Monday, July 7, 2014

What Summer Brings

We like the things that summer brings.
It brings the sun.
It brings the heat.
It brings the things
we like to eat.
Summer brings so many things!
-- from  Summer, by Alice Low

Growing up in the city, we were very lucky to be able to escape to our beach house in the summer.  Instead of shimmering hot pavement and fetid gutters, our summer memories are a page straight out of the Americana handbook: sand, surf, sprinklers, spud, wiffle ball, bike rides, the ice cream man, and chasing rabbits.  But beyond the generic experiences, my siblings and I also share memories of summer particular solely to us—the memory of the toys and books in the beach house.  What was in the house in 1975 stayed in the house, with few (if anychanges.  Because we weren’t inside much it just didn’t matter.  So every summer we contentedly played with the same potholder loom (always short five or six bands), drew with the same broken crayons stored in the Raggedy Ann bag, pored over the same Archie comics (and, better still, the Betty and Veronica digests) and reread the same children’s books (which we did, in fairness to us and to our mom, supplement with many age appropriate books from the local library).

Summer, quoted above, was (and still is) one of my favorites.  It is a happy catalog of the joys of summer-- as lived by a boy, a girl and their pup-- told in rhyme and accompanied by vibrant illustrations.
As we hurtle through the season—when school ends June 26ththe fourth of July comes waaaay too soon—I’m inspired to add a few stanzas.  (Apologies to Ms. Low.)

Summer brings so many things!
It brings us camp.
On that we’re keen.
It brings us battles
About sunscreen.

Some summer days  
we have swim meets.
Why are there
So many heats?

We like to have friends
come tour pool,
We play Kan Jam
It’s pretty cool.

We grill out, hang,
We think we’re fine.
Pump is broken!
Hello, Shoreline?

Summer brings so many things!
We take the Jeep
With the top down
Wind in our hair
We scream through town.

Geocaching
With our mother
Why does she still
Watch Big Brother?

We love these days.
The mood is cool
'Til Target starts
With "Back to School."


HAPPY SUMMER

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Balk!

Jimmy Fallon weighed the pros and cons of going to the World Cup the other night. As a “pro,” he acknowledged that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. The “con,” according to the folks at The Tonight Show, is that soccer is the 12th most popular sport in the US-- between Cornhole and Quidditch.

Pretty funny.

At least soccer’s US fanbase seems to be growing.

I’m assuming the number one sport on Jimmy’s fictional list of America’s favorites—if predicated on TV ratings-- would go to football (not to be confused with fútbol-- or búsketball or húckey). While it will probably forever be hailed as America’s national pastime, baseball appears to be slowly losing its audience.

Is it any wonder? The games take forever. And there are too many of them. And the lulls far outpace the action. The season is like a long, slow grind-- especially for those of us subjected every weekend from April through September to the grating radio pair of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman (really? Suzyn? I just learned that. Even her name is annoying).

And that’s the professionals! Youth baseball is its own form of torture. I will admit that as the boys (and my son) have gotten older the pace of the games-- and my interest in them-- has picked up marginally. But there is still plenty of time to fill out there in the stands.

Fortunately, there are good moms on this year’s team so we share some laughs between attempts at lobbying all the Dads/coaches for the lesser of 6 innings OR 1.5 hours. It never works. Dads don’t always understand (or experience) the ripple effect of the missed bedtime.

One of our running gags is a preference for a particular ump— a cute high school senior who has a penchant for fixing his mask-flattened hair between innings in a very teen heartthrob-y way. Nothing creepy or salacious. No leering.

At last night’s game, the teenaged girl sitting behind me with her mom started giving our ump a hard time over some called strikes. “The ump sucks,” she yelled in what I assumed was support of her brother and his teammates.

I turned around, laughing, and asked her if she’d feel differently if she knew the ump was hubba-hubba handsome.

“That’s my son,” her mother said. Gah. Open mouth, insert foot.

As I rushed to find a way to make what I said not totally skeevy (it reads worse than it sounded in person), it quickly became clear that I had missed a swap at the plate-- the ump she was yelling at, this girl’s brother, was not in fact Mr. Tiger Beat.

Oddly enough, the mom seemed more disturbed by the suggestion that her daughter should find her own brother attractive than by my having commented on a teenager.

Still. Pretty awkward.

I’m telling you, baseball can’t end soon enough for me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monkey Wrench

I know you have been waiting with bated breath for the third and final submission in the Coffee Can Biography series, so here she is: Dame Jane Goodall, Queen of the chimpanzees!


What fun we had learning about Jane, especially since Minx is definitely part chimp. Her teacher confirmed it.


In celebration of wonderful people who committed their lives to helping animals we have been watching a series of classics including "Born Free" and (unfortunately) "Gorillas in the Mist". I say unfortunately because in a moment of babysitting desperation I sat Minx down in front of this biographical film about Dian Fossey, while I ran my older daughter up to physical therapy. My son was in charge which was fine because I knew nether one of them would move if the movie was playing.

When I got back half an hour later, Minx was howling and the screen was filled with the image of a bloody white nightshirt and inert female arm.  I had NO IDEA Dian Fossey was murdered!!!  What a terrible, terrible mother.  Of course my son was like, "Oh yeah, she's been crying the whole time." God forbid he should do something to alleviate the situation such as, oh I don't know, turning the film off!

Clearly, I will have to drag them both to PT next time.

And pay better attention to the things I let them watch. The best laid plans ...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Doggone it!

At the risk of overdoing the dog theme ... We are on the other end of the spectrum completely from Weaselsnark, with an 8 month old German Shepherd who already weighs more than my 8 year old daughter and sheds like a beyotch! She is my first dog - if you don't count the psycho we had to return - so this is all new to me.

This past winter being the mother if all winters, it was unquestionably NOT the best time to adopt an energetic puppy. No one wanted to take her out.  Ever. The only upside was that is was really easy to pick up poop since it generally froze solid before impact. My dog, however, absolutely loves snow and ice - she would rather have an ice cube than a biscuit any day - so she was constantly sitting right by the door, eager to escape.

Now that the weather is getting warmer and we are starting to get a bit more adventurous I am realizing that spring is possibly worse.  Torrential rain turned our yard to mud which the dog tracked into the playroom (only carpeted room in the house) when the contractor left the door open.  Since noone had a free appointment to help me wash her, I had to hold on to her leash with one hand while hosing her down with the other. Naturally, she took off, leaping over the 3 foot retaining wall with me trailing Buster Keaton-style in her wake. #faceplant.

Another no-no is messing with her diet. Apparently deer poo and grass are fine but the older dog version of her puppy food makes her barf and homemade dog biscuits give her the runs. #there goes that new car smell.

It is a steep learning curve but all in all she is a sweet, rambunctious addition to our mad family and honestly, if my kids are happy, then I'm happy.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Giving D.

Our dog is 15 and has terrible arthritis in her back legs.  And pneumonia.  And a large mass in her lungs that may be cancer.  And she has pretty much lost her hearing along with about a third of her body weight.

But she still wags her tail when she sees me.  And she still follows me from room to room, which stresses me out because I know it must take so much effort.  "I'm just running upstairs to put this laundry away." I tell her.   "I'm coming right back down.  I promise."   She doesn't buy it.  Never has. Wherever I am is where it's at.

It's been this way for almost 15 years-- ever since that day in August when my boyfriend/future husband and I brought her home from the shelter.  She threw up on me a little in the car on the way back to the city and I guess that sealed the deal.  I told my boyfriend that he had to agree now that if we ever broke up that she was my dog.  

Over the years that ownership grab has come back to haunt me a bit-- "your dog is killing all the grass..." "your dog needs to go out..."-- but like any young couple thinking of a future together, we doted on our dog.  Birthday cakes, dog-friendly vacations, photo ops, you name it.  We didn't go so far as to dress her in clothes; but I did try to get her to wear booties and a coat during that first winter.  Her expression was classic: no way, dude.  I took them off.  And the dog was happy.

Then there were the lean years for the pooch.  We had a baby.  And he didn't sleep.  He took up so much of my attention that I couldn't have given nearly as much to my dog as she was used to.  I even kept our midday dog walker from when I had been working because I just couldn't coordinate it all.  But still, I vividly remember one night crying on my bed in frustration as the baby cried in his crib unable to go to sleep or stay asleep no matter what I did, my dog came and nuzzled up next to me.  "How can I make it better?" she seemed to be saying to me.  I cried into her fur.  And the dog was happy.

For years the kids required so much time and energy I honestly don't remember how my dog fit in the mix.  I know her name was one of my daughter's first words and I know she is usually somewhere in the frame of most videos and photos from those early years.  So it wasn't like I stopped paying attention to her.  I just know I wasn't all there. But she was no doubt right on my heels, stopping to catch the falling Cheerios and goldfish crackers.  And the dog was happy.

Then the renaissance-- my daughter went to Kindergarten.  Suddenly I had six hours on my own.  We had six hours together.  Time to take those long walks together on the trails again.  Time to read a book on the couch next to my dog.  Time to unearth the chuck-it and feed into her ball chasing OCD.  And the dog was happy.

As I look back I realize that, over the course of her lifetime, I've probably spent more time with my dog than with anybody else.  She has given me unconditional love, countless moments of pure joy, way more smelly dog-breath kisses than I would have liked, and someone to talk to as I slog through the mundane tasks of running a house.

I know someday I'm going to have to let her go.  But for now, her tail is wagging. 

And I am happy.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Questionable Taste?

I have never been on the cutting edge of ... well, anything.  My taste in music, for example, runs from the generic to the just-that-side-of-embarrassing. Once, when we parked our car in a slightly dodgy lot on Manhattan's west side, a thief broke in and stole all my husband's CDs and left every single one of mine. Abba Gold I can sort of understand but the soundtrack to "The Heights"? Come on!

My taste in literature and TV shows is equally off-beat.  As a tween I was obsessed with MASH and Quincy. I wanted to marry Alan Alda and be a Medical Examiner.  When my academic strengths and need for sleep steered me away from a career in medicine I took to reading murder mysteries and watching crime dramas (with the odd Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place episode thrown in for good measure). My latest obsession - I'm sure I've already said - is with Scandinavian mystery writers: Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum, Jussi Adler-Olsen. When we got a dog recently, we named her Ziva after the kick-ass Mossad agent from NCIS. (Sadly, she was a biter and had to go back to the breeder. I was going to blog about our grief and call it "Sitting Ziva", but didn't want to overplay the Jewish card).

So imagine my delight this weekend when reading an article about the Oscar-nominee June Squibb in the Style section of the NY Times when she described a typical night for her involving "watching TV ("Game of Thrones," "NCIS") or reading mysteries written by Jo Nesbo and other Scandinavian writers."!

Glass half empty: I am right on par with an octogenarian.

Glass half full: I share the sophisticated tastes of an Oscar-nominated, salty, hard-working, winsome dame of cinema.

Going to celebrate with Harry Hole while listening to my latest download, Pearl Jam. Have you heard of them?


Monday, January 6, 2014

Serenity Now!

It’s a new year, which means clean slates and resolutions and all that good stuff.
I tend to tie my overly aspirational self-improvement efforts to the beginning of the school year-- as opposed to January 1-- but this year I’m inclined to double dip.
While I didn’t think I could go broader than “figure out what you want to do with your life,” for 2014 I’m hoping that the secret to happiness is hiding somewhere in the interplay of these two bits of text.   
 
The Serenity Prayer:
(God), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
 courage to change the things I can,
 and wisdom to know the difference.
 
Birthday card I received from my parents last June:
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
 
I haven’t quite parsed out how to live my life serenely with courage and wisdom but I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to let go of petty small-potato things like how much it bothers me that the serenity prayer leaves off the “the” in front of courage and wisdom.
Stay tuned.
Happy and healthy to all….

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hair Today, Gone to Maui

Hi blog!  It’s been a while.  I’ve…um… been busy?
If I’m being honest, the only reason I’m even writing now is that I’m trying to avoid doing what I’m supposed to be doing and I’ve already used up all my usual go-to procrastination devices. 
I should be preparing for Thanksgiving.  It’s only one week—seven short days!--  from today.  And my whole family will be descending upon my house on Tuesday.  I should be planning menus and making shopping lists and cleaning out the fridge to make room for four kinds of milk, two kinds of orange juice and umpteen bottles of club soda and seltzer (and googling just what the difference is between the two).  A wise hostess would be figuring out who is sleeping where and on what and whether the (clean) sheets in the linen closet need to be washed before they go on the beds.
Instead, I find myself fixated on towels and pillows and worried about whether I have enough of each.  Every time I go to Target (which is obscenely frequently),   pick up towels and pillows.  What am I going to do with all these dang towels and pillows after everyone leaves?
The Thanksgivings that we spend with my family have, historically, been held at my brother’s house.  The bar is set very high.  My sister-in-law is a wonderful hostess.  A real Martha.  She stocks the fridge and pantry ahead of time with things each of us likes.  She effortlessly produces meals and copious baked goods practically from thin air.  She has gobs of great rag magazines that I usually only get to read at the nail salon.  And, exceeding the service of any five star resort, she thoughtfully provides hand-picked toiletries in the bathrooms, tailored to the individual’s needs. 
That last one cuts both ways.   I know it’s the thought that counts and all of that—don’t get me wrong,  I am touched that she takes the time (and spends the money) to make me feel at home.  But it is always kind of funny/awkward that the shampoo and conditioner in the shower that I will be using are labeled  for use on hair that is DRY/DAMAGED/CHEMICALLY TREATED/FRIZZY/GOOD GOD DO YOU CHECK THE MIRROR EVER?! 
I’m sure it comes from a place of love.  Seriously.  But it has left me in a bit of a pickle.  I know that my family has come to expect not to have to BYOShampoo, etc.  so, on my latest Target run, I spent a great deal of time in the toiletries section.  As I surveyed the shampoo options I called to mind each man, woman and child that was going to be using our facilities and, channeling my sister-in-law, tried to guess what their individual hair care needs and wants might be.  
Well.  My brother has been somewhat successfully fighting genetics and a receding hairline since forever.  Do I get him the men’s shampoo for “Fuller, thicker looking hair” or is that mean?  My sister-in-law has been fighting her own battle with hair loss.  Do I get her the shampoo for “fragile, breaking, falling hair?”  Is there such a thing as passive-aggressive shampoo?
 Oof.  The towels and pillows are so much easier.  Maybe I should go get some more.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Goy vey!

I am waiting for my boiler to be serviced (literally, so that's not what this blog is about) and so I thought I would blog about my weekend. Well, actually just Sunday which involved three soccer games and a Bar Mitzvah for my 12-year-old.  I know, high-octane suburbia's twist on "Four Weddings and a Funeral"?

It was our first foray into the Jewish Rite of Passage and we were absolutely under prepared for what was involved.  The invitations read like wedding invitations!  They come with a map, bus info and response cards, pre-stamped, with custom-made stamps depicting a photo of the lucky child or his/her initial.  I sent off a few RSVPs before it occurred to me that it might be traditional to include a gift check with the response.  Oops! And also, how much is appropriate to give?!!!

I finally broke down and grilled a friend of mine who's third daughter is in 7th grade. Here's what I gleaned:

  •  Apparently it's fine to send the check with the RSVP and if you have a child who's forgetful, it's a guarantee that the present will reach its intended destination.  
  • It is considered lucky to give in multiples of 18.   
  • It is acceptable to skip the 3 hour religious ceremony and just go to the party part.
  • Daytime parties tend to be less formal than nighttime soirees. Eek - time to revisit that chiffon dress we had picked out.  
Unfortunately, both my husband and I had to take the other two to away soccer games and couldn't see our daughter leave for the Bar Mitzvah. I asked the mom who was picking her up to give her a quick once-over and check there was nothing glaringly wrong with the outfit she chose, or that she had suddenly opted to wear makeup with disastrous results. I think it hurt me more than her that I wasn't there to help her get ready for her first "grown up" party.

Of course, she looked beautiful; so elegant in a navy sheath dress and ballet flats.  She wore an elasticated hairband as a choker but as it was beaded with little pearls nobody noticed. She also misinterpreted my instructions to shave half her legs and only deforested the fronts leaving the backs au naturel. Again, I think nobody would have noticed.  Most importantly, she had an absolute blast.

Oh yeah, and we (we!) won all three soccer games!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

With the school year once again underway, it feels good to gather some of my scattered thoughts and air them out.  I am down to one child in elementary school this year so when I got the call asking if I would be willing to be a class parent I had a bit of a "Sunrise Sunset" moment and hastily agreed. It just felt nice to be asked.  Unfortunately, that warm glow totally blocked out memories of being class parent from years past.

So being a class parent basically means you act as liaison between the teacher and parents, allegedly for coordinating supplies for class parties and chaperones for trips.  In actuality, you are a patsy, regularly caught in the crossfire of psycho, underemployed parents and the teachers who want nothing to do with them.  Cue Kevlar.

In just two weeks since school started I have had to hand-hold a man I've never met before through the logistics of divorce (I'm sure your wife is a bitch but could you just give me an email address where you can be reached and send in $10 for class dues?) and deal with a slew of emails from parents who want to be included on a particular class trip.  One mother even suggested - with conspiracy theory overtones - that she had been "shut out" of being her son's class parent so expected to have first dibs on accompanying him to the zoo. Hmmm ... Guess who's chaperoning the water treatment plant? Ha ha.

The best yet (and, again, I stress that it's only two weeks into the new school year) was the near-mutiny I defused when the teacher announced that due to the high number and range of food allergies in the class, she wouldn't be allowing any food into the classroom. Big deal, right?  So little Madison doesn't get to bring in cupcakes on her birthday. Aren't we supposed to be reducing the sugar and fat in our kids' diets anyway???

You may be surprised to learn that it was the parents of the kids WITH allergies who were up in arms!  I'm assuming it's because they didn't want their kids to be blamed.  Firstly, kids these days just accept that many of their friends have life-threatening allergies. As a result of this new "normal", it wouldn't occur to children without allergies to punish or blame those who do.  I suggested these parents take it up with the school principal who is a lovely and very approachable woman.  Apparently, the main antagonist had burned her bridges there (shocking) so the issue was dropped.

I can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings.  We have a trip coming up in October - maybe I should start charging ...