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