Friday, December 28, 2012

I seriously need some elves...

Christmas 2012 has come and gone. We lived through the Mayan apocalypse AND dinner at my sister's. Just when I thought my extended family couldn't be any more boring, a co-worker mentions that at HER Christmas eve festivities, everyone got drunk and sang The Twelve Days of Christmas, including appropriate acting out of the song. Video was prohibited, of course. Nothing done at my holiday celebrations ever require anyone to sign a waiver, unfortunately.

As you can see from the above picture, Santa did not so much visit our house as ransack it. Oh, wait, that was done by children, mostly one small-ish, still-very-excited-by-it-all child. Which is really fun to watch, but not so much to clean up after. I now know why Jewish people go out for Chinese food and a movie.

Which is why I spent the day not cleaning. S-, who is normally home everyday except for 1 or 2 hour outside activities or occasional forays to friends' houses, is at karate camp. All day. A lesser woman would say that is a great time to tidy up, but not me! I spent the 5 hours having uninterrupted time speaking to my husband (actual whole sentences!) and surfing the web. Also, I learned how to use Evernote on my iphone and computer, so not a total loss. I am nothing if not fascinated by how to be organized. Actual organization is another thing. Besides, I think that organization-type people are part of a pyramid scheme. Just like you can make a million by writing a book How to Be a Millionaire and convincing a million people to buy it, so I think those Efficiency types try and convince you that being organized is oh-so-wonderful and then convince you to buy their twee organizing bins and color-coded folders. Their own houses probably look like who did it and ran. Anyhoo.

She is trying to look fierce

So, I offer you Susan's Guide to Cleaning Your Abode. First, pick the least dirty/cluttered room. Start small, I say. Find the spot that will be easiest to clean, however you define that. I generally pick the bathroom-it's small in size and usually doesn't have a tremendous amount of clutter in it, unless we had an extended bathtime the night before. Clean that mother! It won't be hard, because you started small. This success will give you fresh impetus to clean more. Move onto another room. Do NOT start with the kitchen. If it's like mine, it's too much at this point to even think about. Pick one spot in the room to clean off. Not a desk, that's too complicated. Say a bed or a couch. Clean off the surface and make the bed, if that's where you're at. Now go around with a big bag and pick up all the garbage. There, doesn't it look cleaner already? And you now you have one clean surface to focus on and you won't be overwhelmed by the rest of the clutter. If you like, use that surface to organize; dirty clothes, clean clothes (why would both be on the floor? If you know the answer to that, you don't need this article), papers, books, dirty dishes (but not clean dishes, there are never any clean dishes, sheesh). These things must be put away before you move onto the next room.

The kitchen. I try not to be in my kitchen unless I'm cooking something, so I'll clean it while I cook. Counter-intuitive, I know, but it works for me so don't judge. I fill the dishwasher while I'm waiting for water to boil or whatev. I have to wipe down a counter already to get cooking, so why not just keep going? With the dirty dishes away in the dishwasher and the counters cleaned off, I can pretend that the floor's not too bad and save that for another day. As one of my nursing instructors said, I throw a handful of dirt in the corner and when it sprouts, I know it's time to clean. Words to live by and you won't find that in any how-to-be-organized book I'll warrant.

New Year's is a few days away, a propitious time to clean the house. If that's not enough of an incentive,
invite some people over, then you'll have to clean. A Filipino nurse at work told me that a few minutes before midnight on New Year's, they open all the doors and windows of their home to let the evil spirits out and make way for good things to come in. Hey, ya never now. Happy 2013, y'all.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Happenings in Hub City

So we missed New Brunswick's tree lighting this year as I was working. But then I found out (still not sure how), that Highland Park was having a Christmas tree/Menorah lighting Saturday. After Shabbos, of course.

(Our town has a large, Jewish population-mostly Modern Orthodox, some Hasidim, conservative. A reformed minyan meets at my church. Israeli's, who can fall into any camp, I guess. Oh, and we have a town eruv. Google it).

So S and I and hubby and the dog walked uptown for dinner and general lighting of things. Several shops were giving out warm cider and cookies and S's old daycare was having pictures with Santa. S told Santa she wants a baby brother or sister for Christmas. Umm. Anyhoo, We stayed too long at the shawarma restaurant, missed the lighting of the Christmas tree and so stayed for the menorah lighting. How's that for a multicultural sentence? While they were preparing the menorah, a big PVC affair, the high school a cappella group sang, and then a blue grass group played Christmas music. It was quite a sight, all of us huddled on the sidewalk, listening to Christmas tunes and watching the menorah preparations. S found some friends. Together, they posed for pictures for a Jewish paper. "Say Happy Chanukah!" said the photographer and the 3 girls did, with candy canes in their mouths. I love my town. They were also selling menorahs (dreidle included) for $1. Of course we bought one, I have no shame. And it's a dollah.

I think the town kinda threw this thing together last minute, because the place they chose to do this was right on the main drag, on the sidewalk with cones extended into the street which is busy with NJ, holiday traffic. At night. I spent the time poised to spring into action should someone be jostled into the path of an oncoming SUV. Anyhoo, the rabbi(?) came forward, talked about the meaning and miracle of Chanukah and then proceeded to light up a flare. I had been wondering, because their were no light bulbs on this thing and there was no way a candle was going to last in the weather. No, flares it is! The assembled group sang the blessing over the lighting of the candles and with his one flare he lit the center and then the first night candle. Flares smoking, sparks falling to the ground, mothers pulling their children back so they didn't catch on fire. And all the while the real risk of an errant driver veering 1 foot to the right and cutting us all down. Good times.

We went home and played dreidle with pennies. It's easy and because we haven't had cheap dreidles pushed on us since childhood, fun (some Jewish friends I know are less than enthusiastic about the dreidling, but it was exciting and exotic for us. And you get to sing that song). It literally took S 10 seconds to memorize the symbols. Not the names, we're still working on that, but right away she knew that nun=no pennies, hey=half the pennies, shin=put a penny in the pot and gimmel (which looks like a "high heel" per my child)=Yippee! Gimmel me ALL the pennies!

Today we went to the Crossroads Theater's Holiday Jubilee. Eldest daughter got paid, yes I said paid, to be a costume consultant for the Motown inspired holiday show. Kids are free with a paid adult ticket and they sat on the stage. It was great-the music was fun, we were dancing in the seats and S had a great time, even though she didn't get picked to go up and dance with the cast, but she wore her disappointment well and I was so proud of her good behavior I bought her a disgusting candy thing at 7-11 afterward. They even put in  Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Muslim songs. And not in a "hey we have to be politically correct and throw in a
Chanukah song" but very nicely done. Because, seriously, sharing between different groups of people doesn't dilute anything, it only makes what we have and believe in stronger. It was groovy. AND the costumes were right on. I came home, ate 3 slices of pizza and passed out. Word.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hunting Fossils and Little Orphan Annie

We had a rather exciting Saturday. First off, we went to Big Brook Preserve in Monmouth County. We spent the morning wading through the muddy brook, sifting for fossils. We did manage to find a bout a zillion belemnite fossils AKA ancient squids. These came to be called "squid bits," as in, "Hey! I found some more squid bits!" G did manage to find the prize winning Goblin Shark tooth-the curator of the geology museum said it's the best example she's ever seen:

We then went to G's Alma Mater, Monmouth U. The college is situated on the former site of the Shadow Lawn Mansion, now known as Wilson Hall (Woodrow once had the "Summer White House"close by). It is also where "Annie" was filmed. We, erm, managed to get in and have a look 'round. 

The entire ceiling over the main hall is beautiful stained glass

The sitting room to the lady of the house's private Loo

Mirror and marble over M'lady's bath
Let's go check out the basement, Daddy!

Public ladies room near the basement theatre (Seriously, I don't have a bathroom fetish. They just had some of the most beautiful tile work)

Bathroom stall door. Seriously. 

They still use the bedrooms as classrooms, complete with chandeliers and huge fireplaces. It was amazing to walk through. G had taken me here when we were that time, we had gone on one of the original elevators, but seeing as we were in the house by ourselves, and the elevators are ancient, we thought it prudent to stay out of them.

S and I pretended to be ladies from the Gilded Age and talked about how we would spend our days, having tea parties and riding our ponies about the grounds. It was fun. We got home very exhausted.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Homeschool Success by Susan Higgins

Our first year of homeschooling met with success for both my husband and I as parents and for our little pupil. She learned to read, which is always amazing to me; seeing that light turn on as they finally "get it." She learned how to add and subtract 2-digit numerals which I don't think I did until the end of second grade. And she's learning how to be curious and find out what excites her, which is the real goal, I think. As Yeats said, "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire."

We get a lot of questions on homeschooling whenever we see our non-homeschooling friends and family. As much as I hate being the poster-family for homeschooling, I try and remember that their curiosity comes from a good place and be patient with them. Most people want to know what "curriculum" we use. I put it in quotes because a lot of people seem to think that we are required to follow a specific curriculum. In NJ you do not. NJ requires that all children between 6 and 16 receive a public education or its equivalent. That's it. If the school system feels that you are not providing that to your children, they can bring you to court. Once you show what you are providing your child, in terms of education, the onus is on the school system to prove it's not equivalent. This has not been done very often, but it’s enough of a concern that I keep a record of what we’ve covered in a teacher’s planning calendar.  

We are primarily following a classical education format called a Trivium. It's based on a solid foundation of grammer, logic and rhetoric. At age 7, this means a good foundation in reading skills, with the idea that it will open up doors for her to learn about, well about anything she wants. We also have a strong focus on math and include several hours a week for history, art, music and sports. Another popular homeschooling style is called "unschooling," meaning that there is no set instruction. Children learn as they go about the course of the day or as things interest them. Writing thank you notes is a lesson in writing, grammar, penmanship and manners. A trip to the farmer's market can be a math lesson, etc. Another popular type is called unit-based learning. The child and parents find something of interest: Egyptian pyramids, the solar system, the rain forest and use that subject as a spring board for learning math, reading, writing, etc as they learn about it.

There are many different schools of thought on homeschooling and from parents I've talked to in-person and online, no one style is perfect for everyone. Some parents even tailor the style to how the child learns best, not something they're likely to learn in a public school, with its one-size-fits-all curriculum. Montessori and Waldorf adherents both have homeschool versions. There are Christian and other faith-based homeschool philosophies. Also, for parents who want to, there are distance learning and correspondence curriculum for purchase. I know one family who uses an online school. The kids “meet” with their teachers online every day.

Lucky for us, there is an abundance of information on homeschooling out there.  Not the case for anyone who was teaching at home twenty or even ten years ago. And the internet has made sharing this information easy and much of it free. Some resources that we’ve used:
Homeschool Your Child for Free, LauraMaery Gold and Joan M. Zielinski, a comprehensive resource guide for finding free information on the internet, from curriculum planning to organization help. has the entire British schools curriculum online and I find it much more entertaining and user-friendly than many American sites. We’re using it this year for Ancient Greek history. It has games and interactive lessons for kids. a fun blog with a lot of information about the various types of homeschoolers.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday Morning

I love Saturday mornings. Especially Saturday mornings that are right in the middle of an eight-day vacation. Otherwise, I'm generally too tired to enjoy them.

This morning almost turned out that that anyway. I was awakened at barely 5am by the Little One who woke up for no good reason:
"Is it morning yet?"
"No, go back to bed."
"I can't, I'm thinking of scary things."
"Well, think about nice things. Like your birthday party. And go back to sleep."

Finally, after much tossing and turning and whispering, "Is it morning now?" she goes back to sleep.

Then the dog starts scratching to go out. It's 5:30am. Then Little One has to pee. She gets up and goes to the bathroom, comes back, "Can we get up now?"


FINALLY, after everyone has had their pee and gone back to sleep, dog wrapped around my feet and small child with various appendages draped over my body, until it must look like some skirmish just mysteriously decided to fall asleep on top of me. Despite the big pile on top of me, I fall back asleep.

7:30 am comes and the dog wakes me up again. Apparently the quick 5am pee was not enough to hold him over any longer. The upside to all this is that after a groggy but proper walk, I am awake alone in the house. Alone to enjoy my tea, toast with soy spread and Inside Washington without familial interruption. Also, I get to work a little bit on the umbilical cord I'm making for a certain new baby.

The family must wake up eventually. Here is our fabulous Saturday wake-up smoothie:

Almond Banana Smoothie (disclaimer: this is not quite as thick as a smoothie, but still very yummy).

  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • little bit of vanilla extract. I use half a cap-full, but for detail's sake we'll say 1/2 teaspoon
put the above into a blender and blend until there's not great big ice chunks in it and it's frothy. The small child loves it. It's gluten- and dairy- but not taste-free. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Too Big to Fail

“If you’re too big to fail, you’re too big.”-Richard Fisher, President, Dallas Federal Reserve

When Richard Fisher spoke those words, he was talking about the nation’s bailout of Wall Street and the nation’s largest banks following the crash of 2008. Those words, however, came to me when reading about two child abuse scandals that were in the news this summer: the Sandusky trial and the Philadelphia trial of a Catholic Priest who was convicted of child endangerment. Monsignor William Lynn was not charged with child abuse. Rather, he was convicted of reassigning pedophile priests while saying they were excused for health reasons. Lynn kept a list of 35 suspected pedophile priests that was testimony in the case. He said he kept the list in hopes that the burgeoning problem would be addressed by his superiors. He also admits under testimony that at no time did he go to the authorities with his information. Part of the trial focused on Father Edward Avery, who was accused of molesting a boy in the 1970’s and sent to an archdiocese hospital for priests with sexual and substance abuse problems. When he came off his disability leave, he was placed into a community parish, despite recommendations that he not be around children. Avery later pled guilty to sodomizing a 10 year old boy there.

The Jerry Sandusky trial, for those who spent the summer in Antarctica, reads like a primer on how to molest kids. Sandusky, assistant coach for Penn State, an NCAA football powerhouse, used his position as the founder of non-profit charity to sexually abuse young, at-risk, disadvantaged boys over a 15 year period. Sandusky was convicted on the testimony of 8 brave men who said that Sandusky forced them to have sex in exchange for money and favors. To me, the most alarming testimony of the entire case was when Mike McQuery, then a Penn State graduate assistant, found Sandusky raping a 10 year old boy in the shower. He said at trial that he couldn’t be sure of what he was seeing. Instead of going to the police, he informed his supervisor. An FBI report released this month came to the conclusion that Penn State knowingly allowed this behavior to continue unabated for at least 10 years. The Penn State Administrative Director and its Senior Financial Officer were subsequently charged with failure to report child abuse. Experts say that if Joe Paterno had not died this past winter, he too would be facing charges.

Amazingly to me, now that Penn State’s football program is in danger, people are complaining that it’s unfair that the program is in jeopardy. Let’s be clear folks: if the football program receives a penalty, the fault lies with Sandusky and those who protected him. I love Rutgers football, but I would rather see the stadium razed to the ground then have one 10 year old raped in its showers.

Take away this one thing: in the Catholic sex abuse scandal, in the Sandusky case, NOT ONE PERSON CALLED THE COPS. In large part because the institutions ‘reputations were seen as more important than the need to protect children. They didn’t want a scandal to dirty the name of their religious institution or their favorite sports team. And this is dangerous.   When one person rapes a child, they have damaged a vital portion of that child forever and it is a tragedy. When an institution is complicit in the cover-up and continuation of child abuse, it is a horror beyond imagining. If an institution, a religion, a university, whatever, is too big to abide by the laws of our country, not to mention common decency, then it is too big to exist here. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

I'm meditating. Officially, I mean, although that's an odd way to describe something that should be as organic as breathing. What I mean is that in addition to the few minutes of deep breathing I do before I go to sleep, counting my breaths, I am attending a weekly meditation group. Every Tuesday night at church, a small band of us, usually 3 to 5 people, sit in a candle-lit circle, read a brief illuminating passage  from some inspirational work and then meditate for 20 minutes to a CD of monks chanting "HU".

Hu, apparently, is an age-old name for God. Never heard of it before. Since, I've found it mentioned in two books. Go figure.

I am not really a meditative person. My thoughts tend to scamper around like a puppy on a short leash. Especially when I'm awake and sitting up. It's a lot easier to call my deep breathing exercises "meditation" when it really should be called falling asleep. But I have done at least enough meditation to know that this is normal and I shouldn't freak out about it. I keep pulling on the puppy's leash and try and get her to behave. That was the first week and I did pretty good and it sure seemed like that 20 minutes went really fast. The next day I felt a bit more centered, I have to admit.

The next week went about the same. Meditation runs from 7-7:30pm and when I open my eyes in the middle of it, the setting sun is setting the stained-glass Jesus alight and then the whole window is glowing with reds and blues and greens and that's pretty cool. I start to get antsy at some point but then the leader realizes that the chime has never gone off and we have meditated for 35 minutes.

Week 3 I am very fidgety, which I tend to be anyway-ask my husband. And I've a tickle at the back of my throat which I keep trying to ignore and that only makes me want to clear my throat urgently. Also, everything itches: my foot, my back, my mosquito bite. I also try to ignore these and when that doesn't work, I scratch them as unobtrusively as I can. At the end of the meditation we talk about this, and Awat, who led the group this week, says that when you do meditative practice long enough, this goes away. You should just acknowledge, "my foot is itching" and it will no longer bother you.

Awat is interesting. He's from Nigeria and I've seen him at bible study as well. He always has something good to say and between the content of his words and the way he delivers them, with a rolling cadence, you want to nod your head and go, "yes, that's it exactly" when he speaks. Awat comes to church on Sundays dressed in a shirt and pants in an African print and style. His youngest son, also Awat, looks and dresses just like him, so we have Big and Little Awat. The first week of meditation, Awat shared this story with us. A few years ago, he had a hairline fracture of his femur. He was home with crutches, told not to walk on the leg and he was supposed to go for surgery on a Monday morning. Sunday night, while asleep, he dreamt that his mother, who had passed away, came to him, asking him about the leg and where it hurt. Then he dreamt that his father, who was also dead, came into his room and starting showing him an xray of the leg without any fracture and told him, "Your leg is not broken." Then his mother took her hand and placed it over the area where he told her it was broken. He felt warmth from her hand and saw an orange glow. Then he woke up.

He felt his hip and it was hot to the touch. Gingerly, he got out of bed and stood up. The leg didn't hurt. He walked to the bathroom and his leg didn't hurt. His wife woke up and called to him in the bathroom. He said, "I'm ok." And he cancelled the surgery. His doctor, who did not take to kindly to the surgery being cancelled, called him and asked him what was going on. Awat told him, "my leg is all better." Being a doctor, he wanted some proof, so Awat came back in, first for an xray, then another MRI(he had already had these prior to surgery). Nothing. The tests came back showing that Awat's leg wasn't broken and had never been broken.

A miracle? I tend to believe that the initial tests were wrong, that he never had a broken leg. Maybe they mixed up his films-that does happen. But I'm willing, just a little, to think that there are powers in this world that defy explanation, mostly because people who exist solely on rational thinking give me hives.

Anyway, by the latest meditation effort, I decided that my mind is not an unruly puppy, but more like a small, wayward child. Like a toddler, who wants to go after shiny things, even if that shiny thing is a pair of sharp scissors. So, like a good parent, I gently redirect baby while quickly putting the shiny thing away where it wont distract her. Because, you know, you should be gentle with your brain so that it'll grow up being gentle back to you.

All this meditation has made me pick up Rumi again (who speaks of Hu, even if I hadn't noticed it before now):

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don't think about getting off from work. 
 Water is there somewhere...
 Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that 
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who's there.  


Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm reading Nabukov, Invitation to a Beheading, which is probably not what I need to be reading. I already feel like the world is contrived and artificial, I don't need help from him.

Like I went to a baby shower yesterday, which seem about as staged as a Catholic mass. Everyone enters, pregnant mom arrives, everyone yells surprise. Greetings continue, then the organized, slightly frantic friend will make various announcements: time to eat, time to play a shower game, time to open presents. Then cake. That was the best part, I think.

It was lovely, really. And kudos to the mom-to-be, who gets to go home with a lot of schwag. (Most of which I think is unnecessary to raising of young, I mean Diaper Genie-whatever). Maybe I'm just jealous that they are doing it "the right way." Get engaged, get married, work and save, buy a modest house and raise your kids, send them to college, retire and die. Which wouldn't even be such a prison sentence if you could at least enjoy it. Mom-to-be is going back to her low paying job almost immediately. But it doesn't matter-lawyers and doctors, cashiers and waitresses, even Anjelina Jolie I suspect, are all on this treadmill going nowhere. So how am I expected to enjoy a baby shower when I can't even find a Meaning For It All.

So, this morning, full of ennui and self loathing, I went to church. I didn't want to. And the service was pretty tame-regular pastors were not in attendance, student preacher preaching. Lackluster song choices, if I may say so, and one that was so hard to sing that we all just mumbled through it. Bitchy of me, I know, but I was in a critical mood. But I did see one old friend who I gravitated toward and she gave me a big hug and I told her I woke up on the wrong side of bed and she said that that's ok, just straighten it out now. And I got a few more hugs from people who genuinely like me. And I saw that the lady I helped last week when she almost passed out from the heat was back in her pew. They didn't have to admit her after all, just gave her a tune up and sent her home. And another parishioner who I saw in the ER this week was ok. And the wife of another good old guy I took care of a few weeks ago told me that he's going home, there's nothing more to be done and he wants to spend his last days sitting in his chair and looking out his window and that it's ok. And it was ok. Because sometimes ok is enough.

So, I got hugs and a reminder that I am both liked and useful, which is not too shabby for a Sunday morning. I like church. I'm still not sure who I'm praying to or what all the details are, but it is a tonic for those things that can't be fixed by either logic or therapy.

I got back home, still a little irritable (really, now, STILL?), wanting to write and getting interrupted a dozen times with "Mommy, can I...?" Just when I thought I would lose my stack, and S could tell, she went and brought me a sticker. Of a dragonfly, because she knows they are a special to me. And we stuck it on my phone so I can have a substantial reminder that I can't always get what I want, but sometimes I get a gentle and loving reminder not to be such a poop head.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cake Happiness

Yuuuup. I'm retarded.

I can bake a cake, but can I upload the photo correctly? No. I cannot.

Anyhoo, after only minor drama, which involved screaming at my family and a mushroom cloud of powder sugar hovering over my mixer, the cake was made. I wish I was exaggerating. Somehow, to no one's surprise but mine, we made it to mom's surprise birthday party with 2 cakes and all family members accounted for. And she was surprised, which is hard to do with my mother.

Dad and Mom enjoy the cakes

My niece MADE these yummy donuts. Which I also can't load right. CRAP. 

Also fruit salad and G's back up Wesley Fudge Cake. 

Seriously, what is wrong with me?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wrapping up the school year

10 people read my blog...isn't that neat. I know 3 or 4 of them, I think. And I don't even pay them. Interestingly, 1 is from Canadia, 1 from Pakistan and 1 from Indonesia! Welcome, ya'all.

We have been lazily finishing up first grade at home. I finally found a homeschool group, now that they are also finishing up the school year, but they have some activities over the summer, so it'll be nice to get to know them. We went to a play group last week and I really like them. G says I should, cause they're flaky. Whatever.

S and I did some projects. Last week with Venus in transit, which we did not see a. cause it was cloudy and b. cause we didn't send away for special viewing glasses, gave us a reason to talk about how the earth goes around the sun, etc. From a neat book that Aunt Chris gave us, that's ancient (from the 80's), we learned how to make sun dials, so we made two:

the top one is your classic, horizontal dial and the bottom is the same concept, but with a little, bitty bead that casts a shadow.

Here is a neat page about sundials, from down under New Zealand, keep in mind when following the instructions.

S and her dad also started a garden. Our church's community garden had some room, so we took them up on their offer to use the space. They are keeping a journal of their activities. S worked hard, including turning the earth and staking our squares and deciding what was going to go where.

done tilling and weeding
boundary is marked off. with tiki torches, cause we're awesome!

someone has a bucket of tadpoles, so we took a picture. 
 S also finished up with her singing and dance classes AND there was Ag field day AND we took trips to the museum AND....we've been busy. More pics to come.

AND we won tix to see Cirque du Soleil in NYC! So we got dressed up all fancy and went to see a show in the big, big city like we are fancy people. Cause we are. 

Let them eat cake! (and fruit salad)

Next week is our Matriarch's 75th birthday. So we're having a surprise birthday party for my mom at my sister's house today (shhh, don't tell. Actually, this page would take 75 years to load on her computer).

I agreed to make a cake. A rainbow cake! Before he brings it up in the comments, rainbow cake was my husband's idea. I was gonna go with chocolate. Since I agreed to rainbow, he's going to make a chocolate backup in case the rainbow cake fails. Cause that's how he rolls. Also, cause he's nuts.

Now, there's two kinds of rainbow cake circulating the webs. The hippy, dippy, tie-dye version:

whoa, man, it's like cake

It is cake. Ja. 

I went with version deux. Cause that's how I roll, yo'. 

The first part is basically make some cake. I suppose you could use cake mix, but our house does. not. Then you have to divide 5 1/2 cups of cake mix into 6 parts. Like I can do maths and stuff. That's why we have programmable IV pumps, but I digress. After that, it's easy-peasy, just color them six rainbow colors, remembering ROY G BIV : red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Crap, that's 7. But if you notice, even Martha Stewart combines indigo and violet to make purple. And if it's good enough for Martha, etc. 

Then S starts singing the Cat in the Hat rainbow song. "red, orange, yellow. green, followed by blue! Indigo and violet, that's a rainbow song for you!" Listen, I say, we're combining indigo and violet. We're just making purple. "But mom! The song!"

Shut up, cat. 

Anyhoo. Here's some cake....

first 4 layers, check. Now I just need blue, indigo and violet-DOH!

For those not eating cake (?!), there's fruit salad, a la Alton, who is a minor deity in our house. 

I know they sell those little grasper thingies to take the core out of the strawberry. I do not have one. So it's either cut straight across or make a fancy, V-incision. Don't judge me.

fruit labels. The bane of my existence.
Lots of cut up fruit on the right, lots of compost on the left and that weird thing in the middle is a mango slicer, much more useful than you'd think and since it works on peaches, nectarines, et al, NOT a uni-tasker. 

Gotta go make frosting. More pics to follow. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

S is independently reading! For the past week she's been sitting in bed (or on the potty) and reading Dr. Seusses to herself. Last night she read "Are you my mother?" and I almost cried when she wasn't looking. Later, I told her how proud I was of her and how her hard work had paid off, all those worksheets of phonics and consonants and sounding out words and word-of-the-day.

Then, yesterday, her and G were working on an Egyptian project. He found this thing at a thrift store for $5-it comes with a pyramid encased in "sand" and you have to chisel it out. By translating the hieroglyphics on the side, you find out what door to open and then you use your tools to open the lock. Inside is more sand and more digging out until you find the sarcophagus and the canopic jars and stuff. Anyway, G said that she remembered some of the hieroglyphics and could decipher it on her own. I'm so happy-she remembers stuff that we teach her! I mean, obviously she has learned a lot in the past year, but it's still gratifying and she really enjoys learning that stuff.

Now I just have to come up with a plan for today....

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


My husband and I had an argument today. Argument #3,186. Really, though, there are only 2 arguments: you won’t do what I say and... I forget the other one. I can’t say that we fight often but when we do they can be doozies. We have never raised our hands to each other. We have, however, raised our hands to several unfortunate, inanimate objects around the house. Today nothing was thrown in anger. Instead, my depression kicked in.

I have suffered from depression since I was 12. It is suffering. It’s hard to describe the bleakness that makes it seem like someone pulled the plug on every good thing you ever had. It’s a withering feeling-that this world would be better off without me in it, that nothing good ever happens, that nothing will ever change. “Why is this still happening to me?” I cry. I spent years, my whole 3rd decade practically, in therapy, so that I wouldn’t be 42 and sitting on the floor crying.

Because that’s where I am: sitting on the hall floor, crying hysterically, while my husband is trying to be mad at me. Moments like this, he doesn’t quite know what to do with me. A minute ago we were having a heated debate, now I am a soppy, pathetic mess.  He tries logic: “My children don’t love me.” I wail. “Yes, they do. Look how happy they are to see you when you come home.” He tries honesty: “You must be thinking, ‘Oh, here we go again.’” “Yes, that is what I’m thinking right now.” It seems so trite to put it on paper. I’d shame us both if I told you some of the thoughts that I think are true when I’m depressed. At 17 I broke up with a perfectly nice guy because I was convinced that being around me would contaminate him. I thought I was broken. Occasionally, I still do.

It’s hard to convey this to anyone. It’s especially hard to convey it to my husband, my best friend, when I would REALLY like for him to understand what is happening to me and if at all possible not act like an ass or do anything that might set me off, which is really unfair because criticizing my inability to handle criticism will usually make me laugh, 99% of the time, except for when it makes me curl up in the fetal position and question my right to exist. “You don’t understand what this is like!” I yell.
So my husband gets down on the floor next to me and doesn’t do anything. I relax enough that I can start to talk about the things that haunt me, things no one else knows about me but him. Although he doesn’t get depressed, he’s had his own dark thoughts, his pervasive worries. In 12 years neither of us has been scared away, neither has said, “What the hell are you talking about?” Once or twice we may have come close, but he didn’t and I didn’t and here we are. When my little one asks about our wedding rings, I tell her they are a symbol of a promise we made to each other, to never leave.

So I like to think that love, as I understand it, as I first understood it when my husband sat down on the floor with me, that love is an action word. Funny, I’ve had other relationships where we never fought. We were happy right up until we broke up. I really thought I loved some of those people. I certainly said I love you. Some of them even “understood” me better than my husband, but they’re not here and he is.

I think I’ve finally started to know love as a woman, not as a wounded child. Love isn’t something you want, it’s something you do. It’s why my dad, who never said he loved me, showed up for every play, every junior varsity game, every swim meet. It’s why I let the girls sleep with me when they are sick, even thought it guarantees I’ll be next. Because love is about being there, even when you don’t want to, even when you think you can’t. Now I understand that love is about not walking out: not on my husband, not on my kids, not on myself.

“All right,” I say to him, “I’m done crying.”

“For good?” He asks hopefully.

“For now.” He sighs, but hey, it’s a start.
Ooh, look. It's been so long since I blogged that blogger done up and changed their whole format. Took me 10 minutes to figure out how to write a new post.

In weekly news, I've been working many days in a row after spending 5 glorious days at home, including Mother's Day, in which wonderful husband cooked an amazing dish of Salmon with Provencal Sauce over parmesan rice with home made rosemary focaccia. Dessert was cake from Tous Les Jours and ambrosia. Did I mention he cooked for us, my parents AND my sister and her boyfriend. He's too good, but he's upped the ante for Father's Day. Dang.

So, G has done most if not all of the homeschooling for the past week or so. Since taking her out of school last October, S has learned double digit addition and subtraction, lots about the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, and now the Mayans and Aztecs, is independently reading and knows what cells do.

Happy Biodiversity Day! Or Happy Rainforest Day! We spent about 30 minutes this morning learning about the rainforest, which is how I found a great site called Brain Pop, which is not free, but not terribly expensive. For $85/year we can get Pop Jr, for $170 we can get Brain Pop, Pop Jr and Senor Pop(It's not called that, but you get the idea). Right now I'm doing a 5 day trial to see if we like it. So far, Pop Jr seems a little too basic for S but the regular Pop seems too hard, but more to her interests.

So, now, before I go back to work tomorrow I must: send Marilyn my George St. Coop article, exercise, clean the house, finish S's lessons and maybe make a delicious but low carb lunch. I need some more tea.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Having a great time at the pitty party, wish you were here

I hate being depressed. I hate, hate, hate, hate it. Please don't confuse its comfortableness nor my tolerance of it, with liking it.

And fuck optimists, while we're on the subject. You people are just fooling yourselves.

All right, it's true, I don't really trust happiness, nor do I perpetually happy people. But in the absence of feeling happy, I'd like to at least feel like I could kick ass and take names. If I don't feel that people like me, it would suffice if I felt that they were in awe of me. Instead, I feel like wet socks that are only slightly moldy. As if, when getting a whiff, a person would say, "Ugh, these socks are wet and moldy," instead of, "Good God! Get a load of these socks! They're absolutely putrid!" It's one thing to be depressed, I don't also want to feel ordinary.

So I will try, for the sake of the happy, scrappy ones, to at least fee
l, if not happy, then ok with some things. I will try to remember that everything does not suck. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, 2 girls who adore me and a fine husband. And an adorable pup. Oh, God he is cute, even if he did eat my favorite shoes.

I mean, look at him.....
Fuck. Why am I sad again?