Thursday, December 20, 2007

Things I love about my office

For the first time in my life, it's just the office, not The Office.

Every year around this time, holiday festiveness breaks out to the extent that it seems no corner of our floor is left un-festooned with blinking lights and garland and tiny fake Christmas trees and assorted other glittery junk you can buy at Walgreen's.

The assortment of leftover homemade cookies, cake and not one, but TWO crock pots filled with Swedish meatballs--the remnants of yesterday's Yankee Swap--is seemingly undiminished even though dozens of people have been picking at it all day.

This year I actually scored a cool and useful Yankee Swap gift--a new crock pot! (You can sense a trend here.) Maybe I'll use it to make Swedish meatballs for next year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Things I'm going to try to do, and not do, in 2008

1. Savor every moment with my Peanut before she outgrows wanting to hang out with me. She says "I love you" to me and Mr. Fraulein all the time now. There is nothing like being loved by a 3-year-old!

2. Cut down my news consumption even more. If you had told me, back in the mid-90s when I was an actual member of the news media, that I would eventually stop reading newspapers and watching TV news altogether, I would have said you were insane. I still read a few blogs and lefty-leaning news sites but I think even that, I'm going to cut down on. This is because I now truly believe the thing I said for years I would never believe--that no politician of either party will ever truly effect positive change.

3. Try to do good, concretely. While can't do a goddamn thing about Iraq or Darfur, for example, I can do little things in my own community. I live in a fairly wealthy area where there are an increasing number of homeless, along with people with homes who can't afford both heating oil and food. So I can bring food to our local food pantry. I can volunteer when they serve meals. I can gather up clothes and coats and shoes we no longer use, and I can bring them there so they can give them out to people who have much less than we do. And I can try to reduce our family's energy footprint by bringing my own bags to the supermarket, replacing our old lightbulbs with the newer, more efficient ones, and simply trying not to buy more plastic crap than we truly need. Oh, and not driving too much, which we already do a pretty good job at.

4. Read more, eat healthier, drink red wine, see friends, get outside. Enjoy life. Enough said.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I have no idea how this happened

but in less than three weeks I'm going to be 39 years old. It's unnerving how you turn around one day and go, holy crap, somewhere along the line I managed to get old. I can't look at myself in the mirror anymore when I am holding the Peanut, because the contrast of her glowing, gorgeous, pore-free golden skin (thanks to her mix of Asian/Mediterranean skin tones) with my, well, almost-39-year-old skin, makes me look like the Crypt Keeper.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The test of time

Once you've been friends with someone for 10 or 15 or 20 years, the friendship develops concentric circles, like a tree. You share a common history from many distinct stages of your life, and if you're very lucky, new histories emerge and you retain the richness of the connection you've shared over the years, while layering new memories over the old.
I think of this often when I get to spend time with some old friends who I don't see all that often, as Mr. Fraulein and I were able to do this weekend. The couple who came to see us, bringing their 3- and almost-7-year-old girls in tow, have been part of my life since before they were even a couple. Their relationship began and strengthened during pool parties in my parents' backyard in the 90s. We shared college connections and friend-of-co-worker connections. Other friends came into and out of the group over the years. People broke up; others got married and had kids. The circles broke apart, then re-formed.
And here we were all these many years and crises and joys later, three kids giggling and singing and refusing to go to sleep in the back bedroom, howling with laughter over things that happened a million lifetimes ago.
Writing new histories. Adding new circles.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Eventually, Christmas catalogs will show up in June

The Christmas shopping gods have not been smiling on me this year. Of course, since I don't have a huge family, it's not like I'm buying for 40 people, but still...I started my online shopping, catalog-calling, and mall-visiting right after Thanksgiving, as I always do. I should have figured something would go wrong this year, though, when the catalogs started arriving before Halloween. (Every year it gets earlier.)

And that's when the denials and qualifications started coming in. Want a hat and gloves for a little boy? In red? Whoever heard of such a thing! You would have thought I was searching for, I don't know, a life size statue of a penguin or something. The little red hat and gloves took several stores' worth of searching to unearth. Want a tie for another little boy? That's backordered until February. Here's your Christmas present, kid -- oh, and happy Valentine's Day!

Don't even get me started on the kids' fancy holiday outfits. These, you must buy in August, if you expect to find your child's size in stock. It's the same phenomenon I've noticed with kids' bathing suits -- if you shop for those much later than May, you're shit out of luck.

Now I need to find a whistling tea kettle for my mom, which I'm expecting to find at Kohl's, but still, you never know. I'll probably go in there this week and find nothing but tumbleweeds and a couple of broken ornaments on the floor, like in Cindy Lou Who's house after the Grinch stole everything.

Photo credit: "Christmas Shopping" by Lisa Kibble (This woman's artwork is really cool -- check it out!)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Your Republican party

Can we expect to see a Willie Horton-style commercial skewering Mike Huckabee for this atrocity?

My guess is no, because the Democratic party never, ever fights back. Here's an issue handed to them on a silver platter -- the Republicans are supposed to be the tough-on-crime party, right? -- and I'd bet my whole bank account that they won't touch it. They wouldn't want to seem impolite.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Wrong on about six levels

The asshats at the "Weekly Standard" have done a cover story on England's Conservative party titled "Not Your Father's Tories." According to Blogging Woolf, the cover illustration that goes with this story is a picture of Virginia Woolf wearing, for some incomprehensible reason, an ice hockey uniform.

Where to begin with how wrong this is? How about the fact that she and the rest of the Bloomsbury circle were so far to the left that they'd be considered Communists today? If I had to guess, I'd say the magazine chose to make the Woolf reference because her famous father, Sir Leslie Stephen, was marginally more conservative, but even this I'd say is a stretch. A prime example of journalists not bothering to do any research and not caring that they look stupid as a result.

UPDATE: Blogging Woolf has run a correction -- it turns out the Virginia-in-an-ice-hockey-uniform graphic is not supposed to be linked to the story about the Tories, but to a review of a book called "The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm." This makes sense, because of Woolf's famous remark that "human character changed" in 1910.

The ice hockey outfit is still a mystery, however.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cool Christmas shopping ideas

In my quest for fun, engaging, and lead-free toys for the Peanut and all the other kids on my Christmas list this year, I've found some great options online. For a mind-boggling array of craft items, toys, artwork, jewelry, and tons of other stuff made by individual artists all over the world, check out Etsy.

More ideas for toys (many of them made by moms) are at CoolMomPicks.

And yet more amazing toys, kids' furniture, and more, can be found at Oompa. Happy shopping!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving long weekend by the numbers

Pounds of turkey consumed chez Fraulein: 10

Home improvement projects completed with help from the Peanut's very industrious Pop-Pop: 1 (Waxing our hardwood floors!)

Pumpkin dessert items demolished: 2 (Nana's pumpkin pie and my cream cheese frosted pumpkin cake)

Hours of Caillou DVDs watched by the Peanut: Countless

Christmas decorating tasks completed: Zero, because I ran out of energy

Babies visited: 2: my friend Christine's charming four-month-old twins, who the Peanut loved hanging out with, along with the twins' big brother, who is almost 3 and likes to pretend to be a Power Ranger. Or Buzz Lightyear, or something. All those superheroes that the little boys like seem the same to me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

But did he survive?

Actual AP headline from today:

Student Slain to Death Near U of Chicago

Monday, November 19, 2007

Secrets of the toddler brain

If somebody could figure out a magic formula for unlocking the secrets of the toddler brain, they'd undoubtedly make a fortune. We are slogging through some Terrible Threes lately, with the Peanut suddenly careening from a (relatively) reasonable mood to a screeching horror show in 10 seconds or less. She becomes enraged over minor things, throws fits if we don't understand her cryptic requests ("I want the white thing with the yellow things on it!! I WANT IT! I WANT IT!") and, perhaps most frustrating of all, changes her mind every two to three minutes. She wants pancakes. Then she wants a bagel. Then the bagel is the most disgusting thing she's ever seen.

There was a cartoon in the paper yesterday that showed a man and a woman heading out their front door with several suitcases, while a small boy stood nearby. The father was holding a bag full of cash out to a young woman and saying, "Jenny, at your normal babysitting rate, this should cover us for two years."

This weekend was that kind of weekend. The kind of Toddler Terror Experience that makes you wonder whether there are any boarding schools for 3-year-olds, perhaps in France.

I just wish I knew what was going on in that little head. Thankfully this morning, after a solid night's sleep, relative calm was restored. And on the ride in to school she even said, I swear, this:

"Mommy, when I'm big, I'm gonna feel different. That happens."

Yes indeedy, you will feel different. You and your parents too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The nosebleed

You could pretty much have gone your whole life without being roused from a dead sleep in the early morning hours by hearing your 3-year-old screaming: "MOMMY! BLOOD! BLOOD! MOMMY, COME HELP!"

But she is screaming exactly this, so you leap out of the bed like it's on fire, race down the hall. There she is, sitting up in bed, blood pouring out of her nose and down the front of her pajamas, soaking her pillow and sheets. You help her to get out of bed and stagger to the bathroom, where you somehow simultaneously hold a wad of tissues to her nose, strip off her clothes, and wash her bloody hands, face and arms. Vaguely in the midst of your toddler's sustained screaming and crying, you wonder why this happened. (Just the dry winter air? Who knows?) But it's impossible to spare much time to think about causes when she is still yelling, terrified, because she has no idea why she's bleeding. It must seem to her as though she is dying, although it's just a simple nosebleed, and it's already slowing down quite a bit.

"I'm cold," she keeps saying, because she has no pajamas on now, but she's shaking too hard at the moment for you to get new ones on her. Finally after many hugs, she calms down enough for you to get her dressed again. It is not helping that Daddy is off on a work trip, because most of the time, the cure for all ills is a healthy dose of Daddy.

Finally it is determined that she should sleep in the big bed with Mommy until it's time to get up, and this helps enormously. Solemnly she collects various stuffed animals and her favorite pink blankie from her room. You follow her back down the hall, carrying her butterfly night light and her sound machine, which plays the sounds of the ocean and the rain and a babbling brook.

She settles in on Daddy's side of the bed with a wad of tissue stuffed up one nostril. Her eyes remain open for a long time.

And it occurs to you that this is what you signed up for, when you decided to trash all the birth control and plow bravely ahead, having not the slightest clue what this entailed. You consider what you used to sometimes do at this hour of the morning back when you were single. You think about the late-night post-party diner gabfests, back in the wilds of New Jersey. There you would sit, slumped in a booth with three or six or 12 other people, mountains of omelets and bagels, gallons of coffee, a non-trivial hangover, and laughter that stretched on for hours.

At that time you could never have imagined this moment happening. It would have seemed as likely a future fate as walking on the moon. Now you cannot imagine a present without such moments. Because this little sniffling person lying next to you will sometimes need to have her tears or even blood mopped up, and you realize that you would shed your blood to stop those tears from flowing.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

All I have to say about Dennis Kucinich that if he somehow, against all odds, succeeds in his mission to rid us of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, I will vote for him for President even if his campaign platform states that he intends to dance naked under the full moon every month on the White House front lawn while scarfing down barbecued tofu with Shirley McLaine and E.T.

Go Dennis!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

'My country is the whole world'

In "Three Guineas," Virginia Woolf's primal scream about gender, war and terrorism, she proposes that women try to completely divorce themselves from the societal structures that perpetuate endless wars. She voices the fear that as women moved tentatively into the professional workforce (this was in 1938) we would become inextricably linked to those very societal structures. This was because women were so desperate to have opportunities for advancement outside the home that we would embrace even war-making industries, as long as they allowed us to escape the home by earning our own money.

So she proposes the idea that women should, essentially, opt out. That we should become what she calls "outsiders." Woolf's illustrations and analogies don't entirely hold true in 2007, and not simply because there were women among the brutes giving the thumbs-up over the bodies of dead Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. But they do point to something that I find intriguing. And that is the idea that if ordinary citizens--men as well as women--were to demand that our talents and treasure be devoted to building up our own country (fixing our schools and bridges, just for starters) rather than to carrying out extended bombing campaigns to demonstrate our might over the rest of the world, we might actually have a civilization here, instead of the '1984'/'Lord of the Flies' horror show we're living through right now. I think she's saying that maybe if we turn our backs on what is patently wrong, we might just have the energy to start making things right:

But the outsider will make it her duty not merely to base her indifference upon instinct, but upon reason. When he says, as history proves that he has said, and may say again, ‘I am fighting to protect our country’ and thus seeks to rouse her patriotic emotion, she will ask herself, ‘What does “our country” mean to me an outsider?’ To decide this she will analyse the meaning of patriotism in her own case. She will inform herself of the position of her sex and her class in the past. She will inform herself of the amount of land, wealth and property in the possession of her own sex and class in the present—how much of ‘England’ in fact belongs to her. From the same sources she will inform herself of the legal protection which the law has given her in the past and now gives her. And if he adds that he is fighting to protect her body, she will reflect upon the degree of physical protection that she now enjoys when the words ‘Air Raid Precaution’ are written on blank walls. And if he says that he is fighting to protect England from foreign rule, she will reflect that for her there are no ‘foreigners’, since by law she becomes a foreigner if she marries a foreigner. And she will do her best to make this a fact, not by forced fraternity, but by human sympathy. All these facts will convince her reason (to put it in a nutshell) that her sex and class has very little to thank England for in the past; not much to thank England for in the present; while the security of her person in the future is highly dubious. But probably she will have imbibed, even from the governess, some romantic notion that Englishmen, those fathers and grandfathers whom she sees marching in the picture of history, are ‘superior’ to the men of other countries. This she will consider it her duty to check by comparing French historians with English; German with French; the testimony of the ruled—the Indians or the Irish, say—with the claims made by their rulers. Still some ‘patriotic’ emotion, some ingrained belief in the intellectual superiority of her own country over other countries may remain. Then she will compare English painting with French painting; English music with German music; English literature with Greek literature, for translations abound. When all these comparisons have been faithfully made by the use of reason, the outsider will find herself in possession of very good reasons for her indifference. She will find that she has no good reason to ask her brother to fight on her behalf to protect ‘our’ country. ‘“Our country,”’ she will say, ‘throughout the greater part of its history has treated me as a slave; it has denied me education or any share in its possessions. “Our” country still ceases to be mine if I marry a foreigner. “Our” country denies me the means of protecting myself, forces me to pay others a very large sum annually to protect me, and is so little able, even so, to protect me that Air Raid precautions are written on the wall. Therefore if you insist upon fighting to protect me, or “our” country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits which I have not shared and probably will not share; but not to gratify my instincts, or to protect either myself or my country. For,’ the outsider will say, ‘in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.’ And if, when reason has said its say, still some obstinate emotion remains, some love of England dropped into a child’s ears by the cawing of rooks in an elm tree, by the splash of waves on a beach, or by English voices murmuring nursery rhymes, this drop of pure, if irrational, emotion she will make serve her to give to England first what she desires of peace and freedom for the whole world.

Such then will be the nature of her ‘indifference’ and from this indifference certain actions must follow. She will bind herself to take no share in patriotic demonstrations; to assent to no form of national self-praise; to make no part of any claque or audience that encourages war; to absent herself from military displays, tournaments, tattoos, prize-givings and all such ceremonies as encourage the desire to impose ‘our’ civilization or ‘our’ dominion upon other people. The psychology of private life, moreover, warrants the belief that this use of indifference by the daughters of educated men would help materially to prevent war. For psychology would seem to show that it is far harder for human beings to take action when other people are indifferent and allow them complete freedom of action, than when their actions are made the centre of excited emotion. The small boy struts and trumpets outside the window: implore him to stop; he goes on; say nothing; he stops. That the daughters of educated men then should give their brothers neither the white feather of cowardice nor the red feather of courage, but no feather at all; that they should shut the bright eyes that rain influence, or let those eyes look elsewhere when war is discussed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Appliance delivery shenanigans

So we recently bought a new front-loading washing machine, which we are loving. Delivery and installation went off without a hitch. We also bought a new dryer from the same store, and assumed this would be an equally uncomplicated process.

The first delivery date came and went, with the delivery people allegedly unable to find anywhere to park. So we rescheduled. Today they were supposed to try again, but their excuse was, and I quote, "We couldn't find the dryer to put it onto the truck."

One is tempted to ask whether these people can find their own ass with both hands, but I suppose that would be impolite. Meanwhile the old dryer takes an hour and a half to finish a full load of laundry. Environmentally unfriendly much? We are singlehandedly killing off the polar bears with all this excess energy use here at the House of Fraulein.

UPDATE: So once they finally showed up with the new dryer, we were told that the venting system we have in place (rigged up by God knows which inept previous resident of our house) is completely ass-backwards and as a result, every time we use the old dryer, we are in danger of burning the house down. (Good to know, since we've been using it for the last four years...) As a result they refused to set up the dryer until we can get competent professionals in to re-assemble the venting system. The fun continues...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


These are some of the people I've been:

A teenage kid with Jersey hair and 80s clothes, part of a gang of Jersey kids driving far too recklessly than anyone ever should, laughing our asses off at everything and nothing

A college student, transplanted from Boston to the U.K., studying Woolf at Oxford and thinking every moment I was there: I cannot ever leave this place

A Gen X college grad cut adrift in the middle of a lousy economy, begging every mediocre newspaper on the East Coast to give me a job

An extremely poorly paid reporter for some of North Jersey's most craptactular newspapers

A somewhat less poorly paid reporter for a reasonably-not-crappy newspaper, where I dashed off to fires and car crash scenes and, one memorable time, a gunpowder plant explosion (Headline: "KABOOM!")

A person who thought: I will never have children. I cannot abide the idea of giving birth. I can't imagine being a mother

A person who thought: Holy shit, I'm pregnant

Friday, October 12, 2007

Is there anybody alive out there?

More Bruce-y goodness from the new album lyrics:

(From Radio Nowhere)

I was spinnin' 'round a dead dial
Just another lost number in a file
Dancin' down a dark hole
Just searchin' for a world with some soul

This is radio nowhere,
is there anybody alive out there?

(From Livin' In the Future)

Woke up Election Day, skies gunpowder and shades of gray
Beneath a dirty sun, I whistled my time away
Then just about sundown
You come walkin' through town
Your boot heels clickin'
Like the barrel of a pistol spinnin' 'round

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Activist, poet, bard of New Jersey. Still a genius (and still hot!) after all these years. I'm loving the whole new album, especially the opening track, 'Radio Nowhere.'

Monday, October 08, 2007

Art imitates life

Over the past couple of years I've noticed that Halloween (which when I was a kid was essentially an excuse to dress up in silly outfits and eat dozens upon dozens of Reese's peanut butter cups, while hurling wads of wet toilet paper into the neighbors' trees) has morphed into something highly unsettling. Witness the fact that you can't enter any CVS-type store this month without being visually assaulted by all manner of gruesome displays, such as green-skinned zombie masks with eyeballs hanging out of them. Another delightful item I saw for sale this weekend: clear plastic posters with what are supposed to look like bloody handprints and other "blood-splatter" marks on them, which you're supposed to put up on your windows to give your house the air of having been the site of a mass chainsaw execution. Festive!

What the hell has happened to Halloween? Wasn't it originally supposed to be a kid's holiday? One kid who is having none of it is my Peanut, who had such a total freakout meltdown in the Walgreen's the other day that I literally had to carry her out as she screamed and screamed. For some perverse reason they had stocked many of their Halloween displays on shelves about three feet from the floor, meaning she was face-to-face with endless rows of gigantic rubber rats, Freddy Kreuger masks, fake rubber hands holding bloody knives, leering skeletons, etc. Now on top of everything else I have to worry about her being scarred for life by Halloween displays?

I've been thinking about this in light of this horrible torture porn horror movie trend of the past few years, which also unsettles me a great deal. I remember having a conversation about this with the manager of our local Hollywood Video, and trying to explain to the guy that there was no way I could bring my toddler into that store when every third DVD on the shelves was festooned with graphic photos of people being tortured. I was not sorry to see that, between Netflix and On-Demand cable movies, the Hollywood Video is about to close its doors, but the gross-out movie trend continues. And I've realized that maybe all this gruesomeness is about art imitating life.

You read enough stuff like this, and you start to think that when the Earth eventually gets its revenge on us, quite a few of us are going to deserve it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The best present I ever got

Dear Peanut:

Happy third birthday! I cannot believe how big you've gotten, and how utterly beautiful you are. I can't believe the way you talk, like a self-assured mini-adult in 3T clothing. How could I ever sum up in a letter or a blog post what your arrival meant--and continues to mean--to your daddy and me?
In every moment since I got my first glimpse of you (your tiny feet) I have been so blown away by the intensity of parenthood. I never imagined that I could feel the things I've felt since you came into the world. I can't put into words what I felt when I tried and tried, in those early days, to get you to latch on to my breast. The utter joy when we succeeded, the bleak sense of frustration when we failed. The look on your little angel face when you woke up in the middle of the night, anticipating a feeding. I will never forget that look! It was so hopeful.
How can I explain how much we've loved every minute of your life? How scrumptious you were as a chubby little baby? How astonished everyone was when you stood up and walked at 10 months? How funny it was when you danced and danced? How proud we were as you started doing more things on your own, from feeding yourself to climbing the jungle gym to even, most of the time now (praise Jesus!) using the potty.
Every day I'm so excited about what you'll do next. In every stage so far you've been a different person, and each one has been amazing to behold. You'll never know how happy you've made us by coming into our lives.
Three years ago today I got my best present ever, my amazing fabulous Peanut baby. Happy birthday, my sweet girl.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Out of the mouths of smart-alecky toddlers

The other day when I picked the Peanut up from day care, she came running up to me, flung her arms around my legs, and announced to all present, "I want to keep my mommy forever!" And birds sang and rainbows sparkled in the sunny skies, and I basked in the glories of motherhood.

This morning I went into her room to snuggle with her a little bit before we started our day. She took this opportunity to look deeply into my eyes and say, "I have a little butt and you have a big butt."


The bridges are falling down and the public schools have to beg for money to provide luxuries like paper and books and we should maybe think about doing something about this whole global warming thing before, you know, Manhattan disappears into the sea, and New Orleans and vicinity remain a moldy debris-covered hellhole because we never bothered to clean up after that little weather problem they had down there a couple of years ago, but hey, we still need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars shooting and bombing people (mostly civilians) who never harmed us.

Osama bin Laden must be laughing his ass off.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sprinting to safety

It was late in the afternoon, yesterday, and the Peanut and I were on our way back from one of our local playgrounds. She was in her stroller, where she doesn't always want to be, lately. She is getting so big -- she'll be 3 in a week! And now she wants to walk everywhere. But thank God yesterday she was in her stroller.

We were crossing a side street not far from our house. I glanced both ways before stepping into the intersection. I took a few steps and then I saw it: a tank of a gray Mercedes sedan, barreling down this suburban street at an unimaginable speed. (50, 60 mph?) I clutched the stroller handles and sprinted out of the way, reaching the sidewalk again a minute or two before the car came to a screeching halt, the smell of burnt rubber heavy in the air.

The driver and his passenger were talking, gesturing, not really paying attention. They turned right and sped off.

I pulled the stroller to the far end of the sidewalk, leaned against a building, tore my cell phone from my purse, called 911. The dispatcher told me a couple of times to slow down, because I was shaking with rage and she couldn't understand me. I was transferred to the local police department, and I gave them the license number, which I got a good look at before the car took off. The police told me they would look for the guy.

I called the police station back later in the evening and was told they were not able to find him.

What a metaphor, I thought. This is what it is to be alive now, and especially what it is to be a parent--always to be running for cover from some damn thing. Praying like hell that we're going to make it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Best writing seminar ever

I just came back from beautiful Washington, D.C., where I attended this workshop, which offered the best discussion on writing and editing in the corporate environment I've ever been lucky enough to take part in. Plus lots of jokes involving assless chaps.

As a special bonus, I got to hang out in the hotel bar on Monday night with the presenters, Steve Crescenzo and Jim Ylisela. If you ever get to go to one of these events, be sure to have a drink or two with them. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

America the Beautiful

Trinity Church was packed that day, six years ago. The swaying crowd sang many songs, among them "America the Beautiful." When we arrived at this stanza:

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

it was impossible to keep from sobbing. A stranger, an elderly man, sat next to me. We looked at each other and embraced as we sang and tried to wipe the tears from our eyes.

My hope for this Sept. 11 is that we all live long enough to one day see the "patriot dream" of America restored.

Monday, September 10, 2007

There is such a thing as a tesseract

Long before Harry, there were Meg and Charles Wallace, kid lit heroes for the ages. I've just read that Madeleine L'Engle, the author of the indescribably brilliant "Wrinkle in Time" series, has passed away at 88. I must have read those books a hundred times as a kid. God, they were amazing. In many ways "A Wind in the Door" is my favorite. I loved the cherubim, Proginoskes.

I still have my original editions, as a matter of fact. I cannot wait for the Peanut to read them.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My feelings exactly

This is brilliant -- both the diary and the many very insightful comments. I see I'm not the only one staying up nights.

Stay, Larry, stay!!!!

This is completely fabulous, for a number of reasons:

A: The longer Wide Stance Larry hangs around, clinging desperately to his Senate seat, the longer the cable teevee goofiness will continue, which means way less attention paid to the official lying about how awesomely the "surge" is going in Iraq, and

2: Should he somehow remain in office long enough to make it to the next election, it will give us the opportunity to pick up a Senate seat in freaking Idaho. Somewhere, Karl Rove is weeping.

Also, Larry gets bonus sheer-unadulterated-wackiness points for hiring Michael Vick's lawyer. (Because nothing says class like an association with a guy who electrocutes animals for fun.) At moments like this, I desperately regret leaving the newspaper business. Think of the snarky headline-writing opportunities!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Irony is officially dead

I just about drove off the road laughing when I heard this on the radio earlier: the sterling integrity of "World Wrestling Entertainment" has been compromised by steroid use.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Well, that didn't take long

Sooner or later in these GOP sex scandals, somebody comes up with a nice raunchy Dr. Seuss parody. ("I am not gay in my senator pants.") Awesome.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How long until he finds Jesus?

We have a Tom Tomorrow cartoon on our fridge that I just love. In the first frame, over an illustration of a stereotypical fat white Republican guy who happens to be in bed with a man, a woman, somebody dressed as a clown, and a giraffe, it says something to the effect of, "Should we assume that ALL moralizing right-wing Republicans are closet sexual libertines, or just some of them?" And the fat guy in the picture is checking his watch and saying, "Look at the time! I have to give a speech on traditional family values in an hour!"

I thought of this cartoon when I read about poor misunderstood Republican Sen. Larry Craig. What is he, like the 15th such Republican lawmaker caught with his pants down, so to speak? It's so hard to keep track.

Can Craig's discovery of a newfound devotion to his faith--or perhaps a trip to rehab--be far behind? (No pun intended.)

Monday, August 27, 2007


This weekend we got together with my parents to celebrate a couple of birthdays--my dad's 75th, and Mr. Fraulein's Birthday That Shall Not Be Named. We walked around the Mystic Aquarium in the tropical humidity, enjoying the seals and the penguins and the cownose rays and the beluga whale, and I got to thinking about fatherhood and the past.
First, my dad's past. Contained within the man my father is today--leaning on a cane, suddenly--are all the men he's been. The soldier going off to Korea, rakishly handsome, at 18. The hipster grinning out of the old photograph, slouching in his trim suit and skinny tie, a drink in his hand and my mother on his arm (skinny and elegant in a tight-waisted, flared 50s dress) in his 20s. The balding guy with the 5-o'clock shadow, the huge grin, and the toddler in his arms in his 30s. The guy who has spent his whole life in a complicated relationship with his extended family and God, whom he never forgave for taking away my twin brother, his only son, at birth.
I think a lot about the Daddy I worshipped as a little kid (an only child, Daddy's little girl) when I watch Mr. Fraulein with our Peanut.
The Peanut certainly loves me, and she often looks cautiously to me for my approval. She wants me to read to her and sing to her, and last week we had such fun hitting the outlets together (we scored big time at the Carter's and Stride Rite outlets--our first true mother-daughter shopping trip!) But as much as I believe and hope we will always have a special mommy/daughter bond, the place the Peanut holds in her heart for her daddy is sacred.
The Peanut loves her daddy with ferocious abandon. Yesterday we sat eating lunch, post-aquarium, and she asked him a question, but he was distracted and didn't answer right away. She thought for a second that he was ignoring her. She burst into furious tears. But once she got his attention all was right with the world again.
He's her best friend.
When Mr. Fraulein's Significant Birthday approached, I put out cautious feelers about what I should buy him. Getting presents for this husband of mine is difficult under any circumstances, as he never wants anything, but this was a special case. At first I thought maybe I'd throw a party or something. But when my inquiries were met with dark mutterings about walkers and Metamucil, I decided to drop the party idea.
Hopefully the best present Mr. Fraulein will get for this birthday (aside from Alberto Gonzales suddenly resigning!) is the knowledge that his youth is wrapped up in the Peanut's childhood. As long as he's still the dad who acts goofy and makes her giggle, he'll be even more than young at heart.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fashion adviser, age not-quite-3, available for consultations

This morning as I sat eating my bland Weight Watchers CORE plan breakfast, the Peanut walked over and took an appraising look at my outfit.

"Are you wearing that to work?" she asked, aiming a withering stare at my admittedly not very fashionable khaki pants and rayon jacket.

"Well, yeah, I was planning to," I said. "What's the matter -- you don't think I should wear this?"


She won't be 3 until October. God help me when she's a teenager if she already hates my taste in clothing!

Like the way things are going?

Keep voting Republican.

Dirtbag dog murderer to own up to dirtbagginess

Who's surprised? These coddled, overpaid waste-of-space professional athletes are beyond pathetic.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Brilliant post on fatherhood and masculinity

By David Neiwert at Firedoglake here:

It’s impossible, I think, to put into words the immensity of the rewards that come with it: you watch them grow in body and spirit, become real little persons with real minds and dreams and desires all their own, and you bond with them in a way that lasts for life and maybe beyond. I’ve done many good and rewarding things in my life, but none of them — not even marrying a great woman, or publishing three books, or building up a good blog, all of them great things — has meant quite as much as being Fiona’s daddy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Carcinogenic FEMA trailers and presidential politics

So it turns out that those trailers that were supposed to have been supplied to homeless victims of Hurricane Katrina--the ones that were long delayed, and came in inadequate numbers to begin with--were built with materials containing high levels of the carcinogen formaldehyde.

Thad Godish, a formaldehyde expert with Ball State University who has acted as an independent expert in evaluating the FEMA trailers, said the formaldehyde levels were very high _ some reaching more than 1 part per million _ in some trailers previously tested by federal regulators.

At such high levels, he said people, especially children younger than 6, are likely to be affected. "You're simply sick all the time," Godish said. "It's basically upper respiratory, nose, throat irritation, headaches, fatigue."

Just add that to the list of the ways the Gulf Coast has been screwed by this administration.

By the way, I've said it before and I'll say it again: those who think that this country--after it turned a completely blind eye to the wholesale, LITERAL destruction of a predominantly black region--is ready to elect a black man to the presidency are kidding themselves. Think about it: after the hurricane, not only was the Gulf Coast never rebuilt, but for the most part the story of the ongoing devastation has disappeared from public view, except for the occasional shameful revelation like the one about the FEMA trailers. The story has evaporated from the news because for the most part, people don't care.

And I believe that what's true for Barack Obama is equally true for Hillary, although for slightly different reasons. If one of them is the Democratic nominee, we are going to lose, and lose big.

We are simply not there yet. Racism and sexism are so deeply engrained into our culture, I personally doubt whether we'll ever be in a place where a minority or a woman could win the presidency. It pains me to admit that this is how it is. With so much at stake, is this the time to risk it?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Overheard in the Pre-K One Room

One of the Peanut's teachers tells me that her aforementioned best buddy C. was heard yesterday to comment, as he gazed at her lovingly, "(Peanut's real name) is so beautiful."

This kid, he still kills me.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday lit. blogging: Last word on "Deathly Hallows"

Am I the only one who thinks it's hilarious that the Minister of Magic (the wizard Prime Minister) who is put under the Imperius curse, performing unspeakable acts at the behest of a sinister group of puppet-masters, is named "Pius Thicknesse"? That ought to be George Bush's Secret Service code name.

Friday, July 27, 2007

That would be the present mommy wants

So Mr. Fraulein has been in Europe for five days on a work trip, and the Peanut is soldiering on even though she misses him terribly. But we've been talking to him on the phone every night, and he has promised to bring her a special surprise. Last night I asked her if she wanted to guess what it might be.

"A new car!" she shouted.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Scarily Accurate Allegory

Now plowing my way through "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," and, as always, I'm amazed at the level of detail--and accuracy--in Rowling's allegorical juxtaposition of the political strife in the wizard world with actual current events. Whatever criticisms you can make of her as a writer (and, though I haven't yet finished it, I'm already convinced this one could have been edited with a much heavier hand) you can't doubt her skill in this area. She's got Orwell's instinct for using fiction to make a political point.

This series may have started long before 9/11, but it would never have finished the way it does if not for the events of the last few years. There would be no corrupt Ministry of Magic without Abu Ghraib, no morally bankrupt Daily Prophet without FOX News.

Also, the "Lord of the Rings" references are even thicker on the ground than usual in this installment, which is saying something, since Tolkien's influence is all over the earlier books too. But again, you've got to hand it to Rowling--she's also making nods to C.S. Lewis, the New Testament, the Star Wars movies, and her beloved Jane Austen here. And sticking the anteroom to the afterlife in King's Cross station was a marvelously Woolfian touch. Of course, Rowling is pulling not just from fiction (and, as I've said, current events) but from history. The Nazi imagery and metaphors are everywhere, and they're like a punch to the gut. The "Magic is Might" and "Muggle-born Registration Commission" chapters took my breath away.

And it's not giving away too much to note that the stunning thing about the passage where Harry expresses an explicitly suicidal thought was that this was the first time I could recall him longing for death, in the entire series.

I wonder what else Rowling has up her sleeve, once she moves on from the Potterverse and takes on a new topic. It should be pretty exciting to see.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sports builds character!

Why are so many professional athletes such unremitting dirtbags?

Vick Indicted Over Alleged Dogfighting

HANK KURZ Jr. July 18, 2007 07:39 AM EST
RICHMOND, Va. — NFL star Michael Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation so grisly the losers either died in the pit or sometimes were electrocuted, drowned, hanged or shot.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thoughts on Potter

Some random observations on the new movie of "Order of the Phoenix," plus my "Deathly Hallows" predictions (for what it's worth):

  • I LOVED what the filmmakers did in telescoping the opening scenes of "Phoenix" into a single confrontation between Harry and Dudley on the playground. That scene was so moving that I'm still haunted by it, days later. The kid who plays Dudley is maturing into quite a powerful actor. (Dudley's thug-lite costume was a brilliant touch too.) To my thinking, Harry's longing for his dead parents is the absolute emotional heart of the series--everything else that happens in the books stems from, or is somehow related to, that issue of loss. They really nailed this aspect of the series in the new film.
  • I understand why they had to cut out the Quidditch, but why such severe chopping of the scene of Fred and George's flight to freedom? They obviously spent a gajillion dollars on the CGI for that scene anyway. Adding five more minutes of dialogue from the novel wouldn't have broken the bank.
  • I realize it specifically says in the book that the re-born Voldemort has no nose, only slits for nostrils, but what they've done with the makeup on Ralph Fiennes to pull this off in the film makes Voldemort look more silly than menacing. I just don't find it that scary, and that's a big problem, given that this is supposed to be the most frightening villain of all time.
  • I wasn't that thrilled with Helena Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix. The dominatrix look they gave her was not at all how I pictured the character. She should have been much more posh--like a member of the royal family gone horribly bad, and coming apart at the seams. The overly sexy thing didn't quite work.
  • As Hausfrau pointed out--why no mention of the Percy subplot? And why so little exposition about what the Order of the Phoenix actually does?
  • That said, I very much liked the scene of the final confrontation at the Department of Mysteries. Did anyone else catch Sirius saying, "Nice one, James" as he fought alongside Harry--mistaking him for his father? In the book it's just "Nice one." Very poignant adaptation of the original text. And the portion of this scene where Voldemort is possessing Harry, and they replayed actual footage of the trio as younger kids, made me bawl--so moving.

Final book predictions:

  • Hagrid is going to die fighting for the Order. As will Neville--but not before he dispatches Bellatrix in what I expect will be a powerfully emotional scene. I'm also not convinced Luna is going to make it out alive.
  • Snape is on the side of good but, regardless, is a horrible person, and will remain so until nearly the end, when Snape will die a hero's death performing some critical act that will enable Harry to kill Voldemort yet not die himself in the process. If Harry's scar is a Horcrux, Snape will turn out to be the only one who will know how to destroy it without killing Harry, but something will go wrong in the process and Snape will die.
  • I think Ron and Hermione will make it, but on the other hand, we know some other major character is going to get the axe, so...if one of them dies I'm not going to be hugely surprised either.
  • I'm not going to be shocked if somehow Sirius comes back, if only for a visit. I think it's very significant that in the book, his "death" is accompanied by neither an "Avada Kedavra" nor a flash of green light.
  • It should go without saying, but Voldemort is toast.


OK, so I was wrong on several counts, but right on a few crucial things. And while Bellatrix's end was undoubtedly satisfying as Rowling conceived it, why in the name of Merlin's most baggy Y-fronts (as Ron would say) wasn't Neville the one to kill her??? I was extremely disappointed by that.

Monday, July 09, 2007

No sex reassignment surgery in our future

This weekend I took the Peanut for a day trip to the seaside. As she usually does, the Peanut kept up a non-stop banter for the hour-plus ride. She likes to have a brief back and forth on a given topic followed by a series of declarative (non sequitur) statements. Such as:

"I'm not going to be a boy, ever."

"Um, that's right. You're always going to be a girl," I responded. It was as if this had just occurred to her. She sounded pretty psyched about it.

"And when I'm a big person, I can be a mommy, and take care of my babies," she said.

"I bet you'll be a great mom," I said. And I meant

Friday, July 06, 2007


May there be a special place in hell for these two. And for the fuckup cops who "accepted the mother's story" that her 3-year-old child got scratched by the cat rather than beaten to a pulp by her scumbag boyfriend. Nice.

Five years

Mr. Fraulein and I have been married five years, so to celebrate we took a trip to Martha's Vineyard, sans Peanut. This was our first overnight trip without her, and we weren't sure how it would go, but she handled the whole thing like a champ. The friends who tag-teamed to take care of her for the three-day weekend said she behaved admirably--not a single time-out over the whole weekend, which is clearly some kind of record.

So off we went, taking the ferry from Hyannis to Oak Bluffs, which has a honky-tonk side reminiscent of the Jersey shore. We stayed at this place, which was delightful. And ate the best meal we've had in years here. For dessert we had a creamy cheesecake-y concoction that was filled with lemon curd and fresh berries--awesome. We're still talking about it. I'm going to see if I can recreate it at home.

So amazing, after nearly three years of non-stop parental craziness, to have time to sit and read a book and to look at the ocean and just be.

And then we came home and the Peanut ran down the courtyard to greet us, arms outstretched, grinning and yelling. Lately she's taken to shouting, "I love my mom! I love my dad!" She's getting taller by the minute and her hair is finally getting longer. It's got a little curl in it like mine did when I was a kid. Her eyes are still like melted chocolate, and she giggles all the time. She is delicious. It was so lovely to come back home to her.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Save America


Friday, June 29, 2007

Very long overdue Friday lit. blogging

It's shameful how I've neglected to do Friday literature posts over the last several months. It's just been so hard to keep blogging in the first place. But now seemed like a good time to revisit Virginia Woolf's underappreciated Three Guineas. I chose this piece for today because of its timeliness, given the continuing depressing news from Iraq.

It's also interesting to note that even in a non-fiction piece like this, Woolf can't resist returning to one of her favorite topics: memory. To Woolf, there is no escaping the past. It infuses everything we do, every decision we make, and even, as in this passage, our visceral, immediate reactions to current events. In many ways this emphasis on memory is the overarching theme of all Woolf's works, from To the Lighthouse to Mrs. Dalloway to my sentimental favorite, the towering, epically moving Orlando.

I think if Woolf were alive today, she'd be shocked at our continuing inability to learn that blowing up civilians never solves anything.

Here then on the table before us are photographs. The Spanish Government sends them with patient pertinacity about twice a week. They are not pleasant photographs to look upon. They are photographs of dead bodies for the most part. This morning’s collection contains the photograph of what might be a man’s body, or a woman’s; it is so mutilated that it might, on the other hand, be the body of a pig. But those certainly are dead children, and that undoubtedly is the section of a house. A bomb has torn open the side; there is still a birdcage hanging in what was presumably the sitting-room, but the rest of the house looks like nothing so much as a bunch of spillikins suspended in mid air.

Those photographs are not an argument; they are simply a crude statement of fact addressed to the eye. But the eye is connected with the brain; the brain with the nervous system. That system sends its messages in a flash through every past memory and present feeling. When we look at those photographs some fusion takes place within us; however different the education, the traditions behind us, our sensations are the same; and they are violent. You, Sir, call them ‘horror and disgust’. We also call them horror and disgust. And the same words rise to our lips. War, you say, is an abomination; a barbarity; war must be stopped at whatever cost. And we echo your words. War is an abomination; a barbarity; war must be stopped. For now at last we are looking at the same picture; we are seeing with you the same dead bodies, the same ruined houses.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A warning from Massachusetts

Do not elect this psychopath to the presidency. He's nuts.

That is all.

Toddler yoga

I just need to point out that the Peanut's new day care/pre-school offers toddler yoga classes. She went for the first time today and apparently loved it. Meanwhile I've been meaning to get back to yoga for ages now (like, oh, say, since I gave birth) but I never have the time!

I wonder if this means that I have to buy her a snazzy workout outfit and her own personal yoga mat?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sugar and spice

Scene: the Peanut's room, the other morning, as I tried to brush her teeth (an activity roughly equivalent to wrestling an eel):

Me: Will you stop wriggling and let me brush your teeth already! We do this every day -- why do you keep fighting me?

The Peanut, just before fighting me off and sprinting out of the room: I'm getting out of here, you old lady!

I bet the teenage years are going to be awesome.

This is a family blog

So I am NOT going to insinuate that Chris Matthews is a #$&!-sucking right-wing whore who richly deserves to spend eternity roasting on a spit in his own personal hell, which I imagine would feature lots and lots of women with powerful, high-paying jobs.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy birthday wishes

Couldn't let today go by without a happy birthday shout-out to Hausfrau, my very non-matronly matron of honor!

Here you'll see George Clooney popping by to do a special birthday post on the Hausfrau blog. If I had to pick a former ER star to do mine, I think I'd go with the guy who played Dr. Kovac.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"I've seen Parsippany..."

First, Fountains of Wayne, now this: seems like my old northern New Jersey stomping grounds have been immortalized in song once again. I had just pulled into the parking lot of the Trader Joe's before when this song by a guy named Steve Forbert came on the radio, and I had to sit there, astonished, and listen to the whole thing. It's called "Strange Names (North Jersey's Got 'Em)."

I am from Piscataway
I'm going that-a-way
West on the Jersey map
Out towards the water gap
I've seen Parsippany
Northwest of Whippany
Mahwah to Hackensack
I've made the trip and back
Kudos to Steve for working in Piscataway, Parsippany, Netcong, Rockaway, Whippany, and Hackensack. Oh, and the Water Gap.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Overheard on Father's Day

"Why is Mommy cooking?"

(Dad usually handles meals, but I thought it would be nice to make dinner for Mr. Fraulein on Father's Day.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Nothing phallic about this. Nope. Not at all.

Jesus, these Republicans have issues. This guy needs to get some help, like, yesterday.

Romney Says He Wants 'Big Stick'

- - - - - - - - - - - -

By AMY LORENTZEN Associated Press Writer

June 16,2007 DUBUQUE, Iowa --

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Saturday that if he's elected, he wants "to carry the big stick" by increasing the size of the nation's military.

The former Massachusetts governor said his plans include boosting the size of the military by at least 100,000 troops and increasing the military budget.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Expecto Patronum

I'm working my way through the Potter books again, as I've mentioned. I'm up to "Prisoner of Azkaban" now. Just finished the bit where Lupin teaches Harry the Patronus charm to ward off the Dementors.

And once again I'm amazed by how expertly Rowling has captured what I believe many of us will think back on as the particular fear-laden spirit of the post-9-11 age. We're living in our little bubble of prosperity, while all around us things fall apart and we face challenges that, realistically, may be all but impossible to overcome.

Even as you try to keep these huge horrors at the periphery of your mind, smaller but equally devastating ones work their way in. Yesterday I got an e-mail from an old friend with a picture of her nephew, who's almost a year old and who wasn't supposed to live more than a few days because something is wrong with his heart. It's the same heart problem that killed this same friend's niece many years ago. That girl, who shared the Peanut's first name, would have been 15 this year.

I look into the eyes of this almost-one-year-old, whose very existence is apparently a miracle, and I think: Expecto Patronum. Because it occurs to me that at this moment, all we've got to go on is hope.

UPDATE: I've decided I should explain what 'Expecto Patronum' is for any of my 1.3 readers who have not read the Harry Potter novels. It's a spell that conjures a Patronus, which is a sort of guardian that protects the witches and wizards of the Potter world against creatures called Dementors who suck all the happiness out of people, leaving them nothing but empty shells. Conjuring the Patronus is extremely difficult to do, and Harry does it at several points in "Prisoner of Azkaban" when it seems that all hope is truly lost.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Things the Peanut wonders about

"Can dogs talk?"

"Can grown-ups touch the ceiling?"

(In reference to every pedestrian we see when we're out in the car): "Where is that lady going? What's her name? Is she a mommy? What is that man's name?"

(In reference to every kid we see at the playground): "Does that girl have big-girl underwear? Can she pump (her legs) on the swing?"

(When told that maybe there will be a kiddie pool at grandma and grandpa's house): "Will it have sharks in it?"

Monday, June 11, 2007

This has happened more than once

...but it still makes me stop and catch my breath. Every so often I'll be walking down the street in my neighborhood and I'll see a tall, confident, bubbly young woman who is the very image of my late friend Bevin. When I saw this woman yesterday, she was walking her dog--a big, shaggy, slobbery dog.

And she was smiling.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Cenk Uygur speaks for me

Most forceful progressive voice on Air America at the moment. He also posts on Huffington Post. His latest piece is characteristically on target.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

No good and evil, only power

I've been re-reading the first Harry Potter book, "Sorcerer's Stone," and I was struck anew by how well Quirrell's standout line at the end (about what he learned from Voldemort) reflects what's happened to the Republican party under Bush.

"There is no good and evil, only power, and those too weak to seek it."

That sums these people up in a nutshell. Vote suppression? Disappearing people? But of course!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Good to know

So last night I had an appointment with a podiatrist. I'm trying to figure out why I keep having stabbing pains in my feet. (Yes, I am officially 150 years old.) They took some X-rays of my feet and determined that I just have a weird bone structure that can sometimes lead to joint pain in the feet. I explained that my primary care doctor referred me there to rule out any condition that would need surgery, or any other similarly drastic thing.

"Well, family doctors hear about foot pain, and they usually think it's gout," the podiatrist said. "You definitely don't have gout."

Well Jesus, that's good to know. I don't want to have any disease that Dick Cheney has.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More toddler friendship

So as I've mentioned, the Peanut has a best buddy at day care (which I guess I now need to call "pre-school"!) This little boy has completely stolen my heart. I can't get enough of this kid.

And he can't get enough of the Peanut. When I dropped her off at pre-school yesterday after the long Memorial Day weekend, one of the teachers picked the Peanut up to give her a hug. The boy, C., came over and started tugging on the Peanut's leg as the teacher held her.

"I missed you!" he shouted up at her.
I imagine that one day in 2024, C. will be hanging around his college dorm room musing on the fact that he always falls for vivacious brunettes with dark, dark eyes. He's going to wonder how this came about. Why never the blondes? Always the brown-eyed ones with cute giggles and mischievous streaks.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Once in April I walked with someone I could speak to without words through an endless field of daffodils carpeting the grass under the English sky. The first line of my favorite poem read: "Had we but world enough, and time..." The sunlight had a quality like water, glowing on the trees and the emerald grass. The skyline of Oxford encircled us like an embrace.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Death notices

My first newspaper job was writing obituaries. This was about as ghoulish and weird an undertaking (no pun intended) as you might expect. What always struck me was how odd, and unfair, it seemed to try and encapsulate someone's entire life in a couple of paragraphs.

Death notices, which are even shorter versions of obits provided for people scanning the newspaper to find out when and where a funeral will be held, are even more stark. How much information lies behind these tiny fragments of a person's life.

Through the wonders of the Intertubes, even the very elderly who never touched a computer in their lives, such as my late Aunt Angie, can be immortalized online forever through their death notices in local papers.

DiMARZO, Angelina "Angie" (nee Seminerio) age 84, of Clifton died Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at St. Mary's Hospital, Passaic. Born in Paterson, she lived there before moving to Clifton forty-five years ago.
What this doesn't tell you is how she looked in the photos from her youth, posing in a leopard-print bikini next to her weight-lifter husband. How, with her broad smile and her cascading curls, she was a dead ringer for Rita Hayworth. How she loved her only child, her son. How she was often so frightened, pursued by fears, real and imaginary.

I hope you've found peace where you are now, Angie.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Best friends

Sometimes the Peanut has a hard time when we drop her off at day care in the morning. Often it's because she is cranky about getting up in the morning, but sometimes it's because she's feeling car sick from the ride in, as she was this morning. Luckily she can always count on her best buddy, a stupendously adorable boy named C., to come to the rescue when she needs a little understanding.

Even as a 1-year-old, C. was a particularly charismatic kid. He is auburn-haired and has a bright smile, and more often than not, he's laughing. And, especially noteworthy for a 2-year-old, he is extremely empathetic. He's always ready with a smile and a hug for any kid in the Two's Room who is feeling down.

This morning as I kneeled by the Peanut's side, wiping her tears and trying to get her in a decent mood before Mr. Fraulein and I said goodbye, C. bounded over to greet her as usual. I explained that the Peanut was feeling sad. He laid a hand on her shoulder and watched her as she cried. He thought for a moment, and then looked at me and said:

"I love her."

And then he gave her a hug.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Life's big questions

Yesterday the Peanut and I were getting ready to go out for a late-afternoon trip to the park. Once I wrap up work on my work-at-home day and the babysitter goes home, I love getting the chance to enjoy some mommy and Peanut time.

She watched me as I transferred my wallet and cell phone from the big honking tote bag that I carry to work into a smaller purse more suitable for a quick playground jaunt. "Why you need another purse, Mommy?" she asked.

I had to laugh. "One day you'll learn that you can never have enough purses and shoes, honey," I responded.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

2nd Amendment rights for the Iraqis!

I don't always agree with everything John Aravosis says on Americablog, but he is completely on the money with his (admittedly snarky) analysis here. And he's going to get crucified for it, because THIS is the third rail of American politics: making even the most sensible call for some kind of gun control.

Guns don't kill people, evil-doers kill people. That's the theory a lot of Republicans are now promoting about the violence at Virginia Tech. If only those now-dead students had all been armed, the story goes, they'd have been able to start a mass circle of gunfire in the middle of their classroom and kill the shooter (and sure, they'd kill everyone else in the classroom too, but they'd be dead AND exercising their 2nd Amendment rights, so it'd be okay). Anyway, I say the Republicans put their money where their mouths are and establish a 2nd Amendment Marshall Plan (we can call it the LaPierre plan), and ship as many guns and other weapons as possible into the hands of every single Iraqi in order to help them defend themselves...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Race, and progress

Finally, some good news on the racial front here in America. In the same week that grizzled clown Don Imus was booted from his job for being a racist asshole (I remember him being on the radio when I was a little kid in the 70s--who knew he was even still alive, let alone still broadcasting his delightful program, in 2007?) we have this headline from the AP:

Interracial Marriages Surge Across U.S.

By DAVID CRARY AP National Writer

April 13,2007 NEW YORK -- The charisma king of the 2008 presidential field. The world's best golfer. The captain of the New York Yankees. Besides superstardom, Barack Obama, Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter have another common bond: Each is the child of an interracial marriage. For most of U.S. history, in most communities, such unions were taboo.

It was only 40 years ago -- on June 12, 1967 -- that the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a Virginia statute barring whites from marrying nonwhites. The decision also overturned similar bans in 15 other states.

Since that landmark Loving v. Virginia ruling, the number of interracial marriages has soared; for example, black-white marriages increased from 65,000 in 1970 to 422,000 in 2005, according to Census Bureau figures. Factoring in all racial combinations, Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld calculates that more than 7 percent of America's 59 million married couples in 2005 were interracial, compared to less than 2 percent in 1970.

Coupled with a steady flow of immigrants from all parts of the world, the surge of interracial marriages and multiracial children is producing a 21st century America more diverse than ever, with the potential to become less stratified by race.

The Peanut says that is a good thing.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Crank Monster cometh

So the Peanut is now 2 and a half, and she's developed multiple personalities. One minute she is a darling cherubic angel, sitting "criss-cross-applesauce" and flipping through her books, or stacking her blocks.

And then something sets her off (often we can't tell what) and the Crank Monster shows up, destroying everything in her path.

Maybe it's because she's got molars coming in? We (Mr. Fraulein and I) just wish we knew for sure what is causing these tantrums--aside from the fact that she's two years old--but even if we did, we might not be able to do much about it.

So we try to ride out the storm, not giving in to the increasingly-hysterical mid-tantrum demands. ("Get me my sippy cup" when it's 10 inches away from her, etc.) But man oh man, does it ever make you want to drink a giant glass of tequila.

And I don't even like tequila.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Three years

Three years since you left us, Bevin.

You're still in my heart. I miss you.