Tuesday, September 25, 2007

wonderful world

I saw this on Neil Gaiman's blog and just had to share it. Isn't it amazing?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

blast from my past

This week's New Yorker has an amazing piece by Jerome Groopman about colic (alas, not on line). Those of you who knew us when, know we went through a rather trying time in Mariah's first months on earth. She had colic, so we all did. She cried most of the time she was awake--but particularly in the evenings--for the first nine months of her life. She slept well at night from a fairly early age (our saving grace) but the colic, oh, it was relentless. We tried rocking, swaddling, "the colic hold," dietary changes (mine), schedule changes (hers), singing, dancing, changes in environment (for a brief period we tried taking her outside when she cried--sometimes the cold air seemed to change things), and everything else we could think of. Nothing worked, or at least nothing worked reliably. If swaddling worked one night, we tried it the next to no avail. Mostly I think we did what we did for us, to make us feel as if we were helping. She cried for no reason, and when she was done she was done, but we awaited the next bout in exhausted trepidation.

Our doctor, however, informed us that "colic is when the bell curve of parent irritability intersects the bell curve of baby irritability." I invited him to our apartment any evening to witness the ridiculousness of that statement, but he didn't take me up on it. It was something of a relief, then, to find that medical researchers now study colic--some of them must actually believe in it, even if our doctor didn't. It seems from the article that as many as 25% of babies may suffer from colic, which has, according to one expert cited in the article, "no known cause and no known treatment." Babies eventually outgrow it, of course, but to me the heartbreaking part of the article comes in the speculations about the long-term effects: sleep disorders, for example, seem more frequent in kids who have been colicky babies (check!). As for the effects on family life, well, let's just say Mariah's colic wasn't as bad as some documented in the article, but I have no problem believing that "the parents of colicky babies were found to be more dissatisfied with family life . . . than parents of children who had not had colic."

Colic is well in our past these days. We have two fabulous children who delight and astonish us daily. But reading this article put me right back in that place of helpless new parenting, when I first learned that I couldn't make everything right for my daughter no matter how much I wanted to, no matter how hard I tried. That's not a bad lesson to learn, of course--but reading this article reminded me of how hard it was to learn it so early, in quite that way.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Queen of the Allen Wrench

Just in case two desks weren't enough I built a chair that came in a box today.

I think I'm done for a while.

Finished Objects

I built two desks yesterday. They came in large flat boxes from Target and they had instructions like this: "Attach the two support posts (D) to top side of the top board (E), making sure the small sheets with holes which on top of the post should be facing toward the back side as shown."


Mark said, 'This must be hard for you--you're so text based. I just look at the drawings and figure it out."

But the drawings showed the "small sheets" (if that's what they were) pointing, um, right. Or maybe left. I get a little confused "reading" pictures.

Nonetheless the desks are built--I triumphed! And once I get the remnants of the boxes off the floor I may even be able to arrange the room.

In other news, I finished a knitting project the other day. It has instructions like "*ssk, yo, repeat from * to last stitch," which make perfect sense to me.

Book Giveaway

I'm giving away a book over on the other blog. Take a look!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Twenty Years

Twenty years ago today I was in Montreal, on the first leg of our fabulous honeymoon. So, yes, yesterday was our twentieth anniversary.

On our first anniversary, we were preparing for the new year of school. We'd both finally passed our master's exams.

On our second anniversary, I was five months pregnant and preparing for my orals.

On our fifth anniversary, I was preparing to file my dissertation and start my first full-time job.

On our tenth anniversary, I was brain-dead and sleep-deprived with month-old baby Nick.

On our fifteenth anniversary, we were just back from a California vacation and starting in on a busy semester.

And yesterday, the convertible top (just out of warranty)* refused to go up without breaking a part, but we still managed to go out to dinner and celebrate another good year. Whew!

*the guy at the dealer says since it's just four days over warranty and we've got low miles he'll put it in as warranty service. Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

MotherTalk Blog Tour: The Little Black Book of Style

When MotherTalk offered me the opportunity to read and talk about The Little Black Book of Style (Nina Garcia, 2007), I jumped at the chance. After all, I could use an infusion of style. One might charitably term my own style "early absent-minded professor" or "mom who knits" or "at least she tries." I shop at thrift stores and Target, hitting the major department stores for sales and Banana Republic when they send me a coupon. While I think usually I don't embarrass myself, it's not like I don't have fantasies of Clinton and Stacy coming in to clean up my look. So I hoped Nina Garcia--fashion director for Elle magazine and a judge on Project Runway--would be able to help me.

I felt all stylish just carrying the book around, I have to confess. While much of the advice in it is fairly run-of-the-mill--invest in classics, be comfortable in your own skin, don't be afraid to mix it up--there are some entertaining extras as well. I particularly enjoyed the interviews with fashion icons (many of whom are unfamiliar to me) in the back. While I'm not going to take Michael Kors's advice about what to wear on a plane (a black cashmere turtleneck and white jeans? Not this mom!), I'm amused by his certainty. Did you know that the one item all women should own is brown crocodile stiletto pumps? There it is, on page 110.

In other words, this book offers me a fantasy escape into another world. I'm not actually going to build my wardrobe around crisp white men's shirts, no matter how great they look on Uma Thurman or Audrey Hepburn--I'm too messy, I won't iron, and I'm comfortable in my more rumpled skin. But I like imagining the life I might lead in these clothes, the little black dresses (ok, I do have one or two of those), the ballet flats and four-inch heels (in size ten? and with these knees?), the great bags.

Is this a book mothers can embrace? Sure, if you don't take it too seriously. And here I think Garcia helps you out, because she keeps reminding her readers that this isn't about fashion, about fitting in, about making all the right choices--it's about having fun and being comfortable. Style is more accessible, perhaps more democratic, these days than it's ever been: with Mizrahi designing for Target and Vera Wang for Kohl's, runway looks make it down-market pretty quickly. Garcia tries to help you sort all that out. She doesn't substitute for Stacy and Clinton: the book is very short on specific advice for specific issues (what to wear if you're pregnant, or larger-than-average, or really petite, for example), preferring to focus on general guidelines. But it's a quick, fun read, more helpful and less time-bound than a fashion magazine. The movie and music connections are entertaining, and the decade-by-decade walk through twentieth-century fashion helped me recognize that a couple of good things besides my lovely daughter came out of the 80s. I'm not sure the book will change my style, but it was fun to imagine how it could.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Back to School

So it's the Tuesday after Labor Day, back to school day here where we live. Of course Mark went back to school over a week ago, and if I weren't on sabbatical I would have gone back last Monday; fall starts slowly around here. But I put Mariah on her bus at 7 and took Nick into his classroom at 9 this morning, so it really is back-to-school day. Both kids are in their last year at their respective schools. As I was walking Nick in this morning, a woman I know who lives in the neighborhood (whose son is Mariah's age) called out to me, "Aren't you ever leaving this school?" Her kids are in middle and high school, but here I am still walking into the elementary school. Indeed, I've been a parent at this school for 12 years now, ever since Mariah was in kindergarten. Nick started pre-K there the year she started middle school, so they never went to the same school but we haven't had a break, either.

Not that we wanted one. It's been a great elementary school for both kids. If not every teacher was fabulous, still the kids have done fine and over all we've been satisfied. The only teacher both kids had was their fourth grade teacher, and she was wonderful. So were both second grade teachers, one third, one first . . . and so on. In fifth grade, the kids have a "homeroom" but they move around a bit, in preparation for middle school. (They've been switching for math and, last year, science, since third grade anyway.)

Nick's class seemed smaller today when I dropped him off. I know there are fewer fifth grade classes than there were fourth grades--parents start fleeing the elementary schools a year early in the hopes of heading off middle-school woes. So several of Nick's friends won't be around this year, and we're sad about that. Still, he was eager to get started and seemed happy to see old friends when he got in this morning.

Mariah's last year of high school will, of course, involve the college search. We spent so much time thinking about college this summer that right now high school feels like a little bit of a let-down to her. I'm hoping that changes as her classes get started and she settles back into her various activities.

In the meantime I need to put these hours to good use. I have 11-1/2 months of my sabbatical left, and so far it's been slow going. Time to get into gear now.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


After a week away at a wonderful conference in Kyoto, I'm having a little trouble getting back on track. I got back late Thursday night, after just about 24 hours of travel, slept 12 hours, and spent yesterday doing laundry and baking a pie to celebrate Mark's 50th birthday. I managed to get three loads of laundry done, and a creditable birthday dinner on the table (yes! there were even presents!) but now I'm wiped. And it's gorgeous out today--clear blue sky, 80 degrees with low humidity. So I'm sitting on the back porch enjoying the weather and reading last Sunday's paper.

One of the things I most enjoyed about Kyoto was the food. The things they can do with vegetables make me want to study Japanese cooking--I think it would take years to learn all the things they do. Here's a bento box that was served to me as "Buddhist Lenten fare"--an all-vegetarian lunch at a temple at Mt. Hiei. I can't identify several of the items in the lunch, but I ate it all anyway. Hardly pentitential!