



My newest baby, Sparkplug, affectionately known as Sparkles. She is an 80 pound 6-year-old hunka boxer/pitbull love, and the laziest dog I know. She lets the kids dress her in bunny ears and crawl all over her with hugs and kisses. She understands they're her boys now. So now we've got two dogs in the house, and this one has quickly established herself as the Alpha. A mellow alpha, but still the alpha. I love this girl:




Cee Cee is still my baby, though. She comes to work with me on Fridays. Everyone there loves her, and yesterday she even got to hang out with baby Mimi when Heide came by for a visit! There are very few dogs who can lay on the floor calmly next to a two-week old, but Cee Cee showed her mama-side and did such a good job.


That's all folks. Time to go for a long morning walk and get ready for an afternoon of little boys everywhere.


Happy Saturday.
xo

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Veep, Weep

The boys and I read Dr. Seuss' The Lorax last night before bed (in addition to two others. I had cottonmouth when I was done reading). Anyway, if you haven't picked up that story in a while--or if you've never read it--do so. Even if you don't have kids. It had been some time since the boys and I had read it together. I honestly thought Nolan was going to cry during some of the book's darkest parts, not because it was scary, but because both of my little nature boys hate to see plants die or trees cut down.

For example, Sean still can't read The Giving Tree without bawling his eyes out. The old man and the short stump in the end just break the kid's sweet little heart. That book and Love You Forever can't even be mentioned around him, lest you wish to see the kid lose it.

Tonight there will be more reading and, after the kids are in bed, the vice presidential debate!!! Are you as excited for this as I am? Sarah Palin, Commander-in-Chief of Alaska, might share more of her genius foreign relations skills with the rest of us!!! Ooooh, can't wait can't wait can't wait!

In the meantime, I have a Shephard's Pie to make for dinner...

Enjoy:



Happy Thursday!
xo

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Boys Must Be Boys

First off, I'm still waiting for my Obama t-shirt from MoveOn.org. Seriously, how much longer must I wait????

Secondly, this popped up on Etsy's homepage today and I nearly keeled over from its cuteness:


It's so cute I could eat my toes.


In other news, I started working on a lap quilt last night that is really turning out to be more of a crib quilt. It's adorable, and I think quilting is just about the easiest thing ever. And it's fun.

The only thing that bugs me is the fact that my sewing machine is no longer in a common area. In my apartment, I had it set up in the dining room, since it was part of the open plan in the front of the house. I could watch TV, hang out with the kids, and sew. In our new space, I'm afforded the luxury of a craft room/yoga studio/study. It's awesome to have the extra space, but it's also a little isolating. At the same time, it's nice to focus on sewing and nothing else while doing it. I tend to sew on nights when Ian's at work and the kids are in bed, falling alseep to the tack-tack-tack of the machine as I work away.

On such nights I occasionally overhear their bedtime conversation, which is simply adorable and often hilarious. Since we've recently imposed a No New Toys Until Christmas rule around the house (trust me, they are not lacking), the kids spend their downtime before sleep talking about which toys they'll each ask for this Christmas so that they can both get all the toys they want. In the darkness, their little voices are clear and direct. Usually Nolan does all the talking on this particular subject: "Seany, you'll get the Lego AT-ST and I'll get the AT-AT."

They also talk about their day at school, their friends, and the games they play at home. Sean is way into board games, in addition to all things Lego. He also likes to ride his bike and his scooter. Although he skateboards with his father, frequenting skateparks and skateshops, he recently admitted to me that he prefers his scooter. This was interesting to me, since just a week prior he told his dad that he no longer wants to play soccer. He prefers baseball and tae kwon do.

His dad wasn't thrilled. He loves soccer and skateboarding. The fact that Sean is moving away from these two activities intrigues me. It could be that he doesn't want to do the things he father is so insistent upon him doing. Or it could be that he really just prefers baseball and scootering. And let's remember: The kid is SIX YEARS OLD. He has plenty of time to cultivate his interests.

Most parents like their children's interests to be an extension of their own ego or experience (or perceived deprivations) as children, some much more so than others (and those parents creep me out). While I think it would be great if Sean continued to play soccer, I think who he is as a person with his own intersts is pretty awesome regardless. All of this culminated in a recent discussion between me and my ex-husband, when Sean expressed a sincere interest in joining Cub Scouts.

"Cub Scouts?" Keith asked. "I don't know...."

"What the hell is wrong with scouting?" I asked. "The politics of the organization aside, he's going to learn some awesome lessons as a scout. Besides, the kid is all about the merit badges. He's dying to earn some. HE'S SIX YEARS OLD."

"I dunno," he said. "Maybe I've watched too much Saturday Night Live to be excited about him joining the scouts."

"Ha! Fair enough. But seriously, didn't you ever do scouts?"

"No."

Did I miss something in all our years together? My question and his answer explained a whole lot about a whole lotta things. (I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout, even winning an essay award to become "Mayor for the Day" of East Haven. Oh, Lordy. That's another blog for another day.)

"Well, lots of guys we know were scouts--like Ian, Craig, Kirk...lots of guys who are very self-reliant, have lots of outdoor skills, and of course know how to tie knots."

Silence.

"Keith, he really wants to do it, and I'm going to sign him up for it. It will be good for him to be a part of a group of boys his own age, learning about teamwork and life skills and doing activities that give back to the community, all without a coach shouting in his ear. He has enough of that already."

"Okay, okay. I want to go with him to some meetings, though."

"Duh. You should."

So Sean signed up, and of course he loves it. Keith brought him to a recent meeting and afterward admitted that the den leaders were very cool and there didn't seem to be a Ned Flanders in the bunch.

But I understood his concerns. Besides, you don't want your kids to be unpopular, and scouting is considered by some to be uncool. At a recent party, I ran into some friends who have three children, all of whom are exceptionally "cool" kids. The parents--also "cool"--are mutual friends of my friends and Ian's friends. Weird how that works sometimes.

As we drank PBR in back yard, the dad said, "We just signed Reilly up for Tiger Scouts. I wasn't so sure about it at first--and there are some definite Trekkies in the bunch--but I'm glad we did it. He loves it."

"We just signed Sean up! Same thing for us; Sean's dad wasn't all that keen on it, but now he gets it."

"Cool. I was a scout, so I know the benefits of it. I'm glad Reilly's into it, because he's going to learn a lot and not even realize it."

Reilly and Sean were hanging out on the half-pipe in our friend Kevin's yard, where all the parents were imbibing at a two-year-old's birthday party.

"Hey, Sean," I yelled to him. "Reilly just started Tiger Scouts, too."

"Cool!" They high-fived each other and continued to drop in off the ramp--on their stomachs.

Kids need to be kids. And boys especially need to be involved in activities that encourage them to be aware of--and confident in--the world around them. They need to learn how to be men without someone always shrieking at them from the sidelines. I'm not slagging sports. Kids need them and learn a whole lot from them. But scouting gives Sean a chance off the field to learn valuable lessons, too: to be sensitive to nature and the environment; to work with others; to give back; to believe in yourself and encourage others to believe in themselves. And in scouting, no one gets benched. If Sean does scouting for two years or ten, he's going to benefit from it. At the very least, he'll have some awesome pinewood derby memories.

As for being cool, at the first scout meeting the den leader was trying to make a point involving something circular, and he asked the kids if anyone knew what a record player was. He started to laugh because none of the kids spoke up--until Sean surprised him and said, "I know what they are. We have one at home and we have one at daddy's house. You play big records on them to hear music, and you have to put the little arm thingie with the needle thingie on it so that the music will play. It's like a CD, only it's big and black."

You tell 'em, Vulcan.
xo