Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I don't believe in resolutions

I'm sure that many people you know have spent the past week or so working on their new year's resolutions. I am not counted in that number. Frankly, I don't believe in them. If something is worth doing, I should do it, and willing it to be so one day a year won't make me exercise more or drink less (or vice versa). But if I were to make one, I think it would be to get a polar bear. A baby one. I mean, they're so freaking cute!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Siddhartha

Siddhartha is the best known novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Hermann Hesse. It is a short book that follows the spiritual journey of the title character, who travels the Indian subcontinent during the time of Buddha in search of enlightenment.

Siddhartha is the son of Brahmin elder, who leaves his hometown to wander with the ascetic Samanas. While with the Samanas, he encounters the Buddha, who he believes to be truly wise and enlightened. That being said, Siddhartha doesn't feel the Buddha can teach him anything - he doesn't believe that any person can teach him - so he continues on his journey. The next stop is with the lovely courtesan Kamala who teaches him the pleasures of physical love, while he learns about money and gambling from the town's most successful merchant. Years of this life leave him feeling disgusted and nauseous, so he contemplates suicide by the river. He's saved by an old friend, and Siddhartha spends the final stage of his journey listening to and learning from the river, where he ultimately finds peace.

Perhaps I'm not a very spiritual person. Maybe I don't know enough about Buddhism and other Eastern religions. Whatever the reason, I didn't find Siddhartha to be a sympathetic or inspiring character. Rather, I saw a self-indulgent egoist who shirked his responsibilities in the name of finding enlightenment. I won't say it is a bad book, but it is one whose appeal is entirely lost on me.

Next up: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, which Santa left in my stocking.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Home for Christmas

The Bunny is too young for us to travel to Colorado for the holidays this year, so we had our first family Christmas at home. It was a far smaller affair than we are used to. My brother and his wife were also unable to fly away so they drove up to spend the holiday with us, and my father-in-law joined us on Christmas Eve, too. Since this was a big year for the Bug - really the first time she was able to get into Santa and the holiday schtick - I wanted everything to be perfect.

I spent the week cooking, which is something I've never done before. My hope was that things would go smoothly on the big day, which was still something of a pipe dream... apparently having two little kids running around guarantees dinner will be delayed. But it was actually fun to test the capacities of our freezer and oven, and I was pleased with the results all around.

More exciting, though, was watching the holiday unfold through the Bug's eyes. She had so much fun Christmas morning: putting the last ornament on the advent calendar, seeing the stockings filled beyond capacity, opening all of her presents (and all of the Bunny's). And she was a trooper, missing naps and staying as sweet as could be... though I'm sure it helped to have a bunch of grown-ups around with endless patience for Candy Land and Animal Bingo. A 2-year-old really makes for the most awesome Christmas imaginable! The Bunny was happy and adorable, but at 6 weeks old she could not have cared less about the hubbub. The big guy and his associates were generous to a fault, and the toys and other cool stuff (of particular note: sparkly pink shoes for the Bug) are still strewn about. Clean-up will happen soon enough; for now, I just want to relax, drink some wine and reflect on the lovely past couple of days.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Master and Margarita

My love for 19th Century Russian literature has been well established, but for some reason I only recently became aware of the 20th Century's preeminent Russian novel, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It is a haunting work of art, a scathing critique of Stalin's regime, and one of the very best books I have ever read.

Bulgakov, heavily influenced by Russian greats Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Gogol, was a well known and prolific playwright. He began writing The Master and Margarita in the late 1920s, but because of the political themes it could not be published until more than a quarter century after his death in 1940.

The novel contains three distinct stories which don't appear necessarily to fit together at first glance. The first is of the devil (named Woland) and his henchmen, a couple of disfigured men, an enormous cat with a penchant for handguns and a naked witch, who spend a few days wreaking havoc on Moscow's literary elite. The second story is about the love between Margarita and the master, more specifically of Margarita's courage and devotion. And the third is the master's novel, a story of Pontius Pilate that takes place in the days around Christ's crucifixion in ancient Jerusalem.

These disparate stories, combined with the intricate tapestry of themes, make a plot summary difficult. Woland and his retinue arrive in decidedly atheistic 1930s Moscow where their first encounter is with Berlioz, an educated member of the literati, who tries to convince the devil of his own non-existence. This works out poorly for Berlioz, and poorly for everyone else in Berlioz's circle, since those who are not killed are generally driven insane. It is through Margarita, a woman so devoted to the master and his brilliant writing that she'd willingly sell her soul to secure his freedom, that Bulgakov illustrates the counterpoint to the homogenized Communist society. Cowardice is an unforgivable sin, and Margarita's bravery is ultimately rewarded.

This book easily ranks among my top 10, and I would recommend it without reservation. I've been noodling on it since I finished it, and I expect it will remain on my mind for quite some time.

Next up: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More stuff I've learned

Since sharing such incredibly useful info in October was so wildly therapeutic, I feel compelled to keep it up with my learnings of the past couple of weeks.

First, breastfed babies can go up to 10 days without making a Number 2. Pretty freaky, right? Since I don't want to go totally TMI on you, let me know if you need to know how to move things along as that day of reckoning approaches.

Second, carpal tunnel syndrome is not only caused by repetitive motion. It is also caused by pregnancy. If that makes no sense to you, you're not alone - the neurologist I visited (!!!) didn't appear to understand it, either. He said it is caused by the fluctuations in hormones, or the fluctuations in fluid... or something else in pregnancy, he's not sure what. Fills me with confidence, too. And for the record, carpal tunnel syndrome sucks.

Third, if your smoke detector battery begins to die, it beeps really loud. At random intervals. Sometimes a couple of times a minute, sometimes it'll give you a break for half an hour or more. It is very annoying. And if your ceiling is 15+ feet above your floor, and the wacky ladder your husband uses to get up that high weighs like a million pounds, you'll learn to live with it for a day. During that day, however, you might get a wee bit irritable.

Fourth, ice cream is still good, even if you're not pregnant any more.

And finally, newborn babies are really, really soft and cuddly. And when they smell good, which is most of the time, they smell really, really nice.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Emma

Jane Austen's excellent Emma has been sitting unread on my shelf for over 10 years - I'd started it and hated it, and never picked it up again. In my quest to complete all the books that we currently own, I picked it up. I have no clue why I didn't love it the first time. It is an excellent book, and both fun and fast to read.

The title character was once described by Austen herself as a heroine who "no one but myself will much like", but Emma Woodhouse must be the most interesting character she created. Emma is flawed and self-delusional but charming and witty, causes harm where she means only good, captivates everyone around her though committed to never marrying. Her father is a comical eccentric, an extreme hypochondriac who hates changes to his comfortable life. The other people in her circle are robust characters so well written they leap from the pages: simple Harriet Smith, stalwort Mr. Knightly, dashing Frank Churchill, dear Mr. and Mrs. Weston, boring Miss Bates, irritating Mrs. Elton.

The plot will be familiar to anyone who has either read other Austen novels or seen the movie Clueless. Emma lives with her father on an estate some miles from London. She has taken Harriet Smith, a sweet girl from a lesser societal rank, under her wing and commences matchmaking. After convincing Harriet to reject a marriage proposal that Emma believes to be beneath her, she lands Harriet head over heels in love with a young man who falls instead for Emma. Frank Churchill comes to town and has most everyone convinced he is in love with Emma, though that relationship also fails to pan out. By the novel's end, everyone has managed to find their perfect match and everything is tied up neatly. This pretty much sums up the action, though there are countless social visits, balls, people calling on one another, letters sent all around, and other early 19th Century hijinks.

Emma is witty and intelligent, a great read even without considering it was written nearly 200 years ago.

Next up: The Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It's supposed to be one of the best Russian novels of all time, and a masterpiece of the 20th Century. I'm really looking forward to it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The latest on the Bunny

The little Bunny has been home for three weeks, with hardly a mention here. Fear not! The reason is not that she isn't top of mind. Rather, she's a dream of a baby: sleeps well, eats well, hardly ever cries unless she needs to eat or sleep. She is partial to being cuddled, which is hardly a sin.

For the record, I am thus far convinced that the jump from zero kids to one is far harder than going from one to two. Perhaps we have just lucked out with such an easy baby, but I think it's more attributable to our already being in the baby frame of mind. Yeah, we're way behind on sleep, and having two girls at home means naps are but a pleasant memory (somewhat akin to golf, spur-of-the-moment travel and raging all-night parties). But the culture shock that we felt with the Bug - caused in part by the loss of the aforementioned pleasures - isn't here this time around. We've already been in kid mode; we've just upped the ante.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of those modern classics that everyone references, but which I'd never read. And to be honest, until recently I'd never had much desire to do so. But the book came up in a few different contexts, so I decided to give it a shot. I found it to be an enjoyable, light read, but it's plot wasn't completely satisfying. And since I finished it about a week ago, I can say it is not entirely memorable either.

The book follows hapless human Arthur Dent, whose house is about to be destroyed to make way for a new bypass at the exact moment when the planet Earth is also to be destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass. His best friend, Ford Prefect, outs himself as an alien while this is going down. Since Ford is also one of the contributing editors of the encyclopedic reference book (also called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), he's got enough space-street-sense to flag down a passing UFO and secure passage for Arthur and himself.

Through a couple of crazy random happenstances, Arthur and Ford find themselves on the cutting edge spaceship the Heart of Gold, which has recently been stolen by Galactic President and ex-hippy Zaphod Beeblebrox and his girlfriend Trillian. This motley crew finds itself on the distant planet Magrathea, which the galaxy had thought was completely abandoned. In their adventures on Magrathea, the crew learns the Answer to the Ultimate Question, finds out what the Earth really was, and they meet some interesting characters along the way. It's a fun ride to take, so long as you don't expect anything life-changing.

Next up: Emma by Jane Austen.

Addendum

Apparently I posted the Bug's funny quotes one day too soon. Yesterday we were in the ladies' room at a restaurant when she said to me, "Mommy, you have a humongous vagina." I looked at her, puzzled to myself for a second, and asked "What was that?" And she told me, "Mommy, I don't like your great big vagina." Yep, I'm still a little mortified.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bug's quotables

It's been a while since the Bug said something so off the wall I felt compelled to report it verbatim here, but we've had two in the past week.

Early this week, my Mom and I took her shopping for, among other things, a play-in-the-snow winter coat. I saw a cute brown coat with a faux fur-trimmed hood at the Gap, and asked her if she wanted to try it on for me. She took one look, shook her head, and said, "NO - it's too monkey!" I thought I must have misunderstood and restated the question, and she stamped her feet and vehemently replied again that the coat was "too monkey!!" In Macy's, another fur-trimmed hood, and another report of "too monkey!" We ultimately found one that was pink and brown but completely without fur. It won the stamp of approval, and that evening when she put it on to go for a walk, she cheerfully reported that this coat was "not at all monkey" and therefore quite acceptable.

And on Tuesday I took the Bug to her third swimming lesson. We've had pretty mixed results - with Mom, she was happy to get in the water and practice her stroke and her kick, but when I was there she cried non-stop. I'd already taken her out of the water a couple of times, and after I didn't respond to the third consecutive cry of "I have to go potty" (since the last had been a false alarm), she screamed at the top of her lungs "I have to make a poop RIGHT NOW!" Believe me when I tell you that is not a bluff you want to call - I scooped her out of the pool, ran to the bathroom, and was only mildly annoyed when it proved to be another false alarm.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Dud Avocado

The Dud Avocado is Elaine Dundy's loosely autobiographical first novel. It tells of the misadventures of 21-year-old ingenue Sally Jay Gorce, an American in Paris in the mid-1950s. Sally's Uncle Roger has agreed to foot the bill for two years in Europe, during which Sally wants to have some fun: stay up as late as she wants, eat whatever she wants, and meet some interesting people. She's terribly unlucky in love, has a hopeless tendency to wear the wrong thing, and manages to lose her passport during one late night of partying.

Sally's escapades are more amusing than the underlying plot. She's fallen in with an arty cafe crowd, has an affair with an Italian diplomat who has both a wife and a mistress, falls head over heels for the smarmy American theater director she knew in the States, and jaunts off to the south of France with a guy she barely knows. Her hair is dyed a shocking shade of pink, she jilts the nice guy who loves her, and did I mention she lost her passport? The Dud Avocado is charming, witty and an enjoyable read.

Next up: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I am actually surprised never to have read.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Big sister so sweet

The Bug is quite taken with "her" new baby. She really could not be sweeter to the little Bunny: she kisses her, picks out her clothes, reads her books, pats her gently on the head, is very concerned when her pacifier goes missing... in short, incredible success with the new addition to the family. This was definitely the unknown variable that had me most nervous; now I am simply worried that in a few years they will totally gang up on their poor mommy.

Knowing the Bug's penchant for artistic expression, it should not come as a surprise that she is also presenting quite the tome of to her sister. Here's the first picture the Bug made for the newborn Bunny, which she brought to the hospital to present to new baby sister at their first meeting ever:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Special delivery!

So at exactly 41 weeks, my pregnancy ended on Friday the 13th with the birth of beautiful little Anya "Bunny" Marie. She weighed 8 lbs. 8 oz., so apparently those last few weeks were dedicated to packing on the weight.

On Thursday my weekly doctor's visit was accompanied by a sonogram which indicated borderline low amniotic fluid, so the doctor sent us to the hospital. Once I got there and they determined the baby's and my vitals were fine, I was given pitocin to induce labor. Things progressed pretty quickly - my cervix began to dilate and they broke my water - and I even got to relax a little once they administered the epidural. By around 5:00 in the morning, my cervix was fully dilated but the baby still had not dropped one iota. After another hour of the pitocin doing its thing, the doctor's best guess was that the baby would not drop, so I was prepped for a Cesarian which would begin when the new shift of nurses and anesthesiologists came on at 7:00.

With 15 minutes to spare, my doctor and nurse came into the room and suggested that, while it was not overwhelmingly likely to work, I try to push the baby out the old fashioned way. Yeah, the baby was really high (+3, with delivery happening at a -4... don't ask me what that means), but what could it hurt? If pushing accomplished nothing, we were already ready for the O.R. and would proceed as planned. Without getting into the details, it turns out that I am a rather impressive pusher, and baby was delivered in an hour and 20 minutes.

The Bunny is strong, healthy and wonderful, the Bug is enamored with her baby sister, and we are settled back at home as a family of four. More to follow soon, of course!

Monday, November 9, 2009

40 weeks +3

It actually never occurred to me that I'd go past my due date with this baby. Call it naive, call it short-sighted, either way it's the truth. So three days past the due date with no signs of any change on the horizon, I am a bit flummoxed. I have tried every "home remedy" under the sun, with the exception of chugging castor oil - that just sounds gross. I've been working from home for a couple of weeks - the commute was wiping me out, and my colleagues all feared my water could break at any moment - so I'm actually a little lonely. On the flip side, none of my clothes fit these days so at least I'm not flashing the world my unsightly business. My Mom came out at the end of last week under the assumption that we'd be looking at a due date-ish baby. And she returned to Colorado today with plans to return when I go into labor, or get scheduled for an induction, or it's Thanksgiving - whichever happens first. So Gentle Reader, stay tuned. No news is... well, no news is simply the lack of news. Keep your fingers crossed something happens soon!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween wrap

So it's November now, and still nothing to report in the baby news department. I can tell you I am not a fan of pointless contractions that apparently accomplish nothing, but that's about all I've got.

On the plus side, though, we did get to take the Bug trick-or-treating this year - something I was super pleased not to miss! She was a very magical unicorn, though we were not able to convince her to wear her hood with its extra-magic horn... Still, it was pink and fuzzy and adorable. She didn't *actually* say "Trick or Treat" at any of the houses, preferring to cling to Joker and stick out her pumpkin bucket. But she scored a plenty fine haul for her non-sweets-eating self (and her Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-loving Mommy), and she has learned she likes chocolate, though she soundly rejects everything else (even M&Ms!).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

War and Peace

Even more intimidating than picking up Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace is attempting, as an amateur blogger, to review it. This is an amazing book, difficult to put down and enjoyable from start to finish. I chose the 2007 translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, a husband and wife team who has done a phenomenal job of translating a number of Russian classics. I don't anticipate ever reading another translator's edition of any Russian novel - they breathe new life into these wonderful books.

At nearly 1300 pages, War and Peace truly defines the epic genre. It is set primarily among Moscow and Petersburg nobility during the period of the Napoleonic wars (1805-1812), and it tells the story of two very different families and one unique man, interwoven with the politics and strategy of the wars themselves. Severe old Prince Bolkonsky has two children, the intelligent and thoughtful Andrei and the religious Marya. The laid back Count Ilya Rostov and his loving wife have four children, Vera, Nikolai, Natasha and Petya, and an orphaned niece Sonya. Count Pierre Bezukhov is the favorite illegitimate son of one of Moscow's richest men, and his inherited fortune throws him into society life for which he is ill prepared.

The beautiful Natasha Rostov is introduced as a 13-year-old girl, the favorite child of both her parents. She is impetuous and charming, and everyone she meets becomes captivated. This only increases as she makes her own debut into society. She has become friendly with Pierre Bezukhov, a frequent visitor to the Rostov household, who introduces her to the handsome soldier Prince Andrei Bolkonsky at her first ball. The evolution of the relationships between Natasha, Pierre and Andrei provide much of the background for the social stories throughout the book. Their families and friends - and members of greater Moscow and Petersburg society - provide a robust cast of characters so well developed and compelling you'll miss them when you finish the book.

Beyond his complex storytelling, Tolstoy uses the book to promote his thoughts on the origins of war, the roles of leaders, the true source of happiness, and other intricate philosophies. He also makes it very clear which generals he felt should be credited with Russian victory, and where the blame should lie when the opposite was true. By using real wars and battles as the backdrop for human dramas, he provides great insight into how the characters lives are shaped, and what drives them to make the decisions they do. This is true not only for the fictional characters he has created, but also for the generals and other historical figures that feature prominently.

I could not have been more thrilled with the experience of reading War and Peace. It is a interesting and exciting and meticulously crafted... I only want to re-read my other favorite Russian novels to fairly assess whether it is the best book I have ever read, or merely one of the best. It is admittedly a massive undertaking, but one that will be well worth it when you have the time to invest.

Up next: Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado, the story of a 21-year-old American woman dropped into 1950s Paris for sexy and boozy adventures. Supposed to be really funny, plus it's got a cool title.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

After my tepid review of Watchmen, Joker suggested that I try Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, as another well-known, groundbreaking graphic novel, and one that he particularly likes. I definitely preferred it to Watchmen, and while I would absolutely recommend it for the medium, I wouldn't list it among the greatest reads of all time.

Dark Knight Returns was my first Batman comic, though I have seen the movies. For the most part I had enough context to understand what was going on: I knew Harvey Dent was Two-Face, I knew who the Joker was, and though I didn't know they were both there, I was aware of Arkham Asylum. The key thing missing for the uninitiated is that Superman and Batman have a long-standing relationship. For the most part they are allies, but they come from such different places their methods are often at odds. Superman is an idealist, the consummate good guy, man of steel, et cetera. Batman is a realist, driven by revenge, and sometimes forced to blur the line between right and wrong. I had no idea that Superman and Batman ever crossed paths, so I found that storyline to be a bit confusing. Oh and the old dude Oliver near the end? He's also a superhero, known as Green Arrow.

The book is a collection of four individual comics under one main arch. Batman has been retired for ten years, following the Joker's (for clarification, not MY Joker) murder of his sidekick Robin. Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon, both now in their 70s, have maintained their friendship as Gotham has become increasingly overrun with criminals. With Gordon finally about to retire, Batman feels he has no choice but to put the bat-suit back on.

But times have changed. The media, the government and the general public don't necessarily embrace Batman's vigilante ways. The case is even made that Batman is the criminal, and that Two-Face and the Joker, who have been locked up in Arkham Asylum, are repentant and ready to be released. While the Batman deals with the fallout of these two being back on the outside, we continue to understand what is driving him and his return to crime-fighting.

The second two books change gears somewhat, with Batman and Superman involved in the US vs. USSR nuclear arms race. Superman saves the earth, but an unfortunate side-effect is that Gotham descends into chaos. When Batman rights the city, it's an embarrassment to the government, which forces a Superman/Batman showdown.

The artwork is very appealing, and I understand how Frank Miller has become such a brand name. The dialogue and inner monologues - especially Batman's and Superman's - provide a depth of character development I wouldn't have suspected possible in a comic book. All in all, it's a very enjoyable read, well worth the short time it takes.

Next up: I've only got 100-150 pages left in War and Peace, so I'm a one-book woman until it's done.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bug: L'artiste

The weather this weekend was pretty crappy, lessened only because it was expected to be worse. Combined with the fact that I'm uncomfortable, achy, and contracting, we were pretty cooped up. Though I desperately needed the time to sort through boxes of baby stuff - and to do endless loads of laundry before sorting the clothes, blankets, bibs, etc. into piles by size (and girl vs. gender-neutral) - the highlight was helping the Bug with her artwork.

She absolutely loves to color and to "do stickers", but the real fun begins when we break out the paints or the markers. I love watching her work - she picks out a color, concentrates very hard on whatever it is she's doing at the moment, and is on to the next color in a matter of seconds. She is very proud of her work, and not afraid to criticize mine when, for example, my flower doesn't look very happy. (For the record, I have no idea what she was talking about - it didn't even have a face. But the Bug seemed satisfied after she added some pink, so there must have been an issue.)

I am most amazed, though, when we talk about it later. I always ask her to tell me about whatever she makes. The narrative currently consists of "this is yellow; this is pink," but I don't think we're far from involved explanations of every detail. And in the evening when we're talking about the day, she will remember not only that we colored together, but that I made a pink cat and then a green one, and that she drew the bodies and added stickers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pumpkin painting

Even though our neighbors have promised to set up a special night of trick-or-treating for the Bug should the moppet decide to show on Halloween, it'd be a bummer to miss the Bug's first "real" Halloween. Technically, it's her third, but this is the first time she could tell me what she wanted to be (a unicorn, which is harder to find than you'd expect). And she was super excited for our visit to the pumpkin patch (where she was going to find a Bug-sized pumpkin, and I would get a Mommy-sized pumpkin, and Daddy would get a Daddy-sized pumpkin). We even upped the fun quotient by inviting the cousins (and Aunt Katy and Uncle Dave) to join us.

We went to Eden Farms in Stamford - very close to our house, and they put on a good show for the little ones. After two or three trips through the hay bale maze - which the Bug and cousin Chris-Chris absolutely LOVED - we took a hay ride down to the pumpkin patch. Sure enough, the Bug found the tiniest, most perfectly pumpkin-shaped pumpkin I have ever seen. And believe it or not, it we had to defend it at least half a dozen times. After we all found our perfect pumpkins, and cousin Lily went for a pony ride, we went to the cousins' house for the carving.

The carving didn't really materialize - or more precisely, none of the kids paid any attention. But what did materialize was a karaoke machine. So the kids took turns serenading us. They each held the microphone, articulated the lyrics clearly, and it was probably the first time I've really wished we'd had our video camera.

When we got home, the Bug knew exactly what she wanted to do with her pumpkin. So, per her instruction, we got out the paints and she created a beautiful masterpiece:

No idea where she got the idea of pumpkin painting, but this will be our centerpiece until in rots from the inside out.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Arches and Canyonlands

After the incredible success of our Acadia trip, Joker and I have been talking a lot about the National Parks being good destinations for us in the coming years. They're beautiful, there's a lot to do for both kids and adults to enjoy, and we're really not the annual-trek-to-Disneyland kind of people.

Utah has been one place we've talked about: it boasts several stunning parks, and it's relatively close to my parents so we could probably meet there and enjoy a vacation together. It just so happens that Mima and Boppie scoped out the place last weekend!


In one postcard they say that both the Canyonlands and Arches overload the senses. In the other, they mention that lots of kids were having fun climbing on the rock formations. Perhaps next year we will be counted among their number... it certainly sounds like we'd all enjoy it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Miscellany

While I haven't been doing much blogging the last couple of weeks, I have been learning (and re-learning) some very important things. So now I'll save you the trouble of having to figure these things out for yourself, and share them with you:

Leading the category of re-learning is Fact #1. The last month of pregnancy sucks. I'm big. I'm uncomfortable. And my temperature is running at about +20 degrees or so compared to normal. I'm tired, but unable to sleep for more than two hours at a stretch. I'm hungry, but so full of baby there is no room for my dinner. Baby's head-down, which means its bony butt is constantly prodding my innards. On the plus side, though, the Bug gives the baby lots of kisses, which is both cute and sweet.

Fact #2. Ice cream is good. I mean, really REALLY good. I have been a sorbet/popsicle girl all my life, but last week dipped into a pint of Cherry Garcia. Holy crap! That stuff is awesome!! What the hell was I thinking?? So what if it's got like a thousand calories and god knows how many grams of fat - it tastes GOOD.

Fact #3. Health insurance sucks. At least, mine does. When I started going to my various pre-natal appointments, Cigna rejected every single claim because they said I had other primary insurance. Which I did not. When I called to speak with someone, they said it's standard procedure. What a totally bullshit standard procedure! And last week I learned that the anesthesia department at Greenwich Hospital doesn't accept Cigna. Anesthesia is important. They don't remove wisdom teeth without anesthesia, and last time I checked a baby is WAY bigger. Needless to say, I was concerned about this one! I reached out to the hospital, which has been incredibly responsive and helpful, and learned that they are in negotiations with Cigna so the anesthesia will be treated pari passu with other out-of-network coverage. Basically, that means Cigna will do little to nothing. Boo, hiss.

Fact #4. The Bug is really excited to be a big sister. However, she has made it known that she really wants a sister. She informed Joker and me the other day that if the baby is a girl, she will take care of her, but if it's a boy, I can take care of him. (In case you are curious, apparently Joker can take care of himself.) The Bug has also told us that she sleeps in her big girl bed, and the baby can sleep in her crib. And I already mentioned that she loves to kiss (and tickle) the baby. I'm still not sure this translates directly to understanding that a real, live baby who lives outside of Mommy's tummy will be joining the family, but it seems to be a very good start!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Still running jogging

Next to what she consumes, nothing attracts unsolicited comments like the sight of a pregnant woman running. I've been fortunate that said comments are generally positive ("Right on!") or encouraging ("Keep it up!"), though I've heard tell of the annoyingly negative ("Should you really be doing that?").

When I was pregnant with the Bug, my last so-called run (trust me, it gets really slow near the end) was a couple of days before I went to the hospital to deliver. I'm hoping for the same sort of luck this time around, and all indicators are still positive. I chuckle a little when people ask me about it, because the #1 question is about my heart rate. Of which I have no clue. I don't track my heart rate when I'm not pregnant, nor do I track it when I am pregnant. It's actually a lot easier than that. You just want to keep your exertion to a moderate level, and it's easy not to overdo it because between increased blood volume and decreased lung capacity, there is simply no way to push it too hard. I still record my run times, but only because I find it interesting to track. The other guideline is total exercise time. I've heard that it's good to keep yourself around 30 minutes or less by the time you hit the third trimester. Frankly, I could not do much more - when you're pregnant, you really go to the bathroom frequently. I simply can't hold it longer than this!

As far as workout gear, I have heard about giant belly bands that are supposed to keep you from bouncing. The concept freaks me out, and my tummy is totally bounceless anyway. I wear my normal shorts, low below my tummy, and either a maternity running shirt or a big old t-shirt. The former is far more comfortable, but I've got more of the latter and they suffice.

I think the reason I do it is to maintain a level of normalcy even while pregnant. Like a glass of wine with dinner, it makes me feel a bit more human. Plus, exercise during pregnancy is supposed to help with post-baby weight loss. I'm hoping to keep running 'til the end again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Newport, RI

Sent to the Bug last weekend from her Mommy and Daddy. While the Bug and Mima were making major strides in child development, Joker and I visited Newport, RI. It's a very pretty town, if a bit on the touristy side. We ate good food, had a fabulous time on the coastal Cliff Walk, toured The Breakers, and got to sleep in. This postcard is from the downtown harbor.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Breaking Dawn

The best thing I can say about Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final book in the Twilight series, is that at least now I am done with it.

First of all, Stephenie Meyer is a poor writer. This book starts out narrated by our good buddy Bella, switches to first-person narrative by Jacob the werewolf (or more precisely, the shape shifter), and switches back to first-person now-vampire Bella. Good writing in the first person is rare, and this writing is far from good. Plus, Meyer splits infinitives. She suffers terribly from overuse of the adjective. She really could have used an editor. And she's got a crazy agenda.

You see, I thought all the PG-rated kissing and eye-gazing and cheesy crap was to maximize parentally-sponsored book sales for pre-teen girls. In reality, Meyer is an anti-choice Mormon who doesn't believe in premarital sex. Not even for hot teenage vampire dudes like Edward. In fact, before his and Bella's wedding night, dear sweet Edward talked to his father and brothers about the birds and the bees, since in his hundred years of "life" the issue had never, um, arisen. Then, when Bella gets pregnant with a freaky demon monster who beats the hell out of her from the inside, her blinding love for Edward means an abortion is completely out of the question. Feminist lit this is not.

So Bella has the baby, Edward pseudo-saves her life by transforming her into a vampire, she's able to resist the urge for human blood from the get-go, the pack of werewolves seems to be cool to co-exist with the veggie-vamps... but look out! Here come the old-ass Volturi from the second book, on their way to stamp out the Cullen menace for once and for all. Tension builds, conflict seems imminent... and then it's averted because of Bella's super-power. She, Edward and the half-breed live happily ever, since apparently all our 18-year-old leading lady ever wanted was to be Edward's immortal bride and the mother of his child. How progressive.

Up next: I'm about two-thirds of the way through War and Peace, which is incredible. I'm going to try to focus on finishing that one, rather than having two books going at once.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mima mojo

A few weeks ago, I thought we were nearing the milestone most longed for by parents the world over: potty training. The Bug was into it, she dug on her new panties, and we spent about a day and a half with grand toilet success. But she lost interest, got distracted, or otherwise decided that the diaper was still OK for now. I was a bit disappointed, but figured I have neither the know-how nor the patience to really force the issue. Plus, she's still young, so we could come back to it later.

Well, apparently all it took was about 12 hours with my mother, who worked some sort of uber-magic with astounding success. Joker and I left for a little weekend get-away on Friday morning, and by dinner-time we needed a scoreboard to track the break-throughs. The Bug had used the potty at home, the potty at the children's museum, and she'd made her first Number Two on the potty. By Sunday, she was wearing panties in the car (even when she dozed off) and had used the potty at the zoo, and this morning the first thing she asked for (well, second, after her Mima) was the potty. Another Number Two, another accident-free car ride to the babysitters... By Jove, I think she's got it!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How rude!

I don't really ask a lot of the general public. I am happy to pay for my own drinks, open my own doors, give up a seat for the elderly, and respect "no cellphone" policies wherever I find them.

But I am also seven months pregnant. I enjoy my 20-minute walks (more or less... used to be less, but now they're closer to 23 minutes) to and from Grand Central, but sometimes I just don't quite have enough time to make my train in the evening. Which forces me underground. Where all the otherwise chivalrous people who open doors and try not to knock over the pregnant lady turn into a mass of boorish pigs.

When I get on the subway and there are no seats, I actually catch the eyes of people (mostly men) who are rushing to appear as if they don't see me. They fumble with newspapers, they get out their blackberries, their eyes glaze over as they intently read the subway ads. Sometimes an older woman or a really, really old man will ask if I'd like a seat. Less frequently, a younger woman will offer hers up. And very occasionally, a black or latino man will stand in my stead. But virtually never will a white man between the ages of 20 and 50 give up his seat for a pregnant woman.

This phenomenon puzzles me. It happened last time I was pregnant, and I have observed it many times between pregnancies, when I find myself to be the only person on a crowded subway car to offer my seat to a pregnant woman. From time to time, I get elbowed out of the way on the Metro-North platform as it's time to board a train, but only on the subway is this behavior the rule rather than the exception. Why is that? An odd form of tunnel blindness? Is the subway lighting so very slimming that I look completely un-pregnant? Seriously, people, what gives?

Friday, September 4, 2009

New snoozing ground

We set up the Bug's big girl bed over the weekend, and she's been super excited about it. She plays on it, we read books on it, she jumps on it. But we had to ease on into the sleeping on it thing. For two nights, after books and lights-out, she asked me to lie with her for a while. When it was time for me to leave, she asked to be put into her crib. Night #3, she started in her crib and asked for the big girl bed around 5:00am, where she finished the night. And last night, we had success! We tucked her in, turned out the light, and in the big beddie she stayed! Now if we can just get her to use the potty...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eclipse

Eclipse, the third book in Stephenie Meyer's teen-vampire-romance Twilight series, delivers more of the same, albeit in slightly better packaging than its immediate predecessor. You've got your vampire-werewolf-human love triangle, your threat of imminent danger and death, some good ole teenage angst, and the foggy fog of Forks, Washington.

In this installment, Bella and Edward are back to their lovey-dovey, PG-rated romance. They've come to the agreement that after she graduates from high school, he'll transform her into a vampire, too... provided she marries him first. This totally pisses off her good buddy, Jacob the werewolf, who stopped speaking to Bella at the end of the second book. Since Bella misses her friend so very much, even though Jacob also vies for her affection, Edward agrees she should do what she can to get back into his good graces. Which of course she does.

Enter the imminent danger, this time in the form of an army of new vampires. The Cullen family can't find any other vampires to help them eradicate this menace, so they are forced to team up with the local werewolf pack (Jacob et al). This unlikely alliance gives each side the opportunity to brag, show off, and talk trash. It also creates a bizarre scenario that allows Jacob and Edward to truly see how much the other loves Bella, and reveals to Bella that she actually loves them both. Barf.

Anyway, the vampire/werewolf team win the battle, and Bella sticks with Edward and their plan for eternal happiness. Jacob's devastated and hits the road, and wedding bells are in the air. I still can't believe that anyone buys Bella's lame character as the lynch pin of all of this, but that doesn't mean I won't read - er, skim - the last book.

Up next: I'm putting the nail in the Twilight coffin with the final book, Breaking Dawn.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Playmates

One of the unexpected pleasures of the summer has been to watch the Bug play with her cousins, 6-year-old Frankie and 4-year-old twins Lily and Christopher. We try to get together at least once a week because they have such a blast! The Bug is their biggest fan. When Frankie plays his guitar and sings for us, the Bug stands in the front row and dances, his first little groupie. She follows Lily around, emulating everything the "big" girl does. And she and Chris spent hours digging in the sand at the beach last weekend. I think the cousins enjoy having someone younger on whom to impart their years of accumulated wisdom, and it's been so good for the Bug to have built-in best buddies who are always watching out for her. Nightmarish cell phone bills may be just around the corner, but it'll be a small price to pay.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Big girl bed

According to the pediatrician, the Bug was ready for a big girl bed a couple of months ago, and she only fell out of one once while we were on vacation in Maine. We recently ordered her bed, and today I thought I'd take care of the bedding. Apparently I have not bought that stuff in a very long time... I could not BELIEVE the number of choices! Keep in mind here, she's just two years old.

It's not just a twin mattress - it's either firm or plush or cushion firm or extra plush. It's not just sheets, it's different types of cotton, different weaves, and thread counts ranging from 200-1000. It's not just pillows, it's down or synthetic or memory foam. Several hours - and quite a few payments - later, I believe I have everything we need.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My fritzing camera

Since I'm still mourning the loss of my beloved film camera, laid to rest when it became too much of a hassle to develop film, I'd been planning to buy a good digital SLR this year. Our digital camera takes fine pictures, but it is admittedly a bit old and bulky. It is also apparently imbued with a feisty spirit - one that impelled it to go on the fritz as my brother's wedding began. I deleted most of the ruined pictures, but check out what happened to the vast majority of my vacation documentation.

This is the old footbridge from the hundred-year-old town of Somesville, Maine:


And here's what my camera did to it:


Creepy, right? Or perhaps I've finally found a medium of art that I'm actually good at...

Either way, we now are in the market for a small, inexpensive digital camera, as well as a good SLR.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Acadia National Park

I'd never been to Maine before, and while I knew that Acadia was the first national park east of the Mississippi, I did not know that it is located on an island off the coast. It is home to stunning natural beauty, both of the ocean and the woods varieties. We drove through the park, hiked, visited a beach, explored the tide pools, picked wild blueberries... and every night ate some of the freshest and most delicious seafood I've had (lobsters, of course, and haddock, clams, mussels, crabs, shrimp and scallops... only oysters are conspicuously absent).

Here are some photos from our hike:


Acadia is a beautiful place, and its something-for-everyone-ness makes for a great family vacation. We will definitely be back!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Scoop

My latest foray into the satirical genius of Evelyn Waugh is Scoop, which is regarded by many to be one of his best. I didn't find it to be as hilarious as Black Mischief, but it is definitely an enjoyable read.

Based in part on Waugh's experiences covering Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia, Scoop explores sensational journalism and foreign correspondence. The story begins with John Boot, a rather lazy novelist who pursues a high-paying, low-work job in a foreign country in order to escape from an amorous American girl. Through the good words of his connections (including Waugh's favorite society matron Lady Metroland), Boot lands a position with the aptly-named newspaper The Beast, which will send him to the fictional African nation of Ishmaelia to cover its brewing civil war. Through several miscommunications, bumpkin William Boot is hired in his place, and he instead is forced to leave the comfort of home (where he writes a biweekly nature column) to join the cadre of journalists newly stationed in Jacksonburg, the capital city of Ishmaelia.

In typical Waugh fashion, hilarity and misadventures ensue. The ultimate question is whether the journalists are covering the news, or if they're really creating it based on their collective need to report back to their media outlets, whether or not anything is actually happening. My favorite joke involves the journalists all trekking to the Ishmaelian outpost of Laku, but I won't ruin it for you here.

Suffice it to say, this is another Waugh triumph. If you've not yet tried his books, I highly recommend you get started!

Up next: Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight series. (Did I mention I'm also getting into the HBO series True Blood? I think I might have a vampire problem.)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Maine vacation

We just got back from a week in the great state of Maine, where we had a fabulous family vacation! To clarify a couple of things, by "great state" I mean "state in which every conceivable business uses its name as part of a pun": Chow Maine (a Chinese restaurant), Mainely Hair (salon)... you get the picture. And by "family" I mean "the whole fam damily": in addition to Joker and the Bug, I'm talking about my parents, sister, grandparents, one aunt and a cousin.... most impressively, with no casualties!

We started out in Portland for my younger brother's wedding, and a very big "CONGRATULATIONS" are in order for Shane and Ali! The wedding was on Peak's Island, which is a short ferry ride from the Portland harbor, and we had stunning weather and beautiful views of the city. The Bug was a most upstanding flower girl, and according to her discerning eye the bride herself was a princess. All went well, my brother now has a Missus, and the next morning those mentioned above drove a few hours north to the stunning Acadia National Park. More on that to follow.

So apologies for the hiatus, but I'll be posting a few more notes on the trip in the next couple of days, including the few pictures I was able to coax out of my fritzing camera.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This is what a feminist looks like

I was wearing my "This is what a feminist looks like" tank top to a football party a couple of years ago. One of my friends commented that he thought feminists wore cargo pants and Doc Martens. To which I sighed, "Matt, that's the point! Feminists look like that, but they also can be sexy. And, for that matter, they can also be dudes."

And feminists can also be gray-haired old mathematicians, like Gerald Gardner who passed away last week.

A geophysicist and mathematician, Gardner provided the statistical analysis that bolstered a 1973 landmark sex discrimination case. He and his wife were among the earliest members of the Pittsburgh predecessor to NOW.

Reading about Gardner yesterday reminded me of the importance of being a feminist, in practice and in name. And it makes me proud that my husband is one, too. I have a daughter who hugs her football with as much love as she hugs her pink stuffed bears, and that's the way it should be.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cat gratitude

My dear sweet husband is very fond of pointing out that when he met me, I was a hopelessly terrible dancer who hated cats. He takes visible pride in having reversed both of these issues, though friends would probably say that while there has been notable progress on the former, there is still a great deal of work to be done.

This anecdote, however, illustrates how the latter, my new-found regard for cats, is continually put to the test by none other than Sirius and Buffy, themselves. Mostly Sirius.

Some days our hectic lives catch up with us, as happened on Saturday. We had two parties to go to, which used to require only scheduling finesse but with a 2-year-old in the mix seems to be much more challenging. Since the Bug loves parties, she was completely fine with blowing right past her nap amidst the festivities. We got home around 7:00, gave her a quick dinner and bath, and put her to bed by about 8:15. At which time Joker and I proceeded to crash as well, in our clothes and on top of the covers. I got myself up around 9:30... for the excitement of a frozen burrito and a quick read-through of the newspaper.

So as not to arouse my sleeping husband, I didn't turn on any of the lights as I passed through our room on the way to brush my teeth. Which is how my left foot found itself smack dab in the middle of a cold, wet pile of gently used cat food. I silently cursed Sirius while I scrubbed cat vomit out of our white shag carpet in the dark. His furry black ass is now on Cat Treat Probation. If he remains barf-free, he'll be permanently off of the crunchy little feline-meth tablets. If his vomit problem returns, in addition to being sans treats, he'll also win himself an all-expense paid trip to le vet to see if anything can be done. I'm pretty sure when I agreed to bring him into our home it was under the explicit condition that I never - repeat, NEVER - would clean up after him. Of course, I'm pretty sure I also swore he would never sleep in our bed, that if he ever woke me up he'd be banished from the bedroom, and that Joker would have to brush him every day to minimize shedding. Those didn't stick, either.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Smithsonian Art Museum: Washington, DC

Mima sent this to the Bug from her latest business-and-pleasure visit to Washington, DC. She said the painting reminded her of the Bug... who immediately remarked upon seeing the postcard that it was a picture of her with her Mima!

That's what I'm into

For someone who works in television, I am woefully unschooled in the programming that actually airs on the medium. So this may come as old news for those of you more in the know, but Flight of the Conchords has got to be funniest show on television. I mean, these guys are freaking hilarious! Joker and I are just a few episodes into the first season, and it is definitely laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Aquarium update

Almost two months later, my fish tank is finally populated with its first five schools! I bought three each of the following apparently hearty (and thus good for brand new tanks) breeds: green tiger barbs, gold barbs, zebra danios, bleeding heart tetras, and white clouds (which unfortunately already number just two).

These are some seriously happy and joyful little friends, and I am sure you will be impressed by the photo shoot we had today:

Two of the gold barbs are in front of the bonzai, one of the green tigers is just above them, a couple of the zebras are swimming very fast in the top right corner, with another green tiger below them, and one of the white clouds below that one.

To the Lighthouse

Since struggling through Virginia Woolf's brutally dull To the Lighthouse, I have tried to find a valid defense of this modernist classic. It's one of Time's 100 greatest English novels of all time, and it supposedly takes the stream-of-consciousness writing style that worked well in Mrs. Dalloway to a whole new level. My ass. This book is dull, dull, dull. Nothing happens. Woolf may have been many things, but this frankly does not showcase her talent. In fact, you'd be better served reading her Wikipedia page - her personal life is far more interesting than this insipid book.

Up next: I'm treating myself to Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's new-ish translation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. I love the Russians, but was rushed through my first reading of this classic. That, combined with the phenomenal translating team of Pevear/Volokhonsky, has me giddy with anticipation!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The hard lesson

Yesterday morning I observed something that I have never before seen in my twenty years of road running: I saw an animal get hit by a car and die. It frankly didn't bother me - while I would rather the rabbit have died of old age in his cozy rabbit hole, surrounded by thousands of his little rabbit progeny, I think the death of wild animals is simply part of the natural order of things. I eat meat, I fish, I have no problem with hunting. Don't get me wrong: I think people who torture animals have something seriously wrong with them. But the death of a wild animal is of little importance to me.

It did, however, get me to thinking about how my Bug will feel about death, and how and when to teach her about it. Buffy and Sirius won't live forever, but they're young cats with incredibly sheltered lives, and the Bug's lessons will probably be long behind us before they expire. My parents' dear, sweet old Mack recently passed away, but it seemed a bit abstract for a two-year-old to comprehend the death of a dog she loved but didn't see on a daily basis.

What really struck me while I was meandering down this train of thought was that this is a lesson without any good ways of being taught. The overwhelming feeling of loss associated with the death of someone dear cannot be explained. The Bug will learn about death, and she'll decide for herself whether she believes we'll all reunite someday in a castle in the sky. But she won't learn that from Joker or from me. We won't be able to protect her from the pain of that lesson, and will be seemingly for naught. I think the best we can hope for is to prepare her with the strength and the support network to handle it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Slice of summer

The Bug's awesome babysitter has started taking her to the Trumbull library on Thursdays for story time and arts & crafts. The summer icon below is her first-ever construction paper creation:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Watchmen

I'd been looking forward to reading Watchmen, probably the most critically-acclaimed graphic novel of all time, for over a year when I finally picked it up. While I appreciate certain merits of the book - that it turned the superhero model on its head in some ways, with every hero having major flaws and every villain having redeeming qualities - I can't say I really enjoyed it. The plot wasn't interesting or complex enough to keep me hooked, nor did I find the art to be visually appealing.

Watchmen is set in an alternate 1980s reality, where the only thing keeping nuclear war at bay is Dr. Manhattan, a naked, blue dude whose dalliance with a nuclear reactor some years ago gave him major super powers (the ability to see all time in complete and non-linear fashion, super strength and quickness, teleportation, and the aforementioned blueness). The story opens with the gruesome murder of The Comedian, an ex-vigilante costumed crime fighter who'd been sanctioned by the government. Comedian's ex-teammate, the un-sanctioned vigilante Rorschach, sees the event as evidence of a huge anti-masked-hero conspiracy. Rorschach sets out to warn another former teammate, Dan Dreiberg (aka Nite Owl II), of the impending danger, just before he's framed for murder himself and thrown in jail. Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II (you guessed it, another ex-teammate) now have to break him out of the pokey so that they can get to the bottom of it all.

The primary plot is interwoven with a number of sub-plots, my least favorite of which was a comic-within-a-comic about an evil pirate ship. Between each chapter there are relatively interesting "excerpts" from other books or articles about various characters - part of the first Nite Owl's autobiography, the first Silk Spectre's scrapback, a really lame article on owls "written" by Dreiberg. These explore various characters' back stories, and are in some ways better than the main book.

As a whole, I just didn't find Watchmen to be all that compelling. I wouldn't even call it the best comic book/graphic novel that I've read, and I've only read a few. It didn't piss me off enough that I'd swear off the medium altogether, but neither would I recommend it.

Next up: Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. I love that guy, and am looking forward to another of his satires.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

They're *my* shells, dammit!

One of our neighbors leaves miscellaneous decorations on the table in our floor's elevator lobby: a basket of plastic eggs around Easter time, a random fishbowl full of wine corks a few weeks ago, and most recently these two giant bowls full of sea shells.


Apparently, the level in the larger bowl has dropped suspiciously in recent days, because this note appeared on Sunday evening:

Gotta love that smiley face... Looks like we've got a new submission for passiveaggressivenotes.com!

Joker and I haven't quite decided the appropriate course of action... Do we take all the shells and replace them with plastic eggs or wine corks? Do we take the bowls and just leave the shells on the table? Do we just start dropping in chewed up bubble gum and cigarette butts every time we pass by? We simply cannot let this little display of goodwill towards man go unrewarded.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Express train to snoozeville

After the success of the Bug's first concert, we've been pretty stoked to take her to more. The most recent foray was to see mega-star of the preschool set, The Laurie Berkner Band, in New York yesterday afternoon.

While Joker and my dad were off celebrating my brother's upcoming nuptials, my Mom spent the weekend with the Bug and me, and the three of us set off for our big-city adventure yesterday morning. After the unexplained 30-minute delay, we had a very exciting train ride ("We going fast, Mommy!") and lunch at my fave midtown Belgian place before the show. The show started promptly at 1:00pm to rousing applause from all 800+ fans in the house (500 of whom were kids). The Bug was totally engrossed by the goings-on on stage... for about 15 minutes. At which point she fell totally and completely asleep. We tried to wake her up, with no success whatsoever. The parents all around us thought it was hilarious. There was nothing we could do but tap our toes to the kiddie tunes and wait for her to wake up, which she did just in time for the very last song.

Lessons learned here: don't spend much money to take a 2-year-old to anything. Next concert for the Bug will be a return to Gathering of the Vibes - it's free for her, and if she falls sound asleep, at least I won't mind singing along with the music... Hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

When Michael was king

All us kids of the 70s have a memory or two influenced by the King of Pop. Thriller was the first tape I played and replayed until I knew every word front to back, and the first video I remember watching. Michael's unfortunate Pepsi commercial accident was the subject of my first off-color elementary school rhyme. I remember kids in school wearing single, fingerless gloves. But I never correctly understood the lyrics to "Billie Jean" until after college.

Today the world mourns the loss of Michael Jackson, perhaps the biggest pop star of all time. From child star to music video innovator, he dominated the 70s and 80s until pop music turned grunge and left him behind. Dude got very strange in recent years, but that doesn't diminish his place in music and pop culture history. I've spent over an hour looking for the right video to post here, and in the end decided to leave you with a 1971 television performance my favorite Jackson 5 tune, followed by a very odd clip co-starring MJ along with another recently departed soul, Betty White.



Monday, June 22, 2009

Not blogging about work

I've encountered a new blogging challenge the past couple of weeks. Because I am so incredibly busy with work, most of my clever insights and funny stories have been work-related. But because I'm not a total idiot - at least, not in some respects - I won't repeat them here. Hence, the conundrum. What to write about when the topics on your mind are off limits. I've obviously been short on answers this month.

So despite the affirmations contained in the prior paragraph, I'll throw caution to the wind with a very quick anecdote. I just overheard an intern enthusiastically telling someone that "The Proposal was a great movie!" From that statement I understand that she chose to exchange money for the opportunity to see a Sandra Bullock romantic comedy on opening weekend, and that she was happy with said exchange. I can thus conclude she and I have absolutely nothing in common.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Enter the wolverine

I'm somewhat fascinated by wolverines, badgers... any small but deadly mammal that could rip a person's limbs off, really. Coloradoans, beware: the wolverine has returned! One wolverine, to be exact. Specifically, a young male by the name of #M56, is the first wolverine in the state in almost a hundred years. Part of me wishes him well. All of me hopes never to encounter him.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why, Mommy, why?

I know that kids aren't technically all the same, as evidenced by the Bug's ridiculously good looks and above-average intelligence. But every now and then she is a walking - or talking - stereotype. Two days ago, the "whys" kicked in. She seeks the root cause and will not be satisfied with anything less. Case in point:

Bug: "Where Daddy go?"
Me: "He's in the potty."
B: "Why?"
M: "Because he has to go potty."
B: "Why?"
M: "Because he drank some water earlier."
B: "Why?"
M: "Because he was thirsty."
B: "Why?"
M: "He just was."
B: "... Where Daddy go?"
Let me guess... this phase is not a short one.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

I've been meaning to read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Japanese author Haruki Murakami for quite some time, but its length (just over 600 pages) kept me back. I am so glad I finally decided to read it - this is a fascinating book, and it is an impressive showcase of Murakami's skill and imagination.

The protagonist is Toru Okada, 30-ish Tokyo resident with few ambitions, a pretty and successful wife, and a cat who's gone missing. Until Kumiko, his wife, decides to consult a rather odd psychic regarding the cat's disappearance, his days are spent cleaning the house, grocery shopping and cooking their meals, doing the laundry, and trying to decide what next to do with his life. From that point on, however, Okada spends his time searching for the missing cat, and later for his wife, when he's not mulling things over in the bottom of the dry well behind an abandoned house or hanging out with a death-obsessed teenager.

In addition to Malta Kano, the psychic, Okada encounters a whole host of interesting and bizarre allies and antagonists: Malta's sister Creta who also possesses unique mental abilities, an elderly war veteran whose wartime experiences oddly forshadow Okada's own, wealthy Nutmeg Akasaka and her non-verbal son Cinnamon, and Okada's charismatic (and evil) brother-in-law.

Chronicle is incredibly ambitious, and the narrative is captivating. Murakami blends the realms of dreams and reality, the present and the past, and the pages fly. Characters drift in and out of Okada's life, generally without explanation, but somehow it all fits together. If there is a criticism to be made, it is that the ending does leave some strings dangling. With a plot as thick and entangled as this, however, that is hardly unexpected. This isn't the kind of book you expect to tie up neatly in a bow. But it is the kind of book that will take you on a very enjoyable ride.

Up next: To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quick bloggy update

I realized it's been a long time since my last post, but over a week?? Wow! I'm sure the expectations have been building, and you're really dying to hear the wisdom I impart after a little hiatus, so here goes.

First and foremost, work has really turned up the heat. I have been unbelievably busy. Totally swamped. It's really cool stuff, including the launch of a new channel, but my days are filled with meetings and I still have to get my day-to-day work done... so alas! very little time to blog.

And I had to buy a dress to wear to a couple of weddings. Need I remind you, it had to be a maternity dress. On the plus side, I'm not a cast member in either of my summer weddings - though I'm clearly one of the most highly valued guests, I am not required for photographic immortality. Anyway, the experience was miserable. I went to a higher-end store in the hopes that the pickin's would be decent. I tried on 20 dresses - which is more than I've ever tried on for anything in my life - and bought the one I hated the least. According to my friends at the first wedding, I did not look like a cow, so I'm going to chalk it up as a victory and up the ante with even cuter shoes for the next event.

And finally, a couple of notes on the wedding we went to over the weekend... Congrats, Georgia and Jeff! It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony, the band was fantastic, the food (especially the grilled Greek cheese - where can I get more of that??) was delicious, the Perrier was of the finest vintage, and we could not be happier for our two dear friends. Worlds of happiness to you both - you deserve every minute of it!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

For someone who claims not to particularly love Tom Robbins, I've managed to read a few of his novels. Each time, I am attracted by the clever titles, the intelligent (and at times hilarious) rambling prose, the offbeat characters, and the general coolness attached to his name. And each time, I find myself a bit disappointed in the end. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was no different - some memorable characters, some funny scenes, but not really enough plot to warrant 400 pages of novel.

The protagonist is Sissy Hankshaw, an otherwise perfect-looking tall blonde with enormous thumbs. Her love, and other people's disdain, for these outsized digits instilled in her an uber-talent for hitchhiking, and the accompanying wanderlust that has taken her across this fine country numerous times without the urge to settle down.

Sissy's primary source of income is modelling for a feminine hygene spray, the manufacturer of which is owned by The Countess, a flamboyant homosexual with castanets for teeth. The Countess also owns the Rubber Rose, the largest all-cowgirl ranch in the west. A lake near the Rubber Rose happens to be one of the primary stop-overs for the last remaining migrating flock of whooping cranes, and the Countess arranges for a Disney crew to film their mating dances, with Sissy to accompany them and report back on the ranch's goings-on.

Sissy stays for a while when she gets sucked in by the drama on the ranch, as well as by her feelings for Jelly, and for the pecker-waving, yam-loving, old Japanese dude named the Chink. The cowgirls embark on a mission of man-independence by the visions from the whip-yielding, peyote eating forwoman Delores Del Ruby. Tom Robbins himself makes an appearance as a mustachioed wine-hound shrink. And the ultimate showdown at the Rubber Rose Ranch does not yield happy endings for all.

Most people either love or hate this book, but I find myself more lukewarm on it. At his best, Robbins is funny and clever and creates characters that are quirky and unique, but the plot tying it all together is just too thin. Perhaps the novel isn't the right medium for Robbins at all, and he should just turn his talents to becoming the world's best Twitterer.

Up next: highly acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen, which I'm really looking forward to reading!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Bolder-Boulder

Along with my husband and parents, I did in fact run the Bolder-Boulder on Monday. My pace was a bit off of what I'd been training at here on the east coast (just over :20 per mile slower), but given the altitude I felt great about it.

A few notes on the race... The course is fast and flat, the streets are really wide, and it's beautiful. The race is incredibly well organized - 54,000 participants, and I was able to run freely right from the start. They have sanctioned bands along the entire course, and plenty of other people set up amps and play their own instruments in their yards. Boulderites line the course and cheer... as well as hand out anything from tequila shots to burritos to freezer pops. One lawn hosted a slip 'n' slide. You finish by running around the inside of Folsom Field, and the packed stadium sounds like it's cheering just for you. I cannot wait to run it again!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Bug is Two!

Anyone who's looking for a sure-fire best second birthday party should plan a visit to my parents' farm. Granted they're her grandparents and all, but Mima and Boppie totally threw down the best party in the history of second birthdays, with the farm tour as an unbeatable event cornerstone.

After playing with my parents' cats (Snus, Napoleon, Coner) and dog Mac (re-christened "Max" by the Bug), we visited baby lambs with their mothers. Lizzie was a particularly tame one who had been raised on the bottle, and she came up to us to nose around for snacks and affection. The Bug even got to pet a couple of the smallest little bottle lambs. And in the barn with them, a bonus surprise: three tiny kittens about three weeks old, which we also got to pet. We saw a three-day-old calf (named Angus, or Brownie, or Clovis, or Mostly White, depending on who you ask), which I thought was tiny and the Bug thought was kinda big and scary. Boppie then let the Bug drive the big tractor, which she absolutely loved (though I thought she'd find it kinda big and scary). We visited with the horses (also scary) and got to pet some baby chickens along the way. It was all topped off with some serious playing in the biggest mud puddle of all time.

Happy Birthday, little Bug! Time, she flies.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Popularity

Ah, high school. If only I'd known then what I know now, I could have ruled the joint. But alas! It wasn't until just this week that I learned the true key to popularity: a fish tank.

This weekend, I inherited Joker's old 35-gallon aquarium for my office. We brought it down on Sunday, and it's currently bubbling and filtering away. Despite the fact that there will be no living inhabitants until next week, I have never had so many passers by stop in. People absolutely love it! From the mail guy to the President, everyone totally digs it. My office went from kinda lame to total feng shui in one fell swoop. I may even be able to rent out my office couch by the half hour, thus turning it into a profit center. Imagine the possibilities when I actually have fish in there!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Bug's mind

Watching the Bug's little mind evolve has been absolutely fascinating. She is at an incredible stage right now, where information is processed as fast as we can put it into her head. The night before last, she called me "Mommy" - as opposed to "Mama" - for the first time. Yesterday morning she tried it out a few times (along with "Daddy"), and this morning she was clearly proud of her big-girl pronunciation: "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

We went to the zoo on Sunday, which is always fun, but both her experience retention and her situation comprehension have taken off. At the zoo, she understood that the tiger is a cat, like Sirius at home, and both of them like to take naps. Two days later, the Bug saw Sirius napping on the couch and observed that he was like the tiger at the zoo.

Concepts like "big and little" or colors - we take them for granted, but they are impossible to explain - she understands. Her jammies have one big striped heart on them, and two little blue ones. The flowers on that tree are pink; the ones on the ground are yellow and red. The mommy bunny is big and the baby bunnies are little.

Lucky for me, Mommy's kisses still make boo-boos better. I'm not quite ready for her to be all grown up.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Your what did what?

Last night I was at book club and Joker was home alone with the Bug. The following anecdote was thus relayed to me second-hand, but it was so funny I'm sharing it anyway.

So the Bug was in a delightful mood all evening, particularly during bath time. She did not want to get out. At all. So Joker drained the tub figuring that would cause it to lose some of the allure. Not so much. The Bug sat there laughing and kicking her feet on the rubber sticky mat. The mat shifted a little and let out a funny squeaky sound which startled the Bug. She looked up at Joker, down at the mat, and came to her conclusion. "Dada, my vagina burped!"

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Moon

New Moon, Stephenie Meyer's follow-up to Twilight was a bit weaker over-all, but still delivered the same mix of goofy romance and pseudo-suspense that keeps the tweens and cougars coming back for more. Darling Edward wasn't as ubiquitous, as he and his family decided to skip town in an effort to keep Bella out of the imminent danger generally brought on by living in close proximity with a pack of vampires, but in this book we really got to know Bella's childhood friend Jacob Black.

After several months of intense moping (which thankfully were not actually described and were noted only by empty chapters), Bella attempts to pull herself out of her funk by spending more time with Jacob, who lives on the nearby Quileute reservation. Jacob is (of course) in love with Bella, and she becomes completely attached to him, too, but only in the love-you-like-a-brother way. All seems to be going well when out of the blue, Bella is hunted by some non-vegan vampires and Jacob turns into a werewolf.

Our happy lovers are ultimately reunited, but not before a big misunderstanding sends Edward on a suicide mission to Italy. That vampires and werewolves are mortal enemies in this mythology means Jacob is left a bit out in the cold at the end of it all, but there are two more books during which I'm sure this can all get happily resolved for everyone.

Next up: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami. My reading diversity meme showed a gap in Asian lit, and this has been sitting unread on my shelf for too long already. Plus, I cannot stomach another romance just yet... the rest of the Twilight series will have to wait a while!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"I Can Jump"

We're all quite impressed with the book that the Bug's five-year-old cousin Frankie made for her yesterday:



The fourth page might be a bit of a departure from the other pages, but I'm sure there's some larger meaning that will emerge upon further study.