Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell 2009

Farewell ... to another year

"Are you sorry yet?"

That's what the bumper sticker on the SUV festooned with other Grand Old Party sentiments was asking me as we waited for the traffic light to change.

I imagine the person inside had slapped that sucker up the moment polls closed in November of 08.

I wanted to ram the gas guzzling middle finger of a vehicle with the force of a thousand auto crushers.

Thing is, I may be angry but I'm not sorry. I believe Barack Obama was the best choice we had for a leader. I believe he is a good person who has made and will continue to make decisions based on what he truly believes to be in the nation's best interest. Decision that will undoubtedly be unpopular to people along all political spectrums.


I would like to see this country embrace socialized medicine.
I would like to see this country turn its back on war.
I would like to see this country spend its earnest efforts and our money on innovation and education; not corporate megaliths beholden to stockholders and their own golden parachutes. And not on the machinery of destruction.

I would like to see the newspaper industry go non-profit.
I would like people who rail on about their "God given rights," realize that they were wrong. Rights are given by governments we elect, and which have been happily taking them away while still touting our freedom.

I know these thing I want may never be realized. And yet, I still have hope.

This has been an amazing year for us as a family.

Ittybit started kindergarten, and it has been wonderful for her and for us. It has been far from the exercise in futility and the uphill battle I had envisioned. She still dresses herself in loud, alternating patterns. She still marches to the beat of her own drummer.

The Champ has been, for the most part, a happy little monster who always keeps us guessing. He is hysterically random and, at times cunningly contrary.
HIM: "I don't want that cookie. I don't want that cookie."
ME: So ... do you want that Cookie.
HIM: "Yeah."
He has not, however, slept through a single night yet.

That has been hard on us as parents, and perhaps on us as a couple, too. But it also seems that without much discussion the fact that this time won't last forever makes it somehow seem tolerable. Maybe that's just wishful thinking, or some incomprehensible chapter in the bedtime story of interrupted REM cycles. But smiles here and there between us seem to be some evidence that we are on the same page.

Of course, like most Americans, I look back at 2009 and see it as being a personally difficult year.

I have shut the door on our beloved barn, tearing up the very first time I chastised one of my children for leaving the door to our new house wide open: "We don't live in a barn anymore, you know."

I have been slow in embracing our new home. It wasn't until one day ... months after we'd removed our last box ... that I was struck by the fit. We hadn't purchased one single thing for the new living room or family room or office. The place just seemed meant for us ... for our stuff.

I have learned a lot this year about myself. About tolerance and lack thereof.

I have learned about standing up for myself. I have learned about the necessity, in some cases, of burning bridges.

I look at my mother, who was diagnosed with cancer for a fourth time, and realize life is too short to suffer for long with anything we know to be damaging to our souls.

As I look at my mother, I also am shown myself. A mother, bound to be reviled for the choices I made, the things I said, the roads I made my family take ... no matter what choices they were. Perhaps revered, too. Eventually.

Looking back I see where there is room for so many regrets. Rest that didn't meet relaxation. Anger that could have used better management.

But ... am I sorry?

No, I am not. I am not even ambivalent. I still believe.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You know it's cold ....

"You know it's cold when ...

"When your eyebrows freeze to your hat."

- sent by iPhone and taken AFTER he decided letting his nose freeze was better than losing any more eyebrow hair through headwear-ectomy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm starting to think rocket science might not be like rocket science

Experience (namely the lack of it) is really the hobgoblin of all life pursuits, isn’t it?

I was thinking about this as I stood at the sewing counter of a local fabric store, asking the ladies what supplies a beginner would need … seeing as how I bought my six-year-old a REAL sewing machine for Christmas … and seeing as how I don’t know the first thing about sewing anything besides replacement buttons (and even then the results aren’t pretty).

I could see from the looks their faces, they thought I was in way over my head.

They offered classes and tried to sell me an $80 sewing kit.

I thanked them and asked them to point me in the direction of thread.

I’ve muddled through before.

Sometimes it’s been mortifying. I’ve been critiqued for the way I’ve dug holes in the garden, the way I’ve hammered a nail and even the way I mop floors.

But other times it has been gratifying.

Like the time I stood in the tile aisle at Home Depot, discussing supplies with an equally clueless friend, who was graciously helping me tackle a tiling project, only to have a smirking woman thrust her card in my hand … "just in case your DIY project doesn’t work out."

I didn’t give that woman or her card a second thought until I was standing with my friend outside of our finished job. She’d cut. I’d placed. It wasn’t perfect, but we’d done it ourselves and we’d done it together.

I wasn't thinking about any of that, though, as I stood at that fabric store, seeking the kind of homemaking wisdom I'd hoped would always escape me.

Sewing, I'd decided, may as well be rocket science.

And yet Christmas morning came, and the sewing machine made its way to the dinning room table.

The reckoning was at hand.

My mother-in-law asked me if I'd ever sewed before ... I said no and left it there. It was too late now. Whatever happened, happend.

I read and follow the instructions. And, surprise of all surprises, soon I had the thing humming along.

By the end of the weekend, Ittybit was rising before dawn and getting projects ready to sew. A purse for her American Girl doll, a pillow for her Barbie, a quilted pillow ... just because ...

Without following a pattern, without measuring or cutting straight lines, we made our own designs.

They weren’t perfect, and yet somehow they were.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Edna Mode would not be amused


But super heroes really seem to feel more like Superheroes when they're wearing capes.

"Look mom!" he says, taking another lap around the living room, "I AM a flying toy!"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Can't leave well enough alone

Well ... She USED to love us anyway.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Warm wishes

annabel and ariel

May your hair be manageable and your holidays static free.

But if your hair should be unruly, just remember ...

Your cat loves you anyway.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The best birthday yet

It's 7 a.m. ... party at 2 p.m.

Every 12 minutes from 7 a.m. onward we could anticipate the following question: "Is it time for the party yet?"

Once an hour we were assuring her that it very well might be the BEST BIRTHDAY YET!

Of course we like to hedge the bet by trying to set her expectations low. However, it's near impossible to figure out where the expectations are in the six-year-old set.

What might poop our parties doesn't necessarily phase her.

Her brother running roughshod all over the house.

A washing machine that suddenly decides to stop working and overflows smelly water all over the floor.

A father with no voice. A mother who can't stop sneezing.

She wasn't even deterred that the first guest to arrive couldn't stay.

She's like that, this kid. She takes most everything in stride.

Even when the "barbie" popped out of the cake and it kind of looked like one of Sid's toys from Toy Story, it couldn't dampen the amusement of having a doll-shaped cake.

"It was the best birthday ever!"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Now we are six

Dear Ittybit,

I can’t believe you are six.

Didn’t we just get home from the hospital with you, a tiny bundle, swaddled against the bitter cold?

Didn’t I just watch you take your first steps? Say your first words?

I am a cliché.

But you are an original. And you made me a mother on this day, six years ago.

And since then you’ve been changing my world in ways I never could have imagined. You’ve been making me think about the world, and how we live in it; you’ve been making me think about what it is that’s really important in life, not just what we get hung up on. Because of you I live in a strange world of heightened anticipation; a world of fear and wonder.

It only sounds bad when you’ve never visited there before.

When I look at your face – even when you scrunch it into an expression of displeasure – I can’t imagine being anywhere else. You bring joy to that place.

You also bring love, compassion and sensitivity; things I hoped you would possess innately.

Recently we read “The Giving Tree” together. At the end you started to cry.

“I don’t like that man. He just took and took and took. … Why do humans have to be so selfish?” you wondered.

The only answer I can muster is “We don’t have to be … that’s what this story is telling us. We can be more like the tree.”

When I look at you I have hope. I believe, again, in the power of youth and idealism. I believe that you will leave this place better than you found it.

And I feel peaceful.

Happy birthday, little growing girl. You've made the world a better place already.



Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dear heart

Stupid Kindergarten teachers! Always making me cry.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Setting sights elsewhere this holiday season

Done Christmas shopping yet?

Maybe? Maybe not?

Oh ye of little faith …

Christmas is but a week away. The children are nestled in front of their DS players and the shopping storm that has taken place makes you feel a little … well. … icky?

Never fails. You spend your holiday shopping time at Target (*genuflects* … I love the store, but really, a Mom ‘n Pop it’s not) and you feel a little like you’ve been put in a blender and set to pulse. Or I do anyway.

You may even wonder if you have a pulse.

So what’s the antidote?

SHOP LOCALLY, at locally owned businesses.

There’s still time Ebeneezer:

The handmade holiday gift shop at Spencertown Academy runs through Dec. 20 and offers hundreds of unique items by local artists including jewelry, painted scarves, marbled books, quilted handbags, letterpress cards and more. Open Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. And just because it’s art doesn’t mean it’s expensive. In fact, if you’ve been oogling an amazing artist, holiday shops are probably your best chance to get an original work without having to sell the farm.

Amazon is jungle in Brazil. Visit there to see an environmental masterpiece. To read one, though, visit your local independent bookseller. My favorites are Market Block Books in Troy and The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza; The Chatham Bookstore, Mainstreet, Chatham, NY; Berkshire Books, Chatham, NY; Blackwood and Brouwer Booksellers; and Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.

One lunch time last week I took a walk around the block and realized one of my favorite shops had moved. Closer. The Spinning Seed, 272 River Street, Troy, is a little store with big ideas, not to mention terrific finds. It offers organic, biodegradable, handmade, sustainable, non-toxic, recycled, fairly traded, vintage and upcycled goods. In fifteen minutes of browsing I scratched three folks off my list. Holiday hours are Monday through Thursday, 11 to 5; Friday 11 to 7; Saturday 10 to 5; Sunday 11-3; Christmas eve 10 to 3.

Speaking of sustainability, I’m a huge fan of re-gifting. And what better way to find re-gifts than by hunting around some local consignment shops and second-hand emporiums. You’ll save some space in the landfill and get something useful to boot. Last year I got an amazing set of wooden farm animals (and their humans) at Goodwill Industries and virtually every book the kids want to read over and over again has come from The Book Outlet in the Troy Atrium. In addition to its rabbit warren of every known subject matter, the shop has a wonderful children’s section.

This year I made my own candy, but usually we get our chocolate gifts from Krauses. (And if we're lucky we'll be the recipients of some of the candy maker's chocolate decadence. They can't guarantee Christmas delivery at this point, but I guarantee it will be well received whenever the gift arrives.

Monday, December 14, 2009



Merry-freaking-Christmas, grandparents and Jed.

Before I drowned my sorrows in homemade toffee ...

Silas, now of the big-boy-hair clan, would like to announce a winner of the holiday swag contest.

Annabel did the honors, picking from several wads of paper (each perfectly folded so as not to give anyone an unfair advantage) jammed in her ballerina jewelry box.
And thanks to kindergarten and phonics, she could even read the winner's name herself: Binky.


**For those wanting to leave me some commiseration for the cutting of Silas' baby-boy hair ... please feel free to comment here as well. Commisery IS company, right?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Little brothers can be quite bothersome

They never sit still.

They talk to loudly and at inappropriate moments.

They are always interrupting you.

They moonwalk past all your friends, not to mention the school pricipal, when it is your turn to be center stage.

They hold their hands over their ears when you are singing your heart out.

But instead of losing heart, you smile.

You know, deep down, he's your biggest fan.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Have you met 'Mad Boy' yet?

left nap (and wedding) early

Well ...

He's nearly "Two Half" and ...

He's "mad at Mama."

He doesn't "Yike his daddy."

His sister "annoys" him.

In fact, there are more things that annoy him than don't:

"I not yike milk."

"I not yike cookies."

"I not yike dat."

"Dad is annoying me. I not yike him."

"I not yike that song."

"I not yike bekfast."

"I not yike socks."

"I not yike boots."

"I not yike my coat."

"I not yike your hair."

"I not yike you anymore."

... but of course ...

He's a big boy now. And he's asserting his independence.

"You gonna miss me when I go to super school."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Miss Ittybit's Sense of Snow

The phone rang at 6 a.m.

I bolted upright in bed and immediately thought of Olympia Dukakis.

"Who’s Dead?" I mimicked in my best Brooklyneese.

Turns out the school day was killed by six inches of snow.


When I was a little kid, a person had to listen to the radio for what seemed like hours before they knew for sure whether they’d have to get out of their pajamas and slog to the bus.

"I think they closed the school … but there was static around the Es … I have to listen as it loops around again."

Television stations got into the school closing game when I was a tweenager, and we fixed our eyes on the ticker that traveled across the bottom of the screen as the names of the districts whizzed past faster than credits on an animated movie.

It occurs to me that the death of this particular school day harbors another tiny demise: My kid will probably never bound into my room whooping and hollering that school is cancelled (YIPPEE!!).

I’ll be telling her about her time off once I get my breathing in check after the shock of a pre-dawn phone call.

It also occurs to me that being an adult on the first snow day of the season is about as fun as shoveling heavy, wet snow uphill in bare feet.

Not only do you have to dig yourself out and get to work, but now you have to get a sitter, fight your way through snow drifts the school bus wouldn’t risk AND then wait in long lines to get your winter tires changed over with the others who had bet Climate Change would make that little chore obsolete this year.

While the kids are eating snow off the car (DON’T EAT SNOW OFF THE CAR) you stand there with your snow brush dusting the windshield off into your shoes.

You think you should maybe wear boots, but then you’d just have to go back in the house.

"GO BACK AND GET YOUR BOOTS" your mom-voice chastises you. But as an adult, you ignore it.

Your kids however, look a few feet up from the footwear and wonder at what’s not on your cranium.

"Mommy? Where’s your hat?"

"Oh … I don’t know. … No time for that now. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go."

She hands you a fleece hat with pink ears, and tells you can wear it. She’s got an extra one.

You thank her and take it, putting it into your pocket "for later," you tell her.

It will be alright. You’ll get the snows, you’ll have greater traction. It will be warm in the car and you will just go from there into a warm building. It will be fine.

Your car tire won’t blow out on the highway right after you get the tires changed.

You won’t be stuck by the side of an interstate in foot-high drifts as you wait for your husband to come and rescue you -- your Knight in Carhart coverall armor.

No. That NEVER happens.

But as you are standing by the side of that road with snow seeping into your shoes, you can be assured that when the police cruiser arrives to make sure your are OK (and that you have assistance on the way) you may not have the proper footwear but you will have a stylish hat.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Christmas cards ...

Helper, Not Helper and Dog, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

are on their way.

*dusts hands*

Monday, December 07, 2009

Eating us out of (gingerbread) house and home

One (pretzel) stick of wood at a time.

Friday, December 04, 2009

If it wasn't for the tarnish we might not notice the shine

Dear Ittybit and the Champ,

It has been so tense here these last few weeks.

Perhaps it's because so many corners of our lives seem to be crumbling into a fine dust.

So much tension and strife. So much worry. So much anticipation.

And then came the virus.

The one that emptied out Ittybit the night before Thanksgiving. The one that gripped me a few days later and got your father a little while after that. I was sure it had missed the Champ until the phone rang at my desk the second I sat down in the chair Monday morning.

I turned right around at went home before I even had a chance to fire up the old Dell.

Since then the crud has been playing a game of peek-a-boo.

While you recovered almost immediately, Ittybit, the Champ has been locked in battle -- occasionally vomiting between being otherwise happy, active and hungry. Monday, sick. Tuesday fine. Wednesday fine ... then sick. Thursday fine then sick ... and back to fine.

When you are parents you will understand what such uncertaintly does to a person who is suppose to have at least some of the answers.

I don't handle rollercoasters well. I don't handle illness well.

That's an admission I'm making to myself, because ordinarily I THINK I handle everything well.

But it's gotten to the point now where Ittybit is asking me if I'm "frustrated at the children or just frustrated in general."

I don't handle it well.

I am tired. I am tense. I am tied up in knots.

And one night, when Ittybit is peacefully sleeping, your father is sick and in bed, little Champ (after seemingly getting over it) starts to vomit. ... and then won't settle. There is no sleep. There is no consolation. There is only Nickjr at night and an incontinent dog for company. My own stomach turns with the smell of my surroundings.

I am not at my best. I just want you to stop whining and sleep, I want you to stop asking for water I can't give you. I want to sleep.

I am not comforting. I am on the edge of the cliff I cut out myself from solid rock.

But I am there, turning the channel, cleaning up vomit, wrestling you into fresh clothes when needed. And cleaning up dog pee and troubleshooting her needs: Water? Out? Leftovers? Please stop barking, It's 4 a.m.

It wasn't one of my shining moments.

In the morning I try to get ready for work -- a day I can't really miss because there is a special deadline and not enough people to meet it.

I break down instead as I hear the sick, mad boy bleating plaintively from the sick couch for his mommy.

I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't do this.

I haven't slept. I feel sick again. I can't do this.

Your father tells me "Just Go" and "It's like ripping off a Band-Aid. ... He only wants you when you're here."

The words sting.

You sit on my lap and calm down, but peace doesn't last for long.

"Waffles," you tell me.

"Dad will have to make waffles."

"No, you make waffles ... you help me."

"I can't help you. We have no waffle mix. I haven't slept. I'm going to be sick ...."


I can't help. Daddy can help"

"I want my Daddy."

I was crushed. And yet, I know I would not have been hurt by it had it not been deserved.

This evening, in the car, after I picked you up from the sitter's house, you both argued most of the way home.

Champ, you told your sister you were bigger than her. Ittybit, you asked me to tell him the truth. I tried. He wouldn't hear of it.

Bicker, bicker, bicker.

Despite the arguing, I smiled and thought this is normal. This is good. This is healthy. It was the first time I can remember smiling in more than two weeks.

And then Champ, you started to sing: "I am sleep, sleep, sleeping ... I am waking up."

I laugh. ... You have as good a voice as your sister's (even if you are smaller).

I will get sleep. Things will be better, I'm telling myself.

Love, Mommy

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It's that time of year again

I know I haven't been able to GIVE these things away let alone sell them, but that doesn't stop me from trying.

I have got to muster the holiday spirit somehow. I've still got faith in holiday swag.

So ... here's the deal: You comment, delurk, tell me something you've always wanted to tell me (but just didn't have the patience to deal with the all the login names and toggle buttons). Talk about whatever you like: traditions, photography, family, navel lint. I don't care what it is.

And sometime around mid-December I will take all the names, put them in a hat and pick one (so long as you leave an email address in the sign-in menu, not to be shared with the Internets, so I can contact you if you win) and that person will get a mug filled with something sweet and homemade. Probably this (if I can manage not to burn it, that is).

UPDATE: Dec. 11
I'm nearly ready to draw a name for the mug, but I've decided to give away as many packages of toffee as I can manage**. All you have to do is e-mail me your real address and buttery sweetness will be in the mail.

**Obviously if I get inundated with requests I'll have to come back and say something smarmy ... like I meant the first ten delurkers. ... or something.