Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bicycles Built for Two

We spent the morning at the local bike shop because the kids got their first bicycles today, a birthday present from Gommie and Pop. After measuring, discussing, consulting with the cycling expert at the shop, we selected a pink bike with white tires (and a little purse/basket) for Sis and a blue bike with black tires (and also hand brakes) for Bud. Plus two new helmets (unfortunately, the new novelty helmets with rabbit ears and shark teeth weren't really protecting against front impacts, the main source of bicycle injury), also pinkish and blue-ish. Of course.

Along with our purchase, we got a little "Zen and the Art of Bicycling," some philosophical advice on life. A helmet is very important to save your life but elbow and knee pads incubate you from life's lessons--it's important to skin your knees and get right back up on the saddle seat. He was wonderful, spending a lot of time with us as his shop got busier and busier.

Sis and Bud waited as patiently as they could, considering how excited and proud they were. The nice bike shopped rushed the construction of the pink bike so Sis didn't have to wait all day or even til tomorrow; we were grateful, especially because Bud's bike was ready. Soon they had those shiny new bikes and were riding up and down the sidewalk with Gommie and Pop, testing those wobbly training wheels on their new two-wheelers. You could see the concentration and effort on their faces as they seriously rode up and down. At home, they rode back and forth, trying turns and stops (both also have coaster brakes). Sis was speedy--I think she loves speed, on her tricycle, her scooter, and now her bicycle. There was one small flip but Bud got right back up on his bicycle, ignoring his skinned knee. Just like we hoped he would.

During the whole morning, we reminisced about our own bikes. Pop had hand-me-downs from his siblings, repainted for him, only getting his own new bike when I was probably about 10. I remember our going with him to the bike shop to get the big new blue bicycle and then he shocked me by riding it all the way home, down the backroads of the various neighborhoods. I think he had a wonderful time. I believe my first bike came for Christmas and, it being warm enough with no ice or snow, I rode it up and down our cul-de-sac so happy about the plastic white-woven basket with three big flowers and not minding the training wheels at all. I was probably about 6 or 7, can't be sure. I had a different bike, a blue Schwinn, with huge book basket rack on the back, that I rode to school from 5-9th grades (with Gommie following me the first time or two so I didn't get lost). Mama remembered especially the adult bike she bought in
Chicago, from the dyke-owned shop. She rode a lot around the city those first few years, excited by the freedom. She went back to the shop several times, enjoying the atmosphere and buying accessories. I think she was nostalgic for those days, and for the days riding through the parks of Queens with her dad, and hopes we become a biking family. I actually have an adult bike, purchased at the same shop several years ago but left unused because I found riding hard--after three years of physical therapy and learning about my body, I know why now it was challenging and why it will be hard to take up again. But I can participate in family rides in other ways and think it would be great fun for us all. I hope the kids remember today and subsequent bicycle days with the same happiness and fondness.

Happy Birthday, Sis and Bud!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pass the Popcorn

The kids went to their first full-length movie in a theater today. They've seen movies at home, of course, as well as shorts in museums, but today was their first real movie. And the movie-obsessed member of our family took them--Gommie! To Winnie the Pooh. I think they were mesmerized by all of it--the theater itself with posters of Harry Potter, the previews, even the ads for going to the movies in the theater (though, the blowing up of the tv in one ad led Bud to say, "I didn't think this was going to be violent!"), and of course the snacks--popcorn ("One piece at a time," I cautiously exhorted on their way out the door), M&Ms, Skittles. Oh, yeah, and the film. With the "Backson" monster and Tigger dressing up and the friends using letters to crawl out of a hole and Pooh falling in honey and dreaming he was on an island . . . at least as I understand it from their retelling!

Blueberries Bountiful

With blueberries spread around our kitchen like the pasta in Strega Nona, we opted for pie today. Lattice-top, even. With help from everybody. And vanilla ice cream on top!


Lattice-Top Blueberry Pie a la Martha Stewart

pie dough for two-9" crusts
about 7 cups blueberries (washed, drained, de-stemmed)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
your favorite wash--egg yolk, milk, water
sugar for dusting (I use raw sugar and cinnamon)

Roll out bottom crust and place in 9" pie plate.

Mix blueberries (I crushed half lightly), sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Pour into prepared pie plate.

Cut other crust into approximately 1" strips. Weave into a lattice-top (No worries, it's not hard--see here..) Apply chosen wash and dust with sugar and cinnamon.

Freeze or refrigerate pie for 30 minutes to set up. Preheat oven to 400F. Remove pie from fridge and cover edges. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and bake for another 55 minutes, until pie is bubbly and crust is browned.

Allow to cool completely, approximately 3 hours. Yeah. Right.

Martha Stewart with directions written by Mommy Hungry

Good Luck!

Mommy Goose is riding in the CT Challenge for Cancer tomorrow! We wish her good luck on her ride and congratulate her on all the healthy changes she is making for herself and her family. You are an inspiration!

Christmas in July

But only at Woot today.

Rain, Rain

We're inside, with rain and thunderstorms off and on for today, which is good for our drying plants. There's been a dance party, puzzles, and now card games, but the kids are showing the lack of sleep that the excitement of grandparents brings (despite desperately trying to stick to bedtimes). Later, they'll go to a movie and kung fu, with baked chicken, rice, and gravy, and possibly a blueberry pie, for dinner!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's That Time Again

I saw a neurosurgeon today and am going for another MRI next week to see exactly what is causing my sitting difficulty (or not).   More after that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Top 40

While the kids watched a movie with Gommie and Pop napped on the couch, Mama and I went to my ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor's appointment about the sore throat I've had for two months. And I heard a word that I haven't heard since the kids were babies: reflux. I have reflux, probably initially aggravated by, you guessed it, my allergy to NSAIDs.

Or because I'm 40.

This doctor always chalks things up to being 40, like my sense a year or so ago that I was losing my hearing a bit. Yep, probably, but not below acceptable standards. It happens when you're, you guessed it, 40.

Dad says try being 70.

Up and At 'Em

The kids are already out and about, having quickly polished off homemade biscuits with Gommie and Pop. Swim lessons, berry picking, a visit to the farm stand, maybe lunch out if it gets too late. A fun start to Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

All is Well, Safely Rest . . .

Night is nigh . . . and everybody is probably asleep, except Mama and I. Loud claps of thunder and bright lightning punctuate the night sky but the kids are too tired to care. They swam with Gommie and Pop for more than an hour, came home for dinner and aforementioned cheesecake, did puzzles and read books, and went to bed.

Ready for more adventures tomorrow . . . good night!

And . . . They're Gone!

Yep, the folks and the grandkids are all gone. In less than an hour, which must be some kind of a record. With too much energy to be contained by our living rooms, the kids are going swimming at Gommie and Pop's hotel (yes, they stay nearby while they're here).

The trip is starting off great!

Especially because they brought Junior's cheesecake from GCT.

(A big thanks to Miss B for picking them up at the train station for me!!)

3...2...1...They're Here!

Let the fun begin!

Countdown Continues

Gommie and Pop are in the Northeast! Leaving NYC on the train headed to CT. So we'll see them very soon. The last hour is the hardest, for all of us, especially the weary travelers.

At least we had a deli picnic on the living room floor and will be able to wile away the hours by playing or watching tv or the like. Though, I might envy my folks the pleasant, pretty train ride . . . I always could nap on the trains.

Countdown to Fun!

Gommie and Pop are somewhere over Illinois right now, if the airline flight tracker is correct. They'll be here sometime later this afternoon.

Which means we have at least 4 hours or so to pass. That is harder than it sounds when you're are six and your sibling is driving you nuts and you can't find anything to do and "why aren't they here yet?" keeps reverberating in your brain! If I give them Benadryl now, they'll wake up right on time, right?

Just kidding. Or wishful thinking.

So we've tried to play together, tried to play apart, tried to work out a compromise. And it's Just. So. Long. Which means I've given up on all my maternal standards and have turned on the tv.

Next will be the DS, if tv doesn't hack it.

And we had s'mores for snack.

Yep, I've really sunk quite low.

Grandparents aren't the only ones to spoil kids . . . except I don't get nearly half the credit!

All of which is to say we're really looking forward to their ten-day visit.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Big Bowl of Gratitude

Many heartfelt thanks to Mrs. S for accompanying the kiddos to swim lessons all month.  We really appreciate it!  You helped make the summer wonderful for them.

Random Thoughts

Thoughts, in no particular order
  • Despite being just a week or so shy of seeing the first anniversary of my herniated disc and a year of really struggling with it, I was surprised to learn that I qualify as someone in chronic pain, which lasts for 30 days or more. In fact, this whole article was both surprising and reassuring, as it calls for support for the millions of Americans trying to cope. And so what am I doing to commemorate the occasion? Going to see another specialist, a neurosurgeon, for a third opinion.
  • If you're a meat-eater considering your health or the planet, read yet another article on why cutting back is good for you and everybody. If you aren't considering it, definitely read the article.
  • First, the poor little boy in Brooklyn, now Norway. Here is a compelling video on how to talk to your children about a tragedy. Interestingly, one of the main points is to get out ahead of the news by being the first to talk to your children. I haven't mention either event to them and they don't know. I did, however, talk to them about our friend with cancer and how she would lose her hair. I wasn't sure they were listening, but they were--today they talked to Mrs. S about how very very very sick people need wigs. Which is a reminder to me that the kids do listen, so I better be the one talking.
  • Space Shuttle. I was relatively indifferent to the demise of the space shuttle program, remembering too vividly the Challenger and Columbia and not otherwise holding much interest in space or science. But I read a few articles in the paper and was bowled over by the grieving of the commenters It was like "space program" was up there with "Mom, apple pie, and baseball." Someone even said we'd have no cause to chant "USA!" again. I was touched by their pain and their loss of a dream, coupled with their certainty that our children will never be able to dream about being astronauts. Almost makes me miss the shuttles, too.
  • Amy Winehouse. I didn't listen to her music, except the song or two covered on "Glee," and I hadn't really followed all the press about her drinking/drugs etc except when her concert in Serbia was booed, making headlines. But I was oddly touched by her death, sad for her parents, sad for how young she was (27) with so much ahead, sad for all the people who watched her decline and could only shake their heads. But the "I told you so" by some critics and people were heartless, even if she sang "They tried to make go to rehab/And I said, "No, no, no."
  • Norway. I'm not even sure I can write about the tragedy in Norway, so like our Oklahoma City. But like many others, back then and this weekend, my first thought was Islamic terrorists, not homegrown Christian "extremists," whom we should call terrorists too. And I was disappointed to recognize that I harbored that prejudice, however knee jerk.

It's Raining Like Magic

The rain falling softly now on the baked landscape is like the cold shower I took Friday night. Cool, refreshing, rejuvenating. And temperature dropping! It's only 70F outside.

And I'm singing Raffi inside my head . . . .

"It's raining like magic
It's falling like starlight
It's raining like magic
It's raining life

"The forest is breathing
Ferns are rejoicing
And the trees are all singing
Hey - It's raining life

"And oh
What a feeling
On this glorious rain-drumming evening
Hey, hey
I feel like dancing
All night long
(Heading to the light)"

--"Raining Like Magic," Fern Gully

The Broccoli Hat Trick

On Friday last, Mama Teacher and CJ stayed for dinner and, it being the hottest day almost ever in CT, we ordered out. Pizza. Cheese for Bud and CJ, broccoli pizza specifically for Mama Teacher, among other things. Sis, who likes broccoli (and cauliflower), opted for chicken tenders because she doesn't like sauce. Or cheese. (Or trying new things much right now.)

Bud was curious about the broccoli pizza, which was curious in and of itself because I've watched his crying jags over that vegetable. And then he asked to try it. He's been more open to trying things recently, except the things he's already against. And he ate a whole slice! Including the broccoli. Without picking around it, spitting it out, or crying.

The next night, I served broccoli as a side with dinner. Mama Hungry added a pat of butter and some seasoned salt to liven things up . . . and he had two servings!!!! As did she.

Finally today, I was making "Ponyo noodles," AND HE ASKED ME TO ADD BROCCOLI!!!! Which they then both ate.

You could knock me over with a feather.

I guess all our new foods, for Bud at least, will be served first on pizza.

At least it's more palatable than covering vegetables in chocolate for Sis!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

O Happy Day!

(That's Niagara Falls lit for the first same-sex marriage in New York!!!)

Color Us Fun

The kiddos love Woot shirts. From the animals watching "city tv" to the giant otter devouring one of Columbus's ships, from the whale making a rainbow while all the sea animals watch to the mommy dragon feeding the baby dragon a knight, the kids love the animated designs and quirky humor, even if sometimes they have to ask over and over again and still don't always really understand. Still, they love it when we wear our Woot shirts.

But this one, "Shelf Life," has to be one of their favorites by far. They haven't heard of, much less read, most of the books depicted in the colorful reading rainbow (nor do they know the show of that name and thus the premise of the shirt), but they love the "I Spy" aspect of it, especially the books they know.

Can you find:
  • the red wall?
  • the scarlet-colored letter?
  • the red lion of . . . Gryffindor? Narnia?
  • the Little Prince's moon and rose?
  • the poisoned apple of Snow White?
  • a girl in a red-riding hood?
  • a red fern growing?
  • the Queen of Hearts?
  • James on the Giant Peach?
  • the yellow-brick road?
  • a yellow ugly duckling?
  • THE golden ticket?
  • a golden compass?
  • the man's yellow hat? (from Curious George)
  • the giant's green beanstalk?
  • a green frog in a prince's crown?
  • green eggs and a side of ham?
  • Sal's blueberries?
  • the blue dolphin, albeit with its island?
  • one blue fish? (where's the red fish?)
  • the dragon from Eragon?
  • Harold's purple crayon?
  • the caterpillar-eaten plums?
  • Harry Potter?
  • 42?
  • a Hobbit House and the One Ring that Ruled Them All?
  • and so many more, some I've never heard of and some no one has figured out . . . .
But, more importantly, have you read them?

I hope we're all inspired.


To all the gays and lesbians who can get legally married in New York starting today!!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Saved our starter!

After weeks, months even of being neglected in the fridge while I could neither reach it nor bake with it, my starter has been resurrected! See, I saw that NYTimes article on biscuits--with baking powder and lard, or cake flour and butter--neither of which much resembles my own sourdough biscuit recipe (which link describes the last time I had to revive the thing)--and just craved biscuits. And remembered my sad starter.

It was dark in its little crock. Dark gray-green. But it smelled clear and sour, not funky. And it was not red. Apparently, red is the starter color of death (death for the eater, that is. It's the color of harmful bacteria). Using tips from King Arthur Flour's sourdough primer, I gave my starter a big meal and a warm place to stay (very easy today). And within a few hours, it was bubbly again. YAY! I was so happy. Now it gets to stay out overnight and eat again tomorrow.

At which point, we will probably make those biscuits!

Twin Studies

We've had an interesting few weeks here on the twin front, this being their first extended experience of spending full days away from each other (they were only in separate kindergarten classes for about 3 hours). Sis was a little lost without Bud when he was at Lego camp, even though she had adults to play with and the chance to do anything she wanted to do. She seemed to flounder in trying to figure out the best thing to choose without him there. Every now and then, though, she would ask what we thought Bud was doing. She was excited when he got home. But annoyed, too, as if sharing her alone time with her brother each evening was too much. Especially because he'd spent the day doing new and exciting things. In other words, she wasn't entirely satisfied with the week.

Similarly, Bud was extremely jealous of Sis's camp experience and possessive of his adult alone time to the point that he didn't really want her to come home. Except when he did, jumping at the chance to pick her up at the bus drop-off. Though, he didn't really want to hear about her day. However, they'd rush to play video games, sitting side-by-side and actually helping each other with difficult sections.

And today is there reunion, their first full day of play together in two weeks (last weekend was busy). They were even planning their activities last night, chatting after bedtime. And this morning they are inseparable. They've made marble runs, produced and performed a dragon vs. warrior stage show for me, played Star Wars hospital (after each suffered minor injuries almost back-to-back), and are now playing Legos. The only difference of opinion: an argument about pancakes vs. crepes for breakfast. (The crepe-like Swedish pancake won the day!)

It is what we've always been told by other twin parents: they are each other's best friend and also worst enemy (main competition). And even then, when they least want the other around, they can't separate!

Prayer for Norway

Our thoughts and prayers go to the victims, survivors, their families, and all Norwegians.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Day at Camp

Sis loves camp. "Awesome!" she says. And here's why:

9 a.m. Arrive at camp, after singing "Firework" and "Baby" on bus. And hearing gossip about Justin Bieber that it takes a long time for Mommy to refute ("no, honey, he's not in jail."). Later, make "cootie catcher" (what we used to call "fortune tellers") and play games with friends.

9:15 Flag Ceremony begins, with 6 girls making an arch, the Pledge of Allegiance, and "Yankee Doodle" (Connecticut's State Song)

9:30 Join groups, drop off backpacks, apply sunscreen and bug spray. Meet your group--"I made four friends!"--and two counselors with fun camp names ("My camp name would be 'Bunny' or "Chocolate.'") Make a foamy raccoon name tag.

10:00 First Activity: Swimming! Sis is miffed that she isn't allowed to swim to the rope, being a beginning swimmer. She's ready to practice swimming more so she can be a "white cap" and go in the deep end. So she practices floating and such with a counselor. On hot Friday, where it peaked at 102F with heat index over 110F, they played in water and swam all day.

11:00 Second Activity: Arts and Crafts, like weaving a bookmark, decorating rocks, making a plaster turtle and painting it (for the nature habitat).

12:00 Lunch, packed in a zipper bag. Sis likes ham, cheese, and bread, but not as a sandwich; also, fruit cup, chips, and a cookie. Water, not juice.

1:00 Third Activity: Something Special. Taking a unit photo with her counselors and fellow campers. Campfire cooking. "Whimsy Bread." "Dough Boys." Water Sports Day. Going to the Trading Post for patches and a t-shirt.

2:00 Fourth Activity: Nature. Hide and Seek search. Make an animal habitat. Go for a hike. Create a chain of, well, the food chain (sort of). She even earned her outdoor skills and nature scientist patches (well, I'm guessing that's what they are by looking at them).

3:00 Fifth Activity: Sports and Games. Oddly, she never mentioned any of these specifically.

4:00 Closing Flag Ceremony and Depart. Sis's group got to help remove the Girl Scout flag. "If you drop it, you have to kiss it!"


Dough Boys
according to Sis

"Get bread in a tube. The long ones, you know, with a picture of the swirl [read: Pillsbury cinnamon buns]. Pull 'em out long and wrap them around a stick. Get cinnamon and sugar and butter melted. Cook dough over fire. When it's done, roll it in butter and cinnamon. Yummmmmm!"
(Other versions here and here and here.)

It's What's For Dinner

Street Food

Too Hot For Me

The heat index is hitting something like 110F today.

And I can't really take it: all my childhood heat-training in Texas has worn off (though I was never the heat-hardiest of them all). I'm a wimpy Yankee.

When I was a kid, I spent summers outside at Girl Scout camp in the Texas hill country. (Though, today, it's cooler there by 2 degrees!) I spent time at my parents' bay house. (Hey, it's cooler there today by 5 degrees!) Wait, it's cooler in Texas today? It's even 3 degrees cooler in Houston!!

AGGGGHHHHH! Connecticut isn't supposed to feel like Texas. It can't. Literally--there are already power problems in part of the metro area. So I'm running the AC much higher than I usually would. But with the heat, you can't quite tell the house isn't as cool as usual.

I'm not going outside again. An hour outside was enough. Even with sunscreen, I was pink. And as wet as if I had been in the pool with Bud and Babysitter. Despite shade, hat, and two bottles of water. The heat wasn't bothering Bud either, or hopefully Sis at camp outside all day. I guess when I was a kid, I didn't feel it either.

I feel it now. I'm just glad, despite today to the contrary, that I don't feel it in Connecticut very often.

How Does Your Grass Grow?

"But Mom, my art teacher said you have to make grass straight," Bud protested as I colored in the floor of our cherry orchard.

I bet she says it has to be green, too.

It's no secret that I don't like his art teacher's approach--she has them copy her models exactly, down to the stripes on the snowman's scarf and the order of the sizes of trees in the landscape. It's the very worst approach to art education for children. (In fact, I'm not sure it's much better than no art.)

And so Bud and I explored artists who didn't follow the rules. Sure, traditionally, most artists learn the basic technique, often with a grounding in drawing. But then they go on to break with that tradition and do their own thing. And that thing, that style, changes. And for the most part, the artists who are famous, the ones in the canon that progresses in a seemingly evolutionary trajectory from Michelangelo to the modern day, are the ones who defied the artistic convention of their day. (Now, I won't get on my feminist or social historian high-horse here to talk about how it was early 20th-century European male critics who invented the canon in an attempt to imply that all important artistic roads led to, and therefore validated, 20th-century art.)

We looked at Picasso, whose fractured faces so clearly alter the tradition of portraiture. Bud liked his Blue Guitar, with its somber shades of blue, and his various Mother-and-Childs in different styles. We looked at Kandinsky, who stripped and veiled representations of towns and knights on horseback in order to touch a deeper spiritual chord. We remembered Seurat's dots and Van Gogh's swirls. (And yes, if you want to call me on it: I did just follow the canon right there, ignoring women and non-Western artists.)

Together, with scented and regular markers, we made several pictures: our cat Albus covered in Kandinsky's lines and colors; Mr. Big, the penguin, in the same stripped and veiled style; a Jedi lightsaber in dots; a portrait of Bud a la Picasso. He even taped paper under the table and made his own Michelangelo. Of course, we talked about how he didn't have to copy them exactly because it's okay to make his own Bud art.

It actually got me thinking: American parents spend a lot of time encouraging young children to love art and music. We buy and use art supplies together, covering the fridge and other spaces with pictures, treasuring what they bring home from preschool. We sing and listen to music and dance around the living room and play on homemade and store-bought instruments. We role-play stories and watch movies. We encourage them to tell stories, to use their imaginations. And then, after instilling this love of the arts, we turn around about a decade later and tell artistically-minded children not to pursue careers in art. As a culture we don't always respect or value musicians or artists or dancers or actors or writers. "Grow up and get a real job." How confusing.

So, I shouldn't be surprised if later Bud wants to be an artist. Until then, what I would like to see is Bud making a Kandinsky picture for his art teacher!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I've had two social gatherings in 24 hours, which has been a sheer delight (and no pain in my back). Last night, my moms' group had its final meeting. After more than a year discussing motherhood, goals, obstacles, everything about ourselves, we met for the last time to create vision boards for the future. But mostly we chatted and pulled pictures from magazines, without too much organizing or gluing. Still it was fun to meet with friends, after these last months of isolation. And I realized something later about being in a moms' group like that: right now, the "mom" part of me isn't the most challenging or interesting or pressing issue (I'm guessing that health, especially functionality, and spirituality are). I don't need to talk about my life as it relates to motherhood right now. Of course, everything is intertwined--I will always be a mom and it is a blessing--but after six years, it's no longer that new or overwhelming; that identity has merged with all my other ones, even if it is still dominant. Perhaps that's why I also enjoy spending time with older women, with older kids--it's a different perspective, even a reassuring one, about how life evolves.

This morning I explored one of the other facets of me: I attended a meeting of the historic house's educational committee to work on the third-grade curriculum. In researching my part of the project, that of domestic life, I came across a wonderful website about "lies my docent told me" (see also here and here, based on exhibition here). You know, "people were smaller then," "without fire screens, women's wax makeup would melt off," and why old houses have separate kitchens. And woe be to me, I had bought one of these myths, the one about the blue paper of sugar cones being used by thrifty goodwives to dye fabric. The blogger, with an MA in history and experience at Colonial Williamsburg, says there is no proof of this. I'll be making our docents a special "historic house myths" handout for our first training session!

So, a pretty enlightening 24 hours. . . .

Hanging In, Holding On

Things continue here much the way they've been. My aunt seems the same, perhaps not as nerve-wrackingly dire as implied. But not good. Especially because they still don't know what is causing the illness; all this time, they've just been trying to stabilize her. Thanks for all your calls and emails, best wishes and prayers. It helps.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Update from Texas

Things aren't improving for Aunt Sis down in Texas. We send our love for her and all who gather around her at this very difficult time.

Twinkie TV

Some people choose fluff books for summer beach reads. This year, I'm watching "Twinkie tv," or tv with no redeeming "nutritional" value. In the last few weeks, I've watched episodes of "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding," which provides insight into the over-the-top wedding ceremonies of the UK's Travelers, as well as details of their relatively closed, very patriarchal and misogynist culture. At the same time, I'm catching up on just the opposite--American single women having lots of sex with few weddings in reruns of "Sex and the City." And right now? I have "IRT Deadliest Road," which follows Arctic Ice Road Truckers (IRT) through mountainous roads of the Himalayas which claim the equivalent of one life every four minutes. And of course, there is always "Hoarders!"

Pop Nightingale

My dad has been sleeping in impossible chairs and uncomfortable cots beside my aunt, his sister, at both the hospital and the acute-care facility. He's coordinated her care, talked with my uncle and cousins, tried to make her comfortable and kept her company.

And then what does he do? Someone asks about me and he says, "We better get up their to get Mama Hungry some relief from doing everything!"

So both my parents will be here next week, which I am hoping is a relief for them, too. In other words, I don't want them to work too hard but just to relax with the grandkids.

And we'll drink to Aunt Sis, too.

Hot Enough For You?

With high humidity and even higher temperatures, it's definitely felt like summer. We're even having afternoon and evening thunderstorms, which reminds me of Houston (and Orlando. And New Orleans).

But, just last week, it was 61F overnight and we opened all the windows. And I can tell that the days are getting shorter--my prism isn't coloring the room when I wake up but only gets glowing about 15 minutes later. Just autumn teasing me.

Still, the sun is blazing and we're grateful for friends' pools and our air-conditioning. Sis is getting a real camp experience with this weather. Though, I'm convinced that kids don't feel heat the way adults do.

Ah, to be a kid in summer again!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sisterly Advice

As Sis left this morning for her first day of camp (she loved it; more another day), she had these words of advice for Bud regarding what I had thought of as our mommy-morning time, "I watched tv to waste time before Babysitter arrived!"

Backyard Games

"Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish.

Remember that game to choose who's "it?" I hadn't heard it in 35-odd years before yesterday when Bud, Sis, and Neighbor Boy used it to determine who was It in a game of "television tag." I don't know if Neighbor Boy taught it to them or they knew it already, but he did teach them a few things yesterday (which, granted, they probably already knew):
  • How to Cheat: Even though Bud was the one with his foot left in the game of "bubble gum," Neighbor Boy declared himself It. Bud objected, saying Neighbor Boy was out, just like Sis had been, with both feet out of the game. Neighbor Boy didn't relent, again declaring that he was it even because both of his feet were out. So then how come Sis wasn't it, Bud wanted to know. But I think he wanted to play more than be right so he gave up and let Neighbor Boy be It.
  • How to Change the Rules Mid-Game: In "television tag," the It-person chooses a topic and chases the others around. If they can name something in that category and sit before It can tag them, It has to keep going (because our kids don't know many tv shows, they do Star Wars characters!). Well, midway through the game, when he wasn't It, Neighbor Boy didn't want to sit anymore. When Bud tagged him and said he was It, Neighbor Boy said no. Of course, earlier, Neighbor Boy had declared Bud It because he didn't get up and down each time while Neighbor Boy hovered over him waiting to tag him.
  • How to Compromise (or set your priorities): Despite both of these above, and no doubt other instances to which I was not privy, Sis and Bud played with Neighbor Boy for two hours, overlooking his need to be in charge in order to have a playmate.
I wouldn't call it a lesson in real friendship, though.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hope Flapping in the Breeze

Each scarf, handpainted on silk, showed its maker's love and care for our friend Miss M, who is beginning chemotherapy for cancer and expects to lose her hair. We gathered today and painted flowers, drew birds, made footprints, tie-dyed, wrote Chinese characters, drew musical instruments and notations, dribbled splotches, painted pink bunnies. We hung the colorful creations on the clothesline, where they dried in the wind, declaring in their colors and designs our good wishes for our friend.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Grade: A Preview

After a week of Bud being in camp for a full day, and in planning for Sis's turn starting Monday, we have a glimpse of what full-day first grade will be like.
  • They are going to be exhausted after being gone from home for 8 hours, including bus ride. In fact, I've been told they'll probably be tired the first month.
  • And with that tiredness will come grumpiness, restlessness, argumentativeness, and poor choices.
  • And an unwillingness to get up in the morning and go, even if they love it. Exhaustion is just hard to overcome. Plus, we're going to have to streamline the morning routine, as they'll have to be out of the house and at the bus stop almost 20+ minutes earlier than in times past.
  • They're going to miss play time. Bud essentially came home with Mama, ate, and got ready for bed, with a little bit of downtime. During the school year, they'll be home around 4, with homework, dinner, and bath before stories and bed around 7:30. Which doesn't leave much time to play. Especially when compared to the 6+ hours a day they got in kindergarten. This will probably be the hardest part for them.
  • Which means we'll probably change bedtime to closer to 8 p.m. If they sleep in 'til around 7 am, that's still the recommended 10-11 hours a night, even if they don't fall asleep right away.
  • Homework timing: homework was already a probably in kindergarten, though it was only one small packet once a week (or one sheet a day, depending on how you wanted to it). I don't know if it'll be best to do homework right away when they get home, as some families do, or give them a break from the day and do homework later . . . but having to pull them away from playing might just be too much.
  • Lunch. I'm going to have to come up with more and better lunch options. I don't like the menu of the school hot lunches--tater tots, hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza--all the horrible crap you read about in news reports about childhood obesity and poor food choices. Besides, neither of my kids really likes those choices. But they can't have deli ham and crackers, or just fruit, everyday.
  • As for their being in the same classroom all day, sharing teacher, classmates, and assignments, I'm sure they'll do the usual twin thing: they'll love it and they'll hate it!
I have, however, identified some up-sides to having them in the same class for me:
  • Between the two of them, I should get a better picture of what they do all day, something I didn't get in kindergarten (especially after being spoiled with the daily updates from the teachers in preschool).
  • I'll have fewer projects, deadlines, events, etc to remember. A couple of times this year, Sis and Bud's homework packets got switched and we didn't know whose was whose. Next year, they'll be the same!
  • And I won't have to divide my time between two classes. I can go to one book sale, one walk-a-thon, one gingerbread-decorating party, without running back and forth. I can also focus all my volunteer time in one class, which gives each child more time. And less opportunities to be jealous that I'm in the other class.
But let's not get too ahead of ourselves; we still have 6 weeks of summer.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Night

We all went to a luau last night. Yep, hula dancers in grass skirts, men with raffia calf decorations, a mechanical surf board, even a whole roast pig! Plus bungee-trampolining, rock-wall climbing, fairway with games, a pie contest (mmm, raspberry macadamia cream!) . . . and an EMT room with a comfy bed and ice packs to keep me going. For almost three hours (though, because of an ill-timed sneeze, I spent more time horizontal on ice than I expected, but I'm okay)! Sis and Bud won 5 prizes each (all stuffed and furry), had two hot dogs (she had ketchup, he had pineapple chutney!), and both loved doing the bungee bounce. They also loved dancing to all the music, most of which they recognized from "Glee," including Bud Bieber's favorite "Baby," "Raise Your Glass" (to which Sis knew all the words, and loved miming raising her glass!), and "Firework." All under a beautiful full moon . . . what a wonderful summer night.

Black Beans

A recipe....

2 cups pinto beans
8 cups water

Rinse and drain beans.  Add to favorite pot with water.  Set on high, with timer on for 10 minutes.

Go upstairs at Sis's request.  Forget beans.  Watch tv.  Don't hear timer.

An hour later, detect odor.  Suspect Sis.  Remember beans.

Run downstairs.  Find smoky kitchen.  Turn off burner.  Transport hot mess outside.  Curse.  Kick pot.

Put cats in room.  Open all windows and doors you can reach.  Bemoan the still air.  Have visiting neighbor--great timing--open windows you can't reach.  Avoid being inside.  Change stinky shirt. 

Be grateful you didn't burn the house down.  Wonder why smoke alarm didn't go off.

Decide on pizza for dinner.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Opting Out

Frank Bruni yesterday wrote in the NYTimes about having missed, in fact avoided, the whole Harry Potter phenomenon, which ends, onscreen at least (the books ended awhile back; the theme park continues; is coming), this week. He goes on to write about various cultural trends that people avoid, though sometimes they pretend to know something about them (like he did with the "Sopranos.") Why do we do this? Because there isn't enough time and energy and interest? Cultural snobbery? All of the above, he suggests. Though, he adds, sometimes we check them out after the fad has passed, just to see what it was all about.

And so I started thinking about trends I've skipped:
  • The Da Vinci Code (I did eventually read it)
  • "Survivor"
  • "American Idol"
  • "Dancing with the Stars"
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • "Mad Men"
  • Jodi Picoult
  • Vera Bradley
  • Zumba
  • And almost all the other trends Bruni mentions.
Except, of course, Harry Potter.

Happy Birthday!

To my beloved Aunt Sis! (Let's call her that, as Sis is her namesake.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Comfort and Function

In thinking about my aunt, who is now in an acute-care facility, with no known diagnosis and still much weaknesses and discomfort after three full weeks in the hospital, I was a bit sad to read this article about caring for the frail elderly. Because I don't think of her that way. But I have come to understand that she is. Hopefully, just for now . . . . The article talks about slow medicine and one doctor's approach to geriatric treatment: comfort and function. Unfortunately, I don't think my aunt has received much of either. And not really much of traditional heroic medicine either, in that there have been no real answers or proposed solutions. She's in some kind of medical limbo. We are all, in a way, with her. I think we would rather have comfort. . . .

And tomorrow is her birthday.

A Parent's Worst Nightmare*

A week or two ago, two different sets of neighborhood kids were allowed to walk across our main street alone. The first set--two 12 year-old girls--were allowed to cross the street directly to a deli under the watchful eye of a mom who even advised them on traffic patterns. About an hour later, another mom, walked away from the main street as two 10 year-olds pushed a youngster in the stroller and were accompanied by another little kid as they crossed the street and headed to the center of town by themselves.

I try to balance "helicopter" parenting and "free-range" parenting, seeing issues with both. I believe children need to be protected but also need independence to learn to protect themselves. I understand that the world is not actually any more dangerous than it has ever been, but that we hear about it more because of 24/7 "infotainment." I read that families and friends are actual more likely to hurt a child than a stranger. But I remember a pervert at our little neighborhood park trying to entice us to his car when I was about 10, so I know that when they exist the dangers are real. Even so, I tend to be more casual; Mama, who grew up in NYC during the rather rough 1970s and early 1980s, tends to be more hovering. So we balance each other out and have agreed on what's appropriate. Our six year-olds don't walk anywhere unaccompanied but can "get ahead" as long as I can see them and be heard by them. They can be in our backyard if I can see and hear them from the kitchen. If they're in front, I try not to leave them alone (but have, on occasion, to run inside for water or the phone, etc). And still they must be in a pair, not by themselves. They know our neighbors; we keep an eye on a list of local registered sex offenders. We've had the talk about strangers, though I never called it "stranger danger." They know not to go anywhere with anyone unless they know our family password. They don't take anything from strangers. They know that strangers shouldn't touch them. Anywhere. And that they can always tell Mama and me anything. We've role-played scenarios and have them practice yellling no and running away and the like.

And I'll be reviewing all of that with them in the next few days.

Because the tragedy of the 8 year-old boy kidnapped and dismembered in Brooklyn on the first day he was allowed to walk a few blocks by himself chills me to the very core (though, I am not saying that his parents are in any way at fault for letting him try or that any of the above would have helped him; only that I can't think of any other response and talking with my kids will at least keep the terror at bay and give me the illusion of protection) . My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his entire close-knit Hasidic community.

*There are several versions of this nightmare of the death of a child. This is another one.

Summer Fun

I'm finding less time to post, these days: one child is harder than two! With Bud gone all day, Sis and I are enjoying some time together. Games, reading, playing. And yesterday, Sis, Babysitter, and I went swimming at a neighbor's house yesterday (well, they swam; I talked to whomever was out of the water). Sis had a floaty vest that gave her enough buoyancy to be independent. She loved doggy-paddling around the pool, even playing Marco Polo and something called "toothpaste," where you try to guess opponents favorites and then race them across the pool. She was in the water almost 2 1/2 hours! It was great to see her having fun in the water.

And Bud is having a blast at camp! He loves all the Lego building--cars with battery-motors that go up and down ramps, motors with axels on rubber bands--today is catapults! They're also learning about animals, specifically about how they move. He apparently came running up to Mama the other day, "Mama, I have a spine!" He had learned about vertebrae and made a spine with hard pasta and chewy lifesavers. Then he lost it. "Mama, I lost my spine!" He found it again. And when he got home I offered to eat a hole in his lifesavers to show him what my spine looked like! He likes camp so much that he enjoys arriving early and staying late, to commute with Mama.

Next week, we switch.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Birthday Questionnaire

In our bi-annual tradition, at birthdays and New Years, here are our favorites (mostly in their own words--you'll notice that not much has changed):

Book: any Star Wars books--Don't Wake the Zillo Beast, Pirates and Worse, Yoda in Action;
Junie B. Jones;
Movie: Star Wars, Totoro, How to Train Your Dragon
TV show: "Pingu;"
Song: "P.Y.T," "Born This Way," "Baby," "Somebody to Love," "Animal," (all "Glee" songs)
CD: "Glee" vol 1-6
Musician: "Glee"
Color: blue, purple, green, and red
Number: 6 (because that's his age)
Flavor: strawberry
Food: sushi; macaroni and cheese
Animal: penguins
Day of the Week: Saturday or Sundays
Ice Cream: strawberry (or Cherry Italian ices)
Candy: cherry tootsie rolls, Swedish fish, Skittles,
Restaurant: Bertucci's, hamburger joint, local Chinese, Japanese for sushi or hibachi
Toy/Thing: Legos; Hex bugs Nano; DS games; Tango, his penguin from the Central Park Zoo; Mr. Big Penguin
Thing to do: play, dance, kung fu/broadswords, watching "Glee" videos
Place to go: zoo, aquarium, Texas, beach with Ma and Gong, kung fu class, "outer space in Star Wars
Saying/Words: "Mommy, where is it? I can't find . . . oh, there it is!"
Happy thoughts every night: (we don't do these anymore :( )
What he wants to be when he grows up: dinosaur bone hunter/paloeontologist

Book: Elephant and Piggie series; any Star Wars books; Junie B. Jones; Cam Jansen; My Father's Dragon; lots of audiobooks
Movie: Star Wars 4,5 & 6; Lion King;
TV show: "Shaun the Sheep;" "Pingu"
Song: "Born this Way," "Bad Romance," "Rose's Turn," "Dancing Queen" (all "Glee" versions)
Musician: "Glee"
CD: "Glee" vol 1-6
Color: pink and red
Number: 6, her age
Food: CHOCOLATE! ; chicken tenders;
Flavor: chocolate
Animal: bunnies!
Day of the Week: swim lesson days and Saturdays and Sundays
Ice Cream: chocolate
Candy: Hershey kisses and Tootsie Rolls
Restaurant: Bertucci's; local pancake place; local Chinese place
Toy/Thing: Shirt, Amy the bunny, Playmobil zoo; Luke Legos; DS games
Thing to do: swim, bake, scooter, kung fu
Place to go: dioramas at AMNH;
Saying/Words: "No, Bud."
Happy thoughts every night: (we don't do this anymore :( )
What she wants to be when she grows up (the list from tonight was her idea): paleontologist

Book: Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart; Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life; Dianne Hales's La Bella Lingua; colonial histories; Geraldine Brooks's Caleb's Crossing; Sally Gunning's colonial triology
Movie: waiting for the next and last Harry Potter; liked Stage Beauty
TV show: "Hoarders," "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding," "Sex and the City," BBC's "Merlin"
Song: "Defying Gravity" (Glee version)
Musician: as always, Indigo Girls
CD: "Glee" vol 1-6, esp. Warblers
Color: purple, rainbow
Number: 12
Food: Heirloom beans; homemade bread
Flavor: Chocolate, cardamom, rose;
Animal: sea otters, groundhogs, hedgehogs, cats, koalas, pandas, owls
Day of the Week: Saturday
Flower: rose
Ice Cream: Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla; sweet cream
Magazine: Shambhala Sun; Buddhadharma; Saveur; Archaeology;
Restaurant: Bloodroot and pizza
Toy/Thing: my smartphone, laptop, iPod,
Poet: not currently
Author: no single one currently
Blogs: Sew and Sow; Karen Maezen Miller's Cheerio Road;
Thing to do: blog, read the paper, talk to friends
Saying/Words: mindful, breathe, "Mommy"
Place to go: Not getting out much these days, but anywhere except doctors' offices

Not Your Mother's Camp

Today is Bud's first day of camp.

But this isn't the kinda camp I know: no swimming, no arts and crafts, no s'mores, no singing around campfires. That was the kind of wonderful summer Girl Scout experience I treasure from my childhood.

This is Lego camp! And he is so excited, so proud, so happy to go to "Lego school" this week. He's hoping to learn new Lego building techniques and isn't at all daunted by being the youngest kid in the group (you had to be 6 to go, and as you know, he turned 6 about 15 minutes before camp started!). He's got lunch and snack, plus a disposable camera to record his creations. He'll be gone more than twice as long as his kindergarten day, three times as long on the couple of days he's staying for extended care so Mama can pick him up after work.

We were, of course, nervous like any parents sending a child to camp, even day camp, for the first time. Not for fear of bug bites or pool mishaps, but just the long day, the new people, the being alone without Sis. Hopefully, luckily, I don't think our anxiety transferred or was even evident.

Which is good, because next week is Sis's turn at camp. And hers will have bugs and a pool!

The Big Day

Yep, today is their birthday! We're almost exhausted from a weekend of celebrating. But there is still joy in the air, especially with phone calls from family and lots of new toys to play with. We hope you have a great day, too!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Go Get Your Slushie!

Tomorrow you can get free small slushies at your local 7-11, as they count July 11 as their corporate birthday.

So have a slushie and celebrate with Sis and Bud!

Looking Back: July 10, 2005

I've realized since the birth of my niece and my sister's new (private) blog that I wish I'd been blogging from the beginning. So, for the next year, I'm going to periodically revisit the 2+ years of Sis and Bud's lives that I didn't record here. I've got all the details in journals . . . but promise to share only the most amusing.

So here's a tidbit from the day before they arrived: I should've known they would be born soon, despite it being only 36 weeks, because I woke up that Sunday and immediately wanted to write a birth plan. We needed it less than a day later. Though, the only thing that went according to plan was my request for a room with a view!

Saturday, July 9, 2011


There were Legos! And a ramp/racetrack! And cupcakes!

And lots of fun with friends!

A big thank you to Mama Teacher and Babysitter, for all their generous assistance! The party literally couldn't have happened without you. I especially am grateful to Mama Teacher for running errands beforehand and being my stand-in, as it were, during the set-up and hosting of the event.

Of course, Mama Hungry envisioned and executed the whole thing: Lego stickers to decorate favor boxes! Minifigures! Freebuild! Mini-kits! Build-a-car! A race-ramp! Stackable Lego candies for the cupcakes! It really was imaginative, creative, and different.

My contribution? The idea of the large cardboard bricks for those not interested in Legos. Oh, and the text of the invitation. I did order the cupcakes and handle RSVPs. I also chose the "Glee" songs for the playlist.

Together we made a great birthday party. The kids--I'd say about 22+ in all--had fun going from station to station making different Lego creations and piling them in their decorated Chinese take-out containers (oh, those were my idea too!). The parents helped. Then they raced their cars, built gigantic cardboard brick towers, compared elaborate house constructions, and eventually descended into chaos running back and forth across the wide-open church hall (yes, we had this at church; we would have been crazy to have it at home.) They gorged themselves on cupcakes--chocolate with chocolate frosting and vanilla with strawberry mousse frosting, both decorated with those special stackable sweet/tart Lego candies (that almost nobody ate!). Sis and Bud enjoyed seeing all their school friends and especially gravitated to their bus buddies.

(Though, as you'll remember, no one seems to open presents at parties up here or these days or something, so we have a stockpile--embarrassingly, almost 40, at 20 for each--to open this afternoon. Probably best we didn't do it there.)

The kids were all still going strong as we began cleaning up. I finally gave up (my back did pretty well for almost 2 1/2 hours on a hard floor during only my fourth outing, with only two couch breaks in the back) and was brought home. The clean-up was already well-underway--many hands make light work.

So, a big, grateful round of applause for all the hands that went into the making of the party. I guess, in a way, we were all our own little Legos, put together in a great creation!

And a very happy 6th-birthday party to Sis and Bud!


Today is the kids' birthday party, as you know from numerous lead-ins. It's a day to have fun and celebrate. Eat, play, talk with friends.

But they are not the friends I've come to expect at our birthday parties. For the first time, the members of our original playgroup were not invited. While I still see some of their moms, we almost never seen any of the kids, who are spread out in different schools and even different grades in more than one town. Even during preschool, we invited their playgroup buddies to our summer birthdays instead of their classmates.

This year, however, we invited the 40 kids in their two kindergarten classrooms. Only one of these children was in our playgroup. I know most of the guests by sight but not all of their parents. But these are Sis and Bud's friends now. When asked who they wanted to invite, these are the kids they know.

So, it's the end of the playgroup era in a very concrete way. Sure, it had been happening slowly as we were dropped from invitation lists of other playgroup friends, their moms awkwardly explaining. Of course, I understood; I expected it . . . . And now I've left them off our invite list and feel just as awkward.

Maybe awkward isn't the word. Maybe the word is sad or nostalgic. Especially because, in truth, I see the moms of most of those playgroup friends less and less with each passing month. And so, while I'm very excited about the kids' sixth birthday, I can't quite completely celebrate the party.

So here's a toast to that playgroup, with which we celebrated so many occasions (and cried together and kvetched together over many others). You might not be there today, but you'll always be with me. Thank you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bon Voyage!

Ma, Gong, and Goo are headed 8500 miles around the world to Bangkok and then on to China, all the way to Shaolin, the kung fu capitol of the world, and Xi'an, on the old Silk Road. They'll be gone a month or so. Have a wonderful trip! Especially because it's all med school, residency, etc. for Goo after this . . . .

Birthday Countdown

Let the birthday celebration begin! Cards and packages have arrived. The party is tomorrow and Mama has been planning and purchasing and prepping for it for weeks, if not months. Of course, the main goal is just for the kids to have fun. And friends, cupcakes, minifigures, and Lego car ramp races will help.

Memory Flash

I'm watching David Rocco's food show, usually set in Florence, and he's learning to make these cookies called "cat's tongue," or linque di gatto (his pic at right). When the finished cookies were shown, I had a visceral memory: ice-cold, perfectly round versions of these fragile cookies carefully served from a flip-top box in my great-grandmother's fridge on weekend visits! I loved those vanilla cookies with the brown edges which I haven't seen since on the shelves of the cookie aisle. I think they were Nabisco or something, nothing special or imported; not Pepperidge Farm, which I remember being the adult cookie brand of my childhood. Anyway, I might have to make the homemade version of these cookies and put them in my fridge so I can eat them cold with milk. Those were such special times, great to be taken back to them unexpectedly today.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Update on Aunt

It's like a rollercoaster. My aunt is being moved to an acute-care facility, which I can only imagine means nothing was seriously (i.e. requiring surgery) wrong the other night or on the subsequent MRI. It's not hospice, it's a place for "medically-complicated patients."

Frankly, we're all frustrated--with the information flow, some of the care, the lack of diagnosis or prognosis--which seems to make this medical crisis so much harder to deal with. I mean, illness is usually hard, but this one seems especially devoid of assurances or even answers. And get this: we sent her posters of her two favorite Botticelli paintings to decorate her room that were confirmed delivered and are now lost at the hospital; she's leaving and, despite paying extra for immediate shipping, we don't think she'll ever get them. I'm hoping the new place is better. I can always buy her new posters . . . .

Mommy Mobile

If you have a smartphone, check out my blog's new mobile format. I think it looks great and makes it easier to navigate. (Gommie, we'll have to get you a smartphone so you can keep up while you're out of Houston!) No worries if you want all my links, just press the "View Web Version" at the bottom.

And for others on Blogspot, you can activate the mobile setting under "settings" for your blog!

Back in the Saddle

I went on my third recreational outing in three months this week, the first sans Mama, which was both exhilarating and stress-producing. But I didn't want to miss the first curriculum-planning meeting for the historic house where I docent, both because I really enjoy helping and because I really need the distraction and activity. (And after three months of reading, I know a lot more about colonial New England!) Thanks to Mrs. S, it all went wonderfully. I managed almost two whole hours out, with a place to lie down when necessary, and got to discuss ways to instill a love of history in third graders through hands-on, interactive experiences. I'm sure you'll hear more about it as we hammer it all out. And I hope, this time, that I will be able to give the tours myself instead of being sidelined by my back again . . . I have until September, which should be more than enough time. And as you know, I already have the perfect dress to wear!

Nano, Nano*

The kids are obsessed with Hex Nano Bugs. The little inch-long battery-powered rectangles with colored rubber legs wiggle and walk, but don't giggle and talk. The kids have a track, with a spiral ramp, and the bugs scoot around. They have such fun playing with it. In fact, they've named the various bugs after "Glee" characters and play music for them to dance, pausing for the "talking times" they themselves never get to watch. Intriguingly, there is every character except Rachel! Not sure why, especially since she's the lead singer. Anyway, I'm becoming very adept at changing batteries because they play withe them so much.

*Get it? "Mork and Mindy!"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


With my aunt suffering a significant setback last night, I am passing along my dad's request for all of your prayers.  He says, he who is thoughtful but not at all religious, that we need everyone on her side.

So tonight, for her, we fly the Scottish flag she gave us, as she is very proud of our supposed Scottish Hay clan heritage, right next to our Tibetan prayer flags.

Thoughts for the Moment

My mind is running in so many different directions these days--from birthday parties to acute-care facilities, and lots of places in between--that I thought I'd just put up a list of what's on my mind.
  • One of my new favorite websites is Lifehacker, which has technological solutions and "hacks" to make life better. One of these is a Google Document to manage "end-of-life" information like who's your lawyer, where are your bank accounts, and when is your cat's annual appointment at the vet. Considering everything, I think it would be handy to have all that information in one, encrypted place accessible to the people who need to know. Like, what's the password to my blog so someone can post if something happens . . . .
  • As per the above, see here for "DNR by Another Name," namely "allow natural death."
  • The article "How to Talk to a Little Girl" is valuable reading if you ever interact with young (or any aged) girls. Basically, Lisa Bloom posits that we should engage young girls over something other than their looks--not commenting on how they look or what they're wearing but instead asking about what they are reading or like to do.
  • The "Oxford" or Serial comma is again under attack, with Oxford University's PR dept dropping its use. I love this comma and use it, despite increasing movements against it. What, you say? This is the comma in a list, before the "and." As in "Mommy, Sis, and Bud," instead of "Mommy, Sis and Bud." I vividly remember my language arts teacher's instructions on this, revolving around a will in a legal case. Siblings A, B, and C were left money in the will, written as, "I leave all my money to A, B and C." A used saying B and C were a unit, not separated by commas and that the money was supposed to be divided between the two units. Meaning more money for A and less for B and C. A won. And I've always used the serial comma since then.
  • I haven't done my Italian lessons in a few weeks, but I did watch several Italian movies and some Italian cooking shows, able to pick out words and meanings here and there (and I even noticed when the subtitles were a bit off!). And I've been dreaming about Rome and gelato . . . .
  • I've been thinking a lot about compassion, first reading Pema Chodron's book, When Things Fall Apart, and practicing tonglen, and then watching Karen Armstrong's Ware Lecture at the annual UU General Assembly (I'm also thinking of getting her book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life)--definitely worth the watch. Plus, of course, non-violent, or compassionate, communication. Compassion for self, compassion for loved ones and acquaintances, compassion for strangers. Feeling the connection, acting on the empathy. Because, I wonder, is compassion actually compassion if you do nothing? If I feel for someone but never do anything, does it matter that I felt it? In fact, without the action, can the feeling really be compassion? Doesn't compassion, real compassion, really compel us to act? Which begs a question: can you be too compassionate? You can't possible act on all your feelings of empathy, can you? I'm realizing that compassion is an extremely important concept for me and I have been surprised, even disappointed, when I have not readily or easily found it in others. Is there a reason why people reserve or restrict or withdraw their compassion?
  • I talk and think a lot about "teachable moments," grasping the right time to instill a lesson. But reading Karen Maezen Miller today, I had my own moment. Bud and Sis draw their own lessons from their emotions and experiences and don't need my banging them over the head with what I think they should learn. Sure, manners and questions they ask me, I'll address. I will even ask about their difficult moments after the fact, just to check on what they were feeling and thinking. But interrupting their crying jag when one doesn't get invited to a party that the other does or their angry tantrum when one earns a trophy or medal the other doesn't? No discussion at that point is going to matter, much less help; it might actual inhibit their own personal teachable moment. Because there are some things Mommy can't teach you, some things you have to learn for yourself. (Though, Mommy can learn lots of things from other people!)

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Long Weekend

It's been appropriately hot for July 4th weekend, which we've enjoyed mainly at home.

Saturday was quintessentially summer, with outdoor grilling and a slip-n-slide. Bud loved sliding through the water down the yard; Sis just watched. I enjoyed memories of my own bright yellow slip-n-slide and hot days speeding down the yard and getting muddy grass burns at the end. Sis much prefers the little blow-up pool, so little they barely both fit but it's the one they wanted, with an overhead cave that drips, treasure pictured on the bottom, and a slide that they're both longer than. After hours of romping, we enjoyed grilled pizza, shrimp, chicken, sweet potatoes, baked beans, and a cold bean salad.

Well, perhaps we didn't all enjoy all of those. But the kids did try a bean. Yes, pigs are flying, hell is freezing--Bud and Sis ate beans! We used Gommie's recipe for baked beans, with bacon and brown sugar, hoping to tempt them. Sis actually ate two, nonplussed but not interested. Bud was tortured by the experience. Oh, well. More for us. We were proud they tried them, after literally years of moaning about something they'd never tasted. In other bean news: I made the cold bean salad all by myself, some of my first cooking since April. Yum!

And so we gave them big Lego sets. Okay, not specifically because they ate beans. They earned the sets with their school-year reward chart and it was time to pay out. The beans were the final box, so to speak. So after hours outside, they came in and built an X-Wing (Sis) and a castle (Bud). They then played with those sets most of Sunday.

Today, it's been a combo of Legos and Hex Bugs, the new toy they like. We also cleaned out the dresser in the living room so we can give it away and clear the space. They also went shopping for supplies for their birthday party. And we watched some "Hello Kitty." Yes, random, but they love the "Cat Wars" episode. Of course.

Elsewhere, Mama's family prepared to fly to Thailand and China for the month; they leave on Saturday. And my aunt is still very sick and in the hospital. Some things have improved; others are more complicated. It's difficult. Pop has slept in her room every night for a week but spent last night with Gommie at the bay for a much-needed rest. Unfortunately, because of the severe drought, I don't think they had their annual fireworks bonanza. Still food and friends/family (well, some of them. Pop said he was going to put up a "No Republicans" sign but that excludes pretty much everyone. I suggested "No Republican Talk.") and rest are definitely restorative.

Hope you had a good weekend too!


Gommie's Baked Beans

4 slices bacon

½ cup chopped onion

2-1 lb. can Pork and Beans

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon mustard

1 teaspoon ketchup

chopped bell pepper

Cook bacon until crisp, drain and crumble. In 2 tablespoons of drippings cook onion and bell pepper until tender but not brown. Add with bacon to beans and other, mixing well. Put in 1 ½ quart casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 350°F for 20-45 minutes or until bubbly.

Gommie Hungry


My Adaptation of Seed Savers's Heritage Bean Salad
(for original recipe, see here. I would've used the red onion if I'd had one. I think barley would be good in it, too)

1 1/2 cups dried beans (I used a mixture of heirloom beans from Laurel Hill; Seed Savers calls for Lena Cisco's Birds Egg)

Vinaigrette -
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 t. Dijon mustard (I used spicy brown)
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Cook dried beans (I soaked them overnight in salt water) by bringing to a boil for five minutes and then simmering for about 1 1/2 hours. Prepare vinaigrette. Add dressing ingredients while beans are still warm. Chill for several hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Mommy Hungry via Seed Savers

Mommy Hungry: The Theme Song

Every time I go downstairs or appear in the living room when Bud is there, he rushes to the iPad, which he and Sis have now mastered, and plays what he has decided is my theme song:

Isn't she lovely?
Isn't she wonderful?
Isn't she precious?
Less than one minute old.
I never thought through love we'd be
Making one as lovely as she
But isn't she lovely made from love?

Isn't she pretty?
Truly the angel's best.
Boy, I'm so happy.
We have been heaven blessed
I can't believe what God has done
Through us he's given life to one
But isn't she lovely made from love?

Isn't she lovely?
Life and love are the same.
Life is Aisha,
The meaning of her name.
Londie, it could have not been done
Without you who conceived the one
That's so very lovely made from love.
--Stevie Wonder

Okay, sure, I think the song is about a baby, but Bud's sentiment is much appreciated.

I'm not the only one with a theme song. He likes to play "Defying Gravity" (Sis says "defining") for Mama. Sis claims "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy as her own, mainly because Kurt from "Glee" sings it. Bieber Bud prefers "Baby" for himself!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Trying Again

With my sore throat disappearing (and hopefully with it, all concerns about a salicylate sensitivity), I'm back on the fruits and vegetables bandwagon, eating mostly vegan and gluten/sugar/caffeine free. And so, with a tempting offer in my inbox, I've signed up for the next Beauty That Moves 30-Day Vegan Workshop. It starts in August, which gives me more time to get back to the kitchen (yeah, pun intended, because we all know how hard on the back cooking and cleaning can be). I'm excited because it was this workshop, experienced vicariously through Sew and Sow's posts, that led me to my first vegan cleanse attempt. Sure, that unfortunately corresponded with my weird allergy experience, but I'm hopeful the second experience will be less fraught.

Besides, my dad, very concerned about his sister's well-being (she had surgery again today and is still a very sick woman, even though she is doing much better), has been repeatedly reminding me to take care of myself (that goes for all of us), both physically and financially. We're trying to do both and are in better shape, herniated disc not withstanding, than we've been in a long time.

Come join me . . . I think it will be a transformative month.

They're Off!

The kids are off to a playdate.

But there's something different about this one: beloved Babysitter is driving them to and fro!

Yep, we're letting someone else drive the kiddos. Sure, we've done that before, with other adults, most of whom have kids. But never someone younger.

In Babysitter's defense, she's been driving for almost 3 years, solid driving record, very careful.

And the playdate is pretty close by, on local roads.

It'll be great if we can all be comfortable with her taking the kids places--the park, the library, the beach, friends' houses, wherever in town she wants to go. It'll make summer more interesting for everyone.

Braces Off

I have been without any kind of brace for three days now--not my heavy black one, not my light white one. This is a huge step forward for me because a). it is quite scary to be without my safety net but b). it will allow the muscles to continue to strengthen, which further allows my back to heal. So, a mental battle, but also a physical one, as all the lazy ol' unused muscles are getting a workout. I've done this once before, a few years ago, when I wore a brace for much, much longer, so I knew what to expect and how to do it, easing into this a little each day. But finally taking the full plunge is still tiring and stressful. But also something about which I am extremely happy and proud (and, yes, no worries, very careful too).

Happy July!

The kids are jazzed that it's July--their birthday month! That's right, their sixth birthday and their Lego birthday bash aren't far off. And of course, this weekend is long with the Fourth of July celebrations. We don't have anything planned, but I realized, with strawberry picking we have red. We were going to put up the little pool this weekend, which can be blue. Which means we only need something white to complete the holiday spectrum. Hmmmm, homemade vanilla ice cream? Or pound cake to put on the grill and then go with those berries? Have a good summer month!

Here They Go A-Berrying

The kids and Mama are off strawberry picking this morning, taking advantage of Mama's work starting later today and also the cool morning. It's the end of the season, but I'm sure they'll find some berries. Now, whether they actually come home with any is another story!

I don't think we'll do anything sophisticated with the berries. No pie, no jam (since we still have jam from last year, that we'll have to toss soon). Just berries, maybe some cream for me . . . it is Wimbledon time, after all.