Sunday, November 30, 2008
Over the past weekend, we've been asked to spell (and define) imagination, comprehension, intermission, and probably a hundred other words that I am forgetting. Fortunately, the spelling part comes easy to me and The Dean, proud products of the public school system are we. It's coming up with these danged definitions for a 7-year old's comprehension that stumps us.
So I introduced Boo to the concept of using the dictionary. (Not dictionary.com, because with two laptops in the house and four people, the chances that he would be able to go online to look up a word when he wanted to are slim.) I acquired a kids' dictionary a few months ago, anticipating this need.
He loves it, just as I did when I was slightly older than him. I was one of those kids who was very content reading and writing in my bedroom; I had almost zero interest in playing outside with the neighborhood kids. (Back in the 70s and 80s, one didn't get a diagnosis for such characteristics. That's "just the way you were." Look how stellar I turned out.) Had Al Gore invented the Internet in the early 80s, I might have still been cooped up in my room.
At one point in my childhood, I spent hours reading the dictionary and writing unfamiliar words in a notebook, starting with A. That might explain why I am affectionately (or not) the proofreading-go-to-girl in my office. The fact that I chronicled the dictionary while stealing one sugar cube from the Domino box in the kitchen could also explain why I'm on a first name basis with my dentist, the hygienists, and the receptionist.
I was reminded of all this the other evening when Boo was perusing the dictionary the other night - ironically, looking up the word "dentist," which didn't make the student dictionary. I remembered that thrill of learning a new word, of trying to pronounce it, of seeing it take form at the end of my pen.
I need to remember this feeling - for I suspect it is the same for my son - the next time (and the next, and the next ...) when Boo asks us for the spelling and definition of a new (to him) word. I need to stop and remember just how wonderful a thing this is, this discovery of new words. Of new worlds.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
My friend gail elle has some photos of her beautiful Thanksgiving table. So pretty! (See, you made it into Best of the Week, gail elle.) And you're right, definitely different than ours.
On Thanksgiving, My Friend Amy had a great post about being thankful for being literate. My Friend Amy also has started a holiday campaign to Buy Books for the Holidays, an idea that I wholeheartedly endorse (and plan to support, even if I haven't officially gotten around to promoting said campaign on this blog yet.)
Speaking of buying books for the holidays, if you're looking for book ideas for a young child and are interested in buying a classic, timeless book (or two, or three ...) author (and fellow Philly girl!) Beth Kephart has a post about books she plans to purchase for her bookworm niece. The comments section is also worth checking out for more ideas.
Kristina from Autism Vox gives us a timely post on Friday 11/28 on helping our kids with special needs cope with the holidays - and at the end, there's a great gift-giving guide. I plan on doing the majority (if not all) of my holiday shopping in cyberspace, so I am looking forward to reading through this.
And I have to thank Florinda of The 3R's: Reading, Riting, and Randomness for highlighting my blog post about the running of the bulls event (I mean, Black Friday) at Walmart.
Have a great week!
Zoë Ferraris's electrifying debut of taut psychological suspense offers an unprecedented window into Saudi Arabia and the lives of men and women there. When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, along with a truck and her favorite camel, her prominent family calls on Nayir al-Sharqi, a desert guide, to lead a search party. Ten days later, just as Nayir is about to give up in frustration, her body is discovered by anonymous desert travelers. But when the coroner's office determines that Nouf died not of dehydration but from drowning, and her family seems suspiciously uninterested in getting at the truth, Nayir takes it upon himself to find out what really happened to her.This mission will push gentle, hulking, pious Nayir, a Palestinian orphan raised by his bachelor uncle, to delve into the secret life of a rich, protected teenage girl -- in one of the most rigidly gender-segregated of Middle Eastern societies.
Initially horrified at the idea of a woman bold enough to bare her face and to work in public, Nayir soon realizes that if he wants to gain access to the hidden world of women, he will have to join forces with Katya Hijazi, a lab worker at the coroner's office. Their partnership challenges Nayir, bringing him face to face with his desire for female companionship and the limitations imposed by his beliefs. It also ultimately leads them both to surprising revelations. Fast-paced and utterly transporting, Finding Nouf offers an intimate glimpse inside a closed society and a riveting literary mystery.
When I was in 7th grade, there was the possibility that my father's job would move us to Saudi Arabia. I'm not sure how close we were to actually going (my guess is not very). To my 12 year old self, moving to Saudi Arabia was my emancipation from my super-competitive, clique-laden middle school in boring, affluent suburbia. I was ready to board the next plane; my bags were packed.
We didn't move, so I can only speculate how different my pre-teen and teenage years (and beyond) would have been had we done so.
Finding Nouf, an impressive literary debut by Zoe Ferraris, an American who moved to Saudi Arabia with her then-husband in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, is the story of 16-year old Nouf who has similar feelings of being trapped - in this case, by her rich family and a culture of arranged marriage. Despite her culture (and almost in defiance of it), Nouf creates a secret life and carefully plans a very different future for herself. While doing so, she is murdered and the novel becomes centered on Nayir and Katya, who are investigating the circumstances of Nouf's death.
This novel is different from my typical reading fare, both in its setting as well as the mystery genre. Favorable reviews abound on various book blogs, on Amazon, and on Shelfari.com, and mine is no exception. I enjoyed this tremendously. This is an impressive debut from Ferraris, who gives the reader a view of modern day Saudi Arabia. I found the character of Katya especially intriguing, as she has earned her Ph.D. and works, CSI-like, as a forensic examiner. All the while she complies with conventional Saudi norms of having a driver and wearing a burqua. I don't know enough about the culture of Saudi Arabia to know if Katya is authentically-portrayed but I'd like to believe such is the case.
Finding Nouf moves at a solid pace, keeping the reader intrigued. At one point, it seems fairly simple to ascertain who killed Nouf, particularly after a crucial aspect of one of the leading character's lives is revealed. Ferraris' talent as a writer shows the most in these pages as she picks up the pace and keeps the reader engrossed, rewarding him or her in the end with an unexpected plot twist.
Definitely worth the read if you enjoy quality literary fiction and psychological suspense. I give this 4 stars of 5 (and that's only because of having to stop and think too much about the chronology of the events leading up to Nouf's disappearance and eventual murder). I look forward to read more of Zoe Ferraris' work in the future.
If you've read or reviewed this book, feel free to leave a link to your review on your blog or website in the comments section.
In the midst of concocting a crockpot macaroni and cheese dinner early this afternoon, the doorbell rang. The Dean was sorting laundry upstairs (no lie), and I answered it. As I did, a large tractor-trailer blocked my driveway.
"Can I help you?" I asked, thinking of the Chris Rock routine in his latest comedy special where he says he keeps a bag packed by the door for when the real people who own his house come back and reclaim it.
The guy explained that they were "up from North Carolina" and had a truckload of furniture available "for every room in the house" if I wanted to come aboard the truck and have a look. Indeed, there was a truckload of furniture with an open side door in front of my house. I, however, wasn't born yesterday. (It was also a relatively sibling-squabble and tantrum-free day, otherwise I could have been very tempted to hop aboard the rig and let the "furniture dealers" chop me into cushion stuffing.)
"Thanks for letting us know," I said, closing the door.
This has happened once before since we've moved here a year ago. I find it amusing every single time. I half expect to see Christopher Moltisanti or Tony Soprano (God, I miss that show) unloading flat screen TVs or something, like that episode when Christopher & Co. steals the truckload of DVDs. Weird.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Because that's exactly what happened today to Jdimytai Damour, a seasonal overnight stock clerk, in the wee small hours of the morning at a Walmart on Long Island. A seasonal worker. Someone who was previously unemployed, probably, due to this lousy economy, or someone working at Walmart as a second job stocking shelves throughout the night so that he can give his kids a decent Christmas. There's no glory in working retail during the holidays. I never have, but I know people who have, and do, and from the horror stories they tell, it's no walk in the park.
So to try and understand what can't-live-without item was more important than a 34-year old's life, I just went onto Walmart's site (which doesn't even offer the obligatory "we extend our deepest sympathies to the family" corporate PR condolence message) to view their Black Friday circular. I typed in 11580 to get their Unbeatable Prices from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. today at the Valley Stream, NY store.
And I'm at a loss to figure out what was such a matter of life and death.
Was it the Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV for $798 or Samsung's 10.2 MP digital camera for $69? Perhaps the Xbox 360 Arcade Console for $199 or the Wii for $249.24? (Does Walmart really need the .24 freakin' cents, for God's sake?) Maybe the HP computer for $398, the Apple Touch phone for $227, or the High School Musical bicycle for $69? It couldn't have been something practical like the hoodies or jeans, both a steal at $8 each. All good bargains in their own right, to be sure.
Maybe it was the $20 Bratz Big Wild Wild West doll (I kid you not) that caused 2,000 shoppers to literally break down the Walmart doors. According to published reports, the door frame itself was "crumpled like an accordian." The AP reports that "[s]hoppers who surged into the store were asked to leave by Wal-Mart workers, some of them crying and visibly upset." And
"[t]hough rumors circulated among the shoppers that someone had been badly injured, people ignored the Wal-Mart workers’ requests that they stop shopping, move to the front of the store and exit."
It's bad enough that we as a society are all-too-willing to sleep in parking lots to get a coveted place in line for Black Friday. Personally, I never understood the whole Black Friday thing, but I have semi-slept outside for concert tickets. That would be for none other than The Jacksons' Victory Tour in Philly, September 1 (or maybe 2), 1984. My parents, in their infinite wisdom, refused to allow 15 year old me to join my best friend in sleeping overnight on the asphalt at Ticketron outside the Gold Medal Sporting Goods in Northeast Philadelphia for concert tickets. Instead, my mom drove me over there at 3 a.m. (I owe you one, Mom.) I wasn't all that thrilled about the notion of camping out as a 15 year old, so I can't imagine I'd be much more thrilled now that I'm 24 years older.
For all the reports that people are being more cautious in their spending this year, we still have people in line on Thanksgiving night in anticipation of "doorbuster" sales at midnight, at 3, 4, and 5 a.m. At least three major chains were open on Thanksgiving Day in my area. All for the chance to score what, exactly?
But something's wrong - very, very wrong - in our society when we move beyond sleeping in lawn chairs in parking lots or shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself.
What does it say about us when, in the midst of a major economic crisis that has the shelves of food banks completely empty, 2,000 people have the power to decimate a metal doorframe, trample a human being to his death (and nearly do the same to a pregnant woman and several others) and still continue shopping for overpriced crap after being told that someone has been seriously injured?
It says more than enough.
"What are you doing?" Betty just asked me.
"Writing a story," I answered, as I typed a blog post.
"What's it about?" she asked.
"Um ...." I stalled, trying to think of a kid-friendly explanation but coming up empty-handed.
"I know! You're writing about a mommy who has to eat healthier foods."
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I cooked a Tofurky for our Thanksgiving dinner, and y'know ... it was really, really good. (Don't knock it till you try it.) Doing so required that Betty and I make a trip to the supermarket this afternoon for soy sauce, because it was an ingredient for both the Tofurky baste and the vegetarian gravy that I made to accompany it.
This is the cooked Tofurky. It was even stuffed with a wild rice stuffing that was also pretty tasty. Seriously, if you're not going to order a turkey prepared from the grocery store (as I did last year), this is an alternative worth considering for the time-saving attributes it offers. It only takes 1.5 hours to cook.
The rest of our meal included Stove Top stuffing, carrots that were cooked alongside the Tofurky and which I mixed together with the wild rice stuffing from the Tofurky, cranberry sauce (a favorite of Betty's, otherwise we would have been content to skip it), peas, and green beans. Not pictured are mashed potatoes and the vegetarian gravy.
And for dessert (also not pictured) was pumpkin pie for Boo and The Dean. I'll have some Weight Watchers ice cream during the Eagles game later on.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Thanksgiving officially became my favorite holiday seven years ago when, just as most people were sitting down to their dinner, Betty and Boo graced us with their presence by being born.
We're spending a very low-key Thanksgiving here at home, just the four of us. We're watching the Philadelphia and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades, awaiting Santa Claus' official arrival to start the holiday season. (For whatever reason, that is an event that always makes me cry. I have absolutely no clue why - maybe because I'm the granddaughter of a mega-shopaholic who lived for Christmas and shopped for it 364 days a year. I'm sure a therapist would have an absolute field day with that.)
Later on, Betty and I will prepare the Tofurkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and veggies. We'll have an already-cut pumpkin pie for dessert - what's left of it. (It was purchased on Tuesday, and several slices have mysteriously disappeared.)
This year more than ever, we as a people need Thanksgiving. It comes at a time when for so many, the walls certainly seem to get higher everyday and barrier after barrier gets in the way. One day isn't going to change that.
For now, for today, I'm thankful that we have all that we're allowed.
Monday, November 24, 2008
But this year, circumstances and distance have us hangin' at home, which is fine with me. We've had a couple busy weekends lately, and I'm kind of looking forward to a low-key holiday day.
So, this morning while I was trying to plan our meals for the week, I was thinking about what to make for Thanksgiving . I realized that we have an abundance of food in the pantry, as well as in the freezer. We have frozen vegetables and instant mashed potatoes and rice and vegetable broth and beans and soups ... more than enough for our little family of four to have a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. I decided that the majority of our meal will come from the pantry. I'll still purchase what I was planning to, but it will be donated to our local Food Bank, which feeds 90,000 people in our state each year and recently needed to close its emergency feeding program because of lack of food.
Betty helped me put the groceries away after I returned from the store and I pointed out how full our pantry was. I reminded her that we are very, very lucky and that some people don't have enough to eat.
"I think we should share some of our food with them," I announced.
"That's a great idea!" said Betty. "And we can go to the grocery store and buy them some food," she added.
Yes, I told her. Yes, we can.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
From the moment I opened my eyes
And the morning when I first saw you
Gave me life under calico skies
Slightly before 4 a.m., the door to our room opened and Boo sleepily stood by the side of the bed. I picked him up and put him next to me, watching him sleep in the middle of my own drowsiness, wondering how many more mornings like this there would be.
And so we stayed like that for one peaceful hour, as the skies turned from black to the slightest hint of gray-dawn.
I will hold you for as long as you like
I'll hold you for the rest of my life
Always looking for ways to love you
Never failing to fight at your side
While the angels of love protect us
From the innermost secrets we hide
I'll hold you for as long as you like
I'll hold you for the rest of my life
Long live all of us crazy soldiers
Who were born under calico skies
May we never be called to handle
All the weapons of war we despise
I'll hold you for as long as you like
I'll hold you for the rest of my life.
"Calico Skies", Paul McCartney
Saturday, November 22, 2008
We love you very much!
Love, Mommy and Daddy
P.S. For all you other readers, longer birthday post coming later ... there's company to get ready for and housecleaning to finish.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Some videos you just have to see to believe. On Thursday, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin appeared in Wasilla in order to pardon a local turkey in anticipation of Thanksgiving. This proved to be a slightly absurd but ultimately unremarkable event. But what came next was positively surreal. After the pardon Palin proceeded to do an interview with a local TV station
while the turkeys were being SLAUGHTERED in the background!! Seemingly oblivious to the
gruesomeness going on over her shoulder, she carries on talking for over three minutes. Watch the video below to see for yourself. Be warned, it's kind of gruesome.
My favorite parts of this are at the beginning, where she talks about how brutal the campaign is. I'll give her that, but she is talking about this while turkeys are being slaughtered! And then at the end when she discusses what she is responsible for bringing to the Thanksgiving table.
You folks all have a real happy Thenksgiving now, 'kay?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Judy Blume has a blog!
I mean, is this just about the coolest thing ever? Like reading Judy's everyday thoughts, like, everyday? Ohmigod, I could just die. Sooooooooo amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's like having a brand new Judy Blume book, y'know? Like for adults, which is just so awesome to read Judy Blume as an adult because she still totally gets it. For sure.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
"Oh, that's Diane Chambers."
I started laughing. "That's not her name," I said.
"Yeah, it is ... why?"
Coworker looked at me blankly. And then again, the realization on my part of the age-difference between myself and more than a few of my colleagues.
"Cheers?" I said, hoping for a spark of recognition.
"Uh-huh ..." she said. And then, "Oh! Was that her name? I watched that show."
Oh, thank God. I felt much better. But it was a fleeting feeling because I went back to my office, it took me a good five minutes to remember the name of Ted Danson's character.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
My first thought was of the shirt bearing the name of our vacation spot, Undisclosed Location. But, thanks to weather this past weekend that was in the 70s and ideal for a visit to Undisclosed Location (did I mention we are anticipating snow today?), said shirt is in the wash. And The Dean only does laundry once a week 'round here.
(Yes. That's not a typo. THE DEAN does the laundry. All of it. At least five loads of it. The sorting, the washing, the folding, the putting-away. Every weekend. This must be what being a kept woman feels like.)
There are the sweatshirts from Cape May, gifts from Mom-Mom and Grandpop. They are nowhere to be found ... and, I suspect, too small.
That left a sweatshirt emblazoned with SEATTLE on it as Boo's option. "Where's Seattle?" he asked.
"It's a city in Washington," we replied.
"Like GEORGE Washington!" my presidential-enthusiast whooped. Indeed. Yes.
"Have I been there?" he asked.
"No. But Mommy has a friend who lives near there. And one who used to live there." (Hi, C.'s mommy! Hi, Rachel Cole!)
The Seattle shirt came from the Philadelphia suburbs, from an awesome rummage sale that is organized by the area's Mothers of Multiples group.
Selecting a geographically-correct shirt from Betty's wardrobe proved to be more challenging, because it needed to meet her #1 criteria: Must. Be. Pink.
I looked in Boo's closet to see if there was anything that strayed over there when we moved into this house (a year ago tomorrow!) And eureka ... there it was! A tie-dyed shirt, emblazoned with Arkansas!
"It's piiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnkkkkkkkkkkkkk!!!!" Betty squealed. "And look Mommy, look, it's purple, and has a bunch of other colors too!!! I love it."
I made a mental note to genuflect before Aunt R. and Uncle J. when we see them this weekend, for THIS shirt comes to us courtesy of Aunt R., who proffered it to us when son J. got too big for said shirt. I explained that Uncle J. had traveled a lot to Arkansas for his job and he had gotten this shirt for J. (who Betty adores). When J. got too big for it, the shirt came to us. It's short-sleeves, and thus out of the question for Boo to wear. But perfect for Betty. Because it has pink in it.
The point of this long post (besides warming up my brain for some writing that I need to do work-wise, and serving as a distraction from an important meeting that I have this afternoon) is that Geography Awareness Day has made me aware of one thing: we don't go anywhere. Our vacations are to Undisclosed Location - because we're a) cheap and b) thankful that I was born into a family with an aunt and uncle who have a home there. We also don't buy souvenir t-shirts. I never really saw the point of that, since said shirt is going to be outgrown eventually.
Maybe that's the point of Geography Awareness Day. That we gotta get out of our comfort zone and GO someplace.
Or ... not. Most likely, our travels will take us to Undisclosed Location again. And exploring what's in our own backyard ... and closets.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I often refer to many of the 4 years, 9 months and 27 days since we received Boo's autism diagnosis as "the black hole years." While things have gotten easier in many, many aspects there are times when we still feel like we are right back at Day One. More often than not, we're pleasantly surprised at the outcome of whatever it was that triggered those black-hole emotions. Other times ... well, we might as well have never left the developmental pediatrician's office. And many times, we don't know what type of outcome to expect.
Yesterday was one of those days.
The theater where Boo takes acting lessons is known as "The Black Box." And indeed, that's exactly what it is. It's small, probably accommodating only 150 people at a time. It's dark. Everything - the stage, the floor, the seats, the walls - is all black. You take your seat not really knowing what to expect and how this show is going to play out on what seems like a very small stage.
The Dean and I sat in the front row of The Black Box yesterday for Opening Afternoon of Boo's theatrical debut. No doubt we were more nervous than Boo was. What if he forgot his two lines? What if he had a meltdown prior to the performance and refused to go on? What if his sensory sensitivities became overwhelming and he couldn't do this? All that mattered, we said, was that he had fun - and indeed he did seem to have fun each Saturday of the last two months of acting class. I would think, I said to The Dean, that if the director had any doubts about Boo's ability to do this, we might have heard about them before now.
The curtain went up, and Boo was curled up, Mole #3-like, almost in hibernation, for the opening number. Tapping his feet, bopping to the music, he suddenly popped up, dancing and singing with the chorus. He has two lines, and one of them is delivered with such enthusiasm and passion as the show builds to its finale. At times, he is one of the loudest singers in the songs he is part of.
I watched the production yesterday - twice - and each time, I saw simultaneous scenes. The scene from the developmental pediatrician's office 1,762 days ago when we were told that Boo had "clinical features of autism spectrum disorder." Who couldn't tell us what to expect from this child sitting in the corner, lining up his cars. This same child, banging his head against our couch and gnawing on the hinges of the entertainment unit. The same child whose sensory issues would have prevented him from even stepping into The Black Box, much less performing in one of its productions.
I thought about the nurse practitioner who suggested that, because of his echolalic talents and ability to memorize copious amounts of information, that we consider getting him into acting. About the floortime therapist who we had spent three years worth of Saturdays with, getting him to engage with us and show us what was going on in his imagination. About the speech therapists, the teachers, the OTs, who developed creative and innovative techniques for calming him and getting him through his day - and making ours just a little bit more manageable.
And I thought about my own Black Box, that internal parental GPS containing all the hopes and dreams one has for a child in-utero and in infancy. How it was smashed to smithereens that January day and how, since then, we've painstakingly picked up piece by miniscule piece to try and create a life for Boo where - to use a phrase I wrote constantly when I worked for a residential facility for kids and adults with disabilities - he could reach his full potential.
Boo's Black Box isn't completely assembled yet, but then again, who among us can say that ours is? All I know is that yesterday showed me the power of surprise, the reward of hard work, and how so many people deserve to bask in the spotlight and the sound of applause while taking a bow.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
From Autism Vox on 11/10/08:
I Care, We Care, and Teaching Them to Care
and again on Autism Vox on 11/12/08:
Say It Isn't So, Cookie (Veggie?) Monster!
From Unclutterer on 11/10/08: Amazon Introduces "Frustration-Free Packaging"
From Mid-Century Modern Moms on 11/12/08: a hilarious post called Does EVERYONE Have a Blog?
From We Are THAT Family on 11/13/08: It Happened to Me is a reminder for all of us.
From Notes from the Trenches on 11/13/08: Fourteen
My friend Robin writes the blog simple.green.organic.happy, and today she has a link to FAO Schwarz's site where you can design your own Muppet! Boo just got such a kick out of this. Hours of online entertainment for the kids, provided that you don't click "Add to Cart."
I'm not sure where I found this, but it's a good read anyway: 50 Things You Might Not Know About Barack Obama.
Friday, November 14, 2008
But still, it doesn't change the fact that I. Want. MYFREAKINGBOWLOFICECREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seriously, people. This high-cholesterol thing might be the end of me. I've decided to try eating the Mediterranean diet way. Here's what I had to eat today:
Breakfast: Dunkin' Donuts Egg White Veggie Flatbread, Hash Browns (I know ... my bad), and more coffee
Morning snack: Bear Naked granola; water
Lunch: Small container of tuna salad from Wawa (not low in cholesterol) and almonds
Afternoon-drive-home snack: 4 carrots, 2 cauliflower florets, 2 broccoli florets, almonds
Dinner: Greek salad, no dressing; some chicken; water
Not all that great, huh? As for exercise, I danced around the family room with Hannah Montana (oh, I mean Betty) for about 15 minutes. Does that count? Oh, and I also walked up three flights of stairs to tell a co-worker something that I could have just as easily called him about. And do I get any points if I really wanted to take a walk around my college today, but couldn't because it was drizzling? Huh? Do I?
I'm trying to look at the positives of this (y'know, besides that little notion of being healthier and the potential of living longer).
Only 8 more hours till I can have oatmeal for breakfast! Whoo hoo!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I got home from work a bit earlier than usual, scoring me some points with Betty who plaintively asked me this morning if I could be home for dinner tonight. Dinner was prepared foods from Giant (rotisserie chicken, mac and cheese, stuffing, and cinnamon baked apples). I was feeling all pleased with myself - having just completed a great event today at work, relishing the thought of the house to myself for a few minutes, and dinner being done.
I played the answering machine message.
"Um, Betty and Boo's Mommy?" the recorded voice said. "Yeah, this is M. from Your Doctor's office and your total cholesterol is 221, your triglyerides are 157, and your LDL is 150."
Damn, guess that means no macaroni and cheese for Mommy tonight, I thought. Some quick Internet research (I know, I know ... ) tells me that while these numbers aren't horrible they could certainly stand some improvement. Nothing good ever comes from borderline-high cholesterol. Clearly some dietary adjustments are in order, and the irony isn't lost on me that I am, by far, the healthiest eater in the Betty and Boo household. The Dean's diet consists of pizza, pasta, and Diet Sprite. His cholesterol is "picture perfect."
I want what he's having.
And what he was just having was a bowl (OK, a mug) of Edys. Up until this afternoon, I would have been joining him in enjoying a nocturnal bowl of Cookies and Cream. This is what we do - every night. One of us will ask the other if he or she wants ice cream; inevitably the answer is yes. One of us will scoop the ice cream, one, two, three scoops, and over ice cream we'll talk, surf the Internet, or watch episodes of "Dallas" that aired while John Lennon was still alive singing about peace and love.
So, no more ice cream for me (or at least, not every night).
I should be grateful - and I am - for having The Dean right here in the family room at all. Not to mention the Betty who is sleeping on the sofa as I blog, and the Boo who is upstairs wrapped in a blanket "like a burrito" (a low-fat one, natch). So it really shouldn't matter that I need to restrain my ice cream and mac and cheese consumption. It's a small morsel to pay in return for the possibility of a few extra years with them at all.
But damn, that bowl of ice cream looks really good ....
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
On Chesil Beach is an incredibly poignant and sad story about a young couple on their wedding night who bring all their fears and apprehensions to the honeymoon suite. Initially, this seems to be a simplistic tale, but as the reader (or, in my case, the listener) gets drawn into the story, it's impossible not to be caught up in the complexities of Edward and Florence's unspoken emotions. The novel takes place over just three hours, but that's plenty of time to lead the couple to a life-changing conclusion.
This is a story about the consequences of things left unsaid and how such silences have the power to alter the course of one's life. It's a fascinating premise, this idea that the slightest decision can change things forever. While listening to this story, I couldn't help but think of this Barbra Streisand song that I chose to be among those sung as part of the prelude music before The Dean and I were married. (Note that I write that I chose the song. The Dean had a say in the matter, but I was pretty insistent on this song being included, so it became a non-issue.)
So often as I wait for sleep I find myself reciting
The words I've said or should have said
Like scenes that need rewriting
The smiles I never answered, doors perhaps I should have opened
Songs forgotten in the morning
I relive the roles I've played, the tears I may have squandered
The many pipers I have paid along the roads I've wandered
Yet all the time I knew it, love was somewhere out there waiting
Though I may regret a kiss or two ...
If I had changed a single day, what went amiss or went astray
I may have never found my way to you ...
~ Barbra Streisand, "On My Way to You"
I enjoyed this story and as an audiobook, it works well - especially with McEwan himself as the narrator. I particularly like when the author narrates his or her own work. Doing so allows the listener to get caught up in the author's enthusiasm and emotion. At the end of the audiobook is an interview with McEwan about the story, which is enjoyable to listen to also.
Monday, November 10, 2008
But tonight was the night. The tooth is sitting on her night table, awaiting the Tooth Fairy's visit. It's not under her pillow because the Tooth Fairy knows how much of a restless sleeper Betty can be and I convinced Betty that the Tooth Fairy would be very appreciative of not having to look too hard for it. She's likely exhausted, having worked her day job - in this economy, you know, this business of doling out cash for teeth isn't the most lucrative line of work, so the Tooth Fairy has some bills to pay.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I was very, very impressed with Mia. She's going places. Extremely articulate and self-assured for an 11-year old, her presentation was on-par with some that I've seen in my professional life. She brought several items to sell, and we snapped up a bunch of her creations. I bought this necklace that is worthy of wearing to a $150 per plate luncheon that I need to attend tomorrow as part of my job. I bought Betty this necklace and bracelet set as an early birthday present.
You can check out Mia's work here at her online shop, Mia's Magic Makings.
More and more frequently, the kids are selecting chapter books from the library to read independently and with each library visit I am more cognizant that our days of reading picture books are dwindling. One of my favorite parts of being a Mom - and frankly, one of the reasons I commute home 2 hours each night instead of staying overnight at my mom's - is reading a picture book to the kids each night during snacktime.
So I've been trying to select the best of the best picture books that we haven't read, to make sure that a great, classic book doesn't pass us by. To that end, I'm very glad we didn't miss In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.
Truth be told, I'm not a big fan of Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. It just never held any appeal for me, nor the kids. So I was somewhat ambivalent about In the Night Kitchen, but we checked it out anyway and read it last night.
Elicting gales of laughter, In the Night Kitchen is now among Betty and Boo's favorites. It's a charming tale about a boy named Mickey who dreams that he falls through his bedroom floor to the night kitchen below where bakers are concocting the "morning cake." Mickey assists by transforming the cake batter into an airplane and, flying across the Milky Way, is able to procure some milk, enabling the bakers to make the cake. Betty and Boo were engulfed in hysterical laughter while I read this book. It is not going back to the library anytime soon.
Neglectful Mommy that I am, I only realized this afternoon that to my horror, I read a controversial book to my kids last night. Yes, there are apparently two bones of contention with Sendak's book. While falling through the night kitchen in his dream, Mickey's pajamas disappear and his little-boy nakedness is illustrated with full-frontal view. Apparently this has caused some consternation among folks and continues to do so (despite the book's publication date in 1996). I must say that while I noticed this detail, it wasn't one that the kids or I were obsessed about. One of them might have said, "Oh my God, he's naked!" but in my view, this is much P.C. ado about nothing. Lighten the hell up, people.
The other controversary, it seems, concerns the baking of the "morning cake." In addition to the little kid's nekkidness, there's much hue and cry about a book for children that seemingly promotes the notion of eating cake for breakfast. (Bill Cosby's classic comedic routine of chocolate cake for breakfast comes to mind.) Well, I've got a news flash for the whack jobs that are so concerned about this book making toddlers want to eat cake for breakfast: that notion is ingrained in kids from the moment of conception. Call me cynical, call me jaded, but I can tell you that no book has ever been responsible for the lightbulb moment in a child's mind that tells him or her to torture their parents by whining for chocolate cake for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner). If anything, it promotes the idea to kids that cooking is fun.
We loved this book for its delightful, imaginative concept that there are bakers who whip up cake for our breakfasts while we we sleep and for Mickey's ability to magically enter that world. I'm glad I didn't know about the so-called controversy before checking this out; otherwise, it could very well have been among those books that we passed by while on our way to the chapter books shelves.
When we moved into this house, The Dean insisted that we get wireless Internet access - which ranks among the best decisions he has ever convinced me of. (Yeah, it might rank higher than his marriage proposal, which was pretty creative in its own right.)
With The Dean's new job came a laptop. I resisted it at first - much like the concept of driving a minivan or SUV - hating the cursor, hating a lot about it. But, as I started to use it for work and fun, I liked it. A lot. And so did the kids, discoving the wonders of Nickjr.com and the myriad world of online games featuring Dora and the Wonderpets and God knows what else. By this point, the constant fights over who was on the computer when and for how long were starting to drive The Dean and I nuts, so we invested in a second laptop - which became mine and the kids' computer, with The Dean using it for viewing Yankees games online.
Boo has become a prolific writer, banging out a novella a day on the laptop. (I'm not kidding; many of his stories are upwards of 50 or more pages, typed, in 8 pt. font). Betty has discovered Shelfari.com, working with Mommy to create a page with her favorite books. And then there's the online sites we frequent and these little blogs of ours.
You get the idea that we're rather dependent on our laptops here in the Betty and Boo home.
Last night, my laptop was moments away from exploding. Literally. The machine had been acting oddly and was becoming increasingly problematic. The Dean - who is very gifted in matters of electronics - discovered that the cord was frayed and the wires were protruding. And, as he discovered such, sparks flew out from said wires. It could have caused a fire, and potentially when we weren't home (as I tend to keep the laptop plugged in and on frequently, having little patience for irksome procedures like logging in.)
This is a long way of saying that we're down one laptop in this house and my blog entries and commentary on yours might be less frequent than of late. I'm guessing a few won't care, and a few might be incredibly relieved. Hopefully the problem will be solved with a trip to Circuit City today.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Sasha and Malia Obama.
They're moving, you know. Into the real White House. (As opposed to the fake one.) I think this is of interest to Betty because of our move to a new state a year ago, which also coincided with a new job for Daddy. Betty's also in the same age range and shares several of the same interests. Kind of like how I could relate oh-so-well to Amy Carter's penchant for reading.
This morning at breakfast, Betty again brought up the fact that Sasha and Malia will be moving on January 20.
"And John McCain is moving into the White House with them?" she asked.
"No, it doesn't work that way," I said.
"Well, where is John McCain going to live?"
"That's not going to be a problem," I assured her. "You see, John McCain has seven houses."
"WHAT??!!" she exclaimed, in that dramatic way that only an almost-7-going-on-17 year old can do. "Seven houses! Do people know that John McCain owns seven houses?"
"Yup. And that is a problem for some people, because you have to have a lot of money to have seven houses. Do most people have seven houses?"
"Uh ... noooooo," she said, rolling her eyes.
"How many houses do we have?"
Betty pondered this revelation for a moment and then made a prediction.
"I think this is going to be in the newspaper tomorrow."
The Dean is at work and the kids and I are rockin' out to Miley/Hannah's new CD, "Breakout" as I type. Yes, at 7:10 a.m. on a Saturday morning.
There's not enough coffee in the world....
Actually, Miley's not that bad. This is very listenable. (Says Mommy, recalling the days of "Barney" with a shudder).
What's especially cool about this is that Betty is listening while reading the liner notes to this CD. Love that.
Friday, November 7, 2008
And today comes word that President-elect Obama has already had to apologize for a remark he made - this in regards to Nancy Reagan and her penchant for consulting astrologers about her husband's schedule.
However, what I find weird in this article explaining Obama's gaffe and the various First Ladies who have dabbled in these doings is this:
Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was rumored to have held seances at the White House in order to contact her two dead sons, Eddie and Willie. She also reportedly went to seances under an assumed name after the president's death to attempt to contact him.
Those of you who know me in real life will take note of the names of Mary Todd Lincoln's sons.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
When I started this blog almost three months ago, I didn't know what it would become. I still don't. What I do know is that it has become so much fun. It's brought me back in touch with a few folks who I haven't been in contact with much over recent years. I also realized just how much I really missed writing. (I had been on a bit of a hiatus since the kids were born.) I do a lot of writing in my professional life, which I am very fortunate to do, but this is different.
As Ben Franklin says, "If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing."
So, thanks for reading. I'll try to continue to do things worth writing.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
"So how can we get tickets to the inauguration?" the woman asked my boss.
Laughing, we said that we had just been talking about my being at President Clinton's inauguration on a frigid January 20, 1993. The Dean had been running for a local office at the time and because of his campaign and our volunteering for the Clinton team, we were able to be part of a bus trip to Washington that day. (We almost didn't go; with only one of us working and the other in graduate school and a wedding a few months away, $40 was a lot of money at the time.)
"Oh, wow, that must have been something," the woman said.
Yes, it was, I said, joking that we really didn't see much and that we spent more time trying to stay warm and finding some food to eat. But still, a great experience.
"A bus trip, yes, that would be perfect!" my boss' friend said. "But I don't want to just go, I want to be there. I've worked so, so hard for this."
"You really did," my boss agreed. "So many people worked so hard. I almost didn't believe it last night. I couldn't believe it ...."
The woman sat down at our table and we began talking, the three of us, our voices tripping over one another.
"When Pennsylvania went for Obama - "
"And then Ohio ..."
"Virginia was really incredible to see -"
"I was crying!"
"Oh, I couldn't stop ... it was just something truly amazing."
And then I looked at this woman, this African-American woman who I felt like I'd known forever but only for a few moments. My boss apologized for needing a reminder of her name - Brenda, she said - as they exchanged phone numbers and emails.
"I really hope we can get a bus trip organized," Brenda said. "I've worked so, so hard for this."
Yes, you have, Brenda. You most certainly have.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
"That guy is going to be President someday," I said. The Dean was, to put it mildly, less than convinced of such.
At 11:12 p.m., as we await Obama's acceptance speech, today is someday.
Regardless of who you're supporting, get out there today and vote.
And if you're really undecided, feel free to write in Boo's name for President. He didn't receive a single vote in his classroom election for Class President. He's taking it well, though, and has promised to bridge party lines and work with the winners - a first-grader named Jacqueline and her VP, Erik. Boo, meanwhile, is assembling his campaign team for 2012 and gratefully accepting campaign donations.
But seriously ... go out and vote, regardless of your feelings on this election, regardless of the weather, regardless of your busy schedule. Take the kids, as we are planning to do (assuming their behavior improves this morning).
Just do it.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
From Publishers Weekly: Ripe with Southern charm and sultry atmosphere, West's diverting and funny latest unravels the tangled gossamer web of an eccentric extended Southern family. At the heart of the novel is Renata DeChavannes, who has a pretty full plate: a tabloid ran a story about her longtime film director boyfriend's possible on-set fling with an actress; her mother and step-father died in a plane crash five months ago; her father is about to marry his fourth wife (a squeaky-voiced young thang named Joie); and she's just found a letter written by her mother instructing her to ferret out her mother's dirty secrets. So Renata heads to her Gulf Coast Alabama hometown, where her indomitable grandmother Honora DeChavannes; steadfast former nanny Gladys Boudreax; and Honora's longtime friend and former actress, Isabella D'Agostina McGeehee, live.
Intrigued by the title, cover design, and plot, I picked this up from the New Releases shelf of the library. Alas, I only wish what was between the covers was as interesting. The symbolism of the mermaids is woven throughout (mermaid clips worn in one's hair is repeated several times) and at times gets a bit too heavy-handed. After 280 pages, I'm still somewhat confused as to the meaning behind the title; I get the idea behind the mermaids (I think ...) but "in the basement" has me stumped. The cover design also doesn't relate to any of the storylines - again, at least not that I could tell.
What I did like about this book was West's characters. She does a great job of depicting several memorable, strong, Southern women, particularly Honora and Isabella. As the protagonist of the novel, however, Renata isn't nearly as well-developed and defined as some of the others, which is a disappointment. Throughout the entire novel, I couldn't get the movie "Steel Magnolias" out of my mind; if this is ever optioned for a film, my bet is that they reunite Shirley MacLaine and Olympia Dukakis for this one.
There are also WAY too many characters in this novel - and they've all got something to say. Mermaids in the Basement is told by many, many points of view. For that reason alone, this is a book to read when you have an unlimited, uninterrupted amount of time. This is not a novel that can be read for a few moments before drifting off to sleep, for you will instantly forget what transpired, who did what to whom, who told you about it, and how they're all related.
I'm giving this 2.5 stars (out of 5) because there were parts of the book that I liked - the characters, and the descriptions of Point Clear, Alabama are very well-done. It's also very true to the genre of Southern fiction, which I enjoy. However, having the book told in multiple points of view, the "too-neatly-tied-up-and-too-hastily-of-an-ending," and the disconnected-ness of several of the storylines holds this one back from being a truly enjoyable read.
(This is the 23rd book I've read in 2008. My goal was to read 25 books this year.)
Here's what other bloggers had to say:
Natasha from Maw Books Blog
Saturday, November 1, 2008
The reason why i want to be President is because i do not want to be cought by Sirhan Sirhan. i want to be a good President. i can help children in Ms. C.'s class. i will not lie to any kid in the whole entire world. i want to be the best President in the country. i want to win 8 years. i want to be just like Ronald Reagan! Love, Boo XOXO
I'm not exactly certain if Boo's teacher knows who Sirhan Sirhan is, to be honest. Oh, and did I mention that the winning candidate gets to have lunch with the principal?
I'm betting that Boo may be having a chat with the principal regardless. Either that, or he's going to be calling us to find out how an almost-7 year old is aware not only of the fact of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated but of the name of the individual (Sirhan Sirhan) doing the assassination.
I was first introduced to Terkel's work in one of my college courses called "Work and Love," the premise of which was that these are the two main components of one's life ... or something like that. It's been 20 years since that class, so forgive me for not remembering the purpose exactly. But it was one of the best classes I'd ever had, partially because we read great books such as The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm and Studs Terkel's Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.
Working was published in 1974 and was on the required reading list for my sociology class in 1988. I remember being fascinated by his ability to, as the Tribune writes, "get to the heart of what people really thought and felt about the work they do every day. " I can't remember if we were required to read the whole book or only selected portions, but I read the whole thing and still have it on my bookshelf today. (A couple months ago, a coworker - who is younger than me by several years - saw it on my credenza in my office and exclaimed, "Oh, my God, I love Studs Terkel!" We talked about how a book published in 1974 could still be relevant in 2008.)
He had a devotion to his wife for 60 years that mirrored the concepts that we were learning about in that college class long ago. Anyone who has been in the situation of losing a loved one after six decades of marriage can relate to Terkel's words, as written in today's Chicago Tribune tribute:
"It's hard. It's very hard," he said the day she died. "She was seven days older than me, and I would always joke that I married an older woman. That's the thing: Who's gonna laugh at my jokes? At those jokes I've told a million times? That's the thing ... ... Who's gonna be there to laugh?"
Those of us who are watching the fading away of loved ones in similar situations can sense Terkel's heartbreak.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Terkel has a book coming out this month ("P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening,") which I'd learned about several weeks ago and added to my plan-to-read list.
Recently, Terkel seemed to be living in two worlds - that of this life and one where, according to
The Chicago Tribune's literary editor, Elizabeth Taylor "...the shadows were closing in. To touch his arms was to feel a living skeleton. He displayed a mind still sharp with its ability to recall names and dates and places from his lengthy and storied past. But he was facing the future too."Remember those old Ivory soap commercials, 'Ivory Soap, 99.44 percent pure '? Well, I am 99.44 percent dead," he said."
Rest in peace, Studs. Your work here is done and will continue to be loved.
"Yes," he replied. "I'd make a good class president because I won't get killed."