Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Real Funny Pages

I grew up in a New York Times house. I'd even go so far as to say that my dad is addicted to the Times. If my parents are away from home he'll settle for national editions or even the Times Digest (nee the Times Fax), but as soon as they return to local soil he will actually go back and read-- cover to cover-- the papers that were delivered in his absence.

As a kid, the Times wasn't all that enticing-- no funny pages, no jumble, no horoscope. I didn't even like touching the paper (I didn't like the way the ink and paper felt. It's better now, they changed the ink I think).

When I was about ten, my mom started writing pretty regularly for a section in the Sunday Daily News, which meant that on Sundays there was now a choice of newspapers. I don't want to overstate it but remember that moment when Dorothy opens the door to the technicolor of Oz?? Not only did I get the aforementioned comics (in full color!), jumble and horoscopes but there was Parade Magazine and coupon circulars and the TV guide. I spent hours poring over all that junk.

These days I read the Times online. I don't miss the jumble or the horoscopes. But even though I don't follow the funny pages anymore I am loving The Comics Curmudgeon

Read a few of the old posts. Read some of the comments even. It's hi-larious. It kind of makes me want to pick up one of the "lesser" papers for the comics. Don't tell my dad...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Less is Less (or is it fewer?)

When my son was a baby and first started using bottles, I dug up a three-pack that someone had given me. The whole supplementing with formula thing took some pressure off, but I was always washing one or drying one or matching up the pieces (all to the soundtrack of my son wailing). Eventually, I realized that this was a stress I could relieve and that the solution was both easy and obvious: buy more bottles.

Then we moved on to solid food. But before I could serve dinner I'd have to wash the Thomas the Tank Engine plate by hand because the Elmo plate (our only other) was in the dishwasher. It took me a month or so, but I eventually had the same epiphany: buy more plates.

Evidently, I am not a quick study. I've had to relearn the "sometimes more is more" lesson over and over again: wipes, sippy cups, drinking cups, washcloths, underwear, reusable lunch containers, running clothes, and, most recently, socks.

But, what's this? Is it possible I may be getting slightly better at identifying a problem (or my problems)? After a mere two days of our summer schedule-- camp in the morning and pool in the afternoon-- I'm thinking I may need a few more rash guards. And maybe some extra bottles of sunscreen.

You know, so far I've been lucky: the things I've needed to make my life easier and less stressful have all been available in bulk or at a reasonable cost. Well, except babysitters. And masseurs.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Want to Come Up and See My Etchings?


My five year old daughter and one of her closest friends working on some kind of craft project.

GIRL: (looking at mood ring) My mood ring is blue, which means I'm happy.

BOY: (looking at his own mood ring) Mine is yellow, which means I have to kiss you. On the lips.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jolly Hockeysticks, My Good Man!

Tony Hayward (BP) and Michael Sheen (Actor: '30 Rock', Frost/Nixon)

Tony Hayward (BP) and Michael Sheen ('30 Rock', 'Frost/Nixon')

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fishy Fishy Fish

One day last spring I left my mom persona behind and went into the city to have lunch with my parents and my sister, who was in town visiting from California.

My husband stayed home with the kids. They were six and four at the time so I didn’t have to annoy him with a litany of rituals and minutiae particular to their care and feeding. I left town confident that everything would be fine.

I might have jumped on the train a little too quickly. After a lovely day, I came home and my kids were practically bursting with news. “We went to a fair! We each won a fish! We had popcorn!” Wait. What? Could you back up please? What was that about a fish?

Sigh. Even if I had run through my ridiculously extensive list of dos and don’ts, I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to say “Don’t play any fair games for which the prize is a goldfish in a bag.” Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

So we added a fish to our family. The world’s most resilient fish. Spots has never been pampered in a fancy tank. No, sir. His home is a big Rubbermaid bin, which has basically been kept outside. No treasure chests or little Jacques Cousteau figures for Spots. His d├ęcor is eco-chic: dirt, rocks and falling pine needles.

He has survived ice cold water, sporadic feedings, infrequent (I’m being kind) tank/bin cleanings, and the movement of his tub by workers who didn’t know there was anything in there other than some nasty pondwater. A weaker fish might not have made it.

Scratch that. Weaker fish have not made it. There was Dots, who was won at the same fair but was found cut in half by one of the rocks in the tub on Day 2. And then there was the algae-eater fish who, even though he was acclimated to the water temperature while still in his little baggie, died upon contact with the frigid water Spots was happily swimming about in.

And, just last week, there was Brownie. We bought Brownie for my daughter. Somehow it was decided that Dots (the one that got split in two) was the fish she had won. I think my son perpetrated a fish version of the old “I dropped your ice cream cone” scam. I mean, really, how can you tell two goldfish apart?

So Brownie got introduced to the Rubbermaid and Spots. All was great. Until Day 3. I was making dinner when I heard blood-curdling screams from outside. I practically teleported to the front yard because I was convinced that someone was lying in a pool of blood. Both kids were in tears. My daughter was practically pulling out her hair. My son managed to tell me that Brownie had died.

Trying to calm them both I went to the tank to deal with the dead fish. I didn’t see anything. “Are you sure he’s dead? I don’t see him….” I was hopeful.

“He’s here” my daughter said, thrusting out her hand. With the dead fish in it.

Eeeeeewwwwww. Ewww. Eww. I broke my own landspeed record (set just moments earlier) getting a bucket for her to drop Brownie into. And then broke that record saying goodbye to/flushing Brownie and making sure my daughter washed her hands 100 times.

And, still, Spots swims on.

My daughter wants a turtle.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different

I had to go to a couple of business events this week after months of not doing anything remotely work-related and it was uber-intimidating. A very dear friend/colleague of mine had published her first book and people turned out in numbers to celebrate her well-deserved success.

It was so strange to put on corporate garb. I removed all the crayon from my handbag and spaghetti sauce from my hair, I put on my white trousers at the last possible decent moment, I WORE MAKE-UP!!! (none of the kids cut themselves open), and then I went into a roomful of people I used to work with/would die to work for and was struck mute with terror. What could I possible contribute to a conversation? My grasp on current events is tenuous at best (I read most of the newspaper on weekends but all other current events I glean from the 5 minutes of the Today Show I manage to watch each morning before the Lucky Charms fight begins) and I was standing next to a book editor from Newsweek.

Fortunately, with the help of a few glasses of Chardonnay, I soon remembered my two new mantras: 'Deflect Attention' (people love to talk about themselves) and the related 'Less is More' (if you don't talk too much, people assume you're more intelligent than you are - it helps if you arch an eyebrow at relevant moments too).

My phone is certainly not ringing off the hook today with job offers, but neither did I make a complete fool of myself (and nobody heard me snort that one time when I laughed too hard at a joke - bonus!). I am entirely satisfied to have broken even.

FC Nightmare

Small town politics ain't got nothin' on Girls U10 soccer. There is a bitter Cold War going on in our town between parents of girls who play for the town and parents of girls who play for private clubs and while I am not one of the key players, I am most definitely a satellite. Call me Ukraine.

My daughter has always loved soccer and is a reasonably talented player. I have no illusions that she is the next Mia Hamm (unlike some parents, cough, cough) but she's good and with the right training she could be really good. Until now she has played on teams which do not require tryouts but we are not in Kansas anymore (figuratively speaking, because we never were actually IN Kansas, thankfully).

In February, during a winter soccer clinic, my daughter was asked repeatedly to join a private club for the upcoming season. My husband and I were thrilled for her but she wanted to play for our town with her friends so we let it slide. Repeated requests to try-out came in the spring so my daughter decided to give it a whirl. Bottom line: she tried out, they turned her down. She played well but existing team members were guaranteed their spots (because Daddy bought the team outdoor lights, cough, cough) and there just wasn't a spot for her. How to explain that life lesson to a 9-year-old? Shit happens?

Fortunately, she made the 'A' team for our town and is playing with her friends and is happy. Now we are struggling to find a coach for them. I know they are desperate because they asked my husband to coach and, while very fit and motivated, he has never played a game of soccer in his life. There is a wonderful candidate - the father of another girl on the team - who played through college and is everything you could hope for in a coach, but his older daughter pulled out of our town team to play for a private club and so he is blacklisted. We are starting a campaign to reinstate him. I wish I were kidding.

What message does this send to our girls?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Author! Author!

I love my house.
I have two cats.
I have a couch under my bed.

And that's all there is. Intriguing, no? The brief work of a newly-published Kindergartener.

In our elementary school we run a Publishing Center-- the kids come in with stories that they have written in class, we (parent volunteers) go over the stories with them, and, ultimately, the story is typed up and bound into a very low-tech, often hideous, wallpaper-sample-covered cardboard book.

I really enjoy sitting down with the kids and going through their stories and illustrations with them. Some stories are completely random. Some are hilarious. Some just talk about which Wii games they like to play. And some stories provide a vivid peek into a child's life at home (let's just say that I don't have to worry that I'm the mom with the shortest temper).

Also a treat is the "About the Author" section. Kid authors are about all kinds of stuff. Exactly how old they are and what sports they play = very important. As are: favorite foods, favorite colors and pets (or the unfulfilled desire to have pets).

Today I read an "About the Author" that included this juicy gem: "He once got a dragon tattoo that lasted for ten days." How awesome is that? It kind of reminds me of when Dudley Pippin recites his kid resume to Naomi on Free to Be... You and Me: "and a ball of tin foil five inches across..."

If I ever write a book, I'm going to remember the Publishing Center when I craft my About the Author. Let's see... I like blue. And dogs. And cheese. And I hate eggplant. Huh. I may need to get some more pets to flesh it out.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Can't Believe... Well, This.

This is:

a) Selling-out personified;

b) So random that it's kind of awesome;

c) Like a bad dream; or

d) Evidence that Megan Mullally received really bad financial advice during her Will & Grace boom years.

p.s. Cybill Shepherd called. She'd like her lens filter back please.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Boy, do I have a headache. My daughter had a friend over for a playdate after school today and he brought his trumpet. I guess they decided about a month ago that they were going to perform a duet for the rest of their class at school (she plays the piano) but conflicting schedules meant that we didn't get the practice-makes-perfect playdate until now. And of course it was at our house because, natch, a trumpet is more portable.

OMG. It was like sitting on an aircraft carrier next to the horn for the Fleet Week kick-off and it lasted for an hour. We ran through 'Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gun Tree', 'Mary had a Little Lamb', and 'Yankee Doodle.' I think. And sometimes they played in a round, just to maximize the cacophonous discord. I had to smile encouragingly while inside reeling off a string of bad language that would mortify a pimp.

My daughter had a great time and her friend is terrific. But when his mother came to collect him, she offered to reciprocate and have the kids at her house next time, "not to play music, just to play." My jaw fell open. That was an option???

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Sometimes I feel like Seth Meyers and Tina Fey are perched on my shoulders like the angel and devil in cartoons:

"You just spent ten minutes rearranging the dishwasher to make room for that one little bowl that you could've washed by hand in less than a minute? Really?!"

"Instead of ironing that clean shirt you just threw it back in the hamper? Really?!"

"Chicken nuggets? From the freezer? For dinner? Really??!"

"You're going to let the kids skip their bath because at least they went swimming today? Really?!! Isn't the pool the most persuasive argument in favor of a bath? Really!?"

"Your kid found some of the "art" projects that you stuffed in the recycling bin and you blamed the cleaning people? Really?!"

"You spent all day complaining about how bloated and fat you felt and now you're going to sit there and eat peanut butter off a spoon? REALLY??!"


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cabin Fever!

This whole post-tonsilectomy/adenoidectomy recovery has been exhausting and I'm not even the patient. My son is up like a newborn at night and refusing to rest during the day, wanting to be entertained instead and it REALLY doesn't help that pre-school is over for Minx, who has made it her mission in life to torture her brother. He draws a picture, turns around for a second, and she draws a single Alfalfaesque hair growing out of his alien's head. Or she walks over and toe-taps his carefully constructed block city. Aaaaargh!

Being tired and grouchy and stuck at home with a fridge full of jello, ice cream, sorbet and pudding is a dangerous thing, especially when, like most mothers, I eat my kids' leftovers. 'Always leave a clean plate' was our mantra growing up and it's a hard habit to break. Fortunately, after a while, liquid food is highly dissatisfying (for this reason alone I poo-poo the new 'Baby Food Diet' fad) and I have to hide in the closet to consume something crusty.

Hopefully, the recovery will be fast, my son will be pain free and will stop sounding like Mos Def in '16 Blocks'. If we go through another week like this, I may never leave the couch again.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Separated at Birth?

Joran Van der Sloot Puck from 'Glee'

By the way, I don't know what if anything 'sloot' means, but we lived in Holland for a few years growing up and we called the mucky, stanky canal behind our house, the 'sloot' (My brother was forever in there and being warned not to do so). That would make our dear Joran something akin to a swampbeast. Ha.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

One-Piece, Won Peace

It's pool club season. Time to make peace with the whole bathing suit thing. I'm not just talking about me and and any issues I have with my body and being in a bathing suit. I also have to get used to seeing other people in theirs.

I grew up in the city. We spent our summers at our country house (passing grey poupon, natch). The people I saw at the beach I only knew from the beach. Seeing them in bathing suits each summer seemed totally normal.

Now I go to the pool with some of my nearest and dearest friends, along with some hi-bye friends and some people I only vaguely recognize from town. For most of the year I see all these people fully clothed: winter coats, scarves, big bulky sweaters, jeans, boots. Now, all of a sudden, we're all in bathing suits.

It feels more naked somehow.

Friday, June 4, 2010

This Wasn't in the Manual

Yesterday my son had his tonsils and adenoids removed. The dentist pulled a 'while you're in there' ... and so the surgeon also cut his lingual frenum (the thingy that attaches your tongue to your palate). And by the way, I might pull a 'while you're in there' if/when I next need surgery. How great would that be?! But back to my son.

I had been told that he would be pretty much laid up for a week with little to no appetite and not much energy so I completed my external to-do list, filled the fridge and pantry with liquid temptations and raided Target for puzzles and coloring books. I was a Girl Scout, you know. I'm prepared.

Firstly, we were in and out of the ambulatory center within four hours. What ever happened to staying in a hospital? Then he gets home and is all jazzed up! "What do you want to play, Mom? You want to do Wii with me?!" He even wanted to stop at Borders on the way home from the surgery. And he was ravenous. He ate and ate and ate. All day. This wasn't in the post-op list of symptoms! I was afraid I might run out of appealing mush! I was afraid of getting Jello elbow!

Things went pear-shaped at about 6pm (so what's new?) when the pain became almost unbearable and we were two hours away from the next Tylenol/Codeine fix. He went to bed and only woke once in the night for more medicine. Today, he's much more reticent and subdued thank goodness. As horrible as it is to see him suffering, the pain is forcing him to slow down and heal in a way that I couldn't. What happened yesterday was just plain weird. Today is by the book which is how I like it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Name is Inigo Montoya

My son tried out for a travel soccer team today. The team will be made up of boys from all around the area, not just our town. As a result, I knew some-- but not all-- of the mothers there with their boys.

Because I had my daughter with me I mostly watched the try-outs from a playground next to the field. After spinning my daughter on a tire swing (at her request) for so long she actually fell over when she got down, I ended up chatting about the tryouts with another woman (we'll call her Vizzini). As we were talking, a woman I know from my town came over (we'll call her the Dread Pirate Roberts). In the course of our conversation DPR asked Vizzini whether she lived in our town. Vizzini said no and told us the name of the town she lives in. DPR evidently has family there and was very chatty and friendly.

After DPR walked away, Vizzini let loose with some surprising vitriol. "How pretentious. 'Do you live in [my town here]?' It's like she doesn't even know that anyone from anywhere can be on this team. It's so pretentious. The coach isn't from [my town here] or anything."

"Well, I'm from [my town here]," I say. "She probably just thought that since we were talking that you were from [my town here] too. She's actually very nice."

Vizzini ignored everything I said and continued to rip my town, the people in my town, the kids in my town, the people (and their kids) in neighboring towns, and all kids who have to look beyond their own siblings for playdates. More than a few offenders were incorrectly (at least in the context of what she was complaining about!) slammed as, you guessed it, pretentious.

The whole time I was seeing Wallace Shawn's head on her body. And so, to you, Vizzini, I say: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

A scenario in which I would willingly hang out with her again of my own free will? Inconceivable!