Monday, February 26, 2007

Sad Books

SuperBowl Sunday. We're sitting on the couch, nine-year-old Nick between Mark and me. I'm knitting, Nick is reading; only Mark is giving his full attention to the game. At some point, I look over Nick's shoulder and see the arresting illustration from Bridge to Terabithia: a silhouette of Jess's father holding his shattered son, who has just learned of his best friend's death. I put my arm around Nick.

"It's sad there, isn't it?"

read the rest over at

(cross-posted at the other blog)

Friday, February 23, 2007

More on Moms Rising

Check it out.

Oh, yeah, the New York Times caught on, too. Cool. (Should I be annoyed that it's in the Fashion & Style section?)

Who is the Tooth Fairy? And why does she have pesos?

Last night, around 10 p.m., a voice from Nick's room. The light is out; he's supposed to be asleep.

"I need a tissue..." trailing off.

I bring him one.

"Thanks, Mommy."

"Why are you still awake, Nick? It's late."

"It's my loose tooth. It's really hard to sleep with a loose tooth."

"Well, try to ignore it and go to sleep, OK?"

He can't. Through hard work and concentration, he manages to pull it out. The tissue is bloody; he is triumphant. We get the tooth wrapped in a (clean) tissue, and placed in a small box I find on my dresser. (There used to be a little gingham pillow for the tooth fairy, but who knows where it is now?) He rinses out his mouth, marveling at all the blood, and returns to bed. But before I leave the room:

"Mommy, S. and J. think your parents are the tooth fairy."

I shrug. He looks at me, hard.

"Mommy, tell me you're not telling me that you're the tooth fairy."

I can answer this honestly. "I'm not telling you that I'm the tooth fairy."

"I think maybe some kids' parents are the tooth fairy. But I know you aren't. You didn't even know there were golden dollars until I got one from the tooth fairy!"

"That's right, I didn't." [small lie]

"M. thinks her mom is the Tooth Fairy because once she asked her if she wanted Russian or American money. But I wouldn't care, because I don't spend the money the Tooth Fairy brings. Unless it's quarters!"

"Good night, Nick!"

After several more such exchanges, I turn the light out again and he settles down.

My alarm goes off at six. It's dark. I tiptoe into Nick's room with a 2000 peso bill (um, that may have been a mistake. The currency converter tells me it's worth $181. 458. Can this really be? Why has it been sitting in my jewelry box for untold years? Can I possibly get it back?) and four quarters in my hand. No time to get another golden dollar late last night.

I slip my hand under Nick's pillow. He's in the top bunk, and I can't reach to the far end of the bed. He shifts, and I duck down, hoping he doesn't see me. Can't feel the box. I try again; he shifts again; I leave.

After my shower, I try again. I write a left-handed note (Nick can identify hand-writing now) from the Tooth Fairy.

Dear Nick, Where is your tooth? I heard that you had lost it while I was travelling in Mexico, but I can't find it in your nest. Please leave it again tomorrow night. Love, T.F.

I wrap the note around the bill and leave it under his pillow, figuring I'll work out how to get him the quarters somehow tonight. I'm afraid he sees me, but I creep out and dress.

As Mariah and I prepare to leave the house for her bus, Nick comes down the stairs, looking sleepy and distraught. I ask him if the Tooth Fairy came and he bursts into tears.

"I couldn't sleep all night! And I wanted to write the Tooth Fairy a note, so I took the box out from under my pillow, and then I saw Daddy with his hand under my pillow! But I don't want Daddy to be the Tooth Fairy!"

The tears fall freely now. I sit down, mouth to Mariah that I'll take her to the secondary bus stop (this buys us ten minutes), pull Nick onto my lap.

"Nick, I can promise you, Daddy is not the tooth fairy. He couldn't be! He didn't even know you lost your tooth--he was asleep when you lost it. Do you think maybe you dreamed it?"

"No, I know I saw Daddy. Or I think I did. I felt a hand under my pillow, and I saw a face, and I thought it was Daddy. And I don't want [voice rising to a wail] I don't want Daddy to be the Tooth Fairy!"

"Nick, where's the box now? Did you check to see if anything happened? Was there anything under your pillow?"

"I put it under the lamp on my dresser. But then I put it back under my pillow, just now. I didn't look in it. I don't want Daddy to be the Tooth Fairy!"

Mariah is sympathetic, takes over with Nick while I go upstairs to see what has transpired. As I walk upstairs I hear her reassure him that Daddy is not the Tooth Fairy.

I look into the bedroom, give Mark a quick update on the situation, and come back down with the box (grr! If I'd only known he'd put it under the lamp!) and the note. He is taken aback by the note--and the bill. He reads it slowly.

"See, Nick?" Mariah says. "She did come. That note's not from Daddy."

We have to leave or we will miss the bus at the secondary stop, and I don't have time to drive her all the way to school this morning. More hugs, more kisses, while Nick begins to explain to Mark (who has just made it downstairs) what has happened.

In the car, Mariah finally laughs. She's been holding it in. But it's a kind laugh, a nostalgic laugh. "He's so cute!" she says. "I don't remember it being that big a deal for me." She thinks she's convinced him that he had a dream, that there was no Daddy with a hand under his pillow.

Not long ago--maybe last Easter?--Nick figured out that I was the Easter Bunny, but insisted that I was neither Santa nor the Tooth Fairy. He saw his grandmother accepting thanks from Mariah for a present clearly marked "from Santa." He asks, and then he rejects the answers if they aren't what he wants. How long can this go on? How long should it?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Motherhood Manifesto

Caroline's been watching movies again, and thinking about them. Here's a taste of her latest column:

Bread making, like childrearing, isn't particularly complicated. The ingredients are cheap, the process is simple. But they both require time and attention. Childrearing of course wants very focused time and attention; it can't be squeezed into intervals of free time like bread making.

Monday, February 19, 2007


I awoke this morning from a dream in which I was transcribing a dream.

(Alas, I do not remember the dream I was transcribing.)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

birthday cake

What happens on the baker's birthday? In my case, people say to me, "You shouldn't have to bake your own cake." They take me out to dinner. They ply me with gifts.

These are all good things, don't get me wrong. So last night we went out to dinner, to a lovely spot where--for some reason--cake was not on the menu. (The choices were chocolate mousse, apple crisp, and banana creme brulee, which seems to be the "it" dessert of the moment: it's been on the menu everywhere lately. I had the crisp.) Last year we had Japanese for my birthday dinner--again, not really a cake kind of a cuisine.

This is all fine. But today I baked a cake. Because, if I want cake on my birthday (or thereabouts) (and I do), I'm not only going to have to bake it, I actually want to. I like my cakes. I like to bake. Where's the problem here?

(Mississippi Mud Cake, from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, aka "The White Moosewood.")

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

As usual, I'm not quite up to speed for Valentine's Day. Nick went to a cooking class (!) Saturday, and decided to make the peanut butter brownies for his class, so he did not do the laborious one-valentine-for-each-child dance. (Score!) I have a little something for the family later, but it's still a secret. And I teach until dinner time, anyway.

Still, we'll talk about (bad) marriages in Dickens in my Victorian literature class, and we've got intriguing family dynamics in the writing class readings for this week as well, so that'll be fun.

And if Valentine's Day is really all about sharing the love, here are two opportunities:

One, the Camel Bookmobile: check it out! This is a project sponsored by the fabulous Masha Hamilton--her novel of the same title comes out later this spring. This is a great project to bring books, as Masha says, "traveling through the remote desert on the arched backs of camels, like notes from another world sealed in a bottle and tossed into a sea." Share some.

Two, Save Darfur. I know, you've heard about it on the news or read it in the papers, and it seems too big, too intractable a problem. Last Sunday, though, I heard the Rev. Lauren Stanley, Episcopal missionary to the Sudan (currently unable to serve there due to the violence) speak about her adopted country and people. And she says signing the petition really can make a difference, that the Sudan really can be helped by American support and American prayers. So sign the petition, send it to some more folks, and spread the love. It's a start.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I called the nice lady at the insurance company the other day to add Mariah to our auto policy. We talked for a while about which car she would drive, and what coverages we should increase, and then I agreed to give her all our money, and it was all fine.

As we hung up, she congratulated me on having a new driver in the house. "I have two boys," she said. "For a while you just hold your breath a lot, but then you let it out."


So Mariah drove on her own today for the first time. She called me when she got where she was going. It is only ten minutes away and she's driven there with me many times, but we both wanted to know she made it there safely. And I breathed again.


Earlier this morning I went to a funeral for the 23-year-old daughter of a colleague. (No condolences for me, please. I didn't know her, and the colleague isn't someone I know well, though she's been kind to me over the years. But no one should bury a child without as much support as possible.) The daughter in question was, all agreed, a handful. She was living in a group home when she died in a freak accident. I wondered how often her mother had held her breath, waiting to know how she was, where she was, who she was with. And I knew she'd rather still be holding it now.

Friday, February 09, 2007

in the grocery store

I don't usually take Nick to the grocery store if I can help it. There's usually too much dawdling, too much wheedling, too much...everything. It's just quicker and easier to do it myself. But there we were together yesterday, and he was terrific, really. He did find things to stand and look at, and a notebook that he just had to have, but he put it carefully in the cart and announced that he was paying for it. (He has money left over from Christmas.)

As I was unloading the cart at the checkout, I noticed him looking through the candy selections. Nothing unusual there. Every now and then he'd hold one up and ask if I liked it. I have a pretty reliable sweet tooth, but nothing looked that good to me, and I said so. He put a box of Junior Mints (movie-snack-size) on the belt anyway. When I gave him a look he said, "I'll pay for them. They're for everyone to share."

"Why do you want to buy candy for everyone?"

"Well," he explained, "I have money burning a hole in my pocket. And usually when that happens I buy something just to spend the money, and then I'm disappointed. So I thought if I bought something for everyone to share, I'd get the fun of spending the money and I wouldn't be disappointed. I think that's what you should do if you have money burning a hole in your pocket: buy something for everyone."

I couldn't argue with that. The Junior Mints came home with the rest of the groceries.

Skipping Parent-Teacher Conference Day

Nick has no school for teacher conferences and he's coming to class with me. I'm not going to see his teacher. This is the second conference of the year, the second one we've missed. Poor Nick: this sounds like classic second-child treatment. But it's really not. We know his teacher (she taught Mariah seven years ago) and we see her in the mornings when we drop him off, as well as on the occasional afternoons when she accompanies the kids outside for pick-up. We e-mail with her. She knows us, and we know her. We have casual daily contact, and that gives us a lot of confidence about what's going on when we're not there.

But even if we didn't, I'm not sure we'd get a whole lot from the conferences. Neither does Emily Brazelon, and she has an interesting idea (not original with her, but still) about how to make them better. One thing that's missing from the article: the cost of missing work to attend a conference. Can everyone afford to take a personal or sick day to meet with their kids' teacher? (Of course, if that Texas legislation had passed, one could weigh that against the cost of missing a conference: a $500 fine! Now that's a solution...)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

slightly cockeyed cupcakes

I started knitting these cupcakes from One Skein before Christmas, as a gift for my foodie nephew. And then I just couldn't stop! He got four, then I made another one and gave it to a friend who seemed to need some whimsy, and then...well, actually, then I was commissioned for four more! That was fun. So here they are, a little off-kilter but very amusing. Each one takes me 1-2 hours to knit (someone really skilled could certainly do it more quickly) and they use up odd bits of yarn so nicely. Funny, I very rarely make real cupcakes, for all the baking I do; somehow they seem to be all about the icing, and I'd rather just have cake. But knitted cupcakes, now they are satisfying.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Random Bullets of Monday

These waffles really are that good. (No, I didn't make them on Monday. It was Saturday, and I'm still happy about them.)
• What was with the commercials yesterday? OK, Coke had some beautiful visuals, and the Snickers ad was…something. But Please. Stop. Please, I beg you.
• On the other hand, bad commercials made for more knitting. I'm working on a fabulous scarf (sorry, can't find the link!--edited to add: found it!) and it is so much fun.
• I don't like getting up in the dark. That is all.
• How can February be the shortest month? It already feels long.
• Read this if you're skeptical about "virtual reality." Or if you're not.
• And read this, too. We had a dog in the 70s-80s whose mother was a Lab, and whose father was (best we could guess) a Scottie. For some reason we didn't go around touting her as a cool hybrid (a Scotador?). In the article cited (which, yes, Jenny Davidson linked to first, and to the one above as well) the details about pugs are particularly, um, revelatory. And not in a good way.
• I'm sitting with my back to the window and there are patches of light falling on the wall in front of me. Shadows of the steam from the radiator are racing up the walls, steam that is invisible when I turn around and face the blinding light from the window. Maybe getting up early isn't quite so bad.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I love my LYS

(Local Yarn Shop, that is.) The Yarn Lounge is a fun place full of nice people, good advice, and great yarn. And they take better pictures of my stuff than I do (scroll down).

Thursday, February 01, 2007

In Memoriam, Molly Ivins

The tributes are all over the internet. Becca has one, and Dawn, and of course Dr. B. has one with lots of good links. The pictures are great, aren't they? And the stories. I hope the stories keep coming.

[Edited to add:] They do keep coming: here are a few more, from Susan (great picture!) and Caroline and Elizabeth.