Friday, October 31, 2008

Conversation with Boo

This is how some conversations go when you're hanging out on the autism spectrum:

"Mommy? When I type on the computer? The words pop out of my brain and into the book."

"Yes," I agreed. "I know what you mean."

"What are some words from God?"

"Huh?"

"What are the words from God? Like spirit, church, and heaven - are they words from God?"

"Yeah, I suppose so."

"I saw the church today where we went to Sunday School on February 3." (We did, indeed, visit that particular church that day as part of our "trying out" different congregations in our new town.)

"Oh, right, when we walked past it in the Halloween parade at school."

"Heaven is a word from God."

"Yes, I believe it is."

"Can you go to heaven if you're not dead?"

"Yes, that's possible ... I mean, some people think that's possible."

"Like Mary Todd Lincoln. I saw her go to heaven before she was dead."

"You saw Mary Todd Lincoln go to heaven?"

"Yes."

If this wasn't an example of the types of conversations that we often have with Boo (and it is), I would swear that someone put some funky M&Ms and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups in our trick or treat bags.

It's a Corn, It's a Cob, It's ...

Superman!

Yes, those of you waiting with bated breath to see how the corn-on-the-cob costume drama turned out can exhale now. Because after months of saying he wanted to be a corn-on-the-cob and nothing else, Boo is celebrating Halloween 2008 as ... Superman.

This about-face is a testimony to the power of grandparents. Never underestimate the influence they have on a child's thinking. Last weekend, the kids enjoyed a sleepover at my in-laws and Mom-Mom's Halloween Party. (Since Mom-Mom can't be in two states simultaneously for Halloween, she hosts a party for the grandkids each year with games, presents, and more treats than anyone can consume in a year.)

During their visit, they went to Target and my mother-in-law asked Boo if he wanted to "just look" at the costumes. He did. She asked him if he wanted to be something else. He did. He wanted to be Superman.

Corn-on-the-cob say what?

The hours that I've invested in creating a corn-on-the-cob costume - those I'll never be able to replace. Truth be told, I was out of ideas and wasn't relishing the idea of drawing kernels on the shirt, to be met with displeasure (at best). No, this Halloween, I am eternally grateful to my mother-in-law for being SuperMom-Mom and saving the day.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Making Political Scents

If there's anything we've learned during this election, it's that Betty does not share the passion for politics that seems to be prevalent among other members of this household. Consider this: at the dinner table tonight, she stated that there is a poster of "the two presidents" in the hallway at school.

"Yeah," she said. "Everytime I pass by it, I hold my nose."

Why do you do that, we asked, trying to stifle our laughter.

"Because both of them stink."

Book Giveaway

My friend bermudaonion has a great post about the book Life After Genius, which sounds just great. Plus, there's also an interview about the cover design. Even better yet, there's a giveaway going on for a lucky winner to receive a copy! Stop by here before Nov 5 to enter.

Diagramming the Candidates

Found this in Boo's homework folder this week. They are using the concept of Venn diagrams with the presidential candidates. I know this is hard to see, but they had to fill in the words for the candidates and the middle portion of the circle was what is the same about each of them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On the Threshold of History

As I type, I'm doing something I vowed I would never do in the B.C. (Before Children) days.

I'm allowing my kids to stay up late - on a school night, no less! - for a baseball game. Truth be told, they have a field trip tomorrow to a local farm so they have a fairly easy school day anyway. But as was the case on Monday evening, it's Mommy who proposed this idea and it's Mommy who is camped out in the living room with the kids sprawled out on the floor, wrapped in blankets and quilts (red ones, of course)

Boo fell asleep during the Obama infomercial. (Which I thought was flawless and incredibly well-done. By the end, when Obama was saying "everybody here has a story about a grandparent working in a factory ... " I was practically near tears thinking of my own grandparents and their stories, just as Obama had hoped I would be.) Betty is still awake, but fighting as hard as the Phightin' Phils to stay that way. She really wants to see the Phillies win the World Series.

And I'm letting her, because this is the stuff of childhood memories. This is the stuff they'll remember, this moment of camping out in the family room, together on the threshold of history, both in baseball and in America.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yo, Joe's on the Phone

Wasn't planning on blogging tonight, thanks to a migraine from hell (my office had a gas leak today and no heat, so it made for a fun day) but this article from today's NY Times ("Joe Biden's On the Phone. Really, It's Him.") made me laugh.

How funny is it that among the calls that Biden made was to a Jared McCain ... and that he referred to him as "old buddy" in the message he left for him on his answering machine?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ya Gotta Believe

I don't know what's more unbelievable tonight: the fact that the Phillies are thisclose to winning their first World Series since 1980, or the fact that I am voluntarily choosing to watch Game 5 of the World Series while The Dean abstains.

No one would ever mistake me for a sports fan. But the reality is that I grew up on the Phillies and some of my most memorable life moments have a red and white pinstriped background. There was Game 5 of the 1980 World Series, which was on in the background of my cousin's baptism party. It was a special occasion to begin with, but even moreso because she had multiple disabilities; in addition to being blind and deaf, she had a cleft palate and significant heart problems. She was almost 1 that October when we celebrated her baptism with dozens of relatives crowded around the television in my aunt and uncle's Philadelphia rowhouse, cheering on the Phils. It's possible that my uncle entertained the family by playing the piano for awhile; I'm not sure. But what I remember most about that day was my little cousin propped in a special seat by the TV with the happiest expression on her little face, somehow sensing the palpable excitement that the Phillies brought to the party. (She died exactly six months later following open heart surgery.)

And then there was August 15, 1990, the night of Terry Mulholland's no-hitter and my first date with The Dean ... and winning a lottery for tickets to a 1993 playoff game ... and last year, taking the kids to their first professional baseball game. Truth be told, they were more interested in the PhunZone for kids than the game. And we can probably add tonight to that, since Betty has just ventured down here to the family room to rest on the sofa, unable to fall asleep because of a pesky cough.

My interest in tonight's game certainly has a lot to do with hometown pride. But it's more along the lines of what country star Tim McGraw did on Saturday night when he scattered some of his dad's ashes on the pitcher's mound. (Tim's dad was Tug McGraw, who struck out Willie Wilson to win the 1980 World Series for the Phils.)

Even though there are three of us watching the game (and one sleeping upstairs), in many ways our family room feels very, very full.

~~
(I'll leave you with this message, typed for you by Not-Sleeping Betty: lets go phillies!letsgo!)

~~
Postscript at 10:39 p.m. - This rain is unbelievable. Plus, it is 39 degrees there. Rain delay now. Suspended game. I don't think tonight is gonna be the night and I might just head off to bed. Meanwhile, I can't get Peter Gabriel's song "Red Rain" out of my head.

Red rain is coming down
Red rain
Red rain is pouring down
Pouring down all over me
I am standing up at the waters edge in my dream
I cannot make a single sound as you scream
It can't be that cold, the ground is still warm to touch
This place is so quiet, sensing that storm
Red rain is coming down
Red rain
Red rain is pouring down
Pouring down all over me


Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Little Romance

You know you've been married way too long when you see that your spouse has added himself as a Follower of your blog and you think to yourself that this has to be one of the most romantic things ever.

In the Spirit of Things

The kids and I had dinner last night at my mom's house. During the meal she brought up the topic of Boo's Halloween costume.

"I'm surprised you want to be a corn-on-the-cob," she said. "Knowing how much you like the Presidents, I thought you would have been Abraham Lincoln."

Boo looked at her, perplexed.

"Why would I want to be someone who got shot?"

~~
So I'm in the parking lot of Wawa today (that's a convenience store for those of you not in the Philly area), and as I'm trying to balance my coffee, hold two newspapers, and open the door of my van, I see a hearse careening through the parking lot, windows down, with really loud unintelligible music playing.

I mean, it was loud enough to wake the dead. (Ba-dump-bump!)

~~

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Say Ridiculous, You Say Suspicious ... Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

At lunchtime today, I went over to this thrift shop (not the one run by my employer) to see what they had in the way of clothes for Boo's Halloween costume. I was looking for a corn-kernel yellow sweatsuit and a green jacket - or a green something that could be pretend husks. They didn't have anything suitable in Boo's size, but as my eye wandered to the men's section, I spotted a large yellow man's t-shirt - in the exact color yellow I'd had in mind! Yes!

Then, I spotted a green dress shirt, and inspiration struck. I could outfit him in the yellow shirt, which would be baggy enough, and then put him in the green dress shirt to resemble the husk. I bought both shirts, plus an extra green one in case the first wasn't quite right (or if I decided to cut up the first one as husks). For good measure, I found a pair of khaki pants for Boo (for normal days) and a pair of pants for Betty.

(I digress by saying that I was feeling so proud of myself that I just had to reward myself by meandering over to the phenomenal used book section of this thrift store. A sale was underway and the paperbacks were - get this! - a mere thirty-five freakin' cents!! I now have eight new books in my library, which only cost me $5.55. Had I paid retail, I would have given Barnes & Noble $152.80.)

Back to the costume. So I take the clothes out tonight and Boo's all excited that he has a costume. I started getting him dressed, and out of the blue he totally FREAKS OUT.

"You're making me look like a suspicious boy!" he screamed.

I tried to impress upon him that looking suspicious on Halloween is a good thing. But no. This particular get-up was not what he had in mind, to put it mildly. Nor could he articulate what he wanted.

"I don't look like a corn-on-the-cob!" he fretted, snarling and stomping around the family room. "I hate this costume! It's suspicious!!!!"

We'll give this one more try tomorrow when I will get a fabric pen and make kernels on the shirt, along with a pat of butter.

But I have my suspicions this ain't gonna be good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Frightening Halloween Thought

I've been avoiding this for a couple of weeks now, but with Halloween a mere 9 days away, I need to face the music.

I need to make a Halloween costume.

Believe me, this is not by choice. I'm no Martha Stewart (no offense if you're reading this blog, Martha.) If I've learned anything during my almost-7 years of parenthood, I've learned my limits as a mom. And pretty high on that list is making Halloween costumes. We've always been pretty fortunate that whatever the kids wanted to be could be found at Toys R' Us or Target.

Not this year. At least not for Boo.

Betty's costume was purchased more than a month ago, when we happened upon a rack of Princess finery at TJMaxx and she promptly declared that she wanted to be "a royal." The Fairy Godmother doled out $19.99 and Royal Betty she became. When we got home, I asked Boo what he wanted to be.

"A corn on the cob," he answered definitively.

A wha ...? "Oh, that sounds nice," I said, not worrying too much about this because there was, maybe, the chance he'd change his mind. Maybe.

Not so. I asked him again. "I want to be a corn on the cob."
"You sure about this? What about, say ... a farmer!"
"No. A corn on the cob."
In phone conversations with my mother and mother-in-law, he's announced that he is going to be a corn on the cob.

What 6-year insists on being a freakin' corn on the cob for Halloween?

Clearly, this is not a notion that will be disabused anytime soon. A friend of mine offered a suggestion for making said costume. Get a yellow sweatsuit, get a fabric pen and make "kernels" on the suit, and get some green fabric and wear it like a jacket of sorts. This I think I can do.

But the time is tick-tick-ticking away, there's a chill in the air, and All Hallows Eve is nigh. Dread looms. Fear portends. A costume must be made. Who knoweth what wrath an untrained Mommy can wrought?

Be afraid, my child. Be very afraid.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Should You Be Allowed to Vote?

This is a fun quiz called "Should You Be Allowed to Vote?" that tests your knowledge of current events.

Here's how my results turned out:




You Should Be Allowed to Vote



You got 12/15 questions correct.

Generally speaking, you're very well informed.



If you vote this election, you'll know exactly who (and what) you'll be voting for.

You're likely to have strong opinions, and you have the facts to back them up.



Boo on Nixon

Boo is doing a one-man-play in our family room as I type. I bring this to you live, uninterrupted, and unedited:

"Hello! I am Richard Milhous Nixon! And this," he says, gesturing to an invisable person by his side. "This is Pat Nixon!"

Mimics crowd applauding.

"Now, I was president, but! I was not allowed to finish my term. I did a very bad thing."

Crowd boos.

"All right, all right, all right ... just listen to Pat Nixon! OK? Just listen to Pat!"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saturday

Picked up six (yes, six!) books at the library today. I couldn't help myself. Betty and I often go to a beautiful, large, newly-renovated library on Saturday afternoons when Boo is at his social-skills group. This library has an awesome "new releases" shelf. And! The librarian was shelving some brand new books as I was browsing. Could our timing have been any better? I mentioned how much I loved their library, that ours was much smaller, and GET. THIS. She tells me that our library is next to be renovated and expanded, that the county has designated our library to be the southern regional branch.

How excellent is that? (Yes, I know I clearly have no life when the biggest highlight of my day is the librarian gossiping to me about a library renovation.)

These three non-fiction and three fiction books are the latest additions to my nightstand:

When the Labels Don't Fit: A New Approach to Raising a Challenging Child by Barbara Probst, MSW, LCSW.
Beyond Time Out: From Chaos to Calm - by Beth A. Grosshans, Ph.D. with Janet H. Burton, LCSW
Meals Without Squeals: Child Care Feeding Guide and Cookbook - by Christine Berman, MPH, RD and Jacki Fromer
The Bible Salesman - by Clyde Edgerton
Getting Rid of Matthew - by Jane Fallon
Waterbaby - by Cris Mazza

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reading Vicariously - But Alas, Not Voraciously

Someday, I want to be able to do the 24-Hour Read-a-thon. (Don't know what this is? Go here.) Starting tomorrow at 5 a.m., more than 100 bloggers (maybe more at this point) will be reading for 24 hours and posting updates to their blogs. To me, this sounds like sheer, unadulterated bliss. Alas, reading for 24 hours nonstop is not a possibility in my world unless I kidnap myself and wake up at my aunt and uncle's beach house.

Betty and I will do our part to participate in the Read-a-thon, which reminds me of a gigantic cyber-SSR session. (Remember SSR from grade school? Sustained Silent Reading? That was my favorite part of the school day.) We'll hit the library. I'll pay this week's overdues. I'll continue reading Mermaids in the Basement, which I am enjoying. (It's reminding me a lot of the movie Steel Magnolias.)

With any luck, the kids will allow me to read for 24 minutes.

Joe Biden's Tears Remembered

Steven Petrow was 15 years old in 1972 when he wrote a condolence letter to Joe Biden expressing sympathy upon the deaths of his wife and daughter. Petrow recalls that gesture - and Biden's heartfelt reply - in this article.

It's well worth the read.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

www.joetheplumber.org

Just for fun, I thought I would check out to see what website one winds up on when going to www.joetheplumber.com (a plumber's website in Amarillo, TX) and www.joetheplumber.org which isn't taken yet. I can't believe it has remained available for this long. Clearly, someone in the McCain camp told John to mention Joe the Plumber tonight. (Maybe not nine times, but hey, that's the Maverick for you.) So you would have thought they would have bought the domain name before this debate and linked it up to the McCain website. (I don't know how those things work, so maybe they did.)

I'm watching MSNBC now, and they just had "breaking news" that Joe the Plumber is in bed. He thinks the whole thing was pretty surreal tonight, he still basically agrees with McCain, and then he went to bed.

Which is where I am headed now. I don't know what I will do with myself after this election is over, but I do know this: I'll definitely be getting more sleep than I have for the past several weeks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vote for Rachel Cole

Let's forget Barack and John for just a minute and vote for someone that really makes a difference.

My friend Rachel Cole is a truly amazing singer/songwriter. She does it all - sings, plays the guitar, etc. Her songs are incredibly inspiring and her lyrics have given thousands of children an appreciation for Judaic traditions, our planet earth, how to treat one another, hidden feelings, and being a friend to people with disabilities. Rachel is one of those rare people who actually gets to do what she loves for a living and she's so damn good at it. She's also an amazing mom to her two children.

Rachel is one of those people who, in high school, I wanted to be friends with. I just thought she was so cool, but we were in somewhat different circles. She was much more part of the drama/musical theatre crowd than me, but somehow - through our afterschool jobs at the local library and our shared passion for "St. Elsewhere" (and Mark Harmon) - we became friends. To this day, I cannot hear the Rolling Stones' "As Time Goes By" without thinking of her; she performed it for a talent show or some such performance in high school and made it her own.

Rachel has been nominated for "Best New Artist" at the New Music Awards in Hollywood, CA. Anyone can vote - and with enough votes she'll win! Here's how to vote: Go here (if that doesn't take you to the New Music Awards site, paste this link in your browser: http://www.newmusicweekly.com/nmwawards.php?d=y.

In the second section, labeled AC/Hot AC, click on "New Artist." You will see a drop down list with Rachel's name. Click on that and then click the "Vote" button at the bottom of the page. That's all there is to it! (If that link doesn't work, you can vote through Rachel's website)

Congratulations, Rachel. You are so tremendously deserving of this, and I'm so proud to call you my friend.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

How many blog posts about Maureen McCormick's new book will be written with that title?

Yes, children of the 70s and 80s, tomorrow our childhood as we know it vanishes when Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice hits the bookstores and jaws all over America hit the floor.

We "Brady Bunch" fans (c'mon, you know who you are) already know some of these tidbits, particularly the story about Marcia and Greg's (sorry, I can't call them anything else) romance. What we didn't know before now is how this actually happened. According to the official press release about the book, "things became hot and heavy while McCormick and Williams were filming episodes in Hawaii." (Say it isn't so! Not the infamous Hawaii episode????!!!!)

"We couldn't hold back any longer," she writes in the book published by William Morrow. "It was our first kiss, and it was long, passionate and deep. It was wonderful, too, though as we continued to kiss and press against each other so closely that we could feel each other's body heat, a part of me — a tiny part, admittedly — said to myself, `Oh my God! I'm kissing my brother. What am I doing?'"

Oh my God, indeed. Along with her drug addiction and depression, "Here's the Story ..." also details McCormick's dates with "wild and crazy guy" actor Steve Martin (who apparently got her phone number from Chevy Chase!) and - of all people - Michael Jackson. Yeah, that Michael Jackson.

It gets better. Apparently, Marcia Brady was hanging out doing coke at the Playboy Mansion as well as at the home of Sammy Davis Jr. During this downward spiral, she writes that she traded sex for drugs.

I don't know why any of this surprises me anymore. I mean, these types of stories from the child stars of my day are becoming more and more commonplace. I wish I could say that I have no interest in reading this ... but, well ... I have a confession of my own to share.

I reserved it immediately at the library and am thrilled to say that I'm number 6 on the waiting list. Groovy.

A Million Here, A Million There ...

My blogging friend Egghead23 had a great post on September 19 about that new movie, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua." When she first wrote about this, I thought it was a remake of that great 80s classic "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," one of my all-time favorite movies. Alas, something tells me that the Chihuahua is not even in the same doggie-park with Mike the Dog. (Extra credit to whomever can provide the dog's name from "Down and Out" without checking IMDB.com or some other such site.)

Anyway, on page A4 of my local newspaper today, there's mention that "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" was (and I quote) "top dog at weekend box office." For the second straight week. This weekend alone, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" brought in $17.5 million. Since it opened a mere 10 days ago, it's made $52.5 million. As Egghead23 shared, that's about what it cost to make the flick, give or take a million or two.

Also in my very same local newspaper - right on the next page - we have this AP article: Bailout Numbers Boggle Minds of Most Americans.

I'll tell you what boggles the mind of this American. Have you been to the movies lately? Our family hasn't. Why? Because if our family of four wished to go to "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," it would cost us $30.00 just to walk in the door - not including the requisite snacks and drinks that the kids would need to have.

$30 is what it costs me to fill the tank of my minivan - halfway. $30 is what we tend to give in three weeks as an offering to our church. $30 is what I will likely spend on fresh fruit and produce at the farm this week.

The thinking behind the success of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is that Americans needed an escape from the dismal financial news of late. Hell, nobody can argue with that. The issue is not that we need an escape - but it's how we choose to escape. Take that $30 and use it for a family outing at a state park, a day trip to the beach if you're close enough, or as your registration fee for a charitable walk-a-thon or some such event. Use it towards a yearly membership to your local zoo. Buy some bulbs and spend time as a family planting a spring garden. The possibilities for escape are endless.

When enough Americans have enough money to support "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" to the tune of $52.5 million dineros, that tells me that we've still got our priorities screwed up.

As David Carr writes in this piece in the New York Times, "[t]he fact that “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” has topped the box office for two weeks running and has taken in over $52 million may be one of the signs of the apocalypse, but not the kind that has anything to do with credit default swaps."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fancy That

Betty and I had brunch today at a restaurant that would remind one of Monk's from Seinfeld. We've been to this establishment before and it meets many of my criteria for eating out: 1) kids menu; 2) something on the kids' menu that finicky Betty will eat; 3) something that I, as a vegetarian, can eat; 4) clean; 5) inexpensive and 6) reasonably quick with the food. It also helps that I haven't had any stomach issues as a result of eating there.

Impressed that this deli has both a store and a restaurant - plus a free kosher pickle bar - Betty declared this to be worthy of several stars in her personal Zagat guide.

"This is a fancy restaurant," she declared, as we were seated.

Alas, today wasn't the best dining experience. We never received napkins. Betty never received any utensils. Our meals (eggs, potatoes, and English muffin for me - hot dog and fries for Betty) took forever. My muffin would be coming "shortly," the waitress informed me, adding that the kitchen staff needed to re-toast it. It arrived as I finished eating.

I'm usually an above-average tipper, and even at this point, the waitress still had a shot at something between 15-20% because it appeared that something was amiss with the kitchen. But, like the Dow, the tip dropped to barely 10% when I'd realized that she walked right past our table twice without asking if I wanted a refill of coffee (and boy, did I ever) ... and she had a full carafe of coffee in her hand!

Ever the prepared mommy, I whipped out a crumpled-but-unused napkin from my purse and gave it to Betty.

"I never got a napkin," she lamented. I nodded and said neither did I.

And then she added, "I guess this place isn't that fancy after all."

New Used Books for Me

Ahhh ... new used books for my bursting bookshelves. The next best thing to new books are new used books, in my mind. Betty and I spent our Saturday out and about, as usual, and among the places we stopped was the resale shop operated by the organization I work for. The proceeds from this shop are somewhat responsible for some money being deposited into my bank account every two weeks, so because of this, I feel zero guilt about the amount of money I tend to give them. It's a very upscale thrift store, very boutique-ish with classical music playing, etc. They have a book corner with paperbacks for $1.00 and hardbacks for $3.00. Here's what I bought today to add to my own bookshelves (all descriptions are from Amazon.com)

Searching for Caleb ~ Anne Tyler
Duncan Peck has a fascination for randomness and is always taking his family on the move. His wife, Justine, is a fortune teller who can't remember the past. Her grandfather, Daniel, longs to find the brother who walked out of his life in 1912, with nothing more than a fiddle in his hand. All three are taking journeys that lead back to the family's deepest roots...to a place where rebellion and acceptance have the haunting power to merge into one....

A Patchwork Planet ~ Anne Tyler
Barnaby Gaitlin is one of Anne Tyler's most promising unpromising characters. At 30, he has yet to graduate from college, is already divorced, and is used to defeat. His mother thrives on reminding him of his adolescent delinquency and debt to his family, and even his daughter is fed up with his fecklessness. Still, attuned as he is to "the normal quota for misfortune," Barney is one of the star employees of Baltimore's Rent-a-Back, Inc., which pays him an hourly wage to help old people (and one young agoraphobe) run errands and sort out their basements and attics. Anne Tyler makes you admire most of these mothball eccentrics (though they're far from idealized) and hope that they can stave off nursing homes and death. There is, for example, "the unstoppable little black grandma whose children phoned us on an emergency basis whenever she threatened to overdo." And then there's Barnaby's new girlfriend's aunt, who will eventually accuse him of theft--"Over her forearm she carried a Yorkshire terrier, neatly folded like a waiter's napkin. 'This is my doorbell,' she said, thrusting him toward me. 'I'd never have known you were out here if not for Tatters.'" These people are wonderful creations, but their lives are more brittle than cuddly, Barnaby knows better than to think of them as friends, because they'll only die on him. Yet his job offers at least glimpses of roots and affection. Helping an old lady set up her Christmas tree (on New Year's Eve!) gives him the chance to hang a singular ornament--a snowflake "pancake-sized, slightly crumpled, snipped from gift wrap so old that the Santas were smoking cigarettes." And Barnaby himself is sharp and impatient at painful--and painfully funny--family dinners, apparently unable to keep his finger off the auto-self-destruct button every time his life improves. As much as his superb creator, he is a poet of disappointment, resignation, and minute transformation

Here In the World: 13 Stories ~ Victoria Lancelotta
Lancelotta's fiction debut contains 13 dark, sensual stories with a dreamlike quality that feature women taking control of their own sexuality, though the results don't always leave them satisfied. "In Bars" tells of a woman's twisted relationship with the married couple that lives next door. In "Nice Girl," the childhood death of an older sister continues to haunt a woman and her mother. "The Gift" is a moving meditation on the secrets buried in family history. Lancelotta's characters always seem unhappy and detached, but her prose is lyrical and mesmerizing.

Crooked Little Heart ~ Anne Lamott (seems as if I was on an authors-named-Anne kick today)
At 13, Rosie plays a gangly, pigeon-toed second fiddle to her juicy, sexy friend Simone. The two are junior tennis champs who often cart home trophies. But driven by the gnawing fear that she's a loser, Rosie starts to cheat. Meantime, boy-crazy Simone dabbles in off-court disaster. Up in the bleachers a weird loner named Luther obsessively follows Rosie's games, while at home her mother wrestles her own demons. Anne Lamott (Operating Instructions) has turned in a fair depiction of the blood and bones of adolescence that's thankfully leavened by sharp humor and transcendent moments. The novel is uneven and heavy-handed at times, but often rewarding.

Handwritten on the first page of Crooked Little Heart in a Sharpie marker is this:

4/30/97
Jennifer and Tom -
Have a great honeymoon!
Best regards, John
Quite the amusing nuptial sentiment for a book titled Crooked Little Heart, if you ask me.
Have you read any of these? If so, let me know what you thought.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Senator, I Know John McCain and You're No John McCain

Can you imagine being this guy? He gets the honor of introducing Joe Biden at a rally. What does he do? Introduces Biden as "the next Vice President, John McCain!" and doesn't realize it!!! - and then goes on to say that "all this will change under a Barack O'biden administration."

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/offbeat/2008/10/09/moos.moronic.moments.cnn

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I'll Take That One, Please


What a country we live in. This is an actual bumper sticker, presumably. Check it out at http://www.thatone08.org/. Or, if a bumper sticker isn't to your liking, perhaps you'd like to check out the lovely assortment of That One t-shirts.
This falls into the "why the hell didn't I think of that???!!!" category of things, because you just know someone is going to make a boatload of money off of this.

Happy Birthday Robin!

Happy birthday today to my cyber-friend Robin, author of the blog simple.green.organic.happy, which you can find by clicking here. If you haven't visited her blog yet, you're missing out on some incredible photographs and inspiring quotes. The gift will be all yours, trust me.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Book Review: Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons

There's one major disappointment with this book: the fact that I've had this on my bookshelf for almost 11 years, and I just got around to reading it.

Oprah chose Ellen Foster as her Book Club pick on October 27, 1997. I received this as a Christmas gift that same year but for some unknown reason - another more compelling book, perhaps - I never read it. Sure, I glanced at it from time to time, but mostly as it was packed, unpacked, and repacked - and then packed, unpacked and repacked again - and still again a third time, as we moved to three separate residences in 11 years.

Eleven is also the age of Ellen, the protagonist of this exquisite novel. Orphaned, Ellen herself is sent packing after the death of her abusive father (which follows her mother's suicide). The novel deals with Ellen's quest for home in every sense of the word - shelter, yes, but also a place of belonging and acceptance. From Oprah.com:

Ellen's first eleven years are a long fight for survival. Her invalid, abused mother commits suicide, leaving Ellen to the mercies of her daddy, a drunken brute who either ignores her or makes sexual threats. Through her intelligence and grit Ellen is able to provide for herself, but her desperate attempts to create an environment of order and decorum within her nightmarish home are repeatedly foiled by her father. After his death, a judge awards Ellen's custody to her mother's mother, a bitter and vengeful woman who hated her son-in-law for ruining her own daughter's life and who hates the child Ellen for her physical resemblance to him.Against all odds, Ellen never gives up her belief that there is a place for her in the world, a home which will satisfy all her longing for love, acceptance, and order. Her eventual success in finding that home and courageously claiming it as her own is a testimony to her unshakable faith in the possibility of good. She never loses that faith, and she never loses her sense of humor. Ellen Foster, like another American classic, Huckleberry Finn, is for all its high comedy ultimately a serious fable of personal and collective responsibility.


This is a quick read (only 126 pages) and if you have the opportunity to listen to it on audio (as I did), I recommend that version also. Although similar themes have been portrayed in other works, Ellen Foster is an exceptional, compelling and emotional story. As a first novel, this book is a true triumph for the author Kaye Gibbons. As someone who enjoys Southern fiction, I enjoyed this tremendously and look forward to reading more of Kaye Gibbons' work - within the next decade, to be sure.

The Personal Touch

A sympathy card arrived in the mail today from the folks at the local veterinary hospital who took care of our cat Pepper. I was - and still am - incredibly touched at this. Wednesday was our first visit to this vet, who took care of her for two or three hours total. Yet they still cared enough to send a card.

I was stunned when I saw the signature. Make that signatures, all 14 of them. Every single person at the veterinary hospital had personally signed the card. (Believe me, I scrutinized the signatures to see if they were fake. Nope.) Yeah, maybe they signed them in batches or whatever, but that doesn't matter to me. It just blew me away.

~~~
Speaking of Pepper, thank you to all who have expressed their sympathies and asked how we're doing (especially Betty and Boo). We're doing better than expected, and the kids are showing the resilience that children somehow seem to possess in much greater quantities than we adults. They'll occasionally ask a question, or come up with a comment such as Boo's statement to The Dean (who is in North Carolina on business this week). When he heard that Daddy was going to NC in an airplane, Boo said, "You're going to be close to Pepper." (Meaning that the altitude of the plane will be closer in proximity to heaven than our street.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Belated Banned Books Week

As you may have noticed from my blogroll, I'm very into book blogs these days. Apparently, last week was Banned Books Week and several folks have posted lists of books that have been "challenged." This is a list of the 100 most-challenged books from the 1990s. I've bolded those that I've read. If it's italicized, we own it.
  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein (My Note: You have got to be blanking me! How in the world can anyone consider this as a book that should be banned? Unbelievable.)
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King (My Note: I'm not sure if we still own this ... it might have been donated to the library's book sale last year when we moved.)
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King (My Note: Another one that may be still around ... any Stephen King is part of The Dean's literary collection, not mine.)
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford (My Note: HUH???!!!!)
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

How to Act

Each week, Boo needs to bring a notebook to Acting Class. If you know Boo, you know this is not a problem as he rarely goes anywhere without a notebook and several writing instruments. Most of the pages are filled with the rules of acting class ... but as I read through them, they seem to be apropos for how one should act in life. Here's what he's written [with my translations of spelling in brackets, when needed]:

Rule Number 1
No hitting. If you hit some body, oh my oh no time out.

Rule Number 2
Pozitiv Voice.

Rule Number 3
Use Nice Manners.

Rule Number 4
Sing Proldy [proudly]

Rule Number 5
Be nice.

Rule Number 6
Lisinn to Ms. Missy [the director]

Rule Number 7
Always pay atention.

Rule Number 8
Also Lisenn to Kody [the assistant director]

Rule Number 9
Follow drektions.

Rule Number 10
If you don't have any money to by a snack, oh well. [They get a break during each class to purchase a snack or eat one that is brought from home.]

Rule Number 11
No screming.

Rule Number 12
Be safe.

(Underneath this is a drawing of a marquee advertising "Broadway Junier Eleksion")

Rule Number 13
Wait for Pepole to use the bathroom.

Rule Number 14
No LOW VOICES

Rule Number 15
When somebody has no space, give em some space. [Underneath this is a drawing of "George Cloney" ... I'm not quite sure why ...]

Rule Number 16
Share.

Rule Number 17
No Humming.

Rule Number 18
Have 5 sents to be a natten. [Your guess is as good as mine with this one ...]

Rule Number 19
Be plote. [Be polite.]

Rule Number 20
Don't panic.

Rule Number 21
Every November, for a play comes.

Rule Number 22
Lisinenn carefully.

Rule Number 23
Treat Yourself how you want to be treated. [I'm not quite sure of the wording on this one ...:]

Rule Number 24
Don't Be All Alone.

Rule Number 25
Get the anger to yourself.

Rule Number 26
No stomping.

Rule Number 27
Quiet when Ms. Missy said so.

Rule Number 28
Be good.

Rule Number 29
Keep up.

Rule Number 30
Repete your line.

Rule Number 31
No anger.

Rule Number 32
No hurtful words.

Rule Number 33
No lieing.

Rule Number 34
Say helpful words.

Rule Number 35
No name calling.

Rule Number 36
No makeing fun.

Rule Number 37
Remember your line.

Rule Number 38
No hoping. [Methinks this should be "no hopping."]

Rule Number 39
No skipping.

Rule Number 40
Inside Voices.

Rule Number 41
Be happy.

Rule Number 42
Tell Kody the truth.

Rule Number 43
Get a scruft. [Got me ... I dunno. Maybe a "script"? Several actors seemed to have forgotten theirs yesterday.]

Rule Number 44
No toys.

Rule Number 45
Don't tell peeple what to do.

Rule Number 46
No soft voice.

Rule Number 47
Make shure you learn.

Rule Number 48
Have fun.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Buy One, Get One Free? Not For Me

Because she had a good night last night, I'm going to go a little easy on Sarah Palin today. In fact, I think I'll give her a little free advice, which would be this:

Sarah, we all know you launched your bid last night to be the main occupant of The White House in 2016 (assuming you don't get to the Oval Office sooner). But do us all a favor and try to keep the First Dude out of it until then, 'kay? (wink) I mean, you don't need to let the American people in on the fact that your husband has played a very active role in governing Alaska. Last I checked, the First Dude wasn't running for anything. We all saw how well the "buy one get one free" strategy worked in '92 with Bill and Hill, so doggone it, why dontcha take a cue from them and leave Todd back in Alaska to help little 7-year old Piper take care of her infant brother.

I offer this free advice to Sarah based on her response to McCain's decision to concede Michigan to Obama/Biden:

I fired a quick e-mail and said, 'oh, come on! Do we have to call it there?' she said. "Todd and I would [be] happy to get to Michigan and walk through those plants [with] car
manufacturers."We'd be so happy to get to speak with the people there in Michigan, who are hurting because the economy is hurting," she added. "Whatever we can do and whatever Todd and I can do in realizing what their challenges in that state are, as we can relate to them and connect with them and promise them that we won't let them down in the administration."


We won't let them down in the administration. Hmm, well, ain't that special. (Perchance the Palins would enjoy watching "Roger & Me" before their trip to Michigan.)

As The Dean says, "Todd Palin makes Yoko Ono look like June Cleaver."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pepper ... February 1995 ~ October 1, 2008

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here,
that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

Our cat Pepper went to Rainbow Bridge on Wednesday evening. She hadn't been well for awhile; she had been throwing up frequently and in the last few days, stopped eating, drinking or pooping. We took her to the vet here, and an x-ray showed an enlarged heart. Her other bloodwork was normal, but we couldn't see any positive outcome from this situation (which is a road we've been down often with her for the last two years) without hospitalizing her or doing extensive and expensive surgery.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

For 12 years, Pepper was our beloved pet, a member of our family. Miss Congeniality she wasn't (especially in recent years) ... but she was ours.
In our childless days, our previous cat Clinton was akin to our kid. We'd found her on a cold November evening, huddled underneath the hood of The Dean's still-warm car after returning home from a late night of grad school classes. She was named Clinton because we were volunteer envelope-stuffers for the '92 Clinton/Gore campaign at the time.
Four years later, Clinton got sick and in the vet's office, we stared numbly at x-rays. In the room at the time was a small gray cat in a cage. I ignored that other cat, not wanting to even see another feline when ours was so very sick. We spent hundreds of dollars on a cardiogram for Clinton, but to no avail.
Early 1996 was a tough time. My uncle was very sick, we'd just boarded the roller-coaster of infertility hell (a ride which we'd be on for nearly six years to the day) and our cat had just died. Several weeks after losing Clinton, our vet called. Were we interested in a slightly older cat, not a kitten?
"Mama Cat," as she was referred to in the vet's office, was one year old. She'd just had a litter of kittens, all of whom had been adopted to other families. But her owner decided he no longer wanted her. Were we interested? They would understand if it was too soon, having just lost a cat, but maybe we could just come see her?
I remember seeing this cat and realizing that she was the same cat in the room with us when we'd been discussing Clinton's x-rays. The vet really wanted this cat to go to a good home. When we explained that we didn't have the money for declawing her (a must, since we had new furniture), they did it for free. And she became ours, and she became Pepper - both because she looked like a Pepper but also because we wanted a Beatles' reference.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor;
those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again ...
She was a comfort to us when we struggled through six years of infertility treatments. She bled Eagles' green, sitting on The Dean's lap as he watched the Birds. And speaking of birds, she loved sitting on the windowsills "talking" to birds in a way that really seemed as if they were conversing. She had this maddening ability to find something - a rubber band, a barrette of Betty's, some forgotten toy - and start playing with it incessantly just at the precise moment that we'd started watching a favorite show.
And she was fiercely protective, particularly so after the twins came along. She reverted into the true "Mama Cat" she'd been with her 9 offspring. She was initially standoffish with the babies, but in her way, she loved them. God help anyone who got near them.
During the last few months, it was Betty who on her own initiative asked to be responsible for taking care of Pepper - and in return, Pepper often cuddled up to Betty, snuggling with her in bed.
She came to us abandoned and rejected - and similarly, we came to her the same way. We weren't looking for a new cat and we weren't sure we wanted one. We were wrong. In the ways of the circles of life, her arrival in our home was the harbinger of the healing we would need many times over the next 12 years.
Just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by ....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Spelling Test (or, First Grade Financial Bailout part 2)

This week's first grade spelling words are ones that end in ash. Among those on the list are dash, gash, sash, trash ... you get the idea. In preparation for the Friday spelling test, they have weekly packets where they have to pick an activity to do each night for homework. (Study with a family member; make a word search puzzle; write or type your words; write sentences using your words ... )

Betty likes to write a story or sentence with her words. I checked her homework the other night and saw that she had written:

My mom has cash.

Hmm. Not so much. How about: My mom had cash, but now it's trash, thanks to the stock market crash.

Move Over, Baby Einstein ... It's Baby Palin

So now we know that Sarah Palin has been listening to Joe Biden's speeches since she was in the second grade.

Katie Couric: You made a funny comment, you've said you have been listening to Joe Biden's speeches since you were in second grade.

Gov. Palin: It's been since like '72, yah.

Katie Couric: You have a 72-year-old running mate, is that kind of a risky thing to say, insinuating that Joe Biden's been around awhile?

Gov. Palin: Oh no, it's nothing negative at all. He's got a lot of experience and just stating the fact there, that we've been hearing his speeches for all these years. So he's got a tremendous amount of experience and, you know, I'm the new energy, the new face, the new ideas and he's got the experience based on many many years in the Senate and voters are gonna have a choice there of what it is that they want in these next four years.

If Sarah was listening to Joe Biden since she was 8 years old, does that mean that she was listening to John McCain while in utero? (Full credit time: that line comes to you courtesy of The Dean). Like how mothers put headphones on their stomachs to pipe in Mozart and foreign languages so that their fetuses can get a jump start on education? I mean, the man is a tad older than Biden, last I checked.

I can see it now, this year's hottest Christmas DVD: Baby Palin. If Sarah Palin doesn't make it to the real West Wing, she can create a series of DVDs for babies. (She'll have two real-life examples to test-market the concept to.) Baby Palin can include a map, so one can see the proximity of Russia and Alaska. ("See the cool, clear waters of the very narrow maritime border between Russia and Alaska. Here's my house. I can see Russia from my house. What can you see from your house?")