Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Boo! See You Tomorrow for NaBloPoMo

Small Craft Warning

I love this older children thing. Last night we carved three pumpkins before NSBR got home, and it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I remembered. I cut the lids out and NSLR and S. did almost all the rest--I did a little finishing-touch gut-scraping for M., and I transferred her design and carved it, but R. and S. did their own. One thing that helps is these little saws they have now, so you no longer have to use a huge and scary carving knife for the whole job the way my father did it.

S: Mommy, how old were you when you first carved your own pumpkin?
MV: 26.
The children laugh
MV: No, I'm serious. Grandpop wouldn't let me anywhere near that thing.

1. M.'s design carved by MV
2. Not-so-little-R.
3. S.

R.'s is supposed to wear a wizard's hat with attached wig, but that pesky fear of fire causes me to whip off the hat whenever he's not looking.

M.'s Costume Odyssey--Yet Another Unmarketable Skill
In, oh, August, M. said she wanted to be a fairy. So I got down S.'s old fairy costume (which I made) from the attic, and she gave it the okay. Then my mother (without, apparently, ever realizing that this was insulting to me and my handiwork) bought her a fairy costume from Marshall's. M., bless her heart, stood firm.

Until Sunday morning, when everyone was getting dressed for the town parade. I keep all the old homemade costumes in a plastic zipper bag, and when I opened it up M. spotted R.'s Wilbur costume (from the year he was Wilbur and S. was Charlotte, the year I despaired of ever winning a prize in said parade). She wanted to be Wilbur. The costume fit and was reasonably intact, there are many medals among the dressup clothes in the basement, but the web was dismantled long ago.

So I made a spider web out of kitchen twine and the top of a laundry basket in under an hour. I painted it with sparkly glaze. I attached a spider ring since we lacked a humanoid Charlotte this time around. Please tell me you can read the "Some Pig" message woven into it, even if you can't.

But did M. carry the web in the parade? No, of course not! "Why didn't you carry your web in the parade, honey?" "Nana was carrying it for me." Right. And can you bring a web to school? No, no props in school. And of course you can't carry a web while you're trick-or-treating and need all available hands for grabbing candy.

So does anyone have ideas about what to do next with this web, other than publishing it here so my average 8 readers a day can see it (or not see it, judging from the amount of time 7 of my daily readers spend on the page)? So far I've got:

--Put it in the attic and let the children deal with it when I die.
--Hang it in the girls' bedroom.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Mobius Strip

The beginning of the end
Blow the spit out of your bugle, because it's going to be time to blow Taps for Studio 60 pretty soon. Last week's show had some flaws so fundamental that I couldn't bring myself to blog about it. In fact, I told NSBR that I would be giving up, were I not the pathological show-nurturer I am. I knew the end was near, so I told him I would stick it out for the last few episodes. Of course, that's what I did with "Reunion," and those characters and their unresolved plotlines still haunt me.

And now, and now...they've got "Friday Night Lights" in the 10 o'clock slot tonight. That can't be good.

But really I won't be too character haunted by this one, I think. I love Matt, of course. I like Cal but I haven't gotten attached to him. I'm not big on Harriet, except for her kick-ass Holly Hunter impression. I'm oddly attracted to Danny. I adore Jack Rudolph. I identify with Jordan, because she's not as smart as she thinks she is and she gets drunk sometimes. I'd like to like Tom, and I know this is not his fault, but I can't believe even a red-state American who brought up a son who became a professional comedian has not heard of "Who's On First?" Let's do the Venn diagram here. Everyone who's ever watched television. Is over 40. Likes baseball. Likes
"clean" humor. Went to school. Has heard of "Who's On First." Don't be such a friggin' snob, Aaron.

The end of the beginning
Just when we were getting our hopes up, NSLR did not make the basketball team. My son awes me. He has expressed not one iota of resentment and very little disappointment at this news. He is full of plans for the future--"now I can try fencing!" The figure my friend L. quoted for the cost of fencing equipment flashes before my eyes. Was it $800 or $1200? "Now I can really work on my squash! I'll keep running so I'm ready for track in the spring." Blessed track, they'll take any warm body.

Anyway, how did I raise such a good not-so-little guy? I mean, yes, I'm doing my best to hide my bitterness and rage, but his either doesn't exist or it's buried so far we'll never find it. I have a sense he's worried more about upsetting us than he is about himself.

The end of the end
I highly recommend all 13 volumes of the Series of Unfortunate Events.

The beginning of the beginning
Two days until the start of NaBloPoMo!

Incidentally, Blogger has two strikes with me. I have a Wordpress blog semi-set up, but even if Blogger strikes thrice, I'm going to wait until December to switch hosting, so as not to confuse M. Kennedy.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Little Day Music

I have this on vinyl:

And I've been playing it all week. It made me realize a few things:

1. I want to be a cabaret singer (the sudden revival of this interest may also have to do with the Andrew McCarthy movie, which was honestly pretty bad and yet quite enjoyable). Any ideas on how I can accomplish that?
2. I want to hear Ergo sing this song.
3. Why am I not better acquainted with Janis Ian? Because not only is "Stars" totally awesome, but I also like "At Seventeen."
4. There is an NPR station at Fordham that plays folk music from 5 am to 8 or 10 pm weekdays and Sundays 8-11 am. I discovered this searching for "Barbara Cook Stars" and getting a playlist with not only that song but also "Weeded Out" by the Roches and "Move On" from Sunday in the Park with George. In short, someone from WFUV sneaks into my house and plays my records.

The only problem is that my local NPR station is at 90.5 and this one's at 90.7, so unlikely I'm going to be able to tune it in.

Irony of ironies? I got into Fordham for grad school. My thesis advisor begged me to go there. "You won't be happy at NYU," he said, "they will basically ignore you. At Fordham everyone gets mentoring, they're much nicer."

I was not happy at NYU. Was that because they failed to mentor me, or because I really want to be a cabaret singer?

Friday, October 27, 2006

...And Our Final Dispatch of the Day

Pick-Your-Own Tip
Go to the farm when it's 40 degrees out, and no one will be overly...forgive me, picky...about his or her pumpkin. Downside: most of the pumpkins are rotten.

Another Quick Dispatch

NSLR says his teacher wants the kids to ask their parents for permission to see a PG-13 movie about tornados that she would like to screen in class. Of course, I say, and then I start to worry. I've never seen this movie, and maybe there is something really objectionable in it. So I check the IMDB page for "Twister," which informs me that the movie is "rated PG-13 for intense descriptions...of very bad weather." (ellipsis mine).

Dispatches From the Parenting Front

Breakfast Tip
Put the brown sugar at the bottom of the bowl and dish the oatmeal out on top. Sure, you don't see that beautiful brown melty puddle of brown sugar, but then they have to stir it up to get the sugar incorporated and they don't just eat the teaspoonful of oatmeal that surrounds the puddle.

Further Adventures in Spelling with my Daughter
M at bedtime: I want my water! L-E-R-D water! (She's sort of the opposite of Julia's Patrick).

Getting Our Hopes Up
I suspect the increasing grouchiness and cynicism of my father, our resident basketball expert, indicates that there is some glimmer of hope that NSLR will actually make the team. The bad news: he can't make a hook shot. The good news: he did well in the passing drill and kept his man (who happens to be the best player in the 5th grade) from scoring during the scrimmage. Oh, and he has the best attitude ever.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Tragedy of Genetics

A Conversation With My Son

NSLR: Coming out of school Mommy! Basketball tryouts are tomorrow night from seven to nine, and Saturday...
MV: No, I have the schedule at home. They're Wednesday from five to six-thirty.
NSLR: There's been a change.
MV: Oh. In JV or Varsity?
NSLR: What's JV?
a tiresome discussion ensues, finishing up with
MV: NSLR, what exactly did they say in this announcement?
NSLR: Well...I'm not sure. I only started listening to it in the middle when I realized they had said "Basketball."

This is a phenomenon we call "Blah blah blah basketball blah blah blah," an allusion to the Far Side cartoon about what we say to dogs and what they hear. It is a genetic trait he inherited from NSBR.

But then...
MV: NSLR, you should listen to all the announcements. That's what they're for, right?
NSLR: I guess.
MV: They have them right before dismissal, right, and you're all sitting at your desks with your bags packed? He nods. Doesn't it seem simpler for everyone to listen to the whole thing, and then you don't have to worry about missing something that pertains to you?
NSLR: Yeah.
MV: I mean, what else is there to do, anyway?
NSLR: who, though 11, still fails to recognize a rhetorical question sometimes, and is eager to please by providing an answer Um, read?

That he got from me.

Edited on 2/6/07 to remove link to image of said Far Side cartoon. According to Sitemeter, fully half of my hits come from people who are looking for that image. No more.

Post Every Day You Will

NaNoWriMo is a little too much for me. I'll be psyched if I write the last two chapters of my existing novel and start revising it by year's end. But I do think I can manage

I'm too much of a Luddite to put the button on my template. So shoot me.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My Secondhand Haul

In my $2 bag from the church rummage sale:

VHS Miracle on 34th Street
VHS Charlie Brown Christmas

1965 hardback Fowler's Modern English Usage with dustjacket (I already have one and so does my Mom but I couldn't pass it up for throwing in a $2 bag. Anyone want it?)

Paperback Maeve Binchy Light a Penny Candle, only Binchy I've never read. Decommissioned (or stolen) from my high school library.

Cookbook The Country Kitchen: Picnics. I seem to recall making a no more cookbooks rule. Oh well. I always need picnic ideas, since we eat at the beach four meals, every weekend, all summer. And no one except my mother realizes how much more work it is.

Books that might get S. to read and are longer than 85 pp., thus qualifying for the "Read 30 Books in a Year Club" at school: Betsy-Tacy and Tib, Bunnicula, My Dog Can Fly, and something called Waiting For Mama (turn of the century Lower East Side. S. has a surprising weakness for historical fiction).

3 heavy glass parfait dishes

Classic goldfish bowl, also heavy glass. I negotiated S. down from rodent to fish, and I'm not ready for an actual aquarium, but the bowls in the stores are all plastic and flims-o-rama.

In a box from the church rummage sale: 26 pieces of rose-colored fake Fiestaware, which harmonizes with my dwindling Caleca wedding dishes. $3

From a garage sale (NSLR pointed it out to me as we drove by "There's a garage sale at O.'s cousin's house." "I am so there!" I shouted, dropped the kids at my mother's and drove back. I love O.'s cousin's house and O.'s mother's house and the stuff inside it, so I figured there would be good things there.) :

A wall cabinet with shelves inside and an manly/Americana-y painted door that will go beautifully in NSBR's study. $3
Bellows with a brass relief picture of a Victorian family on the side. Bellows being one of those things NSBR can't believe we don't have. Every time he builds a fire: "I'm sure we have bellows." Now we do. $1
Fake coonskin cap, our second. $1
Foam surfboard (not a boogie board. Tween-sized but surfboard-shaped, with fins. I may keep it for myself.) $1
Mint Little Bear hardback $1 (that's a lot for a book but D. (O.'s mother) was getting impatient and just said a dollar for everything. The total was a steal so, whatever.)

A Few Rhetorical Questions About the Week I Just Had

  • Why are they so bitchy at Pottery Barn (and Crate and Barrel, incidentally)? What are the odds of a rug still in its factory shrink-wrap having a big black smudge across one end?
  • How can a dishwasher be making a grinding noise so horrifying that you feel you should immediately turn it off to prevent further damage, and then when the repairman comes it purrs like a kitten?
  • Why do plumbers (and doctors, incidentally) want to fix the thing that's easy to fix instead of the thing that's probably actually wrong? Have they forgotten that I'll have to pay them more? Or is laziness the highest good?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Basking in the Blue Glow of the Tube

Caught a little of "Six Degrees" last night (NSBR's been working late this week and I stay up too late watching random TV as a result). I hardly recognized Campbell Scott. His hair is all gray! His face is all thin! Is this what the men my age will look like in 9 more years?


Speaking of men, I had a very peculiar dream last night in which I was involved (emotionally) with 2 or possibly more men. One of them looked like Jason Bateman, so clearly I'm missing "Arrested Development." Another was an amalgam of Jack Bauer and the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, so clearly I've been watching 24 DVDs and my kids have been watching Star Wars 1,2 and 3.

It's the ancient Rome setting that's really mystifying.


In addition to working all the time, NSBR is going away this weekend, so I have a special treat in store for myself: this movie. Before you start getting worried, rest assured that the presence of Andrew McCarthy is sufficient. Even if this is the worst movie ever made, I'll just watch him and be content. He's getting old, too, though.

The March! of Time!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Urgent Memo To Aaron Sorkin

Don't do it!

Not yet. Yes, Matt and Harriet are adorable. Yes, we want them to get together. But slow down, tiger. Once you get them together it's over. Aaron, Aaron, Aaron. You're nine years older than me. You must remember what we learned from Sam and Diane, from David and Maddie. It's the worst kind of shark-jumping there is. Save it for the third season when the show is already past its expiration date.

And forget about the together, apart, together, apart, together, apart...that's for daytime dramas, buddy. I stopped watching those years ago. Okay, four years ago, but still. I woke up and realized Guiding Light was never going to have a happy ending.

If you're not careful I'll switch over to books entirely.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Too True

A new feature inspired by Terry Teachout's "Almanac."

"Because it was my third I was spared a lot of unnecessary discomfort. No one sent us any dainty pink sweaters, for instance. We received only one pair of booties, and those were a pair of rosebud-covered white ones that someone had sent Laurie when he was born and which I had given, still in their original pink tissue paper, to a friend when her first child was born; she had subsequently sent them to her cousin in Texas for a second baby and the cousin sent them back East on the occasion of a mutual friend's twins; the mutual friend gave them to me, with a card saying 'Love to Baby' and the pink tissue paper hardly ruffled. I set them carefully aside, because I knew someone who was having a baby in June."
--Life Among the Savages, Shirley Jackson

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


My mother comes every morning to pick up R. and S. and drive them to school.

Every morning I set out three bowls of granola in the vain hope that M. will eat hers. She never does, and she always eats something like crackers, which I tell myself is not so different from granola if you have a glass of milk. But she is a savvy child and realizes that grandmotherly types look askance at alternative breakfasts. Today I tried to use her Nana-worship in my favor by telling M. "eat your breakfast" while my mother was still here.

"But Mommy," she said, "I want to get my own--" she lowers her voice to a conspiratorial whisper "--S-Q-R-L!"

I assume she meant breakfast. Please God don't let her want to get her own squirrel.

So everyone left for school and M. got the box of Club crackers out of the pantry.

"How many crackers can I have?" she asked.
"Six." We stood and looked at each other for a minute. "Can you count to six?" I asked.
"Sure!" She said, and stood in the middle of the kitchen with her hands over her eyes. "One, two, three..."
"I mean can you count six crackers."
"Oh. Yes....no."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Translation, always good for a laugh.

My mother just returned from two weeks in France and gave the children (among other things) soft cotton flannel pajamas she bought on the street in Paris. They are made by Absorba, a company I always thought made baby clothes exclusively. I immediately set about finding an Internet source for these pajamas, because they would make great gifts. I found lots of online retailers selling Absorba infant and toddler wear, an Absorba site under construction, and then this, translated courtesy of Google:*

Absorbed is the leader of the thin layer in the world.

But Absorba does not equip only the babies! By equipping the children with 0 to 8 years, Absorba is affirmed like one of the tenors of the average/top-of-the-range market.

Absorbed, it is also a whole range of underclothing of quality, combining comfort and safety for the children from 0 to 16 years.
Each season Absorbed created a collection for the shops and the great distribution. The collections merry, are coloured and of great quality.

A strong national and international presence

Absorbed is present in France in all the networks of sale and abroad, only in selective distribution. Absorbed equips the children with the whole world!

With a constant development of its sales turnover which enables him to sell meadows of 20 million underclothing, pyjamas and clothing in more than 40 countries, the mark is particularly established abroad; it there carries out 70% of its volume of businesses and profits from a formidable international notoriety.

High-speed motorboat in Europe, Absorba is present in the South-East Asia (South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand), in the United States, in Canada, in Latin America (Mexico and soon Argentina), in the Middle East (Egypt and Syria), and in the Maghreb countries.

Wouldn't you like to be the leader of the thin layer? Let alone one of the tenors of the average/top-of-the-rage market. Truly admirable to equip the children with the whole world. I confess to being mystified by the high-speed motorboat reference.

*I think the ponderous language is infectious, I could not seem to write that paragraph properly.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tonstant Weader Admits the Wisdom of This:

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries. — AA Milne

I don't know if this falls into the category of disorderly, or just weird, but here goes: this out-of-focus* plastic acorn (it is recognizable as an acorn, right?) began life at the end of a pull-string on a defunct baby music box that belonged to my mother, and then to me, and then to not-so-little-R. (Amusing aside: by the time R. was a baby pullstrings were three inches long if they existed at all, and they did not terminate in exquisitely chokable acorns).

For a while I kept the music box and the acorn around, hoping to reattach them, but there's only a hole in one end of the acorn, hence a knot big enough to keep the string in will not in fact admit the string. I must have tossed the music box at some point, but--and here's where the weirdness comes in--I kept the acorn because I liked it. Periodically I come across it in a little bowl or bag of luggage keys, safety pins, marbles, Bionicle joints, etc. and then it rolls away again.

Wednesday after school M. told me for show-and-tell on Friday she had to bring in either a squirrel or an acorn.** I knew there was a Happy Meal Beanie Baby squirrel somewhere in S.'s desk drawer, but didn't feel strong enough to go digging. I figured we would just turn to Google Image this morning. But I woke up in the middle of the night thinking, "Plastic acorn! In the drawer of the hanging whatnot thing in the master bedroom alcove!" And sure enough, there it was. I instructed M. to "tell" that this acorn was handed down from her grandmother, but I don't think it sank in.

*Progress on the camera front: if I plug it in on the camera function, the screen reads "PC Camera" and it won't let me do anything. If I plug it in on the picture management function, the screen reads "MSDC" and I can do all sorts of things. It really, really sucks, though, which for $30 I guess I expected.

**M. is the show-and-tell child we all dream of: she has reminded me of this about 50,000 times, and always at a relatively appropriate moment.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My Refrigerator Is Not Really Sideways

And I am not cut out for a blog audience of more than 2.

Voila le refrigerateur.

My roommate when I first graduated in and lived in NYC did not like things on the refrigerator, because her mother did not like things on the refrigerator. I am scarred by this and thus only allow items on the side of the refrigerator, which faces the basement door (I'm perched dangerously on the basement stairs to take this picture).

There was nothing on my refrigerator until my children hit school age. Turns out magnets is a very, very popular thing for children to make and give their parents on all the big parental-gift occasions. And what am I going to tell my Three? Mommy was aesthetically scarred by an anti-fridge-decoration roommate?

In vaguely left to right and top to bottom order:

Poison control magnet. Two marble magnets I made a la notmartha. S's school picture on a wooden heart and two magnetized Duelmasters cards. (Not-so-big-R.'s favorites. Not.)
Four dollar-store magnets S. got as favors at the Father-Daughter dance: they say "Sporty,""Girly,""Romantic" and something else bizarre. Local pizza guys. Two nifty tiles, by not-so-little-R. and S. S. with a dog practically smothering her in a wooden frame. A lighthouse magnet I decorated as an example, followed by the one M. decorated. S.'s lighthouse is cut out, as are five bazillion swim meet ribbons. Uncle Sam. Pen that matches weekly calendar pad. Weekly calendar pad on which I often write the week's menu, when there is a week's menu. It says we're having ham and escarole soup today. I have the ham and escarole, but can't find the recipe or anything like it online. Thumbprint cats and thumbprint owls. Health insurance company magnet. Tasmanian devil job chart that no one ever took seriously, and why should they? I mean, it's the Tasmanian devil. Think he ever helped his mother or put his shoes away? Let alone practicing the piano.

Some new video series from Ignatius Press, up there because I liked the cowboy. Peter Rabbit pad for grocery lists. Tiger magnet (my favorite) holding up R.'s totally excellent picture of a horse and chariot.

This is more interesting than what I had for lunch how? (Taco Bell bean burrito).

Notes From All Over (My Brain)

Have you ever cooked one of those turkey breasts the turkey sellers came out with so they wouldn't have to make all their money in November and December? And it smelled so, so good as it was baking but then you ate it and there was no dark meat and it tasted like nothing? Okay, part of that is because turkey is in the smells-better-than-it-tastes triad (coffee, popcorn, turkey). But I have one word for you, one word that will revolutionize your turkey breast consumption:


Yesterday I slow-cooked a turkey breast according to this recipe (except I used 1/4 cup of Rex Goliath Pinot Noir instead of a 1/2 cup of white, because that's what was sitting on my counter. Oh, and fresh herbs).

And then I made a delicata squash salad. To this recipe I added some nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and cumin. I have to mess with everything. I love delicata squash because you don't have to peel it, and have I mentioned that I am lazy? It's a big part of my self-image.

Very good dinner. Autumnal yet not too heavy. Nutritious. Tasty. Easy. Novel.


To tell this next story, I need to use a real name. For those stalkers who manage to find me and my family based on this information, more power to you.

The music teacher at my kids' school is named Mr. Fitzpatrick. When I picked up M. from school yesterday she said, "Mr. Saintpatrick taught us a new song today." "It's Fitzpatrick, honey," I corrected. She thought for a moment. "When I'm older I'll know what his name is," she decided.

I feel that way about so many things.


Ergo has a great post up. And I'm not saying that just because I'm mentioned in it.

I have too many scary swirly thoughts about the preservation of literature to start talking about it at this time. But I have a tangential concern--the lack in spontanaeity and the over-personalization of music delivery. I have tried to express these thoughts to my husband and can't quite get through to him, but here goes:

There are quite a few songs I absolutely love but for some reason are not in my collection: e.g. "The Boys of Summer," "Come On Eileen," "Are You Lonesome Tonight," "Lean On Me." They're mostly not in my collection because I had a rule when I was young: no buying an album for just one cut. When they come on the radio, I turn it up (and if it's "The Boys of Summer" I open the window).

Now you can buy one cut. But I resist for at least two reasons:

1) I don't like my music existing only on a hard drive. It seems dangerous to me. Silly, probably.
2) I think the treat of something randomly coming up on the radio is an important experience.

And the flip side of reason number 2 is it's good to let the radio happen to you sometimes, even the songs you don't care for. It's kind of like taking a few bites of your squash before you get more turkey. I don't like the idea of everyone out there with their Ipods tailoring their entire day's music, every day. And don't get me wrong, I love the playlist. I wouldn't have kept up with the running without it. (Yes, I have kept up with the running. Another post.)

But my antiquated car stereo has 12 FM presets, for goodness sake. If I can't find anything I like on there I turn the radio off. And that's good too.