Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thoughts on my grandparents

My parents came to visit us this weekend for Easter, and as he often does, my dad got to telling stories about his family. It's a long, convoluted history, with many twists and turns, just like any good story of immigrants making good in America. My father is 75 years old, and he was the next to the last of 11 children born to his parents, who came to New York City from the dusty privations of their former lives in Sicily around the turn of the century. My grandmother, Theresa, had met my grandfather, Philip, in Sicily but they got married in America. She was a teenager then, trying to adjust to the change from farming life (she carried water jugs on her head in Sicily!) to the tenement jungle of New York. My grandfather toiled with untold numbers of other Italian immigrants to lay bricks and mix cement, building Manhattan from the ground up. My grandmother? Well, she gave birth.

And she had miscarriages, too -- nobody knows how many. But she bore 11 live babies, 10 of whom made it to adulthood. (See them all in my parents' wedding picture above!) In the photos of her as a young woman, what is most striking is the look of determination on her face. It's as if she's thinking: I dare you to throw something at me that I can't handle.

My dad tells the story of the local midwife, a German woman who attended Theresa through her 11 births. My grandmother was apparently legendary for her ability to give birth effortlessly. I like to picture her throwing her elegant, black, wavy hair (for which she was also famous) out of her eyes, clambering up onto the kitchen table, and settling down calmly to the task of pushing out another baby. No epidurals for her! When I delivered the Peanut I pictured her spirit hovering over one of my shoulders and that of my mother's mother (who gave birth eight times) over the other. Those imperturbable, hard-as-nails Italian women, whose lives were studies in hardships and misery, yet they kept going forward. Always forward.

Someday I want to tell the Peanut their stories. How her Italian ancestors helped build New York, and how the Chinese immigrants, ancestors of her daddy's family, who worked their way from China all the way to Ohio and then back to California, built the train tracks that expanded across the whole country. How, without the rest of the world, there wouldn't be an America.

"Conservatarded whackadoodle"

I am totally stealing this phrase from the very talented TRex. Practically spit coffee on my screen laughing when I read that.

Also, I wish more people were aware of this very obvious hole in the "pro-life" argument:

The other thing that’s just appalling to me about people who call themselves “pro-life” is the fact that they support the Republican party’s Endless War agenda without any thought whatsoever. How can you be against the “slaughter of babies” here in America and yet joyously advocate the slaughter of real-live, already-born babies and children on the other side of the world? That’s what I don’t get. You would think that anyone with even a modicum of thinking skills would see the inherent contradiction there.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Not-so-happy feet

We recently got the DVD of "Happy Feet" from Netflix. I've learned by now that we need to check these movies out before we show them to the Peanut, and this one proves why.

Memo to filmmakers: if you're going to promote a movie by showing lots of pictures of cute dancing animals, it is maybe not the best idea to devote a good chunk of the actual movie to depictions of menacing monster animals trying to eat the main, fuzzy characters. Was the scene with the yellow-toothed seal thing necessary? Or the one with the carnivorous birds? The one with the scary whales? How about the delightful part when the main character, poor Mumble, goes insane from being in a zoo? If I wanted to be depressed I'd rent a Michael Moore documentary, not a fuzzy-animated-animal movie, goddamn it!

So we had to do our usual trick of watching the movie with remote in hand, zipping past the scary parts so the Peanut could see the singing baby penguins, which she just adored. (She is also obsessed with Mort from Madagascar, and keeps asking for a stuffed-animal Mort.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Insert your own Fox News joke here.


The Peanut's occasional potty training setbacks have nothing on this. This type of thing is one reason why, even if I had the strength to carry her on my shoulders, I wouldn't go there.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Various items

It's been a weird couple of weeks -- stressful and aggravating but cathartic. I wasn't feeling like I had much to say but I suppose I should jump back into the saddle again ...which I will do with some random observations/rants:

  • If I hear one more word in the media, mainstream or otherwise (I'm looking at you, Air America Radio) about Eliot Freaking Spitzer I am going to stick my head out the window and start hollering like Howard Beale. Did the guy pay for his "seven diamond prostitute" with tax dollars supplied by the citizens of New York? No? Then Shut. The. Hell. Up. about it already! Why should anyone who is not married to, or otherwise related to, this guy care whether he frequents even, say, a "two diamond prostitute"? Yeah, he's a hypocrite. So are, unfortunately, many Democrats, and pretty much every Republican elected official, in one way or another. Until "Diaper Dave" Vitter and Larry "Wide Stance" Craig resign, I don't want to hear another goddamn thing about Spitzer.

  • By all means, the Democratic candidates for president should have another debate. If they want us all to shoot ourselves in the head, that is.

  • Speaking of which: Hilary, you need to go away now. It's all over but the screaming and crying about how it was Your Turn and you've been unfairly cheated out of your rightful legacy, or some damn thing. Just step aside and let Obama have his day. I wasn't sure at first if he'd earned it but now it seems he's got the chops. It's time for the country to unite behind Obama so we can start the hard work of taking our country back from the clowns who have done this to it. And to us.

  • My husband, who has a Chinese last name equivalent to "Smith," and a not-so-common Chinese first name, was delayed in getting on a plane this week because there's apparently someone on the "No Fly List" with the same name. Once they verified his age, he was declared Not A Terrorist and allowed to go on his way. We'll see if we're as lucky the next time we try to fly somewhere...

  • The Peanut seems to be slowly coming out of the spiral of really bad behavior we've been seeing, on and off, ever since she turned 3. What's interesting is she intersperses her nightmare tantrums with periods of incredible sweetness--she'll tell us she loves us 10 times a day. Mr. Fraulein and I keep thinking that it just must be really hard, sometimes, to be 3. "My hips hurt, Mommy," she'll say, as the growing pains come and go. She still has this unfortunate tendency towards car sickness, so we (and by "we" I mean my husband) are hauling the 9,000-pound car seat up to our third-floor condo way more often than we'd like. Luckily all the covers come off for easy washing. So we're trying to be understanding of the craziness that must be going on in that little head of hers as she tries to make sense of the world.

  • It's been fascinating to watch the Peanut developing a sense of her own beauty. (On a side note, this whole topic has many complicated implications for me, since I spent much of my life being so convinced of my own ugliness.) But it turns out I must have some good genes in there somewhere, because in many ways she looks like me. Her cheeks and mouth are much like mine. But then she has those unimaginably lovely, sort of Asian eyes. When strangers see her, they sometimes do a double-take, and I imagine they're trying to figure out what her background is. In any event, though I hope it doesn't sound too obnoxious of me as the mom to say so, she is quite striking. And she's heard people say it enough times that she's starting to realize it for herself. Last night we played "fashion show," which is my ruse for making her try on things to see if they fit. I had been hoping to re-use last year's summer dresses, but at the rate she's growing, they're going to fall at her hips by this summer! She paraded in front of the mirror in outfit after outfit, a smile broadening on her face. It does my heart good to see her reveling in her own loveliness.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Four years

Today marks four years without my friend Bevin in the world.

Rest in peace my friend. I hope I will see you again someday.