Monday, December 31, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

Since 2001, New Years Eve has been hard. I wonder each year if it wouldn't be better to embrace the sadness of this day rather than spend it struggling to not be sad. As in past years, I'll undoubtedly eat and drink too much and then resolve not to drink until next New Years, which usually makes it until the next dinner party.

Dad wrote that the lyrics that summed up this year were:
A long December
and there’s reason to believe
maybe this year
will be better than last.
lyrics by Adam Duritz

I'll add these:
The water is wide, I cannot cross over
And neither have I wings to fly.
Build me a boat that can carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


If I had a spell of magic
I would make this enchantment for you
A burgundy heart-shaped medallion
With a window that you could look through
So that when all the mirrors are angry
With your faults, all you must do
Is peek through that heart-shaped medallion
And see you
From my point of view
lyrics by David Wilcox
It's Saturday night, and over a week since my last post. I haven't sat down and even tried to write about any of it.

Christmas is supposed to be about sugar plum fairies dancing in your dreams. We built "Happy Town" on December 23rd, and tucked the kids in bed after they'd left a glass of milk and a slice of cornbread for Santa, who would arrive a night early so that they might play with their toys before we drove up to spend Christmas Eve with my family.

We always spend the late afternoon into the evening at Dad's. This year it was Ben and Maria, Alec, the girls and I, Dad, my grandfather, and my father's half-brother Kyle. I have a few pictures of these festivities:

Dad and Lauren

Grampie, Kyle, and Dad

Ben, me, and Dad

Alec and Lindsay

Alec, Lindsay, Dad, and Lauren

Lauren and me

Later that night, we went to Auntie Di's. Most of the focus of the evening was on my sister, who looked worse than we'd feared. Christmas was pretty much bittersweet this year. Sweet to spend time with my family, but bitter that Jules is still so sick. That was until after Christmas dinner, when we received a text message. The next two hours were the longest I've ever experienced while we waited to hear if the police got to her apartment in time, and then while they convinced her to come with them to the hospital. Dad dropped me at the hotel that Alec had taken the kids to to spend the night, and though it was only 8 PM, it might as well have been the middle of the night. I spent the rest of the evening on the phone. A doctor phoned from the hospital asking if perhaps I had misinterpreted her text message, that she was just sorry she messed up everybody's Christmas. "No." I said firmly. "I didn't misunderstand. That's why we called 911."

The last few days have been a stark juxtaposition between trying to carry on with normal life back home, make the most of the little vacation we have as a family, interrupted by hushed phone conversations with my brothers and my parents.

Alec and Lindsay at the New York Aquarium

Lauren looking at fish

Lindsay looking at fish

The Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo

Lindsay gets a haircut

Whenever the phone rings with an unknown number, I worry about the news it will bring. Tonight a doctor called from the hospital, pleading for insight. "I will go out and get her any food you think she might eat," he said. I was both touched that someone cared so much about her, and disheartened to hear she'd pulled her NG tube out and was refusing to eat. Not surprised, but sad.

I really want to rewind to being excited about a little village made out of candy and matching velvet and plaid dresses for my girls. The excitement of getting a new pair of All Stars from Dad, spandex for the gym from Mom, and oh...oh, the toys. The loud toys, the fun toys. The toys! But I can't. It is what it is.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Almost like being there for 16 seconds

Lauren makes sure we see her.

Lindsay is excited. "Lar-ren sing!"

...because really, kids sing loud and gymnatoriums aren't acoustically tuned for this. Not that I'm a theatre consultant.

The grand finale of the Winter Sing-Along

Oh, and dude sitting behind me on the school board who felt it necessary to talk during the entire program, having a loud public conversation about how glad you are that the superintendent is resigning because he's sexist? I'm not voting for you.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Just how delicious is she?

Lindsay with her entry to OMSH's Coloring Contest, wearing her latest obsession, a knit romper. Oh, to be head to toe in blankie is just divine...

Thank you, Sybil

Lauren is thrilled with her present. "Oh, it's pink," she gushed. "It has a flower on it with a button for a center! I just love it."

You can see all that in her face, this shot taken moments after she opened it.

It's too bad these don't just post themselves on the Internet. That's really make this post more timely. Thanks again, she really loves it!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hey, what's that sound?

I forget sometimes that I'm raising two girls who will have the impression that there was always the Internet, and that people wear their phones, and a handful of other details that I remember a time when they didn't exist.

The girls had been watching Noggin, which switches over to The N after 6 PM. It runs similar programming to TVLand. I believe the show that was on was The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which I admit I didn't watch. Within the context of the show playing in the next room, a phone rang. Except it was one of those phones that had a bell in it, so it actually rang.

Lauren stopped spooning soup to her mouth, and listened. "Is it a fire alarm?"

"No," I replied. "It's a phone ringing on the TV."

"That's not a phone."

"Actually, it is. Before phones played digital ring tones, they had bells in them and rang."

"You're kidding me."

Imagine if I told her they didn't have buttons.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ten minutes of extreme

Other than the customary difficulty sleeping, Alec's week away has been relatively uneventful. My sleepiness led to a couple of misplaced items - my American Express card and Lindsay's mittens, but otherwise a pretty quiet week.

I have class on Saturday mornings, so our babysitter was due to arrive at 8:30 AM. Lindsay was still quiet in her room, and Lauren was playing her new Leapster game (Thanks, Tutu!) she opened last night for Hanukkah. I'd made what I thought was a quick trip to the bathroom, was about to retrieve Lindsay so that both girls were dressed and eating breakfast when Kristin arrived.

Alas, no.

I flushed the toilet and washed my hands, puzzled by the continual sound of running water after I'd turned off the tap. I turned to see water pouring out over the toilet seat, about 2 inches already on the floor. "Holy socks!" I exclaimed, grabbing the plunger I freed the clogged toilet paper and watched as the water went back down the drain. I grabbed rag towels out of the closet to wipe up the water. Three thirsty bath towels later, I was down to the rag hand towels and the toilet was still dripping. I turned the water off, drained the tank, and dried all of the top surfaces of the toilet, but it was still dripping. I put a dry towel under the drip, retrieved Lindsay, and met Kristin at the door with a diaper-clad toddler.

"Just don't use the upstairs toilet," I said as cheerfully as I could muster. I changed Lindsay into her clothes as Kristin began preparing the requested breakfast - oatmeal with raisins and walnuts. I sped out of the driveway with my laptop on the front seat thinking about that drip, puzzling over where the water was coming from. The water's off, I thought. And the tank is dry. Could something have broken? Silly, it was just an overflow.

When I arrived home, sure enough, the drip had stopped. I turned the water on, refilled the tank, and gave the toilet a few flushes. It was fine. I breathed a sigh of relief. Besides having to bring a heavy basket of saturated bath towels to the basement to wash, it was a pretty harmless event.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Good call

Despite my concern about Lauren's friends not having signed up for Rovers, I am relieved after the first session. She had a great time. As soon as we arrived, Lauren began running laps of the gym with her ball. She was much more serious about soccer than I'd seen her, and I realized without the distraction of her friends with their flagging interest, she's just focused on learning the sport. She was excited to demonstrate her prowess at the first drill - dribbling and running the length of the basketball court keeping her ball a short distance from her feet. I was further impressed that during the passing drills, she consistently was able to direct the ball to her friend's feet. Each time the coaches called for volunteers to demonstrate this drill or that one, her hand flew up.

Lindsay grew bored about halfway through the hour-long session, and began chasing and trying to kick a stray soccer ball. We ran around the perimeter of the gym so that she didn't get knocked over by the bigger kids - 4 to 6 year olds. She seemed determined to get into their games and it was an exercise to keep the ball moving away from the action. She kept squealing, "Kick it!"

We arrived home and had our scrambled eggs with cheese and peas, and I made some fresh latkes. I lit the menorah, forgetting that the candles stay lit for a good hour and change, so we played a while before the kids went to bed sans bath. They both were too tired to protest.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Assorted randomness

My mother bought the girls matching brown "suede" boots (I have no idea what they actually are, some sort of synthetic material). Lauren tried hers on, but really doesn't wear any other shoes but sneakers on a daily basis. Lindsay has insisted on wearing the boots every day. Her eyes get big, "Oh. Boots! Boots so goot. Yes! Boots!" Occasionally she will let you know that she's wearing them. "Got boots! Boots pity." (Boots are pretty...I think.) She was also excited that I put the "hoot" on her winter jacket. "Hoot on head. Warm," she explained, patting her head thoughtfully. The plastic doll is a wildly popular item that has already been through the wash because she got some greasy food item all over her. She particularly likes it when I swaddle the doll. "Banket so warm. So goot."

I had a couple of repeat gifts planned this year. I'd thought about putting together another Snapfish photobook for the grandparents. I didn't take as many pictures this year, and though I have several nice pictures of Dad and my kids, I have only one each of Alec's dad and Nanny which aren't particularly flattering and no pictures of either of our moms with the kids. Rather than compiling what surely would only be complained about, I think I've got to give it a pass. Maybe I'll try to take a lot of pictures in the next few months and put them together as Mother and Father's Day gifts.

It's amazing how quickly I get into the Christmas money panic. It's what, December 5th? I've done maybe a third of my shopping? I feel like I have to put my head between my knees already. Ugh.

I decided, along with the photobooks, which aren't really pricey but add up when you buy 5 of them, that I wasn't going to order photo Christmas cards this year. After designing and writing copy (newsletter a la Lauren style) and importing my addresses, it added up to almost $150. For cards. It has crept up steadily each year, but I have to admit that the amount gave me pause. While I was at Target today buying diapers and toilet paper (there's snow coming and being without either item would be VERY bad), I picked up some postcard-style cards with envelopes for $10. They had a photo insert card, but it was $10 for 12 cards, I send out almost 50 cards. I printed the photo I'd planned to use, the "Lauren" letter, and bought some rubber cement. The activity forces me to evaluate each member of the list. If we've never received a card back and not spoken for over a year? No card.

What else have I got for you tonight? Tomorrow starts indoor soccer, and I'm a little sad that Lauren's friends from the borough league didn't sign up. It sounds as though they didn't sign up for basketball either. I'm not worried about it - Lauren gets along pretty well with everybody, and at least half the kids will be from kindergarten and first grade at her school so she should know people.

It's also the third night of Hanukkah tomorrow, and I warmed the last of the latkes from last night. A request was put in at bedtime for a new batch tomorrow. Latkes go with scrambled eggs, right? It's just breakfast for dinner.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Hanukkah

It's the first night of Hanukkah

Mama's cheat sheet

Latkes. What? Come on. Irish girls know how to fry potatoes.

And they sure were tasty smothered in applesauce and sour cream.

Lauren thought so too. Sour cream is so good.

In the glow of their Christmas tree and menorah, the girls color in their coloring books.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another bonus video

Lindsay after lunch

So you can see for yourselves why I rarely understand - there are real words in there, peppered with made up ones, right? I think she actually said, "Apple shoes get down."

Snot right

You know it's cold season when you begin surreptitiously lining your pockets with tissues. As a mom, it also involves toting other people's expectorate on tissues in your pocket. If you're a mom of more than one child, it also involves dedicating pockets so that you're not wiping the face of one child with the tissue smeared with the other's mucus excretions. See, this is why I'm done having kids. I have no idea what you do with the third child's tissues. Maybe like so many things that were integral when eldest child was a wee babe, they fall to the wayside and you stop caring whose snot it is.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas picture

For those of you who read me over at Worst Mama, you've already seen this picture. Here's the Christmas Picture with The Mall Santa. I have no idea why it has the wacky border. Lauren was excited about seeing Santa and apprised him of what she wants - a single item. He smiled and told her to be a good girl, and she nodded obediently.

Many of the other kids, particularly ones who don't celebrate Christmas have informed the ones that do that there's no such thing as Santa. Having been told this at 6 by a little Jewish girl in my 1st grade class, I'd decided the best policy when confronted was to tell the truth. In April, she said, "I don't understand why you pretend that it's Santa on Christmas at GG's house when it's really Grandpa Paul," to which I replied, "Sometimes it's fun to pretend." I thought this was a damn good answer. I heard Lauren ask Alec over the weekend, carefully explaining how Aleksa, a classmate, had told her that there was no such thing as Santa. I thought Alec's answer was pretty good about the spirit of the season is one of giving, and that one person couldn't be everywhere, so in this spirit she actually had lots of Santas: her parents, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles. And yet, after this conversation, it was she who suggested that we go to the mall to visit Santa and give him her list. I have to admit this was something of a disconnect for me, but maybe it just goes back to my original answer that sometimes it's fun to pretend.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thankgiving weekend

Lauren in her Native American costume for the Thanksgiving sing-along

Alec and Lindsay on the carousel

Lauren, Lindsay, and Epiphany riding the Christmas train

Friday, November 23, 2007

Making our own traditions

We had prepared the "pumpkin" (it was actually butternut squash) pie from scratch on Wednesday along with the cornbread, and started brining the turkey. The turkey and roasted spiced sweet potato recipes were the one we'd used last year, but the sage and chestnut stuffing, brussel sprouts sauteed with pancetta, pear, walnut and bleu cheese salad were all new recipes.

We wore jeans yesterday. The television blared the Macy's parade and then football. I was relieved to be able to do laundry, including stripping the beds and washing the sheets. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, but there was always so much pressure growing up to uphold this imposed formality that was void of normalcy, that something as simple as folding sheets was grounding. It felt good to be barefoot.

Being home this weekend means we can put up our Christmas tree, which feels so much less pressured than it always did trying to squeeze into a weekend in December when we're being pulled in so many directions.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving thanks

I'm thankful that my children are fortunate enough to know 5 of their great grandparents.

I'm thankful for the wisdom and guidance from our parents, even if sometimes they behave like crazy people. Sometimes we behave like crazy people also.

I'm thankful for the strength of my brothers, and for my sister-in-law Maria, the love of my brother Ben's life.

I'm thankful that my sister is still with us.

I'm thankful for the love, perspective, and support of my husband who is still the smartest person I know.

I'm thankful for my daughters who keep me grounded in the present, bring love and laughter to my life, and remind me that every day is a blessing.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A bonus video

Lindsay demonstrates that the strength in marketing of children's toys. Sorry this one is a bit dark.

Lindsay at 18 months

I captured this picture of you today at breakfast so that someday when you're big you can see what a serious little person you were. You're eating oatmeal with walnuts, honey, and bananas, and carefully using the spoon to retrieve the oatmeal and picking out the slices of banana with your fingers.
Lindsay, November 2007

We moved you out of your high chair and into a booster at the table last week. You seem to enjoy eating with the family, and simultaneously decided it was no longer acceptable to use plastic toddler utensils, and insist on using a regular teaspoon and salad fork like your sister does.

Tomorrow marks your half birthday, and you will be 18 months old. I forget sometimes you're not bigger than that because you're so independent. You insist on walking from the house to the car, and remind me when I put you in your car seat "Seatbelt on!" You've warmed up to the idea of playing at the gym daycare during the week and call it, "Play with the kids" as you say,"Go now. Play with the kids." I'm surprised at your affinity for new words - it's between 3-5 per day now, and for Daddy, who travels every week, it's an even bigger shock.

You're still very tough on your big sister, and often pull her hair or give her a smack upside the head when you're playing together. More often, she plays and you play along side her - taking care of a doll, or in the play kitchen.

I love you,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Texting and other modern conveniences

I've been receiving a lot of text messages lately. Some of them from people I don't know. One of them claiming to be my favorite student and asking me if I was at the musical. "Sorry wrong number," I wrote back to receive a last message: "Oh my b."

Last night I received one that said: "We're at CBs and nine drag queens are here."

Not recognizing the number, and stumbling over where CBs (Manhattan, maybe?) might be, or whether it might be expected that there would be transvestites (9 of them), I wrote back, "Yay. I love a parade." because I couldn't think of what else to say. Maybe they were expecting this? Maybe they were inviting me to come see it, ala Lucky Chengs? "Where are the rest of them?" was a close second option for a response. "We just had to leave," the text-er wrote back. "Are they pretty?" I asked. "Have you seen Some Like It Hot?" was the question in response.

After a few messages, I pieced together that it was Nick messaging, whose number isn't in my cell, and that he and Jessie were at the local steakhouse - a Charlie Brown's - when the party of pretty men arrived.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Comprending concepts

The language development in the past two weeks for Lindsay has been really remarkable. The process of learning to communicate I found fascinating with both girls. Lauren was (and still is) a collector of words. She had probably a hundred or so words when she began pairing them. Lindsay's focus is phrases. Technically, her first word was three words strung together, "Here you go" she would say, handing over her blankets in the morning. If you read Worst Mama, you heard that I made her angry enough in the car that she used her first formal sentence, which was, "I want my drinky, Mama!" I noted today that when I hand her something - a drink, a banana, a cracker - she says, "Cue cue" for Thank you.

Lauren is in the phase right now where I am constantly having to spell words for her. Each week, they formally learn a word - to read, spell, and write it. She sings songs about these words. She came home with a miniature composition book and began drawing pictures of various objects outside (a tree, a bag of leaves, a scarecrow) and attempting to write the word underneath. She wrote "lef bag" and "skercro", and I wrote the words underneath them as neatly as I could manage.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Say cheese

About to snap a picture of the girls, I said, "Say cheese!"

Lindsay looked around, interested. "Cheese!"

"Look over here, Lindsay!"

"Cheese...and crackers?!"

Friday, November 09, 2007


Lauren (from time out): I'm sorry, Mommy.

Lindsay: I sorry, Mommy. So sorry.

Me: Are you hungry?

Lindsay: Hungy, Mommy. So hungy.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Jersey Kabuki

My neighbor Ed the ex-Marine is out in his front yard wearing his pajamas and a bright blue bathrobe.

Perhaps came out to get his paper?

Ah yes. Bliss. He tucks it under his left arm.

He turns.

But something is amiss.

He looks around the corner.

He darts into a bush.

Something is wrong. Someone is missing.

He ducks behind his shrub and returns holding a small black cat. This cat recently started appearing on the scene. She is black and looks startlingly like my cat Shannon except she wears an orange collar (Shannon's is black).

He places the cat gently next to the food bowl on his front steps, and returns into the house with his newspaper, victorious.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

And another one bites the dust

All and all, I am dissatisfied with my little borough over this Halloween season. As you know, my candy was swiped. I'll give you that leaving $25 worth of candy in a bowl in your yard is sort of tempting, but my neighbors do it every year. Perhaps it was the Cadillac selection - peanut butter cups, almond bars, malted milk balls, and chocolate covered toffee bars that were just too good to pass up dumping the bowl into his pillow case.

But today, discovering that all the remaining jack-o-lanterns in our neighborhood were smashed in the street put me over the top. Especially since mine, pictured above, was in the garbage the day after Halloween because it was rotten. It was such a poor harvest this year that I'd put out some of my indoor decorations to round out our display. I've labeled the fake ones.

Would you believe someone swiped 2 of my fake pumpkins? Why would someone need to do that? What could you possibly do with 2 rubber pumpkins? They don't splat satisfyingly on the pavement.

I liked those pumpkins. Lauren and I picked them out together when she was 3. We put them out around the house. Every year since, she's gotten excited to see the decorations come out. I know I can buy new rubber pumpkins. But it was my stuff and someone didn't care and just took it. I think that sucks a whole lot.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A bird in the house is worth how many in the bush?

Yes, you read that right. Sitting eating lunch with Lindsay yesterday, I'll admit I was a bit preoccupied. I was probably reading and eating, or chatting and eating. Although the jingle of Lauren's wind chimes in her room struck me as strange since I knew the windows were all closed, it didn't register there might be something amiss.

After Lindsay decimated her cream cheese sandwich, I scooped her up to put her down for a nap upstairs. As I turned into her bedroom, something flew past my head, brushing my ear. I screamed, ran downstairs and out of the house. Breathing fast, I grabbed my cell phone out of my pocket. It appeared I didn't have the number for animal control programmed into my phone, but the non-emergency police number would do.

"Hi, this is Detective Scott..."

"Hi. This is Epiphany Alone and I live at this address. There's something flying around my second floor..."


"I don't know if it was a bird or a bat...I screamed and ran..."

She laughed.

"No, seriously. I have no idea what it was, I just got out of there with my baby."

"Ok, I will send a patrol car over..."

The 7-foot tall policeman wasn't as amused that now he had to go upstairs, open a window, and shoo the bird out of the house. He did so as politely as he could muster, though he did quietly wonder aloud why I couldn't have just opened a window myself.

"It's all set, ma'am," he said, handing me a bird poop-stained towel.

"Thanks very much." I said.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What's that you say?

"One of the kitties is sad because he doesn't have an ear."

"Yeah, but that means you can make fun of him."

Lauren pulls a sad face. "Aw, Mom! Why would you make fun of the poor kitty?"

"What? It's not like he can hear."

"Aww, Mom!"

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Here kitty kitty

Lindsay's interpreted that we're teaching her what animals say so that she can communicate with that animal. I noticed recently that whenever one of the cats walks by she says, "Me-yow!" as though in greeting.

She's decided Seamus, our cantankerous elder cat, is snuggly. Whenever she approaches him, she tries to hug him. He is very patient, as he was when Lauren was a tot, and will allow the light slappy petting and the occasional ear pull. Lindsay's hugs are the full-body type where she falls on him, "Me-yowing" as soothingly as an almost 18 month old can manage. She gave him a hug last night while he was eating his dinner, and he just continued chewing, barely acknowledging the 20 pound monkey on his back.

Yeah, I'm probably going to overlook the next bathroom peeing incident...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Halloween Recap

Happy first day of Nablopomo, guys! Blog until the Internet explodes!

We had a very nice Halloween Chez Stoll. Lindsay and I went to the Y. Lindsay dressed up as Tinkerbell, and I went to yoga class. When I came down to get her, she was conning those Pillsbury cookies that you slice and bake from some woman who called herself Grandma. "She ate 3 already," she said. "She just kept asking for more."
Lindsay as Tinkerbell

We headed over to Lauren's class party. I read the kids a story. We had a snack of pretzels and juice. We played Ghost Bowling (Lindsay's bowling game with those plastic ghosts you hang from trees over them) and Halloween Twister (we glued ghosts, jack o' lanterns, witches, and black cat faces on top of a Twister game). We colored faces on printed jack o' lantern templates.
Kindergardeners playing Halloween Twister

After that, Lindsay and I had some humus for lunch at the picnic table we frequented last spring when Lauren was in PM Pre-K. Then we attended the Halloween sing along assembly and the annual costume parade.
My neighbor across the street's "graveyard"

We went out trick or treating around 5 PM, which was early this year because of the extra week of daylight savings. It meant that we walked a couple of blocks without finding houses with candy, which was actually OK, because it meant we had a pretty small haul this year. Because we were out, we left a bowl of candy unattended. It didn't last very long.
Before someone ignored the "Take one treat, please" and dumped the lot into their bag.

Green Puppy and Blue, anxious to go out

Trick or Treating is hard work...

When we got home around 6:30, Lauren asked that I take a picture of her face paint. The girls were tired, as was I from pulling them around in their wagon. We all went to bed pretty early last night.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scary and not fun

Alec is in Dallas this morning, and off to Berlin later today. Yes, Germany. Which makes my morning routine very exhausting and rushed no matter what time I get myself out of bed.

It was all going fine - girls were dressed and finishing their breakfast - until the critical moment we had to leave. Suddenly Lauren became a whiny mess who couldn't put on her own coat or backpack while I struggled to get Lindsay into her parka. "Get on your coat...I don't care if it's zipped," I snapped in my drill-sergeant voice, "Put on your backpack, get out the door!" I had Lindsay tucked under one arm with her parka, and the other opened the trunk and unfolded the stroller. "Coat!" Lindsay said. "Yes, I know we have to put on your coat," I said dryly.

"Mom, I need help zipping up."

I put Lindsay's coat on and tucked her into the stroller, zipping and buckling as one motion. "You really need to be a little more independent," I scolded as I struggled with her zipper.


"Hey, it's Seamus!"

"Stay here, Seamus, I will be back to feed you in a few minutes." I said, pushing the stroller, "Come on, Lauren, we have to hustle or you'll miss the bus."

We made it to the stop with chatting time to spare. Just as the bus pulled to the stop a block away, Seamus walked into the middle of the street.

"Oh my gosh," said one of the dads, "Whose cat is that?"

"Mine," I replied. "Seamus! Get out of the street!" I parked the stroller and ran out into the intersection, scooping up the cat.

"He's sure dressed for Halloween," the dad said.

Of course, now I have a freaking out cat, a kid to put on the bus, and another kid to somehow get home in her stroller. I verbally ushered Lauren on the bus as Seamus finally struggled free and ran back across the street, fortunately traffic still was stopped for the bus, and made his way home.

As he followed me inside, he had the irrepressible arrogant air of a teenage boy. I was really hungry, he meowed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Just words

The day my parents brought my little sister home, I crept into her room to watch her sleep. She came home from the hospital dressed in a white onesie with little yellow duckies on it with matching booties on her teeny feet. I leaned my chin against the rail of the crib and watched her sleep for a long time, inhaling the scent of powder that hung on the air. I remember feeling she was fragile, and there was some risk she wasn't a permanent fixture in our lives.

She was a scrawny baby with barely any blonde hair atop her head and huge blue eyes. Her first two years were marked with diagnoses I didn't understand at age 12. She spat up every meal and wasn't gaining enough weight.

My most concrete memories of her were when she was 2 or 3 and used to like to dress up in pink and purple, a little blur of sandy ringlets. She was so girly, like a little doll. The sister I'd always wanted.

She was 6 years old when I told her it wouldn't be long before I went away to college. She cried angry tears at me. "You..." She searched for the worst word she could think of, "...bug," she erupted.

I went away to college. I got married. I moved to the Midwest and settled in New York. She was 14 when she came down to spend time with Alec and I in our little apartment, singing Brittney Spears songs. We laughed and laughed. My brothers are really funny people. My sister is genuinely the funniest person I know.

We spent a few days together when Lauren was about 5 weeks old when I basically ran away from my life for a week, overwhelmed by motherhood, seeking refuge with my mom and my grandmother. It was a few months after she had a terrible car accident and had wrapped her car around a telephone pole. She seemed different, but we watched her run and she smiled and carried baby Lauren around to meet her friends.

It is a lifetime ago.

Lauren's lifetime.

I just wish she could find peace in her life. I want her to live her dreams, whatever they are. Because the idea of a world without her is far too dark for me to even imagine.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Better parenting

One of my dear friends once said that a lot of parenting is an effort to re-parent ourselves - to correct the wrongs of our parents so that each generation is a little smarter, better than the last. He doesn't have children. I add that, not because I think he's wrong, but because it provides some context. In the real world, not every parenting decision falls into this category. A lot of my parenting is down-and-dirty, split second decision-making. I do the best I can. Sometimes it isn't good enough.

I'm going to take a breath here and say this is just an observation. If you happen to be my parent you can probably take this very personally and decide never to speak to me again, but that would really suck so I hope you don't.

The single-most failure of my parents' parenting was in preparing me to have adult relationships. I don't know if they thought they'd have more time to accomplish that and the ill-timed failure of their relationship got in the way, that it was someone else's job (the school), or since no one taught them it was something that I was supposed to learn on my own.

When I was seventeen, I took my first trip to Planned Parenthood. One of my high school friends had just had a pregnancy scare and I decided I didn't want to be in that position. I didn't discuss this with my parents, as I didn't discuss any of the other details with them either. The boyfriend I was with was not my first lover. At that time, you could buy up to 12 months worth of pills directly from them. I bought 6 month's worth because that was how much cash I had on me when I was there. When I got home, I put the box in my bottom drawer under some clothes and put the current pack in my top drawer so I'd remember to take them every morning.

Although it wasn't the usual for my mother to put away my laundry, she claimed she found the pack in my top drawer this way. She screamed. Why had I done this without talking to her first. Didn't I know about the horrible side effects of the Pill? I was too young to be having sex!

I don't think I engaged her in this conversation. I listened to her scream for a while, and then I said coldly, "I'm not talking about this with you. If you want to ground me, that's fine...but I really don't have anything to say."

She threw the pack of pills on the table. "Fine."

We never spoke again about it.


Why did I do it without talking to her? We'd had exactly one previous conversation about sex when I was 12. She seemed terribly uncomfortable. I already knew the details, and this conversation was just Hell. When I'd asked her about sex when I was 9, she refused to talk about it, so the awkward conversation 3 years later just sent along the message that she was not someone to talk to.

Did I know about the horrible side effects? Yes. A doctor informed me of some pretty mild side effects as juxtaposed with having an abortion or being a teen mom. I also knew that while condom use protected well against sexually transmitted diseases, it wasn't most effective at preventing pregnancy. I thought, and of course this is some chip-on-my-shoulder teenage impetuousness, that I was making a pretty responsible choice.

Was I too young to be having sex? Probably. I was already doing that though, so it seemed like a dumb topic.

What would I have said to my seventeen year old?

This is the hard one. I'd imagine the teenagers are interested in sex earlier than that these days. I'd like to think I'm not coming off to my girls as being unapproachable (though did my mom think the same thing?).

I'd probably still ask if she was having any side effects from the pill, because they can be common and there are so many formulations now that you can try if one doesn't agree with you. I'd remind her that while the Pill protects from pregnancy, it doesn't against sexually transmitted diseases - the most common of which can be symptom-free in women. I'd say that respect is very important in sexual relationships and to make sure she was being both respected and respectful. Beyond that, I don't know. I probably need to figure it out, because I'll probably have to have this conversation twice.

Friday morning

Some mornings I drive Alec to the train station. On the way back, Lindsay and I discuss which animals say what.

"What does the kitty say?"


"What does the cow say?"


We drove to Target this morning to buy paper goods. As I went to take Lindsay out of the car seat she said, "Crackers?"

"No, honey. We've got to go into the store."

She put on her biggest, fake-est cry. Then she slapped the top of her head and pulled her own hair.


What IS that?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Picking the perfect pumpkin and other alliterative adventures

"I'd like a thermos made out of steel, like that one Nicole has..."

"Oh, ok. We can get one at Target the next time we're there."

"I think we should pay for it."


"I think we should not steal it."

"Oh, I see you're pointing out that steel, the metal, and steal, take something sound the same."


"That's called a homonym."


"Yes. Homonyms sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings."