Friday, September 29, 2006

um, sir? do you realize...

While driving to Target today to buy a new shower curtain (because who knew that when you bought the one without a mildew resistant something-or-other that it really would not be mildew resistant, so the bargain you thought you were getting by only spending three dollars instead of six dollars was, well not so much a bargain) I noticed that the car in front of me had one of those special personalized license plates.

As a general rule I am not a huge fan of these plates, although when I bought my first car, a red but oxidizing into many-a-different color 1983 Honda Prelude with sunroof, I wanted to have just the letter "A" on my licence plates, for Allysha, of course. But then I was going to call my car 'The Scarlet Letter'. I thought it would be funny. My mom did not.

But to get back to my original story...driving behind this silver sporty Lexus, I read the plate and then had to think about it for a second, to make sure I wasn't switching the letters around in my head. I
don't think it was any sort of code, just three letters. EPT. Ladies? What does that mean to you?

I'm guessing that they're the initials for some guy who is completely clueless that he is subtly advertising a pregnancy test on his vehicle.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

winken, blinken and nod

I'm a tired mom. So you'll forgive me if this post is short. Very short. It's been a day. I did wash the dishes, and that, folks, is an accomplishment because they sat there on the counter most of the day making faces at me. I ran the hot water several times to fill up the sink, and then just couldn't get into the kitchen to clean them. It was like there was some forcefield repelling me away. Or that I have superpowers but someone has hidden kryptonite somewhere in my house and that has effectively stopped my cleaning abilities. It's a vicious circle because as long as it's there I can't clean, but unless I clean I won't be able to find it and get rid of it!

Well, whatever. My team won their football game tonight and I'm going to bed early, probably not even waiting up to hear the post-game coach's show. Which if you know me, says something. Good night!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

the better to see you with, my dear

My house. Lunchtime. The kitchen table.
My sister has just fixed lunch for the girls and is telling them they need to eat their carrots before they can leave the table.

"Why?" asks my oldest.
"Because they are healthy for you," says Natalie, repeating my healthy food mantra.
"But how are they healthy for you?" my daughter persists.
"They're good for your eyes. They help you see better."

This explanation seems to placate her and so Natalie turns her attention to my other daughter who, after hearing this conversation, has taken one of her carrots and is holding it up to her eye like an astronomer with his telescope, searching diligently for a new star.

Monday, September 25, 2006

emergency preparedness

This summer I gave in. I am not a gadgets person. I'm not a label person. I prefer simple letter blocks to the new-fangled learning bells-and-whistle alphabet circus they sell these days. I do not let companies advertise on my children. But, well...

It was a family affair complete with baby and dad. Since baby was hungry and fussy I left Ben at the shoe store to go sit on the floor in the public bathroom and nurse. (Yes, yes, that was me you saw sitting there, back against the wall, cool as a cumcumber and cold too, actually, feeding my child, but possibly making you uncomfortable.) When I got back to the store the girls had made their choices. I handed the baby to Ben and began my amazing super-duper-mother powers of persuasion. But to no avail. All of the sandals I liked were quickly brushed aside for those with Dora or Disney Princesses smiling up at us. "Hey, there! Come on and join our parade to take over the world with a smile! We like you!" If that wasn't enough they discovered that these particular sandals have lights that go off when ever you walk! A portable disco, or an invitation to have a seizure!

But apparently these sandals were a good investment for emergency situations. We tripped a fuse the other night (a common occurrence in this old house) which always sends the kids into a full-scale panic (drama for drama's sake is the life I live) and the next morning while getting ready for church my two year-old insisted that we find her light-up sandals "because if the lights go off we can turn on my sandals!"

Saturday, September 23, 2006

playing tourist

My sister, Natalie, is heading home next week. She's been all over the city but hadn't yet had the chance to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. Given this fact, and inspired by Laura, I decided that we should all go...because its free! my girls love bridges! I am no longer pregnant so stuff like this sounds fun and do-able! The baby's eating needs can be streched out for longer periods of time! Ben doesn't technically have class on Friday so he can take part of the day off! Armed with all this knowledge, we set off.

I opted not to take the train because I figured by the time we got down to the bridge the kids would be grumpy. And if not, they would surely be grumpy on the way home and I knew that if we had the car they would all fall asleep coming back. So we drove. Hum.

Looking for a place to park in NYC is what makes me realize all of the things that drive me bonkers here. "Look there's a spot! Oh wait, no parking. Man! These streets are so dirty! How do people live here?" Also, Ben is brillant, but he does have a problem with direction. No sense of it whatsoever. So driving around and around many city blocks looking for parking while trying to stay close to your destination is not fun for him. Especially with your oldest in the back seat playing on every. single. stress. note. possible. Are we there yet? Where are we going to park? Are we there yet? Where is the bridge? Are we lost? How come we can't park here? Are we there yet? We found a parking lot close to the bridge, so our trip really wasn't free. But whatever. We are having a family outing and we are going to enjoy it, dang it!

All in all it was nice. Everyone had a decent time, with only minor pouting by kids and parents. The weather was gorgeous. It is a beautiful bridge and a lovely walk. And the kids did fall asleep on the way home, and had a decent nap, too! Thanks to the New York traffic. Pictures below. (Click on them and you get a bigger better view).

Our happy family at the Brooklyn Bridge (Ben is, of course, behind the camera)...

My child who, when she wasn't pouting, seemed to have a stick-your-tongue-out reflex everytime the camera got near here, so I did the most logical thing when choosing a picture of her. I picked one based on how I looked.

Sort of the city, sort of the bridge, sort of a smile...

Natalie, me, and two of the three....

Finally, the sweet babe who was wonderful the entire time! He sat happily in his stroller and chewed on his blanket while looking around. Only fussed for a second on the way home. Wasn't overwhelmed by any of it. Next trip into the city, it's just you and me, babe! Here is his first excursion in the subway. He's pretty hansome, eh?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

oh the more we get together

Yesterday I was getting a huge kick out of the news coming from the United Nations General Assembly. (Go ahead and say it; you think I'm odd.) The G.A. has been getting a lot of local press as well as national, because with all the Heads of State etc., wandering around, there's been a lot of traffic for people to complain about. (A New Yorker: "It's bad enough that George Bush has us in a ridiculous war, but now he's gone and tied up traffic on the FDR! It's outrageous!")

In case you've missed it, here's the run down on some of the things that have been going on: My fav is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela taking a turn at being a rapper (rappers are my aside theme this week, I guess). When he got up to address the General Assembly he said, among other things about the U.S. President, "The devil is in the house." The image that immediately came to mind was some guy in baggy pants waving his hand in the air with a mic right up to his mouth yelling "the devil is. in. the. hoooouuuuuussssse!" Who knew the U.N. was such a party?

In other news, the Prime Minister of Thailand was ousted in a non-violent coup by the military while he was here in New York. The poor man didn't get much backing from the U.S. or the U.K. who are all for democracy, and not all for coup d'etats, except sort of, sometimes, when the current guy in charge won't be missed at those late-night world leader poker games. I believe the incident has been called "regrettable." Former President Bill Clinton is also hosting his own little world leader get together to solve world problems with guest speakers such as the leader of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. And probably enjoying a few rounds of poker as well.

Also the current U.S. administration breathed a sigh of relief when the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, didn't show up at the leaders' lunch, where there was the possibility that he might run into his arch-nemesis, George W. Bush. I didn't read whether or not Chavez was at the lunch. If he was, he probably avoided the evil Americans. Although the U.S. Ambassador to the U.S., John Bolton, brushed off Hugo's comments by saying they weren't worth talking about, he did manage to mention something about a "comic strip approach to international affairs." Indeed, Mr. Bolton, indeed.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

ahoy, there! mateys! (arrghhh)

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Get out your red bandana and your eye patch. Put some gold chains around your neck. Grab some skulls and a hat. Wear some baggy pants that come down to your knees. (Warning: if you forget the eye patch you may be mistaken for a rapper or a DJ instead). But I say forget talking like a pirate. (I've never been great at that anyway, it comes out sounding more like an Irish brogue.) How about Be A Pirate Day? Today this sounds very appealing.

There are a few things that I have in common with pirates. I look good in hats. I like treasure chests full of sparkling jewels and gleaming gold coins. I don't have a dishwasher. Pirates of the Caribbean was always my favorite (the ride, not the movie).

But pirates have a few advantages over me. For example the cleanliness requirements for dishes are pretty low. There's probably not even a huge need for them as long as you get some food, the preparation of which is minimal, I'd imagine. Pirates don't have to deal with a kid who has decided that going to the bathroom in a toilet is overrated. In fact having an "accident" on the starboard side may happen on a fairly regular basis and is probably not a big deal. My guess is that pirate ships are pretty smelly already and some additional urine won't make a heck of a lot of difference.

Also, pirates don't feel guilty for spanking one child for chasing their sister around when that sister is holding scissors, which is the object they happen to be fighting over. This is because running on deck with sharp objects is expected and even encouraged. And if you trip and fall on the sharp object, well, man overboard! Besides, flogging and making someone walk the plank are a pirates' kind of discipline. Spanking? Probably more of a form of affection, like a stern talking to. Laundry
rarely needs to be done because you only have maybe two sets of clothes and a dip in the ocean is as good as anything, and that happens whenever you tick off the captain. If you get concerned with the moral implications of being a pirate you can always call yourself a buccaneer and that makes everything okay. Well, alright. Maybe being a pirate is not all that it's cracked up to be.

The kicker on this gray day is this; as a pirate you get to sail to relaxing, sunny places like the Caribbean, or Puerto Rico or Hawaii or something. Today if you offered that to me, I might take you up on it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

auto mechanics

My oldest just started pre-school and she couldn't be more excited. She has a fascination with all things school and places of learning. Tonight she was asking if a friend could come over tomorrow and play, but like many of the girls in our neighborhood, this friend has embarked into a new frontier: Kindergarten.

My daughter can barely fathom the deep reaches of information
and intelligence that await her next year. There is a sort of awe she holds for this esteemed education level and the ones that follow ("what grade are you in, Dad? grade 100?"). So the conversation took a turn from play-dates to learning.

"Will I get to build a car next year?" she asked.
"In kindergarten, is that where you learn to build cars?"
"I think that building a car might be a little too complicated for kindergarten."
"Oh." She thought for a moment. "Then in third grade? Or maybe fourth."
"Maybe." I said.

So I don't know about building cars, but the educational system is going to have some serious fast-tracking to do if they don't want to disappoint my girl and her expectations of all that is beyond.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

oh, brother

This is me talking to Cameron. He's my little brother. We're twenty years apart.

Today is his birthday. He's 11 years old. I am the oldest and Cameron is the youngest of eleven kids. (Ha ha! That's the second time in this post you've had to do a double take!) If you asked Cameron some questions about life growing up at our house and then asked me the same questions, the answers would probably be pretty different.

When he was little we called him Dukie. Cameron's middle name is Taylor, but a few years ago if you would have asked him what his full name was he would have answered Cameron Dukie Hall. He prefered that, except for a short stint where he insisted that we all just call him Bob. I don't remember where Dukie came from, except that now he's just called the Duke. One of my favorite conversations with Cameron is from a few years ago. It went like this:

Cameron: I just don't get it!
Me: What?
Cameron: I'm the fastest in my class, and the smartest, I play sports the best (he may even have added "cutest"), but I'm not the tallest!
Yes, that is the confidence born of being praised, adored and loved by 10 older siblings.

On my wedding day I was at home for a moment in between festivities and he came up to me. "I can't believe it. I just can't believe you're married," he said shaking his head.

Tuesday I was on the phone with my mom who was driving Cameron to baseball/soccer/insert- your-favorite-sport-here practice and he asked to talk to me. He wanted to know what people in New York had done to remember September 11th. He asked if I'd gone down to Ground Zero. He wanted to know if I'd seen something on TV about it the night before. It was a pretty serious conversation to have with an eleven year old. My mom got back on the phone. "That was funny." I said. What I meant was endearing, sweet (you can put in any adjective that an 11 year-old may not be too pleased with, at least on the surface).

My mom said that Cameron won't be one of those younger kids of big families who feel like his older siblings are strangers. I hope that's true. He's closer in age to my kids than to me. I could be his mom. I'm sure I act like it sometimes ("Have you done your homework? You can't play video games until your homework is done!") which I'm sure is not an aspect he's missed since I've moved across the country. But I can call him up and chat about school, sports and whatever else. We have a good time. He's a great kid. I love him dearly, and I'm glad he's my brother. Happy Birthday, Cameron!

Friday, September 15, 2006

adventures of a hapless cook

My oven is not working. Something broke on Sunday inbetween the baking of the breadsticks and the pizza. Fortunatley our kind neighbors let us use their oven for the remainder of our baking needs. Our landlady called yesterday and left a message saying that on Thursday some repair man was going to show up to fix the oven, but I am really hoping that she actually meant Friday, which is today and not Thursday because that's a week later.

I am not a big baker, but I do occassionally like to throw something in the oven like some cookie dough or something along those lines. Also quiche. Yesterday I decided that quiche would be a great thing to have on a rainy day for dinner and since I couldn't bake it in the oven I would cook it on the stove. A crustless quiche. It was going to become all the rage. Cooks everywhere would be clammoring for my recipe and advice, which would be really funny, considering the kind of cook I am. So I mixed all of the ingredients together and poured it into a skillet to let it fry.

And as an afterthought I decided to check out the omelet portion of a cookbook, because this was kind of omelet-ish, but it wasn't helpful since my quiche mixture had already cooked past the point of making it like an omelet. The end result was something that looked like it came from an Army mess hall (how would I know this? Hey, I had school lunch, isn't that the equivalent? Also, I watched M.A.S.H.) but it tasted decent and the girls ate it right up. So while I didn't score high in the presentation section, the taste section and the feeding your children section got pretty high marks. You probably won't be reading about my recipie in Cooks Weekly and the Food Network has yet to knock on my door. But I have a week, people! Next up, oven-less chocolate chip cookies!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I can dream, can't I?

Just finished filling out a survey. Personally I'm hoping that one of my many Home Depot receipt surveys come through for me, because they are for a $5000 gift card and Target is for a paltry $500. Well, I won't quibble if Target wants to award me $500 for letting them know what I think about their employee friendliness, store cleanliness, food freshness, etc. Honestly I wonder about the effectiveness regarding this method of gathering info. I can't say I get all excited about letting the Powers-That-Be-In-The-Corporate-Board-Rooms-of-America know exactly what I think about my shopping experience at their store. But if they find my half-hearted answers helpful, that's great. And if they'd be so kind to bestow some free products on me, that's even better.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

all clean!

moms, cannibalism, and other good stuff

For some strange reason, completely unbeknownst to me, my girls have this on-going joke about eating each other. I know that kids go through a "killing" phase where they pretend to kill things (it's monsters that they track down at our house) without any real concept of what they mean, but I haven't ever read about a cannibalism stage.
Me: What should we have for dinner tonight?
Them: I know! Her! (each pointing to the other).
My youngest of the two once defended her right to a continued existence by appealing to the other, "No, don't eat me! Because then you couldn't talk to me anymore and there would be no me!"

So the other night they were going through the run down orchestrated by my sister, Natalie. Somewhere along the line, it was suggested that I be the lucky one to be eaten. Natalie said to them, "But then you wouldn't have a mom! What would you do with no mom?"

My oldest didn't skip a beat. "I'd get married."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I sat down here so many times to write a post yesterday, and I just couldn't get the right words out. I wanted to say something in tribute to the victims of September 11th, which in a sense, are all of us. And as I sit here now, typing and deleting, I see that I am not any closer to having something that feels like the right thing to say. Except that yesterday my thoughts wandered to the day after. I remember going to work, and unlike the day before, we didn't all sit in front of the television shocked by what we were seeing. We actually had to go back to work. And it seemed odd that time couldn't stop any longer. Life went on. So it occurred to me I would write something today about tomorrow.

I could say something about the indomitable human spirit. But I don't know. I think if we had our choice sometimes we would just choose to stay in the moment of our grief for a longer period of time. I have seen that my own beliefs of a definite purpose for this life, a belief in a life after this one, and in a loving God who is our Heavenly Father, do temper my sense of being overwhelmed by human tragedy. And as I reflect on some of the terrible things that have happened to humankind over the centuries I have found great comfort in the fact that this life is not all there is, death is not the end. It occurs to me that the necessity of moving on, the necessity to keep going may be the work of a merciful God, even though it may not feel like it at the time.

On the first anniversary of 9/11, I sat down to write about how I was feeling. I said that the real enormity of the tragedy was that human beings would inflict that kind of horror on other human beings. I thought about posting that yesterday, but I wondered if it might seem disrespectful to those who died that day. I re-watched some footage of the awful event and I didn't want to minimize it at all. I didn't want to come across as trite and full of platitudes about suffering and death and what gets us through. But as I have thought about it, I simply can't keep my knowlege of a bigger picture out of how I view the events of that day.

Ben's father passed away from cancer a little over a month after September 11th. We boarded a plane at the beginning of October, not without some trepidation for why (and how) we were going. (Because our tickets were purchased the same day we traveled, security went through our luggage pretty thoroughly.) We were flying to Seattle, where Ben's mom, Dana, was trying to decide whether or not to bring George home from the hospital, for good. So for me, yesterday's anniversary is sort of a pre-cursor to next month's anniversary, where I watched my husband lose his father and my mother-in-law lose her husband to a disease that was awful in its own way. That was something else I wrote about on the first anniversary. After that it was hard to go back to normal life. Like we should have at least a few months where no one had to go back to work or school, and that the bills would just somehow get paid and we could focus on, well, not those things, becaused they seemed so trivial.

But life goes on. It just goes on. I think that "passed on" is more than a euphemism for saying that someone died. It's because they really are moving on to someplace else. And it is important that I write this. There is more than just this life. Yes, some go more easily than others, and why this is, I do not know. But I do know that after hard times I have been given the next day, and the next, and the next. And that has been a blessing.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

a tree grown in brooklyn, chapters 46-end

"Laurie's going to have a mighty easy life all right."
"Annie Laurie McShane! She'll never have the hard times we had, will she?"
"No. And she'll never have the fun we had, either."
"Gosh! We
did have fun, didn't we, Neeley?"
"Poor" Laurie, " said Francie pityingly.

Well, first things first. Let's get to the girl talk. Lee or Ben?
Those guys! You know, the first time I read this part I just died right along with Francie as she reads her letter. Lee walks right into Francie's need of someone, her need to have someone hold her and understand her, even though she knows, at first, that he's some sort of player. I remember feeling that, and it's a hyper-sensitivity which makes you a prime target for some serious heartbreak, and we all have to go through it in someway or other. But I read it now, and although I'm sad, I think "Lee, you are a jerk." It's telling, I think, that Francie can only tell Lee about the happy parts of her life.
But we're left feeling ambiguous about Ben, almost that he's too perfect. I think that what's needed is time. And Francie has five years. Five years to sort out what constitutes real love vs. the Anne-ish ideal of romance. I'm not sure that Ben will be it, but this is what I love about him: Instead of making Francie promise away her life on unrealistic premises
("and if I don't come back, never want to marry anyone else") Ben tells her that he knows his mind and will wait for her to know hers. Good for him. Well, much more could be said in the long female tradition of date-analyzation, but we'll move on to the subject of this post which really is...

"Dear God," she prayed,"let me be something every minute of every hour of my life...let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost."

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sort of.
Just thinking about writing about this book can put me in agony! Especially here, at the end, what do I want to say about it?
That I love at the end how Francie is ironing for Neeley just as she did for Johnny at the beginning. I love little ten-year old Florry Wendy there at the end, watching Francie getting ready, just like Francie had done years before. Life is changing, though. And it's not just the war, and growing up. It's society moving forward. It's Sissy having her baby in a hospital of all novelties! (Blessed Sissy, I love all of the side stories about her.) It's a complete change of lifestyle for the Nolan's when Katie marries McShane, and Francie heads of to college in order to have the option of changing or not changing her Brooklyn accent.

Earlier this week I looked up two things on line: First, the tree of heaven. Second, Brooklyn. The tree that grows in Brooklyn is the same kind of tree that grows in the little ravine next to my backyard at home. It's growing among some other trees just outside my house, here. It's considered sort of a weed, my landscape designing sister told me. Maybe like the dandelion? It's true, though. The tree really can grow anywhere. And Brooklyn. I really wanted to go down there this week, it's so close, but unfortunately the logistics of our schedule got in the way. Maybe this next week I will. But I looked up a few streets on Google maps. Lorimer, Grand, Ten Eyck, Majeur, Graham and Broadway. Francie's world was pretty small! Betty Smith grew up in this part of Brooklyn with the kind of poverty that the Nolan's endured. I want to walk around and feel what it might have been like.

I love this book because it's a great story. I love it because there is a lot of truth in it, some of which is disturbing, and some of it is beautiful. And I'd like to close with something profound, but life is moving on here and my family could stand to have their mother tear herself away from the computer, so I'll just say, I hope you enjoyed the book. And I hope if you haven't read it you will.

Friday, September 8, 2006

100 acre wood

Ever since she was teeny-tiny my daughter has had a wild, vivid imagination. The Land of Make-believe is not just a place that exists on Mr. Rogers, it is where she lives about 99.9% of the time. In a small corner of this vast landscape lives Rabbit. Yes, the Rabbit who lives next to Piglet and that Silly Ol' Bear. She likes all of the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood; she enjoys Tigger, talks occassionally about "Christmas-ser Robin" but for some reason she has a real fondness for the guy with the carrots. Except do you want to know something? Rabbit prefers junkfood.

Yes, I have often had a phone call from Rabbit, sick with a tummyache, from eating too much candy. I've told him to go take a nap and to stop eating all that candy. More often these days though, I just hear about what is going on through my daughter. Her conversation is casually peppered with facts and information about Rabbit and his daily life. For example I learned the other day that Rabbit's mom is really old. She's more than 100! She's almost the oldest person in the world! Then on Sunday while driving to church, our daughter informed us that Rabbit's mom had died. Frankly, I wasn't surprised because if I live to be a hundred, that will be grand, but I expect I'll be ready to pass on. Later this week however, miracles of miracles, Rabbit's mom was once again alive. And now she was eighteen. No, actually nineteen, and acting like a teenager, because apparently, she let Rabbit stay up really late the other night! (It was bedtime when I learned this).
"Wow," I said. "Rabbit must have been really grumpy the next day."
"Yeah," said my daughter. And then this mom put her child to bed a little early.

So, if you've ever had a burning desire to know more about Rabbit and all his friends and relations, let me know. Because while A.A. Milne was kind of vague about them, and Disney left them out all together, my daughter knows all of the details about every friend and relation there is in Rabbit's life. And she is more than happy to share them.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

drowning in minutia

Every so often I get this crazy, reckless desire to organize. My house, my life, my cleaning schedule, my meals, my budget, my priorities. I am experiencing this right now. The focus is the house/cleaning schedule, but all of the above listed things are tied up with eachother.

Right now I have dishes in the sink and strewn gracefully across the counter and the table. My children have consented to gracefully spread macaroni and cheese underneath the table. My painting escapade has left several brushes, rollers and cans of paint on my kitchen shelves and on top of the refrigerator. The inside of the refrigerator needs desperately to be cleaned. I will leave the description of chaos to that room, as to not overwhelm you.

So of course I am blogging right now, because that is what one does when needing a legitimate excuse to avoid housework. And I am avoiding housework because what I really want to be doing is organizing my crawl spaces and closets and throwing away junk and getting rid of things like a shirt I haven't worn for three years (because I bought it when I was just pregnant with child number two, with the understanding that I could wear it for another month or so and then again seven months later, but a couple birthdays for this child have come and gone, as well as another pregnancy and I think maybe I've worn it for five minutes or maybe ten minutes) but -deep breath- I shouldn't really jump into a big project without having a semi-clean environment where I can place the project, you know?

I think I may be feeling this way because summer is leaving which means life with a schedule is upon me and why didn't I take more advantage of the time I had in the past few months? Well, because that's the way life is. Or maybe it's because there is an impending schedule, and I feel that this ought to fit into it easily, right? (Oh wait, the organization of my schedule is on my list of things to organize that I need to schedule...)

Anyway, the problem is I am overwhelming myself. Take the kitchen for example. It's not just the stuff that needs to be washed and put away, today when I look at it I see a floor that needs mopping and cupboards that could stand to be wiped out and spices that might like to be organized. I move into the next room. I need to pick up toys, throw away papers, vacuum, dust bookshelves, clean out the closet, maybe wipedown the baseboards, organize all the junk on the computer desk....

It's easy to get so caught up in all that could be done, that nothing gets done at all. But I know that if I just jump into the basics, I'll have a house that is at least picked up, and then I'll feel okay about sitting down for a few minutes to make a list of things I can do right now, and others I can do later this week, and at some point I'll get to cross those things off, or worst case scenario, I'll end up just throwing the list away. But hey, that's one less paper on the computer desk!

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

I believe in fairies

Don't you love the imagination of kids? Their reality is so infused with their own musings and ideas, they can just live in Nevernever Land without ever realizing that it's only Anytown, USA. No ticking crocodiles and men with hooks for hands and mermaids in the lagoon. But they don't know any different!

Yesterday morning my girls suddenly broke into a flurry of excitement. Tinker Bell was here! They could hear a little chime sounding and they were looking around desperately for the fairy! She was here!
She was here! And they were going to find her!

It was somewhat terrifying and overwhelming for the two-year old, who wasn't sure what to do with Tinker Bell, but she kept looking anxiously for a little light flying around the house. It was so funny to watch! Imagine my surprise when I heard the chime too!

My sister has been visiting for the weekend. She came downstairs just in time to hear Tink signaling to us with a calm but persistent voice that she was still there waiting to be discovered. "Has that thing been going off all morning!" she said. And then she walked over to her purse, reached in and turned off her Blackberry. Now, you think that might ruin it for the girls, wouldn't you. But no, this morning the phenomenon repeated itself and everyone delightfully looked for Tinkerbell once more. It's good to live in a house with people who believe in fairies, you know?

Sunday, September 3, 2006

an anniversary

Later this week marks a year we've been in New York. I'm not someone radically passionate about change. I can look forward with a reasonable amount of excitement and interest to something new, and enjoy it when it arrives, but not without some melancholy and regret about what I've left behind. Which means this year has been an interesting one.

When I got here there were things I loved and things I hated. I loved the more European feel of the East coast, but I missed the space of the West. Even Costco, which is always huge, is smaller (more cramped for space) in New York. I loved the architecture of the old houses, and hated the cost of living. I loved the colors of the leaves on the trees when the weather finally decided to cool down and let Fall arrive. I wasn't a big fan of getting into bed at night with sheets that felt a little damp from the humidity. I was so grateful to be in a neighborhood where there were several members of my church. I was baffled by the system of "playdates" and such. I was homesick for family and familiarity and thought I wouldn't get back home forever.

A year later I still love all that I did when I arrived here. I tolerate the narrowness of the shopping aisles and can call the streets "charming." The unfamiliar sounds of unfamiliar birds chirping at my window don't make me homesick anymore, because they are no longer unfamiliar. The idea of playdates is still a bit odd to me, and I am not good at it, but am trying to figure it out for the sake of my girls. I've made it home twice and was surprised the second time to realize I was actually excited to get back here. I've learned to navigate around enough that I can get to the most important places (Target, Costco, Home Depot and Michaels). I can't wait for Fall. I still hate the cost of living because
it will be a huge factor if we ever consider staying here more permanently.

So, I'm settling in. Yes, still. (It takes me awhile.) Somedays I still feel like the new kid on the block, and like I have no idea where I'm going. But I have met some fantastic amazing people. I have a map in my car. And whenever it is that we move on, in one year or ten or twenty, I'll have some melancholy and regret about what I'll leave behind.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

a tree grows in brooklyn, chapters 38-45

Do you remember Graduation Day? It's a turning point, isn't it. All of the sudden you find yourself set a little further out in the world, just by walking across a stage and picking up your diploma. It can be a strange feeling; liberating and frightening at the same time. Francie and Neeley have graduated from school. Not high school, but it feels like the equivalent of the time, because not everyone will get to move on to high school, sort of in the same way that not everyone moves on to college these days. Bless Johnny for coming through one more time when he was needed and having the foresight to take care of his Prima Donna by sending her roses.

Like the montage of conversations that Francie overhears at McGarrity's, these chapters washed over me with several poignant, but mostly simple moments
. But maybe things can be settled down to Francie's realizations about 'beauty and truth'. As with so many things in adolecence, I don't know that the idea has fully crystalized in her mind, but Francie feels inherently which essays need to go. As she chants "I am burning ugliness" Francie takes a step toward greater understanding. And in doing so, she sacrifices her chance at writing the school play, her recognition as the best writer with the best marks in her class. She knows there are hard and ugly things about life, but they don't cancel out the good. Maybe they make the good things even more precious. Maybe Katie loves Neeley more, but she needs Francie. Being the responsible one can be hard, and lonely. If you love someone you spare them from pain, if you can. Sissy is still Sissy underneath. A good cry can do you some good. Everybody may not always understand you or be like you, but there are friends to be made, if only to make work not so mundane.

Christmas again, but this year has been a more prosperous one. Neeley is back in school, Francie is not. Laurie is with them, Johnny is not. Neeley gets spats (I had to look up what those are exactly) and Francie gets a black lace dancing set (!) and a greater feeling towards her God and her religion.

Friday, September 1, 2006


Happy September 1st everybody! Fall is on its way! We will celebrate this gateway to multi-colored leaves, cool evenings and crisp apples- we will celebrate this Labor Day weekend by inviting the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto over for a visit. Maybe it's not your ideal three-day weekend scenario, but it could be worse. It could still actually be a hurricane.